Sunday, 29 April 2001

False Prophets False Analysis and Making Sense

The Sunday Times of Malta

The Editor

Dear Sir,

False prophets, false analysis and making sense

The European Movement`s contribution in OUR EUROPE (The Sunday Times 22nd April) makes yet another attempt to attack my credibility in order to control the damage to its cause from my exposing a rational thesis that Malta is likely to fall out of Objective 1 funding entitlement upon EU accession.

It states that my calculation of the GDP for Malta is based on a population of 353,796 while Eurostat worked with a population of 387,000. For end - 1999 figures Eurostat takes a population of 380,200 and this is the figure I used. Euro 3.4 billion of nominal GDP for 1999 spread over a population this size gives nominal GDP of Euro 8942 which is the figure I quoted.

GDP PER CAPITA, 1999 AT CURRENT PRICES IN US $ OECD Based on Based on

Member current current Cost of Countries exch.rates PPP * living

Nom $ PPP $ Factor**

A B B/A Japan (1) 34,313 24,628 0.7177 Switzerland (1) 36,247 28,672 0.7910 Denmark 33,124 27,073 0.8173 Norway 34,277 28,133 0.8208 Sweden 27,256 23,017 0.8445 Iceland 31,139 26,338 0.8458 Finland 25,046 22,723 0.9073 Germany 25,729 23,819 0.9258







1st quartile excludes only Lux & US











France (2) 23,764 22,067 0.9286 Luxembourg 44,360 41,356 0.9323 United Kingdom 24,228 22,861 0.9436 Austria 25,948 24,646 0.9498 United States 33,836 33,836 1.0000 Ireland 24,943 25,404 1.0185 Belgium 24,347 ` `24,845 1.0205 Netherlands 24,906 25,923 1.0408







2nd quartile includes Lux & US from 1st quartile









Italy 20,479 ` `23,247 1.1352 Australia 21,432 25,590 1.1940 Spain 15,220 18,215 1.1968 Canada 20,822 26,424 1.2690 Greece ` `11,848 15,140 1.2779 New Zealand (1) 14,376 18,629 1.2958 Portugal 11,438 16,703 1.4603







3rd quartile no exceptions











Mexico 4,961 8,447 1.7027 Korea 8,685 16,059 1.8491 Poland 4,014 8,650 2.1550 Turkey (1) 2,807 6,335 2.2569 Hungary 4,790 11,275 2.3539 Czech Republic 5,156 13,342 2.5877 Slovac Republic 3,653 10,947 2.9967







4th quartile no exceptions











* PPP = Purchasing Power Parity



** Cost of living Factor = This factor measures the cost of living in the respective countries The lower the factor the higher the cost of living.

(1) Countires still using SNA 68



(2) Figures include Overseas Departments









Source National Accounts of OECD countires, Main Aggregates Vol 1 Mar 2001









Then it calls me a false prophet because a full two years ago I had expressed a view that Malta would have either to forego` its commissioner or take it in turns with other countries to nominate a commissioner on an alternate basis. So according to European Movement I am a false prophet because at Nice summit last December each candidate member was given the right to nominate a commissioner which would have to grow in size accordingly.

This is typical of how our EU enthusiasts insist on seeing the EU in two dimensional perspective without any depth. They seem to overlook that at Nice` it was also agreed that by 2010 when the commission size reaches 27, the number of commissioners will be set at a lower number with appointments made by rotation among member states. Not too bad a vision for a false prophet!

Regarding other opinions I expressed a full two years ago which were not borne out by the results of the Nice Treaty I suggest that European Movement should hold its breath.` Few people who matters consider Nice as the last word on institutional changes necessary to render enlargement workable. Clearly we have not seen the final act.

Regarding European Movement`s calculations that Malta would still be well below the 75% average EU GDP even within an enlarged EU` of 28 countries there is one simple fault in its` reasoning which is what sparked off my original contribution in the first place. I challenge the thesis that Cyprus GDP in PPP units is 82 % of EU 15 average whereas Malta`s is only 52%. Can anyone with hands on experience of both countries believe that Cyprus real standard of living is 58% better than ours` What a poor record this would be for our political mangers of the last 14 years who continue to expect our unfailing gratitude!

I don`t know what gave rise to this incredible result. What I know is that Eurostat warns specifically about Malta`s outdated statistics methodology and that it takes at least three consecutive annual statistics to feel re-assured about statistical integrity. Measurement of our statistics in PPP units is still in the initial stage.

But in the same issue Prof Josef Bonnici (Insight- Making sense) tried to make sense through false analysis. He challenges my thesis, subsequently supported by Mr. Joe Sammut, that the richer a country is the higher is the price level prevailing in the economy.` Now this is such a simple theory that even my 90 year old uncle who never attended primary school will have no problem in understanding that a shopping basket in Zurich will cost more than the same shopping basket in Zurrieq.

All this came about through` my challenging the integrity of Malta`s average GDP of EU 15 which is 58% lower than Cyprus caused by Cyprus reportedly having a higher GDP per capita but lower price levels.

Prof Bonnici suugested that I visit OECD web-site and down load a table which shows that whilst the US has a higher GDP per capita than most countries it has a lower price level.` So there it goes ` my Zurich dearer than Zurrieq theory fails Prof. Bonnici false analysis.

I reproduce the table down loaded from OECD as Prof Bonnici indicated. All I add to it is` the conversion factor which Prof. Bonnici has so much difficulty to comprehend.` A simple division of the PPP per capita GDP by the Nominal per capita GDP.` `The lower the` factor the higher the price level prevailing in the country. I than re-organised the country list starting from the highest price level to the lowest price level. No surprise whatsoever that Japan and Switzerland take the top and runner up spot as the most expensive countries whereas the two republics formerly composing Czechoslovakia take the honour of the least expensive countries.

I divided the list into four quartiles to prove the consistency of the data. It works perfectly with two exceptions. The USA and Luxembourg defy the logic by being extremely rich but having a lower price level than poorer countries. There are good reasons for this.` Luxembourg is a tiny state which employs many workers who commute daily from France Belgium and Germany.` So the GDP per capita is over-stated by the production of the non-residents. And what about the US How can the US exception be explained` But does one need to explain the US exception Is not the US an exception throughout` How many countries are in command of a reserve currency like the US$`

But for Prof Bonnici the US and Luxembourg are the rule and all the rest are the exception! I can`t think of a more classic example of warped analysis of simple economic statistics.` How can our economic guru make sense from false analysis`

Sincerely,`

Alfred Mifsud



False Prophets False Analysis and Making Sense

The Sunday Times of Malta

The Editor

Dear Sir,

False prophets, false analysis and making sense

The European Movement`s contribution in OUR EUROPE (The Sunday Times 22nd April) makes yet another attempt to attack my credibility in order to control the damage to its cause from my exposing a rational thesis that Malta is likely to fall out of Objective 1 funding entitlement upon EU accession.

It states that my calculation of the GDP for Malta is based on a population of 353,796 while Eurostat worked with a population of 387,000. For end - 1999 figures Eurostat takes a population of 380,200 and this is the figure I used. Euro 3.4 billion of nominal GDP for 1999 spread over a population this size gives nominal GDP of Euro 8942 which is the figure I quoted.

GDP PER CAPITA, 1999 AT CURRENT PRICES IN US $ OECD Based on Based on

Member current current Cost of Countries exch.rates PPP * living

Nom $ PPP $ Factor**

A B B/A Japan (1) 34,313 24,628 0.7177 Switzerland (1) 36,247 28,672 0.7910 Denmark 33,124 27,073 0.8173 Norway 34,277 28,133 0.8208 Sweden 27,256 23,017 0.8445 Iceland 31,139 26,338 0.8458 Finland 25,046 22,723 0.9073 Germany 25,729 23,819 0.9258







1st quartile excludes only Lux & US











France (2) 23,764 22,067 0.9286 Luxembourg 44,360 41,356 0.9323 United Kingdom 24,228 22,861 0.9436 Austria 25,948 24,646 0.9498 United States 33,836 33,836 1.0000 Ireland 24,943 25,404 1.0185 Belgium 24,347 ` `24,845 1.0205 Netherlands 24,906 25,923 1.0408







2nd quartile includes Lux & US from 1st quartile









Italy 20,479 ` `23,247 1.1352 Australia 21,432 25,590 1.1940 Spain 15,220 18,215 1.1968 Canada 20,822 26,424 1.2690 Greece ` `11,848 15,140 1.2779 New Zealand (1) 14,376 18,629 1.2958 Portugal 11,438 16,703 1.4603







3rd quartile no exceptions











Mexico 4,961 8,447 1.7027 Korea 8,685 16,059 1.8491 Poland 4,014 8,650 2.1550 Turkey (1) 2,807 6,335 2.2569 Hungary 4,790 11,275 2.3539 Czech Republic 5,156 13,342 2.5877 Slovac Republic 3,653 10,947 2.9967







4th quartile no exceptions











* PPP = Purchasing Power Parity



** Cost of living Factor = This factor measures the cost of living in the respective countries The lower the factor the higher the cost of living.

