Assistance to businesses in Libya
The government is planning to help Maltese businesses recover what they have lost in Libya due to the turmoil in the North African country and take advantage of the new opportunities arising once the situation improved, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi said yesterday. The government was also planning to send a political and trade delegation to Tripoli to continue consolidating relations between the two countries but will first wait for the situation there to stabilise.
Emerging from a meeting with unions and employers specifically called to discuss the situation in Libya and its repercussions on Malta and its businesses, Dr Gonzi said that once Tripoli stopped being considered a warzone, Malta would plan a visit which had originally been earmarked for Benghazi but this had to change once the Libyan Transitional National Council took over Tripoli.
He said that once Tripoli become safer, the government would then consider resuming flights to Tripoli.
During the meeting, which was held behind closed doors, Dr Gonzi outlined the development in Libya in recent weeks, especially since the MCESD had last met in March to discuss these events.
Since then, he said, there were two major developments – Libya’s Transitional National Council took over Tripoli and was moving its base there and Malta’s gradual recognition of the council as the Libya’s official government.
The Maltese government had started by condemning Muammar Gaddafi for attacking his own people, then declared that Col Gaddafi’s government was not legitimate. It later recognised the council as the sole interlocutor for the people of Libya and more recently as the country’s official government.
The government’s priorities now were to continue offering humanitarian assistance as well as public and private expertise to facilitate Libya’s transition to a democracy.
Malta was also to continue being active in the process to unfreeze Libya’s frozen assets so that these would be used by the Libyan people to rebuild their country.
Developments in Libya, he said, not only affected the investment of Maltese companies there but also companies that exported to Libya, this being one of their main markets. This also had a direct impact on the country’s economy.
“We will continue helping the transitional council in its endeavours to regain stability in Libya. It was very important for us to ensure that Libya and the region were stable. We want to see Maltese investment regaining the momentum it had before,” he said.
Regarding contracts which have already been signed between Maltese and Libyan companies and the Libyan authorities, Dr Gonzi said a decision was taken to reconstitute the mixed commission so there would be a forum which can discuss the details.
Yesterday’s meeting was requested by the Malta Employers’ Association because of the effect the situation in Libya was having on Maltese businesses, both those with investment there as well as those which export their products and services to Libya.
In a position paper presented during the meeting, the employer organisation proposed the setting up of a proactive and business driven embassy.
“The embassy needed to be well resourced with personnel familiar with the territory, accessible to business and who were able to implement the strategy for Libya. Once again we are encouraging the government to ensure that Malta Enterprise works closely with the embassy and provides tangible results in this area,” it said.
It emphasised the need to prioritise and facilitate the continuation of business which had already existed in Libya before the uprising and to protect the interests of the companies and the workers involved.
It proposed a number of initiatives to promote Maltese business interests, and which would also helped in the physical and institutional re-building of Libya. These included the reactivation of tax rebate for Maltese people working in Libya, among others.