A pre­lim­i­nary re­ac­tion to the Bud­get speech by the Malta Cham­ber of Com­merce, En­ter­prise and In­dus­try

The Malta Business Weekly - - NEWS -

The Malta Cham­ber fol­lowed the an­nounce­ment of the Na­tional Bud­get for 2019 and these are its ini­tial re­ac­tions.

The Cham­ber noted that the Bud­get for 2019 was set against a back­drop of an econ­omy that is per­form­ing well. From the data pub­lished with the Bud­get, it has been con­firmed that the coun­try has con­tin­ued to regis­ter pos­i­tive eco­nomic ex­pan­sion, rel­a­tive price sta­bil­ity and al­most full em­ploy­ment all of which have gen­er­ated a pos­i­tive ef­fect on the state of pub­lic fi­nances.

It was for this rea­son that the Cham­ber called for a Bud­get that seeks to cap­i­talise on present eco­nomic re­silience to in­vest in the nec­es­sary in­fra­struc­ture and safe­guard fu­ture sustainability.

At the same time, the Cham­ber called for fur­ther com­pet­i­tive­ness en­hanc­ing mea­sures with a view to en­sure fur­ther growth and jobs in the coun­try.

All in all, the Cham­ber is pleased to note that sev­eral of its rec­om­men­da­tions have, in fact, been in­cluded in the Bud­get Speech.

Spe­cific mea­sures

Mea­sures which pro­mote fair en­force­ment

In the in­ter­est of safe­guard­ing a fair level playing field for all op­er­a­tors across all eco­nomic sec­tor, the Cham­ber wel­comes mea­sures an­nounced in the strength­en­ing of na­tional struc­tures and ad­min­is­tra­tive units re­spon­si­ble for bor­der con­trols and mar­ket sur­veil­lance. The Cham­ber has been ad­vo­cat­ing such en­hance­ments for sev­eral years. Equally im­por­tant are all those mea­sures which tend to strengthen the reg­u­la­tory bod­ies in­clud­ing those whose task is to en­sure fis­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity.

New taxes and schemes

The Cham­ber noted that its calls for gov­ern­ment not to in­tro­duce any sur­prise mea­sures and new taxes were largely heeded. This is to the ad­van­tage of busi­ness mo­men­tum. The main new mea­sure an­nounced this year in this re­gard, re­lates to the in­tro­duc­tion of a de­posit and re­fund sys­tem on bev­er­age con­tain­ers. The Cham­ber looks for­ward to fur­ther con­sul­ta­tions with the au­thor­i­ties in this re­gard to en­sure that the ob­jec­tives of this en­vi­ron­men­tally-friendly mea­sure will be achieved through fair and eq­ui­table im­ple­men­ta­tion on all di­rect op­er­a­tors.

Pro­mot­ing new sec­tors and busi­ness

New mea­sures called for by the Cham­ber aimed at en­hanc­ing the na­tional ac­tion plan for en­trepreneur­ship are wel­comed par­tic­u­larly those an­nounced in the area of sup­port for start-ups. Sim­i­larly, it looks for­ward to the an­nounced new schemes which will be launched un­der the Malta De­vel­op­ment Bank in­clud­ing the new fi­nan­cial in­stru­ment for Fam­ily Busi­nesses first in­tro­duced at the Malta Cham­ber.

At the same time, the Cham­ber is pleased to note the set­ting up of new en­ti­ties that will serve to pro­mote Malta’s ef­forts in lu­cra­tive and in­no­va­tive sec­tors such as fin­tech, blockchain, ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and in­ter­net of things. To this end, the an­nounce­ment re­gard­ing TechMT, which is be­ing es­tab­lished fol­low­ing a Cham­ber rec­om­men­da­tion, is wel­comed.

Labour mar­ket and ed­u­ca­tion

The Cham­ber ob­serves an­other Bud­get mea­sure re­sult­ing from one of its pro­pos­als with re­spect to ac­tive labour mar­ket mea­sures to en­hance the avail­abil­ity of skills in the econ­omy. In this re­spect, it notes the match­ing of fis­cal in­cen­tives for per­sons em­ployed in the pub­lic sec­tor as had been made avail­able for pri­vate sec­tor em­ploy­ees to post­pone their re­tire­ment.

The Cham­ber also ob­served mea­sures aimed to stim­u­late the take up of Stem sub­jects and im­prove the coun­try’s per­for­mance in terms of early school leav­ing through in­no­va­tive links be­tween ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions.

Pub­lic hol­i­days fall­ing on a week­end

The Malta Cham­ber noted the an­nounce­ment and de­ci­sion to add a fur­ther day of va­ca­tion leave in lieu of pub­lic hol­i­days fall­ing on a week­end. The Cham­ber re­it­er­ates its po­si­tion that dis­cus­sions with the em­ployer bod­ies re­main on­go­ing with a view to en­sure that the fi­nal ef­fect of this mea­sure is cost-

neu­tral to em­ploy­ers.

Pen­sions

The Cham­ber noted the im­proved in­cen­tives linked to vol­un­tary oc­cu­pa­tional pen­sion schemes. This is in line with the Cham­ber’s rec­om­men­da­tions ahead of this and previous bud­gets as it in­creases the sustainability of pen­sions for the state and ad­e­quacy for the ben­e­fi­ciary. The Cham­ber shall be as­sess­ing the newly an­nounced con­di­tions af­ter con­sult­ing with users and providers.

Trans­port and in­fra­struc­ture

In line with the in­vest­ment of €700m in the coun­try’s road net­work over the com­ing seven-year span an­nounced last year, the im­ple­men­ta­tion of this is in full swing. The Cham­ber notes the ex­ten­sion of in­cen­tives on al­ter­na­tive and cleaner modes of trans­port, such as elec­tric ve­hi­cles and in­cen­tives for young peo­ple to make use of pub­lic trans­port. While it also ob­serves the mea­sures an­nounced to al­le­vi­ate the park­ing prob­lem, the Cham­ber looks for­ward to con­tribut­ing its rec­om­men­da­tions on trans­port in an ef­fort to solve the con­ges­tion prob­lem that is cost­ing the en­vi­ron­ment as well as busi­nesses and cit­i­zens dearly.

Con­clu­sion

In the com­ing days the Malta Cham­ber shall be as­sess­ing the im­pli­ca­tions for eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity in gen­eral and the var­i­ous re­spec­tive sec­tors of the mea­sures an­nounced in this Bud­get. Some of these mea­sures are hinted at but not clearly de­fined at this stage. There­fore, the Cham­ber shall be seek­ing fur­ther in­for­ma­tion on these mea­sures for fur­ther dis­cus­sions with all stake­hold­ers.

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