The Dubaification of my country

Finance minister Edward Scicluna, with his very cool ‘Nationalist’ affectations, furthers the perception that people can get away with tax evasion, by never underlining the importance of a war on it. 

Most famous phrase of the soulless: I would like my country to look like this
Most famous phrase of the soulless: I would like my country to look like this

There are hardly any examples to demonstrate that the present Labour government is taking tax evasion seriously. If we collected the millions the State is owed in tax, we could do wonders with our infrastructure and our wellbeing. 

I do not use the word Labour in a disparaging way. It is Labour that makes use of it wrongfully.

Finance minister Edward Scicluna, with his very cool ‘Nationalist’ affectations, furthers the perception that people can get away with tax evasion, by never underlining the importance of a war on it. Our sister newspaper Illum today carries two stories, one on the many massage parlours in Bugibba – which of course do not serve only to give massages to relieve aching backs – which operate without a permit.

And operating without a permit, clients can hardly expect to be handed a VAT receipt. It is all under the counter.

The other story reveals the paltry, hourly undeclared pay black migrants receive from Maltese and foreign employers, which puts paid to all this talk of integration.

If one needs any proof of serious tax evasion, you would not need to dig so deep. When you ask for a quote or a price from a service provider, you are given two prices, one with VAT and the other without. Even electronic retail outlets have this habit. And which client would want a flimsy piece of paper which would translate into VAT being paid?

One should really stop pointing fingers at plasterers and builders, for they are not the only culprits. The sinners who operate without any intention of providing a receipt are widespread. And they include many professionals.

When faced with the possibility of paying less tax, any person in his right mind will naturally go for it. Why not, considering the well-paid openings the state creates for its parliamentarians who, we are so often told, “elected to serve”.

The truth is that when one looks at the political class and the great care our politicians give to under-declaring, earning money for doing f*** all, who can really blame Joe Citizen for doing what is humanly possible to avoid tax.

Why should it be considered dishonourable not to pay taxes, when you see the insatiable appetite of some, or many of, our politicians, whose earnings are not made on the back of innovative thinking but out of the taxes the wage earner pays.

There are many who argue that it is the black economy that sees this country through and that makes business tick and drives people to make more money.

Money is that thing which makes the world go round and creates diehard Nationalist or Labour lackeys who transform into leeches once their party is in government. 

In this eternal quest to improve and increment the feel good factor, this government has successfully discovered that the proverbial G spot for the business community is to allow one to operate unhindered and without any form of restriction. It is morality gone with the winds.

In doing so we have made ourselves believe that all economic activity will lead to a trickle down effect. The great big joke.

It appears that both sides of the political divide are aware that this is something of a big myth. And yet the Prime Minister goes on talking about the trickle down effect as if it were an economic model, when he very well knows that the lower strata do not even get the crumbs.

It is a far cry from the socialism of yesteryear and way out from the elegant and intellectual positioning of social democracy.

Today, as everyone knows, the Nationalist and Labour parties have very similar economic visions. In reality the situation only confirms that the difference between the two parties is tribal and people today align to political parties because of familial reasons or simply because it makes business sense.

Just like we support Inter or Milan, or Chelsea or Manchester United.

Labour in its wisdom has understood that business should not be curtailed but encouraged. Unfortunately, Labour’s encouragement translates into giving a green card for the shameless and enterprising to do anything. The agencies which make this possible are MEPA, the police and of course so many other government set ups.

Sending our inspectors on a VAT investigation trail and instigating the tax compliance unit to act judiciously and independently is unheard of.

Business in general and companies are also best advised by their entourage of tax advisors on how to under-declare their profits to pay less corporate tax to government. It is all legal they will say, but all that is legal is not necessarily ethical. 

There is no logical reason for paying out of your pocket to sustain the State. Especially when the custodians (the parliamentarians and the ministers) of the State are in no position to lecture on giving back what is due to the State.

The situation has even got worse, with both parties actively encouraging the Dubaification of Malta. There is this infinite quest to become like any other urban jungle and embrace high rise and more traffic.

The mistakes of the past are being repeated today, it seems nothing has been learned from experience, and this is what should be worrying civil society, which continues to lack proper leadership.

It is all fine for the Prime Minister to visit Paris and stand up on a podium and pronounce himself on climate change in a positive way, but really and truly I am sure he has not quite figured out that climate change is all about clipping development.

Joseph Muscat surely does not understand this concept.

He has understood quite a lot about gender equality and gay issues but when it comes to carbon footprints and decimating more pristine land he is in a quandary. He would act with caution if it meant votes. But we all know that until now the environment lobby is still too divided.

When it comes to reacting to climate change, the philosophy is diluvial. It starts to show starkly when our political leaders make statements that sound so ethereal and sublime, cut off by far from how they act, and revealing their innate hypocrisy, and worse still their intention to dupe the public.

If it were not the case, then MEPA would not be a rubber stamping permit machine.

Climate change is of course not worse off only when you allow another floor on all high-rise in Malta, but it gets the wrong side of the stick when you have NO real measures in mind to reduce traffic and cars.

And as Muscat and Busuttil would say, they have no intention of reducing the number of cars on the road or introducing taxes to encourage fewer cars, or at least the use of public transport.

It is bad enough that our roads remain in their vast majority equivalent to the state of the road network in Malta in 1943 – a motley of cracked wrinkled asphalt, peppered with potholes and coloured with rivulets of sewage and rain water.