Editorial | Good governance is a state of mind

This leader does not believe an amnesty is justified and it could send the wrong signals at a time when Malta is slowly but surely emerging from a dark period


It is positive that Malta’s efforts over the past 22 months to strengthen good governance have been recognised by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

In her State of the Union speech yesterday, Von der Leyen singled out Malta for its efforts to enact changes that strengthened the rule of law.

By mentioning Malta in what is arguably the Brussels executive chief’s most important statement to the European Parliament, Von der Leyen gave credence to the positive developments in good governance that kicked off with Robert Abela’s administration.

Judicial appointments are now outside the executive’s remit, the President will require a two-thirds majority in parliament to be appointed and the candidate selected to become police commissioner will have to undergo parliamentary scrutiny.

These changes have put more distance between the government and other branches of the State, effectively clipping some of the overarching powers of the prime minister.

Since January 2020, there also seems to be greater political will to tackle financial crime, which has resulted in a number of high profile prosecutions.

But emerging from the dark patch the country was plunged in by the Panama Papers and subsequently the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia will take more than a series of legal changes.

Robust laws are needed to ensure justice, transparency and a level playing field for all. Good laws are needed to lay out what is acceptable and not in a modern globally intertwined society.

Malta has made the right noises in this regard but more has to be done to regulate ethical aspects of public administration.

Good governance is not just about a series of legal changes but also a state of mind.

It is within this context that politicians must take a deep and hard look at how they discharge their functions and the relations they keep with constituents and businesses.

The rush to dish out government jobs on the eve of an election – something flagged recently by the Malta Employers’ Association – and the multitude of government funds being used for embellishment projects in ministers’ constituencies are examples of lame governance at the very least.

Tax evasion is another major issue of concern. From the reluctance of some service providers and shops to give out fiscal receipts to the more serious transfer of millions of euros through the Maltese financial system by foreign shell companies to skive tax and launder illicit funds, tax evasion can be considered the next frontier of crime fighting.

Indeed, the Financial Action Task Force flagged criminal tax evasion as a problem, which contributed to Malta’s greylisting.

It is heartening to hear Finance Minister Clyde Caruana say that the budget will include measures to fight tax evasion and ensure that arrears are collected.

Within this context, it is baffling how the media companies belonging to the two major political parties were allowed to get away with overdue tax bills running into millions for years.

Caruana has pledged that efforts to collect all dues will not spare the political parties. Good governance dictates that what is good for the goose is good for the gander and political party companies should not be afforded privileges private companies don’t enjoy.

How Caruana plans to tackle the issue remains unclear, although his words do seem to suggest a tax amnesty of sorts could be on the cards.

This leader does not believe an amnesty is justified and it could send the wrong signals at a time when Malta is slowly but surely emerging from a dark period.

The positive developments in good governance must continue being strengthened. Whether government and politicians can resist the temptation of closing one eye because an election is round the corner, is another thing altogether.

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