The Nationalist Party has promised to create three new free trade zones as part of its proposals to address the rising cost of living and transport challenges faced by local businesses, should it be elected into government.
It said the party would make use of the Malta Free Zone act, which enables EU member states to designate parts of the customs territory as ‘free zones’ where goods imported from outside the EU are not subject to import duty and other charges.
However, when asked where such sites might be planned for and what kind of services the free zones are envisaged to offer, party spokesperson Peter Agius said that these were subject to industry consultation.
“It’s fundamental to understand that for Maltese businesses to have a better service and compete on an international level, infrastructure needs to improve,” he said.
“We are an island and we can’t change that, but we can make sure that, once the goods are in Malta, businesses are receiving a better service in a one-stop-shop and these free trade zones will serve to achieve that as well.”
€40m national fund in first year
Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi shared some proposals made by the PN in September to tackle the rising cost of living, which have also been included in its electoral manifesto.
These include setting up a €40 million national fund to help cushion the exorbitant transportation costs faced by businesses who import and export goods, investing in an international multi-modal hub for the carriage of goods to and from Malta, decreasing the commercial transport costs between Malta and Gozo and creating new warehouse space for industrial use.
Azzopardi promised that to carry out these projects by the first year of its legislature, if it elected on March 26.
Candidate Noel Muscat said that industry needed state help to find better operations, and to this end, a PN government would be investing in technology to make infrastructure more efficient.
The PN is also proposing that customs officers become part of the disciplined forces and be entitled to benefits including being able to retire after 25 years of service.
In 2016, the government opened a scheme for businesses to develop a logistics hub over 45,000 square metres of land in Ħal-Far that could be used as a customs warehouse or a free zone.
The project, however, flopped and after two unsuccessful calls, no proposals were made by any prospective bidders.