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classes at the moment, but it is also one of the most illiquid

them to be affordable for our children. We want heritage

and if the economic scenario bringing foreigners here

buildings to be saved but we don’t want them to be made

should slow down for any reason, then what?


And what about the cries of ‘greed’? If all but one of a row

Is it any use pleading for people to stop being so short-

of houses on a street have been destroyed, why should the

sighted, to look at the bigger picture, to stop following the

last one be denied the same right to sell, to make a profit? If

herd? Probably not. It will be left to our children to look

the policies have not changed, do we have the right to stop

back and wonder how we took so many wrong decisions in

the owner? Do we have the right to lament that it should be

such a short time with such dire long-term consequences.

protected and saved merely because so much of the rest has been destroyed in the past? And what about the abstract impact of the overdevelopment? Who could ever quantify the deterioration in quality of life, in aesthetics, in tourism? What is the solution for first-time buyers, for all those It is only natural to want an unequivocal answer, a

priced out of the rental market? How do you interfere with

simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. But life teaches us that there are no

a free market (which is not working as it should) without

straightforward answers. We want to find one adjective

creating a monster further down the line? How can you

that will describe the property market, a label for the

help the vulnerable without paving the way for possible

developers, a forecast for prices. Why is this so hard to do?

abuse – from both the tenant and the landlord? And who

One of the most important factors is the long-term nature

pays for it? Certainly not those pocketing high rental

of the property market. We cannot only look at the price



of property at the point that we want to buy, but also at the point we want to sell – and if that is decades down the line,

We want it all. We want to make money but to stop

the fluctuations now will have long been evened out.

others from doing the same. We want urban cores to

The same applies to the return on it as an investment: rental

be regenerated but we don’t want cranes and parking

income may make property one of the best investment

problems. We want property prices to go up but want


New face for a new direction Interview with Nicol La Ciura

Contents (10)


A very natural outcome


Veronica Stivala



AI and Automation



From here to eternity Francis Sultana


Diane Chircop

Construction in the balance


Giselle Borg Olivier


Reaching for the stars & stripes MONEY




Designing your decoration


More than nostalgia


Maria Grazia Cassar


Michael Azzopardi


Making a splash


Is the betting shop still open? Manuel Delia


Martin Dingli


Ruling with an iron fist The Bluesman

Credits Editor: Anthony P. Bernard

Design: Bloom

Printing: Print It

Distribution: Mailbox Direct Marketing Group

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A very natural outcome Stephanie Thatenhorst

Veronica is a freelance writer and editor. She won the IGM Award for her work on Ethical and Positive Disability in 2016.

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Interior designer Stephanie Thatenhorst’s style merges

the natural world with the individual. She tells Veronica Stivala how her simple upbringing coloured not only her approach to design, but to life itself.

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I meet interior designer Stephanie Thatenhorst at

Stephanie has worked as an interior designer

Upon her return to Germany, she enrolled in an

her office in the heart of Munich, Germany. She is

for about 10 years, her repertoire ranging from

interior design course, admitting that she felt doing

wearing a stylish knit, navy blue polo dress which is

commercial outlets such as restaurants, hotels and

architecture would be too demanding. Ironically,

accentuated by the bright colour of her manicured

shops, to private apartments and homes. Hers is a

she failed the interior design course admission

red nails and bright yellow calf boots. Subtle but

recognisable style, which in some way or another

test and found herself reading for a degree in

stylish, her outfit serves as an interesting window

alludes to nature, while always finding connection

architecture instead — even though she knew she

to the future of design: in her words, colourful and

with the individual or individuals who inhabit or

did not want to practice architecture.


pass through the space.

As is imperative to this profession, Stephanie

Her strong affinity with nature harks back to her

husband, who worked in the hospitality business.

ensures she and her team keep themselves updated -

childhood in a tiny village in Bavaria, near the

He initially opened one restaurant but opened six

not just with the latest but also the the forthcoming

beautiful Chiemsee. “I had a simple childhood. My

more in a short period of time. She was fortunate

trends in the world of design. When asked what we

parents never travelled but they taught me that you

to be given free reign to design them, gaining

should expect to see she says a “mix of different eras,

don’t need a lot to be happy, and this is something I

considerable experience. She got her big break when

a mix of fabrics and materials”.

keep with me and want to pass on to my children,”

she was asked to design the Ledimann eye fashion

she muses.

store – with its standout ‘grass green’ feature wall –

Stephanie notes she was lucky to meet her now

But perhaps being up to date is not even enough.

realising that she was good enough to grow.

In a time of globalisation, the customer is very

While Stephanie is evidently very connected to

well-informed, but therein lies Stephanie and her

her country upbringing, it was her desire to break

“That was the turning point, where I realised my

team’s idiosyncratic mark of quality: theirs is a

away, travel and see the world that led to where she

passion and that I did not want to be just working

combination of elements not seen before.

is today. Her inner sense of adventure led her to

alongside my husband,” she recalls.

“That’s how you can surprise the customer,” says

Australia, working as an au pair.

Stephanie, stressing the importance, however,

Coincidentally, her au pair ‘father’ was an architect

of following ‘the red line’, by which she means

and would take her out and show her buildings,

something that unifies your project.

inspiring her to work in the field of design.

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The piece she is most proud of is the Scheune

She appreciates how lovely it is for her to see her

even the clients who go into the shop or restaurant,

(barn). This was actually her childhood home,

children playing in the woods where she was

trying to imagine what they want or need

given to her by her father and which she renovated,

brought up. “Admittedly this is the fast life I choose,

The next step is the environment – where is the

turning it into her weekend home, a place to break

but really it doesn’t matter how successful I am,” she

building, the room – and which country is it in?

away from the rush of city life, and an opportunity

confides, adding that “I know where I come from

“We try to combine these things and then we bring

for her to connect with nature. The place is of course

and I know that you don’t need a lot to be happy;

in our own identity to create something unique

very special to her: “I escaped from there when I

that was something my father always tried to teach

and passionate. We try to put passion into each and

was young but now I am so happy to go back there

me. I have animals and nature, and I don’t need

every project we do,” she asserts proudly.

every weekend. We have a very stressful life during

more to be happy – as my father would say. Now I

the week. My husband runs restaurants and I have

know where I am from and I can pass that on to my

While certainly riding on a wave of success,

two little children and I hardly see them during the

children. They are brought up in the city but they

Stephanie has her feet firmly planted on the ground


can see what I learnt in my childhood, that there is

and she is definitely not one to take lightly what she

more to life than the city.”

has achieved: “I am very grateful and lucky to be living and doing what I love. I am very honoured

But apart from the sentimental attachment, this was also a dream project for Stephanie precisely because

In addition to her strong relationship with nature,

that people come to me and that I can create

of the raw structure she was given to work with. In

which manifests itself in her design, Stephanie

something for them, designing the place where they

her words: “This is an architect’s dream. Everyone

and her team pride themselves in combining the

wants to furnish an old barn! It is a very special

personal aspect:

project where my father let me do what I wanted. Of course, I had to be very respectful to the building

“This is the nice thing about our job. You are doing

but inside I tried to put a lot of modern things and

it for people,” she points out. Walking me through

to combine new with old.”

her creative process, she starts by meeting the people, getting to know the family or the person, or

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spend their lives.” (M)











For more information, contact us at or visit

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ETERNITY Super-successful but superunderstated Francis Sultana has been announced as an ambassador of culture for Malta. London-based, the Gozitan-born designer set up his eponymous studio in 2009 to create interiors for many of his major art collector clients. The atelier and showroom are based in St James's, London, in the same building as the international design and art gallery David Gill, of which he is also artistic director. He shared some of his insights with MONEY.

Francis Sultana

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 How has the changing economic climate

 Your designs are very understated.

 The Mediterranean style of life seems to

since the financial crisis affected decor

How does that fit in with your increasingly

be regaining traction: do you sneak Gozitan

styles? Are people seeking more subtle ways

international clientele?

touches in your designs?

Again, it’s all about longevity - I have never been

If you look at my own home in Valletta there is

a designer who uses decoration for its own effect.

a huge influence of Maltese and Gozitan styles,

For my clients it is all about quality: people will still

I use materials that complement the building in

most obviously in the decoration of the dining

find a budget, but they want to use artisanal skills

which I am working, and the clients' family and

room where I have been inspired by St John’s Co-

and noble materials, be that bespoke tweeds in the

home style.


Older techniques have, thank goodness, made a

A lot of my clients have major collections of art or

I have used terrazzo flooring within the hallway

comeback, like marquetry or pate de verre, which

design, so I have to work within these parameters.

which is certainly a very Maltese tradition, but I

were so favoured by the Art Deco designers, and

There is no point using a heavy pattern on a

have combined this with ideas and techniques I

veneers such as rock crystal as well as craft materials

curtain or a wall when you have major pieces of

used in houses I designed around the world. It’s

such as rattan or wicker work.

contemporary art - it just won't work - so my style

all about designing for the place in which you find

has always been to use stunning materials like silks,

yourself. I will design a house in Malta or Gozo

The recession really put small — and often very

boucle or velvets, rather than going for dramatic

differently than I would for New York for instance.

traditional businesses - in dire need of support.

