Notion of a nation

Everywhere you look, it appears that everyone is on the take.  Everyone has a price, and money, I am afraid, has no political colour.

’Tis the silly season – it has been for such a very long time. The usual posse of armchair critics pontificate on what should, or should not be done, and are in fact sinners themselves.  

They include those who preach on good governance and who themselves betray a lack of respect for ethical standards and are petty criminal as well.

It starts with the journalists who expect everyone to believe their often lopsided views, who pick and choose what is news and what is not. Who speculate and disseminate prejudice and lies.

I guess it culminates with this national widespread belief that paying tax should be avoided as far as possible without being found out, that the State should be shafted and that we are obliged to shaft it further.

We all know what it means when we have to deal with teachers and instructors in arts and culture who give private lessons to thousands of Maltese and Gozitan children.  

The absolute vast majority do not even declare their after hours earnings, or provide a tax receipt.  

Every year hundreds of thousands of euros are avoided in tax, I would suggest at a guess that at least 20,000 children take some form of private tuition every year and overall spend at least €10 million a year, and that is a very conservative estimate.   

The second class segment of sinners are the self-employed who have to be the mechanics, electricians, plumbers, tilers, plasterers, carpenters and builders who give their services and charge differently for work which is recorded and taxed, and for other that is not.

In this category, the amounts must run into the millions.  

Other categories exist, traders are a case in point. And from personal experience it is incredible that importers of white goods and electrical equipment can still offer goods at no VAT.

Then of course there are the road construction and other heavy industries which cook the figures, and the industry that provides services to the State and overcharges – in cahoots with the technicians who monitor their services.

Everyone, it appears, is willing to bend the rules, as long as they can make more money.

The restaurateurs who cannot find Maltese staff to work as waiters and waitresses, the Italians who open restaurants and then close down, the construction companies who employ Africans for peanuts. These and others avoid paying social security contributions for their unregistered employees.

And then perhaps the premier division must go to the specialists, medical practitioners and dentists, who are not obliged to declare their income. They have wide room in which to manoeuvre, those who do. Many, and these obviously do not include the ones who are really dedicated and honest, have such a high income that they then involve themselves in construction and speculation.

And if anyone wants names, then I am more than willing to offer some examples. Perhaps we could start with some members of parliament, from both sides of the house.

In the background of all this, we have institutionalised corruption.  The civil service and agencies who facilitate processing or favours by accepting bribes.  

And throughout my rather long journalistic experience, I have seen it happen in the maritime section, the car licences department, the driving school, MEPA, the lands department, EneMalta and all the other sections you can ever imagine. Everywhere.

Even the judiciary has been plagued by corruption. A chief justice, two judges and so many others. Not to mention other cases which go under the counter and may be difficult to ferret out.

The police are also harbingers of low standards and perhaps a cursory look at the former Commissioner of Police, Ray Zammit, and his two sons may reconfirm our belief in what we are talking about.

Everywhere you look, it appears that everyone is on the take.  Everyone has a price, and money, I am afraid, has no political colour.

So when Simon Busuttil accuses Labour of losing the nation’s morality, he should be advised to shut up and keep his opinion to himself.

No one has any hesitations – Glenn Bedingfield shoots off missives without thought, he does not have any appreciation of what it means to be a member of the Prime Minister’s staff and has an ethical problem with keeping his opinion to himself. And former finance minister Tonio Fenech presents a far more serious case, selling himself a ministerial car for a ridiculously low price just one day before the election.

Which brings us to the impossible and implausible excuses of Parliamentary Secretary Michael Falzon in defending the state of affairs at the Lands department.

It also must be extremely easy to question the silliness of Ian Borg and others, and I really believe that the overwhelming feeling is that the people who should not be lecturing us at all are the politicians, most especially those who spent 25 years purifying standards in the way that suited them.

Today’s MT survey says it all. The number of people who do not know how they will vote has risen to 18.6% from 13.3%. And the trust barometer of both Muscat and Busuttil has been slipping.

We are a nation of hypocrites, we feel perfectly comfortable donating monies to the Missions in faraway lands, but we get all worked up if the people who live in the Missions land on our territory.

We are a nation of quacks who donate generously to l-Istrina and engage in the ludicrous Presidential carnival of fundraising for charity, but then do not willingly pay our tax dues. Maybe our charity salves our conscience.

It is high time to start addressing the belief that tax evasion and avoidance are okay. 

Once we do that, we will become prouder citizens and perhaps more intolerant to the way we dispense with our State funding. 

We may perhaps consider being proud Maltese for the right reasons.


I laughed the other day watching a news video created by Din l-Art Ħelwa, with one of the contributors to the video happening to be Richard Cachia Caruana. 

The man, as everyone knows, was effectively the de facto Prime Minister during the Fenech Adami years. And he was there presiding over it all, when in their 25 years Malta had a facelift for the worse.

Cachia Caruana is the man who was given a cheque for €255,933.87, partly as terminal benefit, partly as emoluments, and partly as payment for leave he had not taken.

To accept that Malta was burdened with a concrete jungle and reckless planning from 9 March, 2013, but not before, just won’t go.

The changes in policies and the prevalent disregard for land, virgin or not, was part and parcel of the free market drive of the previous administration.

The only reason that the business community changed allegiance is simply that the administrative arm of the then government became sluggish and slow and was simply lethargic. Not because business people had suddenly embraced the environment. 

To suddenly see Cachia Caruana (who by the way was present for the PN convention on the environment) put his name to a Din l-Art Helwa video pleading for a countryside policy and the protection of heritage, when the man himself was responsible for many of the policies and decisions that had a direct, very negative impact on the countryside, is diabolical, to say the least. The wrongs done to the countryside was not made good by the removal of rusting, empty oil drums which were used with rubble walls.

It makes me vomit.

And that, I guess, is the problem of all those in my age bracket and with my baggage who are expected to sit down and watch a spectacle on the good and bad of environment policy organised by the same political party that considered the environment to have the same standing of a urinal.

I guess the counter argument to all this is that the PN has to start from somewhere. I cannot find fault with that but I suggest the PN should start by presenting some new faces to the team.

When I sit down at a convention and see the likes of George Pullicino and all the other old faces – I am very sorry, I am not at all convinced.

If MEPA today is exceedingly pro-construction, it is no different to what it was before 2013. Today the issue is not the MEPA demerger, the issue is what value is to be given to environmental criteria.  Demergers or mergers do not have a direct influence on the value of environmental standards.

Political will, will. It is the value given to the environmental standards that influences the demergers or mergers, because if there is value to the standards, the demergers or mergers will be done as they should be.

Will politicians be in favour of protecting Malta’s cultural heritage or biodiversity, when pitted against a multi-million euro investment project?

If there are no values, the answer to that question is very simple: environment talks, money walks!