No decision by the Government Authorities – Are we heading for a Christmas without Gas!

Gas Distributors, Water Bowser
Operators, Lotto receivers and Importers of Electrical and Electronic Equipment
have barely anything in common. However behind the scenes, beyond the concern
of the public, the man in the street, all of these sectors have their
livelihood left hanging by incompetent Authorities appointed by the Government
of the Day.

Gas Distributors have been in this
saga since October 2008. In October 2008, Legal Notice 249 was published and
totally liberalized the gas distribution retail sector without even recognizing
that 31 distributors already existed in the market covering services across all
the island. The new Legal Notice gave way to the issuing of two new
authorizations to distribute LPG in cylinders.

We are of course aware today that
Legal Notice 249 of 2008 was prepared by the big boys and handed to Government
so that his job was only to effectively transpose it. Government gave in to the
demands of investors with the excuse of liberalizations and the Services

Since then the saga of discussions to
rectify this anomaly has been never ending. The public is not a part of this
because it keeps getting the service at prices fixed by MRA. The deliveries are
effected to every corner of the island. There are no exorbitant additional
fees. And since the service continues the Government Authorities do not feel
that they have to decide on their future. It seems that Government and its
appointed authorities only hear the distributors the day they decide to put
down their delivery vehicles and cease to provide a service. Of course, GRTU is given
the dog‘s lead. We continue to be provided with a scenario that makes us
gullible enough to accept that something is being done behind the scenes.
Gullible we are not and stupid neither!

What worries us is the fact that on
the eve of an election the Government of the day should be working hard 36/7 to
make sure that pending issues are solved. The way these issues have not been
solved and are not being tackled makes us think that the Government of the day
deep down has acknowledged defeat at the polls already. Then they would leave
these problems to the Labour Party to solve with the added spice that they
would then point fingers at those who would not solve them overnight.

If this is the scenario, then GRTU is
appalled at such an approach. We call black black and white white. Time is
running out fast and taking small and medium sized enterprises in these sectors
for a ride is not acceptable at all. For one the gas distributors have had more
than enough promises more than enough time frames.

The coming week is telling time for
the Government of the day or caretaker Government (depending on the Budget
vote). We are told that Government is waiting for a decision from MCCAA. Where
is this decision? Where is the safeguard hero of Troy who is supposed to be a
Minister for the SMEs, special envoy for SMEs. MCCAA falls under his umbrella.
Is it possible that he cannot pinch any one's a…… at the Authority? Or is he
just a pawn in a lion's den?

Once MCCAA issue this famous or
infamous decision, we could then expect the Government to take the next move.
And move it will have to, either left or right! Government will have to decide.
Gas Distributors will no longer bite their nails. Time is more then up! What
happens next week in this sector will of course decide whether what the public
has been used to, to date, continues over the Xmas period and into the New Year
peacefully and with good intents. If there are no decisions next week
then…gas supply to your doorstep is no longer a guarantee. And if there's
anyone to blame, blame the Government of the day!

As they say procrastination is the
thief of time!

How are the Localities preparing for the festivities?

This is the ultimate question behind a
survey GRTU is presently conducting with all Local Councils in Malta and Gozo.
The survey was just initiated a couple of days ago however a good number of
Local Councils have already been contacted and it is, even at this early stage,
proving very interesting as we are starting to unveil the different trends
within each Locality in the way they prepare for the festive season and
especially to what extend the Business Community is involved.

It transpires that the majority of
Local Councils in Malta and Gozo have a special admiration for Christmas and
this can be seen in the fact that many main streets in various localities have
been decorated already. Some Local Councils have even joined forces with
artists and amateurs to build cribs and opened their doors to invite the
general public for a visit. A number of Local Councils have for various years
organized Christmas Villages in prime areas within their Localities with the
aim to attract more people to visit and also boost businesses in the said
locality. It was also reported that they encourage traditional
food-preparations for Christmas and are supporting new activities that include
various exhibitions.

Some Local Councils will be using the
Parish square and will be supplying tents for activities such as, live music
choirs and orchestras, arts and crafts, parties and dinners for both children
and the elderly, daily entertainment including parades and cribs made from
different materials. There are Local Councils that will even be organising
events on a large scale. They told us they will organise a Christmas Eve early
breakfast and even hold a concert by Tribute band Abba Gold for which everyone
is invited.

We are also informed that two Local
Councils will be joining forces for the greatest event held on New Year's Eve
which appeals to people of all ages. GRTU will be issuing a detailed report
once the survey is finalised.

In the meantime GRTU would like to
thank all Local Councils in Malta and Gozo for their collaboration and work and
also for the initiatives throughout these years and appeals to the Business
Community to also take initiatives in their locality and cooperate wherever
possible with the Local    Council.

Bottles 4 Christmas campaign at Giovanni Curmi Higher Secondary Naxxar

 Green MT recovers 44Million kilos of
– Green MT, the National Waste
Packaging Compliance Scheme continues to foster public awareness campaign
across the education sector. In collaboration with Giovanni Curmi Higher
Secondary Students at Naxxar, with the help of the School's Green Teams, a campaign
to recover plastic bottles took place over the last three weeks. The aim was to
continue to further educate youths in respect to recycling.

