Sunday 24 September 2017

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This goes beyond partisan politics

Once in a while an issue comes along which has people in agreement despite their politics. It goes beyond the usual, blinkered level of “what my party says do or die”,  although, of course, there will always be those who are more screamingly hysterical about a topic precisely because it can inflict maximum harm on their political opponents. Just as there will always be those who will justify something just because its their party which has suggested it.

The Individual Investor Programme (more commonly known as the citizenship scheme) being pushed through by this government is one such issue. From what I have read to date, and from today’s Malta Today survey, it is clear that the majority of people are either against it completely, or else have deep reservations about it.

I think on this one, the Labour government needs to get down from its high horse and seriously consider the amendments being proposed by the Opposition. Rather than just passports for cash, it should tie the possibility of acquiring Maltese citizenship with full-time residency and/or considerable investment. Above all, it really needs to make sure that the names of those who will be given a Maltese passport in exchange for 650,000 Euros, is made available to the public.  Anything else is unacceptable.

Having said that, there is lots of misinformation swirling around, as always happens when a topic become entrenched in the “us vs them” quagmire.

For example, I read that this scheme will give those who are applying “additional perks” which we don’t enjoy ourselves as Maltese. When I checked about these perks (preferential tax rates and VIP status when travelling) I could not find anything to confirm this.

It is also not true that acquiring a Maltese passport in this way will entitle the person to vote – only proof of actual residency gives you the right to vote, as so many Maltese citizens who do not live here permanently, and who have lost their voting rights, will tell you.

There is also an inherent contradiction by those who are saying they oppose the scheme because the sum being requested is too low. If you do not believe our citizenship should be for sale, then whether the amount is 650,000 Euros or six million Euros, your feelings should be the same, right?  Or to continue with the prostitution analogy that so many have used – whether you are a 25 Euro hooker or a 2,500 Euro call girl, you are still selling yourself….right?

On the same lines, one can also argue that investing in the country through a major project and providing employment are likewise not good enough grounds to simply grant citizenship, especially if we feel that ‘being Maltese’ is not something which should be for sale at any cost.

That leaves residency, and even if this is included as a condition, it will still remain a touchy topic. There are many EU citizens who have made Malta their permanent home, but who are still having problems with their E-residence card. They are at this very moment wrangling with Maltese bureaucracy and have taken their case to the law courts because they are being discriminated against on various fronts from simple bus fares and internet services providers to their bank loans and their water & electricity bills.

So it will be yet another slap in the face if someone from outside the EU can just waltz in and enjoy full residency benefits after living here for five years and be granted citizenship as well, simply because they have the cash to pay for it.  I thought we joined the EU precisely so that we can all live, work and study wherever we like, so why is Malta still carrying on with this discrimination?

Finally – and this is what most people are, rightly, objecting to the most – there is the anonymity of those who will be granted citizenship.  The way I’m reading the signs, the government needs to back down on this, because it will be its Waterloo.  While it seems to have listened to some criticism and is going to appoint the former head of the civil service Godwin Grima as the regulator, that is still not enough to placate fears that shady,  anonymous characters will be granted citizenship.   We want real assurance that a thorough scrutiny of candidates will be  carried out.

While there are those who believe this should all be settled by means of a referendum, I don’t think that we need to go to all that trouble. If the Labour government has its ear to the ground as it did so successfully during its election campaign, it should know fully well where public opinion rests on this matter.

And if the government persists in its stubbornness, the anger can only mount further.

 

 

 

 

  • Albert de Marco

    I am all for this – yes it will bring money to our country. As to the prostitution analogy: what do everyone think we did in 2004 when we became a European Union Member? We actually pay for that!!! Most politicians talk about what we are getting but most people do not know how much we actually pay every single day to be there. Whether we like it or not we have to accept what is thrown to us like the illegal emigration issue. These people risk their lives to come here and what price does a life has? In a nutshell African people risk their lives and the wealthy have to pay – I really don’t see much difference in real life. One last thing is that we better have millionaires who pay than to have (what we already have) millionaires who go about the island do what they want with everyone closing their eyes to all their wrongdoing. So lets stop being naive and do what really matters for our country

    • Edward

      All for it? You do realize that you are going to suffer the consequences of this scheme. The first will be the US which will definitely take us out of the visa waiver program. Then let’s not forget we have Schengen to think about too.

