Analysis | All citizens are equal, but some…

The Prime Minister’s palliative to remove secrecy from the controversial IIP probably puts his own voters’ minds at rest, but still leaves the discriminatory nature of the citizenship sale a sore point.

The urgency of the way the IIP amendments were passed, suggest it was informed by the need of €15 million for Muscat’s budget.
The urgency of the way the IIP amendments were passed, suggest it was informed by the need of €15 million for Muscat’s budget.

The eleventh-hour removal of a secrecy clause from the Individual Investor Programme has partially neutralised the harsh criticism the €30 million passport sale has attracted - but questions on its urgency and the discriminatory two-tier system of naturalisation remain unanswered.

The decision has vindicated a public opposition marked by MaltaToday's survey that showed 53% of the people were opposed to the scheme and 71% said the names of IIP citizens should be made public. Joseph Muscat's U-turn on a confidentiality clause ostensibly included on insistence of advisors Henley, clearly shows he has the nerve to admit he was wrong. The motives are political and strategic, surely. But there isn't much wrong in a politician who hears his critics.

That still doesn't change the fact that government refused to concede on amendments the Opposition forwarded to remove secrecy, a sigh of poor judgement or an overreliance on Henley's hard-sell. Removing secrecy may further reduce the risk of undesired and shady applicants for the IIP, but it won't prevent the international media from ridiculing the scheme. 'Citizenship for sale in Malta' and 'Malta offers EU citizenship to anyone with €650,000' were among the international headlines on Tuesday - and beyond the less-than-flattering headlines, it was the reports highlighting the incongruities between the government's botched pushback of migrants, and the €650,00 passport sale that rankled.

Talent vs euros

Muscat says the IIP's target is not income "but the talent and networking which we will attract". And yet the international perception is that 'cash-strapped' Malta is desperately looking for a quick-fix solution to restrain its debt. The British conservative broadsheet, The Daily Telegraph, claimed Malta's "rather more welcoming attitude to wealthy foreigners is largely financial" while Italian liberal daily Corriere Della Sera want as far as saying: 'Empty coffers. Malta is now selling its citizenship.'

The urgency of the way the IIP amendments were passed, with no concession to the Opposition's amendments, suggest it was informed by the need of €15 million from the new revenues for Muscat's budget and to be first in line before other EU countries follow suit. But the number of applicants is set to exceed the government's conservative estimates: once the country's coffers are receive a massive cash injection in 2014, this will placate some of the harshest critics of the scheme.

Concessionaires Henley already have over 200 applicants lined up. At €650,000 for each passport, the IIP would boost the country's economy well beyond the government's modest projections, covering the shortfall of the income tax cuts inherited from the PN government. And although it was expected that 90% of the IIP funds will be ring-fenced in a National Development Fund for health, education and social financing, no legislation has been yet proposed to regulate this fund and the way the money is spent.

Constitutional reform

The PN - currently in the throes of an 'identity' reawakening in its General Council - might see the removal of the secrecy clause a vindication of its strong opposition. Their amendments to the law, sensibly aimed at linking the IIP to long-term investment and residence, were in tune with the public's misgivings. But in its stern resistance the PN has seemingly embraced Tea Party tactics intent on destabilizing government at all costs.

With its request for a minimum five-year residence and €5 million investment, the PN's amendment would not have removed the great discrepancy between the rich who will pay for naturalisation, and those at the mercy of the minister's discretion in granting naturalisation. The classic case are refugees or migrants, who work, pay tax, send children to Maltese schools, often learning the language and assimilating into Maltese society.

Citizenship laws should be standardised: and what better place to do so than the forthcoming Constitutional Convention headed by Franco Debono? It would be a perfect opportunity to harmonise citizenship laws and ensure that all persons, poor and rich, interested in obtaining a Maltese passport are treated equally.

A number of requirements such as a three- or five-year residence coupled with mandatory language and cultural tests, should be discussed by the representative convention, which will oversee constitutional reform.


Alternattiva Demokratika this week proposed an abrogative referendum to do away with the IIP. While this could be a short-term solution it will not eliminate the current flaws in the citizenship law. Moreover, The Green Party is currently campaigning for a referendum on spring hunting and with 20,000 signatures collected: AD should stray away from any further distractions in its quest to collect, together with a coalition of NGOs, a remaining 14,000 signatures needed for the referendum.

If the PN had to take up this proposal and campaign in favour of holding an abrogative referendum, it risks antagonising the issue. It would alienate a portion of the electorate, which is opposed to the scheme despite voting Labour in the March election. With the crucial European elections just six months away, such a move would not bode well for PN leader Simon Busuttil, who has made winning a third seat in the European Parliament an imperative objective. There is no doubt that among those voters who do not approve of the IIP, a Nationalist-backed referendum would draw political lines and see even opponents of the citizenship sale, vote against its abrogation because they are Labour voters.

Jurgen, when in your house you let in those who YOU want not those who pretend that they have a right to enter. Moreover, it is YOU who dictate what they have to do or how much to pay or whether YOU want them or not, not they or anyone else.
Why are we still avoiding the real issues such as the purchasing power of the workers which for the past five years has dwindle and some are now facing worse conditions than those in countries which have declared austerity measures. We are fully aware of the ever stringent problem that is the country's deficit. However this can be tackled by improving the fiscal law make it attractive for one to participate and not avoid. the tax on rent is a case in point... less tax but more revenue. and the widows pension option thumbs up an opportunity for the few but every drop counts. so lets get more ideas and forget the easy money which from experience.... only lands one in trouble!
(1) "the international media from ridiculing the scheme". Which responsible, independent "international" media (the Daily Telegraph? HaHaHa!) did you have in mind? Those that have friends in certain international fora? Or those that had the field to themselves and now have some real competition? (2) And what is wrong in attracting talent and have them pay for the privilege to our shores? Better than attracting African, East european and/or Asian marriage proposals @ peanuts money. (3) "PN might see the removal of the secrecy clause a vindication of its strong opposition." Don't make me laugh! This was due to the administration listening to ALL their valid critics, as distinct to automatic, always-on negativity gurus. (4) Please, Jurgen, encourage Xmun to go for a referendum re this issue.
Why should illegal immigrants who came here illegally and about whom we know absolutely nothing about be allowed to become Maltese citizens?
Hawn xi pajjiz fid-dinja fejn jittratta ic-cittadini barranin ahjar minn tieghu? Semmi xi wiehed please! Fejn: L-Amerika, ir-Russja? Anqas fil-United Nations Building ma tista tidhol u tridt permess (passaport) ahseb u ara! Iddahkuniex please! Issa ta l-AD u xi akkolti tal-PN saru komunisti u anarkici? Vera pwerili! Meta il-paga u l-assi l-ohra tibdew taqsmuhom bejn minn n;ghandux (tahdem kemm tiflah u tikkomsma kemm tehtieg) bhal ma kien jghid Marx: nidhol maghkom!