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Dario Silvestri


16 Giselle Borg Olivier


10 Dayna Clarke


20 Antoine Zammit


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Get our house in order! — Us Maltese are known to be very house-proud. We take pride in keeping our houses clean and orderly and spend a lot of money to have the furniture that we desire; however, the buck stops at our front door. Anything beyond the doorstep doesn’t belong to us and is therefore not our responsibility. Isn’t that a sad mentality? Living on a Mediterranean island which boasts glorious weather and a rich history is a choice made by many people who opt to relocate here, yet it is only a lucky few who are born here and can call this place their homeland. Unfortunately, some of those lucky few don’t recognise their fortune and seek only ways on how to exploit the scarce land that’s available in order to make money – their personal fortune. If you look out of your window it is extremely likely that you will see a tower crane in your line of sight – possibly even more than one. They’re so commonplace that most people, and definitely all children, don’t know what the skyline looks like without a great towering heap of metal jutting its way across the sky. This is the Malta of the millennium and this is the legacy that we’re leaving our children. We get nostalgic for photos from the past depicting rural villages with empty streets and perhaps just a herd of goats being walked along a country path – and while it’s lovely, it’s a romanticised vision of a way of life that is completely alien to us. Where would we be without our cars, our outdoor cafes, and our #sundayfunday selfies?



Life moves along – there’s no stopping it – and to function within society we need to move along with it. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that we should forego the past and eradicate what doesn’t conform to ‘modern standards’. There needs to be appreciation of what came before us whether its traditions, buildings, societal norms, literature, songs, the list goes on… these all helped to shape the future and should therefore be safeguarded and treated with respect. Not every building deserves to be preserved – sometimes it’s better to get rid of the old and ugly and replace with the new (and potentially still ugly); however, the PA is in dire need of strict guidelines as to what should be preserved and what shouldn’t, and, moreover, what areas should be preserved. Having a row of beautiful townhouses and then allowing for a monstrosity of a cement block of flats to be erected in the middle of the street is ludicrous and simply ruins the aesthetics of the environment. If that house needed to be knocked down due to whatever reason, there need to be strict regulations in place that only another townhouse conforming to the aesthetics of the rest of the street can be built in its place.

COVER Dario Silvestri Face Your Fears Read the full story on page 24


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Had this been done 50 years ago, Tower Road, Sliema would have still had its beautiful bay houses as opposed to the giant impersonal blocks of flats, and the Sliema seafront and beach would still be enjoying the sunshine in the afternoon. Alas, the short-sightedness of the people in charge have long-term effects and while it would be cathartic to simply bulldoze over many unsightly buildings, ironically that’s not allowed. So while the insides of our buildings continue to be pristine and well-decorated (which is important), perhaps one day in the not too distant future someone with guts and motivation that goes beyond the depth of their pocket will put an end to this roughshod building frenzy that has taken over the Maltese Islands and restore a sense of decency to the industry. Is that too much to ask?


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Almost any item can be upcycled into something new and improved. Dayna Clarke speaks to Alexander Bonello, director of Shabby Chic Malta, Eva Fekete and Erik Valter, directors of the Purple Sun Design Garage and Crafty Carpenter brands, and renowned interior designer Maxine Borg to find out more.







Jordan Portelli on Deutsche Bank and its adverse effects on the financial system.



Maria Giulia Pace gives an insight of the European Commission’s proposals tied to the European Green Deal.






Political analyst Emanuel Delia outlines the various aspects of what weakens democracy and cites several cases which has led the democratic system in Malta to go to the dogs.


Giselle Borg Olivier on the uglification of Malta and whether Malta has truly lost its charm and reached a point of no return.




Dayna Clarke meets Dr Antoine Zammit, from the University of Malta and director of Studjurban, to discuss the complicated urban planning situation in Malta.

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Elise Dalli on how consumers leverage technology for convenience, and what it means for businesses.


MONEY interviews Parma-born Dario Silvestri, an entrepreneur, a trainer, and a performance coach, on CEO mentoring and the recipe to success.




Here’s where you’ll get a first look at the latest new-season clothing.




Giselle Borg Olivier on the long-awaited rental law put in place in a bid to bring stability to the market.




Conrad Buttigieg outlines 6 bum bags to choose from depending on your budget.




They say it is as useful to save money that you already have as it is to earn more. Vanessa Macdonald, the communications coordinator of the Central Bank of Malta, explains the theory behind this.




The Bluesman says it's high time side-effects caused by manufactured drugs are replaced with THC and CBD when it comes to treating certain conditions.

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Dayna is a senior speech therapist by day and feature writer by night. When she’s not busy fixing words, she is travelling the world to add to her fridge magnet collection.


UPCYCLING UPRISING: breathing new life into the old

Alexander Bonello

Eva Fekete

Erik Valter

Maxine Borg

Almost any item can be upcycled into something new and improved. Dayna Clarke speaks to Alexander Bonello, director of Shabby Chic Malta, Eva Fekete and Erik Valter, directors of the Purple Sun Design Garage and Crafty Carpenter brands, and renowned interior designer Maxine Borg to find out more.


Repurposing or upcycling old furniture and finds has become one of the biggest home trends sweeping across Europe and beyond. There was once a time when old furniture was just for antique enthusiasts, and the masses craved for the newest and swankest in-home design. Yet more and more DIY and craft enthusiasts are discovering the fun in transforming old unwanted items, into practical artistic pieces for their homes. Not only fun, repurposing or upcycling old furniture is also becoming a business venture for some creatives. As sustainability continues as a top trend in the retail industry, retailers and brands are adapting to stay relevant and offer sustainable solutions to their consumers. Customers are eagerly taking note: 93% of global consumers expect more of the brands they use to support local social and environmental issues, according to a report by the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA). The report also found that an estimated 68 million (US) customers base purchasing decisions on their values – personal, social, and environmental – and say they will spend up to 20% more on environmentally sound products. Creating sustainable items is no longer just for the

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home enthusiasts, it’s big business, and Malta is not exempt. Enter the newest sustainability trend within the retail industry- upcycling. What does it mean, isn’t it just another buzz word? In essence, recycling and upcycling are very similar – the reuse of something either for the same or a different purpose. Upcycling is often called ‘creative reuse’ because there’s a greater focus on using something in a novel and creative manner. It also looks to fix up something that might be broken or damaged so that it can be useful again while still retaining the original integrity of the item – it’s not about trying to make the item brand new and perfect once more. Recycling, on the other hand, takes an idea

and returns it to its basic form to them make something new from it. This can be something such as paper that is recycled and made into another type of paper, or glass bottles that are broken down and remade into new ones. There’s a big emphasis on recycling for its potential to cut down the amount of rubbish that goes to landfill sites and is why many homes have a recycling waste bin as well as a general one. Dispelling the myths

On this spread: Purple Sun Design Garage

Alexander Bonello, director of Shabby Chic Interiors, notes the realisation of business potential in this field, through the combination of consciousness for the safeguarding of the environment, with a valid commercial enterprise was pivotal to his business success. “Contrary to what →

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many think, going green is not opposed to business principals, but both concepts can be very complimentary.” Within four years his venture has readily become a household name. “We have been overwhelmed by our success, and today our services are in constant and high demand.” A call for change Eva remarks: “Rather sooner than later we have to face the fact that all our consumer habits have to change. Part of this is using our already existing resources whenever it is possible. We offer our clients a solution which leads to a smaller ecological



footprint. Namely, rather than throwing away old furniture and replacing them with new ones, we repair and redesign them.” Her business Crafty Carpenters evolved into what it is today through trialling the market. “Our business was grown organically. We started by building our own furniture pieces from pallets as well as redesigning old furniture. Then, during a friendly conversation, I accidentally sold some pallet furniture for a restaurant that lead us to more and more requests. “Our latest big step was when we started working on a project with Shabby Chic. It turned out that there is such a significant need for carpentry work and design guidance with our way of thinking that we dropped everything to focus on this business. Consequently, the Crafty Carpenters was born.” Interior designer Maxine emphasises the sentimental value of revamping an old treasure, and why we should start viewing our items in such a manner. “I always think that reusing existing pieces and creating something new and personal to a particular individual always has so much more value than just any piece you buy from a shop. The original piece might have belonged to your grandmother or just someone else’s grandmother giving it so much history and life. The piece of furniture is not just a chair or a sideboard, it’s a piece with a story and a background.” →

On this spread: MaxineMade

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Developing awareness How can a culture that loves all things new get involved with upcycling? Alexander explains: “In fact, once you start to think about it upcycling is presenting you with something new! An old tired kitchen counter rendered in a bright, fresh colour gives an entirely new look. Dark, sombre bedroom furniture can be dramatically lightened up in white. Individual and non-descript items can be stunningly transformed into wonderous unique works of art” In a world where we have been bombarded with uniform and mass-produced items, people are craving individuality.” Eva shares a recent case: “It was just yesterday that we met with a client, who specifically called us as she did not want

On this spread: Shabby Chic


to throw her old door away. Others had suggested her to do so, but rather she wanted it altered to fit into the new interior of her flat. All too often, it does not come to one’s mind that there are other alternatives to buying new items constantly. So, when we show them how old furniture can look like refreshed and with stylish colours and fabrics, they happily let us add new life to their old furniture. Maybe this way of thinking just needs to reach a wider audience.” Maxine adds awareness is out there, starting in small gestures we can all make. “The concept of upcycling can be incorporated into so many aspects of our daily lives, i don’t even think about it now it’s just second nature to me! Using your personal containers at deli counter and mesh bags for fruit and veggies.

