The Malta Independent on Sunday
Discussing, but Seriously!
I just don`t understand how the government is conducting its business. I have written extensively these last few months on the mounting economic problems. I have voiced my opinion about the uncanny way we are going about seeking` membership in the EU. I have even published a book about the matter.
I have spoken at conferences and in the last one in the presence of government ministers I explained that the government is complicating rather than solving our economic problems.
Not one word in reply.` No arguments to rebut` or counter analysis to mitigate any conclusions.` On the contrary the Minister for Economic Services writes in his regular Sunday Column that he liked my presentation but I should not have peppered it with political loading. So basically he admits that as a stand-alone my arguments are right but I should refrain from attributing` political responsibility for the poor state of our economic affairs.` I should console the victim but not condemn the economic rapist lest I be accused of playing political.
I make strong accusations to Government that it does not have the credentials to solve our deep economic problems because its electoral mandate promises confetti not sacrifices; because it cannot claim prior ignorance about the dismal state of the financial mess of our public accounts which the present government and the same incumbents themselves fabricated mostly between 1993 and 1996. Not one word of defence.
I make strong accusations that the schedule for accession into the EU is being unnecessarily accelerated with grave consequences to the standard of living of the low and middle class, to fit the personal ambitions of the Prime Minister and not to suit the true interest of the country. Not a whisper.
Through the Association for the Minority Shareholders accusations are made that HSBC Bank Malta plc is serving the interest of the major shareholders by making unethical pressure on the minority shareholders to give their proxies to the Chairman appointed by the majority shareholder.` Yet nothing moves. In front of such accusations, no denials are offered and the Regulators continue their cosy sleep happy to ensure that in the paper work the t`s are properly crossed and the i`s correctly dotted but not interested in performing the true functions of effective regulation.
Then I gather an ounce of` audacity to tell Alfred Sant that he should not have extended his admonition for EU enlargement commissioner to control his tongue by a threat to bite it back and it seems as if I shook the earth.
We cannot go on like this.` How on earth can we continue filling our national agenda with useless platitudes and seek confrontational solutions to problems which can only be solved by a pragmatic national approach`
How can this government which secured our electoral order with false promises of` milk and honey with little effort, now expect to capture the imagination of the electorate with` an EU vision which is hardly ever translated to real understandable language of how our daily lives will be effected`
Can`t we have real discussion please, but seriously, about whether a Government which has misrepresented facts to the electorate can have` what it takes to deserve our backing to accept his ill-devised solutions without murmur.
During the week we had two further examples of the pitiful level which discussion in this country has sank into. Enemalta saves $1.7 million on oil purchases replied the Minister for Economic Services to a parliamentary question. This same Minister had cruelly criticised his predecessor for agreeing to the hedging agreement which produced his saving. So to cover his `. the Minister added that the fact remained that the hedging agreement exposed Enemalta to major risk which was not based on scientific evidence and that this` speculation in a highly volatile sector which could have had serious consequences for the country.` Bombastic words indeed for an agreement which produced a saving!` It would have been better if the Minister saved his breath from such grandiloquence and informed what scientific studies has led him to allow Enemalta to buy oil at market prices since the hedging agreement expired last December. I estimate that on current oil prices Enemalta must be losing some $4 million each month. My forecast that if oil maintains its current levels, as seems likely, we will soon have to experience another energy price hike has not been rebutted since I made it in the Labour Party general conference 4 weeks ago!
And Roderick Pace solemnly maintains that entry into the EU will protect our statehood. We need another year to know what voting rights we will have in an enlarged EU and our learned critics eloquently profess the preservation of our statehood even if we have to accept that all decisions are taken for us by others.` Let`s discuss, but seriously!
Sunday, 27 February 2000
The Malta Independent on Sunday
Sunday, 20 February 2000
Indhil Politiku u d-DAEWOO
Ma nafx x`fettillu il-Ministru Josef Bonnici dan l-ahhar rega` semma fil-Parlament, bhala ezempju ta` kemm inghataw favuri taht amministrazzjoni laburista, il-fatt li fil-Mid-Med Bank kienu gew decizi promotions f`laqgha tal-Bord li saret nhar il- 5 ta` Settembru 1998, il-jum ta` l-elezzjoni.
Din tipika ta` dan il-Ministru bla sinsla li jikkrikta meta dak li jkun ma jkollux lok fejn jirrispondi.
Privatament kont urejt id-dokumenti kollha lil Ministru fil ftit xhur li ghamilt bhala chairman tal-Mid-Med Bank wara l-elezzjoni li l-promotions kienu saru bl-aktar mod serju u minghajr indhil ta` hadd. Kien iltaqa l-Bord biex japprova dawn il-promozzjonijiet propju wara li ghalaq il-Bank nhar sibt l-elezzjoni biex zgur ma jigi nfluwenzat hadd kif jivvota jew ma jivvotax. Kieku l-promozzjonijiet hargu qabel l-elezzjoni (kif fil-fatt seta` sar ghax il-process kien inbeda xhur qabel u dahlu fih mijiet ta` nies biex ma tkunx decizjoni ta` ftit fuq il-hafna bla ma jkunu jafu l-kapacitajiet tal-persuni nvoluti) ara kemm kien ikun hemm pressjoni politika f`dawk il-jiem sensittivi ta` qabel l-elezzjoni.
