The Malta Independent 17 August 2022, Wednesday

Adieu to business as we knew it

Peter Agius Wednesday, 12 January 2022, 10:22 Last update: about 7 months ago

The Malta Chamber of Commerce yesterday joined the voices of support to the PN’s initiative to kick start legislative change to make politicians in Malta more accountable to their actions across the board.

The Chamber’s support is no surprise. Business prospers when justice prevails. Business prospers where politics is accountable to the people. Right now, we are seeing serious shortcomings on that front. Robert Abela plays fiddle, says that he wants change, but makes sure that nothing really changes, for it is continuity with Muscat that he pledged.

ADVERTISEMENT

In a normal country, a government in office would set the ball rolling for organic changes in the institutional set up and their checks and balances after such institutions are systematically judged to be failing the people. This is what happened with Malta’s police, FIAU, MFSA when these are found to be delaying action or absconding reports of Money laundering and corruption with the well-known results of Pilatus Bank, Egrant, 17-Black and then the practically asked-for grey listing.

In a normal country, a government found to be ‘collectively responsible’ for the shameful handling of the assassination of top journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia would either resign in dishonour or at least, if we are so badly attached to that seat of power, see to the implementation of the changes needed to address the shortcomings clearly identified in the inquiry called for by itself.

And yet, this is not a normal country. Here, Labour believes that as long business keeps going, then its support is assured and hence there is no cause or reason for change. Labour is mistaken. What was a reasonably healthy business environment up till a few years back is now a mine field filled with many issues to navigate, avoid or handle.

Starting from the access to public tenders, we have clearly gravitated to a situation where it is virtually impossible to do business with a government authority unless you come recommended or ‘chosen’ through the invisible but all too real system of political patronage. Several businesses I spoke to over the last year involved or wishing to be involved in public tendering works from servicing to medical supplies to construction contracts will tell you how their business environment is rife with those invisible links to politics. You either have them or risk that your competitor has them to your prejudice. Is this acceptable in 2022 Malta? Should public money not be spent in a way as to promote competition rather than stifling it with ‘uncompetitive’ practices?

If competition was not Labour’s forte, neither is our reputation in Malta and abroad. For long years they managed to sell it as some illusion sold out by desperate nationalists. Now, hundreds of business owners, entrepreneurs and professionals are realising the extent of the impact of a wrecked reputation. Malta’s efforts to come back to its rightful place – on the FATF white list of trusted jurisdictions – is being paid in hours of frustrating additional bureaucracy in a multitude of business transactions. 

Before the Christmas Holidays I visited an importer in Hamrun, who told me how his trading partners in Italy had asked him for detailed balance sheets and business accounts for the last two years if he wanted to keep the business relationship. This is a simple, import-export activity with no links to financial services, gaming or banking as such. And yet, the Italian firm was instructed by its auditors to be a bit more careful with our Hamrun chap for the sole reason that he is Maltese.

Labour’s abuses are to be paid in the demise of trust between businesses and their banks. The price to pay is higher than that when you consider that parting with your balance sheets means also parting with the most jealously guarded secrets and strategy for your business. From now on, Maltese businesses operate at an extra risk. Family businesses were traditionally the preferred way of operating in Malta because all your business genius and efforts were safe within the confines of solid blood relations.

Now we need to bid Adieu to business as we knew it. Now you will need to include the banker, his secretary, the exporter and possibly a few other officials in your business strategy simply because we have to make up for that mammoth mess that labour has done with Malta’s reputation abroad. All this because they did not have the guts to do the right thing and kept protecting crooks instead of protecting you and your future. Abela continues in the same path of Muscat. He does not move a finger to address the malaises afflicting his government and now society. We have to do it in his stead. 

[email protected]

  • don't miss