Lies, damn lies and statistics. The manipulation of statistics and surveys is one of the commodities of twentieth and twenty-first century marketing. As I see it (and probably as many others would), the flyaway taxes issue has three parties in the argument: a) the government (the taxman), b) the people (the ever willing taxpayer) and c) the travel agents (the businesses affected by the rise in tax). The public debate is occurring between the government (the taxman) and the travel agents (the businesses...). So you can agree either with the government OR with the travel agents, right? You either agree with the imposition of additional tax on departing flights or you do not. Right?
Enter the Times of Malta. Bastion of Independent reporting and prime exponent of freedom of expression ever since that condemnable bad day when a band of thugs headed by the Christian KMB decided to pop by Times HQ and explain what happens to people who think different. Enter the Times, our main hope for unbiased reporting and journalism. And enter their wonderful medium the Times Online Survey where at the click of a button you get to influence what "the Maltese people think". So the Times are asking us who we side with... do we agree with the government or with the businessmen? It should be easy-peasy no? Basically it should be asking... DO YOU WANT THE DAMN TAX OR NOT?
But no. We have to be complicated. We have to sound sophisticated. We have to look technical and intelligent. We have to justify the existence of the great minds at Strickland House. So what question do they come up with? ....
"Do you agree with travel agents' proposal of levying a flat minimum tax on all air travel?"
Do I what? Hold on hold on.... this is ridiculous. So we were debating whether tax A should be introduced... the tax on Maltese passengers who decide to catch a plane out of Mickey Mouse Land... and we get asked what we think about hypothetical tax B... the one where a tax is added (anyway) on everyone whether they are Maltese or visiting Malta. Tax B is not accepted under EU Law (so virtually impossible to introduce) unless the funds are directed to Africa (and they would not be helping us make our fiscal picture nicer would they?).
So why did the Times frame the question in such a manner? Why? You ask why? Let's see the options when answering it:
YES: Yes I agree with a tax on air travel.
Fat chance. What reasonable citizen loveth his country so much that he believes that it is sweet and meeting to pay more tax?
NO: I disagree with the travel agents.
So we click on No. And with NO you get to imply that the travel agents are a bunch of ignoramuses and do not know what is needed by the country's seasoned travellers. With NO you imply that you have full faith in PapaGonz and MamaFred when it comes to saying what is best for you.
Lovely. Brilliant even. We do not even get to have Option C. I would suggest "I have no opinion and would let either travel agents or government drain my wallet with either an exorbitant price for a flight or with a ridiculous tax".
Having said all this the impossible hath happened. 773 persons had used the survey when I decided to click on No to test the answers.
71.8% had said YES.
28.2% (Including myself) said No.
I am lost.
Anyone with an explanation? Are there (78% of 772) travel agents in Malta? Is there some sadistic travel agent who flits from pc to pc clicking on yes? Or is this some big joke? is 1st April here yet?
Sic Transit Gloria Melitae.