30 August 2006

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Business Today

Fenech more positive on inflation than NECC chief

Despite the negative outlook of Euro changeover chief Alan Camilleri to Malta’s current aspirations to join the single currency, Parliamentary Secretary Tonio Fenech yesterday minimised the concern about the current rate of inflation and stressed that when one looks at the statistical information, “it is evident that all we are in excess of the inflation reference value is just point three per cent”.
Asked to react to comments made by Camilleri last Sunday in sister newspaper MaltaToday, Fenech explained that when one looks at the past trends, the rate of inflation in Malta always reached a stabilisation point and took a downturn.
“Government remains optimistic that the country will reach the Euro targets,” he stressed, adding that the current rate of inflation is “definitely not insurmountable”.
NECC CEO Alan Camilleri said he was extremely concerned with the rising cost of living that could exclude Malta from switching to the European currency.
“Our major concern is the need for the Euro not to increase prices, and we are already worried about the inflation rate,” Camilleri said.
Speaking to Business Today, Tonio Fenech insisted that the responsibility for inflation is not to be blamed on government alone.
“We all know that one of the major contributors to the current rate of inflation is the energy surcharge, due to the surge in the international price for oil. Obviously it has its impact and anyone who tries to blame government for this, really doesn’t know what he is saying.”
However, Camilleri’s remarks, intended to inform retailers about the information programme towards the transition to the Euro, was yesterday confronted with a stern warning from the GRTU.
In a statement, the GRTU said that it is seriously concerned with what it defined as “the attitude” adopted by certain officials within the NECC.
“These people think that they can trample on anyone and behave arrogantly. A behaviour that is inviting trouble,” the statement said.
The GRTU accused the NECC officials of being “the re-incarnation of consumer guardians”, and added that “they must understand that Malta is a free market”.
While it pointed out that business concerns have been absorbing cost increases all throughout, the GRTU warned that “there is a limit to everything”.
The statement ended by issuing directives to its members, asking them to ignore all correspondence they receive regarding pricing, to ignore NECC officials who approach them about it, and to refer to the GRTU any problems they might encounter.
Reacting to the GRTU’s statement, Parliamentary Secretary Tonio Fenech appealed to the private sector to do its part for the country to reach the Euro targets.

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