Finance Minister Edward Scicluna said on Wednesday that he couldn’t even catch a taxi while abroad on business without being asked about corruption and rule of law in Malta.

“It’s not just international bodies like the International Monetary Fund and credit rating agencies, even if I’m in a taxi in South America I get asked about the situation and have to explain,” he said.

Speaking at a public consultation meeting ahead of next month’s Budget, Prof. Scicluna launched into a tirade against those who he said had tried to sully Malta’s good reputation by spreading “false allegations”.

“Unfortunately this was started by fellow Maltese. They were followed by others with an agenda against Malta. However, the truth always comes out, and the truth is starting to come out on this too,” he said.

Prof. Scicluna said there were some who wished to portray Malta as a country in the clutches of the mafia and organised crime.

He and other members of the government, he said, were working tirelessly to repair the island’s reputation, but this took time.

“I assure you that we are working on this and we are repairing the damage that has been done, but it takes time and isn’t as easy as just saying it once,” he said.

The minister then went on to regale those gathered for the meeting with findings of recent studies which he said showed Malta was at the forefront of good governance and transparency.

He also quoted recent findings of on EU-wide VAT evasion rates, which showed Malta had made strides forward.

The island, Prof. Scicluna said, was doing better in reducing VAT evasion than other EU states that were home to some who would come to Malta to “lecture us on the rule of law”.

The evening, themed: ‘fostering a quality culture’, also saw members of the public put questions to the Finance Minister, some about their own personal tax queries, and others commending the government on achievements.

One member of the public said: “ I have sent Joseph [Muscat] emails but haven’t heard back”. When asked what the emails were about, the man said he wanted to know how much his rent - in private accommodation, was going to cost.

Replying, a bewildered Finance Minister said he had no idea what the gentleman’s land lord planned to charge him.

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