The Federation of Industry is insisting that government gives guarantees that the essential services offered by Sea Malta to Maltese industry are retained, independently of the privatisation plans.
Contacted yesterday by The Malta Financial and Business Times, FOI Director General Wilfred Kenely said his organisation insisted the services offered to industry by Sea Malta were indispensable for Malta’s national economy and competitiveness.
“Sea Malta is the lifeline for Maltese industry, it provides Malta’s link to Europe and the rest of the world, so the service has to remain available as it is now,” Kenely said.
He said the FOI will not go into the question of whether Sea Malta should be privatised or not: “We’ve always been well-served by Sea Malta, and human resources there shouldn’t be wasted, but if government wants to privatise, that’s its prerogative; what matters most is that the service remains.”
The privatisation of Sea Malta is at present the subject of political controversy as the Opposition is accusing Government of purposely allowing the company to deteriorate and go bankrupt prior to its sale to Grimaldi Naples.
The FOI director general said that what mattered most for industry was that “the current service remains available”.
“We don’t afford any mistakes in this privatisation, there is no room for them. I am sure government is aware of how dependent Maltese industry is on Sea Malta’s services because of our isolation. Industry doesn’t afford to carry any further burdens, so it is of utmost importance that this service remains,” Kenely said. “The whole issue revolves around the negotiations and the final agreement that will be reached to guarantee that Sea Malta’s public service obligations remain honoured even if the company is privatised. It is important that negotiations take into consideration the specific needs of Maltese industry and that the service Maltese industry is getting now will remain there.”
This includes taking into account the ‘just-in-time’ processes of modern industry, he said.
“When it comes to the importation of raw materials and partly finished products, as well as to the export of finished products, timing is essential for our competitiveness and efficiency,” Kenely said.
The Opposition is also insisting that Sea Malta is needed to import raw material and export Maltese products, as nobody else could guarantee a stable sea link to Europe and to the rest of the world.
The government has so far committed itself to keep a public service obligation agreement to subsidise unprofitable routes which may otherwise remain uncatered for by commercial shipping companies. The present agreement with Sea Malta expires in 2010.
Government said Labour leader Alfred Sant had every right to criticise strategic decisions but his attacks on the integrity of the whole privatisation process was “an act of sabotage”.