"look at me" statements.

to 'flaunt' their wealth and taste? How does that affect your work?

upholstery or bronze in their furniture pieces.

Whether it’s in Italy, France, the UK or Malta, I always seek out craftspeople doing interesting things

My clients may be wealthy but they are also pretty

and if I can use them, I always will.

understated themselves in their own personal style, and they certainly are not about having showy homes. ISSUE (47)

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 What did you achieve last year which had been on your 'bucket list' for a while? Last year I helped Malta return to the Venice Biennale after a long hiatus; it was a huge triumph and made me incredibly proud. We also broke ground on the new site for MICAS, the museum of contemporary art with a design and architecture annexe located in Floriana. I am delighted to sit on the board of MICAS and it’s a very exciting time for contemporary art and design in Malta. I am also very proud to have been made an ambassador of culture for Malta.  Where do you want to be in five years' time? Sitting on my roof terrace in Valletta looking out over the roof line of my home country! In professional terms, I have been so lucky to have achieved so many of my dreams and I can only hope that things continue in the same vein – I am also looking forward to the prospect of expanding into the corporate and hospitality sectors. I like the idea of designing more hotels and retail spaces. (M)

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A NEW FACE FOR A NEW DIRECTION — MeDirect is Malta’s third largest banking group, serving more than 50,000 customers and holding over €1 billion worth of assets on their behalf. Nicol La Ciura, the newly appointed Group Head of Wealth Products, talks to MONEY about what lies ahead.

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While Nicol is not a new face within the bank, she is one of the few female executives in the Maltese financial services industry.

“I was especially drawn to the MeDirect philosophy

“In the aftermath

of enabling clients to take investment decisions

of the crisis, both investors and regulators became more exigent

and giving them control over their savings and

and required sound information about

– towards the end of 2011 as Head of Business


information and unbiased expertise.” MeDirect believes in empowering customers

about transparency

She joined the bank – then Mediterranean Bank

to suit their individual needs, based on reliable

investments, whilst also offering expert advice to those clients who require this service. Indeed, MeDirect’s online bank in Belgium was the first

Development, and played a key role in the setting up

financial company in continental Europe to launch

of MeDirect’s investment platform, which is a one-

an online financial advisory service, so called

stop shop for clients who want to view, administer

robo-advisory. The bank’s ethos is about providing

and trade their investment portfolio.

a variety of clearly explained products to ensure that customers fully understand the nature of their

As a woman operating in a predominately male-


oriented industry, Nicol immediately realised the importance of building a professional reputation

“Malta is at the heart of MeDirect’s strategic growth,

on solid foundations. She obtained a first degree in

and I see huge potential to build on our current

economics from the prestigious Bocconi University

market offering – that of a uniquely pan-European

in Milan and subsequently a master’s degree in

institution, which provides its clients with both

finance from the world-renowned London Business

traditional and innovative investment solutions,”


Nicol explains.

Before joining MeDirect, she worked at Deloitte

She also outlines some of the projects she will be

in Milan as a consultant to financial institutions,

undertaking in her new role: “My team and I will

and then moved onto Barclays Capital in London,

be fully integrating our wealth management arm,

where she was vice-president of structured capital

Charts Investment Services Ltd, into MeDirect’s

markets. The positions she held at these world-class

broader banking operations. This will complement

institutions garnered her first-hand knowledge

our digital investment service offering with face-

about what investors seek, particularly in terms of

to-face personalised advice provided through our

investment services which are transparent, direct

branch network and supported by the expertise of

and understandable.

Charts, which has an established track record in wealth management dating back to 1985.”

“The investment scenario changed with the crisis of 2008, which saw millions of people lose their

Nicol also looks forward to heading some

investments, savings and pensions. In the aftermath

interesting projects currently in the pipeline: “We

of the crisis, both investors and regulators became

will further enhance our customer experience and

more exigent about transparency and required

simplify clients’ investment decision-making by

sound information about investments,” Nicol

expanding the suite of investment tools and research available on our website.” (M)

explains, adding that her move to MeDirect took place within this context.

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Jose Herrera

Karol Aquilina

CONSTRUCTION in the balance Giselle is a freelance writer, proofreader and social media marketer who lives on Instagram and cappuccino. Runs Content for Success.

Is economic growth still growing in step with construction – or is one moving faster than the other? And what are consequences for the future? Giselle Borg Olivier asked Jose Herrera, Minister for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change, and Karol Aquilina, Shadow Minister for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change.

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How sustainable are the new building developments in the longterm, and how vulnerable are they to any unforeseen changes in our economic sectors? JH: Undoubtedly Malta’s economic growth is contributing to an ever-increasing demand for new


KA: The current state-of-affairs has gone beyond the fundamental economic concept of supply and demand. Malta is currently experiencing yet another construction boom. Property developers are busy implementing plans to drop existing buildings and are on the lookout for every bit of ODZ land which would suit their plans for construction.

buildings. This economic boom has attracted a large number of foreigners who are residing in Malta

The dishing out of buildings permits by the

and this is especially so with regard to the services

Planning Authority (PA), even questionable ones,


has continued unabated for the past couple of years. It is now also feeding the proliferation of

On the other hand, our tourist industry is also

high-rise buildings with utter disregard for our

experiencing unprecedented growth which puts

environment and that of future generations. The real

its own demands on the building industry. It is a

or perceived glut of properties on the market has

known fact that a sustainable economy requires a

inevitably brought about talk of a real estate bubble.

critical mass of people. Forecasts indicate that this

It is not a question of if the bubble will burst, but

growth should persist for a number of years. So far

when will it burst - and who will ultimately suffer

it appears that developers and stakeholders won’t

the consequences.

overstep the market demands.

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The PA and the environmental safeguarding body were separated to balance out the conflicting needs of the economy and the environment. Given the number of times that both the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) and Superintendence of Cultural Heritage are being overruled, is there really any balance?


JH: Undoubtedly the ERA today, being an independent regulator, is endowed with much more clout and authority than ever before. Fine-tuning, however, is still necessary and in certain areas especially those outside urban zones - ERA should strive to acquire a more authoritative role.

KA: Back in 2015, Petra Caruana Dingli, former

JH: It is not a free for all. There are regulatory

MEPA Environment Protection director and Din

authorities who have a legal say in the matter,

l-Art Ħelwa council member, had warned that

especially the Superintendent for Culture. Here

“instead of providing more environmental

again, however, as a country we need to learn to be

protection, the demerger will open the flood-gates

more sensitive in protecting our historic patrimony.

to even more disastrous planning decisions” (The

The laws are there and so are the legal instruments.

Malta Independent, 3 August 2015).

We need to increase our awareness and willpower.

Several environmental NGOs echoed her comments

KA: All the laws and institutions needed for

and the Opposition voted against the three bills to

the safeguarding of protected buildings have

demerge MEPA into two separate authorities. Sadly,

been in place for a considerable number of years.

three years down the line, Caruana Dingli’s warning

However, just as in all other areas of State affairs, the

has become a veritable, ugly reality.

responsibility to safeguard our built heritage rests with those who are appointed to lead institutions

The demerger has effectively relegated the

such as the PA. Unfortunately, during the past

environment to second division and despite all their

couple of years we have experienced a considerable

good intentions, ERA and the Superintendence

number of instances when the PA has either failed

of Cultural Heritage are helpless in the face of

to act or else bent over backwards to make it as easy

the ever-increasing, environmentally insensitive

as possible for developers to knock down historic

development proposals, even on ODZ land.

buildings. The ingenious but highly abusive way

Therefore, there is no balance to speak of.

used to destroy the 19th-century Villa St Ignatius

Not only have the number of ODZ and other

in Balluta is a glaring example of the current sorry

scandalous permits increased dramatically, but


government had the audacity to grant pristine ODZ land in Żonqor to a Jordanian construction magnate

But not all is lost. Environmental NGOs like Din

for purely speculative purposes.

l-Art Ħelwa and Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar have

Is anything being done to safeguard protected buildings or is it truly a free for all? P. ( 2 2 ) M O N E Y

incessantly campaigned for historic buildings to be granted protection status by the PA. Such was the case for a row of stately houses in Cathedral Street, Sliema, and eight heritage houses in Msida.

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 What remedies - if any - are there for people who own buildings that are now categorised as 'protected' and which they are therefore unable to develop? How would you respond to claims that they are being discriminated against just because they decided to develop their properties too late, when public sentiment has turned? JH: There exists no inherent or constitution right to develop one’s land. In all civilised countries, development is subject to a permitting mechanism. If this were not the case, countries would be turned into jungles.