Dan jien ma ridtux u fil-fatt wara l-elezzjoni hadd passi kontra tnejn mill-impjegati talli marru ghand il-Prim Ministru ( wiehed ta` qabel u l-iehor ta` issa) biex dan jaghmel pressjoni fuqi ha nibdel decizjoni li kienet ittiehdet bl-aktar mod tekniku u serju. Lanqas ma kien possibbli li dawn il-promozzjonijiet jistennew ghax kien hemm vakanzi li riedu jintlew u l-Bank ma ghandux jieqaf minhabba l-elezzjoni.
Kien hemm certu promozzjonijiet li kienu jifilhu jistennew u allura dawn gew decizi izda mhux mhabbra halli l-bord ta` wara ikollu l-opportunita jerga jahsibha. Irrizulta li l-bord ta` warajna ikkonferma dawn il-promozzjonijet kollha u allura dan huwa xiehda ta` kemm ix-xoghol kien sar bil-galbu.
Il-Misintru Bonnici semma li l-grievance board li sar wara li spiccajt jien minn chairman u qabel ma nbiegh il-bank lil HSBC kellu johrog promozzjonijiet ohra ha jsewwi ghal xi ngustizzji taghna. Qatt smajtu b`bord ta` appell li ma jibghatx ghal min ha d-decizjoni li saret appell minnha halli jara d-decizjoni kif u ghala ttiehdet` Hekk ghamel dan il-Bord ta` Appell. Qal li l-punti li konna tajna fl-interview board ma kienux gusti bla ma biss talabni nidher ha nispjega. Gew ordnati li jsiru interviews mill-gdid halli jinqdew il-hbieb tal-hbieb. Hemm kien il-bazuzlizmu u mhux kif konna iddecedejna ahna li konna waqqafna promotions ta` laburisti li kienu gabu punti aktar milli kien hemm bzonn izda li ma kienx hemm vacancy ghalihom fil-materja tal-ispecjalizzazzjoni taghhom.
Dawn fatti ma jmerihom hadd u minn fuq il-Ministru Bonnici imur jitkaza fejn ma jista` jmerih hadd.` Ahjar il-Ministru Bonnici indaga ftit il-bicca tad- Daewoo fil-Bank of Valletta.` Fuq kollox il-Ministru Bonnici ghandu rekord li jindahal hafna lic-Chairmen li jkun hatar u c-Chairman tal-Bank of Valletta jahtru hu. Allura galadarba John Dalli, il-Ministru tal-Finanzi, jammetti jew le ghandu manu in pasta f`dil-bicca u ma jistax ikun arbitru gust, mhux ahjar il-Ministru Bonnici jara sewwa dil-bicca tad-Daewoo x`inhi qabel ma l-kobba tkompli tithabbel. U mela joqghod jivvinta fuqi.
Jien dettalji dwar id-Daewoo ma ghandix u ghalhekk ma nistax naghmel gudizzju sew.` Izda il-fatti li hargu huma nkwetanti bizzejjed biex ihallu lok ghal probabilita` mhux zghira li l-facilita` ta` aktar minn Lm8 miljuni lill grupp tad-Daewoo inghataw mhux fuq il-mertu ta min kien qed jissellef izda fuq pressjoni politika.
Bl-esperjenza mhux zghira tieghi ma nahsibx li huwa xejn affattu normali li grupp ta` kumpaniji li huma totalment mmexxija, ghallinqas dak li jidher, minn bniedem wiehed bla track record ta` xejn jew addirittura track record negattiv, Bank serju bhal Bank of Valletta jghaddielu krediti ta Lm 8 miljuni u jhallih jigbor il-flus tal-kambjali minghand il-klijenti bla ma jiehu passi biex dawn jaslu ghandu kif zgur kellu f`mohhu minn hallas il-kambjala. Dawn affarijiet li ma jigrux f`kazi normali.
Jien fil-professjoni tieghi ikolli hafna x`naqsam ma klijenti li jigu bzonn il-banek u kelli u ghad ghandi okkazjonijiet nara kif jittiehdu d-decizjonijet fil-kors normali taghhom. F`dawn il-granet stess klijent antik tal-Bank of Valletta talab facilitajiet ta miljun u nofs li l-Bank of Valletta irrifjuta filwaqt li l-HSBC accetta.
Ma nghidx li l-Bank of Valletta zbaljaw ghalkemm nemmen li kien ikun ghaqli kieku qdew klijent li issa ser jitlaqhom wara 40 sena. Izda nghid ara kemm il-Bank of Valletta ma jisilfux kif gieb u lahaq anke fejn il-klijent haqqu minn jghinu. U nzid allura niskanta kif il-Kavallier Joe M Scicluna tad-Daewoo irnexxielu jikkonvinci lil nies daqstant serji u professjonali li jmexxu l-Bank biex jghaddulu fuq tmin miljun lira jekk ma kienx hemm indhil politiku biex id-decizjoni tal-Bank ma baqghetx libera li jiggudika lil klijent fuq il-merti tieghu.
