30 OCTOBER 2002
Fighting monopolies with a vengeance
There is a challenge facing Maltese entrepreneurs when it comes to dealing with competition. Though we read that Maltese business welcomes a more competitive environment, what we see and experience is so very different and distant.
Businesses in Malta are constantly bemoaning the apparent lack of opportunities, but they invariably fail to refer to the walls many Maltese and Gozitan businesses build to keep out newcomers.
They also blame politicians, failing to note that many not all - are held to ransom by some members in the business community.
We have seen, of late, some instances in which business initiatives have spoken of their contribution to the national economy, as if there was no one waiting to replace them.
This monopolistic trend has been dented but not removed. It is a well-known fact that the real monopolies grew in the eighties, when Mintoffian politics, fuelled by willing central economy ministers, instilled a nepotistic culture in the issuing of licenses.
The full story will be told in the years to come when people would have disappeared and passed away.
The use of heavy tactics in Maltese business is not only archaic but unacceptable. And this is the point of todays editorial. We cannot continue to accept instances where businesses only survive because of the benevolence of the few monopolies that dominate the market.
There are many examples of small businesses facing rough tactics from monopoly players and seekers. Some of them are very serious, but never get reported because the media is too petrified to lose advertising revenue.
These tactics not only include intimidation and threat, they also involve blackmail and buying out - this is no exaggeration.
Some members of the dominant class that clamp down on budding new businesses guarantee this by willingly spreading their tentacles across the media and political class.
With the first segment, many members of the media are usually silenced by their unfettered familiarity with the individuals who run the businesses concerned. Others go one step further and offer their writing and media skills and act as PR props.
It does not stop here and it continues with the advertising campaigns that sustain the newspapers, TV and radio stations that report the events.
The heat is also on politicians with constant lobbying and unqualified support.
There have been many allegations about the nature of doing business in Malta.
Significantly, it is not the creation of new businesses based on the new economy that are problematic, but rather new businesses structured on the old economy.
If we are to enter a free market environment, then the age of monopolies and bullying has no place in Maltas today or tomorrow.