As we get ready to kick out 2002 and sing in 2003 I think it is proper to remind of three minorities of which I form part, who are being unfairly ignored by society at large.
Equity investors on the Malta Stock Exchange For the third successive years they have suffered losses. This is not different from the experience of international equity investors. What`s different is that for many Maltese investors this is their first experience of capital losses, having been guided into such investments without much understanding of the risks involved, often exposed to such risks by over-zealous bank front office personnel. Maltese clients consider the advice of their bank as second only to the gospel and therefore took it on-board without proper appreciation of the risks involved.
`Maltacom`s monopoly imposed upon it certain social obligations to offer certain of its services at a socially discounted price.` This is causing substantial complications. Not only are people very unhappy with the losses incurred, but even if and when the market cycle turns, it will have an up-hill task as many investors who burnt their finger are eagerly awaiting to dispose of their positions as soon as the market recovers. This is keeping the market under pressure pouring cold water over any attempts of the market to warm up.
But not all losses can be explained away to market cycles. The pressure on the equity price of Maltacom, the biggest loser in terms of quoted price during 2002, reflects the uncertainty about the effect on Maltacom`s profitability of liberalisation of the fixed line telephony and international gateway over which Maltacom holds a monopoly which falls away as from 1st January 2003. Maltacom`s monopoly imposed upon it certain social obligations to offer certain of its services at a socially discounted price. Maltacom was the executor of a social contract where it made monopoly profits on its international tariffs to subsidise local telephony rates. Now that the monopoly is being removed would Maltacom still be in a position to continue subsidising socially sensitive services or will it protect its shareholders` interest and start charging commercial rates across the board through tariff re-balancing` And if Maltacom is commercially constrained to charge commercial rates across the board what is the government doing to compensate the increased costs for those that can least afford it` As an economist, I tend to favour elimination of subsidies which generally lead to waste and inefficient allocation of resources. But subsidies need to be removed in a socially responsible manner as Labour had done in the seventies when food rations, coming from the immediate post-war days, were finally removed. Similarly with BoV, the equity price is under pressure as government intentions regarding its further privatisation seem confused and confusing. It is these indecisions and the introduction of taxations on collective investment schemes that have brought so much instability to the market.
To equity holders suffering capital losses I wish to re-assure them that a new Labour government would make it a priority to breathe new confidence on the capital markets, bringing stability where there is indecision, removing taxation that scares away investment and contributing to a general economic recovery that in the end is the only truly sustainable way for the market to get back its confidence in the fortunes of locally listed companies. Yearning for the right to divorce `How can therefore this country continue to deny the right of divorce to those whose religious beliefs, or their absence, permit them such a choice` ` As a catholic country divorce is still not on the political agenda. But this does not mean that there is not a grave and growing problem out there where the number of those yearning for the right to divorce and start their life afresh can no longer be ignored, not even by politicians who fear losing votes. Malta is the only country in the civilised world that has not provided its citizens with the civil right to divorce and re-marry. Our constitution while declaring Malta as a catholic country gives the right for each individual to practice any religious beliefs without being discriminated against. How can therefore this country continue to deny the right of divorce to those whose religious beliefs, or their absence, permit them such a choice`
Why should the majority continue to impose itself on the growing and significant minority when divorce is an individual choice and not a collective one. Granted, one should not go for a Las Vegas type of easy divorce system. But for couples who consent and do not have any children and to other couples who have not lived together for five years and more, how can society continue to deny them the right to divorce` Divorce is a right to be exercised with discretion and not an obligation to go through against one`s will. Let those happily married continue to exercise their right not to divorce but let`s not continue to fool ourselves thinking that the absence of divorce is keeping families together. Rather the absence of divorce is leading to separations and couples living together without marrying or re-marrying. `Let those happily married continue to exercise their right not to divorce but let`s not continue to fool ourselves thinking that the absence of divorce is keeping families together` Illegitimate children Our laws still consider children born outside wedlock, even if acknowledged and supported by the father, as illegitimate. How can a child be illegitimate` If anything make the mother or father illegitimate but not the innocent child that has no control whether he/she is born within or outside wedlock. The court has since 1997 decided that hereditary laws related to illegitimate children are breaking the individual rights under the constitution and the courts requested the legislator to amend the civil code to remove the conflict also with international human rights alignment of our laws. Ex-President Ugo Mifsud Bionnici had taken the unprecedented step of writing to parliament to urge it to pass the necessary law to remove this anomaly. Yet another year has passed and many Maltese are still being born with an illegitimate tag to their name. Illegitimate my foot! If anyone is illegitimate round here it is the government! Happy 2003!
Monday, 30 December 2002
Sunday, 29 December 2002
The Malta Independent on Sunday
For better of for worse some personalities stood out during the year drawing to a close to merit being considered for personality of the year.
On the international level the personality that stood out is undoubtedly the French President Jacques Chirac. Not only he swept aside Lionel Jospin in the contest for French Presidency, but he even forced his main socialist rivals to support him in the run-off for presidency against far-right candidate Le Pen. In the process the French socialists destroyed their own credibility for the parliamentary elections that followed hot on heels of the presidential contest. Chirac now controls both the presidency and parliament and is close to be considered as the French Emperor as anybody has been since Napoleon so anointed himself in 1805.
But for Chirac it did not stop on the domestic front. At EU level Chirac also dominated all major issues. To the great displeasure of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, Chirac re-ignited the Franco-German engine that drives the EU leaving the rest as passive un-influential on-lookers.` Even before the EU heads of states could sit round the negotiating table at the Brussels Summit. Chirac had forced Schroeder into a deal that carries forward the EU farm folly, to the benefit of the powerful French farmers lobby, into the next EU budget for 2007-2013.
