The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry has followed the EU Commission’s communication to the EU Council on Malta, which made a number of recommendations on various national issues. The Malta Chamber is encouraged by the Commission’s stable macroeconomic assessment for Malta together with an acknowledgement of Malta’s “robust” rate of economic expansion and improvements in administrative and regulatory simplification initiatives.
The Malta Chamber was also encouraged by the Commission’s report emphasising similar recommendations to those it has itself been consistently making, in particular those related to age-related expenditure, the labour market and wage indexation to productivity.
The communication mentions a number of urgent reforms the country needs to implement which include measures related to the country’s fiscal consolidation, sustainability of pensions, early school leavers, increasing female participation in the labour market and energy.
The Malta Chamber has spoken consistently about urgent pending reforms. The current ongoing debate about the adequacy and sustainability of the current pension system is one such example. It is no secret that the Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) system is unsustainable because the first tier adjustments are only short term measures which need to be at least supplemented by a voluntary third pillar.
The Malta Chamber has also stated that the country needs to put its finances in order. We believe that Malta’s public finances would be effectively addressed particularly through the strengthening of fiscal enforcement, market surveillance and a continuous fight against illegal practices and fiscal evasion.
In relation to wage indexation, the Malta Chamber has repeatedly called for the revision of the COLA formula to include productivity as well as inflation. This is to ensure sustainability of the economy as well as of our wage indexation system itself. We are disappointed to note that despite the several discussions at MCESD level, this has not materialised.
The Malta Chamber is also in favour of enhancing our efforts to reduce the current high rate of early school leavers and increase the female participation in the labour market. The World Economic Forum’s annual competitiveness index shows that of one of our weakest points remains our labour market’s efficiency. The same report suggests that local businesses feel that our workforce requires further applied training and education and this is a strain on our competitiveness. The ratio of youngsters leaving school at the age of 16 or before needs to be addressed. Positive and encouraging results have been noted over the last decade. Nevertheless over a third of the local future workforce still opts against pursuing further education. Low female workforce participation has been highlighted time and time again. It is felt that the authorities need to go a step further in this direction to entice more women to enter the labour through further tax incentives, improvement in accessible and affordable child care facilities and the provision of institutional support measures such as extension of school hours.
In relation to energy, the Malta Chamber agrees with the recommendations being made, namely the reduction of Malta’s dependence on imported oil and stepping up efforts to promote energy efficiency. It looks forward to the timely implementation of measures which will lead to the appropriate and affordable energy solutions for the business community and the country as a whole. In particular we refer to the completion of the power station extension in July, the laying of the 200MW interconnector linking Malta to the European grid, further investment in renewable sources of energy and the continuous promotion of energy conservations.
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