[WATCH] PL on Air Malta negotiations: ‘Government must remain majority shareholder’

A Labour Party in government would continue to work on finding ‘a strategic partner’ for Air Malta and provide a solution for the national airline, similar to the one found for Enemalta

Prime Minister and Labour Party leader Joseph Muscat addresses a press conference with justice minister Owen Bonnici and tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis
Prime Minister and Labour Party leader Joseph Muscat addresses a press conference with justice minister Owen Bonnici and tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis

If re-elected to a second term, the Labour government will continue talks with a number of consortia in order to find the best strategic partner for Air Malta, Prime Minister and Labour leader Joseph Muscat said.

Addressing a press conference in Qawra with Tourism Minister Edward Zammit Lewis and Culture Minister Owen Bonnici, Muscat said the government’s position during the negotiations will always be that the government must remain a majority shareholder in the national airline.

“The Opposition’s proposal is for the government to be a main shareholder… our position is that we want government to remain a majority shareholder,” Muscat said.

He added that the government wants to find a long-term solution, similar to that found for Enemalta. In the case of the airline, Air Malta requires a strategic partner which can help it become more competitive, not only in the service provision but also in terms of fuel procurement. 

“We are not closing our doors to any of the other proposals… but this is our preferred position,” Muscat said.

The government is still holding talks with a number of consortia, including an equity firm who has a letter of commitment from “strategic partners” ready to join the consortium.

Muscat admitted that the government’s majority shareholding position becomes a bone of contention during the talks: “But given the strategic value of Air Malta, this is our preferred model.”

Zammit Lewis confirmed that the target for the issuance of early retirement schemes for Air Malta employees, as per the conditions of the collective agreement, remains June.

Both Zammit Lewis and Muscat pledged that no jobs at Air Malta will be lost.

The tourism minister also announced that on Friday, the Malta Tourism Authority signed two memorandum of understandings, set to bring some 10,000 Chinese tourists to Malta.

The MoUs were signed with the Bank of China and one of China’s biggest tourist operators.

It was explained that the arrival of more Chinese tourists presented a number of challenges: the availability of visas, the need to hire more tourism workers who speak Mandarin, a culinary challenge and a financial challenge. Muscat explained that since China’s banking card system differed from the western model, the country’s ATMs have to be upgraded.

Tourism proposals:

  • Addressing seasonality: committed to continue attracted a bigger number of tourists, all year round
  • Whilst further investing in the Institute of Tourism Studies, set up a digital platform that facilitates professional development and recruitment
  • Facilitate processes for foreign workers
  • Upgrade and embellish tourism zones
  • Fiscal incentives to promote the development of tourist attractions and accommodation in traditional non-tourist zones

More in Election 2017