`Chirac denied availability of sufficient EU funds to finance the enlargement process forcing new candidates to accept terms which put in doubt whether domestic opinion in candidate countries will support accession in the up-coming referenda.` In the process Chirac denied availability of sufficient EU funds to finance the enlargement process forcing new candidates to accept terms which put in doubt whether domestic opinion in candidate countries will support accession in the up-coming referenda. In countries like Poland, Estonia and Latvia, not to mention Malta, public opinion is already questioning whether the risk of re-absorption by an economically re-shaped Russia is worth the sacrifice of EU accession on miserly humiliating terms.
As EU budget commissioner Schleyer has said, the cost of enlargement for existing members has been very much contained even within budget figures that when set in 1999 where intended for expansion by five or six new candidates.` Yet Chirac has sealed the extravagance of the EU farm policy well into the next EU budget cycle whilst candidate countries have not been given any assurance of any funding beyond 2006.` Some are more equal than the rest!
The international personality that ought to consider 2002 as a personal disaster is UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.` Humiliated by Chirac who edged him out of the tandem with German Chancellor Schroeder, Blair has been made to appear as the US lap-dog rather than the strategic link to co-ordinate the policies of the US and the EU.` Whilst Chirac has brought Schroeder to make huge concessions as Schroeder was suffering under the fatigue of a bruising re-election campaign, re-buff from the US for German non-participation in the pressure of Iraq, and economic woes on the home front risking a recession or outright deflation in Germany, Blair lost the strategic support which he had taken for granted from left wing colleague Schroeder.
On the domestic front Blair is seeing his re-election shine wearing off as the shield of protection of his PR machine is getting predictable and ineffective.` Blair is also under pressure from the man next door at No. 11 Downing Street - Chancellor Gordon Brown. Brown is winning more support for his cool approach to Blair's determination to take sterling into the Euro as interest rates and economic tempo of the UK and Euro areas continue to diverge rather than converge for an eventual docking in. ` This country needs to re-acquire its sanity before being forced to decide on the EU issue in an irreversible manner`
On the local front it was another year of transition leading to nowhere.` We continue to be all losers as domestic problems continue to be disregarded in the pursuit of EU membership at all costs as the only long-term solution to save us from our own indiscipline and inability to run our own affairs in a sustainable efficient manner.` So whilst the government continues to fatten itself by sucking in more resources from the productive sector of the economy, it had to resort to unorthodox financial maneuvers to present a superficially improving fiscal position when the underlying reality is magnificently otherwise.
We are all losers as we are driving the country to take the monumental decision for EU membership in the wrong frame of mind. Those in favour are mostly so because they believe that we have lost the ability to run our own affairs and therefore have no real alternative to membership, having to accept whatever we have been offered. Those against mostly fear that we cannot stand up to competition within the EU.
This country needs to re-acquire its sanity before being forced to decide on the EU issue in an irreversible manner. This sanity can only be regained through a general election which the losers of 2002 will continue to avoid forcing on us a decision we are ill-prepared for.
We deserve much better for 2003. Much more and much better is what I augur my readers for the new year.
Hekk kif jghaddu l-festi u nidhlu fir'rutina tas-sena l-gdida nidhlu wkoll fl-ahhar tal-girja ghall-elezzjoni.
Qisu l-bierah li rbahna l-e`ezzjoni tal-1996. Qisu l-bierah il-pinnola qarsa ta' l-elezzjoni tal-1998. Esperjenza qarsa li zgur li minna tghallimna hafna u li zgur ser tghinna fix-xoghol kbir li hemm jistenniena hekk kif nidhlu ghar-responsabbilta' tal-gvern.
Izda ghalissa nikkoncentraw l-ewwel fuq l-isfida immedjata ta' l-elezzjoni.` Partit politiku jista' biss jilhaq l-ghanijiet li ghalihom jezisti billi minn zmien ghal zmien ikun jista' jmexxi l-pajjiz mil-gvern biex jiddefendi l-interess tal-pajjiz kollu mal-barranin u fuq il-front lokali l-interessi ta' dawk il-faxex tas'socjeta' li l-aktar jirraprezenta. `Xoghlna li nfehmu lil dawk li qatghu qalbhom li dal-pajjiz jitmexxa sewwa mill-maltin stess li ahna kapaci naslu fejn in-nazzjonalisti fallew.`
Jekk innehhu l-esperjenza qasira tal-1996/1998 sa ma tasal l-elezzjoni nkunu ilna barra mill-gvern sittax il-sena. Altru milli wasal iz-zmien li l-Partit Laburista jerga' jmur fil-gvern u jmexxi l-pajjizna fl-interess tal-haddiema li jirraprezenta.
Quddiemna fadal xoghol kbir. Ma naqtghux qalbna. Anzi ix-xoghol li fadal ikattrilna d-determinazzjoni biex naslu.` Izda ma hemmx lok ghal kunfidenza zejda. Qed nehduha ma partit nazzjonalista li jsib sostenn qawwi mir-rizorsi kbar ta' dawk li jsibu rifugju fih.` Il-gbir tal-flus ta' dan l-ahhar hu prova bizzejjed.` Ghandhom allejati mxerrdin mas-socjeta' kollha, mzoqqa sew mit-taxxi li nhallsu ahna lkoll.
Allejati li kontinwament lesti biex ipengu l-icken akkwist tal-gvern bl-aktar kuluri sbieh u jkabbruha biex igibu il-gurdien li welldet il-muntanja jidher ta' l-inqas daqs ziemel jekk mhux daqs iljunfant. Minn naha l-ohra dejjem lesti biex b'kull mezz joskuraw kull ma jaghmel il-Partit Laburista bil-ghan li jtellfu l-kredibilita' tal-Partit bhala gvern alternattiv.
Xoghlna li nfehmu lil dawk li qatghu qalbhom li dal-pajjiz jitmexxa sewwa mill-maltin stess li ahna kapaci naslu fejn in-nazzjonalisti fallew.