(1) Countires still using SNA 68



(2) Figures include Overseas Departments









Source National Accounts of OECD countires, Main Aggregates Vol 1 Mar 2001









Then it calls me a false prophet because a full two years ago I had expressed a view that Malta would have either to forego` its commissioner or take it in turns with other countries to nominate a commissioner on an alternate basis. So according to European Movement I am a false prophet because at Nice summit last December each candidate member was given the right to nominate a commissioner which would have to grow in size accordingly.

This is typical of how our EU enthusiasts insist on seeing the EU in two dimensional perspective without any depth. They seem to overlook that at Nice` it was also agreed that by 2010 when the commission size reaches 27, the number of commissioners will be set at a lower number with appointments made by rotation among member states. Not too bad a vision for a false prophet!

Regarding other opinions I expressed a full two years ago which were not borne out by the results of the Nice Treaty I suggest that European Movement should hold its breath.` Few people who matters consider Nice as the last word on institutional changes necessary to render enlargement workable. Clearly we have not seen the final act.

Regarding European Movement`s calculations that Malta would still be well below the 75% average EU GDP even within an enlarged EU` of 28 countries there is one simple fault in its` reasoning which is what sparked off my original contribution in the first place. I challenge the thesis that Cyprus GDP in PPP units is 82 % of EU 15 average whereas Malta`s is only 52%. Can anyone with hands on experience of both countries believe that Cyprus real standard of living is 58% better than ours` What a poor record this would be for our political mangers of the last 14 years who continue to expect our unfailing gratitude!

I don`t know what gave rise to this incredible result. What I know is that Eurostat warns specifically about Malta`s outdated statistics methodology and that it takes at least three consecutive annual statistics to feel re-assured about statistical integrity. Measurement of our statistics in PPP units is still in the initial stage.

But in the same issue Prof Josef Bonnici (Insight- Making sense) tried to make sense through false analysis. He challenges my thesis, subsequently supported by Mr. Joe Sammut, that the richer a country is the higher is the price level prevailing in the economy.` Now this is such a simple theory that even my 90 year old uncle who never attended primary school will have no problem in understanding that a shopping basket in Zurich will cost more than the same shopping basket in Zurrieq.

All this came about through` my challenging the integrity of Malta`s average GDP of EU 15 which is 58% lower than Cyprus caused by Cyprus reportedly having a higher GDP per capita but lower price levels.

Prof Bonnici suugested that I visit OECD web-site and down load a table which shows that whilst the US has a higher GDP per capita than most countries it has a lower price level.` So there it goes ` my Zurich dearer than Zurrieq theory fails Prof. Bonnici false analysis.

I reproduce the table down loaded from OECD as Prof Bonnici indicated. All I add to it is` the conversion factor which Prof. Bonnici has so much difficulty to comprehend.` A simple division of the PPP per capita GDP by the Nominal per capita GDP.` `The lower the` factor the higher the price level prevailing in the country. I than re-organised the country list starting from the highest price level to the lowest price level. No surprise whatsoever that Japan and Switzerland take the top and runner up spot as the most expensive countries whereas the two republics formerly composing Czechoslovakia take the honour of the least expensive countries.

I divided the list into four quartiles to prove the consistency of the data. It works perfectly with two exceptions. The USA and Luxembourg defy the logic by being extremely rich but having a lower price level than poorer countries. There are good reasons for this.` Luxembourg is a tiny state which employs many workers who commute daily from France Belgium and Germany.` So the GDP per capita is over-stated by the production of the non-residents. And what about the US How can the US exception be explained` But does one need to explain the US exception Is not the US an exception throughout` How many countries are in command of a reserve currency like the US$`

But for Prof Bonnici the US and Luxembourg are the rule and all the rest are the exception! I can`t think of a more classic example of warped analysis of simple economic statistics.` How can our economic guru make sense from false analysis`

Sincerely,`

Alfred Mifsud



Johnny come lately!

Il-Kullhadd Johnny come lately!

Kultant issibha difficli biex temmen lil widnejk! Bilfors tibda tahseb li smigh beda jilghab u ghalhekk tistenna biex taqra l-gazzetta vera u ma toqghodx fuq dak li jfettillu jaqra Joe Muscat meta jibda jipprezenta` Mill-gurnali nhar ta` Hadd.

Izda meta taqra l-gazzetta propja u ssib dak li fil-fatt tkun smajt flok tiddubita `l widnejk tiddubita kif jista jkun li hawn min ghad fadallu fiducja fit-tmexxija ta` dan il-Gvern.

Dan huwa gvern li ilu fil-poter erbatax il-sena!` Trid tnehhi minnhom perjodu qasir ta` 22 xhar li matulhom il-gvern ta` Alfred Sant ghamel l-ewwel attentat serju biex il-pajjiz isir konxju tal-problemi kbar finanzjarji u ekonomici li dahhluh fih in-nazzjonalisti u biex jittiehdu mizuri biex jindirizzaw din il-problema.

Dawn il-mizuri ma setghux ikunu mizuri helwin. Meta tkun marid it-tabib medicina jordnalek u mhux helu u l-medicina mhix helwa.` Izda in-nazzjonalisti, artefici ta` dan id-dizastru ekonomiku u finanzjarju flok appoggaw lil Alfred Sant fil-mizuri li kien jinhtiegilhom u jixirqilhom` kunsens nazzjonali, bil-wicc tost ta` prostituta li titkaza bil-vergni li tilbes skullat, qaghdu jitkazaw u jghidu li mhux minnu li hemm xi hofra finanzjarja u li din kinet invenzjoni ta` Alfred Sant.

Mhux dan biss. Qalu li Alfred Sant kien qed itellef lil Malta Lm100 miljun lira fondi kull sena ghax ifriza l-applikazzjoni ghas-shubija u li kif din tigi mahruga mil-friza dawn il-fondi jinzlu jigru mil-vit ta` l-Ewropa ghal gol-kaxxa ta` Malta.

X`jimporta li il-Ministru John Dalli fis-sajf ta` l-1996 ghamel memorandum lil kabinett fejn widdibhom dwar il-qaghda prekarja tal-finanzi tal-gvern u dwar il-bzonn u dixxiplina finanzjarja` X`jimporta li Fenech Adami kien kostrett isejjah elezzjoni qabel il-budget biex jahbi li deficit ta` Lm32 miljun` kien spolda ghal Lm112 miljun u sar bhal ziemel mahrub bla kontroll`

Issa jigi il-Ministru John Dalli u qisu wasal il-bierah fuq ix-xena politika Maltija jhabbrilna li ghandu vizjoni ghal Malta. Vizjoni fejn ma jkunx hemm hela.` Vizjoni fejn kullhadd ihallas it-taxxi u dovuti u li n-nies mal-gvern jaghtu l-gurnata tax-xoghol taghhom.` Vizjoni fejn ix-xoghol tal-korporazzjonijiet isir b`mod efficjent jekk hemm bzonn bi shab mal-privat.

Ghanijiet nobbli u ta min jinkoraggihom dawn. Izda dan xi Johnny come lately Fejn kien dan f`dawn l-ahhar 14 il-sena Nesa dan li ilu ministru tal-finanzi mill-1992` Nesa li dawn huma l-istess miri li kien habbrilna fl-ewwel budget tieghu ghall-1993` Jew hadd mhu qed jinduna li qedin fis-sena 2001` Issa gietu din il-vizjoni` Issa wara li mela l-pajjiz` sa xfar ghajnejh bid-dejn u wara li ga beghna l-ahjar assi li kellna u rajna li l-flus tal-privatizzazzjoni jghibu fid-drenagg tal-finanzi pubblici`

Ma jkunx ahjar issa il-Ministru li aktar minn kulhadd huwa responsabbli ghal dan l-istat dizaztruz tal-finanzi tal-gvern u ta` l-ekonomija tal-pajjiz ihalli din il-vizjoni ghal xi hadd gdid li ma ghandux il-piz tal-htija li gab il-pajjiz fejn jinsab illum`

U dan irid isir maljar qabel ma jkompli ghaddej bil-privatizzazzjoni.` Mhux ghax jien kontra il-privatizzazzjoni.` Jien kontra li l-flus tal-privatizzazzjoni jigu sparpaljati billi flok nindirizzaw il-hela nkomplu niffinanzjawha billi nbieghu kollox halli min jigi warajna ma jsib xejn.` Jien kontra li ssir xi privatizzazzjoni bhal ma saret dik tal-Mid-Med Bank.

