THE ECO AND IT ISSUE Issue 14 August/September 2012
â‚Ź5 WHERE SOLD
How IT can transform your business Managing water resources
Eco essentials Minister of Gozo on sustainability
Contents 8 Is the grass greener on the other island?
Eco-Gozo is a holistic vision that promotes sustainability of the environment, economy and quality of life. The Minister for Gozo speaks to Andrea Faye Christians.
13 Going with the wind Wind energy can help Malta meet its renewable energy targets, says Dr Ing Tonio Sant.
16 Sustaining sustainability
Prof Robert Ghirlando, Director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy at the University of Malta, tells Veronica Stivala about the wealth of possibilities for alternative sources of energy that are available to us.
19 Liquid assets
We are consuming more water than before, do not have incentives to save water, and risk losing our groundwater reserves, says Ing Marco Cremona.
25 That sinking feeling
As the EU sets about reforming its Common Fisheries Policy, Victor Paul Borg finds that separating the big fishermen from the small ones is no bait.
37 Dollar dollar bill y’all
Amit Raab launches his first idea into the crowdfunding universe.
39 IT’s not a miracle A business’s efficiency is not
of quality publications
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Welcome First impressions are always a bit skewed. So to dedicate this issue of Money to environmental issues and information technology looks like a match that is hardly made in heaven.
proportional to the level and degree of sophistication of its IT systems, says David Galea.
40 Turning Japanese Sean Patrick Sullivan investigates the post-growth movement.
And yet both are strong pillars of our economy and together offer added value.
42 Something is rotten
Chris Grech and Calvin Bartolo explain the LIBOR scandal and its consequences.
In this issue of Money, we interview Minister for Gozo Giovanna Debono on Eco-Gozo – this is not just an initiative that focuses on environmental issues. Rather, it is a holistic vision that promotes sustainability of the economy, quality of life, and the island itself.
50 Rising from the ashes
We also interview Dr Ing Tonio Sant, Chairman of the Institute for Sustainable Energy, on the harvesting of wind power and its potential in our production of renewable energy.
Iceland looked like it would disappear in a black hole of debt. Yet by refusing to go down the bailout route and by pushing reforms through, the country is recovering well, says Vanessa Macdonald.
52 Follow the Silk Road
Last year, Danish entrepreneurs Daniel Galle and Anna Hjoellund chose Malta as the launchpad for Sense of Nature, their international brand of silk sleeping products. Money gets a good night’s sleep.
Prof Robert Ghirlando, Director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy at the University of Malta, also outlines the wealth of possibilities for alternative sources of energy. As a small island, our water resources are understandably scarce. However, we are consuming more water than ever before, depleting our groundwater resources, and not harvesting enough rainwater. Ing. Marco Cremona investigates. Local IT companies are transforming the way we do business. We interview a number of IT companies on their services and products. Consultant David Galea also explains how technology is an enabler that creates opportunities for streamlining business processes. In this issue of Money, we also focus on the phenomenon of crowdfunding and investigate Malta’s fishing industry. Read on and enjoy.
60 Eco essentials Money does its bit to save the world.
63 Changing of the guard Behind the gates of one of the most dangerous cities in the world is an oasis. Mona Farrugia stays at the top boutique hotel in the world.
66 The Bluesman’s blog
The Bluesman takes a ride and a bite in New York.
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Is the grass greener on the other island? Eco-Gozo is a holistic vision that promotes sustainability of the environment, economy and quality of life. The Minister for Gozo speaks to Andrea Faye Christians.
Q Eco-Gozo appears to be a huge conceptual undertaking. How would you define the project? A The Eco-Gozo vision is not just another standalone project which undergoes the usual process of implementation. EcoGozo may be described as a comprehensive approach that incorporates all environmental, cultural and socio-economic sectors that have an impact on the island. It is a sustainable development strategy for the island. The Eco-Gozo Action Plan 2010-2012 is based on four main pillars that include economy, environment, society and identity. These sectors incorporate all that which influences the lives of those residing or coming in contact with Gozo both at present as well as in the future. Eco-Gozo aims to achieve sustainable development in all these areas in order to make a better Gozo for present and future generations.
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Q How were the needs of Gozo as an island assessed? A When Government proposed the eco island vision for Gozo, there were already set objectives that targeted the attainment of sustainable development on a national level. Malta was also party to international agreements on sustainability. This notwithstanding, the Ministry for Gozo wanted to involve all those who were interested in the development of this vision to contribute towards such an ambitious and important long-term initiative. Therefore it was decided that we would take a bottom-up approach which would give all those who were interested the opportunity to contribute with their own ideas and suggestions. I must admit that we were positively surprised with the feedback received. Some of these suggestions were in line with Government’s own plans but there were others that may be described as innovative in their concept while reflecting the special needs of relative sectors.
During the extensive consultation process, we met with representatives of civil society, NGOs, Local Councils, individuals and other entities. Respondents could also send in their suggestions through a special site on the Ministry for Gozo’s website while others did so through a special campaign that enabled us to go out in public places and collect information through our representatives. All the information was analysed by a competent body and compiled in an extensive document that formed the basis of a long-term action plan. Out of all these proposals, 80 were chosen to form the first action plan that covered 2010-2012. We are in the process of drafting the second action plan that covers the proposals to be implemented in 2013-2015. The involvement of the community in the implementation of the EcoGozo vision went beyond the consultation process. A number of initiatives have been implemented in order to involve the population
at an individual level. A few examples include the distribution of a water saving kit to every family in Gozo, a continuous awareness and educational campaign and the holding of the ‘Naqqas u Ffranka’ campaign. Through this campaign, every family in Gozo is receiving a visit by a trainer providing information on energy and water efficiency, the use of renewable energy and proper waste separation at home. All this has one intention – to convince the population that without every individual’s personal action and contribution, Eco-Gozo can never be a success. My Ministry has also provided the opportunity to Local Councils and Gozitan NGOs to become actively involved in the implementation of the EcoGozo action plan for the past three years. We launched three schemes through which Local Councils benefitted from a maximum funding of €70,000 each, while NGOs benefitted from a maximum of €50,000 each for the implementation of projects which contributed towards
the implementation of the Eco-Gozo action plan. We have had around 60 projects funded through these schemes, with a total budget of around €2.5 million.
transform Gozo into an ecological island, a model of sustainable development.” Yet it appears to be an ambitious project within a relatively short time scale.
Q What ecological challenges do you feel are particular to Gozo?
A This is surely an ambitious vision and one which as you say, cannot possibly be expected to reach its targets in a short time scale.
A As part of the Maltese islands, Gozo’s ecological challenges are similar to those faced on a national level. These include environmental aspects such as pollution, water resources, soil erosion, alternative energy generation, waste issues, and an effective control of overdevelopment in rural areas. Yet as an island depending on another island, Gozo has its particular needs. The geographical dimensions make over-development an important factor since it would jeopardise the rural environment which up to now has been fortunately preserved. Even the agricultural sector needs to be sustained since apart from its economic importance, it is also effective in maintaining the rural landscape that is so part of Gozo’s distinctive identity. Increasing awareness on the use of best practices connected with agriculture – among which the proper use of pesticides as well as the responsible use of water resources – is another challenge of particular importance for Gozo. In all these areas we need to continue to strive in order to achieve the required balance that would ultimately result in achieving our objectives for sustainable development. Q As part of Vision 2015, the Prime Minister declared that Government, “Will
The Eco-Gozo project is not a normal type of project – and that is why we often refer to the word ‘vision’. It is a continuous process that aims first and foremost to instil a sense of ownership among all those who reside or come in contact with Gozo. It may also be explained as a change in mentality that aims to achieve an important balance between continuous social development without compromising the rights of future generations. Sustainable development would allow for the handing over of a natural, cultural and historical heritage, that we inherited from past generations. However it does not mean that we stall progress. This whole concept has to be understood, practised and taught both at present as well as in future. We have made an important start to a process that we hope will be adopted and enhanced in future years so that Gozo will continue to preserve its distinctive identity for many years to come. Q There have already been a number of projects under the Eco-Gozo umbrella. Could you tell us more about these?
A As a Ministry we worked on a number of projects that included amongst others a continuous afforestation programme which is now also focusing on the planting of trees in significantly large areas such as Chambrai slopes, Qortin in Nadur and other areas. We have also restored public recreational spaces and created new ones such as Villa Rundle and Three Hills Garden in Marsalforn. We conducted a water resource study that eventually evolved in an extensive project that included cleaning of valleys and restoration of dams and reservoirs. We have also built rubble walls and rehabilitated rural areas. Moreover, we have launched various educational and informative programmes in order to increase awareness on environmental best practices and healthy lifestyles. We have participated in EU funded projects that seek to improve upon rural tourism. We have extended the PV panels on the Ministry for Gozo roofs to cover 50 per cent of the Ministry’s energy needs, and conducted a study for the eventual installation of other systems on other
Government buildings including schools. The Government farm is being restructured to make way for a Centre for Research and Innovation in the Rural Sciences and the Environment. Obviously there are other projects that also included tourism related initiatives aimed to enhance and maintain Gozo’s tourism product as well as initiatives for school children and young students aimed at increasing awareness about Eco-Gozo. This was also based on the premise that children are good ambassadors for extending what they learn within their communities. Gozitan children and young students were also receptive to the idea and contributed various suggestions. The Ministry for Gozo has recently launched the EcoGozo scheme for schools – this will seek to assist Gozitan schools in implementing various projects suggested by their students in the context of the Eco-Gozo priorities. Q How are local businesses involved in the project and how can they achieve sustainability?
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has to offer its visitors, both Maltese and foreigners. Thus Eco-Gozo proposes that in the process of attaining the required progress for present society we need to safeguard all that which makes Gozo what it is. Losing any of these distinctive characteristics that give Gozo its identity will jeopardise the island’s attraction as a tourist destination.
A The consultation process included talks with the business sector in Gozo, mainly represented by the Gozo Business Chamber and the Gozo Tourism Association. However we need to point out that this consultation has been ongoing for almost 15 years since the establishment of these entities, as one of the first initiatives taken during my tenure as Minister for Gozo. The sustainable development concept affects businesses – thus stakeholders need to be continually aware of what is being projected. It is thus that the Ministry for Gozo has recently given further assistance so that both these entities may strengthen their operation for the benefit of their members who constitute the majority of businesses on the island. It is worthy to note that both these entities operate within their own respective remits and on their own initiatives without any interference from the Ministry, notwithstanding the constant support it extends to both of them. Both the GBC and the GTA are acknowledged as the main representatives of the business sector on Gozo both at a regional as well as on a national basis.
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Local businesses understand the potential which EcoGozo provides for the island and a number of operators have been quite innovative in combining this new face of Gozo with their product in order to become more attractive on the market. On the other hand, we have had substantial success with eliciting interest in the direct financing of Eco-Gozo projects by corporate business, among which the CocaCola Foundation of Atlanta (through the local bottlers General Soft Drinks, Malta) with the financing of a Water Stewardship project through a grant of €560,000 and the HSBC Foundation with the financing of an afforestation project through a grant of €100,000. Having achieved this level of financing, we believe that Eco-Gozo is attaining a very strong and positive reputation. Q How do you imagine that Eco-Gozo will help the island maintain its identity and enhance its tourism project? A The island’s tourism product is based upon the distinct identity of Gozo. History, culture, tradition and the rural characteristics of the island are part and parcel of that which the island
Eco-Gozo also provides a new platform for the promotion of Gozo as a fresh destination on the international market. This eco-island vision provides an image of Gozo as an island which on the one part is deeply rooted in its tradition and heritage, but at the same time is forward looking and appreciative of the significant challenges the global community faces today. Eco-Gozo also renders the island more appealing to the sectors of tourism we wish to see developing further on the island, among which trekking and rambling, adventure sport, diving, cultural tourism and other niches. Perhaps a reality which may also be regarded as an actual example is the way Gozitan entrepreneurs have managed to create a distinctive accommodation product by converting old dilapidated buildings into attractive farmhouses that offer unique and modern facilities while maintaining
their character and that of the rural environment in which they are found. Q As Minister for Gozo what are your personal hopes for this project? A I am satisfied to have contributed towards the proposal and implementation of this vision for Gozo suggested by Government.
Indeed it was the next step to take following several initiatives that had already been taken to safeguard the island’s environment especially with regards to better waste management, less pollution, treatment of sewage, introduction of agricultural and environmental best practices and the promotion of healthy lifestyles, restoration and conservation of unique heritage sites as well as the introduction of niche tourism markets that focus upon the particular strengths of the island as a tourist destination. I aim to continue to endeavour in the implementation of what has been already projected so that it will continue to strengthen the foundations of what has already been done. These will make good for other steps to be taken in the course of time so that the realisation of this vision continues to gain momentum.
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Going with the wind Wind energy can help Malta meet its renewable energy targets, says Dr Ing Tonio Sant. Photos by Christian Sant Fournier.
production required to meet the 10 per cent target by 2020. This will be mainly provided through the proposed Sikka l-Bajda near shore wind farm, subject to the ongoing permitting process. In case Malta encounters difficulties in meeting the targets through local resources, it can opt to follow the flexibility measures allowed by the EU Renewable Energy Directive whereby a Member State can still meet the targets through projects in other Member States or third countries, as long as the projects have become operational after June 25, 2009 and the generated energy is consumed within the EU. This however comes at the cost that local economic opportunities may be lost. M A 2009 study by the European Environmental Agency claims that Malta can produce around seven billion kilowatt hours by 2030 – how realistic is this figure? MONEY Studies have shown that Malta has a significant capacity to generate power from the wind – and yet, we are still stuck at study stage. TONIO SANT The permitting stage is the most difficult and time consuming phase for developing a wind farm as it involves the Environmental Impact Assessment and consenting processes. Experiences from other EU countries show that out of the six to eight years required to develop and commission a wind farm, around three to five years are spent on the permitting stage.
Given that Malta’s spatial constraints are more restrictive than abroad, and that such projects are a first experience for Malta, it is unrealistic to assume that a local wind farm project can be consented in a shorter period of time. Malta’s most promising sites for wind energy are located within or in the close vicinity of Natura 2000 sites. The EU Birds and Habitats Directives impose further obligations on the local authorities when evaluating project proposals in the vicinity of such sites. M Can Malta meet its 2020 renewable
energy targets? TS Wind energy is expected to contribute
around one third of the renewable energy
TS It will be impossible to generate this large amount of energy through land-based installations given the small size of the Maltese Islands and our spatial constraints resulting from the relatively high population density, lack of adequate road accessibility in some areas (like Gozo), environmental constraints as well as restrictions related to airport operations. However, Malta’s territorial waters are enormous and consequently the technical potential will make this figure realistic once floating wind turbine technology becomes commercially feasible. M What is the more effective choice for Malta, land, offshore, or a combination of both? TS It has to be a combination of both. Land-based wind technology is the cheapest renewable energy option for Malta – with the favourable wind conditions on the island, the estimated cost of electricity from large-scale onshore wind farms at promising sites in Malta is cheaper from that currently be generated locally by oil-fired power stations.
This potential is severely restricted by our spatial problems. While I believe we still have some space to install a
limited amount of wind turbines on land, my opinion is that it is technically and environmentally difficult to accommodate land based installations that would generate more than one per cent of our projected final energy consumption in 2020. Malta’s potential for offshore wind is by far larger but this is constrained by our relatively deep waters. Today’s commercially mature technology is only suitable for sea depths not exceeding around 30 metres. Unlike land-based projects, wind energy projects at sea have to be large to take advantage of economies of scale. Malta has only one shallow water site, the Sikka l-Bajda site, that is somewhat away from the coastline and large enough to accommodate a reasonably sized wind farm. The site has an estimated potential of generating around nine per cent of our present electricity demand and 3.5 per cent of our final energy consumption in 2020. Installing turbines at sea is more expensive. Yet the cost of offshore technology is expected to come down as new industrial players from China and South Korea are penetrating the market. One cannot therefore dismiss the potential that this expanding green industry would offer to Malta in near future. It is crucial for our country to gradually start developing a local offshore renewable energy industry through the installation of a few turbines in local waters. This will enable us to gain the required expertise. One must here take note that viability of offshore wind relies on the logistical facilities available at nearby ports. We have to ensure that developments within our Grand Harbour will still allow the flexibility to support the services required by marine-based renewable energy projects. M Do Malta’s climatic conditions allow the feasibility of wind farms? TS Wind is intermittent all over the world. Our wind conditions are not different than those in other Mediterranean countries where many wind farms have been constructed. The Institute for Sustainable Energy of the
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Dr Ing Tonio Sant is Senior Lecturer, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Chairman of the Institute for Sustainable Energy, University of Malta.
