Sunday, 23 September 2001

Privatising under pressure

The Malta Independent on Sunday Privatising under pressure

As we enter the last quarter of the year government finances do not look good whichever way you look at them. Figures published up to July 2001 indicate that we are missing on the negative side targets for` budgeted revenue, budgeted recurrent expenditure and budgeted capital expenditure.

And as I have written quite extensively recently the budget figures give only a very partial story. The funding going on off-budget` from the Treasury Clearance Funds is substantial and irrecoverable.` It is passed over the Treasury Clearance Fund not because of the lame excuse offered to the IMF,` that people would otherwise get confused, but to window dress the figures and continue playing the make belief game.` The illusion` that the budget deficit is being addressed when in reality is it just being transferred from the Consolidated Account to the Treasury Clearance Fund.

My criticism that it is highly incorrect and against financial regulations to advance funds from the Treasury Clearance Fund which are either clearly irrecoverable ( like all the loans and temporary advances to our shipyards) or only recoverable not from the borrower but from outright sale of the State`s ownership in the borrower`s owning company ( like advances to Freeport which are only recoverable if at all from privatisation proceeds of Freeport) goes unheeded. Our lethargy has reached such a chronic stage where nothing matters anymore.

It is against this crisis background that one has to consider this week`s declaration by the Minister of Finance that by the end of the year the State will privatise the Public Lotto, part of Malta International Airport , Mediterranean Offshore Bunkering, Kordin Grain Terminal and Freeport.

After the gaffe of the sale of Mid-Med Bank and after 27 months of just talk now we have to do everything in the next 3 months.` If you smell crisis it is because it is crisis. With the loan limit approved by parliament used up and the Treasury Bill limit for short term funding ( even though there is nothing short term in the prospects for repayment of the national debt) close to exhaustion the Government is in a situation that without privatisation revenues it cannot balance its books by the end of the year.

Financial markets both in Malta and internationally have had a miserable year so far. What was sombre has been turned into darkness by the WTC terrorist attack.` Issues of new equities has practically disappeared as investors are becoming very risk averse.` In order to prop up the value of their own shares many companies are resorting to share buy back schemes believing that current share level will in the long term be considered a bargain. Shares buy backs essentially withdraw equity from the market when investors lose the appetite for investment risk.

Is it politically and financially` responsible for Malta`s privatisation process to be squeezed all in one of the worst investment scenario quarters purely because the government needs the money Is it not clear that under these circumstances the prospects of getting the best value for our prized treasures get very low`

And where is the transparency which we had been promised` to ensure that the privatisation process does not once again turn into political Ping-Pong` What is the Ministry of Finance waiting for` to publish the benchmark criteria against which it expects to measure the success or otherwise of privatisation of each individual unit`

In some cases the privatisation involves highly strategic assets of national importance. Privatisation must consider aspects which go beyond the purely financial terms.` Take Public Lotto What measures are being proposed to protect against the possibility of sudden surge in Lotto gaming expenditure through better marketing which would directly effect the spending power of the population on other consumption items with grave economic consequences even to the government itself` If people suddenly start spending more on` gaming and less on entertainment` would it create just more unemployment or could we promote moral disharmony even at the granular cell of the individual family unit Have any safeguards been taken to ensure that any growth in` gaming is kept in a reasonable relationship with the general growth of the economy`

Take the Freeport. Why have we not been informed what exactly is being privatised Is it just the management or the assets` And who is going to be responsible for the Freeport debt which is presently guaranteed by the State and for which the States still has to pass on annual` subsidies to the Freeport to pay interest`

In each and every case privatisation is shrouded in darkness contained in expensive documents only available to interested bidders. In the days of e-governmet when all documents should be readily and freely available on the Net` ( even if those to wish to bid will be made to pay a pre-qualification fee) Malta`s privatisation remains shrouded in mystery, managed by crisis and conducted under pressure.

Privatising under pressure

The Malta Independent on Sunday Privatising under pressure

As we enter the last quarter of the year government finances do not look good whichever way you look at them. Figures published up to July 2001 indicate that we are missing on the negative side targets for` budgeted revenue, budgeted recurrent expenditure and budgeted capital expenditure.