Buying vintage clothing (a personal favorite), not throwing away things that are slightly damaged, altering or repurposing them for another use. I think everyone does it in some way or another without even realising, it’s just a matter of being more conscious about it and actively changing small things in the way we live and purchase items.” Undoubtedly, there’s no denying humankind is exceptionally wasteful – in fact, we are the first species to create waste that nature cannot deal with and that has the potential to be around for thousands of years. Plastics are a perfect example of this. However, the trend of upcycling and recycling can both do their part to help reduce this waste and also to reduce the number of new items that need to be created. The time is now.


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Giselle is a freelance writer, proofreader and social media marketer who lives on Instagram and cappuccino. She runs Content for Success.

IS MALTA CAST IN CEMENT? Giselle Borg Olivier on the uglification of Malta and whether Malta has truly lost its charm and reached a point of no return. Uglification is defined as ‘the process of being made ugly’, and what’s interesting about that definition is the word ‘process’. It implies that it’s not an instant change, but something that happens over time; meaning that the degeneration is happening gradually in front of people’s eyes and, more often than not, leaving them powerless to do anything about it.

Is the term 'uglification' justified?

the most part, radically changed. Proper town planning aesthetics are giving way to radical commercialisation, and changes to accommodate different needs,” said a local architect whom I spoke to on terms of anonymity. “There should be a blend of aesthetics and harmony; however, in order to have maximisation of square meterage that unfortunately gets put to the side and other things step in. And that is when we get construction instead of architecture. We’re not left with incongruous construction urban sprawl rather than planning,” the architect added.

“Yes, I think so. It's clear that the landscape and streetscapes of Malta which, for hundreds of years, were characterised by traits which one associates with pleasing aesthetics, regionalism and a certain harmony is, for

That the island is considered a small one at 316 square kilometres should come as no surprise to anyone, and therefore one would think that, given the scarcity of land, effort would be made to preserve this natural

There have been dozens of articles and opinion pieces written in recent years about the uglification of Malta ¬– and justifiably so.

resource by applying infrastructure solutions that promote land preservation. Moreover, Malta’s long history and all the historical assets that still abound would also lead one to think that any necessary construction would be done to highlight such endowments from the past. Clearly, that isn’t the case in Malta.


Empty space is unused space In a blog post from 2014 (and this has been an issue for longer than that), journalist Herman Grech remarked on a comment made by the Malta Developers Association president Sandro Chetcuti, who saw no problem with the proposal of building three hotels outside of the development zone in the south east of


the island (probably one of the most unspoilt areas at the time) claiming that development benefits areas that are “shabby and unused”. Grech pointed out that not every bit of land needs to have a building on it and not every bit of unused land is to be deemed shabby. With this kind of mentality by the people involved in the industry, the hope of building

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sustainably and with due consideration to the environmental impact on both the current infrastructure and the ecosystem, is slipping away rapidly. One must acknowledge that the cement craze in Malta is not one that popped up in the last decade. Most of the houses and apartments built in the mid to later part of the last →

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landscape and not see a crane. Driving down the streets you are bound to come across building sites, construction vehicles, dug up roads, and the inevitable polluting traffic jams.

century are hardly going to win any prizes for aesthetic appeal with their uniform, austere concrete block style. However, recent years have seen an acceleration in the number of flats being built, with little regard to the consequences of their surroundings.

And the uglification is not limited to solely the construction industry (although that is definitely the main culprit), but it’s also extended to businesses who erect horrendous awnings or tents, those that claim the beach with their deck chairs and sunbeds, the people who park their camper vans in front of a bay not allowing anyone else to enjoy the space, and let’s not forget the questionable colour choices of some facades. The laissez-faire attitude has spread among society like a fungus feasting on unbridled selfishness. The prevailing mentality seems to be: if they can do it, then, why can’t I?

On this issue, another architect who I spoke to said: “There are several contributors to the current infrastructure landscape. There was a huge building boom after the Second Word War which rose exponentially fed by population growth as well as Malta's independence. There was a socio-economic factor that contributed to the need for more housing and urban planning had to respond to this. Although there were attempts at town planning and maintaining a balance between buildings and open space, and achieving harmony, there was never a plan with limits.”

When the appetite for construction is so huge that a joke to whether the national bird of Malta should be the crane – it is evident that the situation is serious.

Short of looking out to sea, there is probably nowhere in Malta where you can scan the

What are some of the worst transgressions?

The planning policies in Malta don’t help the issue – in fact, they’re a cause for concern with most planning applications being given the green light regardless of whether they’re either in ODZ land, taking over a garden, or adding a few more blocks of flats that will simply become a statistic of how many unoccupied dwellings there are.

“It's a mix of architectural and urban planning - there's no line where one starts and the other ends. What's the point of scheduling


a house if the neighbouring houses aren't? One error in planning can affect the view for miles,” the architect said. “Recently in Gozo there was a windmill which was a landmark and a traditionally Maltese structure… then they built a block of apartments completely in concrete just two doors away!” “It would help if we retained some traditional elements like the use of Maltese stone, and I refuse to accept that there isn't good quality stone available. I think it's an excuse so that concrete is used to build thinner walls, faster. “Unfortunately, this is affecting current generations who are being brought up in this concrete jungle environment and there's no fostering of awareness of the traditional style. Not only are we not preserving what we have, but we also must think about what heritage are we building and creating as our legacy? Until the 1960s/70s there were attempts at regional modernism even with reinforced concrete - but with Maltese nuances. Something that we don’t see anymore,” our source added. There are two social media accounts, one on Twitter and one on Instagram, called UglyMalta where all the building monstrosities are highlighted through posts and photos. The profile reads: Fighting ugly buildings, cheap development, crappy architecture, shitty streets. Malta, you were beautiful once. No longer. One might consider that last statement to be a harsh one, but is it a truthful one? Has Malta truly lost its charm? Have we reached the point of no return?

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Dayna is a senior speech therapist by day and feature writer by night. When she’s not busy fixing words, she is travelling the world to add to her fridge magnet collection.

BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD Dayna Clarke meets Dr Antoine Zammit, from the University of Malta and director of Studjurban, to discuss the complicated urban planning situation in Malta.



Construction is booming, and development permits are flowing out of the offices of the authority responsible for planning with no signs of slowing down. One may argue how much consideration is being provided to the quality of life of what’s going on around us, whether that’s infrastructure, demolition and construction, aesthetics or environmental impact. Dr Zammit graduated in 2002 and earned his professional warrant as an architect in 2003. He then read for a postgraduate MSc degree in town planning, specialising in urban design, at the Bartlett School of Planning, University College of London. He also read for a PhD in Urban Design and Planning that he completed in 2013. Following a period as a member of the Planning Appeals Board in Malta and a 10year stint in private practice, Zammit set up his own company, Studjurban. Nowadays, he also lectures on spatial planning, urban design and urban governance within the Faculty for the Built Environment at the University of Malta. He has also held an advisory role with the PA. Dr Zammit’s extensive qualifications and experience warrants him an excellent professional to discuss the urban development problems and challenges which the Maltese context presents. Infrastructure “When we talk about Malta in spatial terms, we often refer to the ‘urban conurbation’. In layman terms this has come about as towns and villages have grown and expanded to merge as one urban area, rather like a small city,” he says. “In the past, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s, what contributed to this expansion was when large areas of land were subdivided into significantly sized residential plots and housing estates, often without proper ancillary amenities and supplementary land uses.” Dr Zammit explains that in such cases, the lack of a long-term strategy has subsequently created problems when many of these properties have been redeveloped into multiple residences, especially given the inadequate infrastructure. As a result, we are now facing a different reality. Space has

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“It comes as no surprise; most of our planning has been reactive; we are dealing with the consequences of phenomenal growth. However, one may argue how sustainable such reactive measures are. Road widening may give the impression that it is solving the issue of bottle-necks but it doesn’t fix the issue of excessive car ownership, and more and more cars are arriving in Malta daily. “Sustainable contemporary urban design thinking is modelled around the accessibility to a diverse array of uses particularly within a 400- and 800-metre radius, corresponding to a comfortable five to 10-minute walking distance. This makes accessibility on foot possible and therefore reduces the need to use a car.” become a significant issue, and architects and planners are faced with the challenge of making the best use of the land that is available to them. It’s a dilemma that is multifaceted and immensely complex, as space in Malta comes at a high price, and not just financially. “To make better use of land, there is a need to create greater densities. This is where the concept of land intensification – possibly higher buildings – enters the scenario. The thinking here is that medium- or high-rise developments may have a smaller footprint and can, therefore, release valuable ground open space that can be used as a recreational area for everyone. Of course, there are huge consequences to this in terms of quality of life.”