KA: As has repeatedly been held by our Courts, the right to property is not an absolute one and limitations can be imposed in the public interest. Our Courts have also maintained that a fair balance needs to be struck between the protection of the right of property and the requirements of the general interest. According to the Development Planning Act, the owner of scheduled property can ask the Planning Authority’s Executive Council for reconsideration. He may also file an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal in case he feels aggrieved by the decision of the Executive Council. I strongly believe that the State also has a positive obligation to ensure that owners of protected buildings are not left alone in taking care of their property. A variety of incentives and fiscal aid measures, coupled with sound planning policies, can be the driving force for changing what would seem to be a discriminatory situation into an opportunity with a high return on investment. The recent flurry of conversions of historic buildings in Valletta into boutique hotels is a perfect example.


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More than

NOSTALGIA Can heritage sites be economically viable? Maria Grazia Cassar, executive president of Din l-Art Helwa, speaks from experience. What are heritage sites? This term can cover anything

They are also a big responsibility to manage and

from a fortress to a farmhouse, a church, a palazzo

maintain, requiring a significant amount of funds

or a humble village home. An archeological site or an

for their proper upkeep and protection.

important landscape is also a heritage site. The thing that links them all is that they are worth preserving, for

There is scope, however, for the restoration of more

various reasons, and were most likely built a long time

heritage sites to be opened to the public, which is

ago - but not necessarily.

what NGOs such as Din l-Art Ħelwa endeavour to do, having 19 properties in guardianship or trust

Maria is the current Executive President of Din l-Art Helwa. She holds a Master of Arts Degree in Cultural Heritage Management from the University of Malta, and has contributed to the coordination of various restoration projects carried out by the organisation over the past 12 years.

Cultural heritage is a widely used term nowadays, and

from the government and Church authorities.

generally it is associated with something desirable and valuable. However, when quantifying it in monetary

The sites are opened regularly to the public, and

terms, there seem to be quite a few reservations as to

Din l-Art Ħelwa volunteers welcome visitors and

its viability.

guide them round. While most of them rely on free entrance with optional donations, a small

Last year, Europa Nostra, in its report “Cultural

entrance fee is charged at four of the sites. Being

Heritage Counts For Europe” came out with a figure

a not-for-profit organisation, our main aim is the

about the yields that investing in cultural heritage

preservation of the heritage site and its appreciation

bring: a ratio of 1:3, that is three times the initial

by the public. Funds to maintain it are sourced from

investment. This is a very big return indeed, and must

private sponsors, with EU funding being tapped in

be seen in a global context where tourist visits to

recent years.

heritage sites constitute a large part of the economy. In Malta, the valorisation of our heritage has increased

So, are heritage sites economically sustainable? My

the economic spin-off considerably, with major

answer is definitely yes, as the possibilities, when

touristic sites registering an impressive number of

compared to a non-heritage buildings, are multiple.

visitors each year. St John’s Co-cathedral, for instance,

Moreover, the heritage site will retain its value in the

receives no fewer than 400,000 visitors each year, and

future as this can never depreciate.

the Neolithic temples of Ħagar Qim and Mnajdra have 300,000 annually (Heritage Malta Annual Report

The value of a non-heritage building will ultimately

2014). These sites, however, cannot be valued only by

be linked to the value of the land it occupies, with

the monetary return they give, as they are invaluable

no regard to its structure or materials. There will

in their historical, cultural, artistic, social and intrinsic

not be any re-adaptation or re-use, but it will most


likely be regarded as a disposable commodity. Not so with a heritage site, where it becomes rarer as

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1 time goes by, more sought-after and will therefore increase in value. The heritage building has value in the very fabric it is built from, the form, the structure, the finishes, as well as the events which shaped its history. In re-adapting it for modern living, all these important points need to be sensitively considered, in order to protect its value for the future. That is why the importance of abiding by International Charters and Conventions, such as the Venice Charter, cannot be stressed enough when conserving a historical building. Reversibility is key, to ensure that it can be adapted for a different use in the future without destroying the original. Heritage sites lend themselves to many interesting re-uses, as can be seen by the clever and imaginative conversions of many such sites around Malta and Gozo. The latest trend is to convert them into boutique hotels or guest houses, which



definitely is a welcome alternative to mass-tourism accommodation. Heritage buildings are often to be found in special spots, perhaps boasting fantastic views, or are remotely located. Fancy staying at a lighthouse anyone? Other uses, which are also linked to hospitality include restaurants and cafÊs, or venues for weddings and events. Uses related to art and culture, such as art galleries, artist’s studios and even seats of learning are well suited to such buildings. A beautiful palazzo would make the perfect corporate head office for any company or institution, and even industrial heritage buildings may be imaginatively converted to office or domestic use. It is no quickfix, however, as the project might take longer, and definitely will need more thought. It will ultimately be a better, and more unique project, in the long run, than taking the short-cut of having a blank canvas. The palazzo will endure.

1. Ggantija Temples

2 - 3. St. John's Co-Cathedral 4. Valletta

5. Casa Bernard, Rabat 6. Hypogeum

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Economic viability is not limited to commercial sites. Privately-owned heritage buildings provide many plusses. Traditional techniques to alleviate heat, such as high ceilings, and shaded verandahs, as well as louvred shutters very often substitute the need for cooling, as do the shady internal courtyards which serve to circulate air around the house. Care must be taken not to disrupt these

"A heritage site becomes rarer as time goes by, more sought after and will therefore increase in value."

traditional systems by roofing over courtyards, or removing the louvred shutters and having large glass apertures.


Existing fireplaces provide the possibility to heat the most important rooms, as found in many 19th century homes, and the traditional “deffun” waterproofing system also provides insulation on the roof. This is not to say that old houses do not have problems, but with care and clever choices, these too may be mitigated. Unfortunately, so many beautiful buildings have been pulled down to make way for a project which turned out to be a white elephant. Had the original heritage building remained, it would probably have had the potential for a new and better use, and kept its worth in spite of it. The economic viability of restoring a heritage building is being promoted by the government’s “Restawra Darek” scheme, and other funding opportunities. Funds for the restoration of facades of heritage buildings are being


awarded, through this scheme, and for Grade 1 listed buildings the advantages are very substantial a step in the right direction. The biggest hindrance to the economic viability of owning and living in a heritage site is probably public perception. More appreciation of Malta’s unique traditional and historic built environment is needed, and indeed it is all too often taken for granted. The immense quality of our architecture is overlooked, sometimes simply because dirt, accretions and ignorance of its value obfuscates its view. Let’s look harder and overcome these misconceptions! (M)

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Investing isn't scary. Retiring without enough cash in the bank is. Zero entrance fees on fund investments in March and April.

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The Coach House Project

Architect Konrad Buhagiar has

I think I’ll hazard an unorthodox start by saying

On the contrary, the values that heritage embodies

strong opinions of what should

that heritage is an artificial construct. It took root

need to be re-evaluated in the light of these new

and flourished in the 19th century in the wake of

economic and social developments. In other

the great social and economic upheavals brought

words, I feel that it is dangerous to divide the

about by the French Revolution. The new order

phenomenon into two distinct camps: on the one

catalysed the rise of the middle class, experiments

hand, development where financial gain is of the

in unification that are under heavy scrutiny today,

ultimate goal, and on the other, preservation seen

and the concept of national identity. In particular,

as a militant mission, driven by nostalgia, on the

it engendered the concept of wealth produced by

model of British 19th century preservation societies

personal achievement and labour, a phenomenon

that still hold sway to this day.

that reached its peak in the second half of the last

century when countries devastated by two World

Unless an effort is made to join these two forces,

Wars rebuilt themselves through hard work and

the ambiguities and confusion that characterise the

personal sacrifice. French economist Thomas

scene today will arise, and impunity will emerge as a

Piketty, in his best-selling book Capital, has recently

natural consequence. So the answer to the question

shown that these economic and social structures

is yes, there is impunity, but only because we don’t

belong very much to the past and that we are

know where we are coming from, even less where

closing the bracket on the economic tenet that

we are going, and in the absence of a real vision and

labour produces wealth. Today’s dictum would be

direction, everything goes. At least the topic has its

something like: wealth produces wealth.

uses, giving us something to talk about at receptions

be happening on the island. Will anyone listen? Is there impunity in the protection of our heritage?

and dinner parties. Without that benefit, the Add to this, the gradual erosion of identity that has, until now, been determined by group dynamics, whether racial, religious or national. As a result of the impact of social media that transcend traditional boundaries, individual identity is today no longer dependent on these categories and one can understand therefore how heritage, as a container of meaning and identity, is under serious attack. This does not mean that it is obsolete as a force in our society.

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situation would be even bleaker.