Led by Ms Attard, Head of School, and
the enthusiastic Ms Pulis and Mr Stellini, and backed by Green MT Eco councilor
Romina Schembri an event was held yesterday to award those students who
recovered most plastic bottles and further to inaugurate a Christmas tree made
from these bottles. The 3 metre high tree was inaugurated by Parliamentary
Assistant Dr Stephen Spiteri and addresses were made by the Naxxar Mayor Dr
Maria Deguara and Mr Vincent Farrugia, Green Mt Chairman and GRTU Director
General. On this occasion Green MT also donated recycle bins to the school.

Whilst congratulating the students
for their achievements when they were receiving a number of vouchers as awards,
Mr Farrugia outlined that since inception, in July 2009 to end September 2012,
Green MT has recovered 44million kilos of separated recyclable waste. In itself
a feat, but further a remarkable feat when one realizes that all this
collection and recovery and final recycling is now being financed by the
business community.

Ms Attard thanked all the students
for their input into enrichment classes and looks forward to continued
cooperation with Green MT and the students so that waste separation at this
school remains the order of the day.

Doing business with Malta – Trade missions & Business Delegations

 Algeria – GRTU President Paul Abela has this week
participated at a Trade Mission to Algeria organized by Malta Enterprise.
Amongst the many meetings Mr Abela met The Director General of the Algerian
National Agency for the Development of SMEs, Mr Rachid Moussaoui, to which he
presented a Bi-lateral Agreement for Mutual Cooperation for the benefit of

The aim behind the agreement is to give support to GRTU members when
visiting Algeria, the same support GRTU would give them in Malta.

During the meeting with Mr Moussaoui it
transpired that the Agency has 5.5 Bn to give to SMEs on Investments.


GRTU Council Member Noel Gauci attended a China Business
Delegation meeting headed by the China Chamber of Commerce, organised in
conjunction with Malta Enterprise. During the meeting Maltese Government
officials, representatives of organisations and businesses met with Chinese
counterparts. The interestof Chinese companies in Europe is ever growing, and
Malta offers an ideal platform for them to set up a base in the EU and also
penetrate North and South Africa.

More information on opportunities in Algeria and China may be
obtained from GRTU's EU & International Desk.

The President and GRTU would like to thank Malta Enterprise's
Internationalisation team for the professional way in which the organization of
such activities are conducted.

GRTU requests the establishment of a National Skills Council for Commerce

GRTU is currently working on a formal
request which it will be presenting to Government for the setting up of a
National Skills Council for Commerce. This is now long overdue, especially now
that the European Commission DG Employment has given the green light for the
setting up of the EU Sector Skills Council for Commerce.

This results from the
agreement signed between EuroCommerce, the Retail, Wholesale and International
Trade Representation to the EU, representing GRTU and other employers
organizations in Brussels, and Uni Europa Commerce, representing workers

As a major provider of employment in
Europe, the commerce sector recognises the need to increase the average level
of qualifications. The Sectoral Skills Council aims at addressing this
shortfall in level of qualifications and skills mismatching. The Commerce sector is therefore one
of the key sectors selected by the EU Commission to benefit from its support
for   launching the activities of a European Skills Council for Commerce. Commerce
is also the second EU Sectoral Skill Council to be launched in Europe after the
Textile and Clothing industry.

GRTU has steadfastly been demanding
more attention to skills training in this sector also because most GRTU members
are in Commerce and therefore we give our full support to EuroCommerce in the
signing of this agreement.

GRTU's Director General Vincent
Farrugia participated this week in the final conference of the Eurocommerce and
UNI Europa project "Establishing a European Sector Council for Commerce on
employment and skills". The event
was an occasion to present the structure of the network, the results of the
interviews with national observatories, the new electronic platform to be
launched as a support, as well as the expected outcomes, governance and
expectations of the European Skills Council and the role of the various

 "GRTU demands specific and
concrete action because it is no longer acceptable that Malta ranks with the
worst in skills training in this sector among EU Member States." The reports so
far show a very bad picture. The latest Small Business Act fact sheet outlines
skills as one of the areas where Malta lags behind. According to statistics
they have of 2010 the report says there has been little change from the previous
year and Malta remains below the EU average in this area. The figures available
for "Training and skills development" also point to some challenges
in this area. The report outlines that in Malta, only 46% of micro-firms
provided training for their employees in 2010, whereas the EU average was more
than 58%. As regards the IT capability of Malta´s SMEs, the results are
inconclusive, but they still point to further potential in this area,
especially given the fact that 20% of SMEs' purchase on-line, compared to 28%
in the EU.

The country report on skills also gives
a very bad impression of what is the progress Malta has achieved in the area.
GRTU therefore expects a serious dialogue on the issue so that within short
time we will be in a position of reaching an agreement on the
establishment of the Council. Only then will Malta be able to form part of the
emerging European Sectoral Skills Council for Commerce.