Xoghlna nippreswadu lill-elettorat li ahna ghandna soluzzjoni veri ghal problemi tal-pajjiz.` Mhux soluzzjonijiet magici.` Mhux soluzzjonijiet facli. Izda soluzzjonijiet veri li jarmu l-kuncett ta' flus mhux problema li gherriena u li jsejjhu lil kulhadd ghal sforz nazzjonali halli pajjizna jerga' jsir kompettittiv, jibza ghal flus tat-taxxi ha jkun jista jerhi l-ghafsa taghhom, u jinvesti b'mod sensibbli li jrendi u li jkun sostenibbli.
Xoghlna li nfehmu li ahna ma ghandiex alternattiva ghall-UE izda alternattiva ghal shubija permezz ta' membership fl-UE. Li ahna xorta nfittxu rabta mill-qrib ma l-UE li b'pass meqjus li ma jcarratx il-fibra socjali ta' pajjizna, nintegraw ekonomikament ma l-UE izda li nibqghu barra mill-kapitli politici taghha li inkella fit-tul taz-zmien jafu jippregudikaw in-newtralita' ta' pajjizna u d-dritt li mmexxu lilna nfusna fl-interess taghna u ta' hadd izjed.
Ghal dawn l-isfidi lesti biex nikkompetu u nirbhu fl-2003.` Is-sena t-tajba mimlija sodisfazzjon ghal Partit Laburista!
Friday, 27 December 2002
The Malta Independent
We desperately need a new way of doing things. Unless we start pulling together to resolve problems that are eroding our financial structures and social values, we cannot make it. External discipline will then become a necessity for survival.
The government`s premise for EU membership at all cost is based on the realisation that 15 years of laissez-faire and wasteful (mis)management has damaged beyond repair its ability to run our own affairs. No country our size and characteristics can survive economically if we continue to burn money in useless subsidies rather than re-structure for optimal allocation of scarce resources.
`It is for this reason that we have to make a strategic choice on a fully informed basis through a binding electoral contest and then confirm it as necessary by a large national majority through a referendum.` Rather than approach a monumental decision such as that for EU membership with our heads high permitting a smart choice, we are sheepishly led to believe that we have no real choice. We are invited to feast because we got Lm26 million per annum for the first three years even though compliance costs and fresh subsidies will cost us just as much or even more. Granted, there is much more than funds to the EU. The real benefit could be the discipline to run our affairs efficiently, to stop the rot of the `money no problem` culture, and to set high standards of safety and environmental adherence in all spheres of life. But to do so we should not take the obligation to subsidise rich French farmers; to build infrastructures that in the local context add no real value; to lose our ability to differentiate ourselves; to give up the advantage of flexibility inherent in our small size enabling us to grasp opportunities as they arise; to forfeit our natural advantage of having a strategic importance far bigger than our size. It is pitiful that we have been reduced to a state where those who will vote for EU membership will be mostly motivated by the false belief that no real alternative for economic well-being exits.
Equally distasteful that many who will vote against will do so because they think we cannot effectively compete within the EU. Whatever we decide could be premised on the wrong reasons. The future does not just happen. The future is what we make it; building on our strengths and addressing our weaknesses. It is for this reason that we have to make a strategic choice on a fully informed basis through a binding electoral contest and then confirm it as necessary by a large national majority through a referendum. May the year 2003 be the year when the nation comes back together to face the future with confidence.
Monday, 23 December 2002
I just cite two cases.
Bank of Valletta (BoV) have opened up an internal investigation to trace the leak of an internal document presented in parliament by Leo Brincat giving a detailed position of the Bank's credit exposures covered by government guarantee. The police have been called in to investigate the same case.
Rather than argue or defend the case, not quite easy to do admittedly, the government, in dictatorial style, is trying to see how this information, that should be freely in public domain, has leaked the secrecy veil that protects the government from exposing some of the truth about the disastrous state of public finance.
“How can BoV remain passive in a case where fraud of several millions was suspected and then call in the police for leakage of information that should be publicly available”
BoV had every reason to call in the police to investigate the semblance of gross irregularities in building extremely adventurous exposure in the Daewoo case that has cost the Bank several millions.
It mysteriously failed to do so and found support also from the central bank who thus became passive participants in a potentially huge fraud scandal.
How can BoV remain passive in a case where fraud of several millions was suspected and then call in the police for leakage of information that should be publicly available.
Or should the public not know what contingent obligations, with real prospects for being converted into real liabilities, the government is undertaking in its name?
Christmas can't come too soon to give us brief reprieve from the hypocrisy of the lapdog local press in depicting the financial package negotiated for EU membership as some great victory of celebratory proportions.
I will not repeat on this blessed night the figures which prove that for all or any reasons that may exist for joining the EU, funding is certainly not one of them.
But I cannot but feel offended that we are in a perverse situation where government incompetence and mismanagement of the country has become the strongest reason why EU membership is appealing to serious people who think that this country has been damaged beyond our own internal capacity to repair.
I feel offended that at a time when the country is going to the dogs we give a free holiday to the PN government from the responsibility to answer for its non-performance and continue to discuss whether it is Lm26 million, Lm8 million or pretty close to nothing at all.
May Christmas bring some sense to those who still believe that
That Labour has the vision to turn it into a modern state that will integrate economically with the EU at a steady but respectful pace without sacrificing the right to politically manage our domestic affairs and foreign relations in the best interest of the Maltese.
Merry Christmas to all!
Sunday, 22 December 2002
It-tombla spiccat. Fatta!` U x`fatta!` Wara daqs dawk cifri u figuri, weghdi ta` mitt miljun, tmenin miljun u hamsin miljun issa qed nifirhu li weghduna sitta u ghoxrin miljun ghal tlett snin. U mbaghad U mbaghad ma jaf hadd.
