The Malta Independent 18 August 2019, Sunday

Whatever happened to Malta 2.0?

Thursday, 9 May 2019, 10:18 Last update: about 4 months ago

In the days preceding the 2005 EU Accession referendum, it was pointed out to recalcitrant Labour doubters that joining the EU was like taking Malta to a 2.0 level.

Fifteen years after we joined the EU, it is worthwhile to ask ourselves whether what was promised has actually happened.

People today tend to think mostly in terms of GDP growth but there are far more things to consider. GDP growth is good, but it is not everything.

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By promising to take Malta to a 2.0 level, the implication was that Malta pre-2003 did things in one way which would eventually have led to growth but membership in a continent-wide union would place members on a higher plane, unobtainable had Malta remained on its own, even with the Partnership option as proposed by Labour.

It is similar, it was (in vain) explained to Labour and to the country in general, to working with a sole computer, even if good, as opposed to working with a computer inserted in a network. We all know the difference. But not all seem to have appreciated the comparison when it came to the nation and the country.

Anyway, membership won and Malta is now an EU Member State, and it has been so for 15 years.

But did we get to level 2.0 or was that just a spin?

On one level, certain parts of Malta did get to Level 2.0 - students especially.

The financial services sector might think and tell others it did make it to Level 2.0 but the vicissitudes of the past years ought to make one wonder.

Membership of the EU opened up for Maltese financial sectors a huge window of opportunity to cross borders, to open up in other Member States, to receive Inward Investment. However, so many were the cases signaled as being tainted that Malta, and other countries, have become a byword for sleaze. The sector has indeed grown, and so have the human resources working in it, so something good came out of EU membership but increasingly calls are being heard to restrict Malta's freedom of movement, as we report today.

This would be increasingly the case if decisions in the future start being taken by a majority vote and Malta would be forced to change its laws such as regarding taxation which gives Malta a unique window of opportunity. On the other hand, Malta's use and abuse of EU laws and structures to gain advantages such as by selling passports to non-Maltese is deeply angering other EU states and changes will soon start to cut down our advantages.

So too Maltese practices which mean, again as we report today, that other member states do not get the tax they ought to get.

At the other end of the scale, there are many Maltese who have not made it to Level 2.0 and whose current situation has even seen a regression. Such are the poor in Malta, by which we mean all those on a pension, those on minimum wage, the few unemployed and those who live on state assistance. Their living conditions have not improved at all. On the contrary, a higher standard of living coupled with inflation, and rental prices practiced in a liberalized market have made their lot much harder to carry.

Add to that the increased number of foreigners now flocking to Malta and the resultant strain on infrastructure, on higher rents being asked for and rock-bottom wages being given. No 2.0 there.

We should also speak about education as a result of EU accession but unfortunately we have to report that educationally we still have a massive outflow of early school leavers and of those who leave without any certificate to show.

Malta has not moved up in the many rankings that examine a country's inner strength, hardly in women in the labour force, not at all in the PISA rankings as we have shown in a recent issue, nor in the justice rankings meted out, and hardly in the manufacturing sector, except for a few worthwhile exceptions.

We did the right thing to join the EU 15 years ago but we have yet to start really benefitting from membership. 
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