And as I have written quite extensively recently the budget figures give only a very partial story. The funding going on off-budget` from the Treasury Clearance Funds is substantial and irrecoverable.` It is passed over the Treasury Clearance Fund not because of the lame excuse offered to the IMF,` that people would otherwise get confused, but to window dress the figures and continue playing the make belief game.` The illusion` that the budget deficit is being addressed when in reality is it just being transferred from the Consolidated Account to the Treasury Clearance Fund.

My criticism that it is highly incorrect and against financial regulations to advance funds from the Treasury Clearance Fund which are either clearly irrecoverable ( like all the loans and temporary advances to our shipyards) or only recoverable not from the borrower but from outright sale of the State`s ownership in the borrower`s owning company ( like advances to Freeport which are only recoverable if at all from privatisation proceeds of Freeport) goes unheeded. Our lethargy has reached such a chronic stage where nothing matters anymore.

It is against this crisis background that one has to consider this week`s declaration by the Minister of Finance that by the end of the year the State will privatise the Public Lotto, part of Malta International Airport , Mediterranean Offshore Bunkering, Kordin Grain Terminal and Freeport.

After the gaffe of the sale of Mid-Med Bank and after 27 months of just talk now we have to do everything in the next 3 months.` If you smell crisis it is because it is crisis. With the loan limit approved by parliament used up and the Treasury Bill limit for short term funding ( even though there is nothing short term in the prospects for repayment of the national debt) close to exhaustion the Government is in a situation that without privatisation revenues it cannot balance its books by the end of the year.

Financial markets both in Malta and internationally have had a miserable year so far. What was sombre has been turned into darkness by the WTC terrorist attack.` Issues of new equities has practically disappeared as investors are becoming very risk averse.` In order to prop up the value of their own shares many companies are resorting to share buy back schemes believing that current share level will in the long term be considered a bargain. Shares buy backs essentially withdraw equity from the market when investors lose the appetite for investment risk.

Is it politically and financially` responsible for Malta`s privatisation process to be squeezed all in one of the worst investment scenario quarters purely because the government needs the money Is it not clear that under these circumstances the prospects of getting the best value for our prized treasures get very low`

And where is the transparency which we had been promised` to ensure that the privatisation process does not once again turn into political Ping-Pong` What is the Ministry of Finance waiting for` to publish the benchmark criteria against which it expects to measure the success or otherwise of privatisation of each individual unit`

In some cases the privatisation involves highly strategic assets of national importance. Privatisation must consider aspects which go beyond the purely financial terms.` Take Public Lotto What measures are being proposed to protect against the possibility of sudden surge in Lotto gaming expenditure through better marketing which would directly effect the spending power of the population on other consumption items with grave economic consequences even to the government itself` If people suddenly start spending more on` gaming and less on entertainment` would it create just more unemployment or could we promote moral disharmony even at the granular cell of the individual family unit Have any safeguards been taken to ensure that any growth in` gaming is kept in a reasonable relationship with the general growth of the economy`

Take the Freeport. Why have we not been informed what exactly is being privatised Is it just the management or the assets` And who is going to be responsible for the Freeport debt which is presently guaranteed by the State and for which the States still has to pass on annual` subsidies to the Freeport to pay interest`

In each and every case privatisation is shrouded in darkness contained in expensive documents only available to interested bidders. In the days of e-governmet when all documents should be readily and freely available on the Net` ( even if those to wish to bid will be made to pay a pre-qualification fee) Malta`s privatisation remains shrouded in mystery, managed by crisis and conducted under pressure.

Friday, 21 September 2001

Is Independence still relevant

The Malta Independent

Is Independence still relevant`

A person`s date of birth is the most important day of a his/her life. Irrespective of whether one was born in a gilded` palace, in a humble home or on animal straw in a forlorn cave, the date of birth remains the all important day when it all began. A person could curse parents for not providing the level of care expected of them but the date remains all important. . Without it there could be no life.

As we celebrate the 37th anniversary of our independence nothing should divide us in celebrating the nation`s date of birth with the dignity it deserves.` In so doing we would not be honouring Borg Olivier`s poor negotiating skills or his election to premiership in 1962 in of the most undemocratic elections ever held,` mortal sin and all. On the contrary we would be commemorating the visions of Vassalli and Dimech to render Malta a free member among the world of nations and the determination of Mintoff to give true meaning to independence by undertaking the largest ever economic re-structuring of Malta`s economy between 1972 and 1979.

But such festivities come not only to celebrate the past but also to ponder the future. And it is apt on this anniversary of independence to mull over the concept of whether our independence as a small island nation is economically sustainable.

