[WATCH] Government in talks to attract more corporate banks, Silvio Schembri says

Xtra on TVM News Plus | Economy Ministry acknowledges difficulties companies face to access bank financing, insists solution is having more corporate banks operating in Malta

Banks have adopted stringent rules that are hindering companies and international business from accessing bank finance
Banks have adopted stringent rules that are hindering companies and international business from accessing bank finance

Malta needs to attract more corporate banks to service companies and international business, Silvio Schembri said, acknowledging the difficulty operators are facing to access bank finance.

The Economy Minister said government is in talks with several international institutions to open corporate banks in Malta and diversify the market offering.

Schembri was commenting on the difficulties some corporate customers are finding to open bank accounts – some have been refused and others have taken ages to open an account.

On TVM News Plus’s Xtra, Schembri said the situation has long been coming and since the financial crisis of 2008 banks have had to adhere to stricter regulations.

The programme was recorded earlier and will air after the 8pm news bulletin.

“This is a new reality… international regulations are one-size fits all, which means that Bank of Valletta has the same onerous obligations as Deutsche Bank when it is just a fraction of the German bank’s size,” he said.

However, he noted that Malta’s economy also has several high-risk sectors like financial services, gaming and block chain.

“The biggest problem is not related to retail banking… before the pandemic struck I had emphasised that having a personal bank account is a right protected by EU directives… by and large that issue has been solved,” he said.

But companies still face significant difficulties. “The solution is to have more corporate banks in Malta,” he said.

Nationalist Party spokesperson Kristy Debono said the more stringent attitudes adopted by banks did start with the economic crisis but insisted the more serious problems happened in the run-up to the Moneyval report and later with greylisting.

She insisted the matter was also one of reputation. “Those who created the problem cannot solve it… reputation is key,” Debono said.

She urged the authorities not be strong with the weak and weak with the strong, when addressing government’s declared intention of battling tax evasion.

“Tax evasion is not acceptable but Malta did not enter the greylist because of the small hairdresser or the butcher… we cannot have a witch hunt against the small fry and close our eyes to those who siphoned off money abroad in secret offshore accounts,” she insisted.