The government is committed to carry out an all-inclusive reform in the tariffs charged by the various operators of port services by July 2006.
So far the government’s main target has been the monopoly enjoyed by Cargo Handling Ltd owned by the General Workers Union.
But the government is determined to reform the whole system of tariffs.
“The envisaged reforms will affect practically all work practices in the port, and the process will continue for as long as is necessary, but should in fact be ready before July 2006 when the new cargo handling operator will be in place.”
The government’s bold commitment to reform all port services concurrently provides no excuse for the new cargo-handling operators not to pass on reduced costs to industry.
“The process of awarding of the tender for cargo handling and the port reform will run concurrently,” a spokesperson for Minister Censu Galea told The Malta Financial and Business Times.
A few weeks ago, a spokesperson for one of the interested consortia was quoted by the Times saying that prices are more likely to increase when a new operator will take over from the GWU owned Cargo Handling Ltd.
The same source told the Times that he will still be bound by law to other tariffs, which are made up of nine different items, most of which are related to port workers and therefore he will not be able to reduce prices.
But in order to implement this reform, the government will have to face other vested interests like port workers, who inherit their licence from their forebears.
Speaking on Radio 101 on Saturday, Minister Censu Galea declared that the government is set to reform this scheme in a way that only people with the necessary skills will perform this job rather than simply inheriting.
“The guiding principle is that one should only be remunerated for services rendered. On several occasions the Minister has stated that there is a need for many changes in the whole process of work in the port,” the ministry said.
Yet the biggest test for government remains that of ensuring that reforms will bring a tangible decrease in expenses for Maltese industry.
A few months ago the Minister had quantified this decrease to 25 per cent. By next July, we will know whether this is the case.