U hemm x`juri li qed tinhema xi haga bhal din fil-Freeport. X`inhuma dawn il-mutetti li linja tal-vapuri Franciza rapprezentata minn interessi ta` gewwa trid tiehu f`idejha l-operat tal-Freeport` Huwa l-Freeport jaqbillu li jitmexxa mil-linja tal-vapuri Ma jarawx li jekk dan isir il-linji l-ohra jigu mgerrxa` U dan ikun fl-interess ta` Malta`

Ghedtu qabel u nerga nghidu issa. `Il-Freeport ghandu jitmexxa minn min ghandu esperjenza fl-operat tal-portijiet u li jkunu kapaci jattira bil-kuntatti tieghu l-aqwa linji tal-vapuri fid-dinja.` Kien ghalhekk li Gvern laburista kien beda diskussjonijiet mal-Port Authority ta` Singapore. Hemm obbligu li l-gvern u min hu inkarigat jifhem ghala ta` Singapore kienu tgerrxu mal-bidla fil-Gvern jew b`dak li sabu fil-Freeport meta ghamlu id-due diligence.

Din hi l-vizjoni li nbieghu kollox b`xejn lil hbieb tal-hbieb`

Saturday, 28 April 2001

Funding the Issue

The Times of Malta



When criticism is levelled at somebody who rather than refute or argue his case convincingly, avoids the issue completely and defends himself from accusations that were not made,` than the only logical conclusion I reach is that really there is no defence.

This is exactly what is happening to Lou Bondi` (The Times April 28) who is throwing liberally challenges here and` there in Manwel Cuschieri`s style he so much dislikes.

I have said it before that editorial policy of news and current affairs programmes on Super One media is the prerogative of the Labour Party. If he has any complaints to make he knows where to address them.` So I will not reply on Mr Cuschieri`s behalf.

My criticism is and remains that Xarabank is a tool to further the PN government`s agenda and Peppi Azzopardi pretence of being `redder` than Alfred Sant is a strategy driven by Lou Bondi` to attract a labour audience to hear a nationalist message on state television.

My criticism remains that Lou Bondi`s attacks on Alfred Sant for refusing to accept to resign should investigations he demanded on Minister Gatt`s behaviour in the debacle involving his private secretariat prove inconclusive in finding any blame on the Minister`s part,` are ridiculous and shows whose agenda he is actually pushing.

My criticism remains that Lou Bondi` s expecting Alfred Sant to stop criticising the useless presidential pardons which have all the ingredients of political manipulation is unworthy of anyone who pretends to be an objective commentator.

On these and any` other criticism I make I will face Lou quite willingly. As to the medium why look beyond his Virtwali` But why try to discuss with me accustions I have not made and escape from replying to criticism that I make`

Alfred Mifsud



Funding the Issue

The Times of Malta

Friday, 27 April 2001

Pick the ace

The Malta Independent

Picking the ace!

I am sure you must have seen the roadside gambler shuffling three playing cards inviting passers-by to gamble money by picking the odd ace in the three cards. The professional gambler`s sleight of hand turns what looks like an easy win into a sure loss for the amateur gambler.

In deciding how to handle the holiday issue related to the beatification of three Maltese during the forthcoming Papal visit on 9th May, the government had to make a choice out of three, but it had no sleight of hand to contend with. It was quite a simple choice.` It could have done nothing allowing those who wanted to attend celebrations to use their` leave entitlement. It could have declared the day as a public holiday for all and compensate it by reducing a day from the optional leave as had happened when 7th June was declared public holiday.` Or it could have declared the day a one-off public holiday for all in addition to other holiday entitlement.

Yet government chose the unthinkable. It chose to give the day as an additional holiday only to public sector employees and left it for private employers to use their judgement as to whether they should do the same.

This is incomprehensible. At a time when government is supposed to be promoting labour mobility to encourage excess resources in the public sector to make the move to more productive jobs in the private sector government sends a signal in the opposite direction.

Government employees have now one more reason to stay put. Summer half days, security of tenure and loose accountability of performance are already strong reasons why people should prefer to remain a burden on the national exchequer rather than seek employment where they are really needed in the productive sector.

There,` summer half days is a rare experience. Security of tenure is limited to a maximum of eight weeks salary in case of redundancy. And if private sector employers hit the rocks financially,` their employees will have to play grande fratello in a sit-in strike as the Supermaster employees had to do over Good Friday.` In` the private sector one is` rigidly accountable for` performance.` If not one`s employer would not be around for long.

But now public sector employees can chalk up another advantage. They get an additional holiday which is denied to their colleagues in the private sector.

If the economy were in robust shape one could understand government being` liberal in granting additional holidays. But given our present sombre economic scenario would it not have been more sensible to give the day as a public holiday to all and knock it` off the leave entitlement` It would have been fair on private sector employees and would have avoided` widening the divide between public sector largesse and private sector repression.

Government can`t expect to win if rather than choosing one of the three cards, even blindly, it draws` a fourth card which was not in play.

Thursday, 26 April 2001

Wrapping Themselves in Contradictions

The Times of Malta

The Editor,

Dear Sir,

Wrapping themselves in contradictions

In the Times of April 26th there were three separate attacks on me. It is an honour shared by few and I will try to rebut as briefly as possible not to abuse of your generosity in allowing the space.

Thankfully Prof. Josef Bonnici (Wrong again) does not defend himself from the accusation of aligning himself to the half-price sale of Mid-Med Bank. Let`s register the progress! Insofar as the oil hedging agreement for the year 2000 goes, events proved unquestionably who has misjudged the issue. As to the excuse of Enemalta not finding the funds to provide security for the hedging I hope this is a joke. The State finds funds for much less important and productive reasons.

On his promise of Lm100 million pre-accession funds Prof Bonnici is wrapping himself in contradictions. On the one hand he maintains that Malta has much lower GDP per capita of EU average than Slovenia and on the other hand he states that his argument for Lm100 million pre-accession funds was benchmarked on Slovenia. So if we are poorer than Slovenia we should get more pre-accession funds per capita not the next to nothing we are in fact getting. Regarding the argument that these funds were lost due to Labour`s freezing the application I can only appeal to Prof Bonnici to get serious and stop these despicable charades.

The same applies regarding his attempt to attack my credibility on the Mid-Med Bank acquisition of property adjacent to Centru Ruzar Briffa. I have no idea what Prof Bonnici heard from unofficial sources. What I know though is that the Board had decided before the election to make the acquisition and when Prof. Bonnici as representative of the major shareholder subsequently requested me to withhold the acquisition I simply demanded confirmation in writing to justify my position with the Board. Why should a Minister rely on unofficial sources when he could get official and` direct information`

As to Lou Bondi`s (Labour`Grande Fratelli) I wonder why Lou is defending himself from accusations I have not made.` I did not criticise let alone demonise Virtwali or Viva Malta. I criticised Xarabank and its presenter in pretending to be` ideologically more` on the left than Alfred Sant and then conducting Xarabank in a way which, presumable prompted by his partner Lou Bondi`,` helps the promote the government`s agenda amongst a labour audience.

I criticised Lou Bondi for coming out with the `brilliant` idea that the Leader of the Opposition would have to resign if suspicions he raised on the operations of the executive prove to be incorrect.` I criticised Lou Bondi` for expecting the Labour Leader to compliment the government for granting three presidential pardons without any real counter benefit for society.

As to my chickening out of the challenge to invite Lou and Peppi` on Super One media I see that` Manwel Cuschieri`s style is impressing Lou quite heavily. Labour media agenda is not for Lou to dictate.` We put a schedule together meticulously and the results are there to see. From nothing in the space of less than two years we brought Super One TV as the most popular local TV station in three consecutive MBA surveys. True we have not toppled Xarabank from the rating of the most popular programme. That is our next challenge.

Sincerely,

Alfred Mifsud



Wrapping Themselves in Contradictions

The Times of Malta

Sunday, 22 April 2001

Decadence

The Malta Independent on Sunday

Decadence

This was the feeling over Easter.` Instead of feeling a seasonal sense of re-birth and courage to face the future, this country has been gripped by a sense of decadence.

A sense where the citizen feels helpless against a state which feasts on` self-indulgence, feeding itself on its own lies, ever detached from the citizens and making us the laughing stock of the international community.

Take the Mnajdra Temples debacle. This is an offence against humanity.` Would any good-housekeeper leave its assets so much at risk and unattended Even if you have a residence which has absorbed a good portion of your life-time savings, after ensuring that all doors and windows are securely closed,` it is quite common to protect it with a burglar alarm which telephones you a quick warning on your mobile in case of any offensive incursion.

Yet our national housekeeper after running up one billion ( that is one followed with nine zeros equivalent to about 14 sales of Mid-Med Banks) in national debt and about half as much hidden debt in the Treasury Clearance Fund and government owned organisations that borrow directly from financial institutions,` could not find` the initiative, the time, and the money to protect these national heritage treasures.

