MaltaToday | 16 July 2008 | Hearses’ liberalisation 50 years late

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NEWS | Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Hearses’ liberalisation 50 years late

Karl Schembri

Hearse operators have been enjoying their protected market for the last 50 years as government has repeatedly given in to their demands despite a commitment to end their monopoly and subsidies back in 1961, an official police document reveals.
A letter signed by then Police Commissioner Vivian de Gray to the office of the prime minister dated 2 April 1969 speaks of the hearse owners’ requests back then for subsidies and to retain their monopolies – 10 years since they were supposed to have shifted from horse-drawn to motor hearses.
The revealing letter speaks of a government commitment to withhold licenses for just three years from when the new motorised hearses were imported in 1959, prompting the Commissioner – who was then in charge of trade licenses – to argue against further subsidies and to end their monopoly.
“I consider that the request for financial assistance should be refused,” the Commissioner had written.
“It should be pointed out to the owners of the motor hearses that the government undertook to withhold licences from other persons in respect of the general use of motor hearses, only for three years from the original importation of the ten brand-new hearses; that this period has since long elapsed; and that if the present owners of horse-drawn hearses do not take early and effective measures completely to substitute horse-drawn hearses by approved motor hearses imported brand-new, the government will have no alternative but to open the operation of such motor hearses to would-be competitors.”
The document sheds light on the government’s procrastination to end senseless subsidies and impenetrable monopoly – promised to end by 1961 – spanning almost half a century despite the former licensing authority’s advice.
Only two years ago, hearses’ operators were given yet another subsidy to replace their 1959 fleet when government gave them a refund on import duties of the new vehicles.

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