Those who consider that Malta`s membership in the EU is the only way forward tacitly admit that independence is a failed experiment. EU membership for a small island nation at the periphery of the European mainland is an irreversible process not simply of sharing sovereignty, in itself a vague concept, but of outright dilution of sovereignty till it is completely melted away into the central force of the political union motives of enlargement.

They can hardly be blamed for holding this view. After experiencing serious government in the first post-independence 15 years` where government and opposition competed between themselves in providing the best solutions for this country, during the last 20 years or so, especially after the 1981 elections we have experienced incompetent governments.` We have enriched the individual and impoverished the State. We have created dangerous illusions of artificial well-being without the need to work for it.` We have mortgaged the future of our economy by creating a mountain of debt without corresponding strengthening of the economic and material infrastructure .

And as we face the future today we are being led to believe that on our own it`s too cold out here and we do not have what it takes to propel ourselves forward as a truly independent state in a globalised world. For those who like me maintain faith in the sustainability of a truly sovereign island micro state the problems lie in weak leadership not in structural flaws of the independence concept.

A critical resource for sustainability of our sovereignty is strong and effective leadership capable of administering the scant resources effectively and leveraging our advantages of smallness, flexibility and strategic location to emphasise our strengths and control our weaknesses. In almost` everything done these last 20 years we have been strengthening our weaknesses and weakening our strengths.

We need a new beginning before our sovereignty is thrown beyond the point of no return and independence day celebration becomes a rhetoric historical commemoration shorn of pride in our` nationhood. `

Friday, 14 September 2001

Hidden broadcasting agendas

The Malta Independent

Hidden broadcasting agenda

The report published by a Task Force aimed at restructuring PBS does not even come within one mile of finding a truly lasting solution to this problem.

PBS has a public sector culture. Turning it upside down and inside out will not change that. Expecting a public sector service to be run commercially in a liberalised environment is expecting the impossible. Suggesting that business units could be created out of PBS capable of competing` with the private sector services is against broad political policy of allowing maximum space for the private sector as much as it is unlikely to succeed.` So the matter is being approached the wrong way.

Before suggesting any re-structuring the question to be answered is:` Do we still need Public Broadcasting and if in the affirmative what should its objectives be`

Broadcasting Authority as it stands today is an unnecessary ornament in on our plethora of Authorities. In a liberalised scenario why should a State Authority impose on a totally commercial station how much advertising it should package within` its programming` `Does anyone impose any similar limitation on print and electronic media

Commercial stations do not demand anything from their viewers. They send no bills and no fees. They have to turn their brains inside out to ensure that they attract audiences with creative programming which could pull in the necessary advertising revenues to survive commercially. If they exaggerate their advertising content they lose audiences and thus the foundations to sustain their revenues. Content criteria regarding morality or other matters of public interest could be addressed by legislation as the Press Act controls the print media. Self-regulation in broadcasting should be promoted.

So the Broadcasting Authority and any remnants of PBS should be consolidated to form a public service worth keeping. A public service which not only does not compete with the private sector but, if` economically feasible,` would buy in its requirements from the private sector. A public service which would operate a commercial advertising free service focusing on news and current affairs, national events and on cultural content.` In a market where the political parties have strong presence in the media we need a public service which is autonomous and independent of government financial allocations.

So a slimmed-down organisation` to give a truly public service in news, national events` and culture will finance itself from TV` license fees and` if necessary by demanding a royalty on all advertising revenues raked in by all media including the press, radio and TV and the emerging electronic channels.

Hopefully we will not see Grande Fratello on state funded TV. We will feel that our licence fee money is going for a good cause when public broadcasting starts providing real news and cultural content which is otherwise` not sustainable on a pure commercial basis

Clearly such re-organisations create the problem of what to do with surplus employees. But this problem is not peculiar to broadcasting. If anything broadcasting is the tip of the iceberg.` Such over-manning problems throughout the public sector can only be solved through central government initiatives involving massive investment in re-training and re-deployment coupled with incentive schemes to promote growth and private sector employment.

Choosing to focus on the over-manning problem strictly at PBS is a clear manifestation of hidden agendas.

Sunday, 9 September 2001

Avoiding contagion

The Malta Independent on Sunday Avoiding contagion

The Price Club problem has been in the news for quite some time. Solutions are proving elusive.