Are our national housekeepers so incompetent and decadent that it had to take a violation similar to that suffered by Mnajdra to admit they were just oblivious to the need to protect these treasures` Was not the vandalism of Hagar Qim, daubed with paint a few years back,` enough warning to protect these heritage treasures much more effectively`

And what about the remaining heritage sites` What about Borg in-Nadur, Roman Baths, Ta` Skorba, San Pawl Milqi and Tarxien temples` Who is protecting these and many others spread around the island.` The only one which has been properly addressed was the Hypogeum and this thanks to a foundation financed by Bank of Valletta who deserve our gratitude for such initiative.

The usual apologists can put up the hackneyed` defence . They may well argue that we have too many heritage sites to afford to protect them all. This is sheer non-sense. These sites if properly managed would` not be a financial burden.` On the contrary these could be revenue generating assets.` These can be turned into tourist attractions which could become the reason why tourists choose Malta and not simply a place to visit whilst in Malta. Just the same way the Roman Baths attract tourists to Bath, and why Florence art treasures make it a tourist destination in its own right and not just a second fiddle to Rome.

But this takes initiative and creativity and both these seem to be in short supply.` Our administration`s sheer incompetence can be judged by considering that every public convenience in Malta is serviced by at least 3 attendants on a rotation basis, public sector employment continues to increase in spite of declarations to the contrary and Gozo Channel customer care officers keep` busily chatting their day away unclear about` what sort of job they were really employed to perform.

A further sense of decadence results from the protection which the citizen can expect to receive from our forces of law and order. Forget that Tarcisio Mifsud happens to be my brother.` But as a peace loving law abiding citizen how do you feel that a fellow citizen who was assaulted during the night in the privacy of his house for no clear reason apart from satisfaction of political hysteria, gets the protection of a conditional discharge and a Lm25 fine for two of the three offenders` Don`t you feel like choking in your breadth particularly if you have probably had to pay a similar fine for a minor driving offence`

And if you treasure the right to criticise and disagree without fear or favour how would you feel if rather than rebutting your arguments the incumbents of power challenge your credentials to criticise,` and pretend to hold an undisputed prerogative on the truth` How do you feel if what they preach is labelled information and whatever the critics put forward rather than being debated on its own merits is simply labelled misinformation by someone who has no credentials to criticise.` Is this not typical of defence lawyers courtroom practice that when not in position to rebut accusing testimony they turn to discredit the witness`

Is this some Machiavellian plan to render the state of decadence so deep that EU membership will be made to look as the sugar coated choice of the lesser evil`

Decadence

The Malta Independent on Sunday

Decadence

This was the feeling over Easter.` Instead of feeling a seasonal sense of re-birth and courage to face the future, this country has been gripped by a sense of decadence.

A sense where the citizen feels helpless against a state which feasts on` self-indulgence, feeding itself on its own lies, ever detached from the citizens and making us the laughing stock of the international community.

Take the Mnajdra Temples debacle. This is an offence against humanity.` Would any good-housekeeper leave its assets so much at risk and unattended Even if you have a residence which has absorbed a good portion of your life-time savings, after ensuring that all doors and windows are securely closed,` it is quite common to protect it with a burglar alarm which telephones you a quick warning on your mobile in case of any offensive incursion.

Yet our national housekeeper after running up one billion ( that is one followed with nine zeros equivalent to about 14 sales of Mid-Med Banks) in national debt and about half as much hidden debt in the Treasury Clearance Fund and government owned organisations that borrow directly from financial institutions,` could not find` the initiative, the time, and the money to protect these national heritage treasures.

Are our national housekeepers so incompetent and decadent that it had to take a violation similar to that suffered by Mnajdra to admit they were just oblivious to the need to protect these treasures` Was not the vandalism of Hagar Qim, daubed with paint a few years back,` enough warning to protect these heritage treasures much more effectively`

And what about the remaining heritage sites` What about Borg in-Nadur, Roman Baths, Ta` Skorba, San Pawl Milqi and Tarxien temples` Who is protecting these and many others spread around the island.` The only one which has been properly addressed was the Hypogeum and this thanks to a foundation financed by Bank of Valletta who deserve our gratitude for such initiative.

The usual apologists can put up the hackneyed` defence . They may well argue that we have too many heritage sites to afford to protect them all. This is sheer non-sense. These sites if properly managed would` not be a financial burden.` On the contrary these could be revenue generating assets.` These can be turned into tourist attractions which could become the reason why tourists choose Malta and not simply a place to visit whilst in Malta. Just the same way the Roman Baths attract tourists to Bath, and why Florence art treasures make it a tourist destination in its own right and not just a second fiddle to Rome.

But this takes initiative and creativity and both these seem to be in short supply.` Our administration`s sheer incompetence can be judged by considering that every public convenience in Malta is serviced by at least 3 attendants on a rotation basis, public sector employment continues to increase in spite of declarations to the contrary and Gozo Channel customer care officers keep` busily chatting their day away unclear about` what sort of job they were really employed to perform.

A further sense of decadence results from the protection which the citizen can expect to receive from our forces of law and order. Forget that Tarcisio Mifsud happens to be my brother.` But as a peace loving law abiding citizen how do you feel that a fellow citizen who was assaulted during the night in the privacy of his house for no clear reason apart from satisfaction of political hysteria, gets the protection of a conditional discharge and a Lm25 fine for two of the three offenders` Don`t you feel like choking in your breadth particularly if you have probably had to pay a similar fine for a minor driving offence`

And if you treasure the right to criticise and disagree without fear or favour how would you feel if rather than rebutting your arguments the incumbents of power challenge your credentials to criticise,` and pretend to hold an undisputed prerogative on the truth` How do you feel if what they preach is labelled information and whatever the critics put forward rather than being debated on its own merits is simply labelled misinformation by someone who has no credentials to criticise.` Is this not typical of defence lawyers courtroom practice that when not in position to rebut accusing testimony they turn to discredit the witness`

Is this some Machiavellian plan to render the state of decadence so deep that EU membership will be made to look as the sugar coated choice of the lesser evil`

Sieheb Zeppi w sieheb Peppi

Il-Kullhadd Sieheb Zeppi w Sieheb Peppi

Lil sieheb Zeppi tafuh zgur. Zeppi huwa dak li Malta kollha tafu bhala bniedem ta` kwalitajiet tajba u anqas tajba , Joseph Fenech komunament maghruf bhala Zeppi l-hafi.` Siehbu huwa dak li fi kliem Zeppi stess jista jitfixkel fi kliemu ghalkemm ta` l-iskola.` Jigifieri hadd anqas mill-Prim Ministru Dr Fenech Adami.

Li l-Prim Ministru U Zeppi l-Hafi jafu `l xulxin sew huwa fatt li ma jista` jichdu hadd. Jafu mhux jigifieri sahha bongu.` Jafu jigifieri fiz-zmien qabel Dr Fenech Adami lahaq Prim Ministru kien jerfghu fuq spallejh waqt xi meeting jew dimonstrazzjoni.` Kien ma ohrajn jghassislu d-dar u fizikament jipprotegih minn xi saram.

Huwa fatt ukoll maghruf li dan Zeppi ghandu habta jikser dufrejh mal-gustizzja u dan mhux darba jew tnejn. Fost akkuzi ohra kellu sahansitra partecipazzjoni f`attentat ta` omicidju, traffikar ta` droga u serq aggravat bil-vjolenza.

Izda haga ta` l-iskantament minkejja dan qatt ma dahal il-habs. Anke b`akkuzi serji bhal dawn u hafna aktar akkuzi ta` serjeta` sekondarja, Zeppi jidher li ghandu l-istilel favur tieghu ghax dejjem skansawielu.` Meta ma kienx hemm aktar li jista` jehilsu, l-istilel tajba li tahthom twieled Zeppi bghatulu mahfriet presidenzjali li kienu appovati minn siehbu l-Prim Minsitru Dr Fenech Adami. Mahfriet presidenzjali li skansawlu kemxa habs gmielha biex huwa jkun jista` jikxef, jixhed u jinqabdu l-hatja.

S`issa irrizulta li dawn il-mahfriet presidenzjali inghatew mill-istat Malti ghal xejn. F`zewg kazi ta` guri fejn xehed Zeppi l-akkuzati gew mehlusa. Iil-gurati ma emmnux dak li qal Zeppi. F`kaz iehor fejn xehed Zeppi l-akkuzat instab hati izda l-prosekuzzjoni qeda` on record li kella kaz qawwi bizzejjed u m`ha kelliex bzonn ix-xhieda ta` Zeppi. U dan sar ghax ix-xhieda ta` Zeppi tant kienet kontradittorja fid-dettalji taghha li l-avukat difensur kien jirnexxielu jgibha bla kredibbilita. Ghalhekk il-prosekuzzjoni ridet tjibni l-kaz` bla htiegha ta` l-ghajnuna tax-xhieda ta` Zeppi.` U hekk kien! Ghal darba l-Istat Malti ta` mahfra presidenzjali lil Zeppi bla ma ha valur minnha.

