[WATCH] ‘Red carpet’ treatment of business to continue under Labour government

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said a government led by him would continue to be pro-business, as a means of being pro-worker

A new Labour government would continue to be pro-business, and would continue to facilitate investment in the country because this was the only way to ensure more job creation, Prime Minister and Labour leader Joseph Muscat said this morning.

“If we are elected to a second term we will continue to be pro-business,” Muscat said, addressing a press conference in Mosta. “We will continue to favour business, and businessmen. We will help them get their business going and make it as easy as possible for them. Red carpet treatment for all business.”

Muscat argued that a pro-business position means being “pro-worker” since it means that more jobs and opportunities are available with better wages and conditions.

He insisted that the government was today in a position to distribute wealth because it had managed to generate it by “unleashing business.” He pointed to Labour’s proposal of giving back to worker public holidays falling on a weekends and other “social measures” as only being possible because of this economic growth.

According to Muscat, the “primary issue” facing the country over the next five year would be access to credit for businesses, since he said, international pressures had caused banks to be more cautious.

He said that this had been recognised by institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and that a government led by him would be proactive and will immediately address the problem through the newly established Malta Development Bank (MDB).

Muscat explained that the MDB would not loan out money itself but would provide a guarantee to commercial banks giving loans to businesses.

On rents, Muscat said there were a number of people living in uncertainty because of current rent laws.

“These people have been investing for years and the way the law is laid out is not in their favour,” Muscat said, adding that the government had its eye on reforms that would result in a fairer arrangement where everyone gets what he deserves.

Another area Muscat said would be a priority for a new Labour government was bureaucracy. He insisted that a lot had already been done in this regard.

Muscat explained that a taskforce had been set up by government which evaluated Malta’s performance in the “ease of doing business report” and went through each indicator listed.

Another measure that had contributed to a reduction in bureaucracy was the removal of the need for some 30,000 retail licences, which he said, in addition to reducing bureaucracy, had also seen businesses save up to €1,000.

Economy minister Chris Cardona said that in addition to better access to finance, a new Labour government would ensure that payments by government entities to third party companies were on-time through the application of the late payment directive.

“Through this measure, we also want to introduce Key Performance Indicators for departments to determine how each department can be improved with respect to the indicators,” he said.

Cardona said the Labour Party was committing itself to raise the VAT exception threshold from €14,000 to €20,000, as well as the broadening of schemes such as the Micro Invest and BStart schemes – grants available through Malta Enterprise to start-up companies.

Another of Labour’s proposals is the setting up of the Malta Business Council which will continue to work on reducing bureaucracy for businesses in Malta.

Moreover, Cardona said a new government would also strengthen controls at Maltese ports and freight terminals to assure a level playing field for all local importers, as well as those exporting to Malta.

In order to make Malta more attractive to SMEs, Cardona said that a start-up campus would be set up at Smart City. The campus, he said, would provide for all services and would act as an accelerator where companies with good ideas are offered a place and subsidies, and are given a fixed period of time to develop this idea.

Muscat later added that the government was in advanced talks with the government in Dubai for ideas generated at the campus to be bought by the same Dubai government, thus allowing ideas to go global far quicker.

Brexit taskforce to evaluate potential opportunities

Muscat said that if elected to a second term, government would be setting up a “Brexit taskforce” that would seek and evaluate potential opportunities results from Britain’s departure from the EU.

He said that currently, there was an internal taskforce that was working on negotiating positions for Brexit.

Muscat said that while it is not the time to establish the taskforce, seeing as Malta held the presidency of the Council of Europe, once this comes to an end, it would be the “diplomatically adequate time” for this to happen.

He added that while it will have a strong government input, the intention was for it to operate with the private sector’s input.