University of Malta has been collecting wind data in the Maltese Islands for more than 15 years. Analysis of such long-term data shows that the local wind conditions are promising. M Is the technology for building wind farms in deeper waters reliable and commercially viable? TS Deep water technology is still in research and demonstration stage. At University, we are currently undertaking a research project funded by the Malta Council for Science and Technology to design a bottom-mounted steel support structure that can support 5 Megawatt offshore turbines in depths of 70 metres in Maltese conditions. If such technology is proven viable, it will open up the opportunity for an area between five and 18 kilometres offshore. The area which covers part of Hurd Bank is large enough to accommodate a 350MW wind farm – with an upgraded electricity grid infrastructure, this can provide 16 per cent of the total energy demand in 2020.
Floating technology would offer larger potential for Malta as it makes it possible to position Megawatt-scale turbines in very deep waters ranging from 100 to 800 metres. This would enable us to site the wind farms far away from the coast where permitting is much simpler. Luckily, today there is a lot of interest by the academia and industry alike to develop this technology. Two large-scale
floating turbine prototypes have been installed in the past three years, one in Norway and the other in Portugal. While the results have been encouraging, the demonstrated technology is still comparatively very expensive. I think we have to wait some five to 10 years more for floating technology to go through a commercialisation process. M What are the negative effects of wind farms? TS Wind turbines have to be large to be cost effective and consequently they will have a visual impact, although this can be mitigated by careful positioning. Whether the visual element is positive or negative ultimately depends on how we perceive things. I find modern turbines as beautiful rotating structures, symbol of technology advancement and a sign of a country’s commitment to safeguard our environment, health and quality of life. Today we have accustomed ourselves to various developments that have created significant visual impact locally – what about the visual impact created by around 250,000 vehicles on our roads every day or our urban areas that have been allowed to grow with lack of sensitivity to aesthetic aspect?
Wind farms occupy less than one per cent of the land footprint to accommodate the turbine foundations. The surrounding space may still be used for other purposes such as recreation and agriculture. Also, wind turbines also
have a limited lifetime of 20 years, after which they can easily be dismantled. As for noise pollution, noise emissions from a small wind farm located around 400 metres away is lower than that from air conditioner units and fans in our households. Yet noise is still one important aspect that is assessed in depth during a wind farm’s permitting process. Research is being undertaken on the impacts of wind farms on wildlife. Most negative impacts are known to occur due the site disturbance created during the construction phase and are therefore temporary impacts. While some species have been found to coexist with wind farms, environmentalists have expressed concern about species that are permanently displaced. Yet research has also revealed that there are positive impacts on wildlife – offshore wind turbine support structures behave as artificial reefs and enhance the marine life. I was fascinated during a visit to the Beatrice wind farm to witness how seals and some seabirds have turned the offshore turbines structures into their resting place. While all measures need to be taken to protect wildlife as far as possible, we have to responsibly weigh any possible negative effects of wind farms and other renewable energy technologies against the option of keeping business as usual and allowing our high reliance on fossil fuels to cause permanent damage to our planet.
ZOOMING IN The official launch of the Canon EOS 5D Mk III and the Canon EOS 1DX was held at the Portomaso Hilton. The event was also the debut for the Canon Cinema EOS system, with the launch of the EOS C300 in Malta. The versatile and affordable XA10 professional video camera was also presented. The EOS Cinema System has recently been adopted by the BBC for its HD channels. In front of a crowd of professional photographers, videographers and media related guests, Avantech, Canon local representatives, presented a series of quality film clips courtesy of Liquorish, JP Gatt and the team from Gadgets. These were achieved using the XA10 professional video camera and the Canon EOS digital cameras. Guests were then able to familiarise themselves with all the cameras. Of particular interest to the many professional photographers present was the news given by Nick Camilleri of Avantech regarding the commencement of the Canon Professional Network in Malta – a service that has been highly anticipated but that to date has only been available abroad. Nick Camilleri also announced the appointment of the first ever Canon Ambassador for Malta – UEFA accredited photographer Domenic Aquilina – in recognition of his international achievements and loyalty to the brand. All Domenic’s images bear the trademark of Canon photographic equipment. Domenic’s unrelenting determination to succeed in his profession clearly echoes the Canon slogan – ‘With Canon You Can.’
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Sustaining sustainability Most days in Malta are windy and sunny. Moreover, our islands have the highest ratio of available marine space in Europe. Prof Robert Ghirlando, Director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy at the University of Malta, tells Veronica Stivala about the wealth of possibilities for alternative sources of energy that are available to us. Photos by Christian Sant Fournier.
lternative forms of energy are in. Well, they are so in that even saying that is beginning to sound outdated. Yet despite the positive attributions to alternative energy, we are already beginning to find flaws in our inventions. This, of course, is only natural and as with so many other things, discovering the best ways to utilise different sources of energy is through trial and error. As an EU member state, Malta needs to ensure that 10 per cent of its energy comes from renewable sources by 2020. The Institute for Sustainable Energy at the University of Malta is making
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great strides in new discoveries and developments in the field and is already one step ahead of the game. It was recently reported in the local press that solar panels are spoiling the skyline. Although in itself the concept is groundbreaking, and necessary considering that non-renewable energy sources are, well, non-renewable, the 6,000 solar panels the public has been encouraged to install are beginning to become an eyesore because they are so big and take up so much space. Admittedly, this was a problem that could easily have been predicted and possibly avoided.
Because the Institute for Sustainable Energy is a relatively new one, it has yet to see its first batch of MSc in Sustainable Energy graduates. Research is currently being conducted by academic members of staff. Professor Robert Ghirlando, Director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy, says that, “In order to counter the problem of monstrous PV grid-connected solar systems, the institute’s researchers are studying ways of incorporating the panels into buildings’ façades rather than having them on roofs of high-rise buildings. These will take up less space, enhance the aesthetics of the building and, most importantly, reduce the electricity bills.”
The institute is also running courses for installers for photovoltaic panels and solar water heaters – this is intended to create a pool of qualified professionals. In addition to these courses, the institute is carrying out technical surveys on solar water heaters in homes in order to determine how to improve the systems as well as to give the members of the institute hands-on experience on what’s available on the market.
Now, as the word implies, the Deep Offshore Wind project is intended to gather wind energy generated out at sea.
Speaking of solar energy, the institute’s researchers are also currently working on solar air conditioning. Solar-powered air conditioners already exist – and there are at least two installed in Malta – but they are still bulky and expensive.
Surely, you ask, why go to the trouble of working in deep water when it would be so much easier in shallow sea?
Coordinated by Dr Tonio Sant, this project deals with the development of a new kind of deep water supporting structure for offshore wind turbines. These turbines will be planted in the water which is between five and 14 kilometres from Malta’s coast.
Two of the institute’s biggest research projects include studies on deep offshore wind and blue ocean energy. That sounds like a bit of a mouthful to be sure, but let’s break it down.
“The problem is that there isn’t a lot of shallow water – meaning less than 30 metres deep – in Malta. So Dr Sant has cleverly worked around the problem and is currently working on designing structures to support wind turbines at depth limits of up to 70 metres,” Professor Ghirlando explains.
In Malta, most days are windy – it’s only around eight per cent of days that are calm. While this may be a source of grumbling for longhaired individuals, catering organisations and the odd camper, it is a gem of an opportunity for anyone interested in wind energy.
The second project involves studying how to extract energy from the sea. Malta is so small and has limited land space. However, it is lucky in that this tiny land area is compensated by the highest ratio among European nations of available marine space.
In order to counter the problem of monstrous PV grid-connected solar systems, the institute’s researchers are studying ways of incorporating the panels into buildings’ façades. The Blue Ocean Energy project aims to test a special contraption, called the Dexawave converter, as a means of extracting energy from sea waves in the Maltese coastal waters. A 1:10 prototype has been built in order to test his new project. When it is ready, it promises to be an innovative, simple, cost-effective and competitive source of electrical power. This project looks set to pave the way for the generation of clean, electrical energy at advantageous costs. We may be small, but we’re lucky to have so many alternative forms of energy to be utilised. The future looks bright.
EASY PAYMENTS A private locally established company, Mobile Systems Ltd., is currently installing MaltaPay Kiosks. The primary concept behind these payment kiosks is to facilitate to the consumer, both local and foreign, the payment of bills whether these are water and electricity bills, fines, local and foreign mobile phone top-ups, telephone landlines, the internet, utilities, electronic commerce, loan repayments and other services. Some 400 pay-kiosks are being set up across the island by a Malta-based company Mobile Systems Ltd that already has a network in other European countries. Patrons will not be charged extra for the service. The MaltaPay kiosks have two screens: an upper 19” plasma screen which will air nonstop advertising and a lower touch-screen with a user-friendly interface, which lets you do what you want to do, quickly and smoothly. The system is secure against unauthorised requests, attacks and fraud attempts. Perfecta Advertising Ltd. through its interactive website www.perfecta.com.mt will be offering the facility to book adverts in Malta newspapers in a few easy steps through the Payment Kiosk System. For more information visit www.maltapay.eu
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Ing. Marco Cremona is a leading hydrologists and water treatment engineer and has been actively lobbying for the safeguarding of Malta¹s fresh water reserves for the last 17 years. A mechanical engineer by profession, he specialised in water issues and today runs his own business, Sustech Consulting. He is a founding member and secretary general of the Malta Water Association and his innovative projects have won him international acclaim, including the France 5 Report Terre award and the CNBC/Allianz Good Entrepreneur Competition. In 2012, Cremona was nominated and shortlisted for the Stockholm Water Prize 2012.
Liquid assets We are consuming more water than before, do not have incentives to save water, and risk losing our groundwater reserves within one or two decades, says Ing Marco Cremona.
amounts of groundwater can be pumped out for free, all incentives to save water go down the drain (pun intended). The biggest consumer of water in Malta is irrigated agriculture, which gets most of its water for free from groundwater reserves. Again, the incentive to grow water-efficient crops is completely absent. M Does the current water tariff structure encourage better management of our water resources? MC In theory, the water tariff structure is excellent because it encourages the efficient use of water (although I fail to understand the rationale behind lowering the tariff to €1.75 per cubic metre for large commercial water consumers, especially since these companies have the economies of scale to invest in effective water recycling).
MONEY You have been advocating
better water management for the past years. Has the situation in Malta improved? MARCO CREMONA We are consuming
more water than ever before – this increase in consumption is not proportionate with the rate of economic growth, which means we are using water less efficiently than before. We are also pumping out more groundwater from our depleted resources than ever before. Can one feel a sense of urgency to address our water problems? I don’t see it. However, I can confirm that our Reverse Osmosis plants are more efficient than ever before, and losses in the Water Services Corporation network reached an all-time low in 2010 (but increased slightly in 2011). Malta’s water problem is not technical. It is attributed to a lack of political commitment – and I am not being partisan in my comments. Politicians, irrespective of whichever party they represent, have a short-term agenda and are reluctant to address a problem that has been inherited from previous administrations. Therefore, they are
reluctant to bite the bullet when it comes to water, because it will not win them votes. M Who are the worst offenders when it comes to wastage – businesses or individuals? MC In general, water wastage is inversely proportional to the price of water. At present, the town water tariff to individuals (residents) varies from €1.47 per cubic metre (for low water consumption) to €5.41 per cubic metre (for heavy consumers). So in theory, there is a strong incentive to use water diligently in our homes.
For industry, an (almost) flat rate of €2.50 per cubic metre is applied. This means that there seems to be less incentive to save water in the industrial sector than in households. However, the amount of water consumed by businesses is generally many times that consumed in households, so the incentive is in the volumes. However, the above only applies in theory. Given that in Malta, practically everybody can have relatively easy access to groundwater (through the drilling of a borehole) and unlimited
However, the local water market is perverse, in the sense that the sector is not regulated and one can easily get access to free or cheap fresh water (groundwater). There cannot be proper water management on a national level unless there is proper regulation of groundwater use. Currently, more than 67 per cent of the water used in Malta is free and there is little political will to address this situation. Groundwater should be declared a public asset and treated as such. M How much water is being wasted in the production of other goods, and how can such processes be more efficient? MC First, we must define ‘waste’. In my view, the amount of water ‘wasted’ in a process is that additional quantity of water that was surplus to that required to achieving the objectives of the process. So the issue then revolves on the adaptation of affordable technologies and practices that will ensure that ‘waste’ is kept to a minimum. Which again takes us to the subject of price.
Today businesses get their water from a variety of sources: town water, water purchases from bowser suppliers, private boreholes, in-house reverse osmosis plants (generally in hotels), rainwater harvesting and also seawater for the
Money / Issue 14 - 19
flushing of toilets. It is clear that the most water efficient processes are those using town water, which is the most expensive source in Malta. M How much does urban sprawl contribute to rainwater wastage? MC The most sustainable source of
water is harvested rainwater. The increase in built-up areas in the last 30-40 years has resulted in the generation of even larger amounts of urban runoff. This in itself is not a bad thing as it results in the production of more water (runoff) that can be collected and re-used – provided, of course, that there is the infrastructure and storage capacity to manage this water. Unfortunately, there has not been any significant investment in storm water infrastructure in the last decades, with the result that runoff is now considered a liability rather than a resource. We have all the legislation to force the construction of rainwater cisterns in every building in place, but no real and effective enforcement to make it happen. M What lessons can we learn from vernacular architecture in terms of rainwater harvesting? MC By the mid-1990s, Malta had solved its water supply issues, because we invested heavily in seawater desalination (reverse osmosis). Today, it is very rare that one does not find water in the tap for an extended period of time. At the same time, water remained affordable. This led to the loss of our world-class rainwater harvesting culture, which has kept this country going since prehistoric times.
With an increase in oil prices, and therefore an increase in the cost of desalinated water, and with the very real threat that we stand to lose our groundwater reserves within one or two decades, we are beginning to reawaken to the potential of rainwater harvesting. However, it is close to impossible to retrofit the buildings built in the last three to four decades with rainwater cisterns, so these buildings will be a millstone round our necks until they are eventually demolished and replaced with buildings that incorporate rainwater
20 - Money / Issue 14
harvesting in their designs. Untreated rainwater is an excellent substitute to town water for the flushing of toilet cisterns, landscaping, and general washing purposes. M Is bottled water a fad, considering that tap water is perfectly safe for drinking? MC Is driving a flashy expensive car a fad, when you can equally get to your destination using a scooter? Of course there are certain advantages of using a car over a scooter, but there’s a price to pay.
Although Malta’s town water quality meets EU Drinking Water Standards, it tends to have high chloride content – this is because part of it is produced from the sea (desalination) and the other part is groundwater which is in contact with seawater. Moreover, town water contains a small amount of chlorine which affects the taste of the water. Furthermore, quality control is more rigorous in the case of bottled water than town water. Having said that, officially, all town water in Malta is considered safe for drinking. M Despite our scarce fresh water resources, can we still achieve sustainability? MC Malta cannot be sufficient in terms of food production. We have been importing food (and especially wheat, from which we get our staple food, bread) since time immemorial. Agricultural produce’s main ingredient is water. So even if we had to allocate all our water resources to agriculture, and therefore to food production (which would be a mistake, in my opinion), we still wouldn’t meet the country’s food requirements, let alone our water requirements.
The total water demand in Malta is around 55 million cubic metres per year, of which more than 25 million cubic metres is the agricultural water requirement. The sustainable yield of our aquifers is 23-25 million cubic metres per year, while an ambitious rainwater harvesting programme may yield another five million cubic metres a year. This means that Malta can only achieve
water sustainability if we properly manage groundwater and embark on an ambitious rainwater harvesting programme, and if agriculture gets its water from sources other than groundwater, such as treated effluent from the new sewage treatment plants. M What are the aims of the EU LIFE+ Investing in Water Project? MC The Malta Business Bureau’s EU LIFE+ Investing in Water Project, for which I am the water expert, aims to help businesses and hotels reduce their water consumption by empowering them to take action and save water. The first step in the process is to carry out a water audit of the enterprise and identify water saving solutions. Consultation and training are then provided to ensure that the enterprises have all the knowledge they need to implement the solutions.
The project recently concluded the first of two sets of water audits. The audits revealed that 85 per cent of businesses and 75 per cent of hotels could easily reduce their water consumption by adopting simple water saving solutions on showers, wash-hand basins and toilet flushings. Savings could be quite considerable and is estimated at 10 per cent across the board. Adopting other solutions such as harvesting rainwater by factories, or recycling grey water in hotels, could result in far greater individual savings. M How will the EU LIFE+ Investing in Water Project achieve sustainability past its project closure date of 2013? MC Although the project’s last water audits will be carried out by December 2013, the benefits should last for as long as the collaborating enterprises remain operational.