Donnu issa kulhadd jaqbel li hemm bzonn issir investigazzjoni hlief il-gvern li jaf ghandu x`jitlef jekk din l-investigazzjoni ssir sew,` u l-Bank Centrali li donnu ma jinkwetah xejn l-indhil politiku fil-banek.
Jekk il-Gvern ser iwebbes rasu u ma jghamilx investigazzjoni jista ta` lanqas jghid il-Ministri tieghu jaghmlu dikjarazzjoni li hadd minnhom qatt ma siefer mal-Kavallier Scicluna tad-Daewoo u mar mieghu il-Korea. Tghid lanqas dan il-pass zghir ma ghandu hajra jiehu l-Gvern`
Thursday, 17 February 2000
The Times of Malta
Last weekend we had important pronouncements from our major exponents of the two political schools of thought which deserve reflection and comment.
Dr.Sant`s admonishment of EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen was 50% right. Mr Verheugen has been talking quite undiplomatically on the needs for the MLP to change its EU policies.` Political parties in a democratic society should not be pressurised by outside forces to go against their own beliefs and what they perceive to be the interest of the section of society which they represent.
Not even in case of Austria`s Haider is it clear that EU members are actually serving democracy well in trying to block Haider rather than use more diplomatic pressure to point out that 73% of the Austrians did not vote for Haider.` What they should be doing is pointing out in clear diplomatic language` that should Haider use his power within the governing coalition to go against the wish of the 73% of Austrians who hold high democratic principles, then his party` will lose its credentials to be considered as part of government of a member country of the EU, which is founded upon basic democratic principles.
But in our case the Labour Party is fully within its democratic right to hold its own views on EU membership and no Verheugen has any right to interfere in Maltese internal political affairs. This is particularly so considering that membership to certain evolving structures within the EU might necessitate a change to entrenched articles of the Constitution.
Where the Opposition Leader was 50% wrong is in telling Verheugen that unless he bites his tongue we`ll bite it for him. Some tongue biting on the part of Dr Sant would be quite in order so as not to dilute the very valid point he was making.
An` acute dose of tongue biting is however particularly required by the Prime Minister. Over the weekend he warned the GWU that their protests against an effective reduction in the take home pay of most salaried employees is uncalled for.` The Union, through a prime-minister heavenly edict, should docilely accept such measures in the national interest. This dogma would have the Unions responsibly accepting that the country has serious financial problems which can only be` resolved if sacrifices are accepted without murmur in spite of` deep cuts in the standard of living of their members.
Now the Prime Minister stand would be totally valid if the following set of pre-conditions were to apply:
If the Government held a valid electoral mandate to undertake austerity measures. 2.
If the Government was not principally responsible for the creation of the deficit problem in the first place. 3.
If the burden of addressing the deficit was being equitably spread in a socially just manner.
A objective review reveals that reality is diametrically opposed to these set of circumstances which could justify the Prime Minister`s stand.
The electoral manifesto of the government does not even come anywhere near to acknowledging the country`s financial problems. On the contrary in the short 22 months in opposition the Prime Minister was continually denying the existence of the financial deficit and depicting deficit addressing measures by Labour as uselessly cruel and totally against social principles.
The electoral manifesto promises the people who are now expected to make sacrifices without complaint, tax rebates not tax increases. It proposes to` them cheap utility rates not Vat on telephone bills. It promises no increase in government induced costs not a further increase in the price of transport and energy. It promised them millions of financial aid from the EU to solve our financial crisis without having to resort to higher taxes.
Had the Government been elected into a position it had no prior notice of, as had broadly happened to Labour in 1996, than it could be somewhat conceivable that the government tells the electorate, sorry but I cannot deliver my promises and have to take steps in the opposite direction because this scenario is totally different from what the one` projected and there was no way this` could have been known before.
But this Government cannot bring this defence.` They have been in office for all of these last 156 months bar 22, so they cannot claim not being aware of the financial state of the state coffers.` The Minister of Finance was certainly aware and he informed all his cabinet colleagues with the 1996 cabinet memo putting one and all aware of the impending financial crisis unless expenditure is reigned in. Over the week-end he also made the laughable claim that the mounting debt and deficit is the result of the wholesale public sector recruitment before the 1987 elections. Will please someone tell the Minister that this is year 2000 and that 1987 was thirteen years ago. Won`t someone please remind the Minister how many thousands have joined the public service since then and how many thousands have since retired or resigned.
As to the last test for the acceptability of austerity measures through equitable spread of the sacrifice burden this is certainly not the case. How can you leave the highest marginal tax rate unchanged and collapse the in between tax tiers and claim social justice` How can you allow people earning upwards of Lm15000 carry the same burden as people earning Lm8,000.
And if the Prime Minister thinks that anybody earning Lm100 per week can afford the burden of taxation and NI insurance without any hardship than it must be a long time since he last received school bills, transport bills, car repairs and licence bill and so many other bills which is just leaving the middle class squeaking under the pain of these austerity measures.
Why do I keep getting the impression that often people in power justify the unjustifiable through force, imposition and the stinking notion that all of us on this side of the fence are stupid gullible idiots`
Sunday, 13 February 2000
The Malta Independent on Sunday
Twisting Words, Hidden Agendas and Bank Profits
With Budget measures hitting where it hurts the Government desperately needs to divert public attention` to other issues.` In doing so it is finding, as usual, the full cooperation of the print media and the public broadcasting which are trying to submerge it by pushing` other issues up the priority list of the national agenda.
