The Malta Independent 18 November 2018, Sunday

Plastic

Alfred Sant Monday, 10 September 2018, 07:42 Last update: about 3 months ago

I always fail to keep back a bitter smile whenever I hear about what is being done in the ongoing European campaign to limit and control plastic usage – or when I come across one or other of the activities that are being carried out. One cannot but support this campaign because the volumes of plastic trash that are invading everywhere, not least the seas, are truly triggering a world scale crisis.

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However EU rules have themselves up to now greatly contributed to this phenomenon. I remember when the negotiations for Malta’s accession to the EU were taking place, how the European side insisted that Malta should revoke all arrangements in internal trade that gave preferential treatment to glass bottles, such as for mineral water and soft drinks. EU rules allowed for plastic to have the right of way. My colleages and I protested against this approach and were ridiculed for our pains.

A Danish island community had also deposited a complaint against this policy with the European Court of Justice; it was turned down. Something that was being carried out correctly... in this case to protect the environment... had to be cancelled to satisfy the objective of getting all of Europe to march in step.

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Covered bonds

The tendency is still alive to insist on revising policies that are functioning well in this or that country, for them to become part of a single European menu. In this, little regard is given to the point that one doesn’t need to try and fix what is not broken.

At present, I’m taking part in an exercise to finalise the position of the European Parliament regarding a directive that will apply similar rules across Europe to the management of loan instruments called covered bonds. These carry a double guarantee, relating to the bank that markets them as well as to a group of ring fenced projects with which they are linked.

Covered bonds stood among the few financial tools that were not weakened by the financial crisis of 2008. It should be quite clear that a European framework for them should leave intact the national market conditions that enabled them to be so successful.

Yet you still find those who in the name of an “improved” European single market, would like to introduce new measures that could end up creating more burdens and less incentives for the bonds.

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PAYE

In Malta, the PAYE (pay as you earn) system was introduced during the first mandate of the Labour government of the 1970s, between 1971 and 1976. Naturally there were the difficulties which are bound to arise when a tax that is paid with a year’s delay is converted to one that must be cleared as soon as it becomes due.

I remembered that story this week when it was announced that at last, after years of hesitation, the French government has decided to introduce the PAYE system. Most doubts had arisen because of the possibility that many ciizens would not understand what was going on, while others could feel that next year they were going to be taxed twice.

One can hardly avoid wondering: so many people arrive from Europe to lecture us about how we should run our country this way and not that. Perhaps after all, there could be some instances where we might usefully be drafted to serve as lecturers to others?

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