7 13 February 2001
MTA contributions to hit parliament tonight
By Miriam Dunn
The controversial issue of the increased contributions that the Malta Tourism Authority wants businesses to make will be discussed in Parliament this evening.
The matter appeared to have reached a stalemate after a call by the Association of General Retailers and Traders for the MTA to discuss the matter further was given a cool reception.
In a terse comment, MTA spokesman Leonard Zammit Munro told The Business Times that the authority had "nothing to add" to what was stated by its chairman John C. Grech during its press conference at the end of last month.
Shadow tourism minister Karmenu Vella told The Business Times that he had put in a private members motion calling for Legal Notice no. 14/2001, which governs the increased contributions, to be removed.
He admitted that when the issue comes to the vote, after speeches by himself and Tourism minister, Michael Refalo, it may well be defeated, but said he felt the problem merited a debate in Parliament.
"I think the increases are exaggerated and will have a negative effect on the tourism sector," he said. "I am also concerned and I know this concern is shared by others that they have been imposed without consultation."
Mr Vella claimed the contributions had been worked out with no logic or sense, adding there were many anomalies.
"They also fail to address the real problems in the sector, such as the overall upgrading of the product and the issue of competitiveness," he said.
When the MTA first announced the increases in contributions, there was outcry from businesses, who felt the new rates to be exaggerated. Organisations representing the traders complained that the hikes were being introduced at a time when business was difficult and the tourism yield lower.
The authority consequently relented, revising certain rates and also withdrawing a penalty if the new contributions were not paid within a three-month timeframe.
But in its statement yesterday, the GRTU, one of the organisations representing businesses affected by the hikes, questioned whether the MTA had the right to impose the "exorbitant" extra taxes after the budget and urged Parliament to intervene.
The associaation pointed out that even after certain amendments and the waiving of the penalty, the issue was far from solved and the association was still dissatisfied.
"We had hoped that the MTA would invite us back round the table for further talks, but this has not yet happened," GRTU section President, Philip Fenech, said.