25-31 October 2000


In Focus:

Vilhena Funds AGM
"Assets under management in the Vilhena Funds SICAV plc. have increased by an impressive 42% from Lm36.19 million as at 30 June 1999 to Lm5l.58 million as at 30 June 2000. The number of shareholders has tipped the 3,500 mark." Chairman Dr Remigio Zammit Pace announced during Vilhena Funds’ Annual General Meeting.

FEXCO Investment Services launched amid expanding industry
FEXCO Investment Services (Malta) Limited was recently launched. The company has been licensed to conduct Investment Services business by the Malta Financial Services Centre. At a reception Finance Minister John Dalli welcomed this new initiative by FEXCO Investment Services (Malta) Limited.

Prof. Josef Bonnici, Minister for Economic Services, recently addressed a seminar titled ‘The Benefits of Standardisation to Industry’ in which the minister lays out the current role of the Malta Standardisation Authority and its anticipated evolution

The benefits of standardisation
By Prof. Joseph Bonnici

Despite the fact that the Malta Standards Authority has only been established for a relatively short time, it has already acquired a very significant role within the overall public sector framework intended to support industry in Malta.

This role has been an evolving one as we have, progressively, developed a better understanding of the function and purpose of standards and their implications for industrial activity. This evolution is still unfolding and, even as we hold this seminar, we should not be afraid to acknowledge the fact that we have still much to learn in the months and years ahead. This is precisely the principal objective of this seminar, namely to extend our understanding and to stimulate the desired informed discussion on all matters concerning standards and their implementation in practice.

The recently published ‘Malta Standards Authority Act’ has clarified the voluntary nature of standards. We must learn to distinguish clearly between such voluntary standards and mandatory regulations. The latter refer to essential provisions that must be adhered to because of safety, health or environmental reasons. Many of the relevant considerations in this regard will be addressed in the forthcoming ‘General Product Safety and Quality Act’ that will be tabled for discussion in Parliament in the very near future.

The above mentioned legislation will be complimented by two other acts, similarly soon to be discussed in parliament. These are the ‘Metrology Act’ and the ‘Accreditation Act’.

Together they will establish the necessary legal framework and globally describe the principal functions of the Malta Standards Authority.

The voluntary nature of standards reflects the fact that they presuppose a conscious decision to introduce them. However, this should not be taken to imply a laissez-faire attitude towards their effective implementation and, according to the ‘Malta Standards Authority Act’, false declarations regarding conformity to standards are subject to punitive legal action under the ‘Trade Descriptions Act’.

The introduction and implementation of voluntary standards must also be seen in the context of greater consumer information and awareness. It is therefore no coincidence that we are also piloting through Parliament significant amendments to the Consumer Affairs Act.

These changes to the relevant legislation will be supported by complementary changes at an institutional level and the structures within the Ministry for Economic Services are being reorganised accordingly, in the light of a comprehensive ‘operations review’.

One of the identified priorities is to establish a modern and effective market surveillance capability. Towards this end:

• A Market Surveillance Directorate will be established within the Economic Planning Division that will be assigned a broader function and become the Economic Policy Division. The role of this directorate will be primarily a co-ordinating one, serving to provide the necessary focus to a function (market surveillance) that needs to extend beyond the remit of any single ministry. A ‘Market Surveillance Committee’ will also eventually be appointed to support the above directorate, especially in the formulation of policy.

• Concurrently, the Consumer Affairs Department and the Office for Fair Competition will be integrated within a common division. They will thus be able to benefit from a joint operational ‘market surveillance’ unit that will be entrusted with regular inspections of products and services and with the investigation of complaints and other communications from the public.

We are definitely living through times of great change and this undoubtedly represents a significant challenge for all of us. We should not perceive this change as a threat but rather as an opportunity. It is up to us to ensure that we exploit this opportunity to the full.

The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07 | Tel: (356) 382741-3, 382745-6 | Fax: (356) 385075
Editor: Saviour Balzan
e-mail: editorial@networkpublications.com.mt