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Why I’d like to sell passports

Here’s a nice proposal to enrich everyone by selling passports while the sun shines.

It’s true the European Commission frowns on our sales of citizenship. But, thanks to The Shift, we know that Henley and Partners, Joseph Muscat’s favourite passport seller, has spent some €300,000 lobbying in Brussels. For the moment, it appears the Commission cannot do anything about our sales.

I wish to take no credit for the proposal. I have simply borrowed it from that ingenious Indian-American entrepreneur, Naval Ravikant, and adapted it for our fair country.

Here goes: Every citizen should have the right to two passports, a personal and a blank one. The blank one can be sold or given to anyone the citizen wishes, provided the recipient is approved by Identity Malta. Let every citizen be a concessionaire.

I’ll contain my excitement and stick to just six key advantages.

First, the purpose of selling passports, we’re often assured, is to have money for social projects. Nothing beats giving every citizen something worth well over half a million euros. Everyone will be assured of a nest egg that can buy a home, start a business, or acquire an expensive education.

Second, it’s a new way to think about Children’s Allowance and raise the birth rate, currently one of the lowest in Europe. You don’t have to marry a millionaire; you can have twins. Goodbye, Citizenship by Investment. Hello, Investment by Citizenship.

Third, if everyone has a passport to sell, citizens own stock in the country’s reputation. Reckless government spending and risk exposure for short-term gain would drag down the value of a Maltese passport. Prudence and visionary long-term policies will boost price.

Ordinary people will have an investment in wise, long-term policies because of the dividend. The politics of populism will be turned on its head. People will still threaten politicians with their vote – but to punish them for irresponsible behaviour.

Fourth, our 16-year-olds will soon be voting in important elections. There’s nothing like sitting on a minor fortune to focus young people’s minds on long-term benefits as against short-term candy.

Fifth, some sales or giveaways will always be stupid or corrupt but the risk will be spread more thinly – it’s more difficult to corrupt a multitude than a few gatekeepers. Besides, half a million people are more likely to make sure real concrete needs are addressed: workers with necessary talents, carers for the elderly, and so on.

Sixth, people who don’t know how to sell a passport can always entrust a private firm in the same way they trust a stockbroker with their money. Passports can be traded by brokers in a proper free market, instead of the current oligopoly.

I realise that just possibly some readers might be unconvinced. But there is in fact no disadvantage to this scheme that does not already apply to the passport-selling scheme we currently have.

Perhaps you wonder if everyone really can be trusted with selling something as important as citizenship.

Why not? It’s more transparent than the current scheme. The Shift has shown how the cash-for-passports lobby, the Investment Migration Council, does not appear to be based where it says it’s based in Geneva.

We also know that Henley & Partners, sellers-in-chief, are of a mind to threaten Maltese journalists with crippling lawsuits overseas, at least if Henley doesn’t like what’s published about them.

How can having your neighbour sell passports be riskier than having such organisations in charge? At least you can keep track of what your neighbours are doing. And remember, the final decision is still in the hands of the redoubtable Identity Malta, as it is now.

Or perhaps you’re worried such a scheme will make us seem irresponsible in Europe.

Sure, but hardly more than the current scheme. The European Parliament and Commission find it mercenary, parasitical and burdening every Member State with unnecessary risks. My proposal can’t sink our reputation any lower.

Finally, wouldn’t this scheme mean that a foreign power could hold us to ransom? For example, by buying many, many passports on the market, even at great expense, in order to have enough votes to leverage a general election or put voting pressure to get the policies it wants out of a government?

Of course. But whoever told you it can’t happen now? After all, our energy and health sectors have important non-Maltese shareholders, under unpublished long-term conditions that could be used to squeeze us. Wealthy globetrotters, from only a handful of States, tending to have unpalatable political customs, are already buying up our passports.

It boils down to this. If you don’t like the idea of every citizen selling a passport, there is absolutely no reason to prefer the sales of passports by secretive means. If it’s sleazy and irresponsible for one, it’s sleazy and irresponsible for the other.

And if you don’t object to private organisations making money off a reputation built up by Malta’s citizenry, you have no good reason to deny Malta’s citizenry a direct share in a stock they contribute to every day.

Any reason you find is a reason for ripping people off. But maybe you know that already.

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