Is he worth €1,000 an hour?

The Malta Financial Services Authority pays him around €1,000 an hour as its consultant. Since 2008, MFSA has spent around €500,000 on him.

A few months earlier, the chairman of MFSA JV Bannister engaged him as a consultant he was rewarded with a £612,000 farewell package (and a pension pot worth more than £870,000) after he had to leave the United Kingdom's Financial Services Authority for failing to adequately supervise the mortgage bank Northern Rock which nearly collapsed (there was a run on it, over 4,000 employees lost their job, it was nationalised and then forced to borrow £25 billion from the Bank of England).

His name is Clive Briault. The Treasury Select Committee of the House of Commons said that the monitoring unit he headed was guilty of a "systematic failure of duty" in its supervision of Northern Rock, claiming that it should have spotted the bank's risky business plan before it ran into trouble.

Briault - who had to leave the United Kingdom's FSA for the incompetence and recklessness he showed in the case of Northern Rock in 2008 - has since then been appointed consultant by Bannister's MFSA and so far paid more than €361,297. 

This week I tabled a parliamentary question asking Finance Minister Tonio Fenech to say what work Briault has done for MFSA, why was he engaged as a consultant, why he was appointed by direct order and not through a public procurement process and how the consultancy fee was established.

Prof. JV Bannister, Chairman of MFSA, recruited Briault. Finance Minister Tonio Fenech is politically responsible for MFSA.

In my parliamentary question, I asked Fenech to explain why other MFSA consultants were, like Briault, also appointed by direct order and paid very high fees, and to describe the work they have done for MFSA.

Doing business?

The 10th edition of the World Bank's Doing Business Report, just issued, provides a damning indictment of the Nationalist government's record in improving the ease of doing business in Malta. It ranks us in the 102nd place out of 185 economies, just ahead of such countries as Papua New Guinea and Pakistan.

The Report delves into some 2,000 regulatory reforms made by the world's economies since 2005 and ranks countries on 11 indicator sets. Based on 57,000 data points reported by more than 9,600 lawyers and other professionals, the World Bank analyses who provides the most business-friendly regulatory regime.

The 10 economies with the most business-friendly regulations are Singapore, Hong Kong SAR, China, New Zealand, the United States, Denmar, Norway, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Korea, Georgia, and Australia. Singapore tops the global ranking for the seventh consecutive year.

The World Bank's experts reviewed the complexity and cost of regulatory processes (business start-up, property registration, constructions permits, electricity connections, tax payments and trade procedures); and the strength of legal institutions (contract enforcement, insolvency regimes, credit information, borrowers' and lenders' legal rights, protection of minority shareholders), amongst others.

All the members of the eurozone have substantially better rankings than Malta, the rankings achieved being: Austria (29), Belgium (33), Cyprus (36), Estonia (21), Finland (11), France (34), Germany (20), Greece (78), Ireland (15), Italy (73), Luxembourg (56), the Netherlands (31),Portugal (30), Slovakia (46), Slovenia (35), and Spain (44).  But all the other ten members of the EU27 have higher rankings than Malta.

Malta does not even rank amongst the 50 economies that have narrowed the distance to the frontier (the distance from the best performance achieved by any economy since 2005).

Malta's indicator rankings put us in 150th place for ease of starting a business, 167th in obtaining a construction permit, 111th in getting electricity, 80th in registering property, 176th in ease of getting credit to start a business, 70th in protecting investors, 27th in paying taxes, 34th in ease of trading across borders, 121st in the enforcement of contracts, and 67th in resolving business insolvency.

It is impossible to present an exhaustive analysis here. Suffice to say that Singapore achieves three procedures and three days in business start-ups, compared to Malta's 11 procedures and 40 days. Or take the 21 procedures  and 150 days it takes to enforce a contract in Singapore, compared with Malta's 40 procedures and 505 days!

It is doubtful that premier Gonzi will refer to this report in next Sunday's sermon to the faithful. Business analysts, however, commented that the World Bank Report highlights Malta's failings and partially explains the low rate of economic growth.

Evarist Bartolo is shadow minister for education

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Luke Camilleri
As the saying goes for peanuts you get monkeys but ONE MUST be nuts to pay €1000 an Hour for consultancies! Thes consultancy fees should be deducted out of the Minister's salary!