26 FEBRUARY 2003

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Toon this week: “Oh show me the way to the next....”

GRTU – Mover and shaker or kingmaker?

Vince Farrugia has been an influential personality in the economic and political scene for many years.
Before the 1996 elections the stand of the GRTU that Farrugia spearheads played a significant role in bringing down the Nationalist government of the day.
Now the union and its director general may well be instrumental in keeping the PN in government.
Farrugia refutes the idea that the GRTU, or himself, play the role of kingmakers, but there is no doubt that the union plays a big role in shaping public opinion.
In the early days of discussion the EU it was often thought that small and medium sized enterprises could swing the vote against membership because of their worries over increased competition.
The GRTU has no official stand in favour or against membership and Farrugia, while sticking firmly with that stand, has made it clear that from the economic perspective, joining the bigger market will be beneficial. He also believes that Maltese businesses would live up to the challenges.
Farrugia believes the GRTU’s competence is related to business matters and said it cannot advise about other aspects of EU membership.
The GRTU had been insisting with the government that it prepares a cost benefit analysis of the economic impacts of membership, but for reasons unknown it was never done. The union then collaborated on a report prepared by Dr Ali Bayer and found the results of that report to be reliable.
Bayer’s report indicates that Malta stands to gain from EU membership and expects Malta’s GDP to increase by 5.9 percent.
Speaking at a national conference on European Union membership and small businesses, Vince Farrugia said that the GRTU has no doubt that should the Maltese decide to join the EU the self-employed and businessmen would be ready to face up to the challenge and would generate wealth for themselves, their families, their employees and the country.
Farrugia insists that Malta faces major problems including its financial deficit and that Malta needs to find "new openings" to solve its problems.
The GRTU Director General said entering the large European market together with our competitors from Eastern Europe will clearly increase the pace of development on these islands.
He warned that should we remain as we are, our economy would drag and not grow enough. He said that entering the single European market would bring us new opportunities.
The GRTU might unwittingly give the pro-EU supporters another boost with its insistence that a decision be taken on 8 March.
Contrary to the Malta Labour Party’s stand, which encourages voters to abstain from voting, or destroy their vote, the GRTU is pushing its members to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
While the Labour party will be attempting to count those that rubbish their vote, or fail to vote, as being against membership. The GRTU will not, and intends to recognise the majority of ‘yes’ or ‘no’ votes as the winner, as is normal in a referendum.
While the GRTU has, in recent years, been seen as more of an ally of the MLP, and this was never more in evident in its anti-VAT stand in 1996, it now would seem to be speaking words that are music for the PN, which wants to see Malta in Europe.

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
The Business Times, Newsworks Ltd, 2 Cali House, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 02, Malta
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