Joseph’s  helicopter view


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


The citizenship bubble of Malta

Malta golden passport 1

Many issues are involved in the citizenship debate.

The government clearly considers Maltese citizenship as just another commodity, which it can milk. Initially it even removed the transparency rule from the statute book, which rule ensured the publication of the names of all those who acquired Maltese citizenship.

Whereas local public opinion was completely ignored, the Labour government reacted to the international media coverage by announcing that it will reverse its ditching of transparency. Yet its reaction may be too late as the damage done to Malta’s reputation is not easily reversed.

The international media queried the unconventional methods used to generate the finance required by the Maltese state.

Within EU circles it is clear that issues concerning citizenship are a competence reserved to member states. Yet the  Schengen dimension of EU citizenship cannot be ignored.

The citizenship scheme is attractive because, through it, the prospective citizen attains freedom of movement within the EU.

It is a very serious concern which can only be adequately addressed if the due diligence process is foolproof.

The problem is that, to date, the Maltese Government has already signalled that it is not that much concerned by the impact of persons who are associated with a fraudulent past, a case in point being government advisor Shiv Nair who is listed permanently on the World’s Bank blacklist.

Another recent example is China Communications Construction Company Limited, also on the World Bank blacklist. This Chinese Company will carry out (gratis) the feasibility study for a Malta-Gozo bridge on the basis of the very friendly relations between the two republics, we were told. (I had the impression that countries had no friends, they just have interests!)

This follows the earlier selection of Lahmeyer International as an advisor to the Gonzi Government. Lahmeyer International too was on the World Bank’s  blacklist.

Past performance indicates that due diligence is not an area in which the Republic of Malta has excelled.

Is it a sale or is it an investment? In fact it is a bit of both. It is surely an unconventional way of raising finance. Its major characteristic is that it focuses on the short term benefits and ignores the long term impacts.  The selling price can give immediate results: it can finance the start-up of specific projects. Whether these will be successful is another matter altogether. The impacts of an investment scheme will take more time, its a long term exercise.

The method of payment selected for the purchase of citizenship is clearly based on the St Kitts and Nevis model in the Caribbean.  In St Kitts and Nevis, payment for citizenship is received by the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation and, subsequently, invested. The investment made is not at the discretion of the applicant for citizenship but a decision by the country dishing out the citizenship.

Public opinion considers that citizenship should be acquired through establishing solid roots in the country. Establishing minimum residence criteria and committment to the economic development of Malta through investment and job creation are essential criteria to be linked to the award of economic citizenship.

Government has done well, even though late in the day, to declare that it will reverse its secrecy stance. The declaration by Deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech that the regulations being drafted to implement government’s proposal will ensure that the names of those granted citizenship under the new legislation are public is welcome. This new position adopted by the government links with and reinforces the public committments made on the need for more robust due diligence.

It is, however, clear  that regulations alone will not suffice to entrench transparency in the citizenship scheme.  Amendments will also be necessary to the main legislation, in particular to remove reporting restrictions imposed by Parliament on the regulator.

The citizenship debate was also characteristed by the radical position taken by the Nationalist Party that, once back in office, it would not only take steps to scrap the new citizenship scheme but that it would, moreover, withdraw citizenship granted under the provisions of the scheme.

The Attorney General has advised the government that the PN’s proposal would be unconstitutional and would infringe human rights. Such advice was confirmed by the Dean of the Faculty of Law and by constitutional expert Ian Refalo.

The PN has declared that it is in receipt of legal advice reinforcing its position on the withdrawal of citizenship granted.

Whilst the Prime Minister has published the advice received from the Attorney General, the Leader of the Opposition has failed to follow suit. The Leader of the Opposition needs to be consistent. He cannot chastise the government for being secretive whilst simultaneously withholding important information from the public. It is not just the government which needs to be transparent.

The availability of both government and opposition to meet and discuss possible modifications to the citizenship scheme is welcome. Hopefully the wider national interest will prevail.

published in The Times Saturday, 23 November 2013

Kien jaf?

The World Bank

Matul il-ġimgħa li għaddiet, il-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat fil-Parlament  qal li ma kienx jaf u l-anqas ma kien infurmat illi Shiv Nair (konsulent tal-Gvern b’ċittadinanza Ingliża iżda residenti Malta) kien fuq il-blacklist tal-Bank Dinji u dan minħabba frodi.  Jekk taċċetta u temmen dan id-diskors hu inevitabbli li tasal għall-konklużjoni li dawk  ta’ madwar Joseph Muscat ma għamlux il-verifiki neċessarji kif meħtieġ dwar Shiv Nair, jekk fil-fatt qatt għamlu dawn il-verifiki.

