Former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat appeared on ONE’s discussion show Pjazza, hosted by Karl Stagno Navarra, in a highly-anticipated appearance after resigning from parliament this week.
In 45 minutes, he covered everything from his advice to new PN leader Bernard Grech, why Malta needs an underground “fast lane” and how nation’s leaders should approach the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are 16 of the key things he said on the show.
1. He’s been “doing well” since his government spectacularly collapsed back in December 2019.
However, he did say he was “heartbroken over what happened, but without sadness” before saying his decision to resign was for the “good of the country”.
2. And called for a discussion on setting up an underground “fast lane” connecting Mellieħa to Valletta.
This fast lane would have no roundabouts or any of these amenities and would come with a toll fee.
3, Muscat said that the Gozo tunnel was an “essential” project that could kickstart the economy.
While taking a dig at his former rival Simon Busuttil.
4. And made it clear he is not a fan of the Pjazza Teatru Rjal in Valletta at all.
He called the open-air theatre a “waste of money”, and saying he barely ever entered it or walked near it.
5. And he called on anyone critical of the Central Link Project to follow his example, stick to their principles and not use it.
Just like he doesn’t enter the Pjazza Teatru Rjal.
6. Muscat called for a debate on making education in Malta compulsory until the age of 18.
While you can lose your job, you keep your education forever, he said.
7. And he’s never met Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, but he did meet Microsoft creator Bill Gates and enjoyed it.
He’s also met Alibaba’s Jack Ma.
8. He wondered if Malta should have compulsory community service.
While he said compulsory military service might not be the way to go, as they have in other countries, Muscat did praise the benefits of spending time and volunteering with NGOs as part of one’s character formation.
9. And he took the opportunity to hint at the incoming abortion debate.
While he never said the big “a” word, he made reference to holding “taboo debated”. He also spoke about his two daughters, who are soon turning 13, talking about things “we never thought about ourselves” during a discussion on civil liberties.
Muscat said that these types of discussions would, inevitably, happen in Malta.
10. “Maltese people are hard-working, and not lazy.”
Recounting an anecdote when a Scandinavian politician had made a blanket statement about the laziness of south Europeans, Muscat said that most of the time, when a Maltese person skives off work, it’s to go to work at another job, praising the hard-working nature of the nation.
11. And he called for common sense to prevail during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It isn’t good to close the country so people are left in their homes for another six months,” he said, before referencing what German Chancellor Angela Merkel had done; opening schools while honestly telling her citizens that this would inevitably lead to an increase in cases and to remain calm.
He said this frank and transparent approach was best – months back, Maltese people were scared that a “bomb” was going to fall on them and destroy everything they knew; now, “the Maltese people know what COVID is”.
12. Muscat predicted serious economic recovery by the “second quarter” of 2021.
As long as common sense prevailed, of course.
13. He also had serious words of praise for the government voucher scheme.
He said that it worked so well because people weren’t able to save the vouchers or put them in the bank, but had to spend them, spurring on the economy’s recovery.
14. He is still in touch with former nation leaders like Italy’s Matteo Renzi.
Muscat took the opportunity to quip about how whenever anyone mentions chats and Joseph Muscat, they probably think of some other infamous WhatsApp chats.
15. And he praised PN leader Bernard Grech for realising he was wrong on the divorce issue.
Grech had famously campaigned against the right to divorce in Malta… just as Muscat himself had campaigned against Malta joining the EU some years before, which he now concedes was wrong.
16. Muscat ended by commenting on the opinion that people hate him because they say he broke the Nationalist Party.
However, he said he didn’t break the PN – “the jealousy and envy they have for others is what broke them”, before advising Grech to “forget about hatred”.
BONUS: Karl Stagno Navarra said he wants to give Muscat a hug “in the name of all the people out there”.
Muscat replied by saying he wasn’t about to die just yet.