In market economies business failures are the ultimate test of market efficiency. Those enterprises that` cannot earn their way have to bite the dust. In a super-micro economy like ours the efficiency of the market is very questionable and problems like Price Club cannot just be allowed to come and go as if nothing has happened. In such a small market it is relatively easy to build market share by undercutting competition and than try to use that dominance to rake in the profit. But if those seeking such dominance mismanage their own affairs or run out of resources to see their strategy through to its full cycle the consequences could be disastrous not only for themselves but also for the whole business community and for the whole economy.

It is disastrous for business operators who were thrown out of business by predatory pricing. It is disastrous for suppliers who supplied their goods in good faith extending their credit terms beyond normality justified by the volume generated, who are presently suffering a breakdown in their cash flow cycle.

It is disastrous for the banks who lent their money and for prospective borrowers who receive credit decisions from banks undoubtedly clouded by the Price Club experience. And finally it is disastrous for employees who at the very least have to go through the unpleasant experience of having to change jobs unwillingly and in several cases through the hardship of losing employment altogether for several months.

The major risk of the Price Club saga is however its contagion effect.` Whilst we can argue till cows come home whether the regulators, the banks and the suppliers have discharged their duties with due diligence which could have avoided the build-up of the problem to it current proportions what`s important is finding a true solution to Price Club`s financial chaos to avoid damaging contagion.

Whilst one hopes that` acquisition by cash rich long term investors` could be a snap way out of the current impasse, contingency plans must be` made to seek an honourable way out if the acquisition offer does not materialise with the punctuality which the situation demands.

Government can`t simply wash its hands off the problem and pretend that` mal-functioning market mechanism will take care of the problem.` If the problem develops into contagion the problem will fall straight into government`s lap, so it had better participate actively to engineer a fair deal.

The first sacrifice has to be made by the original shareholders and directors. They messed up their business strategies and turned a promising bubbly discount store business into a colossal failure. Their wrong strategies are clear even for an outsider. Opening up several stores to the original three Price Clubs` was a grave error absorbing much needed capital without providing value added. In the discount store concept people travel to find the discounted price. Opening Stores in Paola competing with the own store in Marsa and keeping the Valley Road store competing with the Swatar flagship makes scant` commercial sense.` The discount concept involves building loyalties with existing clients by deepening the relationship rather than spreading the organization thin to attract new clients.

The shareholders should take the honourable way out and pass on management and shareholding control` to the unsecured creditors.` The creditors have to accept that their best prospect for recovering their exposure is by converting their dues into interest free obligations with options to convert it into equity. Then new professional management has to be engaged disposing of the non core assets of the group other than the three original Price Clubs and operating the discount concept by attracting clients by the discounted` prices and offering a no frills efficient service deepening the relationship through loyalty schemes.` Additional new funding should be minimized by operating a consignment operation where sourcing logistics are shifted on to suppliers who replace merchandise on their shelves at the end of every business day and get paid instant cash for the day`s sales of consigned goods.

This may sound like presumptuous free advice. It is meant as` a painful but practical way out of a financial mess limiting the economic risks of business failure by contagion.

The Price Club problem is however symptomatic, in an almost sarcastic way, of the macro-economic problems plaguing our economy. Excess capacity, low or no profitability, wasteful investment and little or no tools to manage with. Structural budget deficit leaves no room for using fiscal policy to manage demand effectively, monetary policy tools (interest rate reductions)` are rendered unusable or risky` due to loss of foreign exchange reserves, and the economic managers have committed themselves not to use the rate of exchange as an economic policy tool.

The only economic tool left to save Price Club` and the economy in general is prayer.` Let us pray!

Avoiding contagion

The Malta Independent on Sunday Avoiding contagion

The Price Club problem has been in the news for quite some time. Solutions are proving elusive.

In market economies business failures are the ultimate test of market efficiency. Those enterprises that` cannot earn their way have to bite the dust. In a super-micro economy like ours the efficiency of the market is very questionable and problems like Price Club cannot just be allowed to come and go as if nothing has happened. In such a small market it is relatively easy to build market share by undercutting competition and than try to use that dominance to rake in the profit. But if those seeking such dominance mismanage their own affairs or run out of resources to see their strategy through to its full cycle the consequences could be disastrous not only for themselves but also for the whole business community and for the whole economy.