Why are the safeguards - like the input of ERA and the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage - not working? My understanding is that the direction given, and the decisions taken, by the authorities responsible for the evolution of our built environment are based on a balance of interests rather than an objective evaluation of the values at stake. All projects are the product of a variety of ingredients from programme to budget, from community benefits to architectural value to heritage preservation. Unfortunately pressures, especially financial ones, can, and will, easily triumph over the other components of the composition. There is no city or building in the world which is not driven by economic issues. Safeguards are not enough because they give the negative perception of heritage as a brake to eliminate or a hurdle to overcome. Heritage authorities need to educate developers and the public at large that heritage is an asset that can be exploited to increase the value, economic and otherwise of the property or

The Coach House Project

project. Sustainable heritage must become one of

and harmonious society. We should not be afraid

lives. I also suspect that the major drive both locally

the main drivers behind the evolution of our cities.

to associate the nature of our built landscape with

and internationally will be towards the creation of

This understanding needs to start early in a child’s

a reflection of our society. With this in mind, our

a more responsible and sustainable architecture

learning life.

focus should be to create buildings that are an

where the use of non-renewable sources of energy is

indelible statement about our authentic identity and


 Are aesthetics improving or declining as a result of the building frenzy?

core values rather than a vehicle for satisfying our greed.

 Coach House Project

Where do you see the property situation in 10 years time?

The Coach House, winner of the Din l Art Ħelwa

Aesthetics is a big word. Ever since Baumgarten introduced the word in his eponymous book

of Balzan and it used to serve as a service building

published in 1750, the ‘sense of beauty’ as a science

I think that in the coming 10 years, we will have

connected to Palazzo Bosio (18th century). The

of sensation has been talked and written about ad

made so many mistakes, and regretted them so

project preserves the functional nature of the pre-

infinitum. There are innumerable interpretations

badly, that the property situation will be taking a

existing while accommodating the requests of new

of the nature of beauty, interpretations that change

step back and focusing mainly on remedies. The

owners and responding to the pressures on the site

and transform themselves with time, with artistic

capacity of the human race to reconstruct what it

from both adjacent development and the historical

innovation and with the consequent evolution

itself has destroyed is its major accomplishment.

connection with the main Palazzo. All interventions

of taste. Designing a beautiful building is a very

I just have to think of the quality of my life that I

were carried out in a way to ensure the protection

onerous task, and timelessness in buildings is a rare

owe to the hard work of my parents’ generation

of the pre-existing and the reversibility of new

find. On the other hand, architecture is a language

following the devastation of a World War.

additions. The main extension incorporates a

set in stone and the messages we create today will

Awareness of global issues such as global warming

‘woven’ stone façade that combines contemporary

be transmitted into the future as an expression of

will become heightened. The Treaty of Paris, that

minimalism with vernacular building

who we are. In ‘The Stones of Venice’, John Ruskin

became active last year, will not be confined in the

invented the idea of authenticity, and the concept

collective imagination to the image of a green Tour

that beautiful architecture is a reflection of a happy

Eiffel, but will become an important reality in our

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2017 Silver Medal, is located in the historical heart

technologies. (M)

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CONTACT M: 7788 0202 E: | W: A: No. 6, Triq Il-Kurat Bezzina, Mosta, Malta ISSUE (47)

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Is the betting shop still open? The laying off of 160 people from Betsson sent a frisson of anxiety round the island. Manuel Delia sheds some light on the context of what happened, and what the implications could be going forward.

Manuel worked for several years in Maltese politics including as press secretary to then prime minister Eddie Fenech Adami and chief of staff for senior government ministers in PN administrations. He is a graduate of the London School Economics and currently works in the software industry.

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Malta’s gaming industry may be up for some changes.

But opportunity and growth meant that the good resources thrived. They were complemented by tens of thousands of European employees, many of

“The new and unusual availability of

whom were happy to take a cut from their habitual

local resources and the

an idea a dozen years ago.

Nordic salaries to slip away from the habitually

repatriation of some foreign

Now it’s a big slice of eco-

long Nordic nights. Their cut salaries were still dizzying for local standards. With a low-cost effort,

ones will ease pressure on

The whole thing was merely

nomic productivity in Malta.

apartments had their kitchens replaced and their

It pays the highest salaries

It became easier to find water in the desert than a

on the island which means it

vacant apartment in Sliema. When one was freed

employs the biggest spenders. It has mopped up all specialist technology resources and

rents doubled.

up, it was auctioned like tuna in a Japanese market. The projected demand drove development. More properties were split into multiple habitations, each priced as much as the whole footprint used to cost.

turned them into high-value

An explosion in rental rates dragged behind it a

added work that is entirely

slower but steady rise in property value and sales

focused on international business and therefore creates monetary inflows for the economy.


prices. Experts insist the rates of growth do not qualify for the tag ‘bubble’; after all, a bubble is a disconnect between the rate of growth of property prices and the rate of growth of the rest of the economy. And there is none. As long as there isn’t. In the days of plenty, a Jungian reaction tends to

True, it has made it very hard for a locally-minded

possess island societies with centuries of peripheral

development house to afford skilled resources.

isolation and crippling deprivation in their history.

But since necessity is the mother of invention that

Like strays who never know when their next meal

means that development houses stopped being

might be, we gobble up our finds like gluttons.

locally-minded and followed the earlier pioneers to

An involuntary greed kicks in. Sustainability as a

sell the product to a paying global economy.

notion feels like punishment and delayed - or at

Local resources quickly ran out. The slow reaction

least drawn-out - gratification is frustrating and

time and rickety response of our educational


and vocational institutions do not help. With the few bright sparks and energetic innovators come the many who are as useful in a productive environment after their education as they were before they started it.

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Until indigestion sets in and some of the over-eating needs to be eased off for a while. Iceland, Ireland, Cyprus: all tell the same story in recent history. The flourishing growth of the gaming industry in Malta has been a banquet we could not have enough of and our eyes close when our mouths are too full. With money sloshing around, the larger companies, away from the eyes of owners back home, waded into inefficiencies that became painful when revenues plateaued. No proper understanding of Betsson’s recent cull of more than a tenth of its Malta workforce can exclude accumulated weaknesses within the organisation itself: a detachment between top leadership and the creative work-force and a general anomie among technologists, their drive frustrated by vague direction. But on the other hand, to attribute the employee reduction entirely to internal factors would be just as myopic. The political environment in Malta and its damaged reputation abroad has forced Betsson to look at the long game and hedge its bets. One does not need to be a probability numerologist, like the many Betsson employs, to work out that risk should be spread across jurisdictions and Malta has become less comforting in this respect. And we know this is not some isolated incident because other, smaller gaming firms have moved to reduce their work-force. When prices – of salaries as much as of properties – are pushed up by a desert in supply, a drop of water could feel like a

P. ( 3 6 ) M O N E Y

flood. The new and unusual availability of local resources and the repatriation of some foreign ones will ease pressure on supply, as employers and tenants take back control of the setting of prices. If it is measured, sustained and moderate, such an adjustment - disappointing as it may feel to those who expected that doubling in their income could continue without pause - will ironically stretch out the life of the gaming industry into a more realistic and sustainable future. But that moderation and sustainability requires a strong and solid government presence, not unlike that which Malta’s government provided during the 2008 crisis to manufacturing companies and financial institutions. This time round that may not be available. The government is rather distracted with its own survival angst. This crisis is not a governability on but a governance one. The prime minister need lose no sleep about his job security. But he must be worried about his credibility. In conversations with European regulators and with his colleagues and erstwhile allies, the elephant of graft, money laundering and tax dodging allegations walks in with him. That negotiating weakness cancels any reassurances he may give on tightening up controls on the use of online gaming to

ISSUE (47)

launder drug, extortion, prostitution and tax evasion money belonging to Italian organised crime. It will cripple his case that the regulator will be strengthened to ensure cowboy regulatory enclaves are not created at gaming parlours in European cities. Even if his interlocutors might be inclined to be helpful, domestic political pressures in Europe might force a tougher stance on what Malta gets away with. During the last several months major media houses in Sweden, France, Germany and Italy covered extensively Malta’s economic model of using its rock bottom taxes to skim off much needed tax revenues of others. The defence mechanism here is that these arguments are ‘envious’ of Malta’s model. I doubt that. They certainly are angry at it though - and anger drives political decisions as much as anything else. The gaming industry is watching this reality as well. What will be the ability of Malta’s government to continue to guarantee unencumbered access to their markets? After all they’re not in Malta because of the local gambling habits. They’re here because of the access Malta gives them to other jurisdictions. Until it does not anymore. (M) Manuel Delia is an independent blogger writing on


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AI & AUTOMATION: THE NEXT FRONTIER Some might still argue that there is too much hype around Artificial Intelligence. But paradoxically the potential opportunities and benefits of are, if anything, under-

