Page 1

THE COMMERCIAL/71

COURIER THE OFFICIAL BUSINESS MAGAZINE OF THE MALTA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, ENTERPRISE AND INDUSTRY SINCE 1947

APRIL / MAY 2017

A unique office space

Marrying function, simplicity and aesthetic appeal

NEWSPAPER POST GOLD COLLABORATING PARTNERS

IN THIS ISSUE INTRODUCING THE NEW MALTA CHAMBER PRESIDENT / TRANSPORT MINISTER JOE MIZZI ON WHAT IS BEING DONE TO IMPROVE TRAFFIC IN MALTA / BUSINESSEUROPE PRESIDENT EMMA MARCEGAGLIA TALKS EU PRESIDENCY AND THE FUTURE OF INDUSTRY / STEFANO MALLIA DISCUSSES BREXIT AND WHAT’S IN STORE FOR EUROPE / SIX WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR PROFITABILITY IN 2017 / FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHER ALEX ATTARD FINDS INDIVIDUALITY IN THE MUNDANE / THE LATEST BUSINESS NEWS


THE COMMERCIAL/71

COURIER APRIL / MAY 2017

109.

food trends

14.

14 COVER STORY 10 PRIORITIES FOR NEW CHAMBER PRESIDENT

118.

The newly elected President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry Frank V. Farrugia outlines 10 priorities for Malta’s leading business organisation.

43 INTERVIEW BREXIT AND THE FUTURE OF EUROPE Jo Caruana meets Stefano Mallia, one of three rapporteurs on the Brexit Advisory Group appointed by the Employers Group within the European Economic and Social Committee, to discuss how things may turn out in the aftermath of Brexit.

21 BUSINESS SIX WAYS TO IMPROVE PROFITABILITY IN 2017 Marie-Claire Grima looks at different ways to improve bottom-line profit.

27 IN FIGURES FOREIGNERS IN MALTA… IN NUMBERS

78 DESIGN TRENDS AN ECLECTIC FUNCTIONALITY

78.

A look into the figures related to foreigners in Malta.

35 INTERVIEW

28 COVER STORY

President of BusinessEurope Emma Marcegaglia chats with Martina Said about the progress of the Maltese Presidency, the biggest challenges facing European businesses, and the potential aftershocks still to be felt by Brexit.

PUTTING A STOP TO MALTA’S TRAFFIC CONGESTION Following the National Transport Strategy 2050 and Transport Masterplan 2025, Sarah Micallef speaks to the Transport Minister, Malta Chamber Director General and Malta Business Bureau CEO to find out what lies ahead for Malta’s congested roads.

49.

style review

“EUROPE IS NOT THE PROBLEM, IT IS THE SOLUTION”

E

Steven Risiott and Patricia Grech from A Collective walk Sarah Micallef though the recently completed offices of translation company GTS, in Valletta.

118 MEET THE ARTIST FINDING BEAUTY IN THE ORDINARY Fine art photographer Alex Attard recounts his photographic journey with Martina Said.

stablished in 1947, The Commercial Courier is the official magazine of the The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry. It is the leading business magazine, having one of the best distribution channels in the sector. The publication is distributed for free to the members of the The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry. It is also distributed with The Malta Business Weekly as well as delivered to leading business people on the island.

The Exchange, Republic Street, Valletta VLT1117 Tel: +356 2123 3873 Fax: +356 2124 5223 info@maltachamber.org.mt www.maltachamber.org.mt

Articles appearing in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry.

Publisher

All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission of the publishers is strictly prohibited.

Editor

Kevin J. Borg Editorial Coordinators

Sarah Micallef Edward Bonello Content House Ltd Mallia Building, 3, Level 2, Triq in-Negozju, Mriehel BKR3000 Tel: +356 2132 0713 info@contenthouse.com.mt www.contenthouse.com.mt

PUBLICATION Sales MANAGER

Matthew Spiteri ADVERTISING Sales EXECUTIVES

Jean Mark Meli Bernard Schranz Matthew Sciriha sales coordinators

Lindsey Napier Doreen Calleja Tel: +356 2132 0713 Printer

Progress Press Ltd Design

Antoinette Micallef ant@box-design.net

ON THE COVER Detail of the reception at the GTS offices by A Collective. Photo by Alex Attard.