Tuesday`s Pjazza 3 tried damn best to put One News journalist Joe Mifsud into a 3:1 disadvantage to discuss the April 1987 Rabat political violence. It` backfired only due to Mifsud`s journalistic prowess.` I was impressed by his` knowledge of the minutest detail of the recent court case involving a thirteen year long accusation against one individual against whom there was not the slightest whiff of evidence .
Friday`s Xarabank also sought` to discuss (this is being written before the programme was transmitted) what Alfred Sant has not said.
During the Labour Party general conference on 30th January 2000 Alfred Sant made a very calm and sober statement. He said that whereas he genuinely believes that as a small country any government should govern seriously` and should not dispense favours to its faithful, and whereas Labour had given ample proof of its willingness to do so during its 22 month tenure of government, considering that nobody is objecting about how the present government has discarded this mode of governing and has reverted to the system of tribal politics, than once one cannot tango alone,` the next Labour government will treat its faithful just the same way the government is doing. No more, no less.
The media which forms part of the nationalist network of power sharing twisted this to stress that a future labour government will castigate nationalist sympathisers with` vibrant discrimination and will be a government of `bazuzli`.
Forgive me for` asking, but if Alfred Sant has simply said we don`t like it but you will constrain us to behave just as you are behaving as otherwise labourites will remain out of government even when in government, why all this astonishment` Or are laws applied differently depending whose in government`
This twisting of words must be serving some hidden agenda, the same agenda which is trying to keep the real budget after-effects issue out of national discussion. Whoever is driving this agenda is miscalculating however that suffering in silence increases the pain and the pain brings with it resentment which will surface` at the appropriate time.
I make a small contribution to this hidden agenda by focussing on the results of HSBC Bank Malta plc, formerly Mid-Med Bank just announced this week for the 15 months to December 1999.
The Bank changed its financial year end from September 30th to December 31st to come in line with HSBC Group financial year end . The published results therefor cover a period of 15 months from 1st October 1998 till 31st December 1999.` For the first two and a half months of this period I was still chairing the Bank.
Reported operating profit before tax of Lm16.747million if reduced pro-rata to 12 months come down to Lm13.4 million down from the Lm14.6 million I had signed off the financial year before. This represents a reduction of` 8% at a time when the main competitor Bank of Valletta improved slightly on the previous year.
However the figures leading up to the profit contain three elements which have to be analysed if a meaningful comparison is to be made.
Firstly the Other Net Operating Income ( i.e. non-interest revenue) increased from Lm9.9 million to Lm18.7 million. Adjusting for the longer time span this represent an absolute increase of` some Lm6 million. Whilst partly this follows the bank`s strategy to diversify its revenue sources from the conventional interest revenues, the greater bulk of this represents exceptional transactions undertaken as part of the sale of government`s shares in Mid-Med Bank to HSBC.
In particular this relates to disposal of Mid-Med `s 21% in Middle Sea, 16% in Medigrain and 45% in Maltapost. All these disposals realised one-off profits which technically are however considered as normal revenue. This is a demonstration, to be noted by the accountancy profession,` that for all the complicated standards they continue to churn out with monotonous regularity,` form still wins over substance.` I would estimate that around Lm4 million to Lm5 million` can be explained by these one-off transcations.
To compensate for this exceptional increase in profits HSBC has increased provisioning` for bad debts` by nearly Lm 5million over the previous period.
A note to the accounts states that this reflects a revised assessment of asset quality of the book. In simple terms this means this is astronomical increase in bad debt provision is not the result of any new lending which turned bad but is an across the board re-assessment of risk in outstanding exposures.
Provisioning for bad debts is a highly subjective area. However considering that Mid-Med has a tradition of generous provisioning one cannot but suspect that this increase in provisioning has been purposely engineered to neutralise the exceptional profits aforementioned in order not to boost the bottom line artificially.` `A sort of two wrongs make a right.
There can be no justification for such a sharp increase in provisioning as if the loan book asset quality was re-assessed than certainly the generous general provisions ( i.e. provisions against debts which have not yet been identified as potentially irrecoverable but may` turn out to be so) should have been scaled back. If one is more rigorous in specific provisioning than one need not be also rigorous in general provisioning. I am positive that these provisions will in the course of time be written back to profits.
So if these two factors have broadly cancelled out each other what is the third factor which has caused a retreat in profits. This is a pro-rata 16% increase in operating expenses. Now the bank has not signed any collective agreement and is reported to be offering modest increases for the one being negotiated. Nowhere near 16%!
Private shareholders of the Bank should be` eagerly awaiting disclosure of the full details of the financial report to see what led to this astronomic increase in operating expenses. There should be no subjectivity here as in bad debts provisioning. This increase represents hard cash expenses paid or payable out.` One ought to particularly look out for charges which the parent company may be loading to its newly acquired subsidiary to the detriment of minority shareholders.
