Fake news, maybe. But who is faking it?- By Revel Barker
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“What you are about to read is either a prediction or it is fake news. Read it and decide for yourself. In fact it may be both, because I am predicting what I believe to be fake news. If that is too complicated, stop reading now.
Here is my prediction:
The government is going to keep the tunnel running as a hot topic until early summer. It has already called for tenders for project management – even though it doesn’t, and cannot, know yet what “the project” actually entails.
That won’t stop its being projected as a goer until, inevitably, there’s a row about it because a company with a track record of under-sea tunnel building will be turned down and the tender will be awarded to a guy running an ice-cream kiosk in St Julian’s who formed a company called “Kiosk Tunnelling International” only one day before getting the job.
This dispute will go to court and a date will be set for a hearing in October, which is the Maltese way of saying that it ain’t going to happen.
Then the big news will be that Malta informs the EU that it, a member state, plans to undertake “a project involving public tenders.” This will surprise the folk in Brussels who don’t think the Maltese have ever actually done things that way. But they will doubtless be pleased to get the news, in a letter. And they will be told that the project is a tunnel (which they probably already know, but it’s nice to get it in writing).
Next, the government will announce that the EU is fully informed about the tunnel project and is likely to offer to fund it.
So it will continue, with tit-bits of trifling information, all released with great fanfare, all designed to show how much this government is in tune with the EU and how much the EU likes and approves of this party. (Sorry: “this government.”)
It will run prominently until around the end of May (the government said, in December, that it “expected a tender for the project to be ready for publication within six months,” so that’s about right).
And then the subject of the tunnel will be quietly shelved.
Polling day for the election of MEPs will have passed.
When, after the summer recess, somebody (it might be Lino Debono enquiring about his “dream vision”) asks what’s happening about the tunnel, the government, in no way ashamed by its mendacious scheming, will quietly explain that… Ah… well… there were problems, you see, that we hadn’t been aware of.
Fortunately our diligent investigations – worth every penny of the fees paid to consultants for explaining what everybody else already knew … showed that it couldn’t be done.
We really wanted to do it. We were desperate to help those 1,200 Gozitan students who wanted to go home every night so their mothers could feed them and do their laundry. We wanted to give the people what they wanted… We did… honestly…
But then we discovered that the sea-bed in which we wanted – so much – to build your tunnel would mean boring through continental plates that moved, all the time. Only about an inch every year, but the concrete that my cousin (sorry, “our preferred contractor”) supplies – I mean, look at Mater Dei – isn’t that good and certainly doesn’t stretch like rubber. Well, you know, it might have, sort of, cracked, and let in water.
And then we learnt that, in order to get deep enough to dig underwater, and in order to get a slope that didn’t look like a ski-jump, the tunnel would be double the projected length and therefore would cost more than the €100,000 that the EU could afford to offer as funding, and the consortium of Gozitan businessmen who were going to pay for it had all left the country.
Even worse than a tunnel with cracks in the wall, a distinguished professor of archaeology informed us that the place where it was planned to emerge in Gozo was actually the site of a large stone-age settlement of mainly oval mud huts. And this government is not going to destroy Gozo’s heritage, just for the sake of a tunnel.
There were other problems. More than 400,000 Maltese say they never go to Gozo anyway, and were not willing to pay for it with their taxes.
Malta’s motoring lobby said it would not use a tunnel in which they could not overtake, preferably in the inside lane. And they didn’t want a tunnel for which they might have to queue to get in (and to get out of). They didn’t want to come out into daylight at Manikata, which would be as bad as disembarking from the ferry at Cirkewwa.
But the last straw was that, just as we were about to start and give the people what they wanted, we commissioned a new poll and learnt that 83% of the people were against it, and wanted only a faster and more frequent ferry service with better access at either side.
Therefore, in effect, we are continuing to serve the electorate in the best possible tradition of this government. You will want to vote for us, next time.
We are already investigating the idea of improving the ferry service and will have a plan in position before the next general election, That’s a promise. And the opposition hasn’t thought of it, yet.
Dear Reader, what do you think?
Fake news? Or a prediction? Or maybe a bit of both…”
Opinion piece – Revel Barker is a long-term resident of Ghajnsielem
Photograph by Alain Salvary