Malta chamber’s bronze collaborating partners APRIL / MAY 2017

09


CC Editorial

A memorable Presidency The UK’s triggering of Article 50, a string of terrorist attacks, the political instability in neighbouring regions and the resulting migration issues have rendered Malta’s first Presidency of the European Union extremely eventful and extraordinary.

H

owever, our country also had the honour to preside over the celebrations of the EU’s 60-year anniversary last March. At these thoughtprovoking times for international politics, it remains in our interest to ensure that 60 years on, the Union remains relevant and continues to improve the lives of its present and future citizens. At this historic juncture, we are offered

APRIL / MAY 2017

the opportunity to think of the future of this economic and political bloc. A white paper issued by the European Commission on this occasion offers five very different scenarios for Europe by 2025, depending on the policy decisions taken today. At these crossroads, the Chamber unequivocally remains a staunch supporter of the European Union and Malta’s membership.

“Efforts on a legislative level have seen the Malta-led Council reach agreements on a number of challenging dossiers, namely the portability of online content in the Union and ending roaming charges.”

11


CC Editorial The Chamber regards the discussion triggered by this document as an opportunity to remove the concept of ‘one-size-fitsall’ which is the common denominator of all European regulation – because, as the Chamber has said innumerable times, onesize does not fit all. Within this context, the Chamber applauds the sterling work carried out by the Government in leading the Presidency. Efforts on a legislative level have seen the Malta-led Council reach agreements on a number of challenging dossiers, namely the portability of online content in the Union and ending roaming charges. Substantial work is also underway in the areas of consumer protection, emissions trading, anti-tax avoidance, security of gas supply and geoblocking.

The Presidency has also served to truly place Malta on Europe’s political map. Our Chamber has been invited to participate in a number of exclusive boards and fora such as BusinessEurope’s Vice President Committee and Executive Board, as well as the Council’s Tripartite Social Summit. The Chamber’s preparations for the upcoming COPRES meeting, BusinessEurope’s bi-annual high level meeting for the presidents of all member federations, are well underway and shall ensure that an occasion of such importance is successful, memorable and effective. During the two-day summit in May, the Chamber shall be forwarding Malta’s businesses’ aspirations for a fairer and better connected Europe. We shall also be underscoring their concerns in their day-to-

“During the two-day summit in May, the Chamber shall be forwarding Malta’s businesses’ aspirations for a fairer and better connected Europe.”

12

day operations. We want to promote the idea that the social and competitiveness agendas are not at loggerheads, but can live side by side and complement each other. The social agenda needs a healthy economy on which to rely, while the economy thrives when society leads a content and satisfying life. Ultimately the Chamber shall be making the case for Maltese businesses on the most prestigious and influential platform of its kind – a platform that the Chamber is privileged to currently be its Vice President. This Presidency and its related fora are an opportunity to leave a mark on the European Union on behalf of Maltese businesses. The Chamber believes that what business wants is a European society in which peace, freedom, tolerance and solidarity remain core values. It is with these values in mind that we strive to change the Union to remain relevant and to answer to the challenges of tomorrow, in order to have the opportunity to create better lives for our children. cc

APRIL / MAY 2017


CC COVER STORY

10 priorities for new Chamber President The newly elected President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry Frank V. Farrugia has outlined 10 priorities for Malta’s leading business organisation that he intends to focus on, including strengthening Malta’s competitiveness, solving the mismatch between workforce and market demands and safeguarding businesses from detrimental political and economic developments in Malta and beyond. In extensive comments to The Commercial Courier, the new Malta Chamber President elaborates on his ambitious priorities for his term in office.

