Business lobbyists are urging Prime Minister Robert Abela to suspend the cash-for-passport scheme, something the new head of government has previously said he wants to retain. 

The recommendation is one of over 60 proposals put forward to the prime minister by the Chamber of Commerce as his first week in office comes to an end.   

During a meeting with the business lobby group on Friday afternoon, Dr Abela was handed a 25-page report which the Malta Chamber put together in light of the political crisis that hit Malta in December. 

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IIP scheme

While the chamber acknowledged some of the recommendations it was putting forward could take some time to implement, it also proposed a number of measures it expected Dr Abela to execute during his first 100 days in office. 

They include temporarily suspending the controversial Individual Investor Programme (IIP) to ensure that “any necessary investigations and due diligence” are being carried out in order to ensure the programme is of the highest standards. 

The IIP scheme gives wealthy investors the opportunity to buy a Maltese passport, and therefore become an EU citizen. 

Throughout his campaign to become Labour leader, Dr Abela had been adamant that while he acknowledged the controversial cash-for-passports scheme had been the subject of negative attention, the programme is acceptable so long as it is transparent. 

“Let us not destroy this source of revenue,” he has said.

The scheme has been criticised, both locally and on an international level, over risks it poses. While the government has insisted rigorous checks are carried out before someone is handed a Maltese passport, members of the European Parliament have repeatedly argued Malta’s scheme opens the door wide open to criminal activity in Europe.   

‘Investigations free from interference’

The chamber also wants the prime minister to use his first days in office to address concerns and allegations concerning major contracts and concessions signed or entered into during the past six to seven years. 

“If there is proof enough to warrant further investigation, these should be free from any state and political interference and concluded in an expedient manner,” the chamber said.

Dr Abela was also urged to carry out an evaluation of how the appointment of positions of national importance is done.

The proposals also include a call to appoint a governance minister - something which Dr Abela had already done when he formed his cabinet on Wednesday.

Edward Zammit Lewis has been tasked with the portfolio. He is also minister for justice. 

What are the 65 proposals about? 

The chamber said that for there to be a proper reform, change must look at three layers of governance which include both short- and long-term decisions. 

So-called ‘first-order governance’ measures include looking at issues surrounding the employment of persons of trust, addressing conflicts of interest involving backbenchers as well as strengthening the safeguards for the free press, among a number of other issues. 

Second-order governance recommendations include the evaluation of electoral and legislative systems as well as changes to the judiciary, law enforcement and the civil service. 

The chamber is also calling for a national discussion on the values that make people Maltese. 

“This initiative needs to form part of the constitutional reform and should be spearheaded by the President,” the business lobby said. 

Values in business and education should also be reviewed through the setting up of proper codes of conduct and better ethics, they said.