Nahseb qabel ma naraw jekk Lm26 miljun hux tajjeb jew hazin jehtieg nitolbu spjegazzjoni minn dawk li tellghu it-tombla erbgha jew hames snin ilu. Fost dawn` hemm l-ex Vici-Kap Nazzjonalista (illum President tar-Repubblika) li sollennement kien weghdna mitt miljun. Hemm Simon Busuttil il-Kap tal-MIC li fl-1998 kien qal li meta Malta tidhol skond il-Kalkoli ta Agenda 2000 Malta tiehu mitt miljun.` Hemm mil-hamsin miljun li Prim Ministru attawali kien qal li jkunu taghna bi dritt bla ma noqghodu nittalbu.
X`inhu jzomm lil dawn milli jaghtu rendikont ta`dak li qalu Jekk dehrilhom li kien haqqna hamsin miljun bla ma nittalbu, u allura mitt miljun jekk nittalbu,` ghalfejn accettaw Lm26 miljun` `Simon Busuttil il-Kap tal-MIC li fl-1998 kien qal li meta Malta tidhol skond il-Kalkoli ta Agenda 2000 Malta tiehu mitt miljun`
Imma issa jehtieg ukoll infehmu lill-poplu li s-Lm26 miljun m`humiex Lm26 miljun. Lm26 miljun kif jifhimhom il-poplu Malti huma flus li jidhlu dritt fil-kaxxa ta`Malta, il-fond konsolidat, biex b`hekk il-gvern ma jkollux ghalfejn jigbor taxxi minn fuq il-poplu.
Izda minn dan kollu m`hu se jigri xejn. B`kollox flus fil-kaxxa ser jidhlu Lm8 miljun aktar milli nohorgu. Izda mbaghad ser nitilfu Lm6.5 miljuni kull sena sussidju fuq oggetti ta`l-ikel li nixtru mill-UE. Jekk il-gvern ser idahhal Lm8 miljuni il-poplu ser johrog f`forma ta` prezzijiet oghla ghal affarijiet ta` l-ikel Lm6.5 miljuni biex b`hekk bhala pajjiz inkunu avvanzajna` biss miljun u nofs.
Izda zommu ftit il-kolp.` Ghax biex nibnu l-istrutturi ha nimxu mar-regola ta` l-UE irridu nohorgu hafna u hafna spejjez . Kull sena f`dawn l-ahhar tlett snin hrigna madwar Lm15 il-miljun. Issa la nidhlu membri l-ispejjez biex immexxu l-membership jiswielna mill-anqas Lm10miljuni kull sena. Irridu naghtu wkoll Lm7 miljun kull sena` lil bdiewa taghna biex jaghmel tajjeb ghat-telf li se jgarrbu kif tmur il-protezzjoni u jibdew dehlin minn barra bla xkiel hxejjex, frott u laham li jikkompetu ma dak li jipproducu il-bdiewa u r-rahhala Maltin.` Mela fejn se mmorru `l quddiem` `ahna irridu nserrhu ras il-poplu li bil-partnership bejn l-ispejjez li niffrankaw u bejn il-flus li ngiebu mill-UE u minn pajjizi individwali ta` fuq u taht, ahna kapaci ngibu ferm aktar mis-Lm26 ghal tlett snin bla ma nippregudikaw il-kostituzzjoni u s-sovranita` ta` pajjizna.`
Forsi hawn min jghid li jonqos it-Lm18 miljun kull sena li ser niehdu ghal progetti.` Minn dawn irridu niffinanzjaw hafna progetti li jew ma ghandniex bzonnhom jew li zgur m`humiex prijorita`.
Dawn il-progetti iridu jitwettqu fit-tlett snin sas-semna 2006 ghax il-gvern intrabat li jwettaqhom biex jobdi ir-regoli ta` l-UE.` Biex nibnu hazna ta` zejt ghal tlett xhur irridu nonfqu miljuni kbar. Biex maghmlu mpjant ghar-riciklagg tal-flixkien tal-plastic irridu miljuni. Dawn ma ghandniex bzonnhom. Ser naghmluhom biss biex nobdu r-regoli.` Mela mbaghad ghat-toroq, ghall-ambjent u ghal mizbliet minn fejn gejjn il-flus`.`
Mela wara li ilna nonfqu tant biex wasalna s`hawn issa flok mitt miljun cash f`idejna kull sengha ser niehdu loqma u ser niehdu ghajnuna zghira li tinxtorob minn oprogetti li ma ghandniex bzonn u thallilna l-piz biex naghmlul-progetti li tassew nehtiegu.` Li jfisser aktar ghafsa ta` taxxi jew aktar dejn li jkompli jzid l-ghafsa tal-piz tal-imghaxijiet.
Mqar nistghu nghidu lil-muntanja welldet gurdien.` Izda qas dan ma nistghu nghidu. U mbaghad mela sirna daqstant boloh li nidhlu x`imkien li nafu biss sa tlett snin u mbaghad wara li jnehhulna il-ftit zokkor tal-bidu ikollna ngorru, bla ghazla ta`xejn, il-morr ghal tant u tant snin ta` wara. Fejnha l-ghazla ghal uliedna Din ghazla ghal-lum u ghada min rah!
Fuq kollox huwa minnu li l-kaz ta`l-UE mhux biss il-flus. Izda l-flus importanti u mit-test tal flus zgur li l-kaz favur membership ma jghaddix.` Issa ahna irridu nserrhu ras il-poplu li bil-partnership bejn l-ispejjez li niffrankaw u bejn il-flus li ngiebu mill-UE u minn pajjizi individwali ta` fuq u taht, ahna kapaci ngibu ferm aktar mis-Lm26 ghal tlett snin bla ma nippregudikaw il-kostituzzjoni u s-sovranita` ta` pajjizna.
Il-poplu naghtuh assikurazzjoni u rassikurazzjoni ghax ma fadallux `capacity` ghad-dettalji li issa dejjquh fuq li dejquh bla ma fehem wisq. Issa li t-tombla fatta jehtieg nitkellmu bis-serjeta` ghax fin-nofs hemm verament il-futur ta` wliedna.
Friday, 20 December 2002
The Malta Independent
So it`s Lm26 million for each of the next three years. Then everything will have to be renegotiated again when we will have much less negotiating power than we have now; when we will not be able to leverage the risk of the package being refused by the electorate in the referendum.