It is disastrous for business operators who were thrown out of business by predatory pricing. It is disastrous for suppliers who supplied their goods in good faith extending their credit terms beyond normality justified by the volume generated, who are presently suffering a breakdown in their cash flow cycle.

It is disastrous for the banks who lent their money and for prospective borrowers who receive credit decisions from banks undoubtedly clouded by the Price Club experience. And finally it is disastrous for employees who at the very least have to go through the unpleasant experience of having to change jobs unwillingly and in several cases through the hardship of losing employment altogether for several months.

The major risk of the Price Club saga is however its contagion effect.` Whilst we can argue till cows come home whether the regulators, the banks and the suppliers have discharged their duties with due diligence which could have avoided the build-up of the problem to it current proportions what`s important is finding a true solution to Price Club`s financial chaos to avoid damaging contagion.

Whilst one hopes that` acquisition by cash rich long term investors` could be a snap way out of the current impasse, contingency plans must be` made to seek an honourable way out if the acquisition offer does not materialise with the punctuality which the situation demands.

Government can`t simply wash its hands off the problem and pretend that` mal-functioning market mechanism will take care of the problem.` If the problem develops into contagion the problem will fall straight into government`s lap, so it had better participate actively to engineer a fair deal.

The first sacrifice has to be made by the original shareholders and directors. They messed up their business strategies and turned a promising bubbly discount store business into a colossal failure. Their wrong strategies are clear even for an outsider. Opening up several stores to the original three Price Clubs` was a grave error absorbing much needed capital without providing value added. In the discount store concept people travel to find the discounted price. Opening Stores in Paola competing with the own store in Marsa and keeping the Valley Road store competing with the Swatar flagship makes scant` commercial sense.` The discount concept involves building loyalties with existing clients by deepening the relationship rather than spreading the organization thin to attract new clients.

The shareholders should take the honourable way out and pass on management and shareholding control` to the unsecured creditors.` The creditors have to accept that their best prospect for recovering their exposure is by converting their dues into interest free obligations with options to convert it into equity. Then new professional management has to be engaged disposing of the non core assets of the group other than the three original Price Clubs and operating the discount concept by attracting clients by the discounted` prices and offering a no frills efficient service deepening the relationship through loyalty schemes.` Additional new funding should be minimized by operating a consignment operation where sourcing logistics are shifted on to suppliers who replace merchandise on their shelves at the end of every business day and get paid instant cash for the day`s sales of consigned goods.

This may sound like presumptuous free advice. It is meant as` a painful but practical way out of a financial mess limiting the economic risks of business failure by contagion.

The Price Club problem is however symptomatic, in an almost sarcastic way, of the macro-economic problems plaguing our economy. Excess capacity, low or no profitability, wasteful investment and little or no tools to manage with. Structural budget deficit leaves no room for using fiscal policy to manage demand effectively, monetary policy tools (interest rate reductions)` are rendered unusable or risky` due to loss of foreign exchange reserves, and the economic managers have committed themselves not to use the rate of exchange as an economic policy tool.

The only economic tool left to save Price Club` and the economy in general is prayer.` Let us pray!

Tlett snin mohlija

Il-Kullhadd Tlett snin mohlija

Flok niccelbraw il-Vitorja kien ikun aktar floku nibku tlett snin mohlija fil-hajja qasira ta` dan il-pajjiz ghaziez.

Illum ftit fadal nies li ma jammettux li dan il-pajjiz ghandu problemi kbar u li l-gvern tilef il-kontroll fuq is-sitwazzjoni. Meta Gonzi jigi jghid li dan il-gvern ghandu xi rekord ta` xoghol f`dawn it-tlett snin hafna nies, laburisti u nazzjonalisti, l-ewwel jibdew jidhqu u wara ftit jieqfu u jibdew jibku.

Ghax is-sitwazzjoni xejn m`hi tad-dahq.` Is-sitwazzjoni hi tal-biki. Gvern li ilu tista` tghid erbatax il-sena fil-poter u li wara li nefaq kull ma sab, wara li mliena bid-dejn sa xfar ghajnejna tant li d-dejn nazzjonali veru tal-pajjiz issa lahaq l-elf u erba mitt miljun, wara li biegh hafna mill-ahjar assi li kellna u jidher ippreparat ibiegh kull ma fadal u jisparpaljhom bhal ma sparpalja tant miljuni, dal-gvern qieghed jidher gharwien quddiem il-poplu.