2. Consolidating and strengthening the Chamber’s position “I want to ensure that the projects and issues taken up by the Chamber are in line with business needs. My first priority will be to provide value-added services to members primarily through the initiatives on offer via our Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) project but also through our established communication channels. In the past 14

18 months, we delivered our new online communication channels as well as our EEN work plan for 2015-16 with good financial results for the Chamber. The European Commission has now approved the work plan for the next two years from which I hope to attain even better results in terms of revenue and services to members.” 3. Protecting the business community against the threat of complacency “Our country is doing well from an economic point of view, and the recently announced results cannot be but welcomed in terms of GDP growth, employment figures and public finance consolidation. However, as we have been saying all along, we musn’t stop for a second and grow complacent. The country is facing challenges all the same and we must pay greater attention to detail in order to foresee the challenges of tomorrow. I intend to maintain focus on our core business of making policy recommendations in favour of a competitive and favourable environment for business to generate economic growth, and of ensuring regular external communications to members and other business and economic stakeholders to position the Chamber as the principal voice of the business community in Malta.”

Photos by Alan Carville

1. Fostering a more cooperative and inclusive system within the Chamber “I am a firm believer in inclusive leadership and I shall be seeking the widest possible participation of members in leading and representing the organisation. My appeal to fellow members is for them to come forward with their ideas and with their contributions to the aims of the Chamber. Our organisation can only be as strong as the number of active members behind it. I also wish for the Chamber to engage in a reach-out programme of existing and potential members. I think it is important to ask our existent as well as potential members about their level of satisfaction with their experience of the Chamber, and what other services or issues they would like us to tackle.”

APRIL / MAY 2017


CC COVER STORY

“The country is facing challenges all the same and we must pay greater attention to detail in order to foresee the challenges of tomorrow.� APRIL / MAY 2017

15


CC COVER STORY 4. Building upon existing active labour market policy “During the last few years, measures such as free childcare for working parents, inwork benefits for the long-term unemployed who return to the labour market, the reduction in income tax for the higher income earners, the establishment of a maternity leave trust fund, and incentives for people with a disability to join the workforce have all had a positive impact. All this combined with a remarkable economic performance led to an unemployment rate currently standing at 4.5 per cent, well below the EU average. Malta has undergone a major transformation in terms of labour market developments in the past years, and this change was only able to come about as a result of the policy makers’ recognition that active labour market policies are more effective in the long term.” 5. Bridging the gap between labour market needs and the workforce available “Our biggest challenge in terms of human resources right now is labour shortages, both in terms of numbers as well as the

16

skills and competencies available. In my opinion, public authorities should work hand in hand with social partners and employment agencies to ensure that active labour market policies are effective in matching labour market needs with the available workforce. Coherent strategies need to include retraining opportunities as well as unemployment benefit systems that balance the rights and duties of the unemployed, and ones which prevent the unemployed from becoming dependent on social systems.”

Malta has undergone a major transformation in terms of labour market developments in the past years, and this change was only able to come about as a result of the policy makers’ recognition that active labour market policies are more effective in the long term.

6. Continuously pursuing national competitiveness “In achieving the deficit surplus, Government has significantly reduced capital expenditure. Such a decline in expenditure, we fear, could hamper our competitiveness and chances of future growth. The Malta Chamber expects there to be a surge in capital investment that aims to secure competitiveness and growth in the long term, particularly while much of the country’s infrastructure continues to fall short of the standards expected of a developed and rapidly growing country with great aspirations.”

APRIL / MAY 2017


CC COVER STORY 7. Increasing social benefits in line with increased productivity “It is essential that any increase in wages and increases in social costs and benefits, which we should not be against, should be in line with increases in productivity. If businesses are to invest to raise productivity they also need to earn a return on that investment. Any wage cost increase beyond productivity gains would threaten one’s competitiveness in the global economy.” 8. Reiterating the Chamber’s proposed solution to the Air Malta crisis “The national airline, Air Malta, is at a crucial point in its existence. As a Chamber, we have always insisted that the importance of the national airline is not only linked to the tourism sector but also the remainder of the economy as thousands of business operations including industry and services. Manufacturing for example, depends on the efficient and competitive airfreight links for the inward just-in-time transportation of raw materials and outbound exports. In this light I reiterate our proposal to Government for a long-term solution for the airline based on three main pillars; namely, the reduction of operational costs; the rectification of the company’s current financial situation and settling all of its debts; and the division of the company’s shareholding into three parts. A third would be retained by the Government, a third would be sold off to an international strategic partner which is involved in the aviation sector and a third would be offered to the local private sector through the Malta Stock Exchange.” 9. Remaining vigilant about international economic and political developments “The formal triggering of Article 50, and the imminent Election on 8th June, have thickened the plot even further as Brexit remains a major unknown quantity and completely new ground for all stakeholders to tread on. At this point in time, very little can be said about the subject, especially since real talks on Brexit will most likely only start after the upcoming General Election in the UK, but there will surely be changes within the European Union as a major political and economic block. The results will also be felt in the way we conduct business in Malta and with our international partners.” 10. Defending businesses against harmful and unsustainable electoral promises “In less than a year, we shall be in full election mode, and both Government and the Opposition will be busy electioneering. This will be taking place within the context of a booming economy – which still has its pockets of concern, as detailed above – and an international scenario that can be described as tricky at best. Our appeal remains sound. Political parties should not engage in a race to out-bid each other in making electoral promises that are unsustainable and potentially detrimental to the country’s future economic growth. As a Chamber we shall remain vigilant and promote the interests of our members and the values of competitiveness-driven economic growth.” cc APRIL / MAY 2017

