The pharmaceutical section president of the Malta Chamber for SMEs, Mario Debono has confirmed to Newsbook.com.mt that government has agreed to bridge the financial gap between the capped price of masks and visors announced by the government and the real cost. He added that at the moment, the discussions were at an operational stage, identifying ways in how to proceed bureaucratically. Debono warned, however, that this price capping was being enacted on the basis of a 1972 Ration Law. He said that this is permissible in times of national emergency only and no other price capping will be considered acceptable.
The capping of the price for face masks at 95c by the Minister for the economy was seen by pharmacists and pharmaceutical importers as, to put it mildly, unrealistic. Sources very close to the industry have shown Newsbook.com.mt invoices for masks at €1.95c each. “With an order of 10,000 masks, I stand to lose €10,000 all at once, just because the minister so decided,” said one angry importer.
Minister warned of unrealistic prices
Newsbook.com.mt contacted the Malta Chamber for its reaction on the news. Perit David Xuereb, President of the Malta Chamber was unimpressed. He said that in a brief conversation with the minister a few hours before the price capping was announced, he had warned the minister that the prices are what they are in a global pandemic. Perit Xuereb said that the minister had said that he ‘had been assured’ that ‘with 70c per mask tagħmel festa’. Meanwhile, said Xuereb, the importers were reporting that while on websites these prices may indeed appear, the goods fail to materialise. “We have members who made orders in December and they still have not arrived yet,” said David Xuereb.
Government as importer
Sources close to the business world, meanwhile said that there is nothing stopping the government from importing the masks himself if he can get a better price, say, from China. The same sources told us that, for example, bona fide suppliers such as Medsytec Engineering Ltd and Medical Logistics were selling masks at €1.40-€1.50 at wholesale price. This price does not include freight and duty. Davies Design Group, another reputable production source was selling Face Shields Headgear at Euro 7.27 each. One pharmacist told Newsbook.com.mt that pre-COVID-19 these masks were at 10c wholesale price. Other sources told Newsbook.com.mt that visors manufactured in Malta, capped by government at €5 actually cost €6 the minute they leave the production line, adding that even in the case of visors, the government was totally off the mark.
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