Muscat wants Malta to be primary European destination for tech start-ups

A new Labour government would set up a start-up campus at Smart City and would position itself as an alternative to countries like Singapore or Luxembourg

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat

A new Labour government would seek to make Malta a primary destination for tech start-up companies in Europe, said Prime Minister Joseph Muscat this evening.

Speaking at a political activity in Kalkara, Muscat said a start-up campus would be set up at Smart City that would have all the necessary facilities to allow these companies to get off the ground and flourish. Moreover, he said that successful companies would be exempt from paying tax once they start trading.

“We will be saying that if you come to Malta and start your business here we will help make it internationally,” said Muscat.

He insisted that Malta wanted to attract tech start-ups that would normally have gone to Singapore or Luxembourg.

“We want to be a primary destination for start-ups in Europe,” he added.

Muscat once again insisted that the Labour Party’s proposals were all driven by sound principles, principles such as equality, social justice and the principle that everyone should have the opportunity to succeed in life.

He criticised Nationalist Party leader Simon Busuttil for now saying he would keep the citizenship by investment program (IIP) after saying that he was against the principle of the scheme and after trying his best to stop it from being implemented.

Muscat told the crowd present that the government had only used 30% of the funds generated by the program with 70% having been saved and would now be used to resurface all of Malta’s roads over a period of seven years.

“Had it not been for this decision we took 3 years ago, had we given in to the pressure of those who went to tarnish our reputation abroad, we would not be in a position to make a pledge like this and we would have to wait 28 years for our roads to be completed,” he said.  

Turning once again to the business community, Muscat said the Labour government had been criticised for being pro-business but insisted that had this not been the case, the government would not have been able to increase jobs and wealth in the country

Muscat ran through a list of the government’s achievement such as the introduction of free child-care, the reduction in water and electricity tariffs and a number of others which he said had only been made possible because the country had sound finances.

“We are in favour of work, and when you are in favour of work you are in favour of the workers,” he said.  

A big problem facing the business community, said Muscat, was access to finance. He said that while the government could not force banks to do that which did not make sense for them it could step in and offer assistance.

He said the government would be using the newly set up Malta Development Bank, which will also be partly funded through funds from the IIP scheme, to help small and medium enterprises fund their ideas.  

“This bank will be able to give money to other banks so they can use them to help small businesses,” he said.

Muscat said his government wanted to give small and medium enterprises a “push forward” and this could be easily observed from the fact that some 30,000 businesses no longer needed to apply for a retail license. He said that in addition to a reduction in bureaucracy, this had also seen these operators save up to €1,000.

Moreover, he said a new Labour government would be increasing the threshold for VAT exception from €14,000 to €20,000, a measure he said would also prove invaluable to small business and those who were just starting in the business world.

Muscat said that another clear example of the government’s drive to reduce bureaucracy was the fact that if today an individual were to apply for a permit with the Planning Authority, the same authority is obliged to pay the applicant if a decision is not forthcoming within a period of 100 days.

“In this country, we need to start operating using a system where if you have applied for something, you get an answer in the stipulated time,” said Muscat.  

Earlier today Muscat was present for the start of the decommissioning of the fuel storage tanks in Birzebbuga which he said was only possible because the government had taken a number of decisions, such as the country’s shift to gas.

He said that the was shocked to learn that the tanks, which until recently were still being used, had been built in 1919 and insisted that the South of Malta would no longer be the country’s dumping ground.

“There is no North and South fort us, we treat everyone in this country in the same way,” said Muscat.

The Prime Minister acknowledged that his government had made mistakes and had also handled others in a bad way, insisting however that while mistakes had been made, the government had also kept its promises, promises which greatly outweigh any mistakes made.

He stressed that it was a Labour government that had introducing the much-needed party financing law, the whistleblowers act, as well as the removal of prescription for politicians.

“Imagine this, I am the Prime Minister that removed every protection I had against corruption,” he argued. “Before if a politician stole something and ten years passed the nation could not doing anything about it.”

“I feel comfortable because this law does not scare me. We have done things that are worthy of our country and the way it is developing,” he continued.

He lashed out at Busuttil, warning that the proposals being put forward by the PN constituted a grave threat to the country since Busuttil was promising things without calculating the cost and effect on the Maltese economy.

Furthermore, he accused Busuttil of being a hypocrite for basing the PN’s campaign on corruption and good governance when he was the one who allowed fake invoices to be issued for donations made to the PN which were against party financing law. Moreover, he said that the party’s Cedoli scheme was also intended to bypass the law and that the PN was using EU funds to fund their party.

“This shows the Opposition leader’s character. He preaches to others but he does not practice that which he preaches and people are noticing this,” he said.

He appealed to those who were still uncertain to look around them at the promise which the Labour Party had kept, and urged voters not to take anything for granted, to go out and vote and to convince their friends.