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MaltaFiles and public perception

Edward Scicluna and Joseph Muscat at the news conference. Photo: Jonathan Borg

Edward Scicluna and Joseph Muscat at the news conference. Photo: Jonathan Borg

It's been a sad month for Malta. Allegations of corruption galore and, no matter whether you're Team Red or Team Blue or Team Let's Check Out What's Actually Happening Before Deciding (blessed be your rare souls), one thing we have to be all in agreement about, otherwise there really is no hope for this country.

And this is that recent events are doing Jack to help our international standing and our economy in the foreseeable months. Too much shade has been thrown, and whether you choose to label the latest revelations -  #MaltaFiles - as fake news or not, the damage to the country has been done. And it will remain irrevocable for quite some time.

Some of the biggest powerhouses in the international media calling Malta a haven for organisations with ties to the Mafia, a financial shelter for the sons-in-law of dictators, and worse... well, that kind of shade doesn't just lighten up with a couple of hastily presented press statements.

#MaltaFiles is not about party politics. Our tax structure has been in place for years, including under a PN administration. It is not illegal; whether it is ethical is a different deal altogether.

Reality, however, is that Malta is placed in just the perfect position to be slammed for its preferential tax structure, mostly because of the recent Panama accounts debacle.

This afternoon's press conference, thrown by the prime minister, was a brave effort in damage control. But it comes too late.

Getting the registrar of companies to give a statement about the basic workings of Maltese company law while pretty much looking like he is about to have a heart attack is counter-productive.

The Finance Minister turning a press conference into a lecture about tax law is also pretty useless.

We stink to high heaven and no-one wants a piece of that

Rhetoric about us being united to protect our children's future... well, the least said about that the better. How did such a serious topic turn into a PTA meeting?

And finally, having Dr Muscat blithely deny the reality that international perception re #MaltaFiles is directly related to his government's lack of action on the Panama scandals - despite repeated questions from the press - well that's the final straw, really.

Let's face it: it is easier to throw shade at the government of a country that has been dogged by allegations of corruption, than at a government with just the average amount of such slurs.

I can already hear many of you baying about how unfair it is, but at this stage the negative perceptions about Malta on the international fora are so strong that even if Dr Muscat were to pull a miracle along the lines of the bread and fish, the rest of the EU will not want to touch us with a bargepole.

We have German banks refusing to accept the seal of Maltese auditors.

We have high-level EU officials publicly dissing our Prime Minister for serious breach of protocol.

We have international headlines censuring Malta for the allegedly concerted efforts of Labour supporters to bear pressure on Facebook and block the account of a Pulitzer Prize winner.

We have other international headlines practically calling us a base for a multi-national mafia.

We can argue between us in our typical parochial fashion till the cows come home, but it won't change anything. Our reputation is, not to be too delicate about it, f****d.

And, before any of you point out that reputation doesn't pay the bills, well yes actually in the political arena it does. The way things stand, so long and goodbye to support and financial cooperation, or even investment, from non-shady EU businesses. We stink to high heaven and no-one wants a piece of that.

At the end of the day it's all up to the voters on June 3. And there is only one appeal left to be made. Let whoever rises to power learn some lessons from this whole disaster (yes, even PN can stand to learn from this).

Irrespectively of the winning party, a fresh start is essential for this country to survive. And that means putting certain tainted individuals from both sides of the spectrum out to pasture. It's the only way Malta can maybe start to heal.

 

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