12 FEBRUARY 2003
- business suffering from uncertainty
The General Retailers and Traders Union (GRTU) is urging its members to vote in the referendum 8 March. In a move that could irk the Labour party leadership, the Union has said it is against people staying at home or invalidating their vote.
Speaking to The Malta Financial and Business Times yesterday, GRTU Director General Vince Farrugia said the GRTUs message is that irrespective of their political allegiances, members should vote either yes or no.
"We do not want members to vote "No" because they are Labourites or "Yes" because they are Nationalist. No one should tell them what to do; this is something, which the members should alone.
This volume and intensity of the pre-referendum propaganda is similar to that of a General Election. It is bringing more uncertainty to the business community," GRTUs Director General said.
During the past years and since Maltas application to join the European Union there has been a lot of talk about the economy. Much has been said as to whether it would be better to join or stay out.
Mr Farrugia said that whether we join or not we know we have to continue working closely with EU countries because that is the region we do most business with.
He said that we have to continue competing with the liberalisation mould which has continued to push forward the way we do business in this country.
Malta, like all other countries, is facing globalisation and its often-painful consequences head-on. Farrugia believes that we have to face up to our challenges and said the big issue whether we will have a strong Yes" or "No" vote. "It is of the utmost importance that we dont prolong the issue with an inconclusive result," he said.
"Malta cannot continue like this, more uncertainty is certainly not what we need."
Farrugia believes confidence will slowly return when we know the direction this country is taking. Most of Maltas trade is with Europe, although it has made inroads into other markets the European issue is of great importance, he added.
The GRTUs Director General is conducting three meetings a day with different sectors of the business community. He said the Unions message that everyone must use their head when voting is being well received.
"We cant give a specific directive like other bodies are doing. We strongly believe in the intelligence of our members and they will surely vote with sense come 8, March.
"Investment and boosting the economy to create the much-needed jobs are the number one priority for the GRTU."
Farrugia said the last thing they union wants is for people, especially its own members to be misleaded by politicians.
"I am not going into the politics of the parties and the way they are tackling the issue but it is not beneficial for us that they are making this issue their priority. It is not helping the country to move away from uncertainty."
Mr Farrugia said the GRTU is going to hold a key conference on the pros and cons of EU adhesion on 23 February. The impact on business especially those in the small and medium sector will be discussed at the Intercontinental Hotel. The main speakers will be the Prime Minister Dr Eddie Fenech Adami, Labour Party leader Dr Alfred Sant, and foreign speakers from the European Union.
The conference will kick-start with an analysis of technical priorities and a discussion on the role of small businesses in Malta.
There will also be a discussion on how Portugal has fared in the EU with Mr Paolo Andrade, the Portuguese President of the Retailers Union. He is expected to speak about the pros and cons for Portuguese businesses following EU membership.
The GRTU Director General also spoke about the importance of the European Single market, which is expected to be one of the biggest challenges for Maltese entrepreneurs.