26 MARCH 2003

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Nationalist party looks towards EU as Labour promises cuts in public spending

Parties’ manifestos on finance and economy

"Conformity with international regulations, without foreign interference." A misnomer sounds off in the first of Labour’s proposals on financial services.
Likewise, another quirk in the same chapter: "A new Labour government will investigate the situation whereby HSBC’s purchase of Mid Med Bank gave it a dominant position in the banking sector." It is evident Labour’s, and possibly even scorn is at the heart of Labour’s policy with regards to HSBC.
Its dominant position was however never earned, but bought over, Mid Med having already proved itself the bank with the dominant position before HSBC came to town.
These are the strange flavours in the MLP’s economic approach. But the targets on controlling public spending are clear and decisive, all intimately tied to cutting down on EU harmonisation (an estimated Lm22 million yearly), and cutting down on the ‘friends-of-friends’ ancillaries.
And that means streamlining parastatal expenses, foundations’ follies and special consultancies to the ministries. Which is why Malta Enterprise will be dismantled and replaced by the Malta Development Corporation, a revival of one of the MLP’s botched 1996-98 plans.
The fiscal deficit will be decreased by three per cent in 2006, Labour pledge.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Nationalists are rooting for re-election through the EU ticket, and their manifesto is a reminder of Copenhagen’s conclusions and what lies beyond.
"As EU members, Malta will attract more investment than ever before through the doors that will be opened to the big EU market."
The Nationalist’s manifesto and its wording is more comely and colourful affair. The main thrust is the European Union, at times looking more like a MIC information leaflet than an electoral programme. On the other, the drab and prosaic presentation of the MLP and AD manifestos make for the presence of more than once concrete proposal.
The PN have focused on EU benefits to SMEs, assisted through Business Incubation Centres. The Malta Enterprise Board, collecting the MDC, METCO and IPSE together, will be enabling a more efficient use of resources.
The attention to fledgling enterprises, in a better position to create new jobs, is also on the PN’s programme. Again, the EU’s the main thrust, with the proverbial ‘opening of new doors’ as the key to turning Malta into an export-oriented economy.
Malta is also being earmarked by the PN as a commercial centre servicing the entire Mediterranean region, especially through the Freeport.
A greater emphasis on the economy is present in this year’s AD manifesto, with a more social approach to economic planning. The Green Party talks about the need to shift emphasis from an industry that is heavily dependent on construction and development, to a more export-orientated private sector.

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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