The water saving solutions identified through the project will result in a decreased consumption and this will be a permanent gain. Just as importantly, by empowering enterprises to identify and implement water saving solutions, the project is going beyond simply offering consultation and recommending specific solutions. By 2013 the project aims to have given enterprises the tools they need to sustainably manage their own consumption.
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Money sits down with Roderick Psaila, CEO of AgriBank, to talk about his recent experience Money sits down with Roderick Psaila, CEO of AgriBank, talk about his recent experience in the setting up of this new bank locally, having its headtooffice at SkyParks Business Centre. in the setting up of this new bank locally, having its head office at SkyParks Business Centre. to acquire tractors and other agricultural tomachinery. acquire tractors and othermodel agricultural So the business involves machinery. business model involves deposits So andthe other instruments on one deposits other instruments oneBy side andand loans to farmers on the on other. side and loans to farmers onloans the other. By nature, defaults on such are close nature, defaults are closeon to zero, much on lesssuch thanloans the defaults tomortgages zero, much than the defaults on in less Malta. In order to minimise mortgages Malta. In order tothe minimise any addedin risk, we will match duration any risk, deposits, we will match of added loans and andthe willduration also deal ofexclusively loans andindeposits, and willInalso deal Pound Sterling. a nutshell, exclusively Pound a nutshell, AgriBank in will offerSterling. clients In the possibility AgriBank will offer clients transparent the possibility to experience a simple, and torobust experience a simple, transparent andwill business model, where deposits robust business model, where deposits will be remunerated at a superior interest rate be remunerated at a superior interest rate to competition. to competition.
Roderick Psaila, CEO of AgriBank Roderick Psaila, CEO of AgriBank AgriBank is in in the the final finalstages stagesof ofobtaining obtaining AgriBank is aa banking license from from the the MFSA. MFSA. Can Can banking license you tell us more about the model of the you tell us more about the model of the business and the the operations operationswhich whichyou youwill will business and be be managing? managing? The model of of the the company company isis very very The model simplistic. The shareholders’ shareholders’ equity equityand and simplistic. The other funding funding acquired acquiredfrom fromthe theretail retailand and institutional sectors sectors in in Malta Malta and andthe theUK UK shall be used used solely solely in in asset asset financing financingto to farmers in the the UK, UK, in in order order for forthe thelatter latter
Why did AgriBank choose Malta as a Why did AgriBank choose Malta as a jurisdiction? jurisdiction? A number of reasons swayed the decision to A number of reasons swayed the decision to chooseMalta Malta over other options. AgriBank choose over other options. AgriBank willbe bea asmall smallbank bankgrowing growing organically will organically overa anumber number years, but will essentially over ofof years, but will essentially remainsmall smallbybyinternational international standards. remain standards. Soa asmall small jurisdiction was required. Malta So jurisdiction was required. Malta deemedtotobebe respected and growing isisdeemed aa respected and growing internationalfinancial financial centre the international centre in in the EU.EU. It It provides the possibility the Company provides the possibility forfor the Company to to passportitsitsservices services EEA members, passport toto allall EEA members, offerslow loweffective effectivetax taxrate rateforfor foreign offers foreign shareholders,has has accessible Regulator shareholders, anan accessible Regulator andatatthe thesame same time, a robust regulatory and time, a robust regulatory system.Crucially, Crucially, the industry can provide system. the industry can provide
SKYPARKS earns SKYPARKS earns its itsGreen GreenStripes Stripes SkyParks Business SkyParks Business Centre Centre has has recently recently become Malta’s become Malta’s first first Grade Grade AA office office park on park on obtaining obtaining aa Building Building Research Research Establishment Environmental Establishment EnvironmentalAssessment Assessment Method (BREEAM) Method (BREEAM) certification. certification. BREEAM BREEAM sets the sets the standard standard for for best best practice practice inin sustainable design and has become the sustainable design and has become the de facto measure used to describe a de facto measure used to describe a building’s environmental performance. As building’s environmental performance. As the world’s leading and most widely used the world’s leading and most widely used environmental assessment method for environmental assessment method for buildings, a BREEAM certification really buildings, a BREEAM certification really does place SKYPARKS Business Centre in a does place Business Centre in a league of itsSKYPARKS own. league of its own.
The aims toto mitigate thethe TheBREEAM BREEAMstandard standard aims mitigate impacts impactsofofbuildings buildingsononthe theenvironment environment and bebe recognised andtotoenable enablebuildings buildingstoto recognised according toto their environmental credentials. according their environmental credentials. With SkyParks Withthis thiscertification certificationin inhand, hand, SkyParks Business Centre has scored high marks Business Centre has scored high marks for the location of the development, its for the location of the development, its performance history, with main focus performance history, with main focus on quality and transparency, and finally on quality and transparency, and finally building efficiencies. The latter refers building efficiencies. The latter refers to structural and engineering finishes, to structural and engineering finishes, access and exit routing, parking, energy access and exit routing, parking, energy management and scalability for expansion. management and scalability for expansion.
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skilled professionals at a lower cost than skilled professionals at a lower cost in the major financial centres in than Europe. in Indeed, the major centres Europe.local thefinancial Company will in employ Indeed, the Company local experienced bankers will fromemploy the get go, while experienced from the get go, while two high bankers profile professionals have been two high profile professionalsDirectors. have been engaged as Non-Executive engaged as Non-Executive Directors. When will it be operational and what When will ittobe operational and what appealed you when deciding to base appealed toCompany you when to base this new at deciding SKYPARKS? this new Company at SKYPARKS? AgriBank plans to be fully operational AgriBank plans to be fully operational this October. While the period between this October. While the period between licensing and operations will be short, the licensing and operations will be short, the Company will rely on the latest technology Company will rely on the latest technology in terms of information systems and in terms of information systems and communications hardware and software. communications hardware and software. AgriBank will also make use of the fastest AgriBank will also make use of the fastest connections available on the market, connections available on the market, which are crucial for its straight through which are crucial for its straight through processingandand ease clients processing thethe ease of of clients access. Indeed, of the main access. Indeed, thisthis waswas oneone of the main reasons why the Company opted to open reasons why the Company opted to open head office SKYPARKS Business its its head office at at SKYPARKS Business Centre, considering modern IT and Centre, considering thethe modern IT and communications architecture provided, communications architecture provided, high security systems applied, thethe high security systems applied, easyeasy access clients staff alike, enclosed access forfor clients andand staff alike, enclosed parking facilities quality parking facilities andand alsoalso the the quality of of other tenants. other tenants.
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Victor Paul Borg is a writer and photographer who specialises in adventure travel and environmental issues. He also designs and leads adventure tours in west China. www.victorborg.com
That sinking feeling As the EU sets about reforming its Common Fisheries Policy, Victor Paul Borg finds that separating the big fishermen from the small ones is no bait. Photos by Victor Paul Borg.
alta’s beleaguered traditional fishermen are caught in a vortex of bewilderment. These fishermen, who are politically voiceless, are being squeezed from both ends: plummeting fish stocks have made their work harder and diminished their catches and profits, while large aggressive fishing operators are outmanoeuvring them in a scramble for scarcer fish. The situation is critical and even pelagic fishes that were abundant in the Mediterranean only 15 years ago – such as tuna, swordfish, dolphin fish, and barracuda – have now become much scarcer. Now it’s the juveniles that are being caught – fish is not being given a chance to grow and spawn, thus decimating tomorrow’s progeny. The same general malaise pervades fisheries throughout Europe. EU statistics show that seven out of 10 of European edible fishes are overfished, most seafood eaten in the EU is imported from other continents, and coastal fishing communities in the EU are dying out.
Such malaise has prodded the EU to launch a process for reforming its Common Fisheries Policy, a reform that is designed to reverse the bleak situation. The proposed reform rests on four main pillars: a ban on discards (ending the practice of fishermen discarding fish that is juvenile or inedible, or otherwise economically worthless); the adoption of a system of Transferable Fishing Concessions (the trading of catch quotas); the setting of quotas according to Maximum Sustainable Yield (fishing at sustainable levels); and the injection of special funds to reinvigorate coastal fishing communities. Although there is broad agreement about the aims of the reform, there is much dissent about the methodology. All the environmental and civic NGOs, as well as the traditional fishermen, fear that the EU Commission’s misguided approach will not solve the problem of overfishing. Lobby groups have been formed, with dozens of NGOs setting up Ocean 2012. Moreover, traditional fishermen in Spain, Greece, Italy and
France have formed the Mediterranean Platform of Artisanal Fishermen – sadly, Malta is conspicuously missing, because the Maltese traditional fishermen do not have genuine representatives. All these lobby groups find serious defects with the reform as proposed. One big structural flaw is that it is based on separation between large and small fishermen, treating both as separate entities that require dual policies and regulations. For example, the EU Commission believes that one of the measures prescribed for the trading of catch quotas as a regulatory mechanism would stimulate innovation. Yet allowing the sale of catch quotas will obviously favour the stronger players – and the danger is that fishing will become concentrated in the hands of a small number of multinational fishing corporations. This is unacceptable because it will lead to the demise of coastal fishing communities which are populated by small-scale fishermen and their families, who depend on fishing for their livelihood and social cohesion.
Besides, seafood does not belong to private entities – fishermen are simply permitted by society to catch fish for public consumption – so it’s socially unacceptable to allow corporations to take over the fishing sector. As a result, the EU Commission proposes a solution of exempting smallscale fishermen – defined as fishermen who fish from boats less than 12 metres long and who only use static gear (thus excluding trawling) – from the trading of quotas. Moreover, the EU Commission wants to bolster the safeguarding of small fishermen by requiring national governments to reserve a part of the national catch quota for small-scale fishermen. These safeguards, at face value, appear to prop the small-scale fishermen, but they do nothing to solve the larger problem of destructive and unsustainable fishing. NGOs and small-scale fishermen see such patchwork solutions as administrative fiddling, even as the sea is emptied of its fish. They want the EU policies to differentiate between sustainable and unsustainable fishing
Money / Issue 14 - 25
practices. It shouldn’t matter whether a fisher is small or large – what should matter is that all fishermen, small or large, are fishing in a sustainable manner. This might entail the elimination of some destructive fishing methods. Trawling would be an obvious candidate, and the situation in Malta demonstrates the destructiveness of trawling. In Malta there are 16 trawlers, and these go out trawling every day of the year when the sea is calm. One of their primary target species is the pink-red small prawn and the nets scrape the bottom of the sea and scoop up everything in their path. About threefourths of what they scoop out of the sea is unwanted, and by the time the prawns are sorted out, all the other
26 - Money / Issue 14
that trawlers cause mountains of dead fish every year in the Mediterranean. The annihilation of fish caused by trawling has rippling effects throughout the marine food chain, impoverishing the Mediterranean Sea and in turn reducing the amount of fishes that fishermen can catch.
unwanted fishes would be dead and are then discarded back into the sea. We are talking large quantities of discards. If Malta’s 16 trawlers produce tons of dead fish every day they go out trawling, try to imagine the number of trawlers that operate in the Mediterranean, and you begin to understand
Small-scale fishermen have been deprived in other ways too. Let’s take tuna, for example, which Malta’s smaller fishermen have lost. Only 10 years ago, there were traditional fishers who used to fish with surface hooks for tuna and swordfish. They used to catch mostly swordfish, but also a half a dozen tuna every year – bringing in a couple of thousand bucks
every year, something that is significant for the selfemployed one-man fishing operators. However, now it has become illegal for these fishermen to even catch tuna. That’s because the demise of tuna has led to curbs and quotas, and Malta’s national quota is now distributed among more dedicated tuna fishermen, so the smaller fishermen have completely lost a stream of income from tuna fishing. Even Malta’s midsize fishermen, who work from larger launches (not considered small-scale under the 12-metre-boat threshold) and catch tuna with hooks, now have to accept a lower catch and have to work harder to catch less tuna than they
did 15 years ago. This is what happens when aggressive and unsustainable operators begin catching all the fish, as happened in the tuna fishery – the large fishing operators scoop out entire shoals of tuna in their massive purseseine nets, and the small-scale fishermen have lost out. The companies that run tuna ranches in Malta have made huge profits from the trade of tuna. Malta has the largest tuna ranching capacity in the world and the tuna ranches in Malta are supplied live tuna caught in the nets of large industrial tuna fishermen (most of these are French and Italian operators). The business model of the tuna ranches is to feed and fatten tuna, which are caught in nets when they come to
the Mediterranean to spawn in late spring, until the fishes are slaughtered at the optimal market conditions. That way the tuna ranches can churn out a supply of freshly slaughtered tuna all year round – this is exported to Japan, where tuna destined for sushi or sashimi restaurants costs a fortune. In this way, tuna ranching simply serves to add value to the tuna during the caging period. Even the process of fattening tuna represents a loss of resources through biomass conversion – a tuna needs to eat 20 to 25kg of mackerel to gain 1kg of weight – and such loss in biomass conversion should be unacceptable from a social and environmental point of view. Seafood is a scarce and limited resource – and in this context it is unwise to create losses in seafood biomass for the sake of
creating an artificial loop that serves to maximise profits. The problem with fish farming is that it still relies on fish caught in the wild. Even fish hatched in captivity are then fed other fish netted at sea (the exceptions are fish farms in Asia that grow freshwater fish or tiger prawns), so fish farms simply end up shifting the problem of overfishing from the fish grown in farms to the fish caught as feed. For this reason, seeing fish farming from the prism of supply and production – as governments tend to do – is something of a delusion. The Maltese government, for example, supports the proliferation of fish farms in Malta. As a fisheries expert in the UK once told me, there
is no such thing as a fishing industry, and fishing in Europe cannot become an industry in its current form (unless there is some kind of breakthrough in fish farming) because it wholly relies on fish caught at sea. And the only way that the reform of the EU’s fisheries policy can achieve its aims is to tackle the issues in a holistic manner, not dealing with each fishery as if each is independent of the other, but ensuring that the marine ecosystem remains healthy and resilient to support sustainable fishing. There does not have to be a conflict between small and large fishermen, and there is enough space for both large and small operators, but only for as long as all fishing becomes sustainable.
Money / Issue 14 - 27
Be prepared You need to protect all aspects of your business, says Steve Casaletto, Director, Key Training (Key Group).
when it comes to reassuring your clients that you are on track and able to meet their requirements. M What business continuity services do you offer? SC The Key IT Group offers a range of consultancy, planning, support and implementation services for companies keen to protect all aspects of their business should the worst happen.
Additionally, we offer various IT services to companies so as to assist them in the implementation of business continuity plans. These are extremely useful whatever the sector, nature, level and size of the business concerned. M What will the training that Key IT Group encompass?
MONEY How important is business continuity for businesses? STEVE CASALETTO Business continuity is absolutely vital. Businesses are vulnerable to threats of all kinds, including fires, building damage, earthquakes, server thefts, system hacks, malware and viruses. Just one debilitating attack of this sort could be enough to halt activity completely. In fact, statistics show that 25 per cent of businesses don’t reopen after suffering a serious issue of this kind. Of those that do attempt to try again, 80 per cent go out of business and 75 per cent fail within three years of the disaster. These statistics show just how important it is to be ready and to have viable a contingency plan in place. M Do businesses suffer from the ‘that
will never happen to me’ mentality? SC Absolutely, especially in Malta where we feel lulled into a false sense of security that nothing bad ever happens here.
28 - Money / Issue 14
Many business owners also think they’re safe because they have back-ups in place or an IT disaster plan. But what if the threats or failures go far beyond that? Moreover, it’s not just large-scale threats like tsunamis that need to raise an eyebrow – a potentially serious threat to your business could be anything from a burst water pipe splashing all over your back-up system, to a fire that wipes out every hardcopy version you own. And yes, it could happen to you. The best option is to always be prepared. M What are the main risks for businesses? SC It all boils down to loss of data, loss of reputation and loss of business. We all know the rule of thumb that if we can’t service our clients, they will go elsewhere, and a serious setback could lead straight to that. In some cases, as little as two days disruption could set you back months
SC We will be supporting organisations in the development of their business continuity management – this concept has grown incredibly popular in recent years, and especially since the likes of the 9/11 terror attacks. To start with, we will be holding workshops and introductory sessions for interested parties.