      And let’s also not forget the risk we will be putting our banks at, since anyone can buy our passports now, Russians, Pakistanis, Chinese etc, and with no proper due diligence checks and without anyone in Malta knowing who these people are because it all has to be top secret ( isn’t that a sign already?) who knows what types of fraudsters and gangsters will be using our banks to stash their dirty money.

      The EU is a very different story, opening doors up to the rest of us who are now able to travel around Europe and get better qualifications at a fraction of the price. We don’t serve the EU.

      But what am I saying, clearly you only care about money.

  • Lynn Zahra

    The scheme is undoubtedly discriminatory, but give me one example of a Maltese PM or Minister backing down, ever, in recent history. Don’t we all remember Dr.Gonzi boasting that he would be voting for the
    500 euro allowance on top of salary, “wholeheartedly” despite the public outcry?
    Again, a government or rather, a Prime Minister who back tracks will ultimately find himself in the same
    boat as that which F.Hollande finds himself in at present – he has no authority whatsoever, anywhere, not even in his home . Only a scheme which hits people’s pockets is going to become a Government’s Waterloo, as our Prime Minister know from experience. Little wonder then,that the government intends to run roughshod over the Opposition and Joe public’s opinion over this.

    • Edward

      The public outcry regarding the 500 Euro a month was all nonsense. As we can now see, the amount that MPs make is not enough and should be increased.

  • Edward

    I think you give a very woolly viewpoint.

    The PN often spoke about how suspicious it was that the PL had so much money. The PL didn’t tell us anything because they knew we would all be against it, and so they lied point blank to us all and laughed their heads off at us all while we stood against a party that was blatantly deceiving us. Yes, many PN supporters insisted on being told where all this money was going to come from, and even you called them brainwashed and paranoid and wrote it all off as the “tribal” politics promoted by the PN ( Sure, because the nature of the PL is not enough to make you view them skeptically).

    Now they have access to their millions and Malta will suffer. A deal that involves international fraudsters is no deal at all but a death sentence.

    The PN warned us about these things. Many of its supporters stood by their assessment of the PL as being a party of frauds and rotten ideas, and you defended them calling us “brainwashed”.

    Well, we were right, and if it hadn’t been for you and others like you we wouldn’t be lumped with this issue, and other issues like the part privatization of our electricity for example, an arrangement that has proved to be catastrophic the world over and never better for the people.

    Even now, when faced with the reality and the extent to which you were lied to, you still down play the gravity of the issue, exclude any related events like Dalli’s trip to the Bahamas and Muscat’s meetings in China as though they definitely have nothing to do with it, and just focus on what you call an over-reaction to what definitely is a disastrous idea.

  • Rational thinking

    @ Edward. If the PN was so transparent and intent on showing where the parties got their money from, the party leaders should have got off their 500 Euro pampered-arses and introduced proper party financing and diclosure laws. They did zilch, nada….in 20 years or so.
    The IIP is not the disastrous life-changing event you are making it out to be. Michael Gonzi said there was nothing wrong with selling citizenship as long as it was done properly. Albert Fenech said the same thing.
    As for all the Russians, Pakistanis etc you seem to be so petrified of…what’s stopping them for marrying a Maltese national for 5 years and acquiring citizenship for free? Stop getting hysterical and silly and insulting of people who don’t want to vote PN

    • Edward

      To say the PN did nothing for 20 odd years or so is laughable. They got an ailing country on the brink of civil war and turned it into a developed EU country. That was no mean feat, especially with the Pl around constantly trying to put a stop to it. Believe it or not Malta had bigger problems to deal with, like making sure our water was clean enough to use, cut ties with places like Libya and North Korea, and make the most of whatever it is that KMB left us.

      “If it’s done properly” are the key words there Mr Rational Thinking. This is not being done properly. There is no way we are going to find out who these new citizens are and what their business with Malta will be. As Hanley and Partners says “Malta is the easiest and quickest option” which means all the other countries are making it damned hard for people to acquire citizenship, especially America which, even if you have gone through all the checks and due diligence, can still decide to reject your application. Malta is literally just selling it and keeping it all secret. Why? And why is it that the people who are making the money out of this are also the people approving or denying applications? Does that even make sense to you? It’s like an auto-dealer approving licenses when the person is then going to buy a car from them. It means nothing.

      There is plenty stopping these people from marrying a Maltese person. First they actually have to find a Maltese person, then they have to get them to marry them, then they have to prove they are actually married since you can’t just get married to a foreigner and that’s that-yes they actually ask very personal questions over the years to make sure you’ve actually seen each other naked.

