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MW 13 September 2017

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3 maltatoday, WEDNESDAY, 13 SEPTEMBER 2017 News Malta's major banks notch up €21.3 billion in total assets Maltese banking maintains buoyant trend, generating €100 million in tax on profits in 2016 MATTHEW VELLA MALTA'S bank owners have reported a well-capitalised, highly liquid and profitable industry, with a combined bal- ance sheet total of €21.3 bil- lion amongst the seven "core domestic banks", which have the strongest ties with the do- mestic economy. The sum represents 215% of Malta's gross domestic prod- uct, a ratio which is well within the EU average. Total assets of all the Mal- ta Bankers Association's 27 member banks stood at €44.5 billion. Customer deposits with the core domestic banks main- tained their upward trend, increasing by a further 8% to reach a record €17.7 billion (2015: €16.4 billion). Total de- posits with all the banks now stand at €24.3 billion. MBA secretary-general James Bonello said that with a loan- to-deposit ratio of around 60%, banks have more than excess liquidity to support the de- velopment and growth of the Maltese economy by providing credit facilities to households and businesses. Bonello added that core do- mestic banks remain com- mitted to ensure the proper financing of the economy, despite the new and more re- strictive regulatory regime fol- lowing the 2008 global finan- cial crisis, from which Maltese banks emerged unscathed. During 2016, credit provided by these banks increased by 2.9% and stood at €9.63 at the year-end (2015: €9.38 billion). "This increase is net of sub- stantial loan repayments ef- fected during the year, partly through normally agreed re- payment programmes and partly also through the pro- ceeds of bond issues launched on the market by corporate clients," Bonello said. Bonello also said that new economic sectors such as e- gaming and I.T. were not too capital intensive, and did not require high levels of financing as may be the case with other established sectors. Banking in Malta employs 4,376 full- time employees, with a payroll of €171.5 million, generating almost €100 million in tax on profits in 2016 and €54.9 mil- lion in dividends to resident shareholders. "Continued public confidence and trust in the local banking system is evident from the fore- going. This assertion is sup- ported by the World Economic Forum's Competitiveness Re- port 2016-2017, which ranked Malta 16th out of 140 countries for the soundness of its bank- ing system. This is key and very gratifying," Bonello said. Decision to hold deliberation in private questioned CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 It has now or- dered the board to reconsider the appli- cation again. The decision was taken after the PA's deputy chairperson Elizabeth El- lul, who was chairing the meeting in- stead of chairman Vince Cassar, asked the media and the public to leave the meeting, invoking a clause in the law allowing the board members to delib- erate in private. The vote was however taken in pub- lic. The EPRT in fact confirmed the legality of the procedure. Only three board members voted in favour, including Ellul. Government representative Joe Sammut and oppo- sition representative Ryan Callus were among the four who voted against. The rest abstained. The PA board had then justified the refusal of the fuel station because itw as in breach of the SPED (Strategic Plan for the Environment and De- velopment" particularly Rural Policy RO4, which states "it is crucial to safe- guard the rural environment and re- duce conflicts by refusing inappropri- ate development proposals". But the EPRT claims the board failed to show how the SPED overruled the policy regulating fuel stations ap- proved in 2015. The PA had justified its decision by saying that only residential develop- ment, agricultural buildings and retail outlets occupying less than 50 square metres are allowed within the rural hamlets, and that any such develop- ment must enhance the rural charac- teristics of the area. If approved, the proposed fuel station would replace two farmhouses which existed pre-1967 – deemed by the PA to be a "typical example of vernacular architecture in a rural setting". In its own submissions to the tribu- nal, the PA argued that these structures merit protection and should be reused in a manner compatible with the rural character rather than be demolished. The area also includes a number of pro- tected trees contributing positively to the quality of the landscape. On his part, applicant Paul Abela – the MMH chairman – argued that his application fulfilled all the criteria set by the policy regulating the relocation of existing fuel stations in