“We need to provide practical transport solutions and alternatives to owning so many cars, possibly moving towards mobility-as-aservice solutions”. Sustainable planning Where does sustainability come into this you may ask? Dr Zammit is quick to comment: “The construction industry in Malta has a tremendous impact on the environment, but that also means there is much room for improvement. We have to be more conscious of the resources that are available to us and how we can use them. In Malta, height limitation within the development scheme is always taken as an absolute, not a maximum that may be reduced within different urban contexts. “This is an immense burden on the environment. Take, for instance, the case of Urban Conservation Areas. These are protected zones within central village cores, yet at the boundary where the zone finishes, larger buildings and eyesores can be built. It’s here that you find an absolute clash of both scale and aesthetic. I have proposed the definition of transition zones of development as we pan away from the central cores, and hopefully these may be the subject of future Local Plans.” “When it comes to housing, the shift must be on more affordable housing. By that, I mean for those who are above the thresholds for social housing but cannot cope with the market. Many people need support in →

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stepping onto the property ladder. One model that works overseas and a possible idea locally could be that developers should sell ‘X’ amount of properties at an affordable price. “Ultimately, architectural design is about intelligent space planning and quality of space rather than a sole focus on quantity and volume. We need to work hard to retain Malta’s attractiveness and keep in mind that the decisions made today will be fundamental in determining whether the country remains an appealing place to live and work.” The case study of Valletta There’s no denying Valletta has transformed in recent years. Dr Zammit was the lead author on a research project investigating the



effectiveness in regeneration schemes,” the report stated. The research paper focused on four areas within Valletta that underwent regeneration: Strait Street, the Valletta market (Suq talBelt), the historic Biċċerija (slaughterhouse) quarter and fine arts museum Muża. The research spanned over the period 2015-2018. The study recommended that bottomup, local development initiatives should accompany top-down approaches. It found a disconnect between the four regeneration projects, noting a “lack of all-inclusive vision” for cultural infrastructure in Valletta. In sum, the Valletta market regeneration project was a “missed opportunity”, Dr


local V18 impact. The strategy for Valletta was a “shortsighted view” on the future of the city and was more about generating investment than helping livability. The research team found “strong proof” that Valletta was transforming from a residential/ retail to a catering destination. Besides, they noted, most regeneration schemes spurred on by V18 did not have explicit policies on community participation, nor did they incorporate it into their strategic planning. “Overall, the impression is that community involvement is often assumed to be taking place, and is approved of in principle, but is marginal in practice, with much loss of

Zammit and his team noted, criticising the “over-appropriation of the public space”. The 2018 project could have been an opportunity to enhance, rather than detract from the nature of the public space even further. The findings are part of a research plan by the Valletta 2018 Foundation, which had set up a research department to gauge the impact of its stint at the helm of the European Capital of Culture. Shaping the future So, what does the future hold, is it really a bleak picture? Dr Zammit adds that a more

holistic and civil approach is required; just because we can keep building, doesn’t mean we should! Political, economic, demographic, social and ecological developments will also require a radical shift in the thinking process and pave a new vision for architecture and urban design. The model of growth equalling progress will no longer be relevant. Moving forward, we need to reinvent existing buildings and urban settings to meet contemporary needs that are supported by new technologies. It’s important we prioritise our quality of life.

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MONEY interviews Parma-born Dario Silvestri, an entrepreneur, a trainer, and a performance coach, on CEO mentoring and the recipe to success. You are an entrepreneur, a trainer, and a performance coach; how do you coordinate these different activities and profiles? This is a crucial point, in fact, time management is one of the aspects that is highly likely to be the game-changer within the management context of your company, from a professional point of view. It is necessary to identify the things we must do but also those that will be profitable in the immediate period, or in a context of investment and planning of greater depth over time. It is primarily about being aware of your goals and the resources you need to achieve them. My job entails a lot of travelling and it is pertinent to keep a clear overview at all times, to know how to communicate your company vision to partners and collaborators, which is in fact one of the most fundamental points in relation to the

achievement of great results. The correct recruitment of professionals with skills and value, along with their allocation in the right roles and the right timing, can become a necessary equation for a project to turn out successful. This is one of the areas I face most often when dealing with the mentoring of CEOs, whose ability and timing to make strategic and HR decisions, are essential. We hear a lot about performance, not only in professional sports; are there methods to increase it? For many years, the efforts of coaches, trainers, and athletes were more focused on the physical aspect of performance. Investments were positioned on the research of new supplements, such as the study of the physiology of exercise which, although essential and the basis for an athlete, does

not consider a very important part, the mental aspect of the athlete. When you approach a competition, like an important match, the mental part becomes the protagonist; in fact, there are many cases in the history of sport in which efforts and weeks of intense training were ruined by fear or by an unsafe and ineffective approach that leads to failure of the protagonist. We begin to perceive some obstacles as insurmountable, like seeing our opponent as invincible and not being able to be aware that the real opponent is us, together with our history, our fear, and that therefore it is from there that we must start to ‘train’. So, my answer is yes, it is possible to improve the performance by identifying how we work, knowing what buttons to press to give 100% of what we are worth and, above all, not stumble into those weaknesses that arise from situations and perceptions, both consciously and



unconsciously, that although aren’t real, can turn into something negative and real.

You recently wrote a best-seller, ‘The Power of Change.’ Who is it aimed for?

Can we say that this is a situation comparable to that of great entrepreneurs and leaders in companies?

Yes, it was released in Italy at the beginning of April 2019 and within three months became a best-seller, and now it is about to be published in the UK, US and of course in Malta. The book aims to serve as a practical manual to understand our change, the one necessary in our professional life, and then put it into practice through seven steps. I believe that change is an essential part of all our lives, nobody is exempt from it. Sometimes we are forced to change or change something in our lives because some changes are independent of our will, but

Absolutely; in fact, same as an elite sportsman, a CEO is in the spotlight and must take difficult decisions while considering the significant responsibilities the CEO has towards the company and its employees. The CEO must deal with his/her internal fears, as much as external pressures. Interpreting market trends, making decisions that are often not understood by employees or simply

These are moments in which being balanced, knowing how to manage stress, and knowing how to handle your mind becomes a path that leads to growth, profit, and success

the critical issues of managing an important board of directors often become crucial moments. These are moments in which being balanced, knowing how to manage stress, and knowing how to handle your mind becomes a path that leads to growth, profit, and success. Otherwise, by underestimating or ignoring these components, things can go wrong. In my personal experience, the CEOs of most important companies I work with pay attention to these aspects and know that they must invest in this path to improve their performance.

we must know how to accept, interpret and make them become real opportunities for growth and enrichment. Instead, there are those changes that we allow to happen, and often, we must be able to manage our fears, habits, and influences by creating a new real change capable of leading us to the success we deserve. For more information on Dario Silvestri, call +39 3807544649, email, or visit

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About Dario Silvestri Born in Parma, Italy, and having lived for several years in the UK and Scandinavia, Dario founded a group of prominent companies, developed important collaborations and built innovative models, which have allowed him to efficiently achieve results of continuous growth for the past 15 years. Among his successful businesses, international academic education is one of the most distinguished of the lot. Dario shares and provides his own knowledge and the most effective tools to enable thousands to change their lives by helping them to achieve their own goals. He works in the field of professional sports with elite players, leading athletes, and entrepreneurs who daily support the development of performance and results. He worked with top players from the Italian Serie A, the English Premier League and others who perform other sport disciplines. In addition, he coaches top company CEOs, many of whom are featured on Forbes. Dario is the author of the best-selling book ‘The Power of Change’ (Il Potere del Cambimento) and ‘Prepare your Mind for Success’ (Prepara la tua Mente per il Successo). Dario’s headquarters are based in Turin and his work is mainly based in Europe and the US.

