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MT 18 September 2016

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maltatoday, SUNDAY, 18 SEPTEMBER 2016 22 T here are some who still think that MEPs from other European Union states can be told how to vote. That they will willingly oblige and march to orders. What these people do not realise is that there is a world of a difference between politics in Malta and that on the rest of the continent. What they do not realise is that the European Parliament sees itself as a counter balance to the powers of member state governments and the EU Commission. Then there is this plainly stupid idea of 'working in favour of Malta' – where the government of the day and its minions define what 'working in favour of Malta' means. It was the same stupid argument used by the Nationalist Party in government when in the past it accused Alternattiva Demokratika (AD) of 'not working in favour of Malta' – because we lobbied in favour of stopping spring hunting, when the PN government and its MEPs where lobbying to keep the practise. As if their government's bending over backwards to accommodate some people was ever 'in favour of Malta'. There are different visions of what is in Malta's favour and what isn't. Whatever the issue, wherever the forum, serious politicians vote for or against something or someone depending on the issue. Government is not 'Malta'. The Nationalist and Labour Parties throw around accusations of 'not working in Malta's interest' against anyone opposing their policies and actions when in government. They photocopy their rhetoric from each other's filing cabinet. *** A 'centre of the world' mentality has also recently shown up in the arguments about tax evasion by large companies. These play one country against the other by moving their head office – consisting of a lawyer's office, and maybe a secretary or two – to countries in which they pay hardly any taxes. Luxembourg and Ireland have been shown to give preferential treatment to some companies – such as Apple, Ikea and Google, amongst others. The recent EU Commission ruling that Apple must pay Ireland billions in tax, shows the extent of such tax dodging systems. The race to the bottom can become very dangerous. Workers and employees are asked to contribute through taxation to the state. They are told that public healthcare expenses are becoming unsustainable, and that decent pensions are at risk. At the same time mega-corporations get to pay next to nothing back to society. Malta is involved – with the blessing of both Labour (PL) and the Nationalist Party (PN) – in legal tax evasion practices as well. Of course there is the argument that since it is legal, since other countries do it, then we should make hay while the sun shines. Sure. But then we also cannot complain and moan and groan when other countries decide to take unilateral punitive measures against companies who they consider aren't paying their fair share of taxes. Finance Minister Edward Scicluna should be preparing plans to diversify the product offerings of the financial services industry, and for a compromise on EU- wide minimum corporate taxation levels. Yes, Malta is sovereign when it comes to tax matters, but other countries are sovereign too. There is no stopping them from taking action to recoup what they deem is theirs. This issue will not go away. *** It is quite amusing to observe how desperate the big boys can become. The PN and its hangers-on in the media have already started the usual 'we are the only alternative' narrative. The reality is that whatever the electoral system, whatever their rhetoric – and despite a desperate attempt to greenwash some of their policies – the only way to show them the middle finger is through the ballot box. Of course, most would say that there are a host of other reasons to shake the two-party PL/PN system. Can I remind you of the mass destruction of PN policies in the environmental field? Their refusal to acknowledge that poor people need a decent wage, the selling-off of the public housing stock, their disastrous transport policies – leading to dirty and polluted air and congested towns and villages? The faces have changed but the policies have remained basically the same. You have to be naive not to realise that they do not really mean what they say. That Muscat lied trough his teeth when promising a 'different kind of politics' and that Busuttil is just pandering to the gullible, with all the usual cronies waiting in the wings. But perhaps one day we'll have real, proper and fruitful discussions in Parliament rather than the usual 'min għandu l-akbar banana' theatrics. Ralph Cassar is secretary-general of Alternattiva Demokratika Opinion Government is not Malta Ralph Cassar The only way to show them the middle finger is through the ballot box… and most would say there are a host of other reasons to shake the two-party PL/ PN system There is this plainly stupid idea of 'working in favour of Malta' – where the government of the day and its minions define whatever that means

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