residential areas to ODZ localities. He also highlighted the fact that, al- though the vote was taken in public, the deliberation on the vote was not. The EPRT confirmed that this pro- cedure was not in breach of the law but cited a court sentence on another case which clearly states that specific reasons have to be given to justify a re- fusal of a permit. Unlike the recently approved pet- rol station in Burmarrad – which is a brand new one – the one proposed in Maghtab would replace an existing petrol station in Mosta. If approved, the development would include autogas pumps, electric car-charging facilities, carwash services, retail facilities and underlying garages. DENISE GRECH EARLIER this week, MEP Rob- erta Metsola became the ump- teenth PN member to come out in support of Chris Said, citing, like many, his experience as a long-standing member of the party. Metsola touted Said's prin- ciples, claiming that the party "needs someone at the helm who can navigate through the storms ahead". The MP can take the party to where it needs to be, she continued. The endorsement drew mixed reactions from the public. Many commentators claimed that De- lia is the only way to win, lead- ing Metsola to respond that she "made no electoral calculation… to stand up for what [she be- lieves] in". Nationalist MP Edwin Vassallo was the first to explicitly support Said, claiming that the contend- er reflects Christian values that "strengthen Maltese society." Said went on to declare that he will protect these values after be- ing asked by Vassallo to do so. Vassallo continues to endorse Said, calling him "a true Chris- tian in politics" and stating that he will defend the 'Religio et Pa- tria' PN emblem. Fellow MEP David Casa an- nounced Said as his ideal PN leader over a month ago. During a political activity in Zurrieq, the secretary general hopeful said Said has the ability to unite the party, pointing to Said's experi- ence as his greatest asset. European Commission direc- tor Martin Bugelli and MP David Stellini both sang their praises for Said. Stellini insisted that despite his support for Said, he would work with any of the two candidates elected. MEP candidate Jonathan Shaw endorsed Said as "a positive vi- sion" and was once again met with a flurry of comments that insisted that Adrian Delia's 'new way' is the right one. One com- mentator said "Wouldn't it be better to tell us why common voters want [Said] rather than politicians? You treat us as if we have no brain". Two of Said's most vocal en- dorsements came from PN MP Jason Azzopardi and PN support- er Michael Briguglio, who contin- ued to tout Said' experience. "It's no big secret." Azzopardi said. "Me and Chris go way back and, personally, I believe he would make an excellent leader. Still, I believe that all of the con- tenders have a lot to offer." The MP went on to become one of Delia's greatest critics, calling him a "Trojan horse" and claim- ing that the lawyer's win would benefit the Labour party. Other PN members such as Mario DeMarco, Beppe Fenech Adami, Frederick Azzopardi and Stephen Spiteri have all ex- pressed support to Said, but said they would be keeping their vote secret. During an interview on Xstra Sajf, Said also claimed that mem- bers of eliminated PN leadership contender Perici Calascione's team have reached out to Said to work with him. Despite Adrian Delia express- ing wishes against public sup- port from PN MPs, a number of Nationalist party members have come out in support of the new- comer. MPs Kristy Debono and Jean Pierre Debono's support has been shrouded with accusations that the couple struck a deal with the contender that would see Jean Pierre Debono giving up his seat in Parliament in order to allow Kristy Debono to become deputy leader. Delia, according to rumours, would support this move. The latest public supporter of Delia, Alexander Borg Olivier- son of George Borg Olivier, took to social media to say that Adri- an Delia "may not be the ideal choice, but he is the only candi- date… to bring back the PN to being a winning party". The two electoral defeats are "the greatest and most painful insult" to his father's memory, he continued. Asserting that Delia "is the person that can win the election for the PN," MP Hermann Schi- avone announced his support for Delia early on in the election. He reaffirmed his decision later, stating that he "will do whatever he can to make sure paid-up members understand that the PN needs Adrian Delia as leader" after the primary election. MPs Clyde Puli and Mario Galea also joined the list of Delia backers earlier in August. As Delia's grassroots support grows, Said secures even more public endorsements PN LEADERSHIP ELECTION:

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