Film Commissioner Johann Grech has lashed out at criticism of a reported €137 million in cash rebates offered to foreign productions over the last five years, and re-stated the Government’s commitment to strengthening the film industry.
“We will not turn back to the clock to a part-time film industry,” he said in a recorded video statement released on Friday (today).
In the five-minute statement addressed to film industry stakeholders and workers, Mr Grech echoed the Ministry for Tourism’s earlier characterisation of the Opposition’s vociferous criticism of the spending as “an attack on the local film industry’s stability”.
“It is an attack on our country, motivated by a desire to scare away foreign investment. It is an attack on those working in this industry, and on those who have invested in their business to service this industry,” he said.
On Thursday, the Nationalist Party (PN) submitted an official request to the Auditor General to launch an investigation in the Film Commission’s expenditure, which reportedly stands at around €137 million between September 2018 to August 2023, according to the European Commission.
Part of this figure includes almost €47 million in cash rebates to the Gladiator II film that was being shot in Malta this summer until the Hollywood actors’ strike put the production on hold.
The issue has dominated headlines over the last week, with the Government and the Opposition releasing tit-for-tat statements as the broader discourse sought to evaluate the impact of the large expenditure on Malta’s economy.
The Labour Government characterised the PN’s attitude as “dangerous” and “against the national interest”.
“The Opposition’s actions with regards to the financial incentives Malta provides to attract investment in the film industry is a misinformation campaign that seeks to scare away invesmtment and threaten people’s jobs,” said the Government in a statement released on Wednesday.
The Ministry for Tourism pointed out that each cash rebate is “rigorously audited”, and is responsible for the film industry’s success over the last years, which has seen it attract productions all year round.
On its part, the PN is arguing that these funds could have spent locally instead of given to foreign studios. It also questioned the oversight of these funds, given that the Film Commission’s budget is set at €14 million annually.
In his statement, Mr Grech compared the cash rebate, which was increased to 40 per cent of a foreign studio’s production costs in 2013 soon after the change of government, to the incentives Malta extended to the iGaming and financial services sectors.
“Over the last years, we have seen the fruits of our labour, and this has not only been seen by those directly involved in the industry, but all those other sectors that come into contact with it on one way or another.”
“We have provided stability and peace of mind that you can work all year round in films,” he said. “I will not allow anyone to interfere and lose you business.”
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