Minister Tonio Fenech has confirmed that the much loved departure tax will be removed as of November 1st 2008. Good news and a good start for many. J’accuse cannot comment on the Government’s opinion on whether the Commission is right or wrong when it says that the tax is a barrier to movement due to work obligations. What we can do is take a look at the words of Minister Tonio Fenech and see what they really mean when we remove the MLPN reasoning. Here’s a quote from today’s Indy:
Investment, Economy and Finance Minister Tonio Fenech yesterday confirmed that the legal notice abolishing the departure taxv will be issued next week meaning Maltese passengers will no longer have to pay it from 1 November. During a press conference held after a visit to Air Malta offices during which he met the new board members, Mr Fenech said that the e23/Lm10 departure tax, which had been introduced in 1997 under a Labour government, will be removed. The minister said that the government is implementing an electoral promise.
He explained that the departure tax will be removed in November for two reasons. Firstly because new fares and holiday bundles will be offered during that period and it did not make sense to introduce it earlier. Secondly, thanks to the government’s sound financial policy and the country’s stable economy, “unneeded” taxes can be removed. Referring to the initiated EU infringement procedures against Malta over the departure tax, Mr Fenech said the government did not agree with the EU’s stance and pointed out that the tax certainly did not hold back the Maltese from going abroad.
That is what he said. This is what he wants us to believe and what J’accuse thinks the reasonable vote should actually be reading.
1. Departure Tax is off the books from 1 November: Fenech is telling us that the government is taking a positive responsible action and even has a plan when to put it in place. What he does not tell us is that without the Commission breathing down his back (even if we are not sure that it is right) we would still be lumped with the Departure Tax. This is not a government planned decision. It is not a move to improve travel conditions. It is a knee-jerk reaction that cannot be delayed any longer.
2. Introduced by the Labour government in 1997: Of course it was. Who else would introduce such a ridiculous tax that reduces our competitiveness in the travel industry and disincentivises Maltese travellers (and was more expensive until a while ago)? Who other than those bumbling gits under Sant? Give us a break Tonio. Do you need reminding that you have trumpeted Sant’s government’s amazing collapse in 1998 all over the place – while saying that one of the reasons was Sant’s fetish for raising taxes? So tell me Tonio, has time flown so fast since 1998 for you not to notice that the PN has been in government for 10 years with that tax in place? Who cares if the Labour government mothered it? You seem to have milked it for as long as you could – not convincing at all.
3. Why they introduced it in November: And now for the bollocks. It was not reasonable to effect summer holiday packages and bundles – it was more reasonable to wait till November for the new fares. Tell it to the customers and families of four who would have saved e100 on their trip abroad this summer. Ask them what they would have considered more reasonable Tonio. For crying out loud.
4. The stable economy: Oil crisis? What oil crisis? Rising food prices? Where? The nationalist spin right now requires that whenever it is possible people are told that our country has a stable economy. Of course we are not living under crazy management systems of old but then again a modicum of moderation about this feel-good factor is to be expected from a responsible government. The Economist, the FT, all are criticising the efforts of governments to count on the trickle down effect in the hope to counter the slumping world econonomy. Citizen responsibilisation forms part of one of the means of tackling the current problem. No Tonio. You are not removing the tax because you can afford it – you are removing it because you cannot afford to keep it – and I am not talking economy there.
In sum, a tax that in my opinion (even independently of legal considerations*) should never have existed in a an island community is finally going out. No it’s not thanks to the PN. It’s not an electoral promise they are keeping. It’s an obligation to remove that should have been fulfilled since 1998. What Tonio is worried about is that the Maltese are diligent enough to keep all the receipts for their flights since 1997. He worries because had the Commission gone to Court about the Tax and had the Court decided that the tax should never have been, then, technically, the government would have had an obligation to reimburse that tax to all citizens who had paid it.
Now that’s something our stable economy would have liked.
*J’accuse has long argued that travel abroad should be heavily incentivised by government to ensure a holistic education for citizens. It is one way to work to minimise the effects of living on an island. Travel & Internet for everyone. That should be a mantra for the next few years.