Tinsewx li dan il-gvern ma bieghx biss il-Mid-Med Bank u kif jammetti kullhadd bieghu bl-irhis u tellef lil pajjizna madwar Lm70 miljun lira.` Izda qabel biegh 75% tal-bank of Valletta, u biegh il-Lombard Bank kollu kemm hu. U Gvern laburista tas-96 kien sfurzat ibiegh 40% tal-Maltacom biex izomm ir-ritmu tad-deficit li wiret minghand in-nazzjonalisti.

X`ghandna x`nuru ta` dan id-dejn kollu` Ghax kieku tghid sar id-dejn izda dan sar f`investiment ghaqli fl-infrastruttura u fit-taghlim kieku tghid issa jekk immexxu bil-ghaqal il-pajjiz jaqla minn dan l-investiment u jkabbar l-ekonomija b`ritmu hafna aktar qawwi milli jikber id-dejn.

Izda ahna bil-kontra.` Id-dejn qed jikber hafna aktar milli qed tikber l-ekonomija li fil-fatt bhalissa m`hi tikber xejn, u l-piz tad-dejn ghalhekk dejjem jitqal. Id-dejn veru issa lahaq 100% tal-prodtt gross domestiku jigifieri daqs kemm nipproducu lkoll kemm ahna f`sena shiha.

Ta` dan id-dejn ghandna x`nuru` l-aghar toroq tad-dinja, infrastruttura li m`hix tlahhaq ma l-ekonomija kajmana kif inhi ahseb w ara kif tista` tlahhaq ma l-ekonomija li hemm bzonn tikber b`rata ta` aktar minn 6% kull sena,` tfal hergin mill-iskola minghajr ma jkunu ttrenjati ghal impjiegi produttivi u biza kbir fost l-operaturi ekonomici kollha li qed jaraw il-pajjiz jiggamja taht nuqqas ta` inizjattiva u opportunaijiet godda.

Biex tkompli tghaxxaqha l-ambjent ekonomiku internazzjonali dar decizament sfavorevoli u kumpaniji bhal ST Microelectronics jinsabu maqbudin fi krizi ta` nuqqas ta` ordnijiet u prezzijiet dejjem nezlin ghal prodotti taghhom li jkabbar r-riskju li l-kumpanija ikollha tiehu mizuri drastici li jeffettaw bil-kbir l-ekonomija maltija aktar milli diga'qed fil-fatt jeffetjaw.

Issa ghalqu ftit ghajnejkom u ftakru dak id-diskors li kontu tisimghu tlett snin ilu. Diskors li l-hofra finanzjarja kienet hrafa vvintata minn Alfred Sant. Li gvern nazzjonalista kellu bakketta magika biex ikompli jonfoq mitt miljun li kien se jgib shan shan kull sena` mill-Unjoni Ewropeja, li b`hekk kien se jnaqqsilna l-piz tat-taxxi,` u li konna se nkunu nistghu nghixu l-illuzjoni eterna li dahhluna fiha dawn in-nies inkapaci li ma ghandhomx ghaqal biex imexxu l-pajjiz bil-galbu.

Mhux ta` b`xejn il-pajjiz illum ixxukjat. Ghax dawn l-ahhar teltt snin ghexna` holma ///kerha.` Holma li gabitna` vicin ir-rejalta li tassew hemm hofra finanzjarja kbira frott il-medjokrita` ta gvern nazzjonalista mill-1987 `l hawn.` Li mhux minnu hemm Lm100 miljun` kull sena gejjin mill-UE, anzi dawn il- Lm100 miljun u izjed gejjin minn butna f`taxxi biex inhallsu ahna ghal privilegg li noqghodu ninnegozjaw mal-UE arrangament li mhux adatt ghalina. Li l-illuzjoni issa waslet fi tmiemha kif tigi fi tmiemha kull illuzjoni ohra mibnija fuq ir-ramel. Issa wasal iz-zmien tal-kontijiet.

U l-isfortuna hi li l-kontijiet ihallashom iz-zghir u min ma jafx u m`ghandux mezzi biex jipprotegi ruhu. L-isfortuna hi li se jkunu l-haddiema li se jkollhom ghal darba ohra jaqdfu ghal sidirhom biex jerfghu il-pajjiz mir-rovina li gabuh fih.` Il-haddiem gawda meta l-flus kienu qed jintefqu bl-addocc izda ghal kull farka li gawda l-haddiem haddiehor kiel hobza shiha. Sforutnament il-haddiem ferah bil-farka u emmen l-illuzjoni li jista jkompli jiekol frak ghal dejjem.

