Cardona meets MDA to discuss PL pledges for development sector

Economy and Investment Minister Chris Cardona meets Malta Developers’ Association to discuss Labour’s electoral pledges for development sector

Minister Chris Cardona, flanked by MDA president Michael Falzon and vice president Sandro Chetcuti
Minister Chris Cardona, flanked by MDA president Michael Falzon and vice president Sandro Chetcuti

Economy and Investment Minister Chris Cardona has met with representatives from the Malta Developers' Association to discuss the Labour Party's electoral pledges for the local development sector.

In a brief statement before the meeting itself, Cardona listed the PL proposals dealing with the development sector that the meeting would touch upon, and that Labour is committed to seeing through.

Among them, he said, is the proposal for property owners to pay capital gains tax or 12% final withholding tax be extended from seven to 12 years as from 2013.

He also noted the issue of first time buyers, and the issue of the 5% tax on transfer of the first residential property which left as inheritance or given as a donation by parents to children.

He said that the government will also be looking towards incentivising the rent market, noting the popularity of Labour's electoral proposals in this regard.

"We are obliged to introduce an optional flat tax rate of 15% for various reasons, among them to create a stronger market and to foster more scope for renting," Cadona said.

He added that on government's to do list is also advantageous schemes and fiscal incentives to encourage investment in vacant housing located in conservation areas such as restoration works.

Cardona also reiterated Labour's pledge to remove the government architect system, because "it is not fair that this person visits a given property months if not years after it was purchased, with the result that many people are being faced with needless and avoidable fines."

He added that there are a number of other issues which government is also committed reviewing, including existing schemes such as the High Net Worth Individuals scheme, and the and Permanent Residents Scheme.

He said that such schemes pertain not only to the development sector, but have a far wider scope, and adding that on top of these, the Labour government intends to introduce a number of schemes intended to make Malta more attractive for property investment.

On his own part, MDA president Michael Falzon welcomed the Labour Party's electoral pledges, pointing out that most of them stemmed from the MDA's own suggestions.

"To be fair both sides took them up, but we are encouraged by the fact that you are still committed to them. We will be sure to keep pestering you to introduce them," Falzon said with his characteristic humour.

Falzon went on to say that the MDA believes that despite being an important pillar in the Maltese economy, it was not given due importance in recent years.

"When we were doing well, nobody complained and the government raked in income - as it should be. But when it started doing badly, nobody said a word, and it was up to us to stick our necks out by making suggestions," Falzon said.

He also insisted that the majority of the MDA members are not "a handful of wealthy large contractors that are building up the entire country, but many small, often family-owned, operators."

He said that the MDA is committed towards further and sustained dialogue with the government to further these small operators' interests.

Falzon also emphasized that government also needs to make greater efforts towards encouraging foreigners to invest in property locally, pointing out that in recent years there was a prevalent fear that this would have affected local markets negatively.

"Sadly, the High Net Worth Individuals scheme did not work. But there is still scope for dialogue with us and other stakeholders to make inroads in this regard," Falzon said.

In his own address, MDA vice president Sandro Chetcuti said that the association is committed to "educating" all those who operate in the sector, and who are potentially giving the sector a bad reputation.

"We want to educate those who are harming the industry. There are many whoa re unaware of building regulations and issues like property health and safety on the work place. These are giving the whole industry a bad name," Chetcuti said.

"We are against abuse. All we want is a level playing field."

He added that the industry needs assistance to keep expanding, noting that it is still recovering from the shock that was felt when in 2007 and 2008, the industry began contracting.

"Sustainable development is as important as tourism. It generates a lot of work for the whole country," he said.