We are also delighted to announce the launch of a proper programme of BCI training, including a Business Continuity Institute public training course. This five-day programme, starting in October, will also prepare attendees to sit the BCI Certificate examination, if desired. M Can business continuity be tailor-made according to size and type of business? SC Definitely. It’s important for businesses to acknowledge that, whatever their size, they need to have a Plan B in place should the worst happen. As a result we can tailor strategies to suit, no matter how small and simple, or large and complex, a business may be. The more protection required, the more facilities can be added in to fit the bill.
First class solutions We believe in setting the pace, not following it, says Brian Zarb Adami, Chief Technical Officer, 6PM Group.
Over the years, we have increased our customer portfolio ranging from various industries both in Malta and overseas. 6PM Infrastructure is today not just a solution provider but a valuable partner for the majority of our customers. To date we can boast that we have deployed one of the largest private VoIP systems on the island and have overhauled the IT infrastructure of some of the best known internet gaming firms operating out of Malta. 6PM Infrastructure has also built a data centre in the UK – this data centre runs some of the backend operations for the Transport for London’s Oyster Card System. M What products and services do you offer? MONEY When was 6PM Infrastructure set up and what was your intended market? Brian Zarb Adami 6PM Infrastructure is part of the 6PM Group and developed from a small team based at Compunet. Compunet was established in 1996 and today is a market leader in the corporate market – it represents various international, reputable brands including Epson, Viewsonic, Yealink and Lenovo.
Compunet become part of the 6PM Group in 2011. The company has provided the Group with the infrastructure skills to complement the 6PM IT solutions and services offering. Today 6PM Infrastructure boasts a team which is highly specialised in both systems and networks. M What growth has 6PM Infrastructure enjoyed since then? BZA 6PM Infrastructure has grown from a two-man show to a team of 12 highly specialised IT professionals. The team offers services in various areas including desktop and server virtualisation, security and bespoke infrastructure solutions.
At 6PM Infrastructure, we strive to offer a 360° service to our clients. We believe in setting the pace, not following it. For these reasons we have invested our time and expertise in creating a well-serviced, flexible and secure infrastructure service and consultancy arm.
BZA Our range of services includes IT infrastructure consultancy, data centre implementation, copper and fibre optic networking, network certification, hosted solutions, IT hardware supply and maintenance, Microsoft Active Directory planning and implementation, communication systems, virtualisation and virtual desktop implementation. M In which areas does 6PM Infrastructure specialise? BZA Our consulting and managed
services arm delivers the resources and capabilities required to assess, design, build and manage an agile, flexible and reliable IT infrastructure that is capable of meeting the dynamic needs of any business. At 6PM Infrastructure, we cater for all types of businesses, irrespective of size and cover a range of industry verticals such as Government, telecoms, and the pharmaceutical industry. Thanks to our experience and highly certified team, we specialise in fibre optics based networking, Linux based systems, virtual desktop infrastructure design and implementation, VoIP systems and network security. M Why would you consider Malta to be an ideal launch pad for IT products and services? BZA Malta has a contingent of highly qualified and bright people who do not easily give up in the face of adversity.
The local IT infrastructure is good and is continually being enhanced. Staff salaries, although on the rise, are still affordable when compared with the rest of Europe – this allows one to find the right skills set for the task at hand. M Do you think that Malta is nurturing and educating enough talent to provide IT companies with the required human resources and skills? BZA The current educational schemes introduced by the Government are welcome – however there needs to be more alignment of skills training with the needs of the industry operating in Malta. Of late there has been a focus on particular technologies while completely ignoring others. The current training centres need to keep abreast and continually adapt to the changing requirements of the industry. Agility has become a crucial requirement due to the fast paced nature of our field. M What products and services are you currently developing and when will these be launched? BZA We are currently working hard on a variety of projects and new offerings. Our new portfolio will also include services that will simplify the life of the end-user. One of our products will focus on protecting the myriad of data found on a home user’s PC. We will also be launching a solution for small business owners as well as another for those IT users who regularly need help. The plan is to launch during January 2013. M Where do you see 6PM Infrastructure in the next two years? BZA At 6PM we focus on providing IT solutions that are built around matching business benefit with innovative cutting-edge technologies. Within the 6PM Infrastructure team, we are investing a good percentage of our time on research and development. We have also partnered with big infrastructure names such as IBM, Palo Alto Networks and Citrix in order to develop our enterprise level offerings.
Money / Issue 14 - 29
We care Maintaining a healthy customer relationship in the IT industry is vital, says InFusion Director Kristoff Zammit Ciantar. HTML template builder/designer, and an online file management system. These have already brought in a lot of local and international attention. M In which areas does InFusion specialise? KZC From a services perspective, we
MONEY When was InFusion set up and what was your intended market? KRISTOFF ZAMMIT CIANTAR Infusion was set up in 2006 with the aim of providing the online market with a service that (at the time and partly even today) is unique. Instead of developing run of the mill online portals and sites for which customers would need to pay ongoing licence fees, we wanted to offer the online market custom-made solutions that the customer has ownership of.
Besides allowing us added flexibility from a design and build aspect as each solution is custom-built, this approach gives our clients peace of mind that their investment is safe and scalable. Back in 2006 both of these aspects were unique – however, since then a couple of other suppliers locally have started offering something similar. However, what is still unique is our ability to provide the customer with all the code of the solution including the database. M What growth has InFusion enjoyed since then? KZC Infusion has grown quite steadily since 2006. From the online services aspect we have become more proficient in what we do due to the constant research all our team members conduct. We now offer business and technical consultancy services drawing on our experience as business analysts and technical architects. We have also recently launched three online products – an e-mail marketing bulk sender tool and an
30 - Money / Issue 14
specialise in consultancy. I have a background in Business Analysis and my partner is a Senior Technical Consultant. Before setting up InFusion, we were both based in London servicing large corporations in the public and private sector and have been exposed to business solutions and technical requirements of large proportions. This background does not only provide the company with the skills and experience needed to handle projects of any size, both on a local as well as an international basis, but the approach is so ingrained in us that we adopt the skills in any project we undertake. But really and truly we do believe that our forte is taking care of our customers. Maintaining a healthy client relationship (especially in this industry) it is vital mostly because clients have to rely on the supplier to be able to operate and maintain their own solution. The technical gap that there is between the customer and the supplier’s solution needs to be bridged by the supplier. M Why would you consider Malta to be an ideal launch pad for IT products and services? KZC Given its size, Malta is the perfect platform to gauge the response of the market to a particular site or product. It is (if well-managed) possible to launch a site locally and gauge the reaction that users will have to the site or the concept. This can give the supplier enough time to be able to tweak or adjust the service or the product before pushing it further beyond our shores.
The advantage is merely based to the size though, because when it comes to the online culture we still tend to lag behind other European countries. Even though we are getting more comfortable with the net very fast, it wouldn’t be the best platform the gauge the reaction of an
online portal for example! M Do you think that Malta is nurturing and educating enough talent to provide IT companies with the required human resources and skills? KZC There is a shortage of talent on the market – however I do not think that it is due to the education system. The sudden increase in demand for such talent has been due to the number of companies (especially within the gaming industry) that have relocated to Malta. While I believe that this is extremely positive for the local economy, churning out more talent through the education system might lead to negative repercussions if this demand suddenly decreases. We have recruited students through the local education system and we have found the level of knowledge as well as the enthusiasm of certain students to be excellent. M What products/services are you currently developing? KZC We have just launched Cabinet, our online file management system. The response has been great and the product is already in use on the local market. This product brings all the advantages of owning your personalised document management system to the online world. It also removes the exorbitant costs that document management systems are associated with. This product ensures a secure and controlled share of all your files across all the users to whom you give access. The system has a number of advantages especially to those corporations that work across multiple locations and constantly share documents and files. M Where do you see InFusion in the next two years? KZC InFusion sits on three pillars: development of web and IT solutions, business and technical consultancy and products. This order reflects percentage of the company’s income today. Over the next couple of years we will focus on building our consultancy, business and products and aim to be in a position where all these three services will render the same income to our business.
Results, results, results Money interviews Ray de Bono, CEO of Dmax, the company behind Dmaxepaper.com, the e-mail marketing and business intelligence solution that is making ripples in Malta and overseas.
MONEY What was the idea behind Dmaxepaper.com? Ray de Bono Dmaxepaper.com is a result of a need we had ourselves of reaching out to clients. We needed a practical business solution which could help us send, track and monitor our e-mails. We wanted detailed metrics and a business development tool that sends attractive, smarter e-mails. We wanted the possibility of engaging our contacts, even automatically, if possible. This is why we produced a solution, offering users powerful resources on just one platform. Dmaxepaper delivers tangible, measureable results in marketing and sale lead generation, automated engagement with contacts and the unique possibility of reaching a wider audience given that the system service includes testing and configuration of e-mails for mainstream smartphone/tablet compatibility. M How effective is e-mail marketing? RdB Unlike conventional media, e-mail marketing has an unlimited reach, is virtually free-of-charge and generates the highest known ROI in the marketing world.
Many business people invest a lot in their company’s online presence and social media. Yet this is not enough. You need people to visit your site, not just your Facebook page. The same goes with having a large following on social media. This is where a smart e-mail application like ours comes in. E-mail is your key channel with which to engage your followers – it helps build awareness about your website while it literally carries
people straight into your online shop or preferred online landing pages. M How is this effectiveness measured? RdB Sales are the best performance barometer. Within the boundaries of the EU data protection act, Dmaxepaper.com tracks open rates, clicks, forwarding-to-afriend, e-mail bounces and more. This system can automatically send personalised replies and take people with expressed special interests directly to the page from where sales can be closed there-and-then. Dmaxepaper.com provides users with detailed yet simple to follow animated statistics updated in real time. Armed with this market intelligence, one can take better-informed decisions. A side effect of companies using e-mail marketing through Dmaxepaper has been their immediate reduction in traditional marketing expenditure, besides improved business promotions. M What distinguishes Dmaxepaper. com in its genre? RdB Dmaxepaper is endowed with the latest intelligence-gathering gadgets, autoresponders, triggers, simulators and is backed by German and English speaking executives and developers based at Dmax Business Centre in Swatar. Dmaxepaper users have no imposed limits on quantities of e-mails sent, contact lists held or the number of campaigns generated. Through its thoroughly tested, in-built anti-spam protection, this system delivers above average open rates.
Each client is allocated a dedicated
support buddy to help in day-to-day system use. This support service is offered free to Dmaxepaper clients (in Malta and overseas) during office hours, while an e-mail based ticketing system provides support in remaining periods. Dmaxepaper users receive regular training on related themes such as Contact List Organisation, Permission Marketing, Basic & Advanced System. Use and Statistical Analysis, in dedicated courses held at Dmax training facilities or at the clients’ premises. System clients are also kept updated through frequent e-mails and meetings. The list of Dmaxepaper users features clients in Malta, Germany, UK as well as Africa & the USA. The type of businesses using Dmaxepaper, includes leading Maltese and international banks, e-gaming firms, insurance companies, fashion brands, retail establishments, shipping companies, health care providers, educational organisations, IT companies, hotel chains and more. M What is in store for Dmaxepaper.com users in the next two years? RdB The way internet is evolving, particularly with advances in HTML5, social media and with smartphones becoming more mainstream, Dmaxepaper will continue to strengthen its established position. These aims are being concretely addressed through research and development particularly in the field of smartphone and tablet media, creation of new ancillary system apps and interaction with social media and third party CRM solutions.
What Dmaxepaper.com users say Dmaxepaper.com is an excellent tool for Frank Salt Real Estate to keep in touch with our clients. Not only does it allow us to maintain contact with them, but it also assists in data analysis and collation exercises that make our work much easier in understanding what our customers want to read and hear about. Nick Bilocca, Marketing Manager, Frank Salt Real Estate
Dmaxepaper.com has helped our business maximise our online presence. We have used this solution in promoting our brands, including Beurer, Energizer, Hawaiian Tropic, Remington, Siemens Gigaset and Wilkinson Sword as well our retail operations with Agenda Bookshops, Bookends, 8 Till Late & Newskiosk. Dmaxepaper delivers tangible results. Emma Miller, Marketing Manager, Miller Distributors Ltd
Dmaxepaper.com is an effective e-mail marketing tool we uses to keep in touch with our customers regularly and to track their feedback. The system is easy-to use, layout is professional, and we found it ideal to project the high profile automotive brands our company represents, including VW, Audi, Porsche, SEAT, BMW, MINI, Daihatsu, Land Rover, Citroen, Mitsubishi, Suzuki and Nissan.
Dmaxepaper.com is an integral part of Vivendo’s media mix, thanks to the tracking reports provided. Dmaxepaper.com has enabled our companies to take online communications to a new, personalised level, branded and targeted specifically for each of our outlets. With dmaxepaper.com we can now deliver ideas, news and promotions to each customer personally.
Sandro Cauchi, General Manager Continental Cars Ltd, obo Mizzi Motors Ltd
Romina Vassallo, Marketing Executive, KREA, IDEACASA, DEX, part of the Vivendo Group
Money / Issue 14 - 31
Safety first Your business and home are safe with us, says Gary Grech from Unitech Malta.
“We specialise in the security industry and we build custom security installations based on the client’s needs.”
MONEY When was your company set up and what was your intended market? GARY GRECH Unitech was set up two years ago with the main target of being a leading company in ELV security systems installation with impeccable customer support. M What growth has your company enjoyed since then? GG Thanks to our clients for the trust
they showed in us and to our staff for their dedication, the company’s growth has been very successful. And with new clients seeking our services, the future looks very promising for Unitech. M What products and services do you offer? GG We supply, install, commission and
maintain CCTV security systems,
32 - Money / Issue 14
intruder alarms, fire alarms, PABX telephone systems, intercoms and networks. We also specialise in access control and anti-shoplifting EAS alarms. M In which areas does your company
specialise? GG We specialise in the security industry and we build custom security installations based on the client’s needs. M Why would you consider Malta to be an ideal launch pad for technology products and services? GG In Malta, we have very skillful people with innovative ideas – this makes Malta the ideal place for launching technology products and services. There is also the added benefit that labor in Malta is much cheaper than in other European countries. M Do you think that Malta is
nurturing and educating enough talent to provide IT companies with the required human resources and skills? GG I think that Malta is doing its utmost to nurture and educate talent. Moreover, you need to consider that nowadays, the situation is very different from a decade ago – nowadays, there’s a computer in every household. Also, students start their computer studies from their early years at school. However, as in everything else, it has to be up to the individual to work hard, make sacrifices and have enough determination to achieve good results in his respective field. M What products/services are you currently developing and when will these be launched? GG We are currently working on getting fully certified to do the services and maintenance of portable fire extinguishers.
Education is key The Institute of Computer Education can help you achieve your full potential, says James Abela, ICE director.
MONEY When was your company set up and what was your intended market? JAMES ABELA The Institute of Computer Education (ICE) was set up in the first quarter of 2011. The company is an offspring of another local IT company, NIU, which we set up over six years ago, focusing exclusively on website design and development. Using our knowledge and experience within the IT industry as well as our love for technology, we decided to invest and set up a dedicated IT training centre with a special focus on quality. The intended market for ICE is anyone who would like to learn something new or explore a subject they already know in more depth while obtaining a recognised qualification in the process. We felt that while there are plenty of highly knowledgeable people, they are not achieving their full potential. This state of affairs can only be rectified by following syllabi provided by wellestablished foreign IT vendors. M What growth has your company enjoyed since then? JA Since inception, we have successfully held over 35 different specialised IT courses and helped hundreds of students achieve an IT qualification. Each course runs a number of times during the year, allowing students to attend the sessions which best suit their availability. The company has also achieved a number of official partnerships with international IT brands including ECDL, CISCO and Autodesk. ICE’s latest feather in the cap was becoming a Microsoft Silver Partner a few weeks ago. As a company, we invest heavily in equipment and strive to create the perfect learning environment for our students. Additionally, since parking is a major issue, we made sure that there is
ample parking space around our premises available for our students.
from among the very best tutors, thus piling on even more value to our students.
M What products and services do you offer?
M Do you think that Malta is nurturing enough talent to provide IT companies with the required human resources and skills?
JA ICE offers a large number of specialised short IT courses. Every student has the opportunity to practise during each lesson and sit for the official exam at the end of the course. Exams are carried out online using direct connection with the vendor from our premises. Once done, students will receive an official certificate directly from the respective vendor.
