Consultation on Open Market reforms extended to January

Birkirkara Market

The public consultation on Open Market Reforms, has been extended until the end of January.

The White Paper announced by Economy and Investment Minister Mr Chris Cardona in November, outlines new developments for Malta’s Open Air markets.

The consultation was expected to be completed by December 14th, but due to the time of year and the demand for further consultation, the deadline had been extended.

Speaking to the Director General of the Commerce Department, Godwin Warr, told that given the size and the breadth of the consultation, and number of stakeholders involved and impacted, ‘the more time and opportunity for consultation, the better.’

A more centralised approach

According to Mr Warr, there are 21 open markets across Malta and Gozo which are operated under  different local councils. This equates to 1,600 space allocations for street ‘hawkers’ merchants.

The intention of this public consultation is to propose reforms to the way in which markets are operated and how street hawkers can trade.

Until now there has been no centralised authority that oversees or assesses the markets.

The paper has therefore proposed the setting up of a number of authorities put together with representation from the local council, the police as well as key economic authorities including the Malta Competition and Consumer authority, Environmental Health and the Department of Commerce. Under the leadership of a Chairman and Vice Chairman, they will form the Open Market Board.

The Director General says that this is the first time that street vendors will actually have a say in how their markets are operating as well as for disputes to be proactively dealt with.

‘It is in their interests of the hawkers themselves that the board will be seeing how the open markets themselves can be improved … so now they will know that they can identify that there is a set up and they can actually go to that set up and air their grievances or their suggestions with that set up.’

Its an evolving scenario and the time was ripe to actually do something

In addition to building an institution to oversee markets, the White Paper is also trying to apply for licences simpler.

According to Director General, hawkers have to apply for a licence from the Commerce Department and then seek one from every single local council in which the vendor wants to operate in.

It made no sense to apply for a licence in one council, be told there’s no space and then the licence is useless.

If the proposals go ahead, hawkers will only need one licence and this will be applied for from the Open Market board.

Ignorance of the law is no excuse but it is very difficult to know every obligation in the legislation.

Another first for the consultation, is the introduction compliance officers into the operation of a market place.

Unlike the police, Health and VAT inspectors, this new branch of enforcement officers would be tasked with ensuring that regulations stipulated in the new single licence will be adhered to.

Mr Warr says that they would carry out randomised daily checks on any one of the 21 markets across the country. This would also involve enforcing regulations as well as diseminating and recording feedback and information from the vendors themselves.

This branch of stemming from the Open Market Board, will work specific

The consultation period for the White Paper is expected to be completed by the end of January with its suggestions and feedback continuing to develop the way forward.

‘The White Paper is not set in stone, it is a White Paper after all.’ Mr Warr said.