Issa qed jinduna li min gawda farka se jkollu jhallas ta` hobza u minn kiel hobza sgicca u jekk ihallas ihallas il-frak. Issa wasal iz-zmien li l-haddiem malti jerga` jdur lejn il-Partit Laburista biex jiddefendih u jgieghjel lil kullhadd ihallas skond ma gawda. Hekk titlob il-gustizzja u hekk hemm bzonn li jsir.

Friday, 7 September 2001

Tragic not just serious!

The Malta Independent

Tragic not just serious!

The government is in crisis.` Economic growth has practically disappeared. Inflation is edging up, foreign reserves are falling and all business sectors are in a state of shock preparing for the unavoidable to happen.

Politically government finds itself pursuing a dream it cannot fulfil as the remaining` term of its` mandate is too short to execute EU membership. In any case a gloomy economic environment does not augur well for a positive referendum result.

Morally the government has lost all credentials.` Probably it never had them in the first place considering its mandate is based on a manifesto of clearly undeliverable pledges. The` magisterial investigation into the alleged sexual offences of a senior police official is political dynamite. What started as a normal case of human frailty is turning into an alleged` cover-up and abuse of the power by the Head of Police and Secret Service and insufficient precautions by a forewarned Prime Minister to ensure that such abuse is not resorted to.

On the financial front the panic is ominously evident. Schemes are invented out of thin air, the much desired bi-parliamentary approach is simply forgotten, and a foreign deposit repatriation scheme is announced without details even though it officially started on the 1st September.

Even junior economic students would suggest that the best way to motivate repatriation of foreign capital is to build a strong and vibrant domestic economy` permitting fair returns on capital without undue risk of devaluation whilst offering` gentle tax treatment.` The Minister has forgotten these elementary economic basics and pretends to stimulate repatriation by threats of having international tax cops at his fingertips.

On the monetary front the Central Bank has given its supposed independence a holiday.` Forgetting that the IMF had specifically warned, less than one month earlier,` that domestic interest rates should not be lowered before reserves are re-built, ignoring that domestic inflation is edging up and is likely to do so more` pronouncedly if energy prices are allowed to fluctuate with market forces as from next year, ignoring that public finance deficit is clearly not being reined in, the Central Bank puts aside its primary mission of price stability and lowers interest by a quarter point, delighting the largest borrower around, i.e. the government.

Any tool to divert public attention from these serious issues comes handy.` In long standing political tradition of hiding your defects by pinning them on your opponents government press has spent the good part of the last two weeks inventing that I am` at odds with Labour Leader Sant and Shadow Finance` Minister Brincat.

Reality is that where my views differ from those of the two gentlemen is that whereas they think the economic situation is very serious my opinion is that it is tragic. Not a division worth shouting about from the PN`s flank.

Sunday, 2 September 2001

IPOKRITI u UNDER COVER

Il-Kullhadd IPOKRITI u UNDER COVER

Minn mindu kien hemm survey li wera li jien l-aktar wiehed li nikteb regolarment fil-gurnali bl-ingliz, in-nazzjonalisti fethu l-kanuni kontrija. Dejjem hekk.` `Minn inigizzhom u jikxifhom ta li huma jghamlu minn kollox biex jiskreditawh.` l-aktar jekk ikun juza il-pinna bhala l-arma tieghu.

Jien ghandi haga. Hafna iqisuha difett.` Ghalija virtu`. Jien l-oggett ngajjitlu b`ismu.` Jekk inhu tajjeb tajjeb jekk hazin hazin. Dan bnieli certu kredibbilita` ma faxxa wiesgha ta` qarrejja bl-ingliz l-aktar dawk li ma humiex ankrati b`mod immutabbli mal-partit nazzjonalisti ghalkemm dejjem ippreferewh.

Il-kredibilita` nghozza daqs kemm nghozz il-memorja ta` ommi u missieri. Hekk dejjem ghallmuni.` Ghid is-sewwa, ghamel is-sewwa, u fl-ahhar tirbah l-irgulija. U hekk bqajt naghmel u ghalkemm gieli iddubitajt kemm f`dinja ta` hazen dan jaghmel s-sens, iz-zmien dejjem taghni ragun.