ICE also offers custom training to companies who would like to train their employees in IT. We place huge emphasis on quality control, and this is why lecturers who are chosen to lecture at ICE undergo rigorous vetting. Selected lecturers are also sent to the UK for specialised training. Other quality control procedures include surveys and discussions with students following each course. All the courses offered by ICE can be found at our website on www.icemalta.com M In which areas does your company specialise? JA We specialise in providing high quality, results focused and internationally recognised certifications in all areas of information technology. Our courses range from beginner to expert level. These include multimedia courses in areas such as graphic design and video editing; Microsoft courses which include programming and server support; CISCO courses including Computer Technician and CCNA networking. ICE provides all the equipment and software necessary throughout the course for the student to practice. M Why would you consider Malta to be an ideal launch pad for IT products? JA Our nation holds an extremely high level of awareness of the importance of technology. This is an advantage in and of itself, but furthermore, we are blessed with talented and skilled people who are willing to share their knowledge with others. This has helped us at ICE to choose
JA There has been heavy investment from the public and private sector in the training of employees – especially in the IT sector, this investment has to be ongoing. Technology advances and employees need to keep up with the latest changes in order to be more efficient and compete both with local and foreign companies. The key to success in today’s competitive markets is efficiency – doing more with less. Technology plays a very important role in this and in enabling one’s employees to get familiar with and comfortable using the latest technology will make a company more efficient. M What services are you currently developing? JA We are working on new training programmes based on new software which will be released in 2012/2013 from various vendors. Our idea is to have a course available for all of the latest software in the market. We are also improving some of our existing courses - this is an ongoing process. M Where do you see ICE in the next two years? JA Our aim is for ICE to be the top IT training centre in Malta and the natural choice for all manner of IT training and courses. Unfortunately, too many companies offer poor training which does not fully instruct the student, thus reflecting badly on the student and other training companies. ICE will not be tarred by the same brush. We place huge emphasis on making sure that our students not only enjoy their learning experience but graduate from ICE with a set of new skills.
Institute of Computer Education Ltd., Central Business Centre, Level 2, Suite 2, Imdina Road, Zebbug. Tel: 2146 7787 Email: email@example.com www.icemalta.com
Money / Issue 14 - 33
Growing with you We are committed to deliver sophisticated, scalable and affordable solutions, says Curt Gauci, Managing Director, Kinetix.
The size of the island combined with the user knowledge and attitude makes the local market an ideal launch pad.
MONEY When was Kinetix set up and what was your intended market? CURT GAUCI Kinetix was founded in 1997 and its main intent was to provide IT solutions for the local corporate sector.
CG Though we offer a vast range of products and services such as networking, servers, information security systems and IT support, at Kinetix we are committed to deliver sophisticated, scalable and affordable solutions to best suit today’s business needs.
M What growth has your company enjoyed since then?
M In which areas does your company specialise?
CG Over the years Kinetix has evolved
CG Kinetix specialises in the design,
from a part-time venture to a full-blown operation which now employs 12 trained and certified professionals.
implementation, support and optimisation of IT and communications solutions for the corporate sector.
Our customer base has also grown. Kinetix currently supports over 100 local companies and also a few foreign customers. We have also managed to establish and maintain a number of selective partnerships with internationally renowned players in the IT field amongst which Microsoft, HP, Cisco, 3CX and Kerio.
M Why would you consider Malta to be an ideal launch pad for IT products and services?
M What products and services do you offer?
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CG The size of the island combined with the user knowledge and attitude makes the local market an ideal launch pad. M What products and services are you
currently developing and when will these be launched?
CG Organisations are becoming more and more reliant on their IT systems and as everybody nowadays knows, downtime translates into losses. Based on this, we are currently developing solutions related to PC and laptop management and PC and laptop recovery which can allow organisations to recover in the shortest possible in the event of breakage or theft.
These solutions are also aimed at protecting and securing the data on the user devices, especially for mobile users. We are also developing business continuity and disaster recovery solutions to protect the backend systems employed by an organisation to run the company. We already have a number of these solutions readily available. M Where do you see Kinetix in the next two years? CG I see Kinetix maintaining and possibly improving its position on the local market as well as on the foreign market.
In the lead Our strength is understanding the operational needs of a business and providing the right solution, says John de Giorgio, CEO, Shireburn Software.
MONEY When was your company set up and what was your intended market? JOHN DE GIORGIO
Shireburn started operating in December 1983, right at the beginning of the PC revolution. The focus of the company was training – we started providing computer awareness courses to individuals and business people who wanted to understand the opportunities offered by this new technology.
the retail space, especially franchises. The Shireburn Financial Manager (SFM) and the Shireburn Inventory Management System (SIMS) are widely diffused across all business sectors with small and large companies.
but the larger the pool the better. There is no doubt that Malta has been moving in the right direction.
Our strength is understanding the operational needs of a business and providing a solution to these needs through our systems. Since we are the developers of our own systems rather than just importers of some monolithic international solution, we are able to meet customer needs much more easily and at a price point which is attractive to local businesses.
JDG Shireburn Docs provides a document management solution integrated into the Shireburn solutions with automated scanning of both client and supplier invoices, payments, credit notes, orders, and more, ensuring a smooth management of paper, reducing photocopying, filing and archiving of documents and associated costs and retrieval effort while also providing better security in the case of fire and flood. This streamlines a business.
enjoyed since then?
M Why would you consider Malta to be an ideal launch pad for IT products and services?
JDG Shireburn has been characterised by a steady growth in income, clients and employment with no particular spikes or troughs. We are currently a team of 33 people.
JDG I would not say that Malta is the ideal launch pad – it is not bad but certainly not ideal. It is usually better when your home market is a sizeable one to allow you to scale more quickly.
M What growth has your company
M What products and services do
you offer? JDG Shireburn is a software products development company and thus we focus on identifying market needs for specific solutions, developing the solution and providing high levels of customer support both pre- and post-sales. We have been fortunate to develop a series of successful software products. We are the leaders locally in the integrated accounting, inventory, retail and payroll/ HR market, as well as in solutions for the freight industry. We are also global leaders in the IBM Lotus Notes to Microsoft Office integration market. M In which areas does your company specialise? JDG Our speciality is providing practical solutions for accounting and inventory with a particular strength in
Malta’s main advantage in recent years has been that ICT sector labour costs have been lower in Malta than mainland Europe – however, this advantage is being eroded. The European recession has led to a significant lower cost of ICT labour and the iGaming industry in Malta is pushing labour costs locally to unrealistic levels. When producing a software product for a global market your main cost is marketing not labour. M Do you think that Malta is
nurturing and educating enough talent to provide IT companies with the required human resources and skills? JDG We have made massive strides in this area over recent years with heavy investments in University and MCAST combined with a raising of the profile of the industry creating a pull-factor for students. ‘Enough’ is of course a big word
M What products and services are you currently developing?
Shireburn BI allows users of our inventory system to access deep levels of business intelligence on their operations with rolebased dashboards available through the web or on an iPhone, iPad or Android device, thus monitoring their performance. Our Shireburn Vault product provides simple, effective and cheap automated off-site backup of data to the cloud securing servers, workstations and laptops. With our Concessionaire Analyzer+ product we are first to market worldwide a solution that allows airports to understand and improve their retail operations. M Where do you see Shireburn in the next two years? JDG I believe we can continue to dominate the local market with our accounting, inventory and freight solutions. We have already made massive in-roads within the Libyan market for retail solutions with brands like Marks & Spencer, Next, Nike and Benetton and I see us having a sizeable market share there with an on-site presence. I would also see Shireburn having implemented our Concessionaire Analyzer+ solution in at least six major airports globally.
Money / Issue 14 - 35
Amit Raab is co-founder of Moln Industries, a creative studio, www.molnindustries.com. He also works as a producer at an ad agency in Stockholm, Sweden.
Dollar dollar bill y’all Is there more to accessing crowdfunding than a good idea and a catchy video? Amit Raab launches his first idea into the crowdfunding universe.
rowdfunding is one of those trendy concepts which is going to grace our presence for a few months, maybe a year, but won’t affect your life at all and leave just as quickly as it arrived. Well, crowdfunding is very trendy. Not the kind of trendy where if you mentioned it at the front of a VIP queue, the bouncer would let you in. More like the kind of trendy phrase to throw into a conversation with investors and entrepreneurs who just finished a cocktail party argument about what metrics are most important for a Youtube channel (it’s how many kittens are present in your Youtube videos). But crowdfunding is not just trendy – it will also change your life, maybe not directly, but through the funding of important innovative concepts, creative initiatives and art. Crowdfunding is the use of online platforms to promote and fund a business idea or concept that needs investment. The most popular platform is Kickstarter, a website where users can promote their personal projects in order to receive funds from anyone who logs on to the site and has a Paypal or Amazon account. Users usually promote their ideas using a short video to pitch to potential backers who also receive prizes for investing, depending on their contribution.
This ease of accessibility to funding and investors for anyone with a computer and an idea is changing the way businesses and the arts consider their finances. Amanda Palmer raised over a million dollars with an extremely low production video of her standing on a street holding up handwritten signs with an explanation of why you should invest in the tour of her new music album. I hang around with the type of friends where a dinner will not pass without someone making a comment on their next idea that will change the world. The wackier ideas are passed on as pitches to our clients (just kidding) and the more lucrative ones are developed and usually pitched to investor friends or anyone who will listen. So you can imagine that when we heard that some woman on a street holding up signs and throwing them into the wind, received one million dollars of funding in just one month, we wanted to explore this medium. Our startup idea of the quarter was (and still is) WeWandr, a personalised travel recommendation site/ app – we chose this as our first Apollo mission into the relatively new world of crowdfunding. Before you question our motives I should explain that regardless of Palmers’s successes, Kickstarter has
a pretty strong track record. Kickstarter has been used as a medium to garner $248 million of investment to its users over its entire life span. The project which has acquired most funding was the Pebble e-paperwatch with $9.8 million of investment. Whether one’s project is funded or not, in 2011, over 30 million visitors graced Kickstarter with their presence, looking at potential projects. Even if a fraction of those visitors looked at your pitch, it would be like ferrying your project around a few trade fairs. With such statistics, it would be wrong of us not to put our new brainchild on this site. Statistics in hand, we built our Kickstarter package and campaign and were ready to launch our project into unchartered territory. Unsurprisingly, we hit a hurdle early on in the project when we realised the site limits its funding to US citizens. There is however, a tried and tested loophole which involves finding an American friend (who you trust with thousands of dollars of investment) with a US address and a social security number and registering them on an Amazon payment account. Before throwing your pitch you should also be aware of other tricks that may sway your favor, starting with your beloved Facebook account. Prof Mollick from the University of Pennsylvania states that, holding all other factors constant, if you pitched for a $10,000 project on Kickstarter, your chances of successful funding would increase by four times between you having 10 Facebook friends and 1,000. Another statistic to consider is that the greatest bulk of funding has so far been given to cultural projects such as films, music videos and art initiatives. The numbers for tech startups are not too bad on this popular funding site. Our kickstarter will be published later this week and we’re all sitting on the edge of our chairs to see how our first project will play out. Whether we’re as successful as Amanda Palmer or end up with a lonely, visit-less page, I do not think this will be our last visit to this growing concept. With the current majority of projects coming from Western countries, and a growing entrepreneurial force in some of the world’s developing economies, the future is looking green for crowdfunding sites willing and able to adapt and expand with the times. It’s an exciting prospect for the world’s hidden innovative minds.
Money / Issue 14 - 37
David Galea is CEO of BEA Consulting, a nichebased consultancy focusing on assisting clients in trimming their costs, boosting their sales and formalising their stuctures.
ITâ€™s not a miracle A businessâ€™s efficiency is not proportional to the level and degree of sophistication of its IT systems, says David Galea. Rather, technology is an enabler that creates opportunities for streamlining your business processes.
nformation Technology has brought about a revolution in the way we do business. As technological sophistication increases, so do our expectations to complete a job within shorter timeframes, at lower cost, and with higher quality levels. In fact, this year, global IT investment are expected to exceed US$ 3 trillion. In spite of such hype on the miracles of IT in curing
the ailments of severely impaired organisations, results consistently fall short of expectations. Gartner survey reports show how only around 50 per cent of organisations have been generally satisfied with the delivery promise of their IT solutions following implementation. Does this mean that IT solution providers are selling inadequate solutions, over-promising or creating unrealistic expectations on their clients?
Drive the implementation from the business side IT needs to be aligned with your business model and not the other way round. This notwithstanding, many IT implementations remain fundamentally IT led. While being highly technical in the subject matter, IT departments are frequently privy of the actual business requirements of an organisation. In most cases, this results in the creation of an information system with a variety of bells and whistles which do not toll to the tune of the business. It is the management team responsible for managing the business that is best placed to understand the business requirements and has the authority and resources to implement. The key role played by IT departments is more about enabling the technology.
Establish a clear informations systems roadmap I have seen many organisations being attracted to the allure of short-term gains in implementing an isolated IT solution for a particular function within an organisation without due consideration for the big picture. The end result translates itself in an amalgam of diverse independent systems across different functions within the organisation which run independently from each other. Not only would necessitate a considerable degree of duplication of work but in itself creates inherent difficulties in extracting the actual output. The implementation of a system
In a few of the cases, this could be part of the problem. But more often, the culprit is deeply rooted in the buyers themselves. From my experience, IT buyers frequently make a number of mistakes. In the first instance, some buyers think that process ineffeciencies may be rectifed by throwing money at an automated system. Some managers fail to realise that IT is characterised by the amplifier effect â€“ through IT, efficient
requires careful planning and needs to be considered within the wider context of its business model.
Determine the level of standardisation and flexibility Automation lends itself well to tasks which are standard and typically carried out in large volumes. Organisations need to realise that although automation promotes greater efficiency and enhances productivity, it does so at the expense of flexibility. This is mainly because automation is founded on the basis of the replication of a standardised process. While increasing the variety of output is possible, this comes at the expense of increased complexity and increased development and maintenance costs to support the system.
Establish organisational policies A decision to automate your business processes needs to be supported by the establishment and enforcement of clear organisational policies and standards that need to be observed by members of staff. Changes in policies and standards are less likely to be met with resistance if employees are involved in the process of shaping policies and standards at the outset.
streamline fat The move towards a more sophisticated IT solution frequently requires changes in work practices and procedures that are normally carried out by an organisation.
processes become more efficient and inefficient processes become more inefficient. This might explain why some organisations are actually worse off following the implementation of a new IT solution. On such basis, organisations are best advised to bring their house in order before considering a major leap into the technology revolution, in particular, automation projects.
From my experience this is perhaps one of the most ignored aspects in IT projects and could ultimately spell disaster at implementation stage. There is a very simple reason for this. When a process is carried out manually, inaccuracies and deficiencies in output may be easily rectified through human intervention in a process called mutual
adjustment. The human brain is very adept at sorting out things through
chaos. On the other hand, an information system cannot remember an order unless a purchase order was raised through the system. Clearly while the issue of a purchase order to procure supplies is considered best practice in both a manual and automated system, the latter will not function unless such purchase order is raised. In this context, streamlining processes and reengineering these in accordance with best practice becomes a vital task.
Train and communicate with your staff An IT system will ultimately need to be used by your people. Employees have a key role to play in defining requirements, testing the system from a user perspective, and ultimately in convincing their peers that they will be better off using the system being implemented. It is also imperative to design, develop and implement an appropriate training programme to ensure that members of staff acquire the skills necessary to make use of the new system.
Money / Issue 14 - 39
Turning Japanese It seems like common sense to ask whether an industry can expand while preserving the environment. But when we take a look at Japan – which offers high quality of life, a unique talent for surviving ecological disaster, and yet only nominal GDP increases for almost a decade – the real question emerges: Is it time for businesses to adopt a new goal altogether? Sean Patrick Sullivan investigates the post-growth movement. away and spend our time with nicer friends somewhere else. It’s this collective childishness that blinds us and convinces us (deceptively so) of the material possibility, the divine inevitability, the unbridled desirability of our quest for more money, greater profits, increased production, higher heights of various shapes and forms. And we all know how this story ends. It doesn’t have to be this way. Let’s travel to Japan.
ver since university, where I was introduced to the work of Victorian intellectual and provocateur Sigmund Freud, I’ve enjoyed a steamy, thrilling, highly secretive affair with good, old-fashioned psychoanalysis.
the nurturing, protective, sometimes harsh and critical Parent; the creative, whimsical, sometimes reckless and irresponsible Child; and the logical, reasonable, hopefully balancing and mediating Adult.
Sure, self-help seminars and feel-good therapies are all the rage, at least here in North America. And, at this point, no one can deny that Freud’s prediction about psychiatry ultimately being reabsorbed back into neurology is slowly but surely coming true.
You may be wondering why I’m bringing this up here, in the eco-themed edition of a finance-and-lifestyle publication. May I be candid? It’s because psychoanalytic theory – specifically Harris’ brand of Transactional Analysis – offers a new angle, a fresh perspective, from which to observe, understand, and (psycho)analyse the current state of global commerce.