I have got much satisfaction in defending the rights of minority shareholders last year. In doing so I have reached all objectives of fending off attempts to force the minority shareholders hands to sell at the fire-sale price which our ministry of taxes has unscrupulously accepted. In so doing, together with my colleagues forming the Association representing minority shareholders, we` have added some Lm50 million liri value to the minority`s 30% shareholding.
Having achieved all objectives the Association will be disbanded as there is a limit beyond which voluntary work cannot be carried. Money donated to the Association is being spent to promote the election of fellow action committee member Mr John Borg Bartolo. Having him on elected on the Board of the Bank is the most effective way how the minority shareholders interest can continue to be defended. I have done my part, I did it with handsome results beyond my wildest expectations. It has given me much satisfaction but no` profit as regretfully I never was a shareholder. Over to you John!
Mil Hazin Ghal Aghar
Jekk hawn xi haga li donnu li jaqbel fuqha kullhadd huwa kemm l-ekonomija ma tistax tiehu r-ruh, kif in-negozju huwa ggammjat u kif ma hu qed isir xejn biex iservi ta` stimulu biex nohorgu minn din il-fosdqa li ninsabu fiha.
Ghal min jaf josserva l-andament ekonomiku tal-pajjiz f`dawn l-ahhar snin u min b`mod objettiv jifhem il-problemi vera li ghandu il-pajjiz bhalissa, il-konkluzjoni hija cara li bil-mod kif mexjin mill-hazin se mmorru ghal aghar.
Dan il-gvern issa ilu aktar min sena u nofs fil-poter. Izda tosservah fih is-sintomi kollha ta` gvern li ilu fil-poter 13 il-sena ghajr ghal interval qasir ta` 22 xahar. Sintomi ta` gvern ghajjien, bla hegga u bla idejat.
F`sena u nofs ma hareg bl-ebda ideja krejattiva gdida. Mexxa biss il-progetti li kien hejja gvern laburista.` Il-bqija gdid xejn. Ir-rizultat qed jidher.
Il-qaghad tieghla. L-gholi tal-hajja tieghla. It-taxxi tilghin. Kollox tielgha anke n-nervi tal-maltin li ma ghadhomx jaqilghuha tajjeb kif kienu u qed jibqghu lura mil-konsum. Niezel biss il-livell tal-ghixien tal-haddiem Malti.
Qatt mill-indipendenza `l hawn ma garrab il-haddiem l-esperjenza li garrab f`dan l-ewwel xahar tal-millenju. Hafna haddiema hadu tnaqqis fil-paga. Meta tnaqqas iz-zieda fit-taxxi u fil-bolla li jifdal huwa anqas minn dak li kien jifdal qabel. U dan minkejja li jried jaghmel tajjeb ghal zieda fil-petrol jew diesel, hobz, dawl u ilma, trasport u tant affarijiet ohra.
Hija frott il-generozita` qawwija tal-poplu Malti li minkejja dan l-istat ta` incertezza nhar il-Hadd li ghadda fuq Super One TV ingabru `l fuq minn Lm50,000 ghal lebbruzi ta` l-Ethiopia.
Ghala, wiehed jistaqsi, `qed jigri dan. Ir-risposta semplici. Bejn 1988 u l-1995 konna kontinwament qed nieklu min gewwa u individwalment konna qed nghixu hajja ahjar a skapitu tal-gid kolletiv nazzjonali. Ghal bidu dan kellu aspett pozittiv billi iggenera benesseri` sa l-1987 il-pajjiz kellu livell baxx ta` djun.` Allura kien jiflah ghad-dejn li beda jsir.
Izda tiehu bla trodd sa swar thott. U s-swar tassew inhattu tant li fl-1996 id-deficit tal-gvern sploda b'mod li qabez sew il-Lm100 miljun meta kien previst deficit ta` Lm32 miljun.
Kien ta` fortuna ghan-nazzjonalisti li tilfu l-elezzjoni ta` l-1996. Il-problemi sabhom ma wiccu gvern laburista gdid li ma kien jahti xejn tal-gwaj` li wiret. In-nazzjonalisti flok kienu oppozizzjoni lejali kienu bhal prostituta li titkaza b`min jilbes skullat, jaghjjru lill-gvern laburista talli kien qed jissellef biex jiffinanzja l-hofra li haffru huma stess.
U wara li gvern laburista ghamlilhom hafna xoghol (dirty work) id-destin` ried li n-Nazzjonalisti jidhlu jmexxu huma halli jerfghu il-piz tar-rovina finanzjarja li gabu b`idejhom.
Ma tehux gost tara l-poplu Malti jinhaqar. Izda fis-sitwazzjoni li wasslu l-pajjiz dawk li kienu jghidu `money no problem` qajla min imexxi fadallu fejn jimmanuvra, specjalment jekk ikun nieqes minn kull krejattivita` bhal dan il-gvern.
Huwa tajjeb ghalhekk li l-Partit Laburista li bhalissa qed jiskonta l-eccessi li kienu saru bejn 1982 u l-1986, juza dan il-perjodu biex ihejji ruhu sew ghaz-zmien li gej meta jerga jissejjah ikun fil-gvern u ma joqghodx jinghi ghal fatt li nsteraqlu mandat validu. Issa dak warajna.` Inharsu `l quddiem.