It is predicted that by 2020, Artificial Intelligence

that can see, talk, compose and otherwise appear

(commonly referred to as AI) will create 2.3 million

“human” in many ways, most companies exploring

jobs while eliminating 1.8 million. It has also

the benefits of automation are actually focusing

been estimated that at least 30% of the activities

on some of the simpler technologies that have no

performed by 60% of all occupations will be

cognitive ability.

technically automatable. This does not only apply to highly repeatable tasks; Artificial Intelligence

But what exactly are these robot-led automation

applied to non-routine work will be used by one in

tools? There are several, each with differing

five workers by 2022.

capabilities. In fact, they constitute what is referred to as an Intelligent Automation journey. At the very

hyped. Diane Chircop

On a local level, we have seen efforts to get

bottom of the Intelligent Automation spectrum

explains why.

businesses to talk about Artificial Intelligence

is Robotic Process Automation (RPA), the most

and disruptive tech – a case in point was the 13th

traditional and simple of automation tools. RPA is

edition of EY’s Annual Attractiveness Event last

the use of software that mimics human interaction

October. However, many businesses still fail to grasp

with core systems, web and desktop applications

how drastically Artificial Intelligence is going to

to execute processes requiring interaction among

transform businesses as we know them.

them. It runs unattended, working like a virtual employee, to do repetitive, rule-based, high volume

Possibly, what is holding companies back is a

processes efficiently, consistently and accurately

lack of understanding of the basics, particularly

at the user interface level. These type of processes

by decision-makers. This is understandable

account for 60-70% of all processes a company

considering that Artificial Intelligence actually

could potentially automate. Typical tasks that prove

comprises a broad set of technologies - as opposed

to be easily automated with RPA include accounts

to a single, coherent capability.

reconciliation, data extraction from documents, comparison of data sets, composing and sending

Artificial Intelligence encompasses technologies Diane is a senior consultant in EY’s RPA, Innovation and Business Transformation team.

template-based e-mails and data entry.

that automate human actions with the added benefit of emulating human perception and cognition

Rule-based technologies are also being deployed in

capabilities, using robotics supported by functional

basic chatbots- software that communicates and

specifications, machine learning, natural language

interacts with a customer using text or voice - which

processing and data analytics.

is primed to respond to distinct terms and phrases and unable to venture outside the predefined

Although there is widespread confusion, even intrigue, around the idea of an automated system

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Artificial Intelligence goes further by enabling

In general, it is accepted that Artificial Intelligence

technologies exhibiting ‘‘human-like’’ cognitive

will change everything in the long run, but there is

abilities; in fact higher up the Intelligent

little appreciation of how automated technologies -

Automation framework one finds ‘Cognitive robotic

some of which are not intelligent at all - could, and

process automation’ which, through machine

should, impact businesses right now.

learning, widens the application of RPA to processes that deal with unstructured data including e-mails,

Meanwhile, advances in technology keep

scanned images and language.

accelerating. For starters, it only takes 35 days for a new technology to reach 50 million users, shifting

Machine learning has also enabled a more advanced

control to the consumer in the value chain and

generation of chatbots which can learn and

forcing companies to rethink operating and delivery

understand context as well as link concepts with

models to meet consumer expectations.

one another. The value of chatbots is that they

Companies wishing to get started on the automation

contribute to a better customer experience and

path need to elevate the internal dialogue

more customer engagement, taking performance

beyond robots, beyond a single technology, and

metrics up a notch - such as retention rate, user

to discuss the impact of Intelligent Automation

acquisition and session length.

as a transformational goal. On one level, digital technology provides the greatest opportunity to

Artificial Intelligence is progressing faster than

rethink operating and service delivery models; on

experts imagined, increasingly able to demonstrate

the other, it poses the greatest threat: being left

a level of cognition that was, until recently,


considered the exclusive domain of humans. We’re now seeing software-driven intelligence, that with the ability to learn from experience, can – ‘almost unexplainably’ - even replicate more complex tasks including human thought and judgement processes, such as reading lips, playing poker and interpreting emotion.

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HOW TO START THE INTELLIGENT AUTOMATION JOURNEY • Start small and grow your capabilities over time. Going digital is not easy. Start by taking a hard look

True, tech-led innovation is causing blind spots and

at your current processes and identify improvement

navigational difficulties for corporate leaders and

opportunities. From an operational perspective,

that’s why the big question on their minds today

most operations remain inefficient as organisations

is: “What’s the next step?” Many organisations do

struggle to reengineer business processes to fully

not realise that RPA could be introduced within

address existing middle and back office challenges.

their own companies in just a few months without

Taking the local financial services landscape as an

changing existing software systems – the first step in

example, compliance with regulations and global

many automation journeys.

regulatory reporting obligations become more and more stringent an yet organisations continue to

While RPA can transform the economics and

tackle this in a highly manual way.

service level of current manual operations, we have seen as many as 30 to 50% of initial RPA projects

To fully leverage the potential of Intelligent

fail. This isn’t a reflection of the technology; rather it

Automation, senior leadership should drive a top-

is often because projects are information technology

down approach, while also enabling a bottom-up

rather than business led, through the lack of

approach. Granted, no big ROI can be achieved

proper scoping and business casing, and through

initially as the business is focused on learning and

underestimating what happens after processes have

experimentation rather than on identifying key

been automated.

business problems and developing solutions for

At EY, we have deployed over 2,200 robots across

them. But this approach is a great way of building

functions, sectors and geographies and are currently

corporate knowledge and experience.

helping a number of local companies explore the

It’s often difficult to predict what the future of

potential of automation. We are one of the largest

Artificial Intelligence will look like. But instead of

RPA consultancies and would be delighted to have

contemplating what the future holds, we can start by

a chat about how we can get you started on your

living it now.

journey towards Intelligent Automation.

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Begin with simple technologies such as Robotic Process Automation which can use legacy systems and is quick to deploy. • Consider establishing a pilot program that draws on the strength of an experienced partner. Professional services firms have experience with most of the technology providers in this space, and have the specialised skill set needed to make Robotic Process Automation processes work in tax, accounting, administration and other specialised workflows • Involve your team. Employees often hear about the promise of robotics replacing white-collar workers, but the real-world experience is that it allows workers to focus on more valuable tasks and employers to build higher-functioning teams • Make automation a business-led initiative, not an IT-led initiative. Bots can be configured within the teams that are close to the business processes and have the expertise required to make them work. (M)




Reaching for the Stars (and Stripes) — It seems hard to believe that Donald Trump was only elected 2,000 Tweets ago. The question is: has he managed to make America great again?

And has that been because of what he has done in the past year – or in spite of it? The key indicators were certainly positive, at least until last year. The Gross Domestic product has kept its upward trajectory and, from 2.1 per cent in 2016, went up to 2.5 per cent last year. The forecast is that it will continue to grow at this rate in 2018, but it will start slowing down again to 2.1 per cent and 2019 and 2 per cent in 2020. Unemployment has been dropping: from a peak of 14.8 million in 2010 at the peak of the financial crisis, it has been going down steadily. The rate has fallen from 4.7 per cent in 2016, to 4.1 per cent in 2017 – and it is set to go down again to 3.9 per cent in 2018, staying there through 2019. And how about new jobs? Trump pledged to create 25 million jobs in the next 10 years, but in his first year only managed just over 1 million. He has a long way to go if he wants to the ‘best’: Bill Clinton had created 21.5 million jobs in eight years, while Barack Obama created 17.2 million during his term, in spite of the recession.

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Foreigners Viewing US favourably

-36 pts

-22 pts

-22 pts

-17 pts









-11 pts

-15 pts

-22 pts

+26 pts










But even Trump’s track record so far masks the

A CNBC survey a year ago of economists, fund

crude oil will become much more expensive. Will

quality of jobs and the security they offer. It is all

managers and strategists found that 75-95 percent

renewables have made this less of an issue?

very well and good to target imports from China,

of participants had positive views of Trump's plans

but doing so will not wave a magic wand and bring

to cut individual and business taxes and deregulate

Another factor is how the rest of the world reacts

manufacturing back to the US at wages that people

the economy. But 83 percent had negative views of

to Trump’s unilateral moves, not the least of

want, and for prices that consumers will pay.

his trade agenda.

which are retaliatory trade actions. The Trans-

There was a problem in the sector: America lost

Since then, he managed to get his tax reform

of on his first day at work, is going to go ahead.

a third of its manufacturing jobs between 1998

through – but it hardly set hearts a-flutter. A non-

And his incoherent rambling on NAFTA, Iran

and 2010, but this was not only because they were

partisan thank tank, the Tax Policy Center, found it

and North Korea is adding yet more uncertainty

outsourced to cheaper countries. They were also lost

would only boost GDP by 0.7% in 2018, well short

as the Tweeter-in-Chief continues to impose his

as the result of robotics, artificial intelligence and

of Republican promises of up to 5 percent a year.

