29 June 2005

The Web

Rent reform white paper “early next year” – Dolores Cristina

James Debono

The long-awaited rent reform proposals by Government will not see the light of day before “early next year” according to Minster Dolores Cristina, who is piloting the issue.
Speaking in yesterday’s edition of TV programme Int X’Tahseb?, the Minister for the Family and Social Solidarity spelled out government’s time-table on rent reform.
But this rather long drawn timetable will not suffice to stop Alternattiva Demokratika’s referendum campaign. AD Chairperson Harry Vassallo announced in the programme that his party had set the end of July as a deadline for collecting the 30,000 signatures required for making this referendum possible.
The aim of this referendum is mainly to liberalise pre-1995 rents and remove the tenants’ automatic right to inherit these properties.
Describing the pre-1995 rent laws as an “injustice”, Dolores Cristina insisted that reforming these laws “is one of my deliverables.”
Cristina insisted that rent reform is part of the government’s programme for this legislature, which was outlined, in the President’s inaugural address to parliament in 2003.
Dolores Cristina announced that she will be presenting a report to the Cabinet in the first week of July.
This report will be based on the conclusions of the working group, which has been meeting for the past months.
Dolores Cristina added that it would require more than one cabinet meeting to discuss this complex issue.
Cristina also said that following these discussions, a white paper would be presented by “early next year”.
Whether the white paper will become law, depends on whether government will be prepared to take the plunge in the last year or two before the 2008 election.
Harry Vassallo while welcoming the Minister’s commitment expressed his scepticism that the government will embark on rent reform in the last two years of the legislature.
Vassallo insisted that the government was only responding to AD’s campaign. “If we stop our referendum plans, the government will stop too.”
Dolores Cristina replied by saying that there is absolutely no need to spend a “million pounds” on this referendum because the government is committed to reform the rent laws which AD is seeking to abrogate through a referendum.
Asked by host Saviour Balzan whether AD had set a deadline for collecting the 30,000 signatures required for calling this referendum, Vassallo announced that his party is planning to collect the required number of signatures by the end of July.
During the same programme, lawyer Reno Borg who is a regular columnist in l-Orizzont, defended the pre-1995 rent laws as a “social piece of legislation” which should be reformed but not eradicated. He also accused AD of defending property owners while neglecting the rights of poor tenants.


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