      Not much of a rational thinker, are you?

  • Oisin Jones-Dillon

    This latest international outrage at Malta’s errant antics compounds the fact that all 760 non-Maltese MEPs have received the following online petitions and are, therefore, informed of the systemic price discrimination against and institutional abuse in Malta of their law-abiding compatriots, most of whom cannot afford EURO 650.000 to buy Maltese citizenship.

    A) “EU Commission: Stop the discrimination of EU Nationals in Malta”:

    http://www.change.org/petitions/eu-commission-stop-the-discrimination-of-eu-nationals-in-malta

    B) Online Petition: Comisión Europea: Que acabe la discriminacion a los ciudadanos europeos en Malta:

    https://www.change.org/petitions/comisi%C3%B3n-europea-que-acabe-la-discriminacion-a-los-ciudadanos-europeos-en-malta-2?utm_campaign=share_button_mobile&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition

    In addition, as regards systemic price discrimination against and institutional abuse in Malta, the EU-funded, but illegally implemented ‘E-residence’ Card scheme, bus fares, internet / telephony / Pay TV service provision, bank credit cards / loans and water & electricity bills are just the tip of the iceberg:

    In this regard, please see:

    http://eucadmalta.webs.com/about

    Earlier today, a petitioner cited his ‘Reason for signing’ – as follows: ‘Will be opening a business soon in Malta and if this country doesn’t comply to EU rules, we will go somewhere else…’

    What’s more, as a direct result of systemic institutional price discrimination and abuse, some aggrieved non-Maltese EU citizens have already left the island – and in the process – not only withdrawn investments far in excess of EURO 650.000, but cautioned others – elsewhere – against investing anything in this place:

    In this regard, please see:

    1) Investing Expatriates – iExpats:

    http://www.iexpats.com/expat-anger-at-paying-higher-prices-to-live-in-malta/

    2) Expatsvillage – where global expats get the local buzz:

    http://expatsvillage.com/2013/04/malta-expats-up-in-arms-at-eu-timidity/

    And then the Maltese authorities have the brazen gall to bemoan how friendless Malta is in Europe.

    • I completely agree with you Oisin, and if I were in your shoes I would be livid as well. But, of course, the grievances and concerns of ex-pats are not high on the list of priorities because you are a relatively small community. I wish you luck in winning your case.

      • Oisin Jones-Dillon

        On the contrary, the grievances and concerns of non-Maltese EU residents are becoming of increasing local significance given that recent preliminary figures in respect of enrolments on the European Parliament electoral register suggest that this electoral segment may determine the outcome of the sixth seat in the 2014 European Parliament elections in Malta.

        In addition, by dint of legal, electoral, cultural and linguistic reasons, the estimated 25,000 non-Maltese EU residents enjoy unfettered access to all 27 EU parliaments, media and businesses, 760 non-Maltese MEPs, the European Commission as well as the European Parliament Committee on petitions – and to substantive effect.

        By way of example, please see:

        1) European Commission reply to Petition 1406/2012 by Oisin Jones Dillon (Irish) on discrimination by the Maltese authorities towards EU nationals resident in Malta in relation to vessel owner fees and irregularities in identity documents in the shipping registry which effectively conceals the true ownership of certain shipping vessels:

        http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=COMPARL&reference=PE-521.564&format=PDF&language=EN&secondRef=01

        2) The Sunday Express: Sunday, 19th May, 2013: Brits hit by power bill rip-off on holiday isle – BRITONS who live in Malta are being hit with huge power and water bills because they are not Maltese.

        http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/400719/Brits-hit-by-power-bill-rip-off-on-holiday-isle

  • Dahlia Cynthia Grech

    There has obviously been a concerted effort to completely discredit the Government’s IIP proposal by the Opposition and the usual Cabal who seem to spend their time spitefully spluttering on blogs and comments boards. They have still not yet got over the fact that they don’t have direct access to Castille and the rest of the power base anymore.
    They are doing their utmost to damage the Government and tearing apart, in a mad frenzy, almost every initiative it is taking.
    That the sale of Citizenship proposal has its flaws, there is little doubt. Some are proposing a Referendum. But a Referendum is a very expensive undertaking which Malta can little afford. I am confident that this Government, who listens to people, will revise the proposal and make it beyond reproach thus allaying our worst fears. Labour is working, much to the disgust of some. And will go on working for many years to come.

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