2-dimensional view on a 3-dimensional world. He

bio-engineering – which means those jobs are gone

And what is worse is that it will add $1.23 trillion to

would do well to recall Newton’s law that for every

for over.

the federal deficit over 10 years, even when taking

action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

into account new revenue from economic growth.

So far, he has been gliding along on the coattails of

The Bureau of Labour Statistics forecasts that the

Who cares? It will be some other president’s mess

Obama’s success.

economy will fully recover from the recession by

to clear up.

Pacific Partnership, which he pulled the US out

2020 but it is too early to say what protectionist

How long that will last and whether his economic

trade policies based on tariffs and duties will

What are the outliers for the economy? Clearly

achieve. Sceptics find it hard to accept that

demand for the dollar will have an impact on its

manufacturing is actually growing faster at the

exchange rate, which could be affected by, among

moment than the rest of the economy, up by 2.8 per

other things, Chinese policies on how much

cent this year. Will that trend continue?

Treasury debt they wish to hold.

But Trump’s promises to kickstart growth (and

The price of oil depends on a geopolitical reality too

jobs) through a $200 billion federal investment in

complex to forecast, from Libyan uncertainty and

the long-neglected infrastructure will also not solve

Qatari isolation, to Venezuelan elections and Saudi

structural issues: only training will do that, which

Arabian reforms. The EIA's predicts that prices

is far more long-term and not as interesting for a

will rise until 2050, up to $117 per barrel – but by

president who wants quick wins and steep graphs.

then, there will be no more low-hanging fruit, and

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policies keep it going remains to be seen. (M)

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DESIGNING Your Decoration Michael Azzopardi is very clear: there is room for both design and decoration; the two are not mutually exclusive.

At some point, you have surely watched a chef prepare food on TV. They go through

for the purpose it has been designed for. We would also like it to appeal to our personal set of aesthetic preferences. Let’s stick with the cooking example we

final flourish, show the end


It looks beautiful and tantalising, with the right structure to the way food is displayed and a palette of pretty colours. The only sense it hasn’t really addressed is your palate: you have no idea whether

started with and contemplate the design of a new

Consider the time spent in a kitchen and the multitude of activities you engage in while there. From preparing breakfast while half asleep to wrapping up the kids’ homework, the spectrum of uses for this single space could be quite staggering.

the food actually tastes good.

While the team designing your kitchen will take

Let’s keep this in mind when thinking about the

will start by making sure that the space is entirely

difference between design and decoration. When you’re presented with images and moodboards that show you the colours and textures of the space you’re doing up, that’s essentially the presentation of the dish. It represents your choice of the final touches, the aesthetic routes that determine the look of the space, without telling you anything useful

your preferences for an orange kettle on board, they functional. The position of windows and doors will be taken into account. Lighting on the usable spaces will enter the design fray. Room to manouevre while holding a hot dish is something to keep in mind. Even drawers that can be shut by a gentle nudge of the hip manage to enter the conversation.

about the way you will use and interact with it.

This part of the design process is, to a certain

Actually using a space for any practical length

considerations to be kept in mind, then these will

of time is ‘tasting’ the dish. It is the moment you realise that the chef has mastered balance between all ingredients and provided exceptional flavour as a result of years of practice, diligent study, and pure intuition.

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entirely functional in the sense that it should be fit

a series of steps and, with a result.

Michael lived and breathed design since he was in primary school and graduated in Design from Kingston University in London. He leads Miko, a spatial and interior design company that works with clients to deliver functional spaces that look beautiful. Drawing on his vast experience designing anything from boats to luxury penthouses to electric tricycles, Michael loves to marry form and function to create lasting beauty and value. You can reach him on

Both disciplines are essential. We want a space to be

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degree, agnostic of décor. If there are decorative be accommodated by the design process rather than guiding the direction that design takes. Let’s say I were to commission the design of my next kitchen, and that I happen to care about



nothing except the inclusion of a Poul Henningsen

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Artichoke lamp in the middle of the room. I’ve spent more on it than I have on my car and would like it to be the centrepiece. Its unique construction casts a beautiful, soft, glow across the room and, situated above the kitchen table, will make for terrific dinner light. In the vast majority of kitchens, however, most work spaces run along two walls to form an L-shape. While standing at any of these surfaces to prepare food, my body is casting its shadow on whatever it is I’m doing because the beautiful light I’ve chosen is behind me - wherever I stand. The design team I’ve briefed will understand this and suggest that my choice of decoration is not sufficient to fulfil a basic purpose: actually seeing what I’m doing. We’ve wound up with an age-old maxim about design, one that ought to need no repetition. I’m talking about the adage that form ought to follow


function, that the way our spaces look ought

1. START WITH FUNCTION. Think of yourself and the other humans who will be using the space and clearly define all current (and reasonably predictable) uses of the space

2. SPEND SOME TIME WITH THE SPACE to understand its inherent limitations and its maximum potential. Your brief should maximise use without attempting the impossible

3. SET YOUR BUDGETS AND TIMELINES. How much are you prepared to spend and how much can you wait for the space that will be perfect for your needs?

4. NOW THROW ANY AESTHETIC CONSIDERATIONS into the mix. If you hate the colour blue, there’s no reason for you to have to live with it. (M)

to primarily follow the dictates of its practical considerations. Happily, in the case of good design, the two principles are entirely complementary. So the next time you want anything designed, arm yourself with a few points to ponder before drawing up a brief.

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Work, play and relax with these design essentials.

Confetti cabinet

Surface Tension Nucleus

Kahiko Table

The mother of all coffee tables with a hands-on

This is what a €100,000 table looks like. Created

The confetti marquetry pattern on this credenza

audio-visual experience. Real wood frame and

by craftsman Robert Teisberg, the Kahiko

bestows a playful quality to a serious piece. Door

available in solid walnut, oak and birch ply as

Table uses two book-matched pieces for the

and drawer fronts use solid and veneered maple.

standard, with gloss black side panels. Relive

top, which, when combined, covers an area

Hardware and base are made of solid blackened

your youth playing all those retro classics, install

measuring 107 x 239 cm. Polished to a shine,

steel. Case is made of solid ebonized ash and

your own, or hit up Steam to play some great

the wood features a unique grain called mega-

built to last.

retro-reboots or indie titles.

curl, which creates a wave effect that makes the surface look three dimensional even though it’s perfectly flat. This type of grain is exceptionally rare not just among other wood species, but even among Ancient Kauri, making this a truly special piece for furniture collectors.

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by Moving Mountains



SP01 launches new collection with London-based designer Tim Rundle Contemporary Australian design brand SP01 has unveiled a new furniture collection, in collaboration with London based designer Tim Rundle, featuring a series of armchairs, occasional tables and mirrors.

Welcome! Collection by Chiara Andreatti for Fendi

Delmare furniture collection by Romanian sculptor and designer Eduard Locota

Contemporary Irish artist and light sculptor Niamh Barry

During the 10th edition of Design Miami in

Each piece is intriguing. It’s as though some

These incredible interlocking bronze forms are

December 2017, Fendi presented Welcome!,

supernatural geologist’s knife has cut through

the work of renowned contemporary artist and

a space designed for “good living”, featuring

a slice of the ocean, as well as the ocean floor

light sculptor Niamh Barry. Her work, which

furniture pieces by young Italian designer

and the underlying earth’s substrate rock. And

often incorporates light, centres on ‘the line’ –

Chiara Andreatti. Andreatti is considered one

then, as if in some bizarre, geological fairy-tale

its balance, movement and dynamism. Barry’s

of the most interesting designers representing

twist, said slice of Oceania has been made into

studio is based on the outskirts of Dublin and

new Italian creativity. Not only was she able

an assortment of furniture pieces, all for our

although the super sleek sculptures may seem

to interpret the spirit of the Roman Maison,

viewing as well as ergonomic pleasure.

at odds with her rural surrounds, she draws inspiration from the landscape with is rolling

she also translated its creative and aesthetic

hills, swaying trees and vast sky. (M)

philosophy into a range of limited edition luxury furniture pieces.

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— You could say that Martin Dingli, a Maltese-Australian, had an epiphany of sorts. A mechanical engineer, he had spent time developing engines before he decided to try marketing.

But as with most artists, there was a deep yearning to create, and he found a way to make a livelihood and to express himself that intrigued all those who saw it: digital art on glass – not as pieces of art to hang on the wall, but for the overlooked surfaces of our houses in kitchens and bathrooms. He starts off with the image, which can be one of the clients’ own, one from his extensive catalogue, or a specially commissioned piece. Martin uses ceramic paint, which is screen printed and permanently fused to a toughened glass surface. Glass splashbacks are back-printed directly onto 6 or 8 mm glass panels and treated with an opaque or translucent finish.

