The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry has expressed serious concern about recent declarations made both by Government and Opposition quarters with respect to competition safeguards and the role of the State in business matters . It insists that any proposal related to price monitoring agencies is unacceptable.
In a statement on Friday, it said that on one hand, the Minister of Finance was reported to have said that Government intended to create an agency to safeguard fair competition and ensure that there are no price abuses.
In turn, the Leader of the Opposition stated that (a) A price monitoring agency needs to be established that would be in a position to report and proceed against anti-competitive practices like cartels and price fixing (b) a website should be created to publicise recommended retail prices of all food and medicine products sold in Malta and (c) Government imports products and services itself, which are sold to the public in different methods. He stated it was crucial to establish full transparency; eliminate inefficiencies and undue bureaucracy.
The Chamber stated that it believes competition is the best form of ‘price control’ which no agency can ever seek to achieve. It accepts that competition requires a regulatory framework which, in turn, necessitates a well resourced competition office but within the realities of today’s market, where cut-throat competition emerges from every angle including the internet, it is inconceivable to suggest that local competing businesses can agree to fix prices.
Besides, for several months, the Chamber has been insisting for effective market surveillance, to ensure that a truly competitive environment prevails as several bona fide businesses were facing illicit competition from traders that did not comply with fiscal, environmental and other regulations. It is of concern to note that politicians seem to only be interested in protecting the consumer even at the expense of risking tax revenue and jobs.
The third PL proposal, was ambiguous and subject to interpretation, the Chamber said while asking for satisfactory clarifications. One of the fundamental beliefs of the Chamber is that Government’s role to legislate, regulate and re-distribute public funds and not to enter into direct competition with private enterprise.
The Chamber also believes that public sector set-ups cannot match private sector efficiency levels. Consequently, the Chamber is pleased to note that instances of state intervention in business have diminished in past years, and expects the remaining cases to be resolved within a given time frame.
The Chamber concluded the statement saying that it certainly does not expect any reversal of the set process with the importation and distribution of goods and services by Government.
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