GRTU is currently in consultation with its members and other
interested parties to formulate a policy doc that would be presented to
Government as a basis for the establishment of the Council. GRTU invites
all members in the Commerce sector to give their views.

Council agrees to launch free trade negotiations with Japan

Good news for the commerce sector: the
Council has finally given green light to the Commission to launch free trade
negotiations with Japan. The first round of trade talks can be expected soon.
GRTU is a great supporter of an FTA with Japan.

The trade talks between Brussels and
Tokyo should now lead to tangible results for the commerce sector: the
agreement should deliver joint standards and certification schemes for consumer
products as well as the mutual recognition of standards, the removal of
existing tariff barriers, the abolition of beyond-the-border measures, the
liberalisation of distribution services and the relaxation of the rigid zoning
regime in Japan.

Please do not hesitate to refer to the attached EuroCommerce
briefing paper on Japan to inspire any complementary advocacy vis-à-vis your
national MEPs and government throughout the negotiating process.

The EU-Japan relationship is far from
achieving its full potential. Neither side can afford to ignore the opportunity
it offers for greater prosperity and economic stability. The EU and Japan
should work together to achieve a far closer trade and economic relationship.

At a time when global competitiveness
demands the highest levels of efficiency in production, relations between Japan
and the EU should be barrier-free to further mutual growth.

A crucial area for European retailers
in Japan is the importation, certification and labelling of consumer products
for sale. These procedures remain costly and complex, due to the Japanese
authorities' demand for additional product testing, though standards for most
retail products are similar.

The EU and Japan should work on joint
standards and certification schemes for consumer products, and mutual
acceptance of standards and
certification. Hence, products certified for one market by definition, should
also be accepted in the other market, unless particular reasons for not doing
so can be presented. Moreover, food hygiene standards should be established
aligned with internationally accepted standards.

Product labelling is intrinsically
difficult for European retailers in Japan. The Household Product Quality Law
and accompanying voluntary labelling guidelines ("hyojikitei") prescribe in extreme detail e.g. how household
products should be labelled when sold in Japan.

Consultation Session: Rights is online music works

The Malta-EU Steering and Action Committee (MEUSAC) and the
Commerce Department (CD), Ministry for Fair Competition, Small Business and
Consumers (MFCC) will be holding a consultation session on the Proposal for a
Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on collective
management of copyright and related rights and multi-territorial licensing of
rights in musical works for online uses in the internal market [COM(2012) 372].

The objective of the proposal is to put in place a better
legal framework for the collective management of rights that are administered
by collecting societies on behalf of right-holders such as authors, performers,
producers etc. It will provide for rules to improve the standards of
governance, transparency and financial management of all collecting societies,
thus improving the management of revenues collected on behalf of the
right-holders (creators) as well as enhancing the co-operation between
collecting societies across the EU. It will also set minimum standards, adapted
to the digital world, for collecting societies' multi-territorial licensing of authors'
rights in musical works used for the provision of online services, which allows
for improved and simpler cross-border licensing.

The consultation session will be held on Tuesday, December
18, 2012, between 2:00pm and 3:00pm, at the Multipurpose Hall, Education
Department, Beltissebħ, Floriana.

Get Qualified Scheme extended to support more sectors

Building up on its success in assisting
more than 2,000 students with over €7.7 million in tax credits, the Get
Qualified scheme administered by Malta Enterprise is being expanded to support
students and other individuals obtain qualifications required by a wider range
of industries.

Upon successful completion of their course, supported students
are granted a tax credit which may enable them to recover up to 80 per cent of
their expenses in relation to registration fees, examination fees, as well as
fees paid to the university, institution or recognised educational entity.

In this manner, as a result of the
qualifications obtained, students would be better equipped to grasp career
opportunities and invest in further development within those industries showing
a higher potential economic growth. Following the amendments to the scheme,
studies leading to a certificate, diploma, degree or post-graduate degrees
within industries such as advanced manufacturing; maritime; energy, oil and
gas; and life sciences (including health services and veterinary services) will
now be supported.

Engineering courses, for which
support was previously limited to electromechanical engineering, is now being
widened to include other aspects of engineering such as structural engineering.

This will complement the existing
support covering courses related to aviation; economics and statistics;
financial services; crafts and creative industries; chemical and pharmaceutical
industries; information and communication technologies.

A significant amendment is also being
introduced in respect to studies at a doctoral or post-doctoral level, whereby
the Get Qualified scheme will now support all students irrespective of their
area of specialisation.

Students have to submit their
applications by not later than twelve months from the commencement of their
course to be eligible for the tax credit, which is capped depending on the
level of qualification or certification being obtained – with higher amounts
being granted to those obtaining more advanced qualifications.

In recent years, Malta Enterprise has
assisted around 3,500 students with almost €14 million in tax credits to
further their studies and consequently improve their skills and employability
through Get Qualified and similar schemes. Many students who were supported are
today contributing to the Maltese economy by lending the skills and knowledge
acquired to various enterprises in Malta.