Now we are expected to forget the pledge of a cool Lm100 million flowing effortlessly each year from the EU.` We should overlook the pledge for Lm80 million and the absolute assurance given by the Prime Minister that we will get Lm50 million each year as of right, without even having to ask for it.
`Now we are expected to forget the pledge of a cool Lm100 million flowing effortlessly each year from the EU.` Now we know it is Lm26 million and we have to work damn hard to get them, to go through the conditionality and bureaucracy in time to make the drawdown before the budgets expires.
Perhaps people do not realise that even if we manage to make full use of these Lm26 million in the end we will have very little to show for it. The compliance cost of running our EU membership will run into huge millions as yet uncalculated. The cost of direct subsidies we have to pay to our farmers to avoid their destruction at the hands of their EU counterparts who would be given the freedom to compete without tariff barriers, the cost of increased prices for `basic food commodities we have to buy at internal EU prices, and the huge one-off investments we have to make to come in line with the acquis (fuel storage, sewage treatment, environmental alignment of power stations and waste management) mean that the national budget can expect little comfort from the struck deal.` The tax pressure on the economy can expect no ease from the influx of these funds which were supposedly to rain from the EU, initially upon de-freezing the application and now supposedly upon membership.
Now the chips have fallen.` And in no uncertain manner I re-confirm what I have been saying all along. Money and funding will never be good reasons for joining the EU in membership.` The jubilation shown by our leaders for getting from the EU for three years only the amount we will be paying in direct subsidies to our farmers over 10 years shows how little they understand the consequences of this monumental decision which is being approached by way of doctrinal faith instead of hard logic. `No other candidate country will go through the same experience as their government`s mandate has been refreshed or will be refreshed before the referendum (Estonia).`
But at least we can sigh some relief. It is time for the package to be explained in its immediate impact as well as in its likely long-term consequences and then it`s not too soon to let the people decide once and for all.
Such a decision should come from an election followed by a referendum, that is if the PN wins.` The Prime Minister seems minded to invert the sequence no matter how illogical it is, considering that even if the referendum goes the way he wishes it, an election will come before the accession date.` No other candidate country will go through the same experience as their government`s mandate has been refreshed or will be refreshed before the referendum (Estonia).
If the government feels that it has made such a good job of its EU negotiations it is all the more reason to seek an electoral confirmation to renew its mandate to have the necessary constitutional tenure to bring its work to fruition. Clearly the government itself does not rate the EU-deal and its own chances of re-election very high. Probably the government, like James Bond`s latest, prefers to die another day. A referendum defeat would leave the opportunity to go back for more and try again in Irish style.
Monday, 16 December 2002
“Whilst down here we were celebrating our pride at being an independent republic, up there in
I must be fair. EU leaders have wrapped up one of the cheapest enlargement in history. Their greed to protect their wealth whilst opening up the markets of eastern Europe and forcing their political integration, taking full and undue advantage of these countries' distaste of the prospect of the resurgence of
I prepared hereunder Table comparing this deal with the 1972 Military base rental agreement.
Rental of certain specified facilities for the specific use of military base under certain conditions
Membership of a
Lm14 million p.a. in 1972 money equivalent to Lm45 million in current value (using the RPI) for a period of 7 years (expiry at our insistence)
Lm 26 million p.a. in current money terms for 3 years ( expiry at their request) but obligations continuing indefinitely.
An estimated further annual spend of another Lm14 million in 1972 money equivalent to Lm45 million in current value.
Very marginal and difficult to quantify – like having access to markets with which EU has free trade agreements. Unless of course one feels that we need the stick of big daddy to bring the dose of discipline that we cannot find the strength to self-impose
Compliance costs estimated at nothing less than Lm10 million p.a. Direct new subsidies expected to cost at least Lm7 million p.a. Higher cost of basic foodstuffs which will have to be bought at higher internal market prices estimated at least Lm15 million p.a. Plus one off expenses re investment in compliance requirements which could amount to more than Lm100 million once only (Energy strategic storage, environmental cleanup and investment to adhere etc.)
None – funds were available in free cash flow
It is unknown how the funds will be allocated. But international reports indicate that most of the funds are earmarked for structural projects. The bureaucracy leading to drawdown and our inexperience with promoting such projects opens up the clear likelihood of our missing out on these funds.
I read the Financial Times to see how they account for
Can somebody please illuminate us what actually happened in
Sunday, 15 December 2002
The Malta Independent on Sunday
Recently I made the point that if the referendum on EU membership is to have the national dimension which its proponents so emphatically proclaim, it cannot be held before the general election.
The reasons for this are basically two.` If the referendum precedes a general election which will follow hot on heels in a matter of months if not weeks, than there will not be the sobriety and tranquillity `necessary to permit voting on the merits of the issue rather than on political sympathies. The evident risk of harming the election chances of the favoured party will force people to vote on party line or to avoid participation altogether.
Secondly a referendum pre-supposes that the government holding it has the necessary term in office to execute the people`s decision.` This cannot be the case as the effective date of enlargement is now well and truly into next legislature.
`a Referendum pre-supposes that the government holding it has the necessary term in office to execute the people`s decision` So it is perfectly logical that the government should first renew its constitutional mandate by holding a general election.` Then if it wins should proceed to hold a referendum which will probably be carried by a large majority.
Many correspondents and key political figures tried to confuse this simplicity of thought by raising undue complications that can now be considered as FAQs.
Why should a renewed PN government need to hold a referendum if it first wins an election`
Because the election gives a mandates term for five years. The decision to join the EU in membership is irreversible and binds subsequent governments.` So it must be subject to a specific decision by the people preferably by a substantial majority.
