Thursday, 28 February 2013

Blame it on Sant (2)

Some gutter type journalist has suggested that I probably regret writing the article 'Blame it on Sant' featured in this blog as per link below on 23rd January 2013, as it has backfired on me once my brother Tarcisio has been since arraigned in court charged with corruption related to some time when until February 2004 he was a senior executive in the finance department at Enemalta.

Blame it on Sant (1)

I regret nothing.    What I had anticipated has in fact been confirmed through Mr Frank Sammut's own testimony in court, where he confirms that he was fronting for others and others were fronting for him.

Well, let the criminal proceedings follow their normal course and let everybody be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Who is not exculpated however is Minister Austin Gatt and Minister Tonio Fenech under whose watch this whole epic-sized corruption took place.  They cannot escape political responsibility and it is a shame that the media is letting them off so lightly as they focus on the charade going on where the police are parading small fry and charging them with corruption for having received a silver platter gift from George Farrugia.

Unless the police have resources to spare they should adopt a risk management approach and focus on who received the millions not on who received a token silver platter.    How ridiculous can we be?

As to my brother I firmly protest his innocence and his being paraded purely for cheap political purposes to divert attention from the real political responsibility on which the electorate has to pass judgement on March 9th.   It is disgraceful that the police tried to keep my brother without bail describing him as uncooperative purely because he protested his innocence.  

What I can say about my brother is that whereas I met several who complained that he was too strict and inflexible in enforcing discipline and corporate governance standards I never met anyone who even remotely intimated about him any involvement in corruption.  

I can also vouch that my brother should have retired from Enemalta in November 2005 at age 61.  When the management at Enemalta under the Chairmanship of Tancred Tabone and the consultancy of Frank Sammut started making him feel untrusted and miserable he asked to advance his retirement by a few months to account for the leave he rarely took over the years.   To his surprise he was instigated to accept instant early retirement in February 2004 on full pay and benefits, car and petrol included.

I remember Tarcisio feeling offended that they were so keen to get rid of him so quickly.   I had to struggle to persuade him to accept as it was useless wasting one's life in a place where he is untrusted.   Now we know why.

For so many loyal years of service to Enemalta he was almost murdered following the 1998 elections and he is now being paraded like a villain for pure political purposes.   But in the end truth will prevail.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Spot the difference between real journalism and gutter journalism

Differentiates clearly between fact and opinion.
Mixes facts and opinions deliberately so one has difficulty to distinguish what is what.
Presumes that people are innocent until found guilty.
Presumption of guilt or innocence depends on political orientation of the person concerned.
Every person is considered as an individual
Makes deliberate and devious connection to family, friends and whatever suits the journalist’s subjectivity.
Criticism is directed to ideas and performance. Never personal.  Never attempts to assassinate anybody’s character.
Criticism is meant to assassinate characters often hitting a proximate target to rebound on a distant objective which may be made to look connected.  Character assassination becomes stock in trade as innuendos and unfair judgements are presented as facts.
Seeks political responsibility and leaves criminal proceedings in the free hands of law enforcement authorities
Seeks trial by media meant to put pressure on law enforcement authorities.
Relies on analysis and fair comment about undeniable facts
Relies on asking questions to sow doubts often seeking information which cannot and should not be given  in terms of privacy rights.
Makes analysis in the content
Seeks prejudice in the title
Serves democracy and good governance
Abuses democracy and free press rights

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Yes and proud of it

For those who asked whether Tarcisio Mifsud is my brother the answer is yes and I am proud of it.

Tarcisio was arraigned in court today charged with corruption related to the Enemalta scandal.

I will be the first to argue for full justice with whoever is found guilty of corruption, relative or stranger, blue or red, old or young.

But I know my brother well and I have no doubt that he is honest and hard worker and always defended the interest of his employer as if his own. 

I am sure that in due course his innocence will be proven.   But for the time being this is all a matter of headlines management and those who wish to deviate attention from the political responsibility for the corruption at Enemalta happening under their watch, may breathe a bit easier.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Everybody loves a one horse race


As we enter the last 11 days of the campaign the PN has tried it all ways without success.
And the winner is ... Sepp Blatter yesterday
Like Gonzi
Blatter likes one-horse races
Nationalist Party leader submitting his leadership election nomination form to general secretary Paul Borg Olivier, yesterday. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier
Gonzi submitting his application
for a one horse race
to PBO in Feb 2012

They tried to make fun of Dr Anglu Farrugia when he was still Deputy Leader of the PL. They tried to glorify him after he resigned to tickle him to rebel against the Party he forms part of.

