Fabian Demicoli

Libya

Commerce is always greatly affected with such upheavals and what is happening now is unprecedented as it affects the whole region. Libya, but not only Libya but also Tunisia and Egypt, though at a lesser extent, are also important for Malta, will greatly effect our exports and our growing import-export trade, Libya is of particular concern as the involvement of Maltese entrepreneurs large and small is very extensive and the number of workers based in Libya is great and all this has created a steady foreign exchange earning capability for Malta, which is difficult to replace.  I am really surprised that in spite of our immediate demands as we realised what was happening, it was obvious for all those watching Libya closely that the trouble would escalate, but yet government has not set a task force with the participation of the private sector and put aside funds and guarantees so that businesses will not break under the pressure.

 

Government was quick to act when the financial crisis was on us and the Banks needed public moneys guarantees that not only saved the day for them and for us but also caused the Banks to continue to accumulate heavy profits, and now that small courageous entrepreneurs are involved, Government seems to me to be indecisive. We need to define the problems faced by enterprises in Malta and especially those with investments in Libya and define urgent and precise measures of support. The situation will not turn favourably too soon so the enterprises under pressure need urgent support. Then there is also the question as to what Libyan assets are really going to be frozen as this will seriously affect the bigger enterprises operating in Malta. The trouble itself will cause new opportunities but it all depends on the logistics, Air travel, shipping, operation of ports and airport payment systems. An effective task Force is a must. What has been built by us in Libya has been done over a forty year period. We will not be able to reach again this level of business if we let all fall.

The question of price increases is serious and I am tired stressing at every opportunity I have that Government cannot simply act as a transmission belt with the semi-independent authorities like MRA simply approving without any government counter action as if the economic impact is not important. The old concept of complete government detachment from the market and the policy of non-intervention has failed. It should have been buried with the other pre-economic crises rabble. Government must now discuss the use of economic and fiscal tools to sustain business and help unleash a more reasonable approach. We are not talking of bulk buying but of serious burden reductions on enterprises so that increases can be balanced against other cost reduction and tax advantages before transmitting all to users and consumers. I do not detect any serious approach to this problem from the side of the authorities, Prime Minister included.

The international community including the EU is moving too slow and they are not clear on the growing negative impact as economic activity is slowing down drastically in the region and the logistical operability is very negatively affected. Individual governments are taking action but effectively entrepreneurs everywhere have been left on there own and before drastic financial and economic support is drafted, agreed to and implemented the negative consequences will continue to grow. Again here it's the same story. When the financial sector fell in crisis an incredible five thousand billion euros were magically found, yet now when so many tens of thousands of workers and entrepreneurs from the manufacturing, commerce and services sectors are involved it's almost as if nothing is happening. And all those stories and reports from conferences and seminars on the Mediterranean Union and Mediterranean co-operation are as good as dead.

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