Robert Abela’s history of rent-seeking

Journalists are currently investigating the Prime Minister’s long history of rent-seeking. Times of Malta have today published an article about the payments Robert Abela received as the “legal consultant” of the Planning Authority under the Lawrence Gonzi and the Joseph Muscat administrations. As anyone would have expected, under Joseph Muscat’s rent-seeking boom, payments to Robert Abela’s legal company increased by more than 100%. Under Joseph Muscat’s administration alone, Robert Abela’s law firm received around €1.3 million in payments from the Planning Authority. However, Abela’s law firm received payments from many other government entities including Air Malta, the Lands Authority, and the Office of the Prime Minister.

There is much more to this story. Apart from the lucrative contracts that Robert Abela was given by successive administrations, Robert has a long history of conflict of interest by serving clients who had pending applications at the Planning Authority whilst being its official legal consultant and representing it in court. Abela also entered into the property business by developing several properties with different contractors.

Robert is the epitome of Maltese rent-seeking. We have seen many of them already. First, they get rich by government contracts, then they use most of the money to invest in real estate. Then they get into politics to serve their own interests and the interests of their friends in politics and those in the construction industry. Sometimes the steps of this process may change but the actions are always the same. The cycle keeps perpetuating itself while the younger generations keep getting priced out of the property market.

For now, Abela is riding the wave of the temporary economic boom we went through under Joseph Muscat’s administration. Eventually, when the piggy bank runs out there comes a threshold on the number of people who are left of the property market that once crossed will make things interesting. I am sure that the young generations who will be left out of the property market will be incredibly appreciative of Robert Abela’s long history of rent-seeking with the government and the construction industry.

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