They packed Dr Tonio Borg off to Brussels and anointed Simon Busuttil as a future Prime Minister to attempt to offer change within the Party itself in order to keep within its fold those who had lost faith in Gonzi

They promised heaven on earth including an expenditure of Euro 1.2 billion as costed out in their programme.   They tried to scaremonger voters from floating towards Labour, arguing that under Labour the country would go to the wall.

When nothing worked and the numbers were still stuck against them as the race is closing in, they decided to start throwing mud by inventing stories, telling half truths and twisting facts.   A lawyer has been found guilty with the sins of his clients' opponent.   An accountant has been found guilty for the sins of his fraudulent client.   Someone becomes a liar because he does not believe the lies related to him by third parties.

They even started a despicable campaign of threats.     Joseph Muscat has been asked to explain the work he did when he was an investment advisor before becoming an MEP, in spite of his being properly licensed and operating strictly within the law.   Keith Schembri has been projected as the evil person to be put under the spotlight because like many others he is giving his heart and energy to Labour's campaign.  As if Keith needs any body's permission to do so.

Still nothing works.   But today they came out with a novel idea.    The PN can still win the election if it becomes a one-horse race.   Apparently Gonzi likes the one-horse race method as he adopted for  his reconfirmation as PN Leader when Franco Debono and others started rebelling.

So yes the PN is still in with a chance  if the election becomes a one horse race.  So The PN has made an appeal for Joseph and Toni to retire;

Joseph Muscat should withdraw his candidature - PBO

There is still hope for the PN - but first Joseph has to retire.  Everybody loves a one-horse race!!