U sieheb Peppi f`hiex jidhol Peppi huwa Joe Azzopardi ta` Xarabank.` Ma tafux min huwa siehbu` Sieheb Peppi huwa Lou Bondi`. Ma kontux tafu li sieheb Peppi huwa Bondi Jekk ma kontux tafu issa tafu. Peppi u Lou shab ukoll fin-negozju.` Ghandhom negozju flimkien li jipproduci programmi bhal Xarabank, u Virtwali fuq TVM u gieli jaghmlu xoghol iehor ta` produzzjoni kemm televiziva kif ukoll ghar-reklamar jew public relations.` Fosthom jghinu jipproducu Viva Malta fuq TVM tal-MIC u gieli hadu kuntratti ohra tal-gvern jew organizzazzjonijiet ohra kkontrollati mill-gvern.

Mela sieheb Peppi is-socjalist aktar minn Alfred sant,` hu Lou Bondi` nazzjonalist u konservattiv dikjarat. Lou Bondi` ghandu antipatija cara u dikjarata kontra Alfred Sant.` Fl-elezzjoni tal-1996 kien pengih qisu xitan.` Mindu telaq mill-amministrazzjoni centrali tal-Partit Nazzjonalista pprova jimmodera ftit izda dan l-ahhar rega mar il-bahar.

L-ewwel beda fuq il-kwistjoni ta` kuginuh il-Ministru Austin Gatt. Hareg bl-ideja brillanti illi jekk issir inkjesta fuq Carbonaro u jirrizulta li Austin Gatt huwa bla htija allura ghandu jirrezenja Alfred Sant. Dan l-gherf minn fejn qed jasal f`pajjizna` Sibna xi nixxiegha gdida fi Brussel`

Mela skond sieheb Peppi, Alfred Sant li bhala Kap ta l-Opposizzjoni ghandu dover li jghasses l-operat tal-gvern u jxammem ghal kull abbuz ta` poter,` kull meta jitlob ghal investigazzjoni u ma jirrizulta xejn ikollu jirrezenja.` Jista` Lou Bondi jilluminana f`liema pajjiz demokratiku jsiru dawn it-tip ta` kundizzjonijiet biex issir invetigazzjoni fuq l-operat tal-gvern`

U biex ikompli jfewwah il-borma Lou Bondi rega` qalilna li Alfred Sant ma ghandux dritt jiddubita li Fenech Adami ta` mahfriet lil Zeppi l-Hafi bla raguni valida. Alfred Sant ghandu jmeri il-fatti li qed jigru quddiem ghajnejh u jfahhar lil Dr Fenech Adami talli ta` tlett mahfriet presidenzjali lil Zeppi l-Hafi.` X`jimporta li dawn ma swew ghal xejn X`jimporta li kriminal llawrjat ghadu jigri barra jinnegozja xi bicca kuntrabandu` Quddiem dan kollu il-Kap ta` l-Oppozizzjoni lanqas ghandu jghaddielu minn mohhu li dawn il-mahfriet inghataw lil, Zeppi ghax hu min hu. Il-Kap ta` l-Oppozizzjoni ghandu jaghmel bhal sieheb Peppi u jkollu fiducja ghamja f`sieheb Zeppi. Inkella jkun qed ixewwex.

U l-laburisti` nhar ta` gimgha jfittxu Xarbank biex jaraw lil Peppi jippoza ta` socjalist halli jkun jista jaqsam il-frott tal-ftahir lil sieheb Zeppi ma sieheb Peppi. Halli sieheb Peppi jkun jista` jkompli jiddefendi lil sieheb Zeppi bl-ghajnuna tal-laburisti li nhar ta` gimgha jaraw Xarabank waqt li Peppi jkompli jahlef li meta stieden lil Prim Minsitru f`Xarabank mdawwar f`kazin nazzjonalista ma kienx jaf li qed isir is-survey. Peppi kif hawn il-La salle, go and tell it to the marines!

Sunday, 15 April 2001

Kun imbierek tergax!

Il-Kullhadd Kun imbierek, tergax!

Ma niftakarx zmien daqs bhalissa meta c`cittadin Malti hassu ittradut li l-qarnita tal-poter flok tipprotegi lic-cittadin qed b`mod apert tipprotegi l-kriminali.

Hija Tarcisju ragel serju u kwiet.` Xoghlu fl-Enemalta jiehdu bl-akbar serjeta`.` Titkellem ma min titkellem kullhadd jghidli li Tarcisju qisu bicca mill-Enemalta, jiehu interess fiha b`mod ezemplari. Jahdem hafna aktar mid-dover dirett tieghu.` Dan jghiduh nies ta` kull kulur politiku li kellhom x`jaqsmu mieghu.

Jumejn wara l-elezzjoni li ghaddiet kien rieqed ghal kwiet f`daru.` Habbat il-bieb u tlett irgiel qaluli li riedu jkellmuh fuq xoghol. Generuz bhal dejjem fethilhom ha jara f`hiex jista` jghin.` Tawh xeghba kif tmiss il-ligi ghal xejn b`xejn. Wicchom mikxuf kien xiehda li marru biex itemmuh.` Kien intervent ta` wiehed mil-girien li nduna x`kien qed jigri li gerrixhom qabel ma temmew xoghlhom.

Dawn it-tlieta min-nies inqabdu. Il-pulizija xliethom. Din il-gimgha il-qorti sabithom hatja ta` l-akkuzi migjuba kontrihom. Il-qorti ma kellix dubju li dawn it-tlieta min-nies kienu dawk li habtu ghal Tarcisju.` Li wegghuh, li ghedduh u li kissrulu d-dar.` Minkejja li sabithom hatja, tnejn minnhom gew liberati bil-kundizzjoni li ma jghamlux reat iehor ghal diversi snin u gieghlithom ihallsu Lm25 emenda.` Anqas milli jekk tinqabad issuq bla seat belt ghax ta` dik tehel Lm30.` It-tielet wiehed gie liberat ghax ma hax sehem fl-attakk.

Mhux importanti li Tarcisju hija. Seta kien min kien. Xorta jweggghek li bniedem li kien rieqed ghal kwiet f`daru jahbtu ghalih tlieta minn nies f`sakra ta` vittorja elettorali u bla mottiv evidenti jaghtuh xebgha li kellha intenzjonijiet terminali. Tweggghek izjed, hafna izjed, li l-qorti lil dawn in-nies sabithom hatja u minkejja dan tathom sentenza li effittivament tghidilhom kunu imberkien, terghux u qabel tohorgu hallu xi haga fis-sasla.` M`hemmx relazzjoni bejn l-aggravju u r-rimedju.

U meta jigri kaz bhal dan jista xi hadd ilumni li nahseb li l-qrati taghna meta` iffacjati minn kawzi li jistghu jimbarazzaw lil gvern, flok jaqtghu sentenzi bil-gustizzja jaghmlu kompromessi perikoluzi mas-sewwa u mal-kuxjenza` Jista jkun li dan mhux hekk izda certament li minn naha tac-cittadin hekk jidher u ghalhekk il-qorti ghandha tispjega halli jekk ahna zbaljati jefhemuna ha nitghallmu.

Jista xi hadd ilumni li nibqa ngharrex ghal mistoqsija ghaliex` Ghaliex dawn it-tlieta minn nies li hija qatt ma ghamlilhom xejn u bla mottiv car marru jahbtu ghalih.` Ghaliex Kienu qed jezegwixxu xi missjoni mqabbda minn xi hadd` Ghaliex il-pulizija dawn il-punti ma nteressatx ruhha fihom biex tistabilixxi il-mottiv veru wara dan l-attakk infami` Ma jinteressa lil hadd li jkun jaf ghaliex`

Issa poggu dan il-hmieg u qabbluh ma attentat iddisprat biex il-Partit Nazzjonalista` jittimbra f`mohh il-poplu xi immagini ta` Alfred Sant merfugh fuq spallejn it-traffikanti tad-droga. Il-Partit Nazzjonalista immexxi minn dak li ntrefa` fuq spallejn u gie protett mill-idejn felhana ta` Zeppi l-Hafi, qed jakkuza bi protezzjoni lil kriminali lil Alfred Sant li ma jhalli lil hadd li jista jikkompromettih jersaq sa kilometru qrib tieghu . Il-veru li l-qahba u l-ispizjar ahwa.

Mela wahidha tohrog il-mistoqsija. Min ta tlett mahfriet presidenzjali ghal xejn b`xejn lil min qed jipportegi` Min halla lil Queroz jitlaq minn Malta b`mahfra presidenzjali minkejja li issa hareg li kien hemm konnessjoni maghrufa` ma Meinrad Calleja x`interess kellu li halla lil Querioz jitlaq bla ma kixef xejn` U ghaliex l-akkuzi kontra Meinrad Calleja damu daqstant ma tressqu sa wara li kien telaq Querioz Jekk Querioz inghata mahfra presidenzjali ghaliex ma giex imgieghel jikxef` Biex forsi mbaghad tkun tista tinghata mahfra presidenzjli lil xi hadd iehor` Kien hemm bzonn li l-ewwel lil Querioz ukoll nghidulu Kun imbierek, tergax!

