The last few years have seen me wistfully unpicking administrative policy abroad to wonder at the meticulous planning behind it, its clear objectives and the holistic approach to its development. I’ve become an addict of the BBC Parliament channel. Westminster MPs, MEPs, Scottish MPs, Welsh MPs, Select Committees, Public Accounts Committees – these all thrash policies, proposals… until every angle and consequence is explored and debated to death.
(For the record, I don’t include Brexit in this admiration of mine. Brexit is a cock up of colossal proportions and not a day goes by when I don’t marvel at how sensible Britain has taken complete leave of its senses. The referendum was an attempt by David Cameron to stop the Tory infighting; an arrogant complacency that went horribly wrong as the decades-long, anti-EU propaganda spectacularly came home to roost.)
So, yes – I love to critique good administrative policy. I never used to, but the last 7 years in Malta have taught me much when it comes to the importance of well thought out policy.
Malta seems to be in a league of its own with its catastrophic, nonsensical administrative policy. So many different examples that I have come across.
One that has a huge effect on tenants is the Arms billing system. It all started in 2008 when it was decided that Malta would have two residential tariffs – one for primary residences and another for summer residences. The idea behind this was that people living in their primary residence would pay for their electricity and water at a cheaper rate than if they were living in their summer residence. As it goes this is not that bad an idea – it’s a kind of second home tax by stealth.
Where it goes spectacularly wrong is that tenants are mostly classed as living in the second homes of multiple property-owning landlords. So even though the tenant is living in their primary residence they are billed on the extortionate summer residence tariff. Effectively they pay around 43% to 104% more than their multiple property-owning landlords on their utilities.
We are 9 years into this billing system and even though for years, many people have pointed out this grotesque, state sanctioned theft from tenants, it still goes on today. Tenants are treated to absurd statements like this one from ex Arms CEO James Davis – Tenants do not exist for Arms. Or this one by an Arms manager – How do we know that you didn’t want to be on the (more expensive) summer residence tariff? Or by the same manager – You need to get permission from your landlord - and – Arms does not do refunds. Another one - apparently the ‘consumer’ referred to in the Electricity and Water Supply Regulations is not the tenant living in their primary residence but the account holding landlord NOT living in his ‘empty’ summer residence.
Whenever I am confronted by these automatons uttering this nonsense I stare speechless in absolute wonder. Of course, inside I’m spluttering away, my blood pressure is sky high and a silent scream is forming deep within.
It’s like these people have been taken over by Daleks – EXTERMINAATE! EXTERMINAATE! Unfeeling, robotic destroyers of peace and serenity.
Another example. In 2009, the new Annual Circulation Car Licence Fee - for cars registered post 2009 - was introduced. This depended on the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the car. Every year this fee increased. The idea was that the older a car, the greater its polluting effect. Therefore, this was meant as an incentive to scrap older, more polluting cars and incentivise the purchase of new cars. Again, you can see the rationale. (Although I question the environmental wisdom in scrapping a perfectly good car to replace it with a new one. Imma insomma.) For our car, this fee ranges from 275 euro in the first year to a maximum of 762 euro after 14 years.
However, the previous billing scheme for cars registered pre-2009 is much cheaper. For our car, this fee ranges from 157 euro per year in the first year to a ceiling of 252 euro nineteen years later.
No problem you’d think. Our car was registered in 2003 so it would be liable to the older billing scheme, right? Wrong. Our car was registered in 2003, all right. But not in Malta. We registered our car in Malta in 2010, when we moved here. Therefore, while we have this car, we will be paying 762 euro per year on Annual Circulation Licence Fees when the value of the car is less than 3 000 euro.
So - get rid of it, I hear you say. Aha – the plot thickens. When we brought our car over, we were exempt from the car registration tax because we had owned it for more than 2 years in the UK. However, I have a letter from MTA, which when I looked at it more closely, informed us that if we were to sell or scrap the car, we would have to pay the registration tax. Because of course, in Malta, an exemption is not an exemption.
But forget about us. Let’s look at the macro picture. This two-tier (what is it with Malta and two-tier billing schemes?) ACL fee has had another perverse effect. When my daughter decided to buy a car, one of the criteria was that it had to be registered in Malta before 2009. So, a billing scheme which was meant to incentivise the purchase of newer, less polluting cars has actually incentivised the purchase of > 8 year old cars. Not only. I suspect that this is one of the reasons why second hand cars are so expensive in Malta.
I think I’ll stop here. I wanted to describe the convoluted steps I took to make sure that my 15 years UK teaching experience was recognized and correctly remunerated. But I think this blog is long enough as it is. It would have been a fantastically good one though.