The Malta Chamber of SMEs is "ready to accept" the cost of living wage adjustment (COLA), even amid concerns this could be as high as €10, president Paul Abela said on Tuesday. 

Speaking as the chamber unveiled its proposals for the upcoming Budget, Abela said that since there is an agreement in place, the organisation would honour it and accept the set COLA. 

"There is an agreement and we will honour it. There might be repercussions if it is too high, of course, but it will be honoured no matter what," Abela said.

He was speaking at the same time as the various trade union groups in a rare joint statement said they were calling for a meeting with the government to discuss changes to the COLA mechanism.

Among some 50 proposals, Abela said the chamber was suggesting a series of measures to help mitigate the impact of a high cost of living adjustment, such as lower tax. 

"We want the economy to keep growing. That is the point of every Budget," Abela said. 

Giving an overview of the measures chamber, CEO Abigail Agius Mamo said a survey carried out recently highlighted several issues the government needs to address.

The survey showed the biggest challenge was a shortage of labour with employers only finding low-skilled workers.

The issue was raised by almost half of the businesses, the CEO said.  As a result, almost half are operating with a shortage of staff. 

What are the measures?

Proposals to reduce inflation:

1.    Incentivise business through lower tax schemes

2.    Widening of tax brackets for individuals

3.    Reduce VAT  

4.    Remove excise tax

Proposals to address HR shortage: 

1.    Limit public sector employment

2.    Launch a secondment plan

3.    Launch trade programmes

4.    Ensure an efficient TCN recruitment system

5.    Address part-time/full-time tax discrepancy

Proposals to address uneven playing field: 

1.    Ensure public procurement fairness

2.    Launch a scanner similar to that at the freeport through the catamaran exit for illegal imports

3.    Tax reform to address the 6/7th disparity – the tax in place to attract foreign investors. It is impossible to compete

4.    Incentivising transparency in payments 

Proposals to address import challenges:

1.    VAT and customs duty to be calculated on cost of goods only

2.    Increase incentives under the Rent Subsidy Scheme

3.    Independent review of customs procedures

Proposals to counter bureaucracy:

1.    Remove audit requirements on micros with under €500,000 turnover

2.    Revising MBR fees

3.    Reinstate the better regulation unit

4.    Address banking dominance

Proposals for incentive schemes: 

1.    Improving micro-invest

2.    Incentivise green transport

3.    Yachting industry and private education providers

4.    Renewables

Proposals for increasing quality:

1.    Launch a quality strategy for Malta that addresses development planning, traffic issues and safety and security

2.    Launch a tourism competitiveness scoreboard

3.    Invest in technology to govern scooters

See more details on the Chamber's proposals here.

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