Sunday, 24 February 2013

The government we deserve

This article was published in The Malta Independent on Sunday 24 02 2013

This is my last column before we vote, as my next one will be on the morning after
It is to be regretted that, after a promising start, the second half of this overlong campaign has degenerated into distasteful mud-slinging from the PN side. As the polling numbers remain obstinately in Labour’s favour, the PN strategists must have concluded that only mud-slinging offered some hope of a change in fortunes.
The PN has conducted a confused campaign. It was slow at the starting line, to the extent that, in the third week, it admitted being in no hurry to kick-start its campaign. Then it rolled out all the 125 pledges in its manifesto in one go, while maintaining a billboard campaign based on clichés and a TV campaign based on clichéd fear-mongering. To underline the lack of proper integration of the various channels of the PN’s campaign communication strategy, it kept three different tag lines: “Futur fis-Sod”; “Xoghol Edukazzjoni Sahha” and “Qabza ohra ta’ kwalita”) compared to the unifying focus of Labour’s slogan: “Malta taghna lkoll”.
As we entered the last stretch of the campaign the PN ditched all its tag-lines and logo, and reverted to the promotion of its pledges which it strangely failed to do as it rolled out its manifesto, and shifted the focus of its entire campaign to a character assassination attempt on the PL’s leadership.
The bottom of the barrel is being scraped when the PN accuses the PL leader of lying merely because he relates that a guy fired from the Party on suspicion of drug dealing tried to argue that the white stuff was ice, not drugs. Joseph Muscat and Toni Abela have no way of knowing what the white stuff was, but they took the honourable course by firing the guy on mere suspicion and refusing to take him back, even when he started to make what seem like puerile excuses. They had no proof to back up their suspicions but they took no chances and unhesitatingly fired the person concerned and refused to take him back, in spite of his plea of innocence.
They behaved honourably. It is the PN that is not behaving honourably, when it shields and rewards a person whom it claims was dealing drugs inside a PL Club, rather than hand him over to the police if they have any proof of such criminal activities.
But even if one were to hypothetically accept that Dr Muscat and Dr Abela should have called in the police and not just fired the person concerned, at most they could be accused of a one-off bad judgement. This is no comparison to the continual bad judgement that the PN in government has been exercising as the most serious case of white collar fraud and corruption was happening under its very nose.
One must be careful not to imply criminal responsibility on the part of anyone in the outgoing PN administration. Such a claim can only be levelled by the law enforcement authorities, particularly by the police, who have access to documentary proof and other tools to provide the necessary evidence to press charges in a court of law. We are here determining political responsibility, which is what the electorate will have to judge when it votes on 9 March.
It is inconceivable that, considering the scale and extent of fraud and corruption carried out over a long period of time, there is not one politician that considers it his duty to accept political responsibility and resign – even if this would be merely symbolic, given the closeness of the elections.
I have probably read all books related to white collar fraud and financial crisis. Through my experience of over four decades as a financial services practitioner, I have developed a keen smell for risk management through risk identification, mitigation measures and early signs of something going wrong.
So it offends my intelligence when someone expects me to believe that such a scale of fraud and corruption could have been carried out without the involvement of a network of people, including people in high places. It offends my intelligence when someone expects me to believe that the Minister responsible for Enemalta regularly meets a representative of major oil trading companies that participate in bids to supply oil to Enemalta, but never discusses such contracts. It offends my intelligence when I am expected to believe that the Minister responsible for both the Inland Revenue and Enemalta receives through a unique event a box full of documents from the Secret Security service and, rather than being alerted to the unacceptable practice of a third party receiving commissions on Enemalta oil purchases, acts simply as a postman and sends these documents to the Tax Compliance Unit to investigate whether such commission revenue was being properly declared for taxation purposes.
Let’s be realistic: if Enemalta procures its oil in a transparent and clean manner, why should any supplier require an agent in Malta to whom they have to pay commission for every deal? If the process is clean and transparent, the last thing an oil supplier needs is the increased cost of commissions to be loaded on to the procurement cost. The very fact that it now emerges that one such regular bidder – a subsidiary of French oil giant Total SA – insisted with their local agent that unless the person who had regular access to the Minister stayed within their group, they would terminate the agency agreement, is a very strong indication that Total SA were only paying because they were reaping benefits from the close access this person had with the Minister. Nobody pays something for nothing, least of oil a major oil company.
This whole matter stinks, especially if such agent gets asked by his principals on a chat-line if the dragon liked the diamond.
It is a pity that this issue had to explode in an election campaign. I have no idea why whoever was privy to such information waited so long to leak it. I cannot blame Malta Today or The Times for the timing of such revelations as they both declare that they broke the story within a short time of gaining access to it.
But the electorate has been cheated. Corruption is the worst form of hidden taxation. At least with normal taxation, the funds flow from the individual to the collective, democratically represented by the government, which then spends it back in the economy for the benefit of the population at large (capital expenditure) or deserving individuals (social payments). However, in the case of corruption, the money flows from many individuals for the benefit of the hidden few who spend or save the illegally acquired funds strictly for their own benefit.
If there is anyone left who has not yet made up their mind about how to vote, they should ask themselves only one question: if such corruption has happened without anyone taking political responsibility for it, what would happen if those who – in the best hypothesis – were sleeping at the wheel are rewarded with another term?
People get the government they deserve. We certainly deserve better than the Gonzi PN of 2008-2013.

Friday, 22 February 2013

I believe in father christmas

I believe:

  • That the PN switched to dirty mud-slinging in the latter part of the election campaign because they are comfortable with the poll numbers.

  • That in their regular meetings every quarter when responsible for Enemalta,   Minister Austin Gatt never spoke to rogue oil trader turned state witness about Enemalta's oil procurement .

  • That Minister Gatt and George Farrugia spoke mostly about the Hamrun festa when they met.

  • That Trafigura and Total paid commissions to their local agent because they are kind hearted not because George Farrugia delivered added value through his intimacy with the Minister responsible for Enemalta.

  • That there is no way that politicians could have been aware of the corruption going on at Enemalta over a long period of time.

  • That politicians should not be held responsible when they fail to install corporate governance systems, with adequate checks and balances, in the organisations they are poltically responsible for.

  • That it was just bad luck that a cash cow like MOBC had to be closed down and sold to private interests who made a killing out of  it.

  • That no  PN Minister ever received any gifts from any person that benefited from the corruption at Enemalta

  • That Father Christmas lived on 34th Street.

