The government’s mismanagement of the financial sector was a key reason why Malta had dropped to its lowest-ever place on Transparency International’s corruption index, the shadow minister for finance, Mario de Marco, said in Parliament. 

The Economist, he said in Parliament, described Malta as having acquired a reputation for “financial sleaze”, which, he admitted, was hurtful to read being one who knew just how hard many people in the sector had worked to attain excellence.

Dr de Marco said the International Monetary Fund had struck a note of caution with respect to Malta’s dependence on funds raised from the sale of citizenship. The island’s high reliance on the Individual Investors Programme and corporate tax, the IMF had also noted, made it vulnerable to regime changes. 

The MP said an explosion in the cost of property was leading to the “pricing out” of Maltese families from the property market, leaving them unable to afford to rent or buy property. He called on the government to take heed of the IMF’s call for the introduction of measures to enable low-income Maltese families to access housing. 

Heed IMF call to enable low-income families to access housing

Dr de Marco pointed out that there were rumblings of an economic downturn on the horizon and the eurozone started 2019 with the lowest economic activity in five years.

An international crisis would inevitably affect the Maltese economy and the government’s rampant increases in the recurrent expenditure were putting Malta in a worse, not a better, position to withstand economic shocks.

Referring to the government’s ongoing recruitment in the civil service, he argued that instead of “lean government” Malta now had “excess government”.

Foreign Minister Carmelo Abela rebutted Dr de Marco’s claims, stating that more civil servants were needed to be recruited to service Malta’s “great ambitions” and to maintain the quality of government initiatives. He referred to his own ministry’s efforts to promote the country’s interests abroad, informing the House of a new embassy due to open in Japan.

He noted that 90 per cent of newly-created jobs had been generated in the private sector.

When he served as home affairs minister, he had experienced first-hand the difficulty of recruiting new workers, Mr Abela said.