6 NOVEMBER 2002
Anthony T. Camilleri from the Malta Chamber of Commerce speaks on the implementation of the European Charter for Small Enterprises
The Malta Chamber of Commerce has been at the forefront of European Charter for Small Enterprises since before the time of its ratification, in Maribor, Slovenia last April an event I feel proud to have witnessed on behalf of the Chamber and thanks to Edwin Vassallo. It is also worth mentioning that our Chamber hosted a seminar on this subject last June, which was addressed by President Reginald Fava.
As the senior private sector institution in a country where virtually all business concerns can be defined as small and medium sized, it is hardly surprising that the Chamber takes an active interest in this subject in an effort to safeguard the interests of all its members.
Our members, in fact, are traditionally known to complain about bureaucracy and other elements within the local business environment that distract the entrepreneur from his normal course of duty that of seeking the creation of wealth for his personal interest and that of the country at large. Edwin Vassallo is well versed with all this because, in his role as Parliamentary Secretary, he is often the "unlucky" recipient of our lamentations.
Indeed, Mr Vassallo must be commended for taking this role with certain dynamism and with a genuine desire for acting as the facilitator of the interaction between Government and the business community. We support his vision to simplify the local business environment by eliminating undue costs and bureaucracy which our entrepreneurs encounter with a view to rendering them more efficient and competitive.
The Chamber commends Mr Vassallos latest initiative in this regard - that of spearheading a parliamentary debate on this subject. Indeed, this is expected to continue formalising the importance of small businesses and the vital role they play in the local economy. It is also heartening to note that the comments made by the Chamber and its kindred organisations last June will form the basis of this parliamentary debate by means of a comprehensive report which has been drawn up by the Parliamentary Secretary.
As our Chamber has had occasion to state in the past, local enterprises require an efficient business environment in which they find encouragement through adequate fiscal tools and the elimination of avoidable costs and bureaucratic harassment. We must remember that they already face strict competition and as Malta approaches greater involvement in the globalised world and the EU single market, they must not be hampered by local factors which impinge negatively on our competitiveness.
Excessive bureaucracy is the parasite of our economy and we should continually strive to eliminate it from our business environment. Other commendable aims mentioned in the Charter include education and training initiatives, access to finance, improvement of support services and access to research and development.
The implementation of the European Charter for Small Business means that our country now has a common standard adopted by our European trading partners by which to benchmark our development in the area of business facilitation. The Chamber also looks forward to greater efficiency resulting from the eMalta initiative - another Government initiative related to simplifying the administrative environment for the business community and citizens at large. These are concrete and bold commitments on the part of Government for which our Chamber has only praise.
It is augured that the country can live up to all these expectations. There must be a united front to achieve this objective. This aim warrants a concerted effort in order to succeed. All parties concerned must endorse the efficiency objective with a view to address the situation because ultimately the benefits will not be restricted to the business community. The parties that are to collaborate include in particular all government departments that have connections with the business community such as tax, social security, customs. The local councils, police, education institutions, banks, utility providers and the legal system are all an integral part of this intricate equation.
This concerted effort can be orchestrated through an Enterprise Policy - an important piece of legislation which Malta's body of laws still lacks amidst this rapid development of updating and enhancing the countrys legal framework. An Enterprise Policy is urgently needed to ensure that all interested parties keep pace with changing markets, industry structures, technologies and demand patterns. This demands constant rethinking, restructuring and innovation to encourage entrepreneurial activity and create an environment that is supportive to innovation. In the light of the characteristics of the local economy, this piece of legislation would serve to orientate enterprise policy on entrepreneurship, innovation, the knowledge-based economy and access to markets. Hence, the Chamber looks forward to the Enterprise Policy White Paper, which we understand will be published shortly.
In conclusion, the Chamber strongly augurs that as a result of the
forthcoming debate, small businesses will find a better environment
in which to operate, develop and thrive. The European Charter for Small
Enterprises is perceived by the Chamber as a further step in helping
to shape and attain EU Enterprise Policy goals which are largely beneficial
to Malta's business community.