19


CC BUSINESS

Six ways to improve profitability in 2017 Bottom-line profit is what produces opportunities for your company’s future growth and expansion, and it has to be kept within healthy margins year after year. Marie-Claire Grima looks at the different areas where there might be room for improvement.

01.

Take a close look at what is really generating money What are the products and services that are making you the most money? Do you know which product or service will give you the best value-added at the end of the day? Unfortunately, many business people tend to measure a product profitability by the turnover related to their particular product or service, but have you really looked into the cost structure and examined its real value-added? Our advice is to analyse the value-added on the products and see how they are contributing to the company’s overall bottom line. Adjust accordingly.

02.

Control expenses If left to their own devices, you may find that your expenses have spiralled beyond your means. Take action immediately before this happens. Review costs, including your relationships with suppliers. Have their prices risen since you first contracted them? Have you approved the initial cost structure but the nature of the product has since changed and you’re trusting their quotes without checking what another supplier would charge you? Could you find a better deal elsewhere? What about your staff? Do your accounts tally with your expenditure? Conduct an internal audit if you suspect that there may be any case of wastage, negligence or fraud. You may also find that you may need to trim the fat if you’re using more resources than you need.

APRIL / MAY 2017

21


CC BUSINESS

04.

Do less and sell more

03.

It’s likely that there are opportunities for growth that are being underused or overlooked, which you could use to sell more, but there’s also the possibility that a lot of effort is being expended on dead-end leads. Don’t sell to the unmotivated and qualify your contacts – jumping at any chance to sell will result in wasted time, resources and energy. Instead, focus on making life easier for existing clients as well as those who seem interested. Make the first move but make it personal. Learn more about them and make the best use of their time by calling whenever you know they’ll be more receptive. Create a schedule of follow-ups to start with at the end of the day. Develop iron-clad payment agreements with your customers to minimise collection costs and uncollectible accounts. It doesn’t matter how much you sell if you don’t collect.

Increase margins There are only three options when it comes to increasing margins: prices have to be raised, the cost of goods has to be lowered or both at the same time. Review the margins on all the products and services you sell at least once a year. After you review the margins, pick an optimal time to raise your prices – possibly one when your product or service is in higher demand. Analyse the percentage of price increase on each individual item, rather than implementing an across-the-board price increase. While raising prices may seem like a difficult and possibly unwise decision to take, it has been found that customers are generally quite tolerant to price increases – as long as the increases are commensurate with those of other retailers and products – go higher, but not higher than your rivals. You’re also less likely to lose customers if you have a good quality relationship with your customers, so make sure you take every opportunity to strengthen those links.

22

APRIL / MAY 2017


CC BUSINESS

05.

Leverage the information you have on clients Keep track of customer purchases and create a customer database if you don’t have one already. It is often said that 20 per cent of customers will generate 80 per cent of sales. With information from a customer database, you can offer top clients bonuses and incentives to make sure their business stays with you. There’s also the option of creating a referral system where existing customers are rewarded for sending new customers your way. Not only does this help you maintain quality customer relationships, but it also increases profits by obtaining new customers through old ones.

APRIL / MAY 2017

06.

