PN MP warns Panama Papers derailing Malta’s fight against tax harmonisation

Kristy Debono calls for debate on whether bank interest rates and charges should be lowered, in light of MFSA study 

Opposition MP Kristy Debono sounded a warning that the presence of minister Konrad Mizzi and OPM chief of staff Keith of Schembri in the Panama Papers is derailing the government’s fight against EU tax harmonization.

She told a conference organised by the Malta Association of Credit Management that the prime minister’s failure to fire the two holders of offshore companies risks dismantling the country’s financial services industry.

“This scandal means that our name, our jurisdiction, is being fairly or unfairly associated with precisely some of those names which do no good to our reputation,” she said.

“Its arguments in favour of transparency would have been significantly diluted by failing to take action on such matters.

“While internationally this news will percolate for a long time, I truly hope that the necessary strong action is taken locally to allow the country to get back to business as usual, up to the extent this is possible, in the shortest timeframe possible.”

She said that the Opposition will stand four-square behind the government’s fight against tax harmonization, but warned that the country must brace itself for all options.  

“We have to be innovative and forward-thinking in our approach…we need to continuously seek ways to strengthen our country’s competitive edge. We need to be thinking about potential investment – which are the niches of tomorrow?

‘Debate needed on bank interest rates’

In her speech, Debono also called for a debate on whether bank interest rates and charges should be lowered, after studies by the MFS and the Competition Authority last year ruled that they were too high.

“While I appreciate the conservative model of our banking structures, a model which has ensured stability, it is also important that the economic health of our nation depends on the private ventures. The support by the banking system is therefore ultimately to the economy’s benefit.”

The General Retailers and Traders Union has accused local banks of stifling SME growth through the imposition of high interest rates and excessive charges.

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