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Giselle is a freelance writer, proofreader and social media marketer who lives on Instagram and cappuccino. She runs Content for Success.

Giselle Borg Olivier on the long-awaited rental law put in place in a bid to bring stability to the market. The rental industry in Malta was, for the most part, limited to short lets for holiday makers. There wasn’t a rental culture in Malta; the general consensus was that young people moved out of their parents’ house to move into their new house with their spouse – and a home loan.

renewed after 1st January 2020 and those still in force as of 1st January 2021. This also includes all rental contracts signed after 1st June 1995. Short-term contracts are those between 6 and 12 months, while long-term contracts are to be one year or more.

“I think the new legislation is a step in the right direction. The industry was in dire need of some legal attention. Although there are many things that require tweaking, I believe it is a great start towards a further sustainable rental market,” said Steve Mercieca, CEO and Co-Founder at Zanzi Homes.

Who does this not affect? However, in the past 20 years or so, there has been a radical shift in the rental industry due to the influx of foreigners moving to the island for job opportunities. The demand for long-term rentals grew and people saw a business opportunity, so properties were bought for rental purposes to feed that demand. Furthermore, there was a boost in construction with blocks of flats built in every possible space, especially in the more soughtafter areas of Sliema, St Julian’s, and Gżira. Therefore, with the rental market becoming a mammoth source of income and a steady contributor to the economy, there was the need for more robust legislation to protect both the owner as well as the tenant. On the 1st January 2020, new rules governing the rental market were introduced under the name The Private Residential Leases Act. The aim behind this act is to bring stability to the market through various measures, including, mandatory registration of properties for all private rental places with the Housing Authority, a minimum and maximum length of stay for both long and short lets, as well as to better regulate how contracts are drawn up, placing responsibilities on the owner and tenant. Who does this affect? The reform covers private residential properties with leases signed or set to be

The new legislation does not apply to council properties owned by the Maltese government, or to properties rented to seasonal tourists as these are regulated under the Malta Travel and Tourism Services Act. Moreover, it does not apply to properties which are under contracts of emphyteusis (ċens - those that are let by landlords for long lets and are structurally improved by the tenant); neither properties rented as a second residence or as a holiday home, nor properties that were rented before 1st June 1995.


“All the lessors and lessees, as well as stakeholders such as developers and estate agents will be affected by it. Generally, people don't really like change, but its a process. In the long run I believe everyone will be thankful this new act has been introduced.” What are the changes? 1 - Contracts All private rental contracts that have been signed between owner and tenant must be registered with the Housing Authority within a specific time period of the lease starting. Should the owner not do this, the tenant has the right to register the contract and retain part of the rent to cover the costs of the administration fee. The contract needs to specify the rental period, availability of extending the lease, amount of rent and method of payment, deposit amount, and an inventory of the property including the condition of the assets. If any of these requirements are missing the contract cannot be registered and will be declared null and void. A separate registration is required for every new private residential lease. Renewals of rental contracts taking place after 1st January 2021 also need to be registered. →

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2 - Pricing There is no regulation regarding the price of rent; each owner can determine what they believe their property is worth and set their price accordingly. However, the new legislation does come into play when there is a request for an increase in rental price – increases can only happen once a year and cannot exceed the existing rental amount by more than 5% per annum, in line with the Property Price Index by the National Statistics Office (NSO). The law also states that the owner is obliged to provide a receipt for every payment. 3 - Duration & Termination Long-term leases cannot have a duration of less than one year. A termination notice must be sent to the tenant three months prior to the contract expiring. Should this not happen and the tenant doesn’t receive this notice, then the contract would be renewed for one more year. From the tenant’s perspective, they can also cancel their contract through a registered letter as long as they abide to their notice period which changes based on the length of the contract. The new law stipulates that tenants are required to pay the owner for the extra days that they stay in the property. This would be paid as an equivalent rent to the number of days. This is only applicable to long-term leases. Short-term leases are terminated (without automatic renewal) as per the date agreed between the owner and tenant, without the need for notice to be given by either party. Who gains from the new rules? The new legislation seeks to safeguard tenants from signing contracts with unjust clauses which would be detrimental to their agreement. There is a list of clauses, which, even if they are included in the contract have no effect under the new law, such as clauses which authorise the owner to remove or reduce any rental benefits and not reduce the rental price; which impose payment for the use of movables; which request the payment of a fixed amount for the consumption of water, electricity and other utilities if the amount does not reflect the actual consumption.

Furthermore, owners cannot forcefully evict tenants from the property they are renting; they cannot enter the property without the permission of the tenant; they cannot remove any items from the property, and they cannot interrupt water and electricity services for the tenant. Owners must ensure that there is an adequate supply of water and electricity for the people renting the property and tenants have the right to have access to their utility bills.

What are people saying? A meeting for rental property owners held in September 2019 saw the proposed law receive criticism, with some of its measures perceived as draconian and unfavourable to property owners. The Malta Developer’s Association were vocal about their disapproval of this law saying that it will impinge on the freedom of being able to draw up contracts, claiming that such measures will stifle the industry. There are, of course, fines applicable to both the owner and the tenant should either party fail to abide by the new rules. The Rent Regulation Board handles matters related to unpaid rent, while the Housing Authority has rights allowing certain officers to act against breaches of the law. The Housing Authority is the regulator of the new law. Is it going to solve current issues? “Current issues will take time to fix; like everything else, change doesn't happen in a day. The government will probably tweak the act as we go along like with all other industries. I believe the next step is licensing the agents. We form a large part of the sector with probably over 4000 agents and sensara. I look forward to working in a level playing field,” commented Steve Mercieca.

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Vanessa has spent over 40 years working to pay for her travels. She believes fervently that words can create magic.

A PENNY SAVED is A PENNY EARNED They say it is as useful to save money that you already have as it is to earn more. Vanessa Macdonald, the communications coordinator of the Central Bank of Malta, explains the theory behind this. A penny saved is a penny earned: it may sound like great advice, but is anyone listening? A history lesson first: the phrase was first written not by an economist but a poet. According to, in 1640, George Herbert wrote in Outlandish Proverbs that a “penny spar’d is twice got”. The notion eventually worked its way into Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac in 1737, with the phrase tweaked to “a penny saved is a penny got”. The concept of saving when you can, has a basis in economics. The Life Cycle Hypothesis, which can be traced back to the 1950s work by Franco Modigliani and his student, Richard

Brumberg, is based on the concept that what people are after is a stable lifestyle with the same consumption levels across their lifetime, rather than living frugally and saving during one period merely to spend it all in another. Given the traditional pattern of people studying when they are young, having a family at around the time that their working life gets going, and then progressing in their careers until retirement, statistics have shown that people do tend to save during their working age, spending their savings in the early and retirement stages of the life cycle. Is this happening in practice? Definitely, and subsequent studies over the past years have not shown any dramatic changes, with one interesting point: that according to a survey carried out by the National Statistics Office (NSO), certain respondents that passed the retirement age, reported net income higher than expenditure with a resultant overall net savings. This implies that such respondents


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Chart 1 Median Saving Rates by Age Group of Reference Person

Chart 2 Median Saving Rates by Employment Status of Reference Person

(Median saving rate of category; percentage)

(Median saving rate of category; percentage)


23 15


8 15



-8 -15


-23 -30

-7.5 18–34





Employed / self-employed

The data was derived from two Household Budgetary Surveys (HBS) carried out by the National Statistics Office in 2008 and 2015. Households are represented in the survey by the so-called reference person – usually the main breadwinner. In households where the reference person was aged over 65, the savings rate was the second highest of all the age categories (see Chart 1). Households where the reference person is younger than 35 have the lowest savings rates, which then rise with age, peaking at the 55-64 age bracket. However, households with a reference person older than 65 still had the second highest saving rates, despite the dropin income that comes with retirement. Two possible reasons for this are the desire to leave some money for family to inherit, or precautionary saving to provide for the surviving spouse – which is relevant given that many of the households in this cohort depend on one pension as there was only one breadwinner. In fact, another interesting development was that households with a reference person aged 35-44 were managing to save money in 2015 – contrary to the situation in 2008. It



