08 MAY 2002
By Miriam Dunn
The governments decision to become a signatory to the Charter for Small Businesses is a positive step for the entrepreneurial community, but it is important that the charter is adopted on a practical level and not left as a piece of paper in government offices.
This was the reaction of the Association of General Retailers and Traders to the news that Malta, along with other European Union candidate countries, has now aligned itself with EU member states and signed the Charter for Small Businesses.
GRTU director general Vince Farrugia explained that the organisation has, since 1998, been working on the drafting of a special charter for small businesses in conjunction with other national organisations which represent small businesses in various European countries.
"So this news is welcomed by us," he said. "But, as the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and we will be monitoring just how much of the charter the government takes on board."
Mr Farrugia told The Malta Financial and Business Times that one strong message in the charter is the call for governments to listen to the voice of small businesses.
"And this is certainly something the GRTU will be keeping in mind," he said.
He explained that the European Charter for Small Enterprises enshrines in print what the GRTU has been stating for years; that small businesses are the backbone of the economies of EU countries. It also describes them as being "the most sensitive of all to changes in the business environment".
"This should help to make governments realise that they need to ensure their policies harm the business community as little as possible," he said.
Mr Farrugia pointed out that the GRTU has long warned that the main complaint of the small business community in Malta concerns the way the government puts forward its economic policies without giving consideration to the impact on the islands entrepreneurs.
"There is currently no mechanism in Malta that safeguards small businesses from the direct impact of governments policies, so we are hoping that with a commitment to this charter things at the top will change," he said.
He added that the government has committed itself to a number of lines of action that the charter suggests, including programmes of education and training for entrepreneurship, the introduction of cheaper and faster start-ups in business and the introduction of better regulations and legislation.
Mr Farrugia also highlights the fact that in dealing with the subject of taxation, the charter recommends that tax systems should be adapted to reward success, encourage start-ups, favour small business expansion and job creation, and facilitate the creation and the succession in small enterprises.
"This is an area where Malta still lacks," he said. "We believe the attitude needs to change, so that we incentivise first, let businesses grow and tax as this growth takes place."