  • That the tooth fairy is real
I believe.....

Monday, 18 February 2013

Is the euro overvalued?

February 14, 2013 

Sixteen other countries have the euro

From Mr Alfred Mifsud.

Sir, Jens Weidmann, the head of Germany’s Bundesbank, thinks that the euro is not seriously overvalued, that any effort to weaken it will stoke inflation, and that while other central banks and governments are pursuing benign neglect of their currency, more colloquially referred to as modern currency wars, Europe should stand idle and continue to sing the virtues of strict inflation targeting and hard monetarism (“Bundesbank head warns against EU leaders talking down the euro”, report, February 12).

Maybe someone should remind him that the euro is the currency of 17 EU nations, not only Germany; that a competitive euro rate for Germany is an uncompetitive rate for other EU nations, which need all the help they can get from the exchange rate to sustain their effort to recover competiveness by drastically painful internal devaluation measures; and that the main macro-economic threat to the eurozone is prolonged recession and a lost generation of unemployed, not inflation.

Alfred Mifsud, Balzan, Malta
copyright: The Financial Times Limited 2013.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Corruption slows economic growth

I searched which countries  rank highly in the:

  •  fight against corruption,
  •  innovation 
  • GDP per capita on a Purchasing Power basis ( i.e. not how much one earns but what how much one can buy with what they earn acknowledging that a hundred dollars in Zurich will buy you much less than a hundred dollars in Nairobi).

I cleaned up the GDP index from countries which are resource rich and therefore rank highly without much effort ( e.g Qatar and UAE) and small offshore centres that rank highly because of their low population and large financial centres ( e.g. Monaco, Lichtenstein and Jersey).

Three countries feature in the top ten of all three lists:
  • Singapore
  • Switzerland
  • Netherlands
Five other countries feature in the top ten of two of the selected criteria and quite highly in the third criterion but not in the top ten:

  • Finland
  • Sweden
  • Norway
  • Australia
  • Canada
In my mind there is a strong link between a low corruption index and economic growth brought about by the innovation.   This link is under-pinned by the investors' preference to base their innovation initiatives in countries that are free from corruption.

Our two main parties can offer all the goodies they wish to attract votes but the most important desire in the mind of those who understand the link between economic growth ( which is a sine qua non for delivery of many of the manifesto pledges) and a clean and transparent administration is the promise to institute serious measures to take Malta in the 21st century in so far as political governance standards are concerned.

Most important is a rock solid law to control the financing of political parties  which then has to be supported by a whistle-blowers act and the removal of legal prescription regarding corruption committed by politicians and politically appointed executives.

It is indeed indicative and shows the sharp contrast between the two main parties, that whereas PL is promising introducing the suite of governance laws as a priority in parallel with the Budget for 2013, i.e. having the transparency legislation in place in the early stages of the legislature before executive decisions start being taken,  the PN did not find it necessary even to mention such measures in their manifesto.   Having had 25 years in office without finding it necessary to introduce such legislation, the PN's promise that they will do it even though they have not mentioned it in the manifesto lacks credibility.

In this context it is shocking that Minister Austin Gatt refuses to accept political responsibility for the proven corruption that happened under his nose in the oil procurement commissions.   It is shocking that the Cabinet, in  a flagrant conflict of interest, intervenes to recommend a Presidential pardon to a key actor in the corruption scandal and reportedly omits to include the conditionality of telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  It is shocking that Minister Gatt participates in such Cabinet decision rather than being forced to resign.

Someone savvy used to say that justice must not only be done but must be perceived being done.

It is curious that the PN have abandoned this wise principle in their quest to defend Minister Gatt who is obviously guilty of political responsibility, at the very least.  In such circumstances who can blame people for connecting the dots and perceiving that the corruption money used to line not only private pockets but could well have found its way to funding the Party that blatantly refuses to publish its financial statements?

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Scraping the bottom of the barrel

Do you know the story of the professional prostitute that gets scandalised because the virgin wears a skirt two inches above the knee?

If you read this you will know it:

Can't handle this hypocrisy anymore.

This campaign is far too long. 

