People are still confusing glasses-wearing people for technocrats (I am of the glasses-wearing tribe too). Just because you wear glasses doesn’t mean you are smart and neither does it mean you are a technocrat. Having an economics degree and a public job doesn’t make you a technocrat either.
Clyde Caruana has been shot to a successful public career and a university lecturing post (without a Phd), simply because he had strong friends in the Labour Party like Edward Scicluna, Evarist Bartolo and Joseph Muscat who continuously supported him. His act of driving his own car to the ministry is a political show and makes no financial sense. If he actually gave value for money, Clyde wouldn’t be wasting time in traffic, but rather sending emails on the back of the limo, doing math and looking at charts. If you are an economist and can’t even understand this aspect of your work when you are the Minister of Finances, then what are you doing at the Ministry of Finances in the first place? Let’s say the Minister of Finances squeezes 300 hours of commuting per year. If a Minister of Finances can’t find a way to produce value more than a car and a driver’s salary in 300 hours, then what is he doing Minister of Finances in the first place? He thinks he is pulling off a so modest projection of himself by driving his own car, but all he is doing is showing to us how totally unfit for purpose he really is.
He shouldn’t even be doing it to set an example – that’s also stupid. The Minister of Finances should not set examples – he should execute. The Minister of Finances is the second most powerful executive in the government after the Prime Minister, and his Permanent Secretary is the most powerful bureaucrat in the civil service by far surpassing the Principal Permanent Secretary in tangible executive power. The mandarin of the Ministry of Finances, Alfred Camilleri, is a traditional technocrat in the old sense of the word: someone so technical that they can’t find a suitable replacement for him even though he is supposedly on a transition phase into retirement.
If we are burning public money due to nepotism, corruption, rent-seeking and outright incompetence, the Minister of Finances shouldn’t be setting an example, he should be busy slashing costs and squeezing millions of Euros of value out of public expenditure not driving his old car around.
In fact, Clyde did nothing particularly technocratic during his time in office. All that Clyde did during his term of office was to increase public expenditure and build a future vision of economic growth solely dependent on an ever-increasing public bill. Clyde would have been excused of trying to buy the public vote by sending €100 cheques on the eve of an election had he made something specifically important as Finance Minister – only that he didn’t. And that is not all.
After raiding the public coffers and spending his way in government, Clyde is going to fuck off to work in the private industry. During his last speech in parliament, Clyde told us that his time in politics is transitory until he moves on with his career in the private industry. Being nice and charming doesn’t mean you have got what it takes to be in politics. Public service is a career one takes selflessly and not a transitory stepping stone to the private industry.
Clyde couldn’t have figured it out better: he is going to make a career for himself as Finance Minister by spending his way in government and then when the consequences of his exuberance and lack of vision will start being felt in tangible ways, he will catapult himself into the private industry with a very nice CV and sliding-door network.
We on the other hand will be left with a mess in our public finances, a race-track in Ħal Far, an over-built country with overpriced and shoddy apartments and a precarious economy.