Il-President Demarco din il-gimgha wera x-xewqa li jkun hawn aktar ghaqda nazzjonali.` Kif tista Mela l-pajjiz mhux bhal computer ` garbage in garbage out!

Sunday, 8 April 2001

The Messenger`s Messenger

The Sunday Times of Malta



The Editor,

Dear Sir,

The messenger`s messenger

Minister Prof, Josef Bonnici (Voodoo statistics, The Times 7th April; Shooting the messenger 8th April) mistook me for one of his junior economics students in offering a theoretical lesson on the need to convert nominal GDP figures into Purchasing Power Units for consistent comparable measurement of standard of living. He can save such lessons for his classroom.

He also questions my credentials for maintaining that Malta could well not be eligible for `objective one` funding upon EU accession in the next enlargement which will embrace poorer countries that will lower substantially the EU GDP average and increase exponentially the claims for regional funding. Prof Bonnici is the last person who can criticise anybody`s credentials on the subject of EU funding.` He is the one who most emphatically promised Lm100 million in pre-accession funds before last elections.

I am always open for persuasion on any opportunities presented for improving our living standards. In fact I repeatedly make the point that whatever relations we may choose to have with the EU is subsidiary to the ultimate objective of achieving better living standards through such relationship.

As to my talking Eurostat out of any statistics which would make us eligible for structural funds I will need to make as much effort as anyone has made to convince the EU not to send us the Lm100 million Prof Bonnici promised us before the last elections.

Instead I would go for the third option.` I stand the test of time and continue to maintain that if Cyprus and Slovenia are out of `objective one` so will Malta miss that objective.

And no,` I have not criticised the messenger (Eurostat) for stating that Malta`s GDP in PPP units is 52% of the current EU average. I criticised the messenger`s messenger (MIC) for downplaying the caution attached to lack of comparability of Malta`s statistics due to use of different methodologies and for failing to make the slightest effort to give the average which would result in the context of an enlarged EU.` I stand by my criticism which I am confident will stand the test of time.

Yours sincerely,

Alfred Mifsud



Put simply!

The Malta Independent on Sunday

Put simply!

For all the MIC,` Made in Brussels, Viva Malta , Referendum, books, publications,` press releases, press conferences, meetings and a diversity of media bombardment on the subject of Malta`s relations with the EU,` a large chunk of the population is still at a loss of what exactly we are talking about.

Yet this subject is too serious for it to continue being talked about over the heads of most of our nationals. It involves a decision that is practically irreversible. Consequently it needs to be taken by citizens through a referendum on a well-informed basis and with a majority which is more than wafer thin.` For sake of stability such referendum would have to be organised by a government in command of a suitable mandate term long enough to execute the electorate`s decision. Essentially this means that a general election must precede a referendum.

Furthermore both schools of thought have to make an effort to explain their policy in a language which people can understand how their lives would be affected by the different policies. In an effort to make a contribution in this direction I expound my objections to EU membership. These can be classified into three areas:

The imposition of a customs union, which is an integral part of membership. An adjustment programme the speed of which is out of synch with Malta`s current realities and` peculiarities. A fear of an unstoppable process leading to loss of` Malta`s sovereignty and` vocation of neutrality and non-alignment,` rendering us again as a military outpost at Europe`s frontier with the Islamic world.

Customs Union

There can be no membership without customs union.` Customs union means loss of the liberty to buy our food supplies from the most convenient international sources. Instead we have to buy them at the higher internal EU prices with the surcharge going to fund the EU`s central budget.` This is no joke. It could increase the family budget on basic food commodities by an average of Lm10 a week.` Compensatory wage claims to address this inflationary input could weaken our international competitiveness.

All other models outside membership exclude Customs Union. Simple membership to EFTA, more complicated arrangements under EEA or a specially negotiated bilateral relationship on Switzerland`s model exclude Customs Union. They also exclude free trade in agriculture permitting reasonable protection to this strategic segment.

Adjustment programme

The government has lost control of our economic situation.` Its only prescription is raising and enforcing taxes. This is clearly not working, neither in economic nor in electoral terms.

It considers the EU as the indispensable external agent necessary to enforce upon us the discipline we cannot impose on ourselves.` This is unacceptable on a point of principle.` The solution is finding the inner strength and leadership necessary to do what we have to do for ourselves in a strategy and tempo that does not rip apart our social fabric. We did it in the seventies over a seven-year period when the economy was changed from one which was largely military spending dependant into a productive one. We can do it again over similar time scales to rid ourselves of the monstrous deficit that past excesses have burdened us with. But doing it within two or three years within a calendar set by the EU for its own necessity is self-destructing.

Sovereignty

And economic self-destruction could force us to link economic survival to abandonment of the policy of neutrality and non-alignment; a policy that has brought so much prosperity since it was adopted in the early seventies; a policy that, as in Switzerland`s case, could be a source of economic growth would be abandoned for adopting a foreign and defence policy suiting much larger members.` And this without even receiving the financial compensation Mintoff extracted in 1972 and used as the seed money to finance the economic restructuring of the time.

So simply put these three major areas of objection to EU membership are all addressed in the alternatives of EFTA. EEA or Swiss model bilateral relations agreement.` We have alternatives to membership, and more than one at that, even though I am excluding altogether the up grading of the present association agreement into a full-scale customs union.

And for the remaining optimists to justify EU membership by the promise of funding bonanza that awaits us, I would well advise them to stop dreaming. Malta as a country, if not on a strict central government to EU basis, would be a net contributor especially if enlargement would include the other East European applicants that will undoubtedly, on the basis of their lower standard of living, have a first claim on EU budgets.` `This may look like a gratuitous assertion. Unfortunately it is a reasonable probability.` Put simply!

The Messenger`s Messenger

The Sunday Times of Malta



The Editor,

Dear Sir,

The messenger`s messenger

Minister Prof, Josef Bonnici (Voodoo statistics, The Times 7th April; Shooting the messenger 8th April) mistook me for one of his junior economics students in offering a theoretical lesson on the need to convert nominal GDP figures into Purchasing Power Units for consistent comparable measurement of standard of living. He can save such lessons for his classroom.

He also questions my credentials for maintaining that Malta could well not be eligible for `objective one` funding upon EU accession in the next enlargement which will embrace poorer countries that will lower substantially the EU GDP average and increase exponentially the claims for regional funding. Prof Bonnici is the last person who can criticise anybody`s credentials on the subject of EU funding.` He is the one who most emphatically promised Lm100 million in pre-accession funds before last elections.

I am always open for persuasion on any opportunities presented for improving our living standards. In fact I repeatedly make the point that whatever relations we may choose to have with the EU is subsidiary to the ultimate objective of achieving better living standards through such relationship.

As to my talking Eurostat out of any statistics which would make us eligible for structural funds I will need to make as much effort as anyone has made to convince the EU not to send us the Lm100 million Prof Bonnici promised us before the last elections.

Instead I would go for the third option.` I stand the test of time and continue to maintain that if Cyprus and Slovenia are out of `objective one` so will Malta miss that objective.

And no,` I have not criticised the messenger (Eurostat) for stating that Malta`s GDP in PPP units is 52% of the current EU average. I criticised the messenger`s messenger (MIC) for downplaying the caution attached to lack of comparability of Malta`s statistics due to use of different methodologies and for failing to make the slightest effort to give the average which would result in the context of an enlarged EU.` I stand by my criticism which I am confident will stand the test of time.

Yours sincerely,

Alfred Mifsud



Put simply!

The Malta Independent on Sunday

Put simply!

For all the MIC,` Made in Brussels, Viva Malta , Referendum, books, publications,` press releases, press conferences, meetings and a diversity of media bombardment on the subject of Malta`s relations with the EU,` a large chunk of the population is still at a loss of what exactly we are talking about.

Yet this subject is too serious for it to continue being talked about over the heads of most of our nationals. It involves a decision that is practically irreversible. Consequently it needs to be taken by citizens through a referendum on a well-informed basis and with a majority which is more than wafer thin.` For sake of stability such referendum would have to be organised by a government in command of a suitable mandate term long enough to execute the electorate`s decision. Essentially this means that a general election must precede a referendum.

Furthermore both schools of thought have to make an effort to explain their policy in a language which people can understand how their lives would be affected by the different policies. In an effort to make a contribution in this direction I expound my objections to EU membership. These can be classified into three areas:

The imposition of a customs union, which is an integral part of membership. An adjustment programme the speed of which is out of synch with Malta`s current realities and` peculiarities. A fear of an unstoppable process leading to loss of` Malta`s sovereignty and` vocation of neutrality and non-alignment,` rendering us again as a military outpost at Europe`s frontier with the Islamic world.

