19 DECEMBER 2001
By Miriam Dunn
Problems with the Planning Authority, Customs, the Police and the VAT Office are among the most common encountered by businessmen during their daily operations, according to a report published last week.
The complaints have been compiled in a report entitled Regulatory Constraints on SMEs as reported to the Small Business Unit, covering the period May October 2001.
According to information given at various meetings through different channels, including business associations, local council meetings and the call centre, entrepreneurs main gripe with the various service providers was delays. These were linked to a number of entities, but in particular the PA, for issuing of permits and Customs for the refunds of deposits. A lack of enforcement from the Police on hawkers and difficulties with trading licences were other common complaints.
Other problems mentioned relate to the Malta Development Corporation, the Malta Transport Authority, the works Division and the Land Department.
The report follows the decision made by the Small Business Unit to begin holding regular meetings with service providers in which the business associations problems were raised. More than 40 meetings were held during the schedule in question.
The length of time that deposit refunds take to be issued by the Customs Department was brought up, with businessmen protesting that the process was lengthy. Some entrepreneurs also cited the extra expenses they were incurring in overtime to officials during the summer months.
Police enforcement was an issue that was raised on various occasions, especially with regard to control on hawkers. Particular mention was made to the high number that work around City Gate.
Some business owners complained of delays in the issuing of licences from the Police and also questioned refusals in permit changes.
But as expected, the problem of delays in permits was voiced loudest in relation to the PA. According to the report, various entrepreneurs complained of delays in the issuing of planning permits to revamp shop premises in spite of adhering to the PAs demands. In other business meetings, a number of entrepreneurs made the same complaint, while others also questioned the fact that applications for change of use or alterations were being turned down.
The Works Division was also put in the spotlight as far as the "urgent need" for road maintenance in many areas was concerned and also the cleaning of street culverts.
The topic of parking difficulties also featured regularly in meetings, with many business owners highlighting this problem to the Malta Transport Authority. In particular, they brought up the problem of loading and unloading merchandise. A number of business owners also complained about red tape where form-filling-in for VAT and tax purposes was concerned.
The SBU stressed that the overall response to the meetings with business associations and service providers has been positive.
"It is important to stress the fact that in the report we are
listing all the issues which were presented including the ones that
were solved as well as those still in the process of being tackled,"
the report states.