What a waste of time and money in the interest of clinging to power no matter how much the national interest is being hurt.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Biggest story of the campaign

This article was published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 10th February 2013
Corruption- the greatest story
of the campaing so far

Four weeks’ today we will know what the election verdict is.     Having passed the half way mark it is relevant to ask what so far has been the biggest story of the campaign.
Any scientific survey would show that the issue which has dominated the hearts and minds of the electorate is not in fact a campaign issue.   It is the corruption scandal involving commissions paid to an inner circle of politically appointed executives involved in oil procurement.

The police are reportedly close to pressing charges against some of those involved.    There has been talk of granting immunity to one of the persons implicated who has agreed to give evidence to strengthen the case of the prosecution.  On the other hand the Police have said they have enough evidence to press charges.
This is a delicate issue and politicians in the last few days of their term should be very careful from taking any initiatives.   Let the Police do their work and let them request the granting of such immunity if they feel the need for additional evidence to bring into the net suspects that cannot be otherwise prosecuted.

Politicians have their finger in the pie in this matter so any initiatives they may take are subject to misinterpretation.   At the very least there is political responsibility of whoever appointed the persons implicated to a position of trust holding a public office.
Whoever trusted these persons is at the very least responsible for gross political misjudgement and should acknowledge their responsibility by making public declaration accepting political responsibility and standing aside from seeking any political position.

I find it hard to accept that whoever was involved was fooling his political masters, lining up private pockets without giving rise to any suspicions.   As responsible politicians, they should suspect anyone who conducts a life-style and carry wealth which is not reflective of income officially declared.  In a small island like ours extremes tend to stand out like a sore thumb and only the blind do not suspect foul play, although it takes valiant journalists to turn suspicions into hard proof.
One has a right to be suspicious to the degree of joining the dots.   Why has the PN government repeatedly turned down all proposals to shift from HFO to LNG just as in parallel people trusted by politicians were putting a hidden corruption tax on the nation’s oil procurement costs?   And why during its long tenure of power, against specific pledges in their electoral manifesto and against all governance standards of modern democracies, the PN showed no enthusiasm at all to pass serious legislation about the financing of political parties, about the introduction of a whistle-blowers act and against the removal of legal prescription related to fraud committed by people holding a political office?

This is the true story of the campaign.   It is what has shocked people of goodwill and what is persuading many of the remaining undecided voters that they cannot trust this outgoing fatigued administration to be put in charge again of the nation’s ship.
The Prime Minister has every interest to try to escape from the political shadow of the most serious corruption case in the Maltese political history by  trying to implicate that the PL are already befriending contractors.    In so doing he is more and more sounding like the prostitute that gets scandalised by the virgin wearing skirt two-inches above the knee.

He argues that the biggest story of the campaign is the Opposition befriending contractors and pursuing business friendly policies.    In the mind of the PN, Joseph Muscat  is already guilty of the sin of intention because according to the PN, measuring by their own standards, Muscat  is at fault because he is already befriending those who rightly form part of Malta taghna lkoll theme.  Little do they care that Muscat’s PL is promising the introduction of good governance legislation as a priority in parallel  with the Budget for 2013 and before exercising any material executive authority. 
If the PL were to be influenced by the Prime Minister’s innuendos they would have to change their campaign theme to exclude contractors from their ‘lkoll’ definition.   But why should they?  Malta needs contractors as much as it needs  entrepreneurs, shop-owners, doctors, lawyers, architects and accountants.   

But what Malta needs above all else is energised new administration, people who do not feel too comfortable in their position ( so comfortable in fact that they publicly profess that the electorate would be crazy to trust anybody but them with the reins of the country),  people to take care of the taxpayers funds with the same standards of care they apply for their own property to ensure that the taxpayer gets maximum mileage for every Euro of tax paid.
What Malta needs is for political parties to be forced to come clean about the funds they collect to finance not only their election campaigns but also all the funds they collect to finance their operations and capital expenditure.  

What I know for sure and can vouch for first hand is that Labour built its capital assets ( HQ and Media ) when in opposition, when every cent had to be collected by small donations from the small donors who attach no conditions to their generosity and who have no claim to playing the tune after having paid the piper.  
In contrast the PN built their patrimony from the seat of government where the practically unlimited executive power held over an inordinately long tenure sets a fitting scene for strong suspicions, fortified by irrefutable circumstantial evidence, that the PN had access to financing with strings attached.    In the absence of their willingness to publish their financial statements it is more than a bit rich for the Prime Minister to argue that Muscat’s  including contractors in the ‘lkoll’ definition of the PL’s campaign is the biggest story of the campaign.