Still, for my money, nothing beats the hard work, firm stance, and clear-cut objectives behind a classic psychoanalytic experience. It’s not just 50 minutes on a comfy Barcelona daybed, preferably in a buttery camel or well-worn brown. It’s about goals: know yourself, learn your patterns. Become responsible for the direction your life takes. And, most of all, stop harming others, stop being a self-indulgent child, and grow up. Perhaps no one made that last point more lucidly or famously than Thomas A Harris MD, whose 1967 New York Times best-seller I’m OK, You’re OK inspired millions to view their own minds as divided into three states or aspects:
40 - Money / Issue 14
That’s because our current captains of industry, much like children whose parents never corrected their unhinged behaviour, are terrorising our planet with trinkets and distractions no one really needs... manufactured from natural resources no one wants to admit are running low... leaving workers and consumers exhausted, brutalised, and distracted from wide-spread poverty, pollution, and other examples of what really matters. It’s not evil. It’s not corrupt. It’s simply childish, not just on the part of the titans dominating the playground, but on ours for failing to notice when it might be best to walk
Superheroic survival skills – much like Naomi Campbell’s once-thriving singing career – are very big in Japan. No matter what the disaster – tsunamis, earthquakes, atomic attacks, nuclear meltdowns, Gwen Stefani – this island nation takes a licking but keeps on ticking. To explain Japanese invulnerability, most observers and intellectuals have pointed to Japan’s Buddhist and Shintoist-inspired traditions of sustainability, self-sufficiency, and communitarianism. All of this is true but fails to explain Japan’s most peculiar accomplishment: it’s the world’s first post-growth economy. And, in a shocker no one saw coming, it’s doing better than any of us. According to Jeremy Williams of The Post Growth Institute, Japan’s flat-lining GDP is a tragedy and a disaster, at least as far as economists are concerned. That said, the lights are still on, everything still works, literacy is high, and crime is low. Life expectancy is better than almost anywhere on earth – 82 years to 78 in The States. The trains run to the second. Unemployment is only five per cent and levels of inequality are enviable. Real per-capita growth matches American rates at 0.7 per cent over the past decade. It’s hardly a basket case. In fact, Japan is
Sean Patrick Sullivan is Money’s North American correspondent. Last month, he was appointed director of innovation and performance at The BAO Institute For Healthy Living, whose BAO House imprint will be publishing his first book, How To Be Happy (Even When You’re Not) later this year. He divides his time between Toronto and Manhattan.
living proof that growth isn’t necessary to deliver a high standard of living. The point is that, for well over a decade, one of the world’s most important economies hasn’t grown. Despite that, it’s a great place to live. That’s because Japan – whimsical and innovative yet at the same exact time logical and practical – has, for whatever reason, grown up faster than the rest of us. It’s past the point of defying or denying its own material circumstances. It’s matured beyond an ideology of excess, toward an appreciation of enough.
employee leisure-time allowances (especially when accompanied by improved personal productivity), and decreased workplace accidents/incidents caused by physical-fitness and/or mental-health complaints (as investors are indirectly burdened by these publichealth issues anyway).
Consumers, producers, capitalists, and industrialists of the world, what does this mean for us?
Second, we can look to our friends in Japan, who already know that zero growth doesn’t have to mean zero excitement, zero innovation, or zero sense of adventure. In fact, one can look at the bizarre, baffling, oftentimes extreme currents in Japanese culture as a sign of a nation perfectly content to amuse itself with high-labour, lowtechnology, deeply human activities that produce and provide joy without impacting the environment one way or the other.
First, it means there’s life beyond growth. When we can’t have more, we can certainly have better. But we need to learn how to measure and assess that. Metrics to be considered by all companies, especially publicly traded ones, as they can offer the following as social dividends to investors: lower carbon footprints, improved employeesatisfaction rates and increased
Perfect examples abound in Dog Days, Fiona Wilson’s recent cover story for Monocle magazine, in which she discusses Japan’s incomprehensibly lucrative dog-care market. In stark contrast to techolust – our love for and addiction to electronic gadgetry that can never love us back – this entire industry is driven by a sophisticated, playful benevolence toward other living
creatures. So, when certain markets, such as the one for doggie shampoos, start to saturate, new ones appear, always to better serve, honour, and protect one’s pets. According to Wilson’s piece, hotels and funerals are going to be the next big thing, and I’m not surprised. None of this is to say that Japan is perfect. It uses way more than its fair share of natural resources. Younger generations are said to be losing the sense of self-reliance that made previous generations seemingly impervious to harm. Plus it has a long and troubling legacy of failed economic interventions, all of which have left the country burdened by debt. Still, in the final analysis, Japan’s zero-growth statistics, high qualityof-living indices, and collective demonstrations of maturity and reason (even during challenging times) offer a compelling alternative to the current Euro-American obsessive compulsive fixations on growth, expansion, quantitative measurement, and at-allcosts stockholder appeasement. It’s an approach that’s eco-friendly, peoplepositive, and all grown up.
Great news for coffee lovers The Coffee Company Malta Ltd (a wholly owned subsidiary of Buttigieg Holdings) has just opened its first Costa Coffee shop in Malta, one of the world’s top five coffee shop chains, in the check-in lounge of Malta’s International Airport. Costa was founded by Italian brothers Sergio and Bruno Costa in London in 1971. Their small family business was bought by Whitbread, an established English company, in 1995 and has since grown to over 2,000 stores in 25 countries, but still remains true to its Italian heritage. The company has built its reputation on the excellence of its coffee and the quality of its food and service. Costa was the first coffee shop chain to commit to sourcing beans from Rainforest Alliance certified farms. All Costa Coffee comes from 100 per cent RFA certified farms, excluding India who source locally. They were also the first coffee chain to control the whole coffee making process from start to finish. Today, the company sources, stores, blends, roasts, grinds and pours all its own coffee. Just one per cent of the world’s production of coffee is good enough for Costa to choose from. Only the very best coffee available can go into creating the unique taste and aroma of the Mocha Italia blend. Ralph Llanwarne, Costa franchise director, Europe said: “We’re very excited about opening our first store in Malta. There are lots of coffee lovers here and we are delighted that they will now be able to experience Costa Coffee first-hand.” Dr Robert Buttigieg, general manager of the Costa franchise in Malta said, “This is a first for Malta and we are thrilled to be a part of it. We are working hard to make sure we live up to the excellent Costa Coffee reputation worldwide.”
Money / Issue 14 - 41
Something is rotten Chris Grech and Calvin Bartolo explain the LIBOR scandal and its consequences.
Chris Grech and Calvin Bartolo are co-founders of blackdigits.com.mt, a financial website which allows users to analyse the financial statements of local listed companies. Data is available for free. The aim of blackdigits. com.mt is to create a community-based website where users may share their views and knowledge on companies listed on the local market.
Photo by Reuters, Canadian Press
LIBOR stands for the London
InterBank Offered Rate and is an indication of the rate at which a leading bank can obtain unsecured funding in the London interbank market. Even though only banks are able to borrow at this rate, the LIBOR is written in standard derivative contracts and a range of retail products issued by banks worldwide are indexed to this rate. It was reported that the current value of products linked to LIBOR is between $360 and $540 trillion. The LIBOR is calculated by the financial news company Thomson Reuters for the British Bankers’ Association (BBA) on daily submissions from banks that are members of the BBA. Submissions are made for a marketable size (which is broadly defined) in 10 currencies with 15 maturities – ranging from overnight to 12 months – thus producing 150 rates for each business day. The BBA appreciates that not all member banks will require funding in each of the currencies and maturities quoted every day and so the rates
42 - Money / Issue 14
submitted should be based on an estimate calculated in terms of the bank’s models. The highest and lowest submissions are thrown out, the remainder are averaged and voila, you have the LIBOR. The LIBOR is not only determined by different models set independently by each member bank but is also generated by a trade group and not a regulatory agency. Really and truly, the LIBOR is a theoretical rate because it is not determined in an open market. Indeed Sir Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England, in November 2008 described the LIBOR as, “It is in many ways the rate at which banks do not lend to each other, and it is not clear that it either should or does have significant operational content. I think it is convenient, very often, for people to justify what they do for other reasons, in terms of LIBOR, but it is not a rate at which anyone is actually borrowing.” Sir Mervyn King also mentioned that hardly any bank lends unsecured after the
financial crises – now banks deposit their overnight funds with the Central Bank. Ironically, even when the LIBOR was not manipulated, it probably did not bear relation to reality because unsecured lending dried up in 2008. So what about the LIBOR rigging? How did that happen? Several derivative contracts derive their value from the LIBOR and for this reason traders are not involved in the LIBOR submission since they would have an incentive to submit a rate in favour of their positions. However traders still managed to influence the LIBOR setters. This was bound to happen because the system is rotten – the setters also had an incentive to misrepresent their submissions since their own bank stood to profit by submitting the ‘right’ LIBOR. E-mails quoted by government regulators showed a message sent by a Barclays trader to a rate setter saying, “When I retire and write a book about this business your name will be written in golden letters.”
The LIBOR is determined by submissions made by several member banks and one bank alone is unlikely to manipulate the rate. Indeed it appears that groups of derivative traders working in several member banks colluded to manipulate the rates. The infamous quote mentioning the opening of a bottle of Bollinger was allegedly sent from another bank’s trader to a Barclays trader. At the time of writing 20 member banks have been named in various LIBOR investigations. There is a second aspect to the LIBOR manipulation. The LIBOR is the benchmark of the overall health of the banking system since low rates mean banks trust the economic climate will not pull down their counterparties and are therefore willing to lend unsecured. In this respect Bob Diamond, Barclay’s CEO until recently, claimed that he received a number of calls from senior UK Government officials in the midst of the financial crisis enquiring why “Barclays was always toward the top end of the LIBOR pricing.” The rate probably was higher than usual because at the time Barclays was widely viewed as the next UK bank to need a government bailout rather than any irregularity in the LIBOR submissions.
However, Diamond interpreted these calls as encouragement to lowball Barclay’s LIBOR submissions in order to project a healthier position. This allegation was vividly denied by Paul Tucker, the Bank of England’s Deputy Governor – however, ties to a study published by The Wall Street Journal in 2008 suggest that banks might have understated their LIBOR submissions in order to improve the perceived financial health of the banking system. The lessons of the LIBOR scandal is that we have not learnt the lesson. Selfregulation does not work. Regulators need to understand that the culture of today on Wall Street is different from clubby values of yore. Banks will try to abide with every letter of the law just because they want to exploit all the loopholes available. To add insult to injury, most of the banks that allegedly colluded in the LIBOR submissions received bailout funds and at the same time did not lose too much sleep on the higher rates the same taxpayers were paying on their mortgage. There are, of course, consequences to the LIBOR scandal. LIBOR fixing has already cost Barclays $450 million – however this is just the beginning. Other
“The lessons of the LIBOR scandal is that we have not learnt the lesson.”
banks are currently under investigation by their respective regulators and lawsuits have been filed against BBA member banks claiming they lost money as a result of the manipulation. In addition, the collusion of LIBOR submissions effectively constitutes a cartel in terms of EU law and it is likely that the EU Commission will not look kindly into this case. EU Commission investigations on cartels take several years to complete and can result in fines of up to 10 per cent of turnover. As The Economist put it, this is the banking industry’s tobacco moment.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely of the authors and do not reflect the views of the users of the website, its affiliates or of any financial institution.
A new knowledge network 6PM p.l.c. has launched QuickFocus, a suite of online products that brings together productivity and educational tools as well as an e-mail product and e-learning material for ICT and project-management novices and professionals. The QuickFocus suite is split in four categories: productivity, education, selfdevelopment and project management. QuickFocus’s knowledge base, QuickPM is the new bridge between academia and industry – a knowledge network which is ideal for students, job seekers, novices and practitioners as it gives them the means to interact with experts from within the industry. Apart from the professional tool which is on sale at €29.95, there is also a free version called QuickPM Lite. QuickFocus’s productivity tool, QuickPA gives e-mail a new outlook through a virtual personal assistant. QuickPA offers a new dimension to help users achieve effective time management through automatic e-mail workflows. The adaptability of QuickPA means that it is useful for both large and small operations. QuickFocus’s products are available online at www.quickfocus.com
Money / Issue 14 - 43
eco solutions within your reach Thinking of buying a photovoltaic system or solar water heater for your home? Act green and save on your energy bills. Talk to us now for quick access to a truly personal loan. Your success is our goal.
BOV ECO PERSONAL LOAN 2131 2020 I bov.com Issued by Bank of Valletta p.l.c. 58, Zachary Street Valletta VLT 1130 - Malta
Personal Loans are subject to normal Bank lending criteria and final approval from your BOV branch. Terms and conditions apply.
The power of knowledge Moving into the sixth year of training delivery, Clear Dimension managing director David Degaetano takes a snapshot of the latest achievements in line with its social contribution.
lear Dimension, representatives of Cisco education in Malta for the past five years have recently been designated as an Instructor Training Centre and Academy Support Centre under the new Academy Evolution initiative.
The Cisco Networking Academy, a non-profit organisation, is a cloud-delivered, scalable, high-quality ICT education programme that helps students develop the practical skills needed to design, build, secure, and maintain computer networks. The main purpose of the new Academy Evolution initiative is to identify and deliver new and improved processes coupled with new online tools to better equip academies, support instructors, prepare students, and maintain quality. To achieve ITC status, Clear Dimension sent two of its top CCNP qualified instructors to Cisco Italy where they had to pass rigorous exams with a score of 80 per cent and above. They also demonstrated to a panel of examiners hands-on skills assessment using live equipment, teach back sessions on topics randomly chosen and finally technical Q&A sessions. Both instructors were also chosen to form part of the Cisco instructor advisory board. Clear Dimension is one of eight partners in the following EU projects: ECVET (European Credit System for Vocational Education and Training) and EQAVET (European Quality Assurance for Vocational Education and Training). The aim of the first project ECVET is to develop and pilot-test a conversion process of 30 courses selected from different VET providers. The second project EQAVET is aimed at reviewing the quality assurance standards in a number of local VET institutions and to compare these to EQARF (European Quality Assurance Reference framework) and to pilot an exercise in aligning existing Quality Assurance system to the standards as indicated in the EQARF. Clear Dimension training is focused on Cisco, Linux, ITIL and Microsoft which all lead to industry certified certifications at associate, professional and expert levels. They also provide on-demand training and e-learning solutions through Skillsoft, a leading SaaS provider for global enterprises, government and education agencies, and small to medium-sized businesses. IT courses include Networking, Programming, Operating Systems, Security,Telephony and Data Centres. Our Business Courses feature Project and Risk Management, ITIL Service Management, and Business Analysis. For more information visit www.cleardimension.net, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 2701 8611.
TURNING OVER A NEW LEAF The National Library of Malta, set in the idyllic capital city of Valletta, houses some of the greatest literary treasures worldwide. Sadly, however, most of these jewels have not seen the light of day in over 200 years. Four book lovers decided to step in and make a change by setting the voluntary organisation (VO0646) New Leaf. The main objective is to preserve the priceless books, incunabula and illuminated manuscripts at the National Library of Malta and promote books and libraries. To reach such aims, New Leaf needs funds and time volunteers. Time volunteers have already started their mission but they also need professional equipment. Shireburn Software has recently donated specialist vacuums, and Switch Design and Brand Strategy and E-motion Sign works collaborated to create a donations box, at the entrance of The National Library of Malta. Deloitte Malta will sponsor New Leaf’s auditing needs. There are many ways in which a company can include New Leaf in its CSR initiatives. One is to buy equipment found on the wish list at www.newleaf.org.mt/wattohelp, and another is to donate blocks of time from its staff members to grow the team of volunteers. A company can donate a specific sum of money to save a particular volume or books – donations can be tax deductible. For more information visit www.newleaf.org.mt or call Monique Chambers on 9989 1722.
Moving in the right direction The European Mobility Week, observed from September 16-22 annually, is a Europe-wide awareness raising campaign aimed at encouraging people to reduce their reliance on cars. Krista Degaetano, a Maltese contemporary dance artist has been commissioned to choreograph and create one of the activities organised by the Ministry for Tourism, Culture and the Environment for Car Free Day. The activity will culminate in a dance performance in one of the squares in Valletta. Auditions and rehearsals will be held at Brigitte Gauci Borda School of Dance, one of the main sponsors for this event. If you are a talented dancer (age 14+) and want to train with Krista Degaetano for the performance on September 16, send an e-mail to cddubai01@ gmail.com with a short description of your dance experience. Auditions are being held between Monday, August 20 and Thursday, August 23. Money / Issue 14 - 45
FALL 2012 OUTDOOR APPAREL Bisazza Street, Sliema Tel +356 2133 9400
We recommend it Chris Stergar founder of www.RecommendThem.com.mt says how this review website can help your business grow through good feedback.
