Fabian Demicoli

Livid importers to pay eco-tax on current stock


At a heated meeting
organised by the GRTU yesterday for its members, importers were told by
Parliamentary Secretary Tonio Fenech that they will be expected to pay the new
eco-contribution on items that are currently in stock.

There was no love lost
between GRTU Director General Vince Farrugia and Fenech on the controversial tax
government intends to introduce by August. Farrugia charged government with
ignoring the social partners saying that the tax was an imposition.

Fenech
replied saying that government is still open to discussion but could not wait
for ever. He insisted that the eco-contribution was intended to partially
finance the cost of waste treatment and disposal.
Vince Farrugia opened the
meeting with a brief introduction that traced the reasons why the Malta Council
of Economic and Social Development was set up, highlighting the need for
government and the social partners to discuss issues of national importance
before implementation. He also said that in last year’s budget former minister
John Dalli had given the GRTU his word that the eco-taxes mentioned in the
budget speech were not to be immediate, but would be introduced gradually and
after wide consultation.

“Two weeks ago government sent for us in
separate groups and without presenting us with documentation explained the
eco-contribution. I immediately smelt a rat, it looked as if everything was
pre-planned (kollox mahdum bizzilla) and they gave us two days to hand in our
comments,” Farrugia said.
He warned that if government simply ignored the
social partners through sheer imposition they would lose trust in the process of
consultation, which has taken years to arrive at the stage it is today. “If the
social partners lose their trust in government it would be bad for the country,”
Farrugia warned.
Farrugia also accused government of being in a state of
panic and insisted that the self-employed were not to blame for the shortfall in
public finances.
In his explanation of how the eco-contribution is expected
to function, Parliamentary Secretary Tonio Fenech rejected the argument that the
tax was intended to raise revenue for government.
He insisted the environment
was of utmost importance to government and not going ahead with the
eco-contribution meant the country would have to create another Maghtab instead
of treating its waste according to European norms.
Fenech painstakingly
explained that an eco-tax that discriminated between environmentally-friendly
and harmful products could create a barrier to trade and thus create problems
with the EU Commission.
Answering questions from the floor the Parliamentary
secretary said that importers were expected to make an opening stock declaration
by 1 August on which the eco-contribution would have to be paid on the next VAT
return due.
Fenech argued against the introduction of a percentage
contribution rather than the stipulated flat rates saying that it would have
been harder to introduce a waste returnable scheme.
Pressed by an importer on
the imposition of the tax on current stock, Fenech admitted that no study was
conducted on the impact of the tax on the cash flow situation. He defended the
lack of study saying that stocking policies varied between companies.
“Do not
restrict us,” one importer told Fenech. “We want to invest and create wealth,”
was the plea of another GRTU member.
At the end, the meeting served little to
clarify particular concerns by different individuals. It seems that the details
of the eco-contribution are not yet clear giving Vince Farrugia additional fuel
to hit out at government for defaulting on meaningful
consultation.

 

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