Source: NSO

are adjusting their consumption as their circumstances change, spending less than the decline in their income.


was noted that in the period between the two HBS, labour participation rose greatly in this age group, from 67.5% and 66.5% for the 35 to 39 and 40 to 44 year-old groups in 2008, to 82.1% and 78.4% respectively in 2015. This boost mainly reflected an increase in female participation following measures such as free childcare. Over all the age categories, households saved relatively twice as much in 2015 as in 2008 – from 8.7% in 2008, to 17.5% in 2015 – with the analysis finding that over those seven years their median incomes went up by more than the increase in their spending. The data threw up interesting information about people with mortgages. Mortgages are not considered as consumption expenditure in the context of the analysis, while the amount of money set aside for mortgage repayments is seen as an investment. Therefore, both in 2008 and 2015, households which had a mortgage were considered to be saving more than those who owned their properties outright. However, the categorisation of mortgage payments as saving, rather than consumption, is not the only factor. Both the HBSs indicated that owners with a mortgage tended to have a higher median income than owners without a mortgage. The analysis of the data also looked at the


employment status of the reference person, to see whether that also has an impact on saving. It seems common sense that someone who loses their job would decrease the amount that they save; however, the data confirmed that they also spend less. The Bank also observed a large shift in saving rates between 2008 and 2015 for households where the reference person was either unemployed or inactive, with the former HBS showing that people were eating into their past savings quite dramatically, while in 2015, it showed that they were still able to save, albeit to a much lower extent than other categories of households (see Chart 2). Another interesting point was the comparison between those who are employed and selfemployed, and those who are retired. The former have roughly double the income of the latter, but so is their consumption, meaning that the saving rates for the two categories are actually not that dissimilar. Looking at the overall findings, however, caution is warranted since aggregate figures can mask developments in the distribution across specific groups of households, and therefore, the need for micro level analysis when designing relevant policies is necessary. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Central Bank of Malta.

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Jordan Portelli on Deutsche Bank and its adverse effects on the financial system.



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Jordan is an economist and a portfolio manager for a local asset management company.

Going downhill can be exciting. The thrill and anxiety of not knowing what's next. That may be the case for several market illustrates or savvy bankers, still occupying the highest of positions at Deutsche Bank. Seeing the share price slide, and witnessing a continual decline, quarter after quarter, as the bank continues to post adverse results, and fails to recover from its unusual moves, undertaken a few years back. Known as one of Europe's largest banking institution and Germany's biggest lender, Deutsche Bank underwent significant changes, to recover from their foolish mistakes. The majority of which being related to regulatory issues and a product of reckless managerial abilities; matters which have undoubtedly tainted their reputation, in the financial world. The source of today’s catastrophe In the aftermath of the most recent global financial crisis, Deutsche Bank's earlier success began to unravel. Albeit knowing the credit quality of the underlying assets being collateralised and divided into tranches, with a varying degree of risk, Deutsche Bank was one of the largest purveyors of junk bonds, selling about $32bn worth of collateralised debt between 2004 and 2008. While promoting such debt to investors as

Investment Grade; debt of the highest credit quality, Greg Lippmann, Deutsche's former head of asset-backed securities trading, even referred to some bonds as "crap" and "pigs" in emails to colleagues. Aware of the credit quality of such underlying assets, Deutsche Bank's traders bet against the market to line their own pockets. This exploitation came home to roost in January 2014, when the German lender was forced to pay a $1.9bn settlement, to settle claims that it defrauded two US governmentcontrolled companies; Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, America's biggest providers of housing finance, into buying $14.2bn worth of mortgage-backed securities, prior to the 2008 financial crisis. The substantial figure broke the back of Deutsche's profit margins. That quarter, Deutsche Bank reported a $1.6bn pre-tax loss, heralding a loss-making era for the lender. Ensuing the latter, both losses and other lawsuits portraying the lack of regulatory conformity came thick and fast. In April 2015, Deutsche Bank was fined a record of $2.5bn for rigging Libor, by secretly conspiring with its competitors, ordered to fire seven employees partaking in the manipulation and accused of being obstructive towards regulators in their investigations into the global manipulation of the benchmark rate. Regarding the latter act of misconduct, Bill Baer, then assistant attorney general at

the United States Department of Justice Antitrust Division explained that it "not only harmed its unsuspecting counterparties, but it also undermined the integrity and the competitiveness of financial markets everywhere". The latter fine, combined with challenging market conditions led the bank to post a staggering $7.4bn loss for 2015. Are Sewing's interventions sufficient to avoid the inevitable? After years of grim financial results and an array of unsuccessful attempts to regain a spot among the world's top investment banks, Deutsche Bank undertook a change in management. The German powerhouse replaced its chief executive; John Cryan, with Christian Sewing, a switch that signalled a less ambitious future. Albeit the latter, newly appointed CEO; Sewing lead Deutsche Bank to report its first profit in four years. For the latter to be possible, decisive decisions had to be undertaken. In order to fundamentally rebuild Deutsche Bank, and thus steer the German powerhouse towards a new era, Christian Sewing implemented a turnaround plan. His initial efforts fell short. Merger talks with Commerzbank AG, a deal that would have probably restored investor confidence, went nowhere. Deutsche Bank’s CEO was left with no option but seek to radically shrink and →

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reshape Deutsche Bank's business across the globe, with job reductions a vital piece of the plan. Specifically, in July 2019, in a bid to reduce the bank's wage bill, and shrink its investment banking business, Sewing announced that he plans to cut a fifth of Deutsche Bank's workforce, leaving around 18,000 people without jobs. A move the struggling lender will undertake to reduce its global headcount to around 74,000 employees by 2022. To further transform its business model to become more profitable, improve shareholder returns, and thus drive long-term growth, Deutsche Bank aims to wind-down or dispose of a number of businesses, through a dedicated unit, which could leave the bank with billions of euros of assets it no longer wants. A move which is expected to free up capital. Albeit the need for the said restructuring plan, with potentially thousands of severance packages, the costs associated may indeed be significant. The substantial figure along with the current economic conditions, proving to be somewhat unfavourable for the banking industry at large, may possibly lead the bank towards a net loss for the year, and an immense disappointment for Sewing's team. Due to the systematic importance of the said banking institution, and the


interconnectedness in the banking industry at large, particularly given that the largest "too big to fail banks" in the United States and Europe, are "heavily financially interconnected" to Deutsche Bank, banking regulators should consider seriously its implications. Indeed, should Sewing's turnaround plan fail to pay dividends, the German powerhouse may indeed fail, leading towards a major crisis for the entire global financial system. The Bank’s struggles have emerged as a severe headache also for the German Government, which over the past years was quite supportive in pushing for Deutsche Bank to merge with Commerzbank, in order to consolidate the banking sector in Germany and possibly lessen the troubles that haunted both banks over the years. However, such merger would imply the need for a complete overhaul, including job losses, a move which might not be a good aid for any government. In January this year, Deutsche reported another huge loss for the three months ending 2019, citing important decisions of a well-planned restructuring plan in which it stated that 70 per cent was now executed. That said, even though a restructuring plan was imperative, other structural issues surrounding the economy might not be a supporting arm for the Bank to fully benefit from the implemented restructuring plan. At this juncture the Bank might need more than solely a restructuring plan, possibly Government intervention might be key. The ripple effect over the banking system on other banks if Deutsche Bank had to fail would be catastrophic. As with other banks, mismanagement and wrongdoings were key in undermining the bank’s reputation. However, the magnitude of consequences of having Deutsche bank’s reputation tainted and its ripple effect on the financial system might be currently unquantified by banking regulators. It’s evident; if Deutsche had to fail the banking industry at large will suffer collateral damage, not only other banks but also on the economy per se. It’s time for banking regulators to have more stringent timelines in order the safeguard the entire financial system. Let’s avoid another collapse, mainly from a reputational perspective.


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GREEN DEAL Maria Giulia Pace gives an insight of the European Commission’s proposals tied to the European Green Deal.




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Maria is an economist at EY Malta’s Climate Change and Sustainability Services.

