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One bad deed is enough to lose reputation

PN candidate Alex Mangion writes: The name of Malta as a serious player in international financial services provision have been completely tarnished by these revelations, which have clearly shown that for Joseph Muscat and his cortege, the country clearly comes second after their personal interests

26 May 2017, 1:01pm
This irresponsible behaviour has exposed our financial services industry to great risk
This irresponsible behaviour has exposed our financial services industry to great risk
“A good reputation is like the cypress; once cut, it never puts forth leaf again," Francesco Guicciardini once said.

It seems that during his term in government, Joseph Muscat never really took notice in which context the word “reputation” fell under and what reputation really meant. Dr Muscat should have been aware of the fact that whatever he and the people around him do, the country and its citizens are affected by those actions which then result in the country’s reputation.

Prior to our entry into the European Union, and in our first years of membership, our country had managed to establish itself as a credible partner, a trustworthy country and a country of many successes in its own history. The government and a large number of committed and professional civil servants had managed to rubbish any notion that might have resulted from the geographical reality of Malta being a country to the south of Sicily, with all the implications, however prejudiced they might be, that brings with it.

In 2013, any respect for the hard-earned reputation and national pride that each and every one of us should feel, was unceremoniously thrown out of the window. A senior government minister and an official opened secret Panama accounts just a few days after taking office.

The international uncovering and disclosure of the notorious Panama papers included their names, associating Malta with a country known for its leading role in money laundering and tax evasion. Accounts are only opened in Panama because it is a country that does not play by the international rules of financial operations, a sector in which Malta had established a reputation for itself as a serious and reliable player. How can one reconcile the fact that a senior and only government minister of a country with top-notch financial institutions chooses to secretly open personal accounts in the black sheep of international finance, a hub of money laundering coming from all sorts of illicit activities?

This irresponsible behaviour has exposed our financial services industry to great risk. The name of Malta as a serious player in international financial services provision have been completely tarnished by these revelations, which have clearly shown that for Joseph Muscat and his cortege, the country clearly comes second after their personal interests.

In opening these accounts, Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi totally ignored and did not care about the possible fallout of their actions on all those of us whose livelihood and continued prosperity depends on the financial services industry. Financial service operators have generated a lot of the activity and vibrancy that our economy is showing at present, with the benefits filtering down across the board to those directly employed – from property owners, to catering establishments, to domestic staff and to a multitude of others. The interests of all these people were clearly not considered, and placed at high risk for the sole purpose of personal gain by the very few in the innermost circles of power. It is no wonder then that just a few days ago, the spotlight from Germany was shone on to our financial services in a negative way – Walter Borjan, the German Regional Finance Minister, in challenging our EU-approved taxation system for financial services, referred to Malta as being the ‘Panama of Europe’. It is the direct consequence of members of Joseph Muscat’s government having been exposed as owning Panama accounts, and his obstinate refusal to sack them after they were exposed. 

The Nationalist government had established and secured the financial services industry on the basis of trustworthiness and reputation. Hard work and perseverance had paid off for the benefit of all. However, as Benjamin Franklin wrote, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it”. We all had won with the establishment of our good name. Joseph Muscat's bad deed has cost us this reputation, and unfortunately, we all stand to lose for the many years to come. 

DealToday
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