In a document presented to the country’s political leaders in the run-up to the 3rd June General Election, the Malta Chamber called on people in public office whether elected or appointed, to lead by example and take the indisputable moral high ground against dubious practices.
Addressing both political parties, the Chamber’s pre-electoral proposals documents says that politicians are elected for 5 year terms and their outlook is short-term.
“Business and investment has a longer time-span and politicians must ensure that their work and their actions are complementary to that of entrepreneurs who have a longer vision and strive for a legacy that outlives them.”
The Chamber called on a new government to ensure full independence of public entities from any direct or indirect political interference while enacting all the necessary constitutional reforms to strengthen governance.
Moving to public finances, the document expressed concern on the unprecedented increases in the public sector’s wage bill. The Chamber explained that apart from the obvious effect this was having on the public purse, this was also exerting undue pressure on the private sector which was struggling to fill vacancies.
The document called on all political parties not to continue with the present momentum of public sector growth and incentivise surplus public servants to shift to the private sector.
Detailing the difficulties being experienced by the Manufacturing sector in Malta, the Malta Chamber said that it needed a concerted effort to re-establish its position as a major contributor to the country’s economy and employment.
The Malta Chamber reiterated that the incoming Government must prioritise efforts to lobby the European Commission to enact legislative changes to the EU’s regional policy to eliminate discriminatory classification criteria. Being an island state, Malta was being discriminated against when compared to other remote island regions which are not states. To this end, the Malta Chamber called on an incoming government to make the necessary representations in favour of a change in the relevant European legislation which is up for review soon.
The pre-electoral document also underlined the Malta Chamber’s proposed solution to the national airline Air Malta. The Chamber called on a new government to reduce Air Malta’s operational costs, rectify the airline’s debt situation and subsequently divide the company’s shareholding into three parts namely, the Government, an international aviation strategic partner and local investors.
The Malta Chamber also dedicated a chapter to the rising challenges being faced by the private sector in identifying suitable human resources for their operations and maintaining competitiveness due to the related increases in labour costs.
The Malta Chamber criticised both political parties for promising a number of measures such as parental sick leave, paternal leave, extending the maternity leave, increasing minimum wage further and compensating public holidays that fall on a weekend, may have the reverse effect in eroding companies’ competitiveness and make certain categories of the labour market less attractive to employ.
The document proposes an innovative solution to help reducing costs for night and shift labour. Such a scheme was already being successfully implemented in Belgium. Due to additional costs in the form of premiums and bonuses to compensate employees for working nights and shifts, companies operating round the clock such as manufacturing and hospitality, are faced with an increasingly high labour cost bill. The scheme would be aimed at reducing these costs.
Tackling the skills gap the country is currently experiencing, the Malta Chamber argues that this is the result of poor planning and an education system which is not producing the adequate skills required by a growing economy.
“The Malta Chamber further recommends utilising stipends as an instrument to provide for present and potential gaps in the labour market. One example was the increase in stipends and initial financial grants for students reading for B.Sc in Pharmaceutical Science as of September 2016. This initiative is in line with the Malta Chamber’s stance in favour of a reformed stipend system that better guides students into choosing rewarding career paths in demand by the economy” the document says.
The Chamber presented the document which is titled “Policy Proposals for a Competitiveness-centred Electoral Manifesto” to the Prime Minister Dr Joseph Muscat and the Leader of the Opposition Dr Simon Busuttil in separate meetings. In all, the document proposes 71 concrete deliverables split in to 12 chapters, each tackling an important aspect of Malta’s economy.
Download the document here.