What were your first pieces? Looking back on them, what do you think now? MD: My first artworks concentrated on a Mask series, influenced while living and traveling in Italy. These pieces were printed on Dibond, an aluminium composite that no one had tried before. It was received very well both in Australia and New York. This series are very relevant today and I still continue to create new pieces as they seem to sell well. Most of the Mask series are in very large format - measuring 1.2 square metres - either printed on Dibond or canvas.

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me feel acknowledged and fortunate, as there are

sold my work in the USA and the UK.

loads of artists out there trying to make a living

My next challenge was to apply for a grant by

with art.

the Maltese government (Malta Enterprise) but

 What is the technique? What makes it so difficult? MD: My technique is somewhat unconventional

unfortunately this was not to happen as one of the requirements for a grant, was to supply and produce the glass splashbacks totally on the island. Unfortunately, while doing my research in Malta, the right printers were not available. At present

– which is what makes my art unique and eclectic.

I’m researching printers in Italy and Germany as

It is hard to explain but I create my own digital

they fulfill all of my requirements, capable of

brushes (it took a while to learn the process!). These

printing on very large pieces of glass.

‘brushes’ are created by using my Nikon equipment and transferring these images into ABR files which

This has been the challenge, but I’m sure in

Is your work art or a commodity?

then are cropped and installed into Photoshop. My

due course, I will be able to supply original

tools include Mac, Wacom Tablet, Aperture and

bespoke kitchen and bathroom splashbacks

MD: My work will continue to be art first. When

Indesign. Using all of these tools was self-taught and

I’m required to create a glass splashback, I would say that is a commodity - but most of my clients give me the freedom to reflect my art in most pieces. This I'm grateful for. This is also the case when I’m dealing with a brief given by either an interior design company or an individual. When asked to create a piece for a client, I feel that my work has been appreciated; this makes

I became quite well skilled in all of them. Once the artwork is finished, I process the file ready to be printed on the material chosen by the client.

to the island. (M)

For more info on Martin’s work visit

 Are you now trying other markets? What are the challenges? MD: Australia has been great for both my artworks and my small splashback business, but I have also

Modernising a workspace in 20 days Aon Group has been delivering insurance management services and related facilities in Malta since 2005. When they decided that their Malta office needed updating and modernisation, they entrusted the task to DEX. The project would involve supplying new desk furniture and chairs, installing hybrid glass and wooden partitions, as well as laying woven carpeting and fitting vinyl parquet. Despite all the work required, the office renovation was completed in just 20 days. This was a project in which DEX could showcase the large breadth of furnishing solutions it offers. DEX collaborated with Francesca Scicluna from MODEL Architects, and together they made sure that everything was completed to the exact standards required by the client. Aon wanted furniture that was modular, flexible and comfortable, while looking sleek and classy. With an experienced team of people working on this project, the outcome was a high-end design that offered accessibility and molecularity for a rapidly developing business. What proved to be the most innovative part of this project was the use of vinyl parquet, not just for the floor, but also the walls and ceilings. For more info contact Dex Workspaces, Mdina Road, Qormi on T: +356 2277 3000, or

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TOP NOTCH HOW DO YOU QUALIFY TO GET ON THE LIST OF THE WORLD’S COOLEST OFFICES? Look at these offices and you will immediately see what sets them apart from the rest.


If the name Manhattan’s Tribeca rings a bell, it is probably because of the Tribeca Film Festival. The company behind it, Spring Studios, is also behind New York Fashion Week and the Independent Art Fair. So you can bet your bottom dollar that this company would want a cool building with an even cooler office. Spring Place occupies three floors in the former Verizon building, and has defied attempts to categorise it since day one. It has been described as “a collaborative workspace” and “membership club”, and “a playground for the creative class” that doubles as a workspace. The designers behind Spring Place, Alessandro Cajrati Crivelli, Francesco Costa and Imad Izemrane, knew that they had to create the right space to attract creative elites – looking deliberately at art, fashion, film and design worlds. The result was an ultra-cool space, with a 1,021 square metre rooftop garden looking out over Lower Manhattan’s West Side. How cool was it? The launch was attended by the ultimate A-lister Leonardo DiCaprio and Victoria’s Secret models, as well as 2,000 guests.

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CULTURAL CREATIVE PARK Guangzhou, China There is a very fine line between a cool open space and a cavernous void. Starting off with a drab factory, it is tempting to do too much of everything, and so much harder to know when to stop.  When the Lee Architectural & Engineering Design Group were commissioned to design the  1,577 square-metre former paper-making factory with its endless open spaces, they managed to find the perfect balance between open offices linked by common features. They carved up the white expanse of walls in the 1978 Cultural Creative Park in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, China, using a variety of textures on both the former walls and ceiling, and added dramatic visual focus by have a staircase which sweeps up, zig-zags up and carries on as a bridge across the ground level.

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HUBBA THAILAND Bangkok, Thailand Start off with Bangkok’s jaw-dropping shopping centre, Habbito, and then hive off just under 1,000 square metres of it to create an intimate but flowing co-working space. Developer Sansiri and Hubba Thailand selected the mall in a residential area of Ornnuch, Bangkok, for their project. The result is seven fully-equipped artisan workshop studios including a dark room for photography, wearable arts room for fashion designers, ceramic room for pottery, woodworking room, screening room for film and photography as well as lectures and seminars, and a “marker space” fully equipped with digital tools such as laser-cutting machines and 3D printers: a true hub for Thailand’s exciting design and creative fields.

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CREW COLLECTIVE Montréal, Canada The dynamism that comes from giving start-ups the space to work and hang out has been tried and tested. So why does the Crew Collective stand out? The answer lies in the building itself: RBC Tower Building, once the tallest building in the British Empire. The street level was the 1920s headquarters of the Royal Bank of Canada, on 360 rue St-Jacques, in Montréal, Québec, Canada. In those days, bank headquarters had to reflect success, and the result was buildings that were meant to impress, monuments to money and prosperity, with 18m high vaulted and ornately painted ceilings, marble floors, and chandeliers and brass to leave the beholder in no doubt as to just how successful the bank was. The project was entrusted to Montrealbased architect Henri Cleinge with team members Henri Cleinge and Paulette Taillefer who let the building tell its own story, with minimal intrusion to let the inspiration accumulated over the past 100 hundred years seep into the new crowd. (M)

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GET THE LOOK MONEY's pick for this month.





Renowned LA tattoo artist, Dr Woo, has teamed up with Converse to bring you two personalised versions of the iconic '70s Chuck canvas trainer, in black (here) and in white. In classic Converse style, the artist, says we're to wear em 'til they are destroyed'.

When Alessandro Michele chooses a new animal to include in his kingdom, it becomes visually synonymous with Gucci almost instantaneously. This Italian-made sweater is impressively jacquard-knitted with a wolf motif first mentioned in the show notes for SS17 and embroidered with 'Guccy' at the back - the bootleg culture spelling first debuted on the Palazzo Pitti runway this season.

CITIZENS OF HUMANITY Denim New drops at Harvey Nichols this week from LA denim brand, Citizens of Humanity. Renowned for making possibly the most comfortable jeans on the planet, they've launched the slick new Bowery style here.

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RAYMOND WEIL Watch The newest addition to the successful 'Freelancer' collection, this latest model from Raymond Weil is as robust as it is sophisticated. Available in further colour-ways and packed with the usual technical brilliance.

ORLEBAR BROWN Gilet and Puffer Jacket From the brand, synonymous with awesome swimwear and leisurewear, we're all particularly stoked to see the British label launch these super luxurious outerwear pieces. Gilets are always useful as layering in unpredictable, rubbish weather.




Bomber Jacket

Favourite kicks out this week are the latest 998s from New Balance and J Crew. Also, available in a tonal blue colourway, both in slick suede. Can't go wrong to be honest.

Saint Laurent's 'Permanent' collection includes only the most classic items of clothing that every man should own, and naturally this bomber jacket is part of the curation.

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Ruling with an

IRON FIST “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking 13.” Now those of

as facts and huge promises of widespread improvement to our lot. No, it’s a question of memory or lack thereof. Who would have thought

absorbed the (now resurgent)

Cross in the Great War, ‘the war to end all wars’,

given for thinking it’s a line from a Jimi Hendrix song, if we hadn’t read 1984 at school or watched the movie. I’d also bet a pound to a shilling that most Gen Z (and subsequent) would be hard pressed to come up with an answer. Nevertheless, every few decades some chump pops out of the shadows and thinks that the world has been peaceful enough for too long and maybe he’ll be the one to shake it up again because, you know … self aggrandisement and naked ambition. If only we could learn to recognise such schemes as they develop, we’d save ourselves the stress of living through them.

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the opposite: sweeping statements masquerading

us who lived through and psychedelic era would be for-

The Bluesman is a Maltese sound engineer working in New York.

