The Malta Independent 3 August 2021, Tuesday

The great deception

Noel Grima Sunday, 20 June 2021, 09:15 Last update: about 3 months ago

In three years' time we will be celebrating 60 years from our independence.

We will also be celebrating 60 years of our national deception, which coming developments might reveal in all its contours.

The deception, as I see it, is that we have since been led to believe that sovereignty is an honour, but not really a duty, a burden.

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We were told that independence would let us sit around the same table as our former colonial rulers but not enough that such an honour also implied obligations, duties.

The Labour Party in Opposition campaigned against Borg Olivier’s Independence but that was not because it didn’t want Independence but rather because it wanted to be the one to bring it and also because it wanted Britain to give us more. Not a word about duties and commitments.

When, years later Malta became a member state of the European Union, once again the benefits, the resulting honours of EU membership were mentioned – going up to Brussels, the summits, the group photo – but hardly the burden.

To be sure, there was the Acquis Communautaire, thousands of pages thick, which Malta had to sign after negotiations and derogations. Before joining, Malta was forced to change its offshore financial structure to an onshore structure. That should have been the canary in the mine but the meek and prompt way in which Malta hurried to comply should have made other countries suspicious, but didn’t.

The electorate was promised money and chose accession. It was promised the freedom to go abroad and study, and the freedom to travel but did not understand at that point that this freedom was reciprocal. The first inkling something was amiss came when members of other Member States and then Third Country nationals started to flock in.

As long as these took up jobs the Maltese did not want to do, that was OK. It is only now that after the lockdown when we found that our hotels and restaurants are starved of staff that we start to understand the reciprocity of it all.

There is more, far more, to this reciprocity thing. And it goes even beyond the confines of the EU.

We know that our manufacturing and our agricultural production are nothing to write home about. Our tourism is huge but relatively simple – in and out. We have never developed Malta as a transit destination.

But over the years we have developed our financial services sector to become one of the mainstays of the economy. It is here that our lack of understanding of duties and rights being correlated may be driving the country on to the rocks.

Take the cash for passports scheme, thought up by Joseph Muscat as a free and easy way to increase revenue. After so many years and innumerable scandals, after so many warnings, Europe is now reacting. To give a Maltese passport to someone without making strict inquiries means to give that person the freedom of the entire continent.

Many will object that so many Opposition lawyers are at the trough but that doesn’t turn a bad scheme into a good one. Certainly too countries such as the UK and neighbouring Cyprus have also been identified as allowing criminals, even terrorists, inside Fortress Europe.

And on top of it all our financial services sector, again a high component of the national economy, is daily found out to be like a sieve with scandals being the order of the day, with no enforcement to speak of except now and with a couple of unfortunates when the main perpetrators are running around, some even in Parliament.

No wonder we risk what is called grey-listing by FATF. The reports say three big jurisdictions – the US, the UK and Germany – have come together to push for Malta to be punished.

It is ridiculous for the government to spin through a complaisant media it threatens to block the workings of the EU etc in retaliation. It is equally ridiculous for the leader of the PN to write to FATF promising to be virtuous if elected to power. That is something that only the electorate of this country can decide and the last time they were consulted they went for rule-bending and rule-flouting in a big way.

It is true that the main accusers have their own shady areas -  the UK harbours many funds in the City that are daily subject to investigation while the US has a state – Delaware? – notoriously for its lax supervision.

With a tax system that is at absolute rock bottom the Maltese system is accused of taking (few) receipts which should be due to the jurisdictions where the profits are made.

And what about the frequent allegations that Malta has become the backroom support of criminal gangs like the Mafia?

Added to which our court system is notoriously slack and the government has been recently accused of wilfully whittling down the Attorney General office to just a handful of novices.

The main thing is that the Maltese have been deceived and this for a long time. They were promised the benefits but nobody mentioned the burdens and obligations. Now they may be about to be punished for the faults of their leaders, especially this Labour administration which has become a byword for corruption.

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