Labour trolls have been sent out to blame the likely exit of HSBC from Malta’s economy on its entrance in Malta in the last century. ‘Kellu raġun Alfred Sant,’ they say. U morru tnejjku, tridux.
Of course, the manner of HSBC’s entry into the Maltese market is as irrelevant an explanation for its likely exit as they come. It’s like blaming someone’s death on the fact that one day they were born. True, but entirely irrelevant.
HSBC wants out because its global strategy requires it to exit small markets like ours. Like any business it cares for its markets when they make sense. It leaves when they don’t.
The primary reason they haven’t left yet is they haven’t found anyone willing to buy their Malta business. That’s what the trolls should be worried about.
As investment prospects go, buying a bank in Malta is like setting up a cement factory just outside Corleone. You may think no one knows what you’re really up to. But they know. They know.
I’m not sure where Luke Chetcuti does his banking but anyone giving this guy a credit card has a lot of explaining to do.
That is one major reason why providing a god-honest banking service in Malta has become a low yield business: all the explaining you have to do. Twenty years with a brand like HSBC on our high street and this is still a cash society. Property still changes hands in Gozo while contracts are not registered. We still have two contracts signed in Malta – one for the taxman and one for the bank, with different figures for the same transaction.
Service providers still ask you ‘bil-vatt jew bla vatt’ before quoting.
If the prime minister can employ staffers that take backhanders for passports for Russians or visas for Libyans, why, pray should we not try to get away with avoiding tax and paying in cash?
If it’s ok for Keith Schembri to have companies in the BVI, in Panama and in whichever coconut and banana island Brian Tonna finds for him to stash his cash, why is it a problem for anyone else?
On one side we have institutionalised corruption and not without a hint of irony. The wife of the Mayor of Għasri – this is not literally and specifically about the wife of the Mayor of Għasri who is used here merely as a figure of speech representing the least politically exposed person imaginable in the firmament of formally-speaking politically exposed persons — is made to sweat blood just to deposit €50 into her son’s account because his nan was generous on his birthday. But Keith Schembri can walk out with €2.6 million in unsecured credit from his bank where he’s overdrawn by over €7 million and technically making around €60,000 a year.
On the other side we have nurtured corruption culturally creating expectations that anything goes.
All the while the bank that is not HSBC, where government has greater influence, has been sodomised to within an inch of its life. The Bank of Valletta was made to lend Electrogas €450 million when the financing arm of that consortium – Gasol – went bust. That eye-watering sum amounts to almost double the money the BoV makes in a year.
Meanwhile Satabank was licensed to enter the local market. They mopped up the business that the other banks refused and carried with them other clients as well, blinded in misguided admiration for the quick turnaround at the Satabank customer service counter and the marvellous absence of inconvenient questions. Until someone somewhere thought that allowing Satabank to run a laundry fronted by a fake banking operation wasn’t a great idea and shut the whole thing down.
After that, Satabank’s small clients were forced into the banking equivalent of homelessness, living out of envelopes with cash. And the bigger clients? They’re fucking off to countries with economies that may talk less fancy about blockchain and highfalutin next generation mumbo jumbo but actually have good old fashioned high street banks, cheque books and a teller behind a glass pane.
We may be coming up to a time when the Bank of Valletta cracks under the weight of a short-sighted marauding government. We may be coming up to a time when HSBC sells what’s left of its business to the buyer of last resort, the government.
Those Labour trolls who imagine this would still be l-aqwa żmien if we still had Mid-Med Bank in Christmas 1999 will be happy. After BoV goes belly up they will still have a nice, socialist, state-owned bank they can call their own.
No wonder Joseph Muscat lost even his plastic rictus smile when he tells the press he’s not answering any more questions about banks.
Who needs HSBC when 17 Black can bank in Dubai?