It’s not that these power plays are subtle. Quite

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that a corporal from Austria, twice awarded the Iron would trim his sideburns and bushy moustache to a stump and, failing in his plans to become an artist of note, decide to elicit the support of disgruntled Germans and plan world domination; that a humble Georgian newspaper editor and Lenin supporter would become a thug fundraiser for the Bolsheviks, institute the Great Purge of ‘enemies of the proletariat’ and go on to rule the Soviet Union with an iron grip; that the Russian born Kim Jongil, (the current Kim’s dad and better looking than sonny, complete with outrageous feats and miracles claimed for and by him) would build on his father’s work subjugating North Korea? All cut from the same cloth, sharing the same personality disorders as disclosed in the findings of two psychiatrists: Frederick L. Coolidge and Daniel L. Segal assisted by a South Korean, unnamed for his safety no doubt. The list headed by sadism, paranoia, antisocialism and narcissism.




The month of January always brings Charles I to mind. A grim event to remember in my birthday

King Crimson)

month, he was beheaded outside Whitehall Palace on January 30, 1649 after being tried and convicted of high treason. The King believed he had the right of absolute rule without parliamentary consent. Others disagreed and inevitably a series of wars -

Reminds me of a school exam question format I

thick neck and a coarse, humorous, brutal face …

sometimes called the Civil War - erupted. Oliver

remember as being quite popular with teachers:

[nevertheless] … had a certain charm’ whose ‘…

Cromwell’s Roundheads, the King’s Cavaliers,

‘compare and contrast’. Schizoid and schizotypal

ferocity was turned outwards, against the enemies

religion, hiding in trees, and no doubt, priests’

might well be one in psychiatry class. In George

of the State, against foreigners, traitors …’ could

holes, Ireland and Scotland also getting a look in

Orwell’s 1984, from which the opening line above

apply to a couple of current leaders. The daily

over the course of a little over a decade and Charles

is taken, Big Brother watched, listened in and ruled

‘Two Minutes Hate’ could well fit to what passes

ll taking over after the death of his father. Ultimately

through cameras and screens everywhere. News

for comment these days. Of the three maxims

the Royalists were victorious and Cromwell and

items were retro-actively rewritten to replace the

blasted and plastered by Big Brother - War is

the Parliamentarians who had since died and had

original information when it became necessary

peace, Freedom is slavery and Ignorance is strength

been buried in Westminster Abbey were disinterred

to make sure a previous prediction matched the

- the last one is probably the most resonant.

and posthumously hanged and their heads spiked.

current outcome. Names of people previously

Ignorance among the oppressed gives strength to

Interesting stuff, beyond the scope of this column

lauded as heroes were erased once said hero slipped

the oppressor. So regular folk hunker down and wait

but worth a read. Intrigue, death, collusion

up or fell out of favour and disappeared without a

for the storm to pass. As John Lennon said, quoting

(with Scotland), the Long Parliament, the Rump

trace - vaporised was the expression used. Reality

Groucho Marx, on the steps of the Federal Building

Parliament and Churches.

control. The book was published in 1949, so the

in Manhattan: “Time wounds all heels”. Sometimes

author had fresh memories of the fight against

with a bang, other times with a fizzle.

Brutus is said to have exclaimed “sic semper

Nazism to draw on as he feverishly raced to finish

tyrannis” as Julius Caesar was stabbed on that

the novel before his death. Orwell, real name Eric

Despite all efforts, people die. The senior Kim

fateful March 15. A phrase echoed by a misguided

Arthur Blair (June 25, 1903 – January 21, 1950)

died of a reported heart attack in December 2011

27-year-old actor from Maryland, John Wilkes

died of tuberculosis a few months after the story’s

although a year later the cause was amended to ‘a fit

Booth, as he leapt from Lincoln’s box after shooting


of rage’ over the poor construction of a power plant.

Honest Abe in the head. Ironic in a way, as Caesar

One wonders how poor the construction was for it

had not accepted to be crowned king nor was

The book not only looked back through the

to drive someone from a race with a reputation for

Lincoln a tyrant, that they were addressed as such.

author’s memory but has surprising references to

calm inscrutability to an apoplectic fit. Definitely

Booth’s escape was handicapped by his having

events, people and thoughts prevalent to this day.

with a bang.

sprained his ankle in the leap and was shot as he

Such as ‘… a ship full of refugees being bombed

attempted to escape the torched barn he was holed

somewhere in the Mediterranean’ could easily

Lenin fizzled in stages. Strokes left him paralysed

have come from a news story from weeks not years

first on one side, then his whole body and finally

ago. The description ‘… a large, burly man with a

fatally. Installments, but not the never-never.

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up in while Brutus eventually committed suicide. Fair to say, though, nobody likes a despot. (M)

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WHEN THE CHCKENS COME HOME TO ROOST Never a dull moment. Germany’s Angela Merkel burnt the midnight oil more than once and finally formed a coalition, but there are plenty more developments to keep an eye on in the coming months.

Italy Decides A crucial election - which may have economic repercussions on the rest of Europe - will take place on March 4 in Italy. With France and the Netherlands avoiding a nationalistic anti-Europe scourge, the next economic-political risk is our neighbour, whose 60 million inhabitants are prone to loathe the Europe project, and whose economy is a not-so-small microcosm of the eurozone’s flaws. Italy has struggled for some time now, and a confluence of factors is bringing Italian economic woes to the forefront. The Financial Times recently listed five key troubles: low economic growth and low productivity; high public debt; poor job opportunities for young people; high bank debt; and low levels of foreign direct investment. Add political and social instability and it provides for a worrying scenario. In brief, Italy’s economy is fragile, and fears about that are impacting European financial markets. As has happened in many other European countries lately, such troubles are fertile ground for populistic parties who are not exactly enamoured of the European project. Currently, the leading party according to the polls is the Five Star Movement, created by comedian Beppe Grillo. The Northern League, is another:

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Licensed stockbroker Alexander Mangion is managing director at MPM

Capital investments since 2009. The company is authorised by the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) to provide financial services in

Malta and holds a Category 2 licence. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Hons.) degree in Banking & Finance (UoM) and a Masters of Finance and Investments (University of Nottingham)

both are eurosceptic parties who would exploit any financial wobble to push for Italian withdrawal from elements of the European project. European financial markets have already felt the impact of jitters around Italian banks, prompted by fears of an Italian election that might lead to a hung parliament. However, this fear has not translated so far to bonds: at time of publication, the spread between Italy and Germany’s 10-year yields was at just 1.209 per cent, its lowest level since September 2016.

Winds of Change While solar energy seems to get the media spotlight, wind energy is netting impressive inroads in Europe. According to Wind Europe, a trade organisation, Europe's total offshore wind capacity increased by 25 per cent in 2017. Just over 3.1 gigawatts (GW) of new offshore wind was installed in Europe last year, with total capacity reaching almost 16 gigawatts. While one can look at this increase from different facets, ultimately it all boils down to cost. The cost of investing in offshore wind today has gone down and has started to reach the levels of conventional power generation. Europe now hosts more than 4,000 offshore wind turbines across more than 10 countries. Thirteen new offshore wind farms were constructed in the past year, with Germany and the United Kingdom accounting for the majority. The UK installed 1.7 GW of offshore wind, while Germany was responsible for 1.3 GW. Last year also saw the world's first floating offshore wind farm, Hywind Scotland, come into operation and producing electricity for the Scottish grid. The future is also bright: 11 offshore wind farms are currently being built; these will add practically 3 GW once completed. Despite the record growth, offshore wind across Europe for geographical reasons is heavily concentrated within a few country. In fact, 98 per cent of offshore wind

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"SUCH TROUBLES ARE FERTILE GROUND FOR POPULISTIC PARTIES WHO ARE NOT EXACTLY ENAMOURED OF THE EUROPEAN PROJECT." capacity comes from the UK, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium. The UK accounts for the largest amount of installed offshore capacity across Europe at 43 per cent, with Germany following at 34 per cent. Denmark places third with an 8 per cent share, in front of the Netherlands (7%) and Belgium (6%).

Brexit Irony Over the past few weeks, a number of British MPs carried out a Brexit Impact Assessment. There is not the space to go deep into its merits here, but a rather interesting and ironic conclusion came around. According to regional forecasts, every area of the UK will suffer a decline in GDP. However, the North East England, the West Midlands and Northern Ireland will suffer the biggest impact in terms of economic growth after UK’s exit from the EU. Growth in the north east would decline by over 10 per cent under a free trade deal, while leaving with no deal would create a 16 per cent decline. With regards to the West Midlands, the figures amount to 8 and 13 per cent respectively. The north-east would take an 11 per cent hit to economic growth under the government’s preferred outcome of a free trade deal with the EU, while leaving with no deal will result in a 16 per cent dip, and staying in the single market would cause a 3 per cent decline. The irony? The two most negatively affected regions overwhelmingly voted to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum. London should suffer the smallest blow, according to this report. (M)