Would not the same apply to Labour`s partnership policy`
No. This policy is not irreversible. A subsequent government would be free to up-grade it membership if circumstances and people`s will should so decide. Having said that, I would personally not mind at all subjecting it to a referendum all the same. `The decision to join the EU in membership is irreversible and binds subsequent governments.` `
But the present government has an obligation to go to a referendum on conclusion of negotiations in terms of its 1998 manifesto`
Not quite. That pledge was on the basis that the EU enlargement would take place as from 1st January 2003. So the pledge was based on the premise that the enlargement could be negotiated and executed well within the term of this legislature. Once enlargement date has slipped into next legislature the referendum pledge must similarly be carried forward into next legislature.
But the division on the EU is causing instability calling for a once and for all decision`
Very true. But a once and for all decision cannot come from a referendum before the election. In fact the Prime Minister has declared in parliament that such a referendum would need the subsequent endorsement of a general election. So a referendum will not end the indecision. A general election on the other hand will. If the PN wins than the referendum will be carried by a large majority. I cannot imagine a Labour Party keeping its anti-membership policies in the aftermath of an election loss. The Labour party has already accepted that membership is irreversible and once it happens it cannot be taken back.
On the other hand if Labour wins then we know that our relationship with the EU will not be the membership route but the partnership route. I have said it before in a book I wrote on the subject in 1999. Economically there is life after under either route. We just have to know which one it is and take steps to maximise the advantages and cushion its weaknesses.
Politically on the other hand there is much more life after in the Partnership project as it permits adequate leverage of our geo-strategic disproportionate importance for our economic and political (security and defence) advantage. It also safeguards our advantages of differentiation and flexibility which are indeed important endowments to overcome the difficulties of our small size. `Certainly the national interest is best served by having an early election so that the newly elected government can have a full term to execute its policies and end indecision in a definitive manner.`
But why does Labour insist on disregarding a referendum if it is held before the election`
Labour never said so. It said that once an election is due soon after the referendum it is only bound by that result.` In every instance it is the people`s last choice that prevails as it did in 1998 even though the 1996 mandate still had not run more than one-third of its course.` Is it not the essence of democracy for the opposition to hold different policies from government and to present them for the electorate to choose from` Or has democracy PN-version changed so that they have a right to condition a future Labour government democratically elected on a manifesto with alternative policies`
So who is really safeguarding the national interest` Certainly it is not the Prime Minister who on the one hand proclaims the need for a national referendum and on the other hand insists on a referendum to be re-confirmed by an election just as a step-stool to overcome the high barrier of winning an election with a 15 year-long baggage loaded with debt, environmental degradation and economic stagnation.
Certainly the national interest is best served by having an early election so that the newly elected government can have a full term to execute its policies and end indecision in a definitive manner.
Proverbju minn` zmien l-allat grieki jghid whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad. L-allat l-ewwel igennu lil dawk li jriedu jeqirdu.
U kollox juri li dan il-gvern li gmielu riesaq lejn l-ahhar Milied tieghu qabel il-qirda permezz tal-vot tal-poplu, jikkwalifika sew ghal stat ta` genn.
Ghax trid ma tkunx f`sensik biex tiddiskrivi eccellenti l-arrangament li gie negozjat ma l-UE dwar il-bdiewa li permezz tieghu ser ikollna nhallsu sussidji lil bdiewa taghna ta madwar Lm7miljuni fis-sena ghal ghaxar snin li gejjin.
`Ghal kull lira li l-mara tad-dar tiffranka mit-tnehhija tal-levies fuq il-produzzjoni tal-bidwi malti hu kkalkolat li tehel Lm5 liri f`zieda fil-prezzijiet ta` l-aktar affarijiet bazici biex nghinu lil bdiewa Francizi` Ara ma jkunx hawn min jitfixkel. Dawn m`humiex sussidji li ser tatihomlna l-UE. Dawn sussidji li ser inhallsu ghalihom bit-taxxi taghna. Aktar ma ghandna pozizzjoni finanzjarja qeghda koppi aktar ser nidhlu ghal pizijiet ta` taxxi fuq il-poplu.
U dan ghalfejn Dan kollu sabiex inehhu il-protezzjoni minn fuq il-produzzjoni tal-bidwi malti li tikkonsisti fi hxejjex u frott friski, majjal u halib frisk. Veru li tnehhija tal-protezzjoni tista` twassal ghal prezzijiet orhos ghal-konsumatur.` Izda veru wkoll li arrangement bhal dan iwassal ghal qirda tal-bidwi Malti kif nafuh illum li ma jibqax jipproduci frott u hxejjex friski.
Ghax l-istaguni f`Malta huma li huma.` Il-bidwi jgib prezz tajjeb ghal produzzjoni tieghu fil-bikri u fl-imwahhar. Fil-qalba ta` l-istagun il-prezz jaqa` u jkun baxx aktar minn dak li jista jigi impurtat. Mela meta tigi il-kompetizzjoni din ghal bidu ser tigi fil-bikri u fl-imwahhar meta il-prezzijiet ikunu gholjin. Izda jekk dawn il-perjodi qosra li jfendu hafna ghal biedwi jintilfu dan igarrab telf finanzjarju u jzarma. U mbaghad nigu niddependu ghal importazzjoni tul l-istagun kollu u jispiccaw il-prezzijiet orhos fil-qalba ta` l-istagun.
Biex dan ma jsirx ser ikollna nhallsu sussidji lil bidwi ghal ghaxar snin shah. Izda mbaghad U min ser jibqa` jinvesti fil-produzzjoni tal-frisk meta jaf li sejjer ghal qatla` Mela ghaxar snin ma jghaddux ukoll u mbaghad x`ser jaghmel il-bidwi` `Ghall-ewwel darba fl-isotrja taghna il-gvern nazzjonalista irid igibna li flok nircievu flus minn barra bhala ghajnuna inkunu ahna li nghinu lil min huwa sinjur izjed minna`
Ghad nismimghu hafna li poltika bhal din ser issir biex il-konsumatur jixtri irhas u b`aktar ghazla. Izda titqarrqux. Ghax fl-istess hin li nkunu qed inehhu il-protezjoni fuq il-produzzjoni tal-bidwi malti inkunu qed indahhlu protezzjoni ghal bidwi Franciz fuq affarijiet li jipproducu huma u li ahna ma nipproducux.` Fuq iz-zokkor, fuq il-qmugh(soft wheat), fuq cerejali, fuq il-butir u affarijiet ohra li l-mara tad-dar tixtrihom regolarment ghal hajja ta` kuljum.
