Businesses that failed to pay their taxes on time should not be “rewarded” by coming to an agreement with the authorities to settle their dues, which ultimately sees them paying less than the amount owed, the Chamber of Commerce said on Thursday.

Chamber president Marisa Xuereb said businesses should be incentivised to follow the rules, but the current system did not facilitate this. 

Members of the Malta Chamber of Commerce presented over 100 new proposals in their vision for a new legislature to Opposition leader Bernard Grech, outlining areas of growth and support they think should be a priority for Malta’s next government. 

The chamber president said the document was the result of two years of consultation with stakeholders that contribute to virtually every sector of the economy.

The chamber highlighted its position on tax compliance, the need to expand emerging industries that show potential for growth and provide small businesses with the infrastructure they need to thrive.

While the chamber is proposing a corporate tax rate of 25 per cent, to bring Malta in line with its European counterparts, getting off the FATF’s greylist by the end of the year should be the next government’s top priority. There should therefore be a greater emphasis on corporate tax compliance which would be integral to achieving this. 

Chamber chief executive Marthese Portelli outlined some of the chamber’s vision for economic recovery and growth following the pandemic, saying that the next government should focus on strengthening the tourism industry, which took a big hit but is nonetheless integral to the economy. 

MTA should be regulator not competitor

The Malta Tourism Authority should function as a regulator and not as a competitor to the private sector while the chamber again recommended that no new licenses for tourism accommodation should be granted, given the ample evidence of a slowdown in business even prior to the pandemic. 

Industries such as manufacturing, which proved to be prosperous during the pandemic should be bolstered while finding ways to encourage emerging industries such as technology and the blue economy. In particular, there is a need to look into the production of semi-conductors locally, of which there is currently a global shortage. 

There should be less fragmentation in government departments that assist arts and culture, while a specific plan to turn Valletta into a retail destination for tourists, by courting luxury brands to the island, should also be drawn up, they said. 

When it comes to expanding on thriving industries, Malta should look to expand services in the maritime industries and not rely solely on the registration of vessels, which ultimately awards tax credits to shell companies, they said.

In light of the ongoing war in Ukraine, the chamber stressed that stabilising energy prices would be crucial to every European government and Malta must also ensure it retains a firm grip on the situation, as fluctuating prices would risk sending the entire country into a downward slide. 

On the future of planning and infrastructure, the chamber said that a recurring capacity exercise as well as ensuring that the Planning Authority moves away from a permitting function to an actual planning role is integral to making sure infrastructure goals are reached. 

This includes taking a serious look at our planning policies and local plans and understanding how these can be strengthened using correct data. 

This will ensure that there are no conflicting planning policies that can be interpreted based on who the applicant is, they said.

On transportation, the chamber said that rather than suggesting new methods of public transport, there needs to be a holistic plan that connects all the nodes together, as well as an e-wallet system that allows users access to all public transport.  

Former MP Claudio Grech, who penned the PN’s manifesto, welcomed the proposals and said they much aligned with the party’s vision for the country.

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