For me the biggest story of the campaign proper so far is the contrasting stance of the respective parties.   The positive vibrations of the Labour’s message of unity and togetherness is the antithesis of the PN’s scaremongering that the Labour lot if elected will drive the country to the wall and no one but themselves should be trusted.   The contrast whereby Labour addresses itself to the shrinking residual pool of undecided voters by offering them invitations by other non-politically active persons who have already decided to make the swing, as against the PN’s abrasive warning that they would prejudice all that they have acquired even if they let Labour in for just five minutes, let alone a full legislature.
The greatest story of the campaign as we have crossed its half-way mark is that the PN’s campaign never lifted off the ground, that the momentum was and remains behind Labour and that many undecided who had already written off the PN from deserving a fourth consecutive term are now shifting from doubtful to neutral and from neutral to warm versus Labour seeing that Muscat has extended the boundaries of the PL from a party to a movement they can work with even if they do not embrace its traditional core values.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Take 3: Reimbursement for medicine out of stock

If you are confused about what actually the PN are promising in this regard don't blame yourself.   On the contrary it shows that your brain is working normally.  The confusion lies within the PN.

This is what pledge 31 (ii) of their manifesto says:

Aktar medicini ghalik meta jkollok bzonnhom - Fejn jirrizulta li medicina partikolari li int intitolat ghaliha tkun our of stock, il-Gvern ser jaghti lura kumpens lil min ikun xtraha privatament ghaliex ikollu bzonnha urgenti, skont prezzijijiet stabbiliti.
A literal translation is:

More medicines for you when you need them - Where it results that a particular medicine for which you are entitled goes out of stock, government will compensate whoever buys it privately because they need it urgently, according to established prices.
This is unambiguous pledge to refund the cost to whoever is constrained to buy the medicine privately because it goes out of stock in the government medicine distribution system.

So immediately the question arose how much will be the cost of government inefficiency in the medicine  procurement system?   This is what I wrote on this blog on 25 .01.2013:

And how on earth are the PN going to cost the pledge that they will refund the cost of free medicine when this is not available from government through the POYC or its central supply points.
One has to bear in mind that when government provides free medicine through its systems the procurement cost is often a fraction of the retail price of such products.   Often it is 25% or less.   
So if I am entitled to a medicine the procurement cost of which for government in the normal course of events is ten Euro,  its retail price is often forty Euro.    If government has to pay free medicine that goes out of stock at its retail price it would have to pay forty Euro when normally it would pay ten Euro.
The more inefficient the procurement system gets the more expensive it would become for taxpayers to bear the cost burden for the provision of free medicine.

Government was caught on the wrong foot and immediately it was constrained to clarify that the refund would not be for the full retail price but for established prices reflecting the procurement cost to government.

In so saying the government was admitting that through such a scheme consumers would be forced to pay a substantial price for medicine they are entitled to free of charge and it would practically give every incentive to government to avoid addressing its inefficient procurement system, which at the end of the day is the source of the problem.

Again government was caught on the wrong foot so it had to issue a take 3 clarification that:

Patients will not pay anything when they have to get medicines from private pharmacies because they go out of stock in government dispensaries, the prime minister said this afternoon.
He explained that the medicines would be paid for by the government at an established price, but the transaction would be made with the pharmacies, not the individual patients.

Come off it!   The pledge speaks clearly of a refund to who is constrained to buy the medicine privately and government is having to re-write the pledge on the trot.   And would pharmacies accept to give medicines free of charge to patients, medicines they would have bought at wholesale prices, and then wait who knows how many months to get reimbursed by government at established prices reflecting government's procurement costs which in bulk public tenders are invariably below the wholesale price for such medicine?    And this without entering into the merits that pharmacies generally carry patented medicine whereas government rightly dishes out generics.

