This week I wrote about a European NGO report about the complicity of European countries in an unfair global tax system that robs the poor to reward the rich. Tax tourism tries to create an ethical ranking between avoidance of tax and evasion from it. Whatever sheen of legitimacy is put on it our pursuit of the wealthy is collaboration in the suffering of people who could benefit from the tax contributions that are due.
We can continue to ignore the consequences of our actions for as long as we like but we cannot expect the rest of the world to admire us for doing that.
I also wrote about an OECD report that focused on passport sales and how such schemes as ours do not simply pursue the wealthy but a very specific type of wealthy: the type that are not just hiding their wealth from their government to dodge taxes but more likely because they should not have it in the first place.
Malta’s church this week published a document criticising this philosophy but bringing closer to our own eyes the callousness in our approach.
Like the hollow teen who wants to be in with the cool guys, we like rich people and dislike poor people. We welcome passport buyers but shut the door on immigrants who come with nothing but dreams.
Our hospitality and generosity is limited to the extent that it rewards us and gratifies us: it has nothing to do with giving and all to do with taking. Migrants that cannot be repatriated are left in a stateless limbo denied the basic dignities of social existence while oligarchs are given a red carpet treatment just because they can pay for it.
Public policy that is established to favour the wealthier over the poorer is regressive and undemocratic. It is akin to feudal privilege thought destroyed by modernity and rationality. There’s nothing wrong with an expensive restaurant not everyone can afford. But it would be wrong if expensive restaurants were to be the only way you could eat.
Our policy on citizenship and the extension of our rights to people not born here takes little account of need and is interested in income, a huge chunk of which an income to private interests who have invested nothing in the asset that is being sold.
Think of the profits made by Henley & Partners out of Maltese passports. I have nothing against profits as such. When someone invests money in something it is reasonable for them to expect to get a return on their investment. But the investment in our statehood, our reputation, our rights, including our rights as Europeans was paid for by generations of Maltese people who suffered colonialism, war, poverty and conflict to leave us the country we have. It is noble for us to share our inheritance with migrants in need. But to sell our inheritance for Henley & Partners, who did nothing to bring us where we are, to make a profit is completely misguided.
To share our inheritance only with the rich and deny it to the poor is forgetting where we come from as a nation: farmers, labourers, fishermen, soldiers and migrants who came here and left here not because they were rich but because they were poor.