Seek not just add-on sales, but a new niche Add-on sales encourage a customer to upgrade or increase the value of their purchase, and these can be a good way to improve your profit margins. However, above and beyond that, you should also seek to find a niche for your business that is not easily replicable. If you offer a product or a service that is difficult to copy, be it something that’s hard to find within the local market, or simply a speciality using tools or skill sets that not many people have access to, you’ll find that you have created a whole new consumer market that will find it hard to migrate to another supplier or service provider.

25


CC in IN INTERVIEW figures FIGURES

IN Figures

Foreigners in Malta

19,317 25,115 2,964 3,507

The number of EU nationals working on the island.

1

The largest number of nonEU nationals live in Sliema.

2,429

Libyans form the largest group of non-EU nationals with a residence permit.

Only a single person each from the following list of countries enjoy a Maltese residence permit: Barbados, Benin, Fiji, El Salvador, Honduras, the UAE and Zambia.

St Paul’s Bay closely follows Sliema as the second-most popular place for non-EU nationals.

1,628

9

13,000

People from the Philippines form the second-largest cohort, closely followed by Russians (1,617).

The number of non-EU nationals working in Malta and Gozo.

The number of expats who settled in Malta in 2015.

387 40,000

The number of non-EU nationals registered as self-employed persons.

The estimated increase in Malta’s population by 2055, driven by foreigners.

Source: Malta International Airport APRIL / MAY 2017

27

Source: Gozo In Figures, National Statistics Office, Malta

9,042

The percentage of Malta’s population comprised of people from the UK alone.

Sources: Parliamentary Questions, NSO, Eurostat

The number of non-EU residents living in Malta.


CC COVER STORY

Putting a stop to Malta’s traffic congestion The traffic situation in Malta has reached unprecedented levels over recent years, with Transport Minister Joe Mizzi going so far as to say that traffic is costing the Maltese economy €200 million in GDP a year – a figure that will increase to €1.2 billion by 2050, unless current policies are changed. In the wake of the recently announced and European Commission approved National Transport Strategy 2050 and Transport Masterplan 2025, Sarah Micallef speaks to the Transport Minister, Malta Chamber Director General and Malta Business Bureau CEO to find out their take, and what lies ahead for Malta’s congested roads.

Kappara Junction Visual

“T

ransport is an essential part of our daily life,” says Transport Minister Joe Mizzi, maintaining that, apart from commuting to work, the Maltese also generate other trips for recreational and commercial activities. “Today, 20 per cent of households have more than three cars. Malta has one of the highest population densities in the world and the size of the island is comparable to a mediumsized city. In view of this, traffic has been increasing by 2.3 per cent p.a. since 1990. Government has of course recognised this challenge and is doing its best to address it,” Minister Mizzi affirms. It has been reported that traffic is costing the Maltese economy €200 million in GDP a year and this will increase to €1.2 billion by 2050 unless current policies are changed. From a business point of view, Malta Chamber Director General Kevin J. Borg warns that the inefficiency of Malta’s transportation infrastructure and the severe traffic congestion are resulting in lack of productivity and a socio-economic cost which is bound to increase as the problem becomes exponentially larger. “The congestion is taking its toll on the cost-effectiveness of many businesses’ operations,” he maintains. “The Chamber is highly disappointed that 28

the last Budget included very little incentives to address this growing problem, especially after Transport Malta’s recent launch of the National Transport Strategy and

Masterplan, which the Chamber welcomed. The Chamber expected the Budget to contain a plethora of measures that aim to alleviate traffic congestion and enhance the

