Scicluna ‘considers’ Muscat’s invitation to stand with MLP

MaltaToday can reveal that Muscat asked the renowned professor to contest on the Labour ticket in the last days, as rumours that the MLP was planning to announce a star candidate for the upcoming June elections abounded.

“Yes, I am actively considering contesting as an MLP candidate,” Prof. Scicluna told MaltaToday. “I’m giving it another week’s thought but I think I will submit my nomination.”

A former president of the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development (MCESD) and executive chairman of the financial services authority (MFSA), Scicluna, 62, has enjoyed the confidence of successive Labour and Nationalist administrations through his appointments in key positions.

Yet since Lawrence Gonzi took over as prime minister, he has been consistently sidelined for his critical economic appraisal of government. Only last week, Finance Minister Tonio Fenech reacted to Prof. Scicluna’s criticism by saying he was “Labour-leaning” and lacked objectivity. “He is not one whom I consider objective in his opinions,” was Fenech’s reply to his arguments in an interview on Illum.

“I know I will pay a price,” Prof. Scicluna told MaltaToday. “But the snide remarkes have long been coming. To me, what is important is the arguments, the reasoning, not one’s political leanings. Fenech Adami quoted my papers in Parliament in 1984 to chastise Mintoff for the wage freeze. I have always spoken my mind and I won’t forfeit my independence.

“I believe there is a need for the injection of new people to close the great political divide in these hard times, with an impending recession and with the present social, economic and political problems. Threats are coming from all sides and we need to come together to face them.”

Prof. Scicluna was critical of Gonzi’s pegging the Lira with the Euro early before Malta was admitted as a candidate for the currency changeover, and had also expressed his skepticism about Malta’s qualifications to adopt the Euro. He had also warned that last year’s growth projections were too optimistic when coupled with the generous pre-election budget, prompting snappy retorts from Gonzi and Fenech.

Still, he enjoys widespread respectability as an independent economist. A former head of department of economics at the University of Malta, Scicluna has served as MCESD president between 1999 and 2003, as MFSA executive chairman between 1997 and 1999, as board director of the Central Bank between 1996 and 2003, and as electoral commissioner between 1987 and 1993.

Sunday, 23 November 2008 By Karl Schembri

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