Ghal kull lira li l-mara tad-dar tiffranka mit-tnehhija tal-levies fuq il-produzzjoni tal-bidwi malti hu kkalkolat li tehel Lm5 liri f`zieda fil-prezzijiet ta` l-aktar affarijiet bazici biex nghinu lil bdiewa Francizi.
Ghall-ewwel darba fl-isotrja taghna il-gvern nazzjonalista irid igibna li flok nircievu flus minn barra bhala ghajnuna inkunu ahna li nghinu lil min huwa sinjur izjed minna.
Jekk mhux genn dan allura jien ma ghadni nifhem xejn.
Friday, 13 December 2002
The Malta Independent
Twenty-eight years ago Malta proudly became a Republic through a cross party parliamentary decision, endorsed by a vote of 49 out of 55 units.
It remains an example of how major decisions should be carried through broad-based support of people`s representatives or of the people themselves.
We should not ignore this lesson today as in Copenhagen the final curtain comes down on the process of negotiations for Malta`s accession to EU membership.` After this weekend the negotiations stop and the position crystallises.
`Any doubts as to whether the non-membership route, partnership in Labour`s parlance, is possible and feasible should now be abolished as the EU itself, at its highest levels, is promoting such route for countries that cannot or will not join in membership.` At long last rather than presenting just this or that aspect of the negotiations we will have the whole package to look at and examine.` The people will then have to decide after due and sober explanation.
The issues then arise as to when should the referendum be held and what question should be put.
The last issue is possibly the easier one. The question has simply to ask whether one agrees or not to EU membership on the negotiated terms. The question is not between EU or no EU. The question has to be membership or non-membership. Non-membership does not mean no-EU. It means developing a relationship at a different level which permits Malta to preserve more flexibility and differentiation whilst keeping and consolidating access to EU markets.
Any doubts as to whether the non-membership route, partnership in Labour`s parlance, is possible and feasible should now be abolished as the EU itself, at its highest levels, is promoting such route for countries that cannot or will not join in membership.
The `when` remains a burning issue. It ought not.` The referendum must be a national one where the electorate does not divide itself along party lines. This is a decision which future governments will not be able to reverse once executed.` So it needs to be taken soberly, on an informed basis where facts are allowed to speak for themselves and empty platitudes recognised for what they are. `Holding the referendum before the election denies the necessary serenity for such a monumental decision`
Holding the referendum before the election denies the necessary serenity for such a monumental decision. This is apart from the fact that no government should ever propose a referendum when it has no constitutional right to implement its outcome once EU accession date has now slipped into next legislature.
Suggestions that the PN government is committed to hold a referendum by its electoral manifesto are mistaken. That manifesto and the referendum pledge were based on the premise that the accession date would be 1st January 2003 i.e. well within this legislature. Now that the accession date has slipped into next legislature so must the referendum.
The government must first renew its electoral mandate and then, and only if its mandate is renewed, should it seek a referendum specific confirmation of the general decision taken at the elections.` The Prime Minister suggestion to invert the sequence defies logic, (the specific has to be part of the general not vice-versa ` Zebbug is a part of Malta not Malta part of Zebbug); is motivated by pure party political expediency, forcing him to put the cart before the horse. It is likely to drive us into a blind alley, accentuating rather then ending the excessive state of indecision.
Monday, 9 December 2002
9th December 2002
This solemn declaration is found in Appendix C to the budget speech read by the Minister of Finance on
These two paragraphs is how I started my weekly back-page article last Friday in the Malta Independent. I explained how this false declaration was made in Parliament in the Minister’s Budget Speech for 2003 when in fact we had proof that the government had issued Lm15 million guarantee for a loan to Foundation for Tomorrow’s School from APS Bank and Bank of Valletta’s annual report for the financial year to 30th September 2002 show an increase of Lm42 million in government guaranteed loans during the financial year.
“Minister Dalli cannot take cover in flimsy arguments to hide his guilt. He made a false declaration in parliament and needs to explain or resign.”
Writing in the Sunday Times yesterday, the Minister rather than give due explanations, just accuses Mr Brincat for getting hold of confidential information and exposing it in parliament. What a cheek!! Since when government’s liabilities in the form of contingent guarantees, has become private secret commercial information? If Mr Brincat was exposing the private affairs of some individual or private company I could possibly be inclined to sympathise with the Minister’s arguments. But all the listed company’s are public owned companies owned by the government in name of the nation. The information should have been volunteered by the Minister in Appendix C to the Budget Speech rather than making a false declaration that no more guarantees, letters of comfort or undertakings were being issued.
Hopefully the Auditor General Report for the year 2001, normally published around this time, should throw more light on the matter. But it is significant that Min Dalli could not defend himself from the accusation of false declaration and instead chose to sheepishly and ineffectively take cover in stupid counter-accusations that Labour was making use of privileged commercial information when in reality this is not so.
If Min. Dalli wants to deprive us from the right to know the true state of finances and contingent obligations of the State than one can imagine the reluctance of the Bank of Valletta and of the Central Bank of Malta, clearly both under the influence of the Minister of Finance, to resist passing the case of Daewoo for criminal investigations by the Police.
Let me make a declaration I have made in the past and I make again with all responsibility of three decades plus practicing the banking profession, especially in the lending and credit control function. There is no way that in the ordinary course of its business that a serious bank like BoV would build an exposure in high seven digits against a car importing company owned, controlled and managed by a single person without any track record and without covering collateral. No way! Something went out of the ordinary course of business in the approval of such exposures and it needs to be investigated. Certainly a new Labour government would order such an investigation and hope that there is still enough evidence left to expose who was responsible for such irresponsible behaviour, if not outright fraud.