Marsa Junction Visual

APRIL / MAY 2017


CC COVER STORY island’s transport infrastructure. The current situation is unacceptable, as is the cost to the economy. Such funds could be invested in myriad other areas of the economy and put to better use,” the Director General continues. The local traffic situation is also made reference to in the recently published Country Report for Malta 2017 by the European Commission, which says, “road infrastructure is under heavy pressure and often highly congested.” Asked what he feels the primary factors contributing to the traffic situation are, Minister Mizzi lists the public transport system, which up until three years ago, he says, did not meet the needs of patrons. “As a result, public transport patronage decreased drastically. Apart from that, we cannot ignore the fact that the private car is like a status symbol,” he continues, arguing that many people enjoy driving and are dependent on their cars, even in a scenario where the public transport system works perfectly well. Moving on to the country’s infrastructure, the Transport Minister explains that the road infrastructure footprint has not changed much over the past 28 years – meaning the road network today is basically the same as it was 28 years ago. “As traffic volumes increased drastically during the past three decades, the road infrastructure did not expand accordingly to meet the increase in demand. Whilst we appreciate that we cannot continue to build more and more roads, we still need to establish a network which meets the traffic demand. Various measures are being taken to address the traffic situation,” he says. So what is currently being done to tackle the situation? Minister Mizzi maintains that in recent years, Transport Malta has been modifying and improving junctions to maximise the capacity within our limited infrastructure. “During the past two years, Transport Malta was the main driver behind the complete revamp of the public transport service, which, under new company Malta Public Transport, registered an unprecedented 24 per cent increase in bus patronage. The Authority also embarked on an Intelligent Traffic Management System which implements intelligent infrastructure in Malta,” he says, going on to list the rebuilding of the Coast Road, “increasing its capacity and safety”, and ongoing works on the Kappara junction project “which will increase capacity and remove a major bottleneck on our road network.” On behalf of the Chamber, Mr Borg attests that Malta Chamber has taken this subject very seriously, having organised a number of events, inviting stakeholders, and international experts to discuss the subject. “The Chamber is of the opinion that Malta’s transportation infrastructure needs major investments. In order to build the safest, most effective and sustainable multimodal APRIL / MAY 2017

transportation system, the country needs a new strategy based on an economically, environmentally and socially sustainable plan. This plan must involve the private sector through Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) or other joint ventures from inception, and most importantly, it must form part of a long-term vision for the country’s transport needs,” he says. Bringing a European perspective to bear on the situation, Malta Business Bureau CEO Joe Tanti reveals that traffic congestion in Europe is estimated to cost the EU a whopping €80 billion annually. “50 per cent of all Europeans still commute by car each day. In recent years however, several European countries have started analysing

various approaches and identifying best practices in urban planning. Malta should now be looking towards its European neighbours to identify new and emerging trends – such as the sharing economy – which are creating new opportunities and helping to ease the burden of many of today’s issues, including traffic congestions,” he maintains. Mr Tanti goes on to state that all over Europe, one can see significant efforts being made to relieve cities and regions of traffic issues. “Copenhagen is slowly becoming one of the biggest cycling regions in the world through the construction of a great network of cycle super highways to promote the use of bicycles as a primary means of transport.

“As traffic volumes increased drastically during the past three decades, the road infrastructure did not expand accordingly to meet the increase in demand.” Joe Mizzi, Minister for Transport and Infrastructure

29


CC COVER STORY In Romania, we see successful sustainable mobility campaigns for students and teachers such as ‘I walk to school’. This has impacted citizens’ lives and has become part of the city’s sustainable energy action plan, drastically reducing carbon emissions.” Deliberating on whether Malta can build on similar examples, the Malta Business Bureau CEO considers that while building cycle super highways may be a longshot for Malta, car free town centres might be a solution worth exploring. “We can look towards Oslo in Norway, now the electric vehicle capital of the world. Oslo is fully committed to eliminating pollution and CO2 emissions with a goal of becoming a climate neutral city by the year 2050. Such goal has transformed Oslo into the city with the highest number of electrical vehicles per capita in the world. This was made possible by forming a strategic alliance between the government, academia and the private sector who collaborated to design and manage the electrical vehicle programme at national level. If we can extract these best practices and customise them to accommodate the situation in Malta, there is a greater possibility of success in solving the current issue,” he affirms. Last year, Transport Malta released its National Transport Strategy 2050 and Transport Masterplan 2025, which have been approved by the European Commission. Speaking of these documents, the Transport Minister explains that the study took a snapshot of the situation in Malta and developed a model that will help Government make the right decisions in transport planning. “The Master Plan lists a series of infrastructure interventions that will be implemented over the coming years. It presents a robust strategy to improve roads, build new ones and give incentives for people to use public transport. It also sets out to prioritise transport infrastructure investment, focusing on the removal of the most critical traffic bottlenecks on Malta’s strategic TEN-T network, where national, EU

