The Malta Independent 16 December 2017, Saturday

Don’t fluff this chance

Friday, 1 December 2017, 08:56 Last update: about 14 days ago

After the European Parliament plenary sitting on Malta, which saw a barrage of criticism from all sides of the EP followed by a quite negative resolution passed the next day by the plenary, Malta gets another chance today and tomorrow when the enlarged PANA committee visits Malta.

The first visit by the PANA committee was quite fruitless - some people it wanted to interview just refused, while another went running after them in the street to hand them a piece of paper.

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Of course, we would not understand the situation if we look at it from the Malta point of view. Except for the few who watched the EP debate, all we had here was a massive spin which called the Maltese MEPs who had spoken in the debate and who shared the views of the vast majority of their colleagues as traitors to the cause of Malta. Those who get their news from the local TV stations, of which the two main ones relentlessly plug the government's spin, understood only that the Maltese MEPs must have brainwashed the rest of the plenary. There was no comment on the vast majority which supported the resolution.

But this is not how things look in Brussels. An article in yesterday's issue of Politico explained how the EU is moving to tackle tax evasion and to enforce a new tax regime for digital companies. The Commission is expected to announce its proposal next Spring.

Members of Parliament's Special Inquiry into Money Laundering have called for the creation of a permanent standing committee to investigate wrongdoing in the field of taxation.

The announcement was made at the start of a public hearing on the Paradise Papers by Werner Langen, Chairman of Parliament's Special Committee on Money laundering, Tax Avoidance and Evasion.

Mr Langen said that before any decision could be made on a standing committee, in the interim, PANA members wanted a special inquiry to investigate the revelations of aggressive tax planning uncovered by the Paradise Papers.

As we announce in today's issue, the Commission is so far ruling out finding any EU Member State as a tax haven, although at least four, including Malta, could possibly fit the bill.

But a wrong attitude in Malta these coming two days might upset the apple-cart. The same Politico article explained how important is online gaming to the Maltese economy - it accounts for no less than one-eighth of the economy and is one of the largest sectors of the economy along with tourism and financial services.

The government has been telling one and all that financial services and online gaming in Malta are well regulated and the existing laws all prove that. But Malta then has the usual problem of who will bell the cat, in other words, enforcement and the coming two days can be a graphic (we hope not) example of this.

The tragedy is that the gaming sector and its allied industries are all abuzz with innovative ideas and new ventures in the field. This became even more clearer in a series of unconnected events that took place in Malta these past weeks. It would be a tragedy if something had to happen and drastic regulation forced upon us.


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