Over 50 million European households are classified as energy poor, unable to afford energy for heating and cooking. Apart from recessionary pressures and rising energy prices, a key contributor is the poor energy efficiency of European buildings and appliances. Most building stock is designed, built or run ineffectively and inefficiently, including the use of old appliances, which lead to higher energy demand and high energy bills. Indeed, this energy inefficiency is leading to exceptionally high demand for energy. Statistics show that 40% of total energy demand in Europe comes from buildings, including home water boilers and heaters. And apart from high energy consumption, these inefficiencies are also leading to high carbon emissions. In a time when all nations seem to be racing each other to be the first carbon neutral, circular, environmentally conscious and sustainable economy, the current state of play is quite alarming. Aware of the inefficiency of the local homes and buildings, as well as the affordability issues attached to this issue, the European Commission has put together the recommendation of ‘building and renovating in an energy and resource efficient way’ as a major pillar of its 2019-2024 European Green Deal. Through this deal, the Commission is targeting carbon neutrality by 2050. One

of the major steps is that of renovating homes and replacing old appliances with more energy efficient ones. This will ensure that less energy is demanded, and energy consumption becomes more affordable for all households. Currently, the renovation rate of building stock in the EU is found to vary from 0.4% to 1.2%, depending on the Member State. Yet, it is believed that this should double to reach the EU’s energy efficiency and climate objectives. In Malta, a long-term strategy for mobilising investment in the renovation of the national stock of residential and commercial buildings (2017 and 2014) is already in place, but data indicates more can be done. Currently the

Maltese refurbishment rate forecasted for 2020 stood at 0.5%. Architectural renovations are less common than renovation trends such as installation of solar photovoltaic panels, change of old split-unit air conditioners and changes in light fixtures. These changes should be further encouraged and supported, since they lead to lower energy demand, lower emission rates and more affordable energy bills for both individuals and businesses alike. The use of secondary water systems can also be seen as a way of reducing energy consumption (given the way water of “produced” in Malta). The Green Deal will push the Commission, and in turn the Maltese authorities, to →

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ensure that the legislation for energy performance of buildings is applied and enforced. Indeed, Malta has the ‘Technical Document F – Minimum Energy Performance Requirements for Buildings in Malta’ issued in 2015, which should act as a basis to ensure that homes are truly being built in line with energy efficiency rules. Secondly, the markets will need to be further tuned to this new approach, whereby price differences incentivise energy-efficient buildings, and not the other way around. Ensuring that the right pricing signals are sent within the market will ensure that the consumers will opt to renovate their residences, since such an investment will translate into lower costs in the long-term. We are likely to see increased financial assistance in this area, targeting both individuals and corporates. Government incentives to renovate the building fabric (e.g. roof insulation and double glazing) and for renewable energy sources (e.g. PV panels installation and solar water heaters), as well as other grants such as ‘Restore your home’, are helpful to nudge consumers’ behaviour. The EU is also providing schemes through InvestEU to make sure that more renovations take place, especially for large blocks which could potentially enjoy economies of scale. Government can also set up systems to crowd in private sector investment, especially through credit institutions such as banks that provide green finance. For instance, the EU is piloting the Energy Efficient Mortgage Initiative, whereby banks will be operating a new green mortgage scheme. Some local banks already offer eco-loans, helping individuals to invest in energy saving products, such as solar panels, electric cars and reverse osmosis systems. Thirdly, it must be ensured that buildings follow a circular



economy model, both in terms of material as well as design. This might fall within the remit of the newly established Resource, Recovery and Recycling Agency (RRRA). Finally, measures to increase efficiency, digitisation and climate proofing of the building stock should also be ensured. This might include automatic light switches or simply the use of insulating paint for external walls and rooftops. These measures seem to be promising in ensuring that the building stock in Europe, and even more so in Malta, will become more efficient and lead to lower emissions. To further sustain this push towards more efficient buildings the EC will be developing a platform in 2020 whereby individuals working in the construction centre, engineers, architects and local authorities will be able to network and identify the best renovation initiatives, the major obstacles and the best solutions for the latter. Finally, the Commission is expected to provide greater renovations for schools, hospitals as well as social housing. In this way the authorities would be passing on a clear message of where the EU is headed and what is mostly expected from nations and the citizens. As we head towards more efficient buildings and homes, several benefits will be enjoyed by individuals, companies and society at large. The European Green Deal is an ambitious plan that should lead to buildings that consume less energy, thereby leading to lower energy bills, and greater selfsufficiency for individuals and businesses. On a national level, this lower energy demand will result in lower reliance on fossil fuels, lower carbon emissions and a greater chance of reaching the national target of carbon emissions and renewable energy sources.


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Manuel is a political blogger who writes for The Sunday Times and

FLAWED DEMOCRACY: is the roof going to drip? Political analyst Emanuel Delia outlines the various aspects of what weakens democracy and cites several cases which has led the democratic system in Malta to go to the dogs.

Let’s be clear: democracy is receding worldwide. When red stars were pulled down from the spires of the Kremlin someone could write with confidence that we had reached ‘the end of history’. Everyone wanted the free market and liberal democracy and those who weren’t there yet were well on the way. Freedom was seen as natural to the human experience as breathing. But the bursting of mad financial bubbles and ineffectual political structures in the face of a deregulated market gone wild has alienated popular support for democracy. Migration created resentment. The shifting of production sucked in to where costs are lower engendered fears. As the lights go out in many democracies, demagoguery takes over. Strong men who can bully dissenters, burn bridges and build walls attract admiration. If it’s broken, surely Donald can fix it. Malta is a microcosm of this inward collapse. Here too democracy has been replaced by

plebiscite which continues to concentrate power in the hands of a trusted honcho. The Economist recently downgraded Malta’s democracy from “full” to “flawed”. And yet political leaders are chosen by elections and enjoy convincing popular support. How is that flawed? The biggest flaw is confusing periodical voting with democratic life. It is far more complicated than that and perhaps it is useful to take a broader view of the ingredients of democracy and where these have degenerated over the past few years. The V-Dem Institute in Gothenburg suggests that the ingredients of democracy can be grouped in 12 main categories of which clean elections would be won. Our elections are largely free (1) but not without their problems. The distribution of constituencies makes it impractical for anyone not subscribing to either of the two main parties to get elected to parliament. No one has made the feat since 1962.

Digitisation and the ubiquitous Facebook in almost everyone’s life has sophisticated the business of misinformation. Public broadcasting is a government mouthpiece. The ‘private’ stations are owned by political parties transmitting contradictions that make a mockery of the truth. Political parties are financed by big business interests. Elections


may be free, but are they fair? And does the outcome make a real difference anyway if you’re not paying bills for political parties? Next is freedom of association (2). At face value this is unhindered in Malta. But trade union membership is declining and in part the sector is captured by the ruling party. Prodemocracy activism is seen with suspicion and public protest is accused of ‘treason’ or ‘hysteria’. There is little engagement between the government and civil rights organisations and campaigners for social justice or environmental conservation are largely ignored. Freedom of expression (3). This is a country where a journalist has been killed and the state has, at best, dragged its feet to get to the bottom of the case. Judicial harassment is mainstream. Journalists are exposed to international and ruinous strategic law suits. The government broadly ignores ‘freedom of information’ requests. Protest is suppressed and courts have recorded systematic breaches of fundamental freedoms. Equality before the law (4). The last few years have seen a breakdown in this aspect of democracy with one chief justice describing the state of play as ‘the rule of delinquents’. Connected people caught in crimes have been ignored by the police. Inveterate criminals got away with taking senior police chiefs on benders abroad. Evidence of government ministers laundering proceeds of crime has been ignored by the police. The broad perception is that the law only applies to those insufficiently connected with bent cops. Perception is not a falsehood and, in any case, when trust breaks down democracy cannot function. Judicial constraints on the executive (5). Can and will judges protect individuals when



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they are right and the government is wrong? The record is not encouraging. Malta’s senior courts have the worst record of having their decisions overturned by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Indeed, individuals who go to Europe to appeal decisions against them by Malta’s courts have a 90% rate of success. Perhaps that is because our judiciary is in awe of the government. The prime minister appoints judges and alone decides which of them get promoted and which languish in an eternal career rut.

gathered in a huge crowd in Valletta to praise their idol to high heaven and to virtually lynch in an angry public gathering the memory of a journalist who dared question him.

Consider that since 2013 the government picked an ex-Labour MP, a cabinet consultant to the Labour government, an ex-Labour international secretary, the husband of a Labour MEP, two Labour election candidates, an ex-Labour deputy leader’s daughter, two law office partners of two ex-Labour deputy leaders, an ex-Labour mayor, a daughter of an ex-Labour minister and the sister of a Labour minister for appointment or promotion in the judiciary. How likely are these to exercise constraint on the government they supported?

Polarisation has become so toxic that the deliberative space of our political discourse has degenerated seemingly beyond repair. Democratic deliberation (9) is the ability of people and groups to listen to each other and to reflect and respect mutual and differing values and concerns. Instead partisan propaganda is made of ‘us’ and ‘them’, hate speech is widely and systematically disseminated over social media and almost no one seems open to persuasion.

