‘Dying’ crafts sector needs a champion, MP maintains

A new law overhauling the regulation of Maltese crafts is being proposed by the government, but the PN MP who had presented the original legislation – Edwin Vassallo – questioned whether it would do enough to safeguard a struggling sector.

Vassallo, a former parliamentary secretary for small businesses, emphasised that the opposition would back the Malta Crafts Bill, and that he did not object to revising the law he had drafted.

But he said that through its approval, the opposition was giving the government the benefit of the doubt on its commitment to Maltese crafts, insisting that such commitment was necessary to revive a dying sector.

“We are talking about people whose craft is no longer as sustainable as it once was… it is often not worth the effort to work full time, as it does not earn them enough,” Vassallo said.

“It is not the government’s fault. But this is the situation at present. The issue is not one of legislation, but of who will be ready to champion their cause.”

The MP noted that at present, many shops selling souvenirs to tourists were no longer stocking Maltese artisanal work – deeming them too expensive – instead opting for cheaper foreign imports. This phenomenon could not be stopped, Vassallo acknowledged, but the sector could still be helped to thrive.

Malta Crafts Council to be replaced

According to the proposed law, the Malta Crafts Council is set to be disbanded, but a new office – whose full name is the Office of the Registrar of Crafts, Crafts Persons and Crafts Entrepreneurs – will assume its functions, but will also be given stronger powers.

Economy Minister Silvio Schembri insisted that the council has largely failed to achieve its aims, not least because frequently, the wide spectrum of Maltese crafts was inadequately represented. Finding artisans willing and able to participate in council elections has been a constant challenge.

Additionally, the minister noted, the council was powerless to act against products falsely described as being Maltese crafts; a situation that should be addressed through the proposed law.

In tandem with the establishment of the office of the registrar, a Malta Crafts Foundation is also planned to be established, though this will require a separate law. Schembri explained that the foundation would focus on the promotion of Maltese crafts, to stimulate innovation and to support educational opportunities for those in the sector.