Prime Minister Robert Abela on Monday announced a number of electoral pledges meant to ease doing business in Malta.
The Labour leader said that his party in government will be introducing measures following a discussion with the business community.
The first electoral pledge is the right to a basic bank account for businesses and the self-employed.
A Labour government, Abela said, will legislate to ensure that this right is enshrined in the law. This, he said, will be in conformity with EU standards and based on what other member states have already done.
Banks would still retain the right to refuse a bank account based on certain criteria.
Asked how he would reconcile this new right with banks’ notoriously low-risk appetite for certain sectors, Abela said it was no use for the government coming up with new economic niches if these could not even open a bank account.
Businesses have found it increasingly difficult to do business in Malta with banks shedding sectors deemed to be too risky.
This was further compounded by Malta being added to the so-called greylist of untrustworthy financial jurisdictions in June last year.
“Problems with banking is consistently a top issue for businesses and investors in Malta,” Abela added.
The second pledge, which ties in with this new right, is for Labour to create a new banking review office. Abela said it was not acceptable that a business loan took months to be approved. This new office would make recommendations to banks to speed up the approval process.
Overdue reforms for due diligence
Abela also promised that a Labour government would centralise processes for due diligence.
The “extra” red tape facing businesses today will be cut out and they would no longer have to submit the same document to more than one entity.
“If one entity does due diligence, then it should be enough. If it is good for one entity, it should be good enough for others,” Abela said.
A fourth policy pledge would help new financial investments by local businesses. The government will cover 30% of the investment on fixed capital in specified areas and this grows by a further 10% for Gozitan businesses.
Businesses creating green jobs will meanwhile be eligible for tax credits on salaries, Abela said.
Finally, the PL will create a legal framework for business start-ups. This will include financial incentives and a private equity fund. There will also be a one-stop-shop specifically for startups to help ease setting up on the island.
You can follow more developments from today's election coverage here.