1 AUGUST 2001

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Oil, dear genie

The Private pensions reform and the unions

The debate or it’s absence, on pension reform is symptomatic of this country.

We are confident that union leaders Gejtu Vella and Tony Zarb will come forward with concrete proposals.

Mr Zarb, representing the largest union on the Island, has surely not minced his immediate reservations. He has warned that there is no way that the union will accept a replica of the Thatcherite pension proposals of the 1980’s.

His concerns are not without some foundation, but then again he should not be too hasty.

The union, and we say this with no bad intentions, should take a leading role in the discussion because sooner rather than later pensions will have to be reformed.

We all agree that the contributions from national insurance do not sustain the pensions and the social frameworks that are needed to see to the regular needs of an elderly population.

We all know that the demographic changes will lead to a shift in the age distribution with its inherent reduced natality rates and significant boost in longevity.

There are various issues at stake and they must be discussed from detached standpoint. Partisan politics has no role in this.

There are a number of issues to be seen to:

The first relates to the national insurance contribution and the way this is administered by the government.

The second is whether this contribution should be amended to encourage NI contributors to consider various forms of pensions.

The third is to determine the role of private pensions and their inter-relationship to state pensions.

The fourth is the role of private companies in administering these private pensions and their burden vis-à-vis the state on private pensions.

The fifth is the working age and whether this should be linked to an optional retiring age or a variance of this.

Let us all have an open mind about pension reform. But let us at least start the discussion.

The unions and the employers are the bigger players in this debate and the government is duty bound to concede room for a healthy debate.

Unfortunately, the lethargic start of the Pensions Commission has led one to believe that this matter is of little interest to the Government.

In our view this is by far the most important item after the European Union debate.

Regulating the estate agent

The revelation that real estate agents are acting in such as a way to lead to a hike in property prices is interesting and shocking. We repeat here what out sister Sunday newspaper MaltaToday reported: that agents were tricking customers by buying their property on temporary contract and reselling such property at an inflated price to their customers.

The habit is widespread and uncovers the level of deceit and unethical behaviour that has led to property prices jumping to news limits – which are truly unsustainable.

We believe that there is a distinction between an agent and a speculator, speculation and banking is for example, negated by the banking sector. Can’t such a scheme be implemented for the Real estate business.

There is a dire need for some form of regulation.

The sooner this happens the better. No wonder one hears that the property market is subject to the law of the jungle.

The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07
Tel: (356) 382741-3, 382745-6 | Fax: (356) 385075 | e-mail: editorial@networkpublications.com.mt