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by Euro Reporter
2011-01-31 10:16:00
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Cancer rates in Malta

Statistics on cancer incidence in Malta published last week contrast sharply with other figures that were released in September, but health authorities insist that both are correct. It is simply a case of methodology. Last week, the World Cancer Research Fund, basing results on statistics provided by the World Health Organisation, reported that Malta had a cancer rate of 211 people per 100,000 population. But in September, figures that had been released had shown that the number of people diagnosed with cancer had risen from just over 400 per 100,000 population in 1999 to just less than 500 per 100,000 population in 2006, more than double the more recent statistics.

In both cases, the numbers given are NOT the people who die from cancer, but the number of diagnosed cases. In fact, the September figures show that the mortality rate dropped from around 175 per 100,000 population to just over 150 per 100,000 population in the same time frame. The figures published last week did not speak of mortality rates. Asked to explain the discrepancy between the September and January figures, Dr Neville Calleja, Director Health Information and Research, said: “Both estimates are correct.  Since different countries tend to have different age distributions in the population, indirect standardisation to a fictitious standard population is usually carried out by all health statistics institutes to be able to compare between populations.  “Indeed, different standard populations are devised by WHO, effectively one for each of its regions and a world standard population, since one expects, say, a younger population in Africa than in Europe.

“The estimates we discussed back in September were based on the European Standard Population, since we were comparing with the EU and some European countries. However, the World Cancer Research Fund chose to use the World Standard Population to be able to compare across continents.  “Indeed, the two appear to be rather discrepant but it would be incorrect to compare one with the other. Comparison should be made on the same scale − that is, either comparing countries where all have been standardised against the European standard, or else comparing them using the world standard, but never mixing the two.  “As to the trends discussed back in September, these still hold. Those particular estimates were drawn from the ‘Health for All’ database, which is maintained by WHO Europe. The same trends would be identified using world standardised rates, just on a different scale,” Dr Calleja said. While the number of diagnosed cancer cases is on the rise, the number of people dying from the illness is declining. Advances in health technology, increased awareness and a better lifestyle have gone a long way into providing more effective treatments and for diagnosing the illness at an early stage.

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Malta weathered the recession relatively well


The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded the 2010 Article IV consultation with Malta, saying it had weathered the global recession relatively well.
Output fell less than the euro area average and unemployment rose only modestly, partly reflecting government support. The Board said that a cyclical upswing was now underway and manufacturing and tourism activity, hit hard by the global recession, had recovered with the latter near pre-crisis record levels. However, the recovery was not yet broad based and some sectors, including construction and retail, were lagging. On the back of softer real estate prices, elevated unemployment, and higher uncertainty about job prospects, consumption growth slowed but has been supported by very low interest rates. Investment, especially in construction, decelerated sharply and remained sluggish.

Inflation had picked up as the ongoing rebound allowed firms to rebuild profit margins and pass on higher energy prices, but underlying inflation was expected to remain contained. While fiscal performance weakened between 2008 and 2009, deficits and debt remained relatively contained. After several years of fiscal consolidation, the fiscal deficit rose to over 4 percent of GDP in 2008 from about 2 percent in 2007, reflecting substantial one-offs as well as slippages in current expenditure.

Despite the 2009 recession, however, and helped by the proceeds from a tax amnesty and relatively strong income tax performance by international companies registered in Malta, the overall deficit narrowed somewhat in 2009. Nevertheless, in July 2009 the European Commission concluded that Malta had an excessive deficit and recommended to bring it below 3 percent of GDP by 2011. In 2010, revenue performance was boosted by another tax amnesty and relatively strong corporate profits, which contributed to higher income taxes, also reflecting the economic recovery. Only few and targeted stimulus measures were executed, including some measures to support investment and the tourism sector, some support to households compensating for the sharp rise in utility tariffs, and some increase in childcare benefits.

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Malta competition and consumers affairs authority bill


The second reading of the Malta Competition and Consumers Affairs Authority Bill, which is primarily aimed at strengthening trust between businesses and consumers, continued in the House of Representatives last Wednesday. The discussion was dominated by interventions from the opposition. On a general level, they called for more respect towards consumers and urged a mentality change from the product and service providers’ end. Owen Bonnici, Labour spokesperson for youth and culture, spoke about the Consumer Claims Tribunal’s (CCT) role.


The CCT has jurisdiction to hear and determine consumer claims where the transaction to which the claim refers has taken place in Malta. There is a similar tribunal in Gozo. “Speaking from experience, I cannot say that the CCT is a success story unlike that of the Industrial and the Small Claims Tribunal. The CCT should follow in the steps of these two tribunals so that persons can really feel legally empowered to challenge consumer problems. The procedure to address cases in this tribunal should be facilitated,” he said. He also brought up the ongoing issue between the two main TV providers, Melita and GO, about televising football matches. He said that the choice of service should be based on quality and not on who shows football leagues, based on the exclusivity of rights concept.  On medicine prices he said that he still meets people who pay more for their medicine if they buy it from Malta and many are still asking their relatives living outside Malta to purchase their medicine from abroad, despite the government’s attempts to reduce medicine prices.

Labour MP Carmelo Abela said it is important to establish who are the consumers affected by this Bill.  “The Bill we are discussing affects the rights of every Maltese person but also those who visit us,” he said. He insisted that business owners who render services or sell products to tourists should not abuse visitors by charging them higher prices, as this would discourage them from returning to Malta.


      
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