Wara li ftit gimghat ilu n-nazzjonalisti pingewni bhala xi wiehed vjolenti issa qed ipenguni bhala wiehed li ma naqbilx mal-Leader taghna u li qed nikkritika id-dokument tal-poliktika ekonomika tal-partit li bhalissa qed ghad-diskussjoni.

Ma dan id-dokument altru milli naqbel. Izda la ghadu ghad-diskussjoni fejn jidhirli li jista jitjieb ghaddejt il-kummenti tieghi lil min kelli nghaddihom.` Jekk jigux accettati jew le haga ohra. Izda mohhi u fehmti jibqghu tieghi.

U mohhi u fehmti juruni, anke biex inkun konsistenti mieghi innifsi li sikwit infisser il-gwaj u l-ghawg ekonomiku li qed idahhal fih lil pajjizna dan il-gvern ghajjien u mixful, li l-problemi ekonomici tant huma kbar li biex nindirizzawhom jehtieg immorru lil hinn mid-dokument tal-politika ekonomika.

Ma dan jaqbel l-ewwel wiehed il-Leader. Id-dokument m`huwiex ghajr framework ta` policy li jaghti l-ghanijiet finali tal-partit f`dan is-settur. Id-dokument m`huwiex pjan ta` azzjoni.

U` hawn fejn jien nixtieq immur oltre. Il-problemi ekonomici tal-pajjiz tant huma kbar li jehtiegu pjan ta` azzjoni mil-Partit Laburista biex jekk mil-lum ghall-ghada nissejjhu bir-responsabbilta` tal-gvern ikunu nafu x`ser naghmlu.

Il- pajjiz jinsab fi krizi u meta nkunu fil-gvern ma rridux nitilfu hin. Irridu mmiddu ghonqna ghax-xoghol mall-ewwel u niehdu l-mizuri li hemm bzonn.` Mhux se jkun hemm wisq zmien ghal studju u hsieb.` Il-problemi huma kbar u jahbi kemm jahbi l-gvern issa qed jinkixfu bhal ma kxift li dejn nazzjonali veru huwa madwar elf u erba mitt miljun lira. Ara jekk xi hadd cahad imqar virgola minn dak li ktibt.

Mhux talli ma cahdux` talli issa qalulna bl-iswed fuq l-abjad li ga bdew jonfqu il-flus tal-privatizzazzjoni tal-Freeport li ghadhom lanqas biss jidhru.

Bhala gvern alternattiv ta` pajjiz li qed jeghreq ekonomikament irridu nkunu lesti bi pjan effettiv biex insalvaw lil pajjizna kemm ekonomikament kif ukoll poltikament. Min isir dipendenti fuq il-kredituri tieghi ma tantx igawdi l-awtonomija u l-indipendenza.

Ghalhekk jien nemmen li ghandna mhux biss napprovaw id-dokument ta` aggormanet tal-politika ekonomika izda hemm bzonn immorru oltre. Jekk nippublikawx il-pjan ta` azzjoni jew le huwa argument iehor izda ghandna l-obbligu li lil dan il-pajjiz insalvawh mir-rovina li dahhluh fiha dawn il-karfa li hlief jonfqu u jharbtu ma jafux.

Huwa destin li kull meta l-partit laburista jibah il-gvern isib dizastru finanzjarju.` Fuq dan m`ghandniex kontroll. Izda ghadna kontroll fuq il-fatt li irridu nirrispondu ghal dawn il-problemi b`tempestivita`,` b`decizjoni u b`dinamizmu mill-ewwel gurnata li nkunu fil-gvern.

U dan huwa tort tan-nazzjonalisti li bhal ma nhobb nghid jghin kontinwament igibu ruhhom bhal prosituta li titkaza bil-vergni talli tidhrilha l-libsa ta` taht waqt li tkun qed tnaddaf ilhmieg tal-burdell tal-prostituta.

Dawn IPOKRITI li jahdmu minn taht UNDER COVER biex min jahdem veru fl-interess ta` pajjizna jimminawh. Meta daqs tlett gimghat ohra taraw IPOKRITI u UNDER COVER fuq Super One TV ftakru fil-qerq tan-nazzjonalisti u qawwu l-kuragg biex flimkien nergghu nifdu lil pajjizna.