New white paper aims to regulate 'cultural' open markets

Economy Minister Chris Cardona launched a white paper on open markets that aims to regulate hawking and to protect the hawker community

Minister for Economy, Investment and Small Businesses Chris Cardona
Minister for Economy, Investment and Small Businesses Chris Cardona

A white paper, launched today by the Economy Ministry, aims to protect and enhance existing open markets.

"This government believes that open markets are an integral part of both our cultural heritage and our local economy," the ministry said in a statment.

Economy Minister Chris Cardona launched the White Paper together with Parliamentary Secretary for Local Government Silvio Parnis earlier today, explaining that the rationale behind it was based on sympathy towards small businesses where the future of markets, traders and stall owners is considered precarious.

The main changes proposed in the white paper include the issuing of licenses and allocation of stalls, the supervision of the operations of local markets, and a complaints resolution. The erection of an autonomous board assisted by an Open Market Compliance Promotion Unit is proposed, where the said board would oversee these duties. 

"The reform seeks to bring about greater transparency, a more structured policy-making set-up, better data collection and to reduce bureaucracy with the introduction of a one-stop platform to deal with applications and all that comes with the organisation of an open market," the ministry said. 

The reform also hopes to tackle an issue with succession. As it stands, hawkers may only legally transfer their stall and place in the market to immediate family members, resulting in them losing out when there is no immediate family or when family members are not interested in taking up the responsibility. 

Cardona said, "open markets, especially historical ones, need to be protected and encouraged. We want hawkers and open markets to be part of the Maltese way of life for generations to come, by taking the necessary steps for them to evolve."

Parnis argued that the stalls are very popular with Maltese citizens and tourists alike and that they are a part of the Maltese culture. He said that the reform also aims to regulate open markets in terms of behaviour. "These markets are a means of subsistence for hawkers and at the same time this type of business often causes inconvenience for our residents, often due to negligence."

The white paper hopes to increase discipline and enforcement, Parnis stated, and that local councils would play a role in enforcement when determining whether stall owners have the necessary permits to operate.

The consultation period is open until 14 December with the goal of receiving feedback for the proposals being put forward.

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