CS The more positive reviews a listing has, the more favourably it has been reviewed. This enables people to select their provider based on the reviews of previous customers.
MONEY What is www. RecommendThem.com.mt? CHRIS STERGAR It’s a new local website which allows customers to review the goods and services they receive from businesses across the Maltese Islands. Whether your business is large, small or anywhere in between, you will find a category on the website which accommodates you.
Small and large firms can all compete on a level playing field on www. RecommendThem.com.mt. We believe that the customer is king and good feedback can propel a sole trader to the top of any particular category, potentially ranking higher than a larger firm with a significant advertising and marketing budget. M How did you come up with the idea
to start this website? CS I came up with the idea for the website when a relative asked if I knew a trustworthy plumber. At that time, I didn’t know a trusted plumber and wondered how a reviewing system could work for various different industries. I feel that the website has the potential to be the first port of call for customers before they make any purchasing decision. M Why did you choose Malta as the launch pad for the website? CS Malta’s reputation in the IT world is growing rapidly. I felt there was a gap in the Maltese market whereby it lacked a reputable online website. Of course, there are similar websites which are internationally popular – however, I felt that something, based exclusively on local businesses and services would fill a gap in the market. M How does the website work?
Listings should also ensure that key words related to their page are included. For example, a taxi driver should look to have words such as taxi, cab, chauffeur and driver. When a website user searches any key word, all listings with the relative word will be displayed, with the best ranked listing first. The website also has a variety of different categories. When a website user selects a category, the best-ranked entries within that category will be listed first. M How can a business get itself listed on www.RecommendThem.com.mt? CS Business entities can sign up to www.RecommendThem.com.mt completely free of charge with a €10 renewal charge to remain active on the site for the second year. Listings can remain on the website and receive reviews from customers for two years for a charge of only €10.
We are perfectly happy to do the legwork for anyone who is too busy or lacking IT knowledge. Just send an e-mail to email@example.com and we will produce a page for you with the information you provide. Following this, customers can leave reviews immediately by providing their name and e-mail address. M What kind of information can businesses include on their page? CS Each listing can include as much or as little information as they like. We suggest the following should be included as standard information: business name, logo and address, contact number and e-mail, opening hours, website, Facebook page and any special offers. M How do businesses ensure they are
left reviews by their customers? CS Once a business has signed up, they will receive 500 complimentary ‘recommend us’ business cards. These encourage patrons to leave feedback on the website and have proved extremely effective. Additional cards can be
purchased for a nominal charge of €10 per 1,000 cards to ensure regular reviews. A4 posters are also available free of charge to be displayed in the window of business premises. This will alert all customers and visitors to the outlet that they are able to check previous customers’ thoughts and add their own after receiving the goods or services on offer. Each business should also inform their customers about the website verbally and this will complement the printed methods of communication. M What can a business expect to receive from their www.RecommendThem. com.mt subscription?’ CS Reputable businesses should embrace www.RecommendThem.com.mt and incorporate it into their marketing strategy. Any size entity can benefit from positive feedback from their clientele.
Additionally, we have seen existing listings gain traffic to both their websites and Facebook pages as a result of their page on www.RecommendThem.com. mt. This enables the business to engage with potential customers on their own website or Facebook page. Pages with positive reviews can add a link to their www.RecommendThem.com.mt on their own website. Potential clients can then rest assured that the website they are browsing is established and reliable. Customers are far more likely to use the services of a business which has been well reviewed by previous customers. This service is completely free of charge for the first year. A €10 renewal fee will be charged for the second year on the website. We believe this represents terrific value and we are keen to welcome more businesses to the website. M Final comments? CS We look forward to welcoming more businesses to the website so they can enjoy the feedback from their satisfied customers. This, in turn, should encourage more people to use the services provided by the relative business. All reputable businesses with satisfied customers should look to get themselves online ASAP.
Money / Issue 14 - 47
Charles Grech Café Superbly outfitted by Dex
A turnkey tailormade project for Dex, the refurbishment of Charles Grech café Valletta, executed in under two months.
Because of the scope of this project we contracted a well known Italian designer, Marco Fumagalli, who proceeded to lay out the full design of the café. Charles Grech, the client, wanted an overall classical feel to the project. We selected a specialist Italian carpentry firm to make the bar, shelving and benches which matched the specifications required exactly and brought Fumagalli’s vision to life. Numerous local contractors were brought in to work on the project. Items such as marble for the bar area and gypsum work were all supplied by local firms, with Dex acting as the overseeing contractor. Leveraging the strength of the Vivendo Group, we sourced items such as fridges and lights from our sister company, Ideacasa. Marco Fumagalli was also heavily involved in the project and spent time in Malta to oversee much of the installation work and to assist with the smooth running of the project. Our team of installers, our project manager, and the local architect functioned as a single team to complete this project within the six week timeframe provided. This was a very unique project for Dex, wherein instead of merely acting as a furniture supplier, we acted as a full turnkey contractor. Today, the finished project stands as a proud example of the flexibility and reliability that Dex brings to each project.
Mdina Road, Qormi QRM 9011 t: 2277 3000 e: firstname.lastname@example.org Opening Hours: 08.30 – 13.00 / 14.00 – 18.00 www.dex.com.mt
Overcoming green fatigue As a financial institution, Bank of Valletta does not face the same environmental concerns as other economic sectors. But that does not mean that it cannot do its part to reduce its environmental impact. Vanessa Macdonald, the Bank’s head in charge of its corporate social responsibility programme, explains its approach.
ver the past few decades, ‘green’ has gone from being a colour to being a public relations headache to being a marketing tool. Unfortunately, after the initial reluctant corporate interest in being environmentally-conscious and responsible, most companies seemed to jump onto the bandwagon – as a result public scepticism began to grow. If you claim to be a ‘green’ nowadays, you are more likely to get an eye-rolling reaction than a pat on the back. The time has come for companies to realise that their green credentials will not be won by mere lip-service.
all, the Bank has a responsibility to its shareholders too and must be able to justify any expenditure. In some cases, pilot projects are initiated to identify obstacles and to fine-tune the approach. Take the use of photovoltaic panels. The head office in Sta Venera, opened in 2006, incorporates a number of design elements to save energy and conserve water. But its heavy IT infrastructure consumes a considerable amount of power, especially for cooling. And the Bank’s 41 branches also have a considerable impact on the community.
Environmental strategies can be fairly easily split into those that cost a company money with no foreseeable return other than good community relations, and those which entail some capital expenditure or effort but which have a clear payback period.
How were these challenges approached? The IT Unit is undertaking a comprehensive upgrade programme which will consolidate its computer resources through a process known as virtualisation, as a result of which the amount of equipment – and therefore cooling requirements – will be greatly reduced.
Like most other organisations, the Bank has already taken a number of obvious steps: lights in the car-park are motionsensitive and taps turn off automatically, to take just two simple examples.
In the meantime, an independent consultant was appointed to conduct a comprehensive study of the branches to identify where it would be cost-effective to install PV panels.
Bank of Valletta recently appointed an Environment Manager to give some focus to its green initiatives. The approach has been systematic. Before any initiative is undertaken, there is a full assessment of its cost, impact and effectiveness – after
The payment periods for projects range from just one year to around eight. There are other initiatives which only make economic sense now that utilities costs have risen. For example, the cost
of lighting up the head office façade became important enough to scrutinise when the cost of electricity went up in recent years: there is a project underway to reduce the amount of bulbs and to replace them with LEDs, resulting in a considerable saving. The Bank’s car fleet is being reduced and cars are being replaced by ones with lower emissions, while the waste management policy is being thoroughly reviewed, following on from initiatives to reduce paper – such as public campaigns to reduce the amount of printed statements by providing them online via the Bank’s 24 x 7 channels. These few examples show that being ‘green’ is an ongoing effort, which requires ongoing evaluation. Some initiatives need to be tackled in phases, others with parallel programmes. There is no simple formula but whether a company wants to reduce its carbon footprint for the sake of future generations or because it makes economic sense, there are always three important steps to take: evaluate, enact and educate. It is this last that will be the focus of the coming year at Bank of Valletta. Unless all the stakeholders – from employees, to customers, to shareholders – appreciate why environmental initiatives are being taken, they will not be sustained. And much of that effort will have been wasted.
Money / Issue 14 - 49
Rising from the ashes Iceland looked like it would disappear in a black hole of debt. Yet by refusing to go down the bailout route and by pushing reforms through, the country is recovering well, says Vanessa Macdonald.
nless you have withstood a frigid gale in Iceland – with icebergs visible on the horizon, a thick layer of frost on the turfed roofs of the houses and swathes of black soil visible for as far as the eye can see – you will perhaps never be able to appreciate the full meaning of the word ‘bleak’. But this is also why the houses in Reykjavik, the island’s capital, are painted in bright primary colours, which create a postcard perfect cheer. In Iceland, prepare to be surprised. The Icelanders are tough, survivors, able to eke a living out of the inhospitable moonscape with its seething geysers and sulphuric fumes. What kind of an economy could flourish in that kind of climate? It is typical of Icelanders that they would be able to see a way to turn their volcanic foundations into a competitive advantage. How? Because they provide
50 - Money / Issue 14
copious amounts of free energy, perfect for power-hungry manufacturing industries, like aluminium smelting. This is all just as well as only seven per cent of the country’s 103,000 square kilometres is arable – farmers, they clearly are not. Indeed, Iceland was doing very well indeed until the financial crisis. As a result of free market reforms in the 1990s, it enjoyed good growth and ranked 20th in terms of GDP per capita. When the financial crisis hit, people sitting comfortably around the world looked up in surprise when they heard that they were losing their savings because of Iceland, scurrying to their atlases to check whether they were confusing the country with some financial power-capital like Frankfurt. The problem is that the three largest banks in Iceland between them were some 14 times the size of Iceland’s GDP,
When the financial crisis hit, people sitting comfortably around the 01 world looked up in surprise when they heard that they were losing their savings because of Iceland.
adding new dimensions to the ‘too large to fail’ label. So when they failed within days of each other, the world’s economy was looking at a black hole where $182 billion – yes, billion – used to be. The impact on Iceland itself was obviously just as dramatic. It was forced to turn to the International Monetary Fund in 2008 for help (as well as other European countries). But it let the banks fail without going down the bailout route and ensured that reforms were pushed through to strengthen the country for the next storm. This is seen as one of the main factors for the country’s recovery. So how will it survive? For on thing, green energy. A staggering 99.9 per cent of all Iceland’s electricity is generated from renewables (hydroelectric and geothermal power) and it is even thinking of exporting this to Europe via submarine cable. Even its fishing
Vanessa Macdonald is a freelance journalist in her spare time, covering a wide range of lifestyle and economic issues.
Iceland in numbers
fleets are converting to hydrogen fuel to exploit the abundant natural resource – just as well, as Iceland has no mineral resources to speak of. However, this particular industry is not necessarily an environmental success: the primary catch was cod, which has seen massive stock declines over the years, and its replacement – blue whiting – has been similarly overfished. This is a concern as fishing provides 40 per cent of export income and employs seven per cent of the workforce. Concerns over control of fishing resources is actually one of the reasons that Iceland has not yet joined the European Union, although it joined the European Economic Area in 1994, giving it the right to free cross-border movement of labour, capital, goods and services between Iceland, Norway, and the EU countries. It eventually overcame its reluctance and started talks with the EU in 2009. But fishing apart, the worst is over. Iceland not only repaid its international loans but also did do early. And its economy is expected to grow by 2.8 per cent next year, with unemployment hovering around six per cent. Just four years after Icelanders cringed at their front-page domination of the world media (let’s not even mention the 2010 volcanic eruption which disrupted air travel around Europe), the country is once again holding up its head with pride.
– Iceland is the largest island in Europe. However, with a population of just over 311,000, it is one of the smallest nations in the world.
1/3 – One third of Iceland’s population lives in Reykjavik.
80% – More than 80 per cent of Iceland is classified as wilderness.
48.7% – Iceland has a tertiary education enrolment rate of 48.7 per cent.
Money / Issue 14 - 51
Follow the Silk Road Last year, Danish entrepreneurs Daniel Galle and Anna Hjoellund chose Malta as the launchpad for Sense of Nature, their international brand of silk sleeping products. Money gets a good night’s sleep. national IVÆKSTPRISE (Entrepreneurship Award) in 2010, we knew that it was time to take it globally, and chose Malta to start the next phase. M What is your role within the company you founded? D I currently take care of business development and overall strategy – where we want to go and how we get there. This is crucial as our aim is to introduce positive disruption to the highly traditional duvet and pillow industry. A To achieve that, I manage the supply chain logistics, purchase the raw material and oversee that all productions are on time and fulfil the design brief. M Your company name, Sense of Nature, places nature at the forefront of your business. Can you explain what the connection is? A All our products are produced in collaboration with independent natural silk farmers in China, the original land of silk. The result is a wholly natural sleeping product that gives the consumer what they need while they sleep. D We think it’s the best explanation of what we do: through our silk duvets and pillows, we give our users a sense of nature in their bed. M You’re the only company producing natural sleeping products for the international market in Malta. How did the local market respond?
from Denmark to China to Malta. What has the journey been like so far?
problem didn’t measure up to the expectations, so we had to create one from scratch that would do so.
DANIEL When we created our first silk duvet more than five years ago, it was a reaction to a series of really bad nightly allergy attacks I was having. We realised that all the duvets available on the market that promised to solve my
ANNA After researching the best options and choosing long fiber Mulberry silk as the most effective filling for healthy duvets, the Danish market responded really positively to the product. When we were awarded the
MONEY Your career has taken you
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A It’s been very interesting, especially when it came to recruiting our core team. During the first few weeks, we couldn’t just communicate about the open positions – we had to make our brand and vision come across very well, in order to get the right people on board. D On the other hand, due to our research efforts, we also got a lot of
interest and support from local business organisations, such as Malta Enterprise, that helped us with the company relocation, and the Malta Chamber of Commerce, which helped us establish our first business contacts in Malta.
multicultural mix of diverse talent, yet as a growing company in a different industry, we always need more senior business development professionals who can expand the company’s products worldwide.
M What’s the main difference that distinguishes Sense of Nature from other companies?
M Has the current economic crisis influenced your market?
A From a local point of view, we are
operating in a new segment that no other company is in. We are creating a powerful international brand for a specific kind of product, and competing directly with large established foreign companies. Also, when you look at our competitors, they are typically centralised and in most cases, regional or national companies. On the other hand, we’re bringing into play a globalised business structure. It’s a difference that gives us the edge as we can move faster and be more creative when creating products. M What was the biggest challenge you faced since you started last year? A The major challenge is educating people about the benefits of natural sleeping products. Habits are extremely hard to change. Our marketing and communications have to be top notch in order to stay relevant. D Finding the right people to join the team was quite challenging. We chose Malta partially because of its
D As this product type is a commodity, the market is stable and growing. Yet people have extremely limited choices for this kind of product. Whatever they choose, consumers will be foregoing certain benefits for others. If they want to stay really warm at night, they can choose down or feathers, but risk regular allergy attacks. Those who are a bit more health conscious can go for a synthetic or man-made product, but may feel humid at night because synthetic fibres lack the ability to wick away body moisture. We launched Sense of Nature to answer the need for a singular, wholly natural sleeping product that provides all these benefits in one place.
We also structured the company to focus on stand-out, bold branding and design that is atypical of the industry. All our product lines provide affordable luxury and appeal to a wide range of demographics. Finally, there is our Research and Technologies programme, which is introducing a number of new concepts to the market. M The European Commission recently announced its Research and Development framework budget for the 2014-2020 period will be €10.8 billion. Are you planning to tap into these funds? D There is certainly a huge opportunity to take our SilkFX™ natural silk fiber technology further with such funds. As silk in its purest form, SilkFX™ fits within one of the core areas outlined in the Commission’s vision, which are technologies that benefit the health of the user. We will be looking further into this as we take the company forward.
are you bringing to the industry?
M What are you looking forward to most in the next 12 months of the company?
A There is a high level of quality in our products which enhances the end user experience. Our brand’s overall promise is of achieving a healthy life through healthier sleep, and by delivering on that, our customers will realise that lower quality products don’t cut it anymore.
A 2013 is going to be the year we go truly international, with our natural products becoming available for use in all the continents of the world. This represents a massive logistical and marketing challenge to us and our team, but it’s also what we strive to achieve every day.