Ghax huwa ghal kollox plawsibbli li anke jekk ma naghmlux affarijiet kbar il-poplu issa tghallem ghas-spejjez tieghu stess kemm dahqu bih in-Nazzjonalisti u l-poplu jistenna l-hin propizju biex jaghti taghlima lil min dahaq bih.
Taghlima lil min qed jahseb li jista juza l-kontroll li ghandu fuq il-mezzi ta` komunikazzjoni biex l-abjad jghidlu iswed. Biex jghid li l-kontijiet tad-dawl u l-ilma rahsu meta ma rahsu xejn. Biex jghid li t-turizmu sejjer tajjeb meta fil-fatt ir-rankatura li kien ta gvern laburista issa zvintat u hemm problemi kbar. Biex jghid li fil-pajjiz hawn hafna fiducja meta fil-fatt hadd ma jried jinvesti fl-ebda progett produttiv u n-negozju ggammja ghal kollox.
Il-poplu ma jinsix. Illum tghallem kemm kellu ragun Gvern Laburista imexxi bil-galbu u ma jisparpaljax.` Kemm kellu ragun Gvern Laburista ifittex rikonciljazzjoni nazzjonali bil-fatti u mhux bil-paroli.
Il-poplu ghandu opportunita` biex jibghat messagg qawwi ta` sfiducja fil-gvern fl-elezzjonijiet lokali tal-11 ta` Marzu.` Min issa `l quddiem l-Partit Laburista irid jipprospetta ruhu bhala gvern alternattiv ghal gvern nazzjonalista li qed fuq platform insostenibbli li taf iddub that saqajhom hin bla waqt. Jekk le mil-hazin immoruu ghall-aghar.
Sunday, 6 February 2000
Tfal ta` Alla izghar
Ghal Gvern Nazzjonalista il-Laburisti Maltin huma tfal ta` alla izghar. Skond in-nazzjonalisti f`dan il-pajjiz hawn regoli ghal-laburisti u regoli ghan-nazzjonalisti.` Dak li jghodd ghal-laburisti ma jghoddx ghan-Nazzjonalisti.
Gvern Nazzjonalista jista jaghmel vendikazzjonijiet kemm irid. Jista` jinjora id-decizjoni tal-Kummissjoni tal-Ingustizzji. Jista` jtajjar mil-karigi taghhom nies appuntati minn Gvern Laburist kif u meta jrid bla ma jaghti rendikont lil hadd.
Izda Gvern Laburista ma jistax jaghmel l-istess.` Meta kienu tnehhew mill-kariga Francis Vasallo Gvernatur tal-Bank centrali u John Grech Chairman tal-Bank of Valletta kien hemm protesti qawwija.
Gvenr nazzjonalista jista` jbiegh it-tezori taghna bil-prezz li jrid hu bla ma jiehu parir minn ghand hadd u bla ma johrog avviz ghal offerti. U il-fatt li l-poplu Malti biegh il-Mid-Med bLm70 miljun meta dawn l-ivestiment ftit xhur wara issa jiswew Lm171 miljun (mitt miljun lira maltin izjed)` allajibierek qisu ma gara xejn.
Jista jdum johrog rapporti l-Awditur Generali` biex ifittex il-hela fid-dipartimenti tal-Gvern. Isib xi jsib ikun` cicri hdejn dak li tilef il-poplu malti mill-bejgh tal-Mid-Med Bank bl-addocc. Ahjar l-Awditur Generali jara kif dan il-bejgh sar bla parir minn ghand hadd u bla ma hargu offeti. Mitt miljun lira mhux cajta!
Ara meta kont Chairman jien u kien hemm bzonn li l-Bank ikabbar ic-Centru Ruzar Briffa fejn kellna fuqq hames` mitt ruh jahdmu kulhadd mghaffeg fuq xulxin bla parking ghal hadd. Ghax ridt nixtri l-post imiss mac-Centru li nzerta kien ta` kumpanija li fiz-zmien kont nahdem konsulent maghha, jien f`gieh it-trasparaenza qabel ma wettaqt id-decizjoni tal-Bord bghat il-file lil-Awditur Pubbliku biex jiccekja li kollox kien kif suppost.
Issa hawn ma konniex qed nitkellmu fuq mitt miljun.` Konna qed nitkellmu fuq ftit aktar minn zewg miljuni li kienu se jzidu b`mod qawwi l-efficjenza tal-Bank billi jigu centralizzati hafna processi li kienu mxerrdin fil-freighi tal-bank.` Il-Bank of Valletta issa se jaghmel l-istess u ghadu kif xtara bicca art Fleur de Lys tad- Dacoutros.
Imbierka s-sapjenza tal-hanin Alla l-Awditur Generali dam itella u jnizzel disa xhur u hareg ir-raport ftit jiem qabel l-elezzjoni. L-Awditur li kien qabbad tlett periti li ghazilhom hu biex jaghmlu valutazzjoni tal-propjeta` li kien ser jixtri l-Bank ma kienx kuntent li dawn it-tlett periti qalulu iswed fuq l-abjad li l-prezz kien wiehed gust. Le, l-Awditur Generali, li zgur ma ghandu l-ebda esperjenza fi strategija tax-xoghol bankarju, qal li ghalkemm il-prezz gie certifikat korrett minn tlett periti li qabbad huwa stess qal li l-istrategija tal-Bank mhix tajba u il-Bank ghandu jbiegh ic-Centru Ruzar Briffa u jibni x`imkien gdid bi spiza enormi li lanqas tista timmagina xi tfisser! Ara dan f`hiex jifhem fl-istrategija tal-Bank!
