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MaltaToday 5 October 2022 MIDWEEK

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2 NEWS maltatoday | WEDNESDAY • 5 OCTOBER 2022 2 NEWS TWO legal amendments tar- geting agricultural leases will be tabled in parliament on Tuesday as a stop-gap measure to address issues raised by the Constitu- tional Court. The amendments that will be tabled by Agriculture Minister Anton Refalo will give landown- ers the right to lay down condi- tions on agricultural leases. But the government has also published a White Paper for a wide-ranging reform of the law regulating agricultural leases to bring it in line with recent court decisions. The amendments are a tem- porary solution until the re- form is implemented. The government is proposing the creation of an authority to safeguard private agricultural land within established rural zones, and operate a 'cadaster' register for administration of such land. The same authority will have a board composed of sever- al experts in different sectors, representatives of competent authorities and other interest- ed stakeholders. The reform will create green zones which can be excluded entirely from potential specu- lative development. The White Paper also propos- es tax measures to incentivise agricultural land acquisition, by exempting farmers leasing agricultural land from inher- itance tax; fiscal incentives for landowners who lease their rural lands to farmers; and tax- ing agricultural land that is not used for agricultural purposes. This reform requests a clear distinction when defining a farmer's status, be it active farmers, hobbyists or newcom- ers. This will be done in hope of managing land owned by genuine farmers. The rental price of fields will also not be increasing by more than 1.5% of the land valuation. Regarding the price of land it- self, the reform proposes that agricultural land will start to be valued as agricultural land and not at the market price, like oth- er commercial lands in the area. Residential farms will be con- sidered pre-1995 leases, so the rent subsidy will apply to them according to the latest amend- ment to the protected leases law. Lastly, the reform will ensure financial incentives to encour- age activity and investments in agriculture. "No country can survive without agriculture," Refalo said when presenting the legal amendments and White Paper in Buskett on Tuesday. Refalo explained how the White Paper aims to find a balance between the right of the owner to his land and the farmer to continue providing produce to the nation and their family. Currently, in Malta, there is already a law regarding agri- culture lease, which puts the interests of the farmer at the forefront but for the past two years, landowners have been challenging this in the Consti- tutional Court, with one suc- cessful case in 2021. Since then, the court has seen 60 separate cases against farm- ers who, if decided against, are evicted from the agricultural land they are working on. Agricultural land not used by farmers could be taxed, reform proposes PN MPs claim tender for radiotherapy equipment irregular MATTHEW AGIUS PN MPs Alex Borg and Adrian Delia have filed court proceed- ings asking for a new tendering process for the procurement and installation of specialised equipment at the Radiotherapy Department of Sir Anthony Ma- mo Oncology Centre (SAMOC), claiming the process carried out was irregular. The tender, for a MR-LINAC linear accelerator and related equipment, included the de- sign and construction of a ded- icated bunker area to house the MR-LINAC. A preliminary market consul- tation document was published on November 22, 2021 for the installation of the device in the fourth bunker at SAMOC, which was empty at the time. Any required structural chang- es or repairs to the bunker were to be the supplier's responsibil- ity. Four bids were made. One was not a MR-LINAC, anoth- er offered a Canadian machine which was not CE certified, an- other from n ViewRay (Charles de Giorgio Ltd) whose dimen- sions were compatible with the bunker and a fourth bid by Technoline, which would not fit inside the available bunker and so required the construc- tion of a fifth bunker. The tender period ended on July 14 this year with Techno- line being awarded the con- tract. The plaintiffs argued that the Director General had an obli- gation to investigate whether the tender had been awarded fairly and legally, accusing him of failing to have done so. Speaking at a press confer- ence outside the courts, Delia and Borg insisted that they had no option but to resort to court action after a letter to the Di- rector General of the Contracts Department, which they sent last month, was not replied to. Delia and Borg are demanding an investigation into wheth- er the tendering process was structured in such a way as to favour the winning bidder. The tender awarded is worth €25 million, over double the orig- inal estimate of €12 million, they said. They demanded the Contracts Department take all necessary action to remedy the situation, but cancelling the existing ten- der proceedings and starting them afresh within five days, threatening further legal action if this did not happen.

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