Reputation means jobs

Unless the Government puts its house in order next time round we might not be so lucky. If Malta is listed as a tax haven, that would cause untold harm to our economy, and put thousands of jobs in danger

At the heart of the Pilatus Bank saga, are jobs – thousands of them – for what is at stake is Malta’s reputation.

The Iranian national is chairman of what international news networks aptly call ‘a Maltese bank’. No spin, no press conferences to scale down the gravity of the matter will lessen the reputational damage this scandal has on Malta. It can be mended only if the authorities do the right thing: revoke the Pilatus Bank licence. That was the stand taken by Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia when news broke that the Pilatus Bank chairman was to be arraigned in the US. Delia’s tone was measured. He focused on what matters most: reputation, for reputation means jobs.

As I write, Pilatus Bank’s licence stands. Measures have been taken by the MFSA – but they are not good enough. Malta has an excellent reputation in the financial services industry. That is the fruit of hard labour along the years. It is now at stake. It risks being dealt a severe blow which would have a disastrous impact on thousands of jobs. In a nutshell, the refusal by the Maltese authorities to revoke the Pilatus Bank licence sends the wrong message across the globe.

The bank’s chairman is facing – should he be found guilty – life imprisonment. That is a good enough reason for the local authorities to put a stop to this charade before it turns into a tragedy. For what we are about to witness might wreak havoc to Malta’s financial services industry – and the jobs of accountants; auditors; financial planners; insurance intermediaries; clerks; lawyers and hundreds of other occupations may be put at risk. That would affect Maltese and foreign workers and companies who made Malta their home due to its strong financial services industry. The loss of jobs would have a negative effect on the rental market, ruining the lives of small-time investors who rent out their properties to foreigners working in Malta’s financial services industry.

Other EU members states must be rubbing their hands in glee – and soon the usual suspects, mostly German and French MEPs’ shall milk the current situation to their favour by, once again, claiming that Malta’s financial services industry, and the tax incentives we offer to foreign companies are ‘unfair’ and must be scrapped.

At the European Parliament, the most unfair action ever taken by foreign MEPs against Malta was by the Socialist Group in the European Parliament. Recently, they tabled a motion asking Parliament to blacklist Malta as a tax haven. Aided and abetted by the Government’s lack of action to put a stop to the current rot on matters of law and order, Socialist MEPs – mostly French and Germans – milked the occasion to suit their main hidden agenda: putting Malta out of business. It was narrowly defeated.

However, that was – and I trust government considers it as being so – an alarm bell. Unless the Government puts its house in order next time round we might not be so lucky. If Malta is listed as a tax haven, that would cause untold harm to our economy, and put thousands of jobs in danger.

The latest Pilatus Bank saga complicates matters. It must be addressed. Joseph Muscat and Edward Scicluna must do the right thing: encourage the Malta Financial Services Authority to revoke the Pilatus Bank licence.

 

Frank Psaila is a lawyer and anchors Iswed fuq l-Abajd on NET TV

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