Il-konsegwenza ta’ dan hu li bilfors tqis illi l-verifiki li jridu jsiru dwar dawk li ser jixtru passaport bil-prezz ta’ €650,000 flimkien ma €25,000 għall-mara kif  ukoll għal kull wild hemm il-possibilta li jsiru (jew ma jsirux) bl-istess mod u dan għax id-deċiżjoni dwar l-għoti tal-passaport ser jeħodha l-politiku. Jiġifieri ħadd ma jagħti tort lil ħadd jekk naslu għall-konklużjoni li bil-bejgħ tal-passaporti li qed jipproponi l-Gvern jista’ jkun li nitwikkew b’xi erba’karattri mhux mixtieqa għax il-politiku jaf jagħlaq għajnejh u malajr iwaħħal f’ħaddieħor.

Dawn huma l-konklużjonijiet li tasal għalihom  jekk temmen dak li qal Joseph Muscat.

Imma jekk dak li qal Muscat ma temmnux imbagħad hemm konklużjonijiet ferm iktar gravi minn hekk.  Għax jekk minkejja dak li qal Joseph Muscat kien jaf bil-fatt li Shiv Nair kien fuq il-blacklist tal-Bank Dinji minħabba frodi,  imbagħad l-istorja tkun ħafna differenti. F’dak il-każ ikun hemm bosta mistoqsijiet li jkunu jeħtieġu tweġiba.

Xi darba inkunu nafu x’inhi il-verita’. Kien jaf jew ma kienx jaf?

ippubblikat fuq iNews : It-Tnejn 21 t’Ottubru 2013

Passaporti għall-bejgħ u Cecilia Malmström

Tajikistan_PassportMalta golden passport 1

Il-Gvern irid ibiegħ il-passaporti. Passaport ta’ Malta mingħand Joseph Muscat jiġi jiswa’ €650,000. Magħhom trid iżżid €25,000 għal passport ieħor għall-mara u €25,000 għal kull wieħed mit-tfal.

Għadu mhux magħruf jekk hemmx discount għal min jixtri passaport għal iktar minn mara waħda.

Ġie ippubblikat abbożż ta’ liġi biex jemenda il-liġi taċ-ċittadinanza.

Saret ukoll laqgħa immexxija minn Joe Vella Bonnici ex-kandidat tal-Labour li ser ikun inkarigat mill-aġenzija ġdida Identity Malta. Il-laqgħa kienet indirizzata mill-konsulenti Ingliżi tal-Gvern Henley & Partners. Imma qed jingħad li din il-laqgħa spiċċat bil-banda b’Vella Bonnici u dawk li kellu quddiemu jgħajjtu b’ħanġra daqshiex.

Qed jinkitbu ħafna artikli u bosta kummenti dwar din il-politika ġdida ta’ kif il-Gvern immexxi minn Joseph Muscat ser ibiegħ il-passaporti. Ġiet deskritta bħala politika friska u moderna li tikkuntrasta mal-politika preistorika li kellna sal-lum.

Qiegħed jingħad li dawn il-passaporti m’humiex ser jingħataw bl-addoċċ. Il-Gvern għandu target li matul is-sena finanzjarja li ġejja jdaħħal €30 miljun mill-bejgħ ta’ dawn il-passaporti. Dan ifisser li qed jippjana għal madwar 40 applikazzjoni li skond kemm ikun hemm persuni dipendenti jew assoċjati mal-applikanti jista’  jfisser il-ħruġ ta’ madwar 200 passaport.

Intqal ukoll li l-applikazzjonijiet ser ikunu mgħarbla sewwa u ser ikun hemm attenzjoni speċjali biex ma jkunx hemm karattri dubjużi li jingħataw dawn il-passaporti. Imma mbagħad qalulna ukoll li l-ismijiet ta’ dawk li ser jingħataw dawn il-passaporti ser jibqgħu sigrieti. Dik l-informazzjoni skond il-Gvern għandha tkun kunfidenzjali magħrufa biss bejn il-Gvern u min jiffirma iċ-ċekkijiet għal dawk it-€30 miljun.

L-impressjoni li qed tingħata hi li l-filosofija bażika ser tkun li bil-flus tagħmel triq fil-baħar. Triq li twassal sar-Repubblika ta’ Malta li jekk għandek il-flus tiftaħlek il-bibien beraħ. Dan huwa l-mod modern ta’ kif titkabbar l-ekonomija. Min-naħa l-oħra għandna diġa l-assigurazzjoni li l-Gvern ser joqgħod ultra-attent biex ma jkunx hemm karattri dubjużi li jakkwistaw dan il-passaport.