U n-Nazzjonalisti tghidx kemm ghajjru li jien kelli konflitt ta` interess u li kien hemm it-tbaghbis. Issa dan meta il-post ma nxtarax ghax jien kont l-uniku Chairman li decizjoni tieghi, minhabba relazzjoni antika li kelli mal-venditur, ridt li` tigi maghrbula mill-Awditur Generali.
Il-ligijiet ghal-Laburistu huma iebsin immens.` Ara issa li n-nazzjonalisti bieghu il-Bank kollu mitt miljun lira anqas mill-prezz tas-suq bla ma biss hargu offerti l-ebda Awditur Generali ma tniffes. L-ebda Times jew Net TV ma hareg jitkaza li bicca xoghol bhal din ma gietx ivvetjata minn xi hadd indipendenti. L-ebda Awditur ma hareg ilum lill-Gvern li biegh gawhra bhal din bla ma biss fittex parir ta` esperti fuq kemm verament jiswa l-Bank. L-Awditur Generali ghad irid jaghti kont tal-mod kif jimxi skond min ikun fil-Gvern.
U nhar il-Hadd li ghadda rega kellna konferma ohra li n-Nazzjonalisti jhossuhom superjuri u `l fuq mil-ligi li torbot lil-laburisti.
Fid-diskors ta` l-gheluq tal-Konferenza Generali, Alfred Sant ghamel diskors importanti li kien ilu mistenni mil-laburisti bhal ma l-art qoxqox tkun tistenna l-ewwel xita ta` Settembru. Alfred Sant qal li jiddispjacih li l-Gvern Nazzjonalista ma gharafx is-siwi tal-prudenza li mexa biha hu meta kien Prim Ministru billi kien verament Gvern tal-Maltin u l-Ghawdxin kollha u halla diversi nazzjonalisti f`karigi mportanti. Qal Alfred Sant li galadarba t-tango ma tistax tizfnu wahdek, galadarba hadd ma jipprotesta tal-mod moqziez kif il-laburisti qed jigu ttrattati bhala xi razza nferjuri, allura gvern laburista tal-futur ser jimxi mal-laburisti l-istess kif il-gvern prezenti qed jimxi man-nazzjonalisti.
Din l-istqarrija semplici ixxukjat lin-Nazzjonalisti li hargu jghidu li l-MLP rega lura ghall-imghoddi u ser imexxi politika tal-bazuzli. Mela ghax Alfred Sant wissa li ser nimxu ezatt kif ser jimxu huma, taghhom hija politka tajba u taghna tkun politka tal-bazuzli!
Daqshekk telghalhom ghal rashom il-poter in-nazzjonalisti!. Qed jippretendu li huma ulied alla akbar mill-alla zghir tal-laburisti.` Qed jippretendi l-laburisti huma xi razza nferjuri ghalihom. Ma nafx l-intelletwali li jduru fil-kuriduri tal-Pieta` kif jistghu iharsu fil-mera u jibqalhom rispett lejhom nfushom. Izda meta tmut il-kuxjenza, x`jiswa l-intellett`
Wednesday, 2 February 2000
By pressing ahead for early accession into the EU before the next general election with the very real prospect of this being turned down in a referendum there are only losers and few pious victors.
The most obvious winner could be the Labour Party but as explained in the previous contribution this would be a short-lived win crippling the evolvement of future policies for an elected Labour Government. In any event it is certainly not the Labour Party that is pressing for accession to the EU on this side of the next elections!
The big loser would be the Nationalist Party which in such an eventuality would need to re-invent itself after seeing the major platform upon which it has founded its domestic and foreign policy dissolve under its own feet.
The EU itself would be a loser seeing its relations with Malta being aborted by the accelerated pace which was forced onto a project which needed more time. The EU has a real interest in maintaining a healthy and progressive relationship with Malta and a referendum rebuff would set the relations quite a few steps back.
So where is the winner and for whose sake are these risks being taken` Obviously there could be niches who harbour extreme insularity who can consider themselves winners of such an outcome but it is hardly imaginable that such risks are being taken for their benefit.
The simple truth is that the whole accession to the EU project is being subjected to the personal ambitions of one man. One person who is seeking to crown the end of his successful political career with the achievement of a premature objective. A man who has developed an obsession to enter the history book waving the membership document.
The time frames of the project are not being developed in the interest of the nation. Nor are they being forced upon us by the EU.` The EU has made it clear that the next enlargement will not be a short term window of opportunity but will be a long term process where countries could join upon achievement of sufficient congruence to render membership a salutary experience. The time-frames are being dictated by the personal needs of the Prime Minister.
Following the gift on a silver platter restored by Mintoff in the summer of 1998 to compensate for the moral deprivation caused by the 1981 electoral result, the Prime Minister has been running the country as if by divine inspiration.