Customs Union

There can be no membership without customs union.` Customs union means loss of the liberty to buy our food supplies from the most convenient international sources. Instead we have to buy them at the higher internal EU prices with the surcharge going to fund the EU`s central budget.` This is no joke. It could increase the family budget on basic food commodities by an average of Lm10 a week.` Compensatory wage claims to address this inflationary input could weaken our international competitiveness.

All other models outside membership exclude Customs Union. Simple membership to EFTA, more complicated arrangements under EEA or a specially negotiated bilateral relationship on Switzerland`s model exclude Customs Union. They also exclude free trade in agriculture permitting reasonable protection to this strategic segment.

Adjustment programme

The government has lost control of our economic situation.` Its only prescription is raising and enforcing taxes. This is clearly not working, neither in economic nor in electoral terms.

It considers the EU as the indispensable external agent necessary to enforce upon us the discipline we cannot impose on ourselves.` This is unacceptable on a point of principle.` The solution is finding the inner strength and leadership necessary to do what we have to do for ourselves in a strategy and tempo that does not rip apart our social fabric. We did it in the seventies over a seven-year period when the economy was changed from one which was largely military spending dependant into a productive one. We can do it again over similar time scales to rid ourselves of the monstrous deficit that past excesses have burdened us with. But doing it within two or three years within a calendar set by the EU for its own necessity is self-destructing.

Sovereignty

And economic self-destruction could force us to link economic survival to abandonment of the policy of neutrality and non-alignment; a policy that has brought so much prosperity since it was adopted in the early seventies; a policy that, as in Switzerland`s case, could be a source of economic growth would be abandoned for adopting a foreign and defence policy suiting much larger members.` And this without even receiving the financial compensation Mintoff extracted in 1972 and used as the seed money to finance the economic restructuring of the time.

So simply put these three major areas of objection to EU membership are all addressed in the alternatives of EFTA. EEA or Swiss model bilateral relations agreement.` We have alternatives to membership, and more than one at that, even though I am excluding altogether the up grading of the present association agreement into a full-scale customs union.

And for the remaining optimists to justify EU membership by the promise of funding bonanza that awaits us, I would well advise them to stop dreaming. Malta as a country, if not on a strict central government to EU basis, would be a net contributor especially if enlargement would include the other East European applicants that will undoubtedly, on the basis of their lower standard of living, have a first claim on EU budgets.` `This may look like a gratuitous assertion. Unfortunately it is a reasonable probability.` Put simply!

Min hu bhal eddie

Il-Kullhadd Min hu bhal Eddie`

Min ma jiftakarx dan il-kartellun fi zmien l-instabbilita` politika tas-snin 80 wara ir-rizultat pervers ta` l-elezzjoni ta` l-1981 Min dakinhar ghaddew kwazi 20 sena u allura ghandna aktar storja biex naghmlu gudizzju u nirrispondu din il-mistoqsija li donna riedet` tpoggi lil Eddie Fenech Adami `l fuq mis-shab. Targa jew tnejn `l isfel min Dak li dwaru ghamel l-istess mistosija San Mikiel.

Min mindu lahaq Kap tal-Partit fl-1977 Eddie ghamilha cara li lid-demokrazija jirrispetta dment li tghaddi tieghu. Ir-rekord tieghu fl-Oppozizzjoni ma tantx fih kredenzjali demokratici. Ir-rekord tieghu demokratiku meta kien jinsab fl-Oppozizzjoni invarjabbilment juri li allaovlja ma kellux is-sahha tal-maggoranza warajh xorta li ried li tghaddi tieghu.

Dan jinqasam fi tlett epoki.` Dak bejn l-1977 u l-1981; bejn 1981 u l-1987 u bejn 1996 ` 1998.

Bejn 1977 u 1981 niftakru id-dikjarazzjonijiet espliciti li l-poplu ghandu dritt iwaqqa` gvern li ma jaqbilx mieghu. F`dan is-sens iridu jkunu gudikati l-istrajks politici ta` dak iz-zmien. Niftakru id-dikjarazzjoni li lest juza anke idejn` felhana biex jipproteguh. Kieku nuzaw l-istess ragunar tieghu issa li l-poplu wera bic-car li ma jaqbilx mal-gvern fl-ahhar elezzjonijiet lokali allura skond Eddie ghandna dritt inwaqqghu il-gvern. Izda ahna nafu sew x`inhi d-demokrazija u bil-kuntrarju ta` Eddie naccettaw ir-regoli taghha.

Bejn 1981 ` 1987 Eddie gie jitmellah mill-interessi tal-pajjiz u holoq instabbilita` politika li stagnat il-pajjiz ekonomikament mifni kif kien fi zmienijiet ta` ricessjoni internazzjonali. Harsu ftit lejn l-Amerika u ara jekk id-demokratici li gabu l-maggoranza tal-voti humiex qeghdin joholqu instabbilita` politika lir-repubblikani li qed imexxu. Fl-Amerika zgur li fl-imnarja li gejja id-demokratici mhux ser jiehdu lil nieshom il-bahar.

U mbaghad kellna l-1996 `1998.` Minflok sostna gvern elett demoratikament, Eddie` ha vantagg min manipulazzjoni tal-konfini elettorali biex xellef maggoranza parlamentari laburista u sforza lil pajjiz ghal elezzjoni qabel zmienha.

Mill-oppozizzjoni meta ma kellux is-sahha amminsitrattiva biex tgahddi tieghu Eddie wera kemm mhux vera jemmen fid-demokrazija.` Meta jkollok il-magguranza mieghek bilfors temmen fid-demokrazija ghax tghaddi tieghek. Il-vera test tad-demokrazija huwa meta tkun fl-oppozizzjoni.` Min dan it-test Eddie wehel tlett darbiet.

Li jkiddek huwa li li l-perception li bena permezz tal-media hija li huwa xi salvatur tad-demokrazija meta il-fatti vera juru bil-maqlub.

Issa x`inhu l-gudizzju dwar Eddie fil-gvern. Dan huwa perjodu ta` erbatax il-sena bejn is-sena 1987 sal lum il-gurnata interrotti b`perjodu qasir ta` 22 xahar bejn Ottucru 1996 sa Settembru 1998. Hawn ukoll` il-perception hija ta` wiehed li mmodernizza lil pajjiz u illiberalizza l-ekonomija.

Izda t-test tas-success mhux li timmodernizza u tilliberalizza. Dan huwa kuncett idejologiku li gie accettat minn kulhadd u b`Eddie jew mhux b`Eddie dan kien irid isir. Naghtuh mertu talli ghamlu hu izda nieqfu hemm. Il-veru mertu kien ikun kieku dan sar minghajr ma dahhal il-pajjiz f`dejn li jwerwrek u f`deficits li ma nafux kif se nsibu tarfhom.

Ghax nghiduha kif inhi, x`hemm ehfef milli tonfoq Mhux kullhadd jaf jonfoq, jimmodernizza u jberbaq ir-rizervi li sab u jtella muntanja ta` dejn` Il-kapacita hija kif timmodernizza minghajr ma ddahhal lil pajjiz fl-inkwiet ekonomiku li gabna fih.` Inkwiet rizultat ta` snin ta` nfieq bla kontroll, sussidji bla sens, impjiegi fejn ma hemmx bzonn, cerimonji u progetti mibnija fuq id-dehra u mhux fuq is-sustanza.

Illum ir-rejalta` lahqitna.` Eddie gabna fi stat fejn il-pajjiz ma jiflahx jissellef izjed u ghalhekk qed jaghfas u jaghfas fuq it-taxxi. Il-periklu huwa li kif jintebah li t-taxxi qed jipperikolaw il-popolarita` elettorali Eddie jaghmel dak li dejjem ghamel s`issa u jaghzel l-interessi tal-poter qabel tan-nazzjon. Jaghzel li jbiegh kull ma fadal biex jixtri aktar zmien ghar-renju tieghu u l-problemi dejjem aktar ikkargati jhallihom fit-testment ghal ta` warajh.

Ghalhekk bdejna nergghu nisimghu diskors dwar privatizzazzjoni ta` kollox, Freeport. Kordin Grain Terminal, Lottu, Bank of Valletta, Air Malta, Maltacom, Enemalta. Tiskantawx li jithajjru jdahhlu wkoll lil xi regolatur bhal Malta Maritime Authority, MFSC, jew Malta Stock Exchange.

Meta fl-ahhar mill-ahhar ikollna niffaccjaw ir-rejalta` u l-media ma tkunx tista tkompli tnaddaf bil-gamboll l-immagini ta` Eddie ghad l-istorja tohrog ir-risposta vera ghat ` titlu b`mistoqsija ohra: min irid ikun bhal Eddie`

Friday, 6 April 2001

Simple Truism

The Malta Independent

Simple truism

Lately the Minister of Finance favoured us with a stark simple truism. Taxes will be reduced after the public fiscal deficit gets addressed, he promised. This is an invitation to accept the pain of martyrdom for securing a place in heaven.