Ngħid jiena kif nistgħu nieħdu dan il-Gvern bis-serjeta’ jekk fost il-persuni li għażel bħala l-konsulenti tiegħu hemm ċerta Shiv Nair. Id-dikjarazzjonijiet pubbliċi tal-Gvern [jekk nemmnu dak li qed jgħidu] jfissru li l-Gvern ta’ Muscat mhux kapaċi jagħmel il-vetting neċessarju għax ġiet ippubblikat l-informazzjoni dwar dan Shiv Nair li jnisslu suspetti serji: informazzjoni li din il-persuna qegħda fuq il-blacklist tal-Bank Dinji minħabba frodi.

Dawn l-affarijiet kollha juru x’tip ta’ nies jistgħu jixtru l-passaport Malti. Juru ukoll għaliex kollox ser jibqa’ mistur.

Il-messaġġ li Muscat qiegħed jagħti huwa preċiżament dan: jekk għandek il-flus tikkonfondi xejn, anke jekk ħadd ma jridek . Malta taħt Joseph Muscat toffrilek kenn. L-aqwa li tiffirma dak iċ-ċekk.

Imma l-messaġġ ikompli li jekk m’għandekx flus Malta m’għandniex post għalik. F’dak il-każ ċempel lil Cecilia Malmström il-Kummissarju tal-Unjoni Ewropeja.

Pajjiżna jixraqlu aħjar.

Politika ġdida ……………….. valuri ġodda


Il-politika ġdida ta’ Joseph Muscat qed toħroġ għad-dawl tax-xemx valuri ġodda.

L-aħħar valur ġdid jirrigwarda ċ-ċittadinanza Maltija. Iċ-ċittadinanza Maltija f’din il-politika ġdida m’għadhiex tissimbolizza l-identita’ nazzjonali. Dak għal Muscat hu valur pri-storiku [tal-Flintsones!] Il-valur issa jrid ikun f’kontanti. Mhux inqas minn €650,000.

L-armata m’għadhiex iktar tal-operetti, kif kien jgħid in-nannu. Issa saret tal-highjumps. Tlett promozzjonijiet fi żmien tlett ġimgħat mhux ċajta.

Joseph Muscat ma kienx jaf, qal, li Shiv Nair [konsulent Indjan b’ċittadinanza Inġliża] kien fuq il-blacklist tal-Bank Dinji! Għax ħadd ma qallu! Mur obsor. Hu minn meta dawn l-affarijiet jgħidulek bihom? Fittex u ssib.

La qegħdin fuq il-Bank Dinji tajjeb li nsemmu li fost il-valuri ġodda għandna ukoll dawk tal-Partit Nazzjonalista. Mario de Marco u George Pullicino qed jitkażaw b’ Shiv Nair. Donnhom insew li l-Gvern immexxi mill-Partit Nazzjonalista [li tiegħu huma t-tnejn kienu Ministri] kellu kumpanija li kienet tagħtih il-pariri li kienet fuq il-blacklist tal-Bank Dinji minħabba korruzzjoni. Din il-kumpanija [Lahmeyer International] kienet tagħti l-pariri lill-Awtoritá tar-Riżorsi  li għaliha kien responsabbli politikament George Pullicno.

Il-konsulenti meqjusa korrotti


Sewwa qiegħed jagħmel Mario de Marco jemfasizza fuq il-ħatra ta’ Shiv Nair bħala konsulent ta’ Joseph Muscat u l-Gvern tiegħu. Shiv Nair hu fuq il-black list tal-Bank Dinji minħabba l-korruzzjoni.

Ma nafx x’għandu dan il-pajjiż tagħna donnu hu kalamita għal min ikun fuq il-black list tal-Bank Dinji.

Xi snin ilu meta allura Mario de Marco kien fil-Kabinett ta’ Lawrence Gonzi kellna kumpanija li kienet inħatret  biex tagħti pariri lill-Awtoritá dwar ir-Riżorsi (ta’ Malta) u tal-Enemalta.  Din ukoll kienet fuq il-black list tal-Bank Dinji minħabba korruzzjoni. Jisimha Lahmeyer International.

Il-minuti tal-Kabinett huma sigrieti u allura ma nafx min kienu dawk il-Ministri u s-Segretarji Parlamentari li kienu oggezzjonaw għall-ħatra tal-Lahmeyer International.

Tajba din. Donnu meta l-Membri Parlamentari Maltin ikunu fil-Gvern donnhom ma jaraw xejn ħażin fil-black list tal-Bank Dinji. Imbagħad mill-Opposizzjoni qiesu jinfetħulhom għajnejhom!  Jew dawk li l-Bank Dinji jqieshom korrotti jiġru warajna!