It is easy to believe that the hand of God was behind the events of summer 1998 and therefore logical to extend the reasoning to believing that the hand of God is also behind the accession to the EU project.` Some even went as far as describing EU membership as a religious necessity for the defence of faith.
Though logical such behaviour from our political leader is putting in danger the whole economic and political progression of the country.` It is putting at risk all the political evolution which this country has acquired in the post war years.
Why should the country be put so much at risk for the personal agenda of just one man Can`t somebody please explain to our Prime Minister that his place in the history book is already reserved and he should not emulate Mintoff in tarnishing history`s judgement by follies committed at the end of a brilliant career.
This country desperately needs to restore a state of normality in the relationship between its main political parties. This can only happen following the next general election.` If Labour wins they can continue where they left off with the only difference that the 5 to 7 years for the free trade zone would be nearing its end of term so they would need to put forward the next steps for up-grading our relations with the EU.` If the PN wins then Labour would definitely have no choice but to review the whole concept of their model for Malta-EU relations.
Convergence on the concept of the best model for Malta-EU relations would then be possible also because by then the EU would have decided on what rights and obligations small member states like Malta would have within an enlarged EU. It would be the time to move forward in confidence as one nation with differences of opinion capable of being democratically debated without anyone trying to twist the rule of democratic play. The unhappy episode opened in the 1981 would be closed by the same person who opened it. It would be time to look the EU in the eye and decide the best way forward together as one nation without extreme bitterness between our political leaders and with the background of a healthy re-structured economy.
Political leaders should place the national interest before their personal agenda. History would repay them with kindness and esteem.
Tuesday, 1 February 2000
For all the complications of the EU enlargement project which is the centre-piece of the Prodi Commission objectives, Malta presents a very particular problem.
Malta is the only country among existing members and applicant countries,` where not only the electorate on the best hypothesis favours accession by a flimsy majority, but where there is a chasm about the membership concept, not just about the details, between` the political bodies represented in` the countries democratic structures.
This situation is uncomfortable and undesirable for the EU and one can start to understand the pressure being put on the MLP to reconsider its policies.` One could also speculate on the source of vile attempts to destabilise the MLP leadership by whoever has an interest to provoke a leadership bid once the current leadership cannot be persuaded to dance to their tune.
The decision to accede to EU membership is a decision with consequences far longer than the expiry date of the incumbent government`s mandate.` It is no decision which a Government takes in the ordinary course of its business. It binds future governments and should ideally be taken following congruence of concepts between the incumbent and the alternative government.
The state of congruence of concepts has prevailed in all major constitutional decisions taken by our country in the post war period. In the run-up to independence both major parties were solidly backing the independence concept. The difference between the political parties was mainly whether independence should be packaged with other defence related agreements as accepted by the incumbent government or whether independence should be a stand-alone,` with defence agreement being negotiated by Malta as a sovereign independent state as advocated by the opposition.
The same congruence of concepts applied for the creation of the Republic, the closure of the military base and the inclusion of the neutrality and non-alignment provisions in the constitution.
Taking on the EU accession project without convergence on the concept by the two main political parties is risky.` Project realisation depends on it being approved by more than a wafer thin majority at a time when the electorate will be feeling the pain of economic re-structuring and would inevitable associate such pain with the EU accession project.
If, as it is likely, the referendum would return a negative vote then the EU accession project would have to be shelved for the next 20 years. Not even any eventual convergence on the membership concept would guarantee an early revival of the project.
It is easy to jump to the conclusion that such a scenario would favour Labour. In the short term it surely does.` The PN would find the platform over which it has built its domestic and foreign policy suddenly disappearing. The Prime Minister would have a low exit from his political carreer and a Labour Party returned to power would have its options narrowed to one model without the important opportunity to keep options open to react to unfolding scenarios as the EU itself develops its scope and structures.
In the end Malta would have lost by being forced to take a premature political decision at a time when it was distracted by the needs to re-structure its economy and when it was still suffering from the withdrawal symptoms of a Mintoff legacy.` Whilst this legacy has managed to settle the bill which Mintoff himself had rung up by denying the PN a moral electoral victory in 1981,` it has left the country in state where the two main political schools distrust each other with bitterness, following the undemocratic way which a resounding electoral mandate was undemocratically terminated by Mintoff. His recent repetition that everybody knew he had his own electoral manifesto speaks volumes on how the man who fought so much for democracy could not sustain it when he achieved it. He has now has forgotten the simple concept that the electoral manifesto of a party is that approved by the general conference and not any hybrid version which any particular member may concoct.
Malta should not run the risk of seeing the EU accession project aborted by a pre-mature referendum. For the Maltese to take a sober decision about EU membership there needs time to see how the EU will itself evolve its structures as this will have a big influence on the preservation of our sovereignty and statehood. We also need time to re-structure ourselves out of the economic mess over-spending and over-consumption has put us in. And finally we must have normal relations between our main political parties.
While opposing each other as expected in a democracy, political parties have to mature to` treat each other with dignity and to stand together on a national issue when one really profiles itself especially if such an issue carries an expiry date far beyond the next general elections.` This set of circumstances can only emerge if the EU referendum is preceded by a general election.