11 July 2001
Last Wednesdays launch of The Malta Business & Financial Times was a resounding success, with the new revamped look and special focus on the news and business pages being warmly welcomed by many of our readers.
We must add here that last September, according to a scientific survey, the newspaper (then The Business Times) represented 40% of the entire business newspaper market.
Considering that we were at the time one year old, the result was very encouraging.
However, todays figure should be better.
The event was marked by a seminar at the Corinthia Palace in Attard that took an in-depth look at the debate on statistics.
The guests invited were none other than Finance Minister John Dalli and his counterpart, Leo Brincat.
It is so typical that the war over the veracity of statistics wages on, despite the transparency in several of the methodologies involved.
Mr Dalli argued that many of the interpretations presented by the Labour party were irrelevant, for they failed to consider the modules under which they were operating. He also accused the Labour party of seeing red when there was no red.
He said that many of Maltas statistical methods were changing for the better and that they are bringing Malta closer to what is expected in the European statistical arena.
He poignantly stated that one should respect numbers, since numbers told stories in the same way that words do.
Mr Leo Brincat, however, was less forthcoming on the matter, arguing that there are still many black holes in the way statistics are presented and gathered in Malta.
The event did little to reduce the gaping chasm existing between the government and the opposition. But one thing is sure, in this day and age we are more informed about the chemistry of our economy the fact that we have differing sources or approaches should not be interpreted as an exercise in manipulation, but rather as a different way of looking at things.
There was, however, one very important news item that was totally ignored by the entire press.
This relates to the insistence that VAT will not be taken on board by Labour if it were to be re-elected.
Mr Brincat, who is a serious sort of guy, replied when asked by a journalist, that the Labour party was looking closely at this issue and was not particularly enthused over the prospect of changing Maltas tax regime once again.
Indeed, he admitted that Malta can no longer support such radical reforms with every change in government.
He did not say that VAT would be removed or retained, but his opting to remain obscure on the matter points to a trend that a Labour government will not remove VAT.
This is good news, for it removes one negative element from that complicated understanding of what our tax regime should and should not be.
Having said this, one should also add that one finds it very difficult to understand why Labour, of all people, should be objecting to this effective indirect taxation system.
And we welcome Labours mature transformation.
Tuna war highlights political vacuum
The latest developments in the Tuna war have left some scars. The Fiera tal-Hut organised annually by the Nationalist party has been cancelled for the first time in many years.
The Nationalist party is facing a crisis: for starters it has been lacking the forceful characters that had dominated it in yesteryear. And secondly, it has suffered far too much from the errors of its government.
Putting the Nationalist partys house in order is not a major concern for this newspaper, but the malaise within the party and sectors within government is a reflection on the country as a whole.
The Tuna war is not entirely the Governments fault, but when dealing with fishermen one does not send young enthusiastic officers acting like boy scouts. And, no matter what is stated in affidavits, the fact remains that the Maltese AFM were stern with the wrong people.
We all know that the Maltese fishermen want to have their cake and eat it. At the beginning of the nineties they had helped the Sicilians locate the Tuna and then pillaged on the killing which they sold for an astronomical value to the Maltese consumer.
However, when they demanded more than their fair share, the Sicilians opted for spotter planes instead of spotter Maltese fishermen, who had become too greedy.
The Maltese had lost many of the free large catches that they preyed upon. Maltese fishermen were never partial to long stays at sea.
Yet, Sicilian fishermen who spend two to three months away from home
and the prices of their fish catches are still abundantly cheaper than
those sold by Maltese fishermen.