30

and private funding could be most effectively targeted over the next 10 years,” he explains. Meanwhile, Minister Mizzi continues, “a significant portion of the Transport Master Plan tackles sustainable mobility, for which a comprehensive list of measures has been identified with the aim to encourage greater use of alternative, more sustainable modes of transport (buses, cycling and walking) instead of the private car. The document outlines a detailed plan to ensure a sustainable transport system for the coming years.” Through this document, he affirms, Government will be looking at solutions intended to reduce travel time between localities, traffic congestions and vehicle emissions, and to promote punctuality and increase accessibility for public transport in a way that is considered an adequate alternative to the private vehicle, as well as to increase road safety. “The plan identifies a number of concrete proposals which need to be implemented in the short-term, other measures which need to be implemented in the medium-term and long-term proposals which address all the different modes of transport and their intermodality in respect of air, land and sea modes. The document outlines 29 different major interventions to promote cycling and other similar initiatives, investment in port facilities and other long-term studies such as the permanent link between Malta and Gozo,” he continues. Meanwhile, at an EU conference last March, Minister Mizzi also maintained that Government will be studying the option of introducing urban rail systems in the near future, explaining that, unlike larger countries, Malta does do not have the luxury or space to build new road bypasses to alleviate traffic bottlenecks. Referring to Government’s plan to better manage travel demand and bring about a modal shift from cars to public transport, he says, “the introduction of urban rail systems could, quite conceivably, be the next stage in this modal shift policy.”

“The congestion is taking its toll on the cost-effectiveness of many businesses’ operations.” Kevin J. Borg, Director General, Malta Chamber

Speaking of the Transport Strategy and Transport Masterplan, the Malta Chamber Director General posits that while the Chamber welcomes the plan, it enquires on how the vast majority of the proposed measures and projects will be financed. “The Chamber believes that the financing of transport projects should include further involvement of the private sector through PPPs or joint ventures. The Chamber also recommended that Government invests part of the proceeds of the new ‘sovereign’ fund created through the Malta Citizenship by Investment (IIP) scheme in transport infrastructure to alleviate the cost of traffic on the productive sectors,” he says, adding, “the Chamber also proposes that further studies be done in order to assess how to expand the current and new systems of Mass Rapid Transit, moving commuters away from their personal vehicles and onto public transport. The Chamber believes that Government should incentivise the use of alternative modes of transport such as cycling and electric vehicles further, which would help reduce transport’s impact on the environment.” Making reference to Malta’s EU Presidency, Malta Business Bureau CEO Joe Tanti attests that in tackling its traffic situation, Malta has another opportunity to show Europe that best practice examples may also be taken out of small states like ours. “With a population of 435,000, just over that of Malta’s, Tallinn in Estonia has managed to develop a unique strategy to defeat urban traffic congestion. APRIL / MAY 2017


CC COVER STORY

“In recent years, several European countries have started analysing various approaches and identifying best practices in urban planning.” Joe Tanti, CEO, Malta Business Bureau

In 2013, it became the first European capital to provide free public transport, and in one year, following the introduction of a new green card system, the use of public transport had increased by six per cent and car use decreased by five per cent,” he explains, adding that the system also encouraged citizens to register their true place of residence to take advantage of free public transport, and in so doing, the number of registered residents increased by almost 14,000, generating millions of euros in additional income tax revenue for the city and helping to compensate the €12 million loss in ticket revenue. “Last year, MBB organised a number of B2B meetings in Tallinn through the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) service for two of Malta’s leading companies in the services sector, Equinox Advisory Ltd and Architecture Project. Equinox Advisory, who wished to explore traffic planning and design best practices in Tallinn met with the Tallinn Transport Authority to gauge their insights. These insights were then put to good use in tenders that Equinox Advisory submit internationally, including bids for calls in Malta. Given the best practices emerging from Tallinn, it made it all the more appealing to look towards this city,” Mr Tanti says. Apart from free public transport to and from the city, Tallinn also utilises priority lanes for authorised vehicles such as buses, motorcycles, electric cars, taxis and bicycles which are rigidly supervised, and traffic lights which change to green for public transport and priority lanes – all potential avenues for discussion locally. cc APRIL / MAY 2017

33


CC INTERVIEW

“Europe is not the problem, it is the solution” After four years as President of BusinessEurope, Emma Marcegaglia is as fired up as the day she took on the role to continue defending the interests of businesses across the European Union. She chats with Martina Said about the progress of the Maltese Presidency, the biggest challenges facing European businesses, and the potential aftershocks still to be felt by Brexit.

