Ma jirnexxilix nifga tbissima qarsa kull meta nisma’ jew niġi wiċċ imb’wiċċ ma’ xinhu jitwettaq fill-kampanja Ewropea li għaddejja bħalissa għal-limitazzjoni u l-kontroll fuq l-użu tal-plastik. Naqbel ma’ dil-kampanja għax veru d-dinja qed taffaċċja kriżi bil-volumi ta’ skart tal-plastikk li qed jiżgħudu kullimkien, mhux l-anqas ibħra.

Imma r-regoli tal-Unjoni Ewropea sal-lum jaħtu bil-kbir għal dan il-fenomenu. Niftakar kif meta saru n-negozjati għad-dħul ta’ Malta fl-Unjoni, din insistiet li jitneħħew l-arranġamenti li kellna f’Malta li aġevolaw l-użu tal-fliexken fil-bejgħ ta’ prodotti bħal ilma minerali u “soft drinks”. Ir-regoli tal-Unjoni kienu jippermettu li l-plastikk jingħata d-dritta. Sħabi u jien ipprotestajna bil-kbir kontra dan u ġejna rridikolati.

Komunità fi gżira Daniża kienet ressqet protesta kontra dil-politika fil-Qorti Ewropea tal-Ġustizzja, li sfat miċħuda. Ħaġa kienet qed issir tajjeb… f’dal-każ fid-difiża tal-ambjent… imma twarrbet f’isem il-ħtieġa li l-Ewropa kollha timxi bl-istess pass.

***

ĊEDOLI MGĦOTTIJA

Għadha ħajja l-istess tendenza biex dak li sejjer tajjeb f’pajjiż jew ieħor naddattawh ħalli jkun jista’ jinġab f’borma waħda Ewropea. Mingħajr kura għall-punt li dak li sejjer tajjeb, m’għandekx għalfejn toqgħod tipprova ssewwieh.

Bħalissa qed nieħu sehem f’eżerċizzju biex il-Parlament Ewropew jiffinalizza l-pożizzjoni tiegħu dwar direttiva li tapplika fuq bażi Ewropea l-istess regolamentazzjoni fit-tmexxija ta’ għodod finanzjarji ta’ self li jissejħu “covered bonds” – ċedoli mikxufa, li bil-Malti ma tfisser xejn. Dawn jinħarġu b’garanzija doppja – tal-banek li qed ibigħuhom u tal-proġetti marbuta magħhom.

Kienu fost l-għodod finanzjarji li ma tqagħbrux bil-kriżi finanzjarja tal-2008. Hi ħaġa ċara li qafas Ewropew ġdid għalihom irid iżomm sħaħ il-kondizzjonijiet nazzjonali li ppermettew li dawn iċ-ċedoli jkunu suċċess.

Xorta ssib min joħroġ bi proposti biex f’isem suq Ewropew wieħed “aħjar”, idaħħal miżuri li jispiċċaw aktar ifixklu milli jgħinu.

***

PAYE

F’Malta is-sistema tal-Pay as you earn (PAYE) daħlet taħt l-ewwel mandat ta’ gvern Laburista bejn l-1971 u 1976. Kien hemm id-diffikultajiet li ġġib bidla fejn taxxa li titħallas sena b’lura tinqaleb biex titħallas “fil-ħin”. Kien eżerċizzju li madankollu twettaq b’suċċess.

Ftakart f’hekk dil-ġimgħa jien u naqra l-aħbar li fl-aħħar, wara snin ta’ titubar, il-gvern Franċiż iddeċieda li jdaħħal il-PAYE fil-pajjiż. Ħafna mid-dubji tqanqlu minħabba biża’ li bosta nies mhux qed jifhmu xinhu jseħħ waqt li oħrajn se jħossu s-sena d-dieħla li qed jiġu ntaxxati doppjament.

Toqgħod tgħid: Jiġu tant mill-Ewropa biex jagħtuna lezzjonijiet kif għandna mmexxu u ma mmexxux pajjiżna. Forsi hemm għal xiex xi darba jew oħra, inkunu aħna li nagħtuhom il-lezzjonijiet?

English Version – Plastic

I always fail to keep back a bitter smile whenever I hear about what is being done in the ongoing European campaign to limit and control plastic usage – or when I come across one or other of the activities that are being carried out. One cannot but support this campaign because the volumes of plastic trash that are invading everywhere, not least the seas, are truly triggering a world scale crisis.

However EU rules have themselves up to now greatly contributed to this phenomenon. I remember when the negotiations for Malta’s accession to the EU were taking place, how the European side insisted that Malta should revoke all arrangements in internal trade that gave preferential treatment to glass bottles, such as for mineral water and soft drinks. EU rules allowed for plastic to have the right of way. My colleages and I protested against this approach and were ridiculed for our pains.

A Danish island community had also deposited a complaint against this policy with the European Court of Justice; it was turned down. Something that was being carried out correctly… in this case to protect the environment… had to be cancelled to satisfy the objective of getting all of Europe to march in step.

***

Covered bonds

The tendency is still alive to insist on revising policies that are functioning well in this or that country, for them to become part of a single European menu. In this, little regard is given to the point that one doesn’t need to try and fix what is not broken.

At present, I’m taking part in an exercise to finalise the position of the European Parliament regarding a directive that will apply similar rules across Europe to the management of loan instruments called covered bonds. These carry a double guarantee, relating to the bank that markets them as well as to a group of ring fenced projects with which they are linked.

Covered bonds stood among the few financial tools that were not weakened by the financial crisis of 2008. It should be quite clear that a European framework for them should leave intact the national market conditions that enabled them to be so successful.

Yet you still find those who in the name of an “improved” European single market, would like to introduce new measures that could end up creating more burdens and less incentives for the bonds.

***

PAYE

In Malta, the PAYE (pay as you earn) system was introduced during the first mandate of the Labour government of the 1970s, between 1971 and 1976. Naturally there were the difficulties which are bound to arise when a tax that is paid with a year’s delay is converted to one that must be cleared as soon as it becomes due.

I remembered that story this week when it was announced that at last, after years of hesitation, the French government has decided to introduce the PAYE system. Most doubts had arisen because of the possibility that many ciizens would not understand what was going on, while others could feel that next year they were going to be taxed twice.

One can hardly avoid wondering: so many people arrive from Europe to lecture us about how we should run our country this way and not that. Perhaps after all, there could be some instances where we might usefully be drafted to serve as lecturers to others?