Legislative constraints on the executive (6). Can Parliament keep the government in check? Not when government employs most MPs and keeps them on its payroll. Consider that when Joseph Muscat resigned in disgrace over his handling of the Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination his parliamentary group unanimously thanked him and gave him a blank cheque to organise his own exit. Is power held by leaders or by populists (7)? Joseph Muscat’s administration was founded on the justification of a strong popular majority without restraint under the rule of law or even basic decency. Any crime, any scandal, any embarrassment was justified under the banner of “40,000”, the gap in the vote count between the two political parties at the last election. ‘Right or wrong’ gave way to ‘more or less’. And more always wins. Is society polarised (8)? Painfully, extremely, cruelly, yes. When Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed a number of journalists from around the world set up ‘the Daphne Project’ to help dig up the truth about why she was killed. The response of supporters of the government was ‘the Joseph Project’. On 1 May 2018 – six months after her killing – they

Tribalism is rife. Politicians justify without embarrassment that their priority is “to serve our people”, meaning not the entire community but the political tribe that supports them, thereby actively discriminating against conationals who do not.

It is not all hopeless. There does not seem to be any risk of a military coup (10). Political participation (11) is high with hundreds contesting local and national elections and thousands volunteer in the political process. Almost everyone votes. And discrimination (12) between women and men, Gozitans and mainlanders, northerners and southerners is increasingly negligible. Though discrimination against migrants amounts to ghettoization and total social and political exclusion and the gap between the richest and the poorest is getting regressively wider. This is not merely a snapshot of today’s reality. Taken as a measure against Malta’s state of democracy 10 years ago, even 20 or 30, it is an erosion and a regression of our democratic state of play. The question is whether this is a trend that will continue to spiral downwards or whether we have the will to fix the roof and rebuild our democratic home. Sadly, the answer is in the fact that that the weaknesses we have – state capture of institutions, restrictions on media freedoms, tribal polarisation – are the best ingredients that you need if you want democracy to fail.

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Elise is a creative writer by trade and a literature graduate by degree. She works at Switch Digital and Brand as a copywriter and trend-watcher, and likes keeping herself up to date with everything digital, internet and informational.

TOMORROW'S VOICE Elise Dalli on how consumers leverage technology for convenience, and what it means for businesses. In 1989, BBC ran ‘Tomorrow’s World’, a prediction for how homes in 2020 would look like. In an interview, researcher Christine MacNulty stated that the homes of the future will have ‘all the benefits of modern technology, but without all this cluttered and complex gadgetry we have today. They’ll want homes that work for them’. The year is now 2020, and smart home tech is on the rise. Market penetration for smart home technology is currently 9.3%, however by 2024, it’s estimated that 19.3% of homes globally will be smart. In the United States, the smart home market amounts to a US$90,968million revenue; impressive considering that the term ‘smart home’ only started trending in its current iteration some two years ago.

Autonomous cars, self-timing ovens, lights that dim and light up at the sound of your voice: the smart home reality is now, and consumers are seeking more ways to make it theirs. IKEA’s ‘Home Smart’ system is one approach: underneath their tagline ‘see, hear, feel’, IKEA markets their products as a way to let your life run smoothly, with the option of selecting what parts of your home to make ‘smart’, and what part of it to leave lo-fi. Initially, IKEA’s ‘home smart system’ was relegated to bare-bone items: speakers, lights, blinds that reacted to voice activation. Today, IKEA’s ‘Home Smart’ system offers more, precisely from the point of view where you don’t expect to find smart tech. With




its smart home system, IKEA designs the furniture first, and then figures out how to marry technology with that furniture design at a price point that is accessible to everyone, not just technological savants who already own something similar and are looking for an upgrade. However, there’s also another reality of the hyperconnected world that businesses must contend with, and it’s the rise of voice search. While voice search has been around for a while, recently the uptick in using voice search or digital assistants such as Alexa and Siri has meant that the tried and tested methods of SEO are changing. It is still considerably difficult to programme machines to plan for user intent, one of the fundamentals of search, however in 2019, Google updated their algorithm with an update known as ‘Hummingbird’, which considered semantic search, or implied meaning - basically, user intent. Why now? Smart home technology isn’t new: it has been on the market since 1998, and predicted as early as the 1900s. Washing machines, water heaters, refrigerators and clothes dryers are all a form of smart home tech, just scaled back to fit the technological capabilities of their time, circa 1900s. There are two reasons for why smart home tech is resurging in 2020, and it’s all to do with the way consumer behaviour has changed. The ever-constant chase for convenience, plus the modern capabilities of technological advancement, has positioned smart devices in a very beneficial light. Consumers are used to connection and ease. Apple’s ‘Siri’, the iPhone’s voice assistant, changed the game for smart-phone users, bringing to stark reality a side of the market that hadn’t been considered prior to its inception: that people want to be able to communicate with their technology as hands free as possible. Voice assistants in the United States alone were up 9.5% from 2018, and are only projected to increase in popularity. Some 77% of consumers’ rate ‘convenience’ as their highest value when it comes to dealing with brands, which only escalates the more technology advances and immediacy becomes the norm rather than the outlier.

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Where does this leave marketers? The rise of this kind of technology has wider implications for the rest of the industry. Brands can no longer rely that their consumer base is going to wait the requisite 24 hours or more for a response; with the creation of the ‘always online’ immediacy culture, that kind of time-frame might as well be a year. Thus, chatbots are showing increased usage across the board in multiple industries. Besides the fact that chatbots can cut operational costs by 30%, it’s predicted that chatbots will carry out 85% of customer interaction without the need for a human agent by 2021. Furthermore, over 1.4 billion people now use chatbots on a regular basis. Right alongside chatbot penetration, marketers also must deal with another offshoot of the smart technology movement: voice search. Voice search is what makes smart technology work. Ask your computer to turn off the lights, play your favourite song, and order food, and your computer will do all of that for you, based just on your voice. Google has already revealed that over 20% of all searches happen over voice, and that 46% of smart speaker owners use voice search assistant to find businesses near them every day. Similarly, according to Statista, over 31% of smartphone users worldwide use voice tech at least once a week. Brands who leverage voice technology offer consumers convenience and play into the expectation that consumers have for an always-online brand. Furthermore, voice search can work in tandem with chatbot marketing to open up the avenues for actual marketing. Remember the show Mr Robot? Amazon released an Alexa Skill that allowed users to extend episodes and turn them into an interactive story game, which won the company a Webby award in 2019. Consumers are increasingly spending time on voice marketing channels, and brands which can tap into that market are in a prime position to place themselves at the top of the food chain. The future is automated. It’s also here to stay, no matter what nostalgia and the good old days tell you.

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Stüssy Fringed checked twill scarf. €65

Nike Air Tailwind 79 Shell, Suede and Leather Sneakers. €90

WHAT MONEY CAN BUY Here’s where you’ll get a first look at the latest new-season clothing. All items available from

Off-White Arrow polycarbonate carry-on suitcase. €725

SAINT LAURENT Slim-fit distressed denim jeans. €550

TOM FORD Cotton-twill field jacket. €2,990



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Dolce & Gabbana Printed silk-twill pocket square. €110

RRL Leather holdall. €995

Prada Slim-fit cottonpoplin shirt. €350 Alexander McQueen Logo-embroidered cotton-jersey t-shirt. €270 Polo Ralph Lauren Bear-intarsia wool sweater. €400

Gucci Jordaan horsebit burnished-leather loafers. €595

Rolex GMT-Master II Oyster, 40 mm, steel and gold. €13,700 Burberry Checked merino wool-blend sweater. €690

Available from Edwards Lowell Co. Ltd T: (+356) 2138 4503

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Conrad is an economist by profession but has over a decade of experience in the men’s clothing trade. He now splits his energies in-between his two passions: tech and fashion.


GOOD OLD POUCH Conrad Buttigieg outlines 6 bum bags to choose from depending on your budget. Some call it ‘pouch’ others call it ‘belt bag’ or ‘cross body’, whichever title you choose, this accessory has made a comeback. Synonymous with 90s beach life and party-goers, this bag is gradually becoming popular. Primarily thanks to streetwear (this is probably the most casual of bags a guy can carry around), the increasing amount of gadgets (inc. battery packs) and new transportation methods (i.e. would you use a messenger bag on an electric scooter?). Ultimately, behind many trends there lies a practical element too. Here is a roundup of the latest in cheap vs expensive, classic vs forward thinking ‘bum bags’.



