[WATCH] Political turmoil leaving its toll on commerce, business leaders say

‘Country needs honest politicians who are ready to take the necessary measures to normalise the situation

GRTU CEO Abigail Mail and veteran businessman Reginald Fava were guests on last night's Xtra
GRTU CEO Abigail Mail and veteran businessman Reginald Fava were guests on last night's Xtra

Growing concern over the negative impact that political turmoil is having on the commercial sector has prompted business leaders to call for a swift return to normality.

Abigail Mamo, GRTU CEO, warned that the damage being inflicted now will “reverberate through the years” as she called for more accountability and transparency.

She was a guest, along with veteran businessman Reginald Fava, on TVM’s Xtra on Thursday.

Mamo said that the GRTU, an organisation that represents small and medium businesses, will be making stricter demands of politicians, and they have already presented a charter on good governance to the President. 

“We have learnt… we will not let the same things happen again,” Mamo said.

Many business owners have complained of worrying drops in sales levels, Mamo added. A recent survey among members showed that 65% of businesses have had a drastic dip in sales since the start of the crisis that came to a head when businessman Yorgen Fenech was arrested and charged with the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

The arrest precipitated into a political crisis when Fenech implicated the Prime Minister’s former chief of staff Keith Schembri in the murder. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat subsequently announced his resignation, which should take place in January after the Labour Party elects a new leader.

Mamo said that 15% of businesses registered a decrease in sales of over 50%, making it the sharpest drop in the shortest period since the world recession in 2008 and 2009.

She stressed the need for an urgent return to normality, noting that even the Central Bank had spoken of the negative effects which will befall Malta’s economy should the current crisis continue.

Fava expressed his concern over the impact of the current political strife. The Chemimart Group chairman noted how many small business owners were blameless victims of the current circumstances and were helpless to do anything.

The country is dependent on politicians to sort the mess out, he said. “They need to do what is necessary to ensure things get back to normal as soon as possible.”

Fava insisted that the negative perception of businessmen is a mistaken one, since the majority of entrepreneurs are honest workers who merely wish to satisfy clients and see their companies, and the country moving forward. 

“This time of the year is usually when businesses try to balance their accounts to make up for certain losses incurred during previous months,” Fava said. 

He added that Malta “needs honest politicians who are ready to take the necessary measures to normalise the situation”, for the sake of the country’s reputation and credibility.

Fava did, however, end on a tone of hope, stoutly asserting his belief that the country can find its feet again. “If there’s the will to amend the situation, we can amend it,” he said.

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