Traffic is being discussed to death and incredibly the 2017 Budget barely touches on the issue.
They say the truth hurts. Well, the truth is that there are too many cars on the road, and that carparks bang in the centre of our congested towns and building more roads will just increase the problem. The 2017 Budget will do just that, encourage an increase in car use. The Mosta 350-space carpark, right next to the church is an example of the two Mizzis’ – Konrad and Joe – warped vision. The PN Mayor and all the Mosta councillors are reported to have welcomed this carpark.
It is well known, on the continent at least, that carparks, should they be necessary, are kept at the edge of town centres. Konrad Mizzi’s Project Malta is creating a car magnet inside Mosta, and resting on the Budget speech, it seems that similar magnets will be built in other towns.
The real vision would have been to pedestrianize the centre of Mosta, creating a park and ride system from the periphery into the centre, encourage through real and targeted investment in infrastructure and incentives the take up of bicycles and pedelecs and boosting public transport provision to and from Mosta.
I am sure that government has data somewhere showing how many people work in Mosta and from where they travel to and from the place. If it doesn’t, then it is high time that this data is collected for all major centres in Malta. Instead of grabbing the bull by the horns government and it seems also the PN, at least in Mosta, want to implement policies which have long been abandoned elsewhere.
Fiduciary companies, letterbox companies and trust services – from Panama to Luxembourg to Malta – are there to avoid paying your fair share of taxes in the jurisdiction in which you trade and also to hide ownership. Law firms hold shares confidentially on behalf of an undisclosed beneficiary. Obviously, despite the much vaunted ‘due diligence’, such services are a magnet for shady people and organized crime.
The same valid and important ethical issues raised by Konrad Mizzi’s and Keith Schembri’s Panama companies are pertinent to the fiduciary companies of which Beppe Fenech Adami and Tonio Fenech are or were directors. Secret or not, legal or not, tax avoidance takes away resources to finance health services, environmental protection, education and research, and social programmes.
Small countries, like Malta, are worried that they will lose out if these types of shady services are disallowed. However, in reality, it is already a race to the bottom. There is no saying when another country will outdo us. The EU – that is the EU member state governments – also needs to find a way to make sure that tax revenues from multinational companies, experts in cheating society out of their rightful dues, are collected.
A friend of mine, involved in logistical support for manufacturing companies, is worried of the overdependence on financial services. There is a lot of work to be done in innovation and supporting the development of a circular economy in specialized manufacturing, based on energy efficiency, renewable energy and good resource management. The overdependence on financial services and gaming will be our undoing. Now is the time to reform before other countries take unilateral decisions, on which we have no control whatsoever.
A good start is for accountant and lawyer MPs to decide if they want to be full-time elected representatives and do their job properly or else to keep on having their cake and eating it and making a mockery of transparency and democracy in the process. What we have is a culture of secrecy through legally sanctioned fiduciary companies and nominee companies, where in the greed for profits, those involved offer their services and their address and just go with the flow until they are caught out.
From Luxembourg, the Netherlands to Malta, these so called ‘services’ based on secrecy, lack of transparency, the aiding and abetting of tax cheats and whether willfully or not, opening the opening of the gates to criminal organizations must be tackled immediately. Now the Maltese Government can either discuss and negotiate and have a plan for the short, medium and long term or be forced to change quickly, with all the implications for the economy.
(Ralph Cassar is Secretary General of Alternattiva Demokratika and Ħ’Attard local councillor)