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Chamber: Government departments working half days during summer months ‘unacceptable’ The Chamber of Commerce has urged the government to find a solution to the fact that many government departments “closed shop altogether, or provided their services at a premium cost in the afternoons of summer months”. In its “pro-competitive proposals” to Finance Minister Edward Scicluna, the chamber said that with the economy running at its current “advanced pace”, it was unacceptable for government departments to hinder the country’s economic operation by being available for shorter hours during the summer months. “The private and public sector were the two sides of the same coin called the economy, and they needed each other to function well,” it said in a statement, adding that the government should find a solution that did not come at a cost to the private sector and which would ensure uninterrupted services to business during summer afternoons. Another priority, it said, were the excessive electricity prices being paid by Small and Medium Enterprises in Malta, which is said were 42% higher than the EU average. The chamber stressed that the price for energy being paid by Maltese businesses was the highest across Europe and that proposal was of particular importance when one considered the fact that the cost of electricity represented approximately 12% of the overhead costs for businesses. It said it was therefore proposing the introduction of a Night Tariff framework, “purchasing flexibility”, as well as the introduction of privately managed energy distribution substations could “help business overcome the uncompetitive tariffs” being incurred. In addition to the price of electricity, the chamber stressed the need for measures related to labour market issues “posing challenges to business and the sustainability of jobs”. “While the chamber expressed itself in favour of active labour market policies, it warned that continuous extensions to leave allowances, the potential introduction of parental sick leave and the compensation for public holidays falling on a weekend were considered a grave concern which would only serve to erode Malta’s competitiveness,” read the statement. Moreover, the chamber said that Malta’s state of “full-employment” had created significant challenges to private sector recruitment. The chamber was therefore proposing “added efficiency to the complex and burdensome work-permit application process for the employment of non-Maltese employees, as well as the setting up of fast-track processing schemes. Among the other recommendations to the minister was accelerating the establishment of the Malta Development Bank, keeping the current eco-contribution rather than replacing it with excise duties, the conclusion of “the well-overdue merger of public revenue collecting entities, as well as proposals related to infrastructure, Air Malta, RTDI and access to finance in Malta.