05 October 2005

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Business Today

Cut the fuel tax

Monday’s fuel price hike was a hefty one indeed. For a fiver of fuel, motorists today are getting at least one litre of fuel less than what they used to get until Sunday.
The price hike comes three months after a similar hefty increase in July.
The cost on people’s pockets is hefty and the cumulative upward trend in fuel prices has had and will continue to have a big impact on consumer spending. Increasingly, households have had to budget more money for family transport.
Similarly, industry leaders are warning that the continued increase in fuel prices is having a dampening impact on the economy and eroding Maltese firms’ competitiveness.
The hefty increase, amounting almost to 4c to the litre for unleaded petrol and slightly more than 3c to the litre for diesel, was expected.
An analysis of international fuel prices carried out by this newspaper last week had shown how the price of diesel and unleaded petrol increased substantially over the last two months, particularly because of the two hurricanes in the US.
But at a time when the economy is under performing and businesses are cash-strapped, the least thing they expect is an additional cost to their fuel and energy bills.
This leader concurs with the GRTU that government should mitigate the increase in petrol and diesel prices by cutting taxes associated with fuel.
Duty and VAT constitute a hefty portion of the price motorists pay for their fuel requirements.
The commercial community is already burdened with too many government-induced costs, bureaucracy and a cash flow crisis to be able to shoulder the recent fuel hike. Industry needs a break if the economy is to be revived.
Government has to act judiciously and reduce fuel taxes to neutralise the increase in fuel prices. At the same time Enemalta has to be restructured in such a way as to become more efficient, with a leaner work force and less overhead expenses. This would enable government to reduce the subsidy granted to the energy corporation.

GWU: it won’t be the same
The GWU’s national conference will today decide the fate of the union for the next four years. The choice is not one simply based on personalities. The delegates have to choose between two contrasting visions of how the union should conduct its business.
The incumbent secretary general, Tony Zarb, favours a more militant union, one which is more ready to take to the streets to campaign for its cause. The contestant, Manwel Micallef hails from the more moderate wing that is pushing for a change in image, one that is based on negotiations and which takes into consideration the changes that have characterised the labour market over recent years.
In essence, Zarb and Micallef represent two sides of the same coin that should characterise a union chief. Both might lack the charisma to be inspirational leaders for their members but union delegates today can balance the deficiencies of either candidate by electing to the other administration posts, people with different backgrounds and attitudes.
But whatever the outcome tonight, the GWU will not be the same afterwards. Too much bad blood has flowed in this campaign. The stab wounds will not heal once the result is read out. The dirty campaign conducted by obscure individuals to tarnish the reputation of people like Manuel Micallef and Josephine Attard Sultana was uncalled for and unfair.
It is unfortunate that union delegates will not get the opportunity to listen to the different candidates for the last time before going to the ballot. The clash of ideas has regrettably been substituted by a clash of bile.

Smash racism
The warning signal is no longer a flickering red light. The demonstration conducted by Alleanza Nazzjonali Republikana on Monday was well attended and the very presence of so many people protesting against illegal immigration should have the mainstream political parties worried.
Let there be no mistake about the underlying current that prevailed during the demonstration. The whole event was one fuelled by prejudice, fear and racism. A 10 year-old boy holding up a placard with the words ‘Malta dalmation’, with obvious reference to the skin colour of most illegal immigrants, betrayed the words of the ANR leaders insisting the demonstration was not racist.
Fascism and Nazism started from small events. The message was always one built on fear, targeting a weak enemy and fanning xenophobic arguments to the extent that they are believed by a larger group of people.
Illegal immigration will not go away. Unless the mainstream political parties adopt a zero-tolerance approach to xenophobia and racism, ANR and its supporters will continue to grow, threatening the very same values on which our democracy is built.
It was shameful for Super One TV to depict Fr Mark Montebello and the rather small group of Graffitti demonstrators, with anti-racist placards in their hands, as instigators.
From a left-leaning television station with a supposedly progressive agenda, a much more mature attitude was expected.
Irrespective of Fr Mark’s controversial past, he was there to give a voice to the values that nurture our democracy; tolerance, free speech, and the right to live freely without the fear of prejudice and discrimination.
The problem is not illegal immigration but racism. Unless the political mainstream offers leadership on this issue, explaining what the real problems are and how Malta would tackle them in line with international obligations, fear will continue to permeate in society.
A fearful lot can easily be dragged into the jaws of a racist machine by extremists who have little regard for human dignity. Racism has to be nipped in the bud. It has to be smashed.

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Editor: Kurt Sansone
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