Our national reputation

Refuting what led to Malta’s greylisting is digging heads in the proverbial sand

FATF has voted, making Malta effectively the first European Union member state to be greylisted. The questions which naturally emerge at this point are two: how did we get here and how do we move on?

What got us here is not a matter of opinion, it is a state of fact or, rather, of one scandalous and contemptible fact after another.

The Moneyval journey Malta embarked on many years ago was a consistently healthy, positive and constructive one.

One report after another always indicated where we could improve but always highlighted our strong legal framework; our valid and highly-repu­table body of well-trained employees and professionals; a firm and effective regulator and equivalent banking system, together with a jurisdiction of good governance spearheaded by effective institutions.

This is a fact. Also a fact is that all this changed drastically in 2013 when the country almost immediately star­ted paying the price of the meteoric money rise of a group of individuals embroiled in one carefully-studied, well-planned and callously-executed tainted contract after another.

As from 2013, our Moneyval journey turned into a downward spiral not of our own making but as a direct consequence of the unadulterated greed of those who saw power as a means to their own end.

Up to that time, any Maltese prime minister and minister of finance, pressured by large economies to relent, give in and give up Malta’s tax structure and accept the imposition of harmonisation, always and infallibly had one ultimate argument which trumped all others: no matter our tax structure, we are not a tax haven, we are a serious jurisdiction with a firm legal structure and robust institutions which work when they should.

Then came the much-heralded New Spring of freshly faced politics. Then came Pilatus Bank, then came Electrogas, Vitals, the Montenegro windfarm, Panama Papers, the American University and the list goes on and on.

From Maltese prime ministers who could stand their ground and lead the smallest member state of the European Union to punch way above its weight, we moved to a Maltese prime minister voted as the 2019 Person of the Year in Organised Crime and Corruption.

As from 2013, our Moneyval journey turned into a downward spiral as a direct consequence of the unadulterated greed of those who saw power as a means to their own end

– Alex Perici Calascione

These are the facts. Denying them is burying our heads in the proverbial sand of denying the blatantly obvious. The very first requirement to solving any problem is actually acknowledging that you have one and identifying the reasons which occasioned it in the first place.

FATF has voted. The moment is most certainly a grave one. We should never have even remotely got here but we have been brought here nonetheless with an uneasy added sense of unfair punishment on all for the crimes of the few.  The moment is also a determining one since the way we move from this point onwards will determine the future of our existing financial services sector, the future of jobs, investments and opportunities.

If there was ever a time when the country needs focused, professional, no-nonsense politicians, from all sides, to step forward and move to clean up this unholy mess, it is now. This is not a time for any cheap politi­cal gain or cheaper partisan strategies, it is, however, a time to finally face facts as inexorably the facts are facing us.

Clean it up we must and clean it up we can. Malta has to pool all resources, focus on taking stock and on rediscovering those factors which we so successfully identified years ago when we set about building, step by step, diligently, with foresight and vision and with broad political consensus, a strong, highly-reputable and universally-respected financial services sector firmly set within an equally reputable, respected and admired jurisdiction based on good governance, the rule of law and working institutions.

One repeated mantra across current government propaganda says “Kun parti mis-suċċess” (be part of the success). My exhortation today is “Kun parti mill-proċess” (be part of the process). There has to be a process of change as we all need to move away from the very warped political logic that brought us here in the first place and from the political apologetic exercise that followed it and follows it still.

Across the board, from all stakeholders to all those directly and indirectly involved in financial services sector and their families, from students aspiring to work in these sectors to landlords who rent their properties to the foreign employees who are employed here. All are affected by this and we all have a role to play.

This is Project Malta. This is the real Project Malta we need right now. Rebuilding our national reputation is nothing less than the absolutely essential foundation without which we cannot move on validly and successfully. Malta and Gozo deserve no less.

I, for one, am fully committed towards this necessary, urgent national drive. The Nationalist Party is fully committed to step up and lead it. Bernard Grech’s call for a national task force at this defining juncture has nothing less than the clear mark of true statesmanship.

It is leading the way.

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