M What kind of positive disruption
Hospitality excellence The Radisson Blu Resorts in St Julian’s and Golden Sands have received the TripAdvisor® Certificate of Excellence. The accolade is given only to establishments that consistently achieve outstanding traveller reviews on TripAdvisor, and is extended to qualifying businesses worldwide. Approximately 10 per cent of accommodations listed on TripAdvisor receive this prestigious award. Commenting on the awards received, Island Hotels Group CEO Winston J Zahra said: “Our whole team strive daily to offer our guests a memorable experience. The TripAdvisor certificates of excellence are an affirmation to our team that the efforts put in are creating the right image for our properties and the Island.” “TripAdvisor is pleased to honor exceptional businesses for consistent excellence, as reviewed by travellers on the site,” said Christine Petersen, president of TripAdvisor for Business. “The Certificate of Excellence award gives highly rated establishments around the world the recognition they deserve.”
Money / Issue 14 - 53
B l ac k n i g h t i n w h i t e s at i n Photography: Kris Micallef, www.krismicallef.com Styling: Carina Camilleri Model: Luke from www.models.com.mt
Opposite Esprit shirt, €49.95 Esprit tie, €35.95 Cap, stylist’s own Esprit bermudas, €69.95 Esprit jacket, €159.95 Mexx shirt, €49.95 Tom Tailor shoes, €39.95
French Connection bermudas, €67.00 Calvin Klein shirt, €35.50
French Connection t-shirt, €32.90 Tom Tailor trousers, €27.55 Tom Tailor shoes, €39.95 Carpisa bag, €29.95
Esprit shirt, €35.95 Bow tie, stylist’s own Calvin Klein jacket, €228.90 Flip flops, models’s own
Tom Tailor t-shirt €29.95 Mexx trousers, €65.00 Mexx belt, €29.95 Boss orange shoes, €92.00
Eco essentials Money does its bit to save the world.
The Bedol water clock is the simplest way to tell the time. Just fill it with water and the clock starts ticking. The water clock also has a built-in memory chip so that when you are refilling the clock, it will be able to continue keeping time. The Bedol water clock is also equipped with an alarm and can tell the time as either 12-hour or 24-hour increments.
The Amazon Kindle is already great on its own. Paired with the SolarKindle, it’s just awesome. Manufactured by SolarFocus Technology, the SolarKindle is the world’s first solar-powered e-reader cover. The SolarKindle guarantees three months of unplugged use while a builtin LED reading lamp can be powered continuously for up to 50 hours without using the Kindle’s main battery.
Eco life on water Greenline have created the first true hybrid yachts in the world. These innovative boats have various patented systems like superdisplacement hull, hybrid propulsion system and building technology. The Greenline concept is about environment, efficiency and owner. They strive to maximise on board well-being and enjoyment during a relaxing cruise with the advantage of having a boat that aims at a sustainable future. Greenline boats have proven themselves to be reliable, efficient and cost effective. The superdisplacement low-drag hull uses much less energy to move through water. The innovation reduces fuel consumption and allows efficient electric propulsion using power supplied by the battery and solar power. It only uses 20 per cent of the fuel of normal boats while under diesel power and it charges the battries whiles motoring underway, the solar panels charge the batteries constantly during daylight – however under battery power only it can do 20 sea miles giving a total range of 700 miles. Greenline Hybrid allows you to savour the quietness of the water as you would on a sailing yacht without polluting your surroundings and in complete comfort and safety. Living on a Greenline is just like home and electric power is 240v so all your home appliances will work on board. BJMarine are expecting the first Greenline delivered in Malta in September. To make an appointment for viewing e-mail email@example.com or call on Tel: 9999 9356.
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Car of the future Ford Motor Company has started real-world testing of future technologies as part of a research programme aimed at advancing car-to-car and car-toinfrastructure communication to European roads. Ford is contributing 20 specially equipped S-MAX models to a 120-vehicle fleet being used to test 20 experimental driver assistance technologies as part of the four-year research project Safe Intelligent Mobility – Testfield Germany or simTD. Engineers from Ford’s European Research Centre in Aachen, Germany and simTD research project partners so far have tested the developmental technologies in a controlled environment. The technologies will now be tested on public roads in and around Frankfurt in real-world driving conditions. Technologies being tested as part of the simTD research project include Electronic Brake Light, Obstacle Warning System, Traffic Sign Assistant, Public Traffic Management, and In-car Internet Access. Speak up Designed by Balance Studio, the Pulpop speakers not only look good but sound good. The surprising thing is that they are made of recycled paper pulp, and it is well known that sound doesn’t travel well through paper – however, the Pulpop’s intelligent design provides enough surface area to dispense sound effectively and blast your mp3 player’s tunes.
It’s hot The problem with fans is that they feel artificial – and there’s also the whirring sound they make, giving us plenty of sleepless nights. However, the Dyson bladeless fan solves both problems – its bladeless design ensures a soundless performance, while its cyclone accelerator amplifies air 15 to 18 times before blowing it out in a refreshing breeze. Bring on the heat.
If you’re off on a backpacking holiday, then the Voltaic Fuse is your ideal companion. The Voltaic Fuse is a modular charging solution that combines a four-watt photovoltaic panel with a set of straps that can be attached to any surface, from tents and bike racks to backpacks. Charge your technology while on the go.
Tired of carrying around multiple chargers for your smartphone, tablet, gadgets and whatnot? Then the IDapt i1 is your answer. This universal charger uses interchangeable tips which you can change according to the device you want to charge. It also has a regular USB port on the side so you can charge a second device simultaneously. When your devices are fully charged, the iDapt cuts the power.
Money / Issue 14 - 61
Changing of the guard Behind the gates of one of the most dangerous cities in the world is an oasis of fluffy towels, champagne and oysters for breakfast. Mona Farrugia stays at the top boutique hotel in the world.
he great cliché about Johannesburg is that residents will only walk anywhere if their car has been stolen. The cliché about clichés is that most of the time they are based on some kind of common knowledge. And they self-perpetuate. At Johannesburg airport, where I arrive with Emirates in stunning finery – it’s one of the cities where the award-winning airline flies its A380 aircraft once a day – my in-flight bag, packed with cashmere and Bach Flower Remedies, goes mysteriously missing. The paranoia is paramount even within the airport itself and everybody is constantly on the lookout, defensive. Yet when I go place a report at the police station, they are wonderfully efficient and effective, as if they do this every five minutes. Coming just a few days after my iPad went mysteriously missing from my hand luggage in another African airport, my sensitivity to paranoia knows no bounds. Even withdrawing Rand from the machine is a furtive, head-swinging exercise. By the time I arrive at the glorious Saxon – having for some crazy reason I still cannot fathom refused their airport transfers – I have absorbed the atmosphere: huge, tree-lined and turf-framed boulevards where the cars are never dirty and where nobody walks, gates to what one presumes are stunning villas, and security guards everywhere. At the entrance to the Saxon, there is an armed guard standing opposite the hotel, ready to use his bulk, and his weapon, his eyes darting at every movement. Why would anybody (and they still do) here want to break into a house where the gate stabs you, the wall electrocutes you and then two massive dogs rip you to shreds? The robbery situation in Johannesburg is simply unfathomable to anybody who comes from Western Europe. On my way in, security check both the driver’s ID and mine, thoroughly and politely, always with a smile, never in the style of airports where security presumes that everyone is a potential
terrorist. Then they confirm my arrival with reception and it is only upon this confirmation that they open a massive metal gate and allow me into the hallowed enclave. It’s always a door within a door situation in Johannesburg. Car-jackings, hold ups and break-ins still occur daily. They are usually directed towards the very rich residents though, and dare I say it, they’re still sadly, mostly white, so many years after Mandela and the abolishment of apartheid. You can only feel what that was like when you go to South Africa and live it there, even for a few days. Once you’ve peeled away some of the layers, you will understand what a truly world-class city Johannesburg is. The Saxon, an all-suite hotel which hosted Nelson Mandela while he was editing The Long Road to Freedom, has been voted No. 1 boutique hotel in the world since 2001 and it deserves the plaudits 20-times over. The service is truly South African: discreet, courteous and efficient. The layout of the suites is so well thought out that anybody looking to create their own bachelor pad could lift the design lock and stock. You can watch TV from the bath, but only if you open the great wooden doors that separate the bath and double closet from the bed. The amenities are ridiculously copious and there are so many towels that you do, at some point, lose track of the quantity. The bar in your room is ‘open’ daily and there is no extra payment for anything. I’ve stayed in quite a few outstanding hotels but The Saxon sucks you in until you never want to leave its wondrousness, ever. It has the details of a six-star Maldivian resort, but in a working city. At the pool, I thought somebody had left their Dermalogica products behind until I realised that every lounger came with them. All around, ladies-who-lunch – and these were lunching and bubbly-ing non-stop, dripping in Celine and Ferragamo – chatted, giggled and generally did business. Wonderfully, half the staff and the customers were black. It was the first time I had ever seen this anywhere in South Africa: finally the great equaliser was money, not colour.
Money / Issue 14 - 63
Showering at 40,000 feet Few people start their journey plans according to which aircraft flies where. I do. With the Emirates A380, the most obvious daily flight closest to the destinations I wanted was Johannesburg. And so it was that from Dubai to Johannesburg, a nine-hour night flight, I found myself in the first-class cabin where several strategically placed and electronically controlled doors meant absolute privacy onboard.
The restaurant at the Saxon is Michelin-level and although I loved it, who wants to eat at the hotel restaurant every night? So I asked for a few good, cosy places around. But Johannesburg, unless you want to experiment, does not do cosy. And the staff do not recommend dodgy areas where cosy or experimentation is normal as they’d rather have you back at the end of the night. The restaurants they sent me to were all in open malls. They were all good – eating out in South Africa is an experience not to be missed as their choice of meat and wines is outstanding – but they were, no matter how you twisted it, a restaurant in a mall. So one morning I decided to head off to Market on Main – the staff insist you take one of their chauffeurs and will then send him to pick you up – for some ‘real’ Jo’Burg experience. Main is yet another mall but right on top, every Sunday, there is a wonderful market. You can shop for crafts and eat cupcakes until you’re bleeding red velvet from your ears. It’s also where the ATMs would not accept my cards and I spent 45 minutes on the phone to Malta trying to figure out why the machine was saying it had given me cash when it hadn’t, so beware. The thing with cocooning somewhere like the Saxon – where everything is always perfect, where breakfast comes with fresh oysters and lemon wrapped in muslin and champagne, where the sheets are 500 thread-count Egyptian cotton, where nothing is ever a problem – is that you want to get out because you start to feel guilty about all the indulgence. And the moment you do, you want to return to its heart-warming arms. The Saxon is an addiction with no real side effects except that it spoils you for life. It is truly ironic that in what is dubbed one of the most dangerous cities in the world, where local friends have had not one but four BMWs carjacked in broad daylight, I managed to sleep like a baby after seven days of no sleep in a tornadowrecked Mozambique. It may be all scary and hand-wavy out there in the big bad world but at the Saxon you will not remember any of it. Food and travel writer Mona Farrugia edits www.planetmona. com and runs Angelica in Valletta. www.angelicamalta.com
64 - Money / Issue 14
Can you join the mile-high club? Hardly. Too much storage space separates your bunk from that of your partner and you’ll probably have packed it with books and your iPad. Hand luggage is stored at the edge of your bunk (joy – on the ground, rather than overhead) and coats and dresses can be hung in your own closet by staff while you wear the horrible Emirates dark brown pyjama. Sadly they still think that first class travel is only for men and have not created a ladies’ version or size yet. Also the fabric makes you perspire.
One thing they did get right though, apart from the linen sheets and cosseting of the down-filled mattress, is the shower. I booked mine at 4:00am, judging it would be perfect before breakfast, right before landing. And it was. Emirates apologise in advance for having to ‘make’ passengers book ahead and warn everybody that there is a limited time, making it sound as if it’s a shower in a hostel. But do not let this put you off. Walking into what is relatively a spacious room (I’ve had more cramped conditions in hotels), finding a huge array of Timeless Spa products, warm fluffy towels and underfloor heating, shedding that silly brown pyjama and blitzing myself surrounded with orchids for three minutes was one of the highlights of the trip. It’s not about just showering, of course – although any frequent traveller will tell you that even a visit to an airport and an hour’s flight will make you need one – but it is about being able to do so in such difficult circumstances. Moreover the First Class cabin staff were seriously happy to be doing their job, almost as excited about all the detail as the passengers, who were behaving like children in a funfair. For this, and for a lot more besides, Emirates deserve plaudits and win over returners. Next year: Dubai – Tokyo.
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The Bluesman is a Maltese sound engineer working in New York.
The Bluesman’s blog The Bluesman takes a ride and a bite in New York.
have called New York a city of contrasts. Beautiful tower apartments casting shadows on the homeless people on the street, some of whom have actually taken to renting a small storage unit to keep what little they own in. The cost of being a bag-person is mounting it seems, but it’s a lot cheaper renting a five by five lock up than a studio. The ones with 24/7 access in Manhattan are quite popular apparently and, security camera or not, people will conduct their rituals even though anything other than storing stuff is verboten. Sometimes, they’ll sprawl half in and half out of their space and catch a few zees. One of the burdens of life in a crowded city where space is at a premium is finding somewhere to stash your stuff and anybody with a mild accumulation turns to a storage facility. Whether it’s seasonal clothing, furniture or, as in my case, musical instruments, it helps unclutter your living space. A subway ride has to be one of the best deals in NYC. The cost of a subway or local bus ride is $2.25, including a free transfer (within two hours) between subway and bus, or between buses. Multiple ride purchases have discounts. Because it’s a one swipe entry, via a Metrocard, into the system, it became a popular challenge to attempt to ride the whole system on that swipe. The record, set in January 2009 is 22 hours, 52 minutes and 36 seconds held by Matt Ferrisi and Chris Solarz. Folk have wondered how to go about relieving oneself on these trips, although I’m sure the homeless population has its own ideas.
66 - Money / Issue 14
If you want a taste of this activity, you can always try riding the Far Rockaway bound A Train. Made famous by the Duke Ellington song, this takes you to the end of the line just south of JFK Airport where you can take a train back – the elevated track once across the river allows a tour of a part of New York that tourists tend to not frequent. The Staten Island Ferry is also a good point to check out Lady Liberty from the water – it’s a free 20 minute ride. Given the cost of gas and car insurance, pretty steep although by no means the highest in the land, and especially the problem of finding a spot to leave a couple of tons of steel anywhere around here, that $2.25 is a piddling amount. It would cost that much to park at a meter long enough to run a quick errand in Manhattan or burn the fuel to cruise the streets looking for a spot or a parking garage. For a change of pace I would recommend a train ride to Westchester County, just to the North of the city. Take the Hudson Line which travels up alongside the Hudson River and stop at Tarrytown, about 40 minutes away. Walk into town and get a feel for this Dutch settler town established in the early 1600s. Meander through the churchyard, take in the architecture, walk a little further and you’re in Sleepy Hollow – yes, that Sleepy Hollow. A little way up the line is the notorious Sing Sing prison in Ossining, but I don’t believe they would let you walk in, it being an operational corrections
facility. It was here that the first electric chair was assembled, the idea ‘sold’ to the authorities by a devious Edison using technology stolen from his rival Westinghouse’s lab hoping to prove the danger of alternating current so that the Edison direct current technology would be awarded the contract to light up city streets. I’ll spare you the details of the many animals killed in Edison’s experiments nor those of the first execution of the poor sap who volunteered because he was told he wouldn’t feel a thing. Right, let’s eat. Whether picking up a cup of coffee and a bagel at a deli on the way to the subway, grabbing street meat from the many food carts or flopping into a booth at a diner, you’re never far away from a mouthful. Fine dining abounds, with luminaries like Chefs Puck and Ramsay well represented in restaurants dotted all over the city. More importantly, good fare at a reasonable price is also abundant and the idea of prepping and cooking food, not to mention the cleaning up, becomes less attractive unless it’s something you want to do. Stopping at one of the many stainless steel clad pre-fabricated iconic structures greeted with a smile, a glass of ice water and a small bowl of coleslaw and pickles, you’re handed a large, usually illustrated menu. These diners probably break every rule in Ramsay’s book – a large selection, large portions, large plates and free coffee refills – but I’ve never heard of one going under. They’re there to make sure you get fed.
Combined consumption (l/100 km): from 3.4 to 5.8. CO2 emissions (g/km): from 87 to 135.
NEW PEUGEOT 208 (This model also qualifies for the government scrappage scheme)
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