Fabian Demicoli

Rent Reform: Who will really, really benefit?

 Government and those who are being instigated to write in the media in favour of the proposals presented by the Hon. John  Dalli, on behalf of the PN Government for the Reform of the Rent Laws safeguarding operating enterprises, fail to reply to the most fundamental question : Who will really, really GROSSLY benefit from the reform? Is it really the small guy for whom some writers are shedding so much crocodile tears? or is it the others? The very, very few and very, very big others?

We have walked the streets of Valletta and talked to shop owners and asked the simple question: Who is the landlord who receives the rent? And the landlords` names roll on, its not a very long list but names that are repeated, in certain streets door after door. These are some names for the record: Testaferrata, Salamone, Desia, Depiro, Sant Cassia, Montaldo, Gollcher, Manduca, Formosa, Sant Fournier, Schicluna, and of course the Government.

There are other important questions GRTU asked and to which answers remain unforthcoming. In his address this week, Paul Abela, as President of GRTU, raised a number of important question in  his address to Alternattiva Demokratika.

"On the issue of the Reform of Rent of Commercial Property, the property from which the work and earnings of many of our members emerge, I ask: Is it possible that none of the political parties thought of looking up the history?  Is it possible that nobody has noticed that in most democratic countries, the issue of rent of residential property is legislated separately from that of rent of property used commercially for enterprises? Is it possible that none of you were scandalized as we were that the Government inserted in the White Paper, which primarily deals with the reform of rented residential property just two pages and the handful of proposals that refer to rented commercial properties that affect thousands of business owners, their families and their employees?  Does this mean that nobody cares about the tenants, whose income depend on the property from which they work, and that the issue of their security of tenure is of no relevance to the political party currently in Government?  And what about the Party in Opposition, and the Alternattiva Demokratika?  Is this their attitude too?

The proposals of the Government included in the White Paper are not based on any statistical evidence.  Does the Government have no statistics that show how many businesses are going to be affected?  Is this the state of affairs we have in our country today?  Does it mean that whoever has the majority in parliament even if obtained by a few hundred votes can proceed regardless of the impact of its proposals?

Is it possible that none of today's politicians have taken the initiative to understand that the laws regarding rent of commercial property are an important instrument for the safeguarding of jobs in small enterprises, of the self-employed business owners, their families as well as their employees?  Other countries, especially France and Austria, give great value to the livelihood of enterprise owners in rented properties.  Why is Malta taking a different approach?  Were the promises that the self-employed and the small business owners are at the heart of Maltese politicians, empty?

An enterprise owner who has rented property has much of his wealth tied up in that enterprise.  How can it be that the property owner is now being given the right to kick him out of the premises and effectively requisition his business without compensation at the termination of the lease contract? 

We are speaking clearly by saying that what is proposed in the White Paper allows the property owner not only to take back the property but also to take everything else.  Once the tenants are kicked out the property owner can effectively open the business for himself.  Malta has never seen a proposal involving such large theft as this.  How can it be that suddenly the owner's right for seizure has become so sacred?  Did this right become so sacred when the European Union recognized that the small businesses are the backbone of the European Economy and when a Small Business Act is being drawn up so that European Politicians try to safeguard the small enterprises?  I ask, who are the owners who have a great deal of property rented before 1995?  Can they show their statistics so that we can truly see who is putting the Nationalist Party into Government with their proposal?

What is the reason behind all this hurry?  Why did they come up with this proposal in the middle of the summer, when everybody's interests are elsewhere?  Who, in Malta, is conscious of the fact that the consultation period closes a few days after Santa Marija and that the Government already has the law almost fully planned out?  Is this how they are going to lead democracy, with dictatorship of the majority walking over the rights of the minority and mocking the people in the middle of this hot summer?  It is obvious that we, the GRTU, believe in an alternative democracy!"

 

 

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