No one has ever suggested that any minister of finance raise taxes for the fun of it. When taxes are raised it is normally for one or a combination of three motives: as a macro-economic measure to calm down an overheating economy; to finance an increase in public expenditure, or to reduce an existing fiscal deficit.

In Malta`s case the first motive if out of the question. If anything our economy needs a kick-start not a cold shower. So the Minister is being forced` punish a frigid economy with net additional taxation of significant proportions through a combination of the second and third motives.

The question which should be addressed is who is responsible for creation of` the deficit in the first place and whether there is any other way of addressing the deficit without imposition of additional net taxes.

The short tenure of office by the interlude labour Government of 1996-1998 is conveniently blamed by the present administration for the galloping deficit which additional taxation is endeavouring to address. This cannot be further from the truth. Not even if Labour government really meant to create such deficit` it would take more than 22 months to do it especially if during such administration there is a conscious attempt to freeze the intake of personnel into the public sector, no collective agreement is signed for existing employees and 33 additional taxes get imposed. Such measures in fact caused the pre-mature and unfair demise of the Labour administration when it had to seek confirmation of its mandate right in the middle of fiscal surgery to a patient suffering from a deep-rooted malady.

I totally agree with the Minister when in a more sober mode in the budget speech for 1999 he said `the state of public finances is in very bad shape. The tragedy is that such a serious problem is packaged in cheap propaganda. To arrive at a solution it needs to be acknowledged that the present financial position is the result of huge structural faults which were layered on each other over a long number of years.`

Is there another less painful method how to address a problem that everybody agrees that it needs to be addressed The simple answer to this is yes.` Emphatically yes. More than that I say that increasing taxes could in fact aggravate not solve the deficit problem.

The Minister is doing a fair` job in building tax structures necessary in a modern economy. Structures which are also necessary for the sake of social justice.` But unless such measures are accompanied by reduction in direct tax rates they could cause the economic growth to seize in its tracks.` The fiscal deficit cannot be solved by tax enforcement alone. It needs to be sustained by a growing economy and by sensible cuts in public expenditure.

But how do you do this if the first thing you do when elected is signing double digits salary increases to public sector employees without extracting commensurate productivity gains` No wonder the collective agreements of other public sector employees outside central government are piling at the Ministry of Finance that has a weak case to refuse rate increases benchmarked to the last collective agreement to employees of central government.

Hence why I continue to maintain that whoever created this problem is hardly in a position to solve it. More likely is that sooner or later privatisation is resorted to generate one-off revenues gaining time to avoid finding real solutions.` When even these posterity reserves are frittered away then we will be left with the sole awful` option of facing reality straight in the eye.

Sunday, 1 April 2001

Valuri vvizzjati

Il-Kullhadd Valuri vvizjati

Issa d-diska ndrat.` Meta il-Prim Ministru ikollu bilfors jitkellem u ma jkollux xi jghid idur ghat-temi preferiti tieghu. It-temi tal-valuri u tar-religjon. Hekk sewwa sew ghamel il-hadd l-iehor fid-diskors ta` l-gheluq tal- konferenza generali tal-partit nazzjonalista.

Bilfors kellu jitkellem.` Normalment jitkellem fuq l-ahhar zviluppi. Izda l-ahhar zviluppi ma kienux sbieh.` It-telfa elettorali ta` hmistax qabel fil-kunsilli lokali ma kienx hemm x`wisq tghid fuqha. Mela l-ghazla waqghet mil-gdid fuq il-valuri u fuq ir-religjon.

U biex beda ghawweg bicca mill-istorja.` Qal li l-Partit Laburista kien favur l-integration u kontra l-indipendenza u kien wara l-gvern nazzjonalista gab l-indipendenza li gvern laburista sar favur taghha. Ma nistax` nifhem ghala l-prim ministru jaghzel li jaqleb l-istorja rasha l-isfel. Anke jien li f`dawk iz-zminijiet kien ghad kelli tlettax il-sena naf l-istorja fattwali mod iehor.

Il-fatti huma li wara li l-progett ta` l-integration kkrolla f`April ta` l-1958 bir rizenja tal-gvern laburista il-partit laburista mill-ewwel talab l-indipendenza u dan bla kundizzjonijiet. Dak iz-zmien il-partit nazzjonalista kien ghadu jfittex Dominion Status u din kienet il-politka tal-partit nazzjonaliosta fl-elezzjoni ta` l-1962. Ghadni niftakar lil Borg Olivier jispjega dan b`widnejja stess. Mela l-partit laburista mhux talli ma kienx kontra l-indipendenza talli hareg bl-ghajta taghha hafna qabel il-partit nazzjonalista.

Id-differenza bejn iz-zewg partiti lejlet l-indipendza fl-1964 kienet li l-partit laburista ried indipendenza bla rbit halli mbaghad bhala stat sovran jinnegozja defence agreement ma l-Ingilterra minn pozizzjoni ta` sahha. L-inglizi dan ma riduhx u sabu li jkun jaqblilhom jaghtu l-indipendenza lil Borg Oliveir li kien accetta l-indipendenza marbuta f`pakkett ma defence u financial agreement ferm favorevoli ghal gvern ingliz. Dawn fatti storici u huwa abbuziv li xi hadd, specjalment jekk ikun prim ministru, jikteb u jpingi l-istorja kif jixtieqgha flok kif inhi.

U mbaghad gejna ghal valuri.` Valuri ta demokrazija wiesgha u mifruxa. Min jemmen f`dawn il-valuri nistaqsi` Min jinsisti li l-partiti politici jiddominaw anke fil-livell lokali jew min bhal knisja u l-partit laburista ried li demokrazija f`livell lokali tghaddi fidejn strutturi barra mil-partiti politici li ghandhom poter bizzejjed`

Il-valur fit-twemmin fil- hila tal-Maltin.` Min qed jemmen fih tassew` Min irid dhul inkundizzjonat fl-UE ghax qata` qalbu li jindirizza l-problemi tal-pajjiz jew min bhal partit laburista li jemmen li b`rajna f`idejna u b`leadership sod nistghu nibnu ahna stess ghalina nfusna futur ahjar milli nergghu lura ghal kolonjalizmu modern`

Il-valur tal-gustizzja socjali` Min jemmen fil-gustizzja socjali Min bena l-infrastruttura socajli li ghandna llum li f`hafna kazi hija daqs jew ahjar minn ta` l-ewropa jew minn wassalna ghal kollass ekonomiku li qed jghedded is-sontenabbilita` tas-servizzi socjali li issa bdew jitnaqqru b`mod li jweggha lil min huwa l-aktar batut fis-socjeta`.

Il-valur ta` l-Ewropa. Ghal prim` minuistru l-UE hija objettiv fiha nnifisha u mhux mezz kif nistghu nghatu ghixien ahjar lil dan il-poplu. Ghal Prim Ministru filwaqt li jghid li jrid jinnegozja biex l-UE tikkoncedi dak li ghalih il-partit laburista jghazel toroq ohra barra shubija biex jibni relazzjonijiet specjali ma l-UE, jghid li barra l-UE hemm biss dezert.` Jinsisti li fl-UE ikollna lehen meta l-fatti juru li l-UE li ghad xi darba joffrulna li nissiehbu maghha tkun strutturata b`mod li lehinna ikun wiehed insinjifikanti bla sahha ta` xejn. Ghal prim ministru donnu li barra l-UE m`hemm valuri ta` xejn.

Mhux hekk biss. Il-prim ministru tant issa nqata` mir-rejalta` li filwaqt li l-UE hija di natura ghaqda lajka li anke giet kkritikata mill-vatikan li halliet lill-Omnipotenti barra mic-Charter taghha f`Nizza, issa , skond il-prim ministru, ser tkun Malta li ser tiehu l-valuri nsara gewwa l-ewropa.` Malta issa ser tikkonvinci lil pajjizi l-ohra biex jergghu jipprojbixxu d-divorzju u l-abort halli jigu konformi mat-twemmin baziku tal-partit nazzjonalista!

U biex ikun zgur li jipprova li ma ghandux argumenti aktar kellu jirrikorri ghal loghba antika li nhalltu r-religjon mal-politika. F`gieh is-sewwa ejja nargumentaw bejnietna liema relazzjoni ta` pajjizna ma l-UE toffri l-ahjar prospett ghal ghixien tal-poplu Malti izda ma ndahhlux ir-religjon f`din il-bicca ma ma ghandha x`taqsam xejn. Jekk il-Prim Ministru jahseb li l-inglizi , l-francizi u l-germanizi huma aktar nsara mill-isvezzeri, in-norvegizi u l-islandizi semplicement ghax ta l-ewwel ghazlu shubija u tat-tieni ghazlu relazzjoni mil-qrib izda mhux shubija, mela allura tassew li wasal iz-zmien ghal bidla ghax min qed imexxina ghandu valuri vvizzjati.