Toni should be Labour’s choice

Muscat’s action sends a wrong message: that fiscal impropriety is tolerated. But he also presents a formula that could win him the next election, because he knows that the media influence voters, but they do not actually change the vote.

It all started with an item about a trust in New Zealand. We all know that was part of the story. The very fact that the rest of the story was kept under wraps should have led to some serious political action.

That did not materialise.

The end result was a reshuffle before May 1, Workers’ day, which makes electoral sense for the Prime Minister but which also means that he will be accused of lacking the good sense of standing up to be counted.  In essence he did an Eddie Fenech Adami – defend his men at all costs. And those who have any memory will know what I am talking about.  

When Eddie Fenech Adami was faced with damning evidence about his errant ministers – Louis Galea was one – he did what Muscat did. Defend his patch against all odds, and consolidate his grip on government and win elections.

Muscat’s action sends a wrong message; that fiscal impropriety is tolerated. And that is very wrong. But on the other hand he also presents a formula that could win him the next election, because he knows that the media influence voters, but they do not actually change the vote.

Many people ask why should Joe Citizen pay his dues and carry out banking activities in Malta but not shift to other regimes where less tax is charged, ending with making higher earnings. That, I guess is the question we lesser mortals ask ourselves every single day.
Anyone with social democracy in their heart will have problems digesting the PM’s decisions.

The PM has obviously made his calculations and concluded that what has been lost in terms of votes is not recoverable but that this move will hopefully stanch a continuing haemorrhage of votes. And he knows that he has two years in which to convince the middle road that he is still a better alternative. It could be a perfectly Machiavellian calculation or else it could be a major political blunder.

Only time will tell.

The next seat to be filled in parliament is of course that of Leo Brincat, who is to be nominated to the European Court of Auditors, and there is also that of the party deputy leader, vacated by Konrad Mizzi after the maelstrom the offshore Panama company spawned.

Now there is little time to beat around the bush, but I feel strongly that Toni Abela should be called back for the post of deputy leader, which he gave up.

He is of course a very good friend I have. And I am biased and clearly influenced. But I also know that there are not many people who can stand and be counted like Toni Abela. His record attests to that.

Now Abela is no great organiser, not a born administrator, and I guess the political parties brought in Gino Cauchi (PL) and Brian St John (PN) to address this particular problem. Abela is however a good politician, a person who articulates an argument and rationalises an issue; a person who is not close to business, does not dine and wine with business and one who is close to the hearts of the common people, the masses.

But what Abela has is full integrity and a clear ideological direction: an ideology that is particularly rich in those ingredients that make a party identify itself as social democratic.  

I know that ‘business’ is important, but really it is not the most important element when one comes to choose a deputy leader. You need someone who lives and breathes politics and is able to decipher the good from the bad, the principle from the pragmatism, the compromise from the sacrifice.

Politics is not all about selling yourself, it is also about being yourself. Abela is the right ingredient at the moment. He may not be the suave Fearne or the technocratic Konrad Mizzi, but he has something else to offer: the spirit of conviction.

He is strong in the belief that politics is not about getting in there and making a quick buck, but in serving. His nomination’s withdrawal from the European Court of Auditors proves it. He withdrew, though he could have gone to the European Parliament for another hearing. The other two nominees who were also rejected by the committee, passed the test.

For years we have continued to argue that the construction industry, the financial services and gaming industries are crucial for the country. And this is the problem.

Abela may not give or do what Chris Cardona does to the business community, but he brings something more significant. He drives home the message that social democracy is still all about integrity, social justice, respect and the quality of life. It is about a quality of life that is not determined by trying to make everyone stinking rich, which is impossible, but about more equality and opportunity. You do not have to be rich, but you can be comfortable.

Needless to say this part of the deal, is what Muscat is supposed to be all about and in some issues he has succeeded.

Abela has been a champion of social justice and the environment and more importantly he speaks the language of those Labourites who are not obsessed with Ralph Lauren or fast cars. He does not believe in the hogwash that when people at the top become richer it sort of trickles down. It never does of course, as some accountants and lawyers can explain, being part of the industry that assists in the culture and trade of tax evasion and avoidance.

Toni Abela has spoken of those on the margins of society, and reminds others than when one militates in politics, it is not about form but about content. He’s not one to care about dress or what his car looks like, but he sure knows what is left and right: he is in essence the perfect politician to balance the new wave in Labour that has taken the party to the centre and in some respects, to the right when it comes to the economy, as if business were the core of political belief.

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Ray Demicoli is an architect, and one of his clients owns the Ramla Bay Hotel which is being revamped with a design that will probably be liked by most people who appreciate architectural design.

Before the Planning Authority rubber-stamped the decision and confirmed that it is after all an organisation that facilitates the transformation of this country from green to grey, Demicoli said that the borth needed something that would stick out. His precise words were ‘an iconic landmark’.

This is what differentiates us from the likes of Ray Demicoli and others. Whereas most of us simply enjoy the sight of an untouched piece of coastline and adore the contours of Malta and Gozo, Demicoli thinks that his architecture in the shape of a heart constructed out of metal and cement is full of soul and life.

It is of course an illusion. Perhaps we have got it all wrong, and Demicoli, the father of so many other iconic projects, sees Malta not as it was but as a showcase for ‘monuments’ that put us at par with cities that have lost their identity. Unlike Demicoli I want my children to have a country that is not made of metal dipped in concrete.

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Nemea Bank is under administration. So I have decided to publish a comment from a reader by the name of Henrik Piski who decided to comment about this fiasco which involves some well known individuals. Needless to say the words speak for themselves:

“This week, Nemea Bank Malta has been put under administration over ‘serious’ regulatory shortcomings. In summer last year, Nemea Bank made the news in Netherlands and Belgium as they were offering term deposit accounts remunerated at 4% while local banks were mainly offering negative interest rates. This has resulted in investigations started by the European Central Bank who ultimately asked the Malta Financial Services Authority to investigate the matter. As a result of this inspection, a number of serious regulatory shortcomings have been identified and the Maltese authority has decided to take regulatory action to safeguard the interests of depositors and other creditors of the bank.

“I wonder which interests are being safeguarded, as companies cannot access or transfer their funds from Nemea Bank. Many customers opened their accounts at Nemea Bank after having lived an ordeal in Cyprus when the Cypriot banking system had collapsed. Malta had been advertised as a safe haven for financial matters and as being well regulated. Well, we can’t say that anymore as once again, the Malta Financial Services Authority has failed in its role.”