Back in 2015, Conrad started working on Vestis.AI, a digital personal shopper and private stylist app powered through a combination of AI and human creativity which is scheduled to launch in 2020’s second quarter. If you would like to become a test-user visit and follow the instructions.


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1 — Aspirational Astronaut The branding of a government authority, as fashion gear, has never been desirable. There is one exception though, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration aka NASA. There seems to be a renewed interest in being geared in NASA stuff. H&M in fact carries a full range, including the pouch shown here. We particularly love the grey, orange black mix of colours. €20 / 6

2 — Mr Louboutin This is one snazzy belt bag to carry around. Possibly ‘bum bag’ is a more appropriate description to use, for some reason. Feels luxurious (the classic notion I mean) and of course, being Louboutin it had to be red. The ‘spikes’ (studs) coupled with the subtle logo (in the same nylon waistband) adds that touch. Not for everyone, maybe one needs to ‘be able to carry it’ before even thinking of buying. If you can handle it, then, why not, just splash them. €1085 /

4 — Ladies please This is from the section of the ladies but would equally look great on a guy IMO. The contrast created between the black metal logo and the quilted leather is simple but intriguing. The shape is also pretty cool for a ‘pouch’ and maybe that is where some chaps might shy away. Quality, we needn’t discuss, should be ‘expected as standard’ at such a price point and for such a reputable brand. Elegant, smart belt bag for a classic (but modern) gent. Aka as the ‘lou bag’. €850 /


3 — Elegant Suede Particularly odd material choice for a handheld leather bag, many luxury labels propose such leather goods in traditional (polished) leather, typically in dark shades also. Proposing a suede pouch, even more so, in a beige shade is pretty unique for this product category. This piece by Tom Ford deserves a mention, it’s different, in a subtle way. The metal zipper is also a nice addition. €1390 /

5 — Metallic ‘Innerraum’ Interesting pouch, purely and exclusively designed to ‘carry’ sunglasses or specs (which are hopefully equally valuable) unless you just want to make an impression during your next trip to one of the ‘cool’ party islands, no need to mention where. Apart from all this, I eagerly invite you to check out this new Berlin-based label ‘Innerraum’ (and the design duo behind it), they have a unique way of approaching leather goods and more. Never seen anything like this before. €490 /


6 — Detail is in the metal Metal trimmings have always been deemed as a secondary design element of most bags, the leather/fabric and shape come first, typically. Yet, the beauty of this ‘cross-body’ bag is in these same metal trimmings, the ‘Y’ shaped detail is ‘odd’ in a nice way. As for the colour black and the soft calf leather finish, both are very much Rick Owens. Nice piece. €1156 /

Jacket, shorts by Armani Jeans at The Point, Sliema

PHOTOGRAPHER Marvin Grech STYLIST Peter Carbonaro

MODEL Yannick at Models M

All items by Charles & Ron

All items by Charles & Ron

All items by Charles & Ron

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


The Bluesman says it's high time side-effects caused by manufactured drugs are replaced with THC and CBD when it comes to treating certain conditions. I was never a morning person really. The summer school-holiday mornings I spent lying in till noonish, if marked off, would black out swathes of calendar space making them look like documents reluctantly released by the DoJ which, of late, have been heavily redacted. I don’t think it had anything to do with preferring a night life, I may well have gravitated to preferring staying up than getting up, naturally. Gosh, just when your development needs your beauty sleep you’re

being dragged awake to grab a cuppa and off to the school bus. In retrospect, I would say I did enjoy my school days. After chapel and breakfast, I felt ready to deal with the day. Especially after myself and a couple of cronies discovered the location of the teachers’ pot of strong, sweet, coffee in the kitchen. But what does this school thing mean in our lives? Not quite a cave up in the mountains with the benign Centaur, skilled in the healing

arts, Chiron, clattering up and down between his students among whom such luminary figures from Greek Mythology as Ajax, Theseus, Achilles, Jason [of Argo fame] and Perseus but a more formalized arrangement where groups of pupils under the tutelage of groups of persons, hopefully qualified, to impart the knowledge they possess about a subject. But the school in general and teachers in particular are considered to be ‘in loco parentis’, meaning they substitute


for parents in the environs of the pergula/ scholae. And herein could lie the rub.

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As parents, we entrust our children to this place for about eight hours a day - for around 180 days in the US. The school year is based around the agrarian calendar so your school kids can work the family farm during the summer. You thought we had heard it all from grandparents who would talk about walking two miles to school uphill in both directions and carry a sack of provisions on the way back?

narcolepsy, depression and chronic fatigue. It’s a stimulant used to tackle hyperactivity. What kind of devil’s magic is this? Among the side-effects can be nervousness, insomnia and anorexia. This penchant to turn to nonnatural remedies has resulted, for instance, and albeit treating pain management, in an opioid epidemic. Over time, mistrust in medication builds and many adult sufferers choose to self-medicate with the Devil’s Weed rather than mess with the preparations that have so many side-effects.

Here’s something to think about. Even a wellmatched set of parents might have different ideas, tolerances and attitudes about many topics including what kind of people they would like their children to grow up to be.

I wonder what the control and treatment of illnesses would currently look like had mankind, spurred on by the patriarchal religions, not decimated the ‘wise women’ healers by accusing them of malevolence and

sexually vulnerable and easy prey for demons: “What else is a woman but a foe to friendship?” wrote the monks. “They are evil, lecherous, vein [sic], and lustful. All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which is, in women, insatiable.” Shades of Eden much? By the time the great plague had been through several incarnations in the mid-1600s hysteria was at fever [sorry] pitch. One third of the population in England and Europe had succumbed to it and a systemic eradication of women suspected and accused of witchcraft and causing the disease, spread throughout the Continent. Mostly in France and Germany [where some towns ended up with no


Of course, a course to success naturally, but one parent might think it a corporate lifestyle while the other would prefer the child follow his or her muse into the creative arts. Teachers are supposed to hover and guide but they have subconscious and subjective ideas about the best track to pursue too, and that’s if all works as planned. What happens when the child doesn’t fit into the pre-conceived pattern? The teaching staff assumes he/she is being obdurate. The kid is labelled, worried parents dragged into meetings to discuss this and horrors, medication is touted as the cure-all. During my stint as a music teacher I’d have occasion to come across students on medication, purportedly for ADD and ADHD. Some of them acted like it was a badge of, I don’t know, being different from the crowd? Maybe all it was is that they were bored with the level and pace of the instruction. The drug of choice is also used to treat

being the devil’s minions? Ancient civilisations worshipped many female deities and women were priestesses and practitioners of the holy rituals. These women were considered wise and positive figures consulted by kings and queens. They made house calls [try asking for that nowadays] delivered babies and treated infertility and impotence. Was it the spread of the male warrior and gods of war that overcame the female deities and the female influence? The defeat of Amazonian cultures? More likely, when we consider the history, the fact that the spread of a male-centric, monotheistic religion with a creation story weirdly exclusionary of women became widespread. Witchcraft was condemned and considered dangerous and prohibited as a pagan practice. After all, as the Inquisitors Springer and Kramer [not a comedy act] were to write centuries later in their Malleus Maleficarum [the ‘how-to’ of witch-hunting] witches, as women, were

women left]. England had a self-proclaimed Witchfinder General mainly operating in East Anglia. But of course, it wasn’t the devil, it was fleas. We are finding out all over again as natural remedies proliferate once more, that maybe the old ways were the best. And why not? They were proven over countless centuries. We marvel when we see animals treating their own ailments with various plants yet we don’t allow for human tradition to have picked out similar cures over the vast period we’ve been around. Am I suggesting we treat school children with marijuana? No, but the use of THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) is becoming more acceptable and used in various treatments. It may well be time to stop dosing one and all with manufactured drugs often with sideeffects that knowingly or unknowingly are frequently hidden and erupt like time bombs. Or plague?

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During the renovation works carried out in this typical Maltese townhouse, Vivendo worked with architect Noemi Della Pieta to select multiple furniture pieces based on the Lux design. According to Noemi, “We entrusted Vivendo because we think that, especially with reference to office spaces, it is one of the best companies on the island for delivering quality products and reliability".



The townhouse was outfitted with Newform executive desks, Quinti’s bookcases, vinyl flooring in a wooden finish, and custom-made furniture for the reception area and executive office.

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Architect: Noemi Della Pieta and Eve Degiorgio; Firm: Eve Degiorgio Architects; Execution: Vivendo, Mdina Road, Qormi;

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