Minister Dalli cannot take cover in flimsy arguments to hide his guilt. He made a false declaration in parliament and needs to explain or resign. But then false declarations to parliament and to the nation have become the order of the day. Financing off budget through government guaranteed bank loans social capital expenditure as that related to the Mater Dei Hospital and Government Schools, an investment that will never generate one lira of revenue, is nothing but making a continuous false declaration on the true state of the structural fiscal deficit.
Sunday, 8 December 2002
Fuq id-deficit tal-budget tkellimna. Illum ser nikteb fuq id-deficit l-iehor ` id-deficit demokratiku.
Id-demokarazija tiddependi fuq il-partiti. Biex ikun hemm demokrazija veru hemm bzonn li l-partiti jkollhom access ghall-istess mezzi. Dan mhux il-kaz. Il-Partit Nazzjonalista ghandu access ghal fondi hafna aktar milli ghandu l-Partit Laburista. Dan huwa gej mil-fatt li z-zewg partiti ghandhom gheruq differenti. `Ma nistghux inhallu min jixtri l-gvern fis-sens li bir-rizorsi li ghandu jista` jigbed lejh appogg tal-medja li taghmel brainwashing biex il-poplu ma jithalliex jahseb bil-kwiet dwar `l min ghandu jafda biex imexxih.`
In-nazzjonalisti ghandhom gheruqhom fost in-nies tan-negozju, fost is-socjeta l-gholja , fost is-setturi kollha fejn hemm xi nitfa poter bhal knisja, l-univerista` u l-mezzi ta` l-istampa. Fil-fatt il-Partit Nazzjonalista mhu xejn ghajr cellula politika min xibka ta` ta` poter mxerrda mas-socjeta` kollha.
Bil-kontra il-Partit Laburista jirraprezenta in-nies mil-faxex t`isfel tas-socjeta`, dawk li jaqilghuha u jikluha u dawk li ma tantx ghandhom minn fejn johorgu flus biex isostnu lil min jiddefendihom politkament.
Jien ilni snin intambar li biex nindirazzaw zbilanc bhal dan jehtieg li l-istat jipprovdi ghal-finanzjament prudenti tal-partiti. Jehtieg regolamenti u kontroll serju biex jistabilixxi bilanc fl-access ghar-rizorsi tal-partiti.` Ma nistghux inhallu min jixtri l-gvern fis-sens li bir-rizorsi li ghandu jista` jigbed lejh appogg tal-medja li taghmel brainwashing biex il-poplu ma jithalliex jahseb bil-kwiet dwar `l min ghandu jafda biex imexxih.
Izda biex isir dan irridu nkunu fil-gvern. U biex inkunu fil-gvern jehtieg nirbhu l-elezzjoni. U biex nirbhu l-elezzjoni jehtieg li l-Partit ma jkollux deficit fil-mezzi ta` komunikazzjoni biex iwassal il-messagg tieghu fost l-elettorat.
U f`kuntest bhal dan li wiehed jifhem l-importanza tal-gbir bit-telephone lil-Partit Laburista ser jorganizza f`Jum ir-Reppublika. Jista`jkun li din tkun l-ahhar opportunita` li nghinu finanzjarjament lill-Partit qabel ma niffaccjaw l-isfida ta` l-elezzjoni. Mhux bizzejjed li l-Partit ghandu l-ahjar policies biex imexxi lil Malta fil-paci u l-progress.` Irridu nikkonvincu lill-elettorat dwar dan biex permezz tal-mandat tal-maggoranza inkunu nistghu nwettqu dawn il-policies.` Mill-Oppozizzjoni ma tistax twettaq policies. Tista` biss tikkritika l-gvern bit-tama li fl-elezzjoni ta` wara l-elettorat jaghtik il-mandat ta` tmexxija. `Nhar il-gimgha 13 ta` Dicembru naghtu l-kontribuzzjoni taghna halli nindirizzaw id-deficit demokratiku li hawn fil-pajjiz.`
Mela diskors li sikwit jinghad bhal hemm bzonn inqumu, hemm bzonn naghmlu xi haga jaghmel sens biss jekk il-qawmien jew ix-xi haga tghina biex nirbhu l-elezzjoni u mmorru fil-gvern. Ghax huwa biss mil-gvern li nistghu nwettqu hidmietna b`risq il-haddiem u l-klassi l-aktar fil-bzonn tas-socjeta` Maltija.
Il-qawmien u xi haga li hemm bzonn issa huwa d-donazzjoni taghkom skond kif tistghu biex il-Partit ma jkunx nieqes mir-rizorsi meta jikkontesta l-elezzjoni li gejja ma min ghalih il-flus mhux problema.
Nhar il-gimgha 13 ta` Dicembru naghtu l-kontribuzzjoni taghna halli nindirizzaw id-deficit demokratiku li hawn fil-pajjiz. Dan ikun att prattiku biex nindirizzaw zbilanc` f`pajjizna` immexxi minn gvern li jahseb li ghandu cens perpetwu.
Gvern li filwaqt li jghid li l-Partit Laburista,ghax ma jaqbilx mal-politika ta`membership fl-UE,` b`daqshekk qed igib instabbilita`,` ma jilqax l-isfida biex issejjah l-elezzjoni bla telf ta`zmien halli d-decizjoni tal-poplu tkun torbot u taghti mandat lill-gvern ha jimxi skond ir-rieda tal-poplu u jnehhi l-incertezza li qed twegga lil pajjiz.` Gvern li jghid li jrid li r-referendum bhala ghazla nazzjonali izda li fil-fatt irid ir-referednum bhala ghodda partiggjana. Gvern li tant sar jigdeb normali u b`mod naturali li sar jemmen il-gideb tieghu stess.