Developers’ boss toasts Muscat’s ‘magics’, PM vows no tax on vacant property

Malta’s big construction do gets underway with political leaders toasted by MDA boss Sandro Chetcuti

MDA president Sandro Chetcuti
MDA president Sandro Chetcuti

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has committed his administration to stay the ‘pro business’ way, in an address to the construction lobby.

Addressing the Malta Developers Association shortly after Opposition leader Adrian Delia’s speech, Muscat told his audience their industry was “creating wealth, but only because the economy was doing well.”

“From the start, the government’s plan was to open up the country and ensure economic growth, something it had succeeded in doing,” the prime minister said.

Muscat said his administration would always remain open to dialogue and would retain its pro-business approach. He stressed the need for a government to lead rather than simply administer.

Muscat also congratulated the MDA for their study on the property market, which he said showed that the property bubble many spoke about, “was not in fact a reality.”

He said the country still faced land use issues and environmental challenges, pointing to the Planning Authority’s fuel stations policy which he said had not left the desired results, leading environment minister Jose Herrera to request that it be reviewed.

Earlier on, MDA president Sandro Chetcuti – who is paid €19,000 to act as a consultant to the parliamentary secretary for the property market – said the industry had achieved good results in no small part due to Muscat’s “magics”.

Chetcuti emphasised to those present that the MDA was not there to help solve developers’ problems with the PA or Transport Malta, but was an association that based itself on policy. “Politicians want to serve not our industry, but the country in general,” said Chetcuti. “All we do is tell the government what policies will or won’t work.”

Chetcuti thanked Muscat for “having faith in the MDA”, praised tourism minister Konrad Mizzi as “a doer”, and expressed confidence that he would build a similar positive relationship with PN leader Adrian Delia, thanking him for appointing MP Marthese Portelli as shadow minister for planning. “She’s a person the association can work with.”

Chetcuti announced he would not run for another MDA election. “I feel I have done my time and I don’t want to cling to power.”

No tax on empty properties

Replying to concerns expressed by one member about “rumours of a tax on vacant properties”, Chetcuti urged those present not to rush to conclusions.

“The government has not informed us about this and we would be quite upset with it if it were to be the case, but we can’t worry about rumours,” said Chetcuti.

Replying to the concerns, Muscat said the government was not considering taxing empty properties but added that “something needed to be done.”

He said the government expected a better response to its scheme allowing landlords to enter into a long-term agreement with the government for their properties to be used for social housing in return for a guaranteed ten-year income. “If you are not seeing [the opportunity], change your consultants.”

Need for more courageous steps

PN leader Adrian Delia said that with the country’s population set to continue growing, a discussion was needed on sustainability.

“Rather than create conflict on development issues, it’s important for all stakeholders to be involved and for everyone to understand that development could be beneficial for developers and the country alike. We need to take more courageous steps and not think in terms of small steps but rather, think in a revolutionary way,” said Delia.

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