The Chamber of Commerce is rightly concerned about the reputational damage that will inevitably result from a lack of institutional transparency as well as ever-diminishing good governance.
This was emphasised by Chamber President Anton Borg on Monday when addressing an event at which the Prime Minister was present. Mr Borg was quoted as stating: “Our business community fears that we are regressing on an important non-cost element of competitiveness. I refer to the country’s reputation in terms of the transparency and the integrity of our institutions.”
Well said, Mr Borg. It is about time that the business community says publicly what most of its members say in private. Mr Borg’s message was clear – even though he was very diplomatic in driving it home. He referred to the recent Ernst and Young attractiveness survey which reported a 15 per cent drop over 2015 in the perception of Malta’s political stability and regulatory transparency. He even referred to the 10 point drop in Malta’s placing in the International Corruption Index published by Transparency International.
The next day, Malta Employers’ Association outgoing President Arthur Muscat drove the message further home by emphasising that a 10 place fall in the corruption index is not an indicator of good governance.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who was present when Mr Borg delivered his stern warning, immediately activated an ostrich line of defence by retorting that investment was still being attracted to the country and emphasising that business does not invest in corrupt countries.
Well I am not so sure about the Honourable Prime Minister’s statement.
Anton Borg and Arthur Muscat are very decent chaps and they will do everything it takes to stay above the political fray. But they are conscious that these are not normal times. On behalf of their members, they have stood up to be counted. It is very positive that, through Mr Borg and Mr Muscat, the business community is prepared to take a definite stand against the ever-increasing lack of transparency in public administration as well as in favour of good governance.
In an introductory note on the EY 2016 attractiveness survey entitled The future is today, EY’s Ronald A. Attard says: “Malta remains attractive to foreign investors. Indeed, this year’s scores are the highest in the last three years. Yet, this ‘helicopter view’ hides significant shifts on the ground, that cannot be ignored. To get the full picture, we need to install a telescope on the helicopter.”
Apparently Prime Minister Joseph Muscat prefers to limit himself to the helicopter view, as a result ignoring the significant shifts on the ground. The view from the ground – as attested by the attractiveness survey – reveals that over a period of 12 months the percentage of those surveyed who consider that the stability and transparency of the political, legal and regulatory environment is very attractive or attractive has dipped from 85 per cent to 70 per cent.
The reality on the ground is changing, but this is not immediately obvious to those enjoying a helicopter view.
The Corruption Perceptions Index for 2016 published by Transparency International, on the other hand, sees Malta classified at 47th place, down ten places from 2015. This is certainly not a good sign and only maybe encouraging to government advisor Shiv Nair, blacklisted by the World Bank for corruption activities.
Joseph Muscat is apparently worried and wants to protect us from “abusive” journalists. It would be much better if he ensures that the institutions established specifically to protect us are allowed to function as intended. This is apparently not so obvious from high up in the helicopter but is pretty obvious to an ever-increasing number of those on the ground.
This country has much to offer – its potential is immense; but we must weed out the parasites at the earliest opportunity.
published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 5 March 2017