The House of Representatives on Tuesday gave a second reading to a Bill amending various financial laws into which an EU directive would be transposed.

These include the Financial Services, the Investment, the Assurance and the Inland Revenue Acts.

Moving the second reading, Parliamentary Secretary Jason Azzopardi said that amendments were being moved in view of developments over the past few years, leading to maximum harmonisation of financial services across all EU countries. It was important to set criteria for the supervisory functions.

The directive provided for maximum harmonisation on limits of proposed acquisition of holdings, the evaluation and the list of criteria for evaluation of such in the banking, securities and assurance sectors. Harmonisation would lead to an increase in cross-border acquisitions.

Opposition spokesman Charles Mangion said the amendment aimed at achieving maximum harmonisation in the procedures on acquisitions in the financial services sectors. Transparent criteria that applied to all EU member states were set up.

Globalisation led to increased trade across all countries. It also facilitated the movement of capital from one country to another in the EU. Harmonisation of regulations was one of the main principles. Despite the international recession, the financial sector in Malta had increased in 2008 and this year despite the negative downturn in the local economy and the crisis in the international banking sector.

The insurance sector had increased during the past four years, with the 12 companies existing in 2005 swelling to 41 this year with an increase of 300 per cent in revenue. Parliament had been wise to approve financial legislation in 1995 changing Malta from an offshore to a financial services centre.

Analysis of the success in the financial sector could lead to proposals which could be applied in other economic sectors to halt the shrinking of the economy and start again to achieve growth.

Winding up, Dr Azzopardi augured that by 2015 the financial services sector, which enjoyed an enviable reputation both locally and overseas due to the collaboration of both sides of the House, would employ many more people.

Reflecting on Dr Mangion's words about how the economy was doing, Dr Azzopardi said Malta could be proud of the state of its economy despite the international scenario. This had been confirmed by the recent news that it was among the leaders among the EU economies in the creation of wealth. This was a credit to the government for its direction, the opposition for its collaboration, but above all the workforce of the land.

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