And Take 3 is even in the PN campaign logo.  Whereas the PL has one battle-cry :


the PN has three:

Futur fis-Sod; 
Qabza ohra ta' kwalita'

Problem for the PN is that whereas they are used to Take 3 this time they need Take 4  in terms of election victories.   Take 3 was a very close shave.  Take 4 is......

Thursday, 7 February 2013

He's done it again and again

The face of a Nationalist

Dr Simon Busuttil, the PNs Dputy Leader has done it again, and again and again.

In just two days he managed to utter three stupidities.

First he said he should not be quizzed about publication of the Financial Accounts of the PN because he has been Deputy Leader for just two months.   Does he infer that the PN's sins of commission or omission before he was elected may be wiped off so that he can start with a clean slate?

Then  he said the you can tell Nationalists by their looks.    He refrained from giving more details which we await with mouth wide open, but for sure Dr. Deborah Schembri has the face of a Nationalist.   Great research is going on on Deborah's face features to try to back up the assertion of Dr Busuttil.

Today he made it tripod.   As they say in Maltese
'fuq tlieta toqghod il-borma'
He said that :

“They (Labour) took all my ideas and put them in their manifesto.”

My ideas?    Not even our ideas?

The difference is clear.  The PN's programme is a top to bottom one man show.   The PL's manifesto is a bottom up group performance involving not only the party roots but civil society and all stake holders in society at large.    Its an effort spun over several years not just over the last two months.

No wonder that momentum is behind Labour.  There is much more sense of ownership and togetherness in the PL's movement than there is in the PN's duo which has now been converted into a soliloquy.


Monday, 4 February 2013

Prostitute' s standards

Gonzi asks if contractors are dictating Labour's policies

So reads the headline in the The Times regarding the Prime Minister's address this morning.

The best answer comes in Maltese:

      L-ispizjar milli jkollu jtik!

Is it not time for the PN to move on from their hysterical scaremongering and start replying some of the questions I have been asking and perhaps illuminate us why did they fail protecting the people as many inner circle people, contractors included,  were making themselves rich at our expense.

The truth is that Labour built their HQ and Media companies when in oppositon, the PN did so when in government.   Al buon intenditor poche parole!!

Friday, 1 February 2013

Management by hope

In a Press Conference held today by PN Deputy leader Dr Simon Busuttil he is reported saying:

(PN) would set up an independent fiscal council and an economic and financial parliamentary committee and would conclude, by the end of the year, an expenditure review through which the government would identify a two per cent reduction in expenditure.
Setting up an independent fiscal council is an overdue step which many countries serious about keep sustainability in their public finances have long adopted.   Such a fiscal council would have been very useful if it were in place right now as it would have expressed its independent view on the costings of the manifesto pledges made by political parties.

What is shocking is that the PN says it still has to identify through an expenditure review 2% reduction in government expenditure. 

Such 2% reduction is the linchpin of how according to the PN's published costings it could finance its pledges without breaking the bank and exploding government finances.    So how can one have confidence that the PN can deliver on its pledges if it still has to identify how to finance them by  costs cuts through expenditure reviews.

I already explained that some 85% of government recurrent expenditure is non-discretionary as it involves immutable commitment in salaries, pensions and other entitlements which the PN is pledging to keep universally accessible without payment.    The remaining 15% discretionary expenditure amount to some EUR 400 million.   To save Euro 60 million on an expenditure of EUR 400 million the expenditure cuts would have to be a whopping 15%.

So the PN would have to discover expenditure cuts not of 2% on the total recurrent expenditure but a 15% cut on the discretionary component of such recurring expenditure.  This is as likely as pigs can fly.

In this context the pledge to credit the pension account of each new born by EUR 1000 is laughable.   On one hand we give them a state handout through a blocked pension account and on the other hand we are leaving such newborns a legacy of national debt exploding and which has to be serviced by the newborns during their economically active life. 

40% of the national debt was accumulated in the last five years!    The national debt as at 2011 is one billion Euro ( that's one thousand million, i.e. one and nine zeroes) more than what Minister Fenech said it would be when reading the Budget for 2009.

Leaving new borns EURO 1000 in blocked pension account is like inheriting a house with a mortgage bigger than its value!

Let's get serious and do some real costings!   And make sure the figures at least mathematically add up as the carry forward from the Extended Government balance in page 5 to page 17 has mathematical errors.