W

hether the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union has been successful or not is difficult to determine, not least because there are still two months to go until the end of the term. However, as numerous eminent figures have agreed, including Emma Marcegaglia, president of BusinessEurope, the Maltese Presidency is undoubtedly leading the EU at a crucial time for Europe. President Marcegaglia, who’s been at the helm of BusinessEurope since 2013, states that, more than ever before, member states must show unity and cohesion, and defend what has brought countries and Europeans together: the promotion of peace, of EU values,

APRIL / MAY 2017

of prosperity and the well-being of its people. “Europe is faced with many challenges: insufficient growth and employment, security threats, geopolitical instability, Brexit and rising populism. We must work together to answer companies’ and citizens’ concerns about the future more efficiently,” she asserts. “The Maltese Presidency has a vital role to play in shaping European-level decisions, in finding common ground and in showing that the EU is delivering concrete results. Half way through the Presidency, it is too early to assess the accomplishments, but we see many useful steps taken to fulfil the Presidency’s comprehensive and ambitious agenda.”

“Together, European countries are stronger. They can defend their interest better and shape globalisation in accordance with our values.”

35


CC INTERVIEW The rise of populism in recent years has climbed its way to the top as a serious threat to the stability of the Union. Ms Marcegaglia says that populistic and anti-establishment feelings are present to different extents in different parts of Europe and the world, and the causes behind the current distrust in ‘the establishment’ are various – from economic causes linked to the consequences of the 2008 global economic crisis and political distrust linked to scandals, to rising divergences between countries and regions, identity fears and feelings of being left behind in a globalised world. “For BusinessEurope, it is very clear: Europe is not the problem. It is the solution. Together, European countries are stronger. They can defend their interest better and shape globalisation in accordance with our values. And our single market is a powerful engine for higher growth and increased job creation,” she states. “To mitigate citizens’ anxieties about the future and limit the rise in populism, a resilient, growing economy and further decrease of unemployment are key. Companies are an essential part of the solution, but they need to be competitive in order to generate wealth and create jobs. The Maltese Presidency should make sure that all the EU proposals to be adopted during its term in office contribute to improving competitiveness, growth and employment.” Security and migration are also matters of vital concern for European citizens where the EU must demonstrate a capacity to bring solutions to the table. “BusinessEurope supports EU efforts to put a greater focus on security and defence policies, and improve the management of its external borders. This is vital if we want to come back to a normal functioning of the Schengen area, without internal border checks.” On a tangible level, how can decisions taken during the Maltese Presidency translate into opportunities for businesses and for citizens? “One of the priorities of the Maltese Presidency is to further advance the EU single market, develop the digital single market and complete the internal energy market. This is on the top of our agenda as well, as the European single market is one of the EU’s greatest achievements and the foundation of our prosperity,” says Ms Marcegaglia. “Much has been achieved so far, and tangible benefits from the single market of businesses and citizens are numerous. For example, thanks to the new roaming rules, cross-border roaming charges will be fully removed within the EU from June 2017.”

“EU industrial electricity prices remain more than twice those in the US and Russia, and 20 per cent higher than in China – these cost differentials undermine industrial investment in the EU.”

However, she adds, there is still a lot of work ahead – not least finding the right balance on the geo-blocking proposal. “Following the agreement in the Council on the general approach, the European Parliament should bring greater clarity. For example, the Regulation should clearly state that, when fulfilling the de facto obligation to sell, the trader can solely rely on his own home country rules, for instance, in terms of contract law, labelling, product safety rules and VAT,” she explains. “A truly functioning single market and digital single market are unthinkable without a free flow of data. The EU should swiftly introduce a legal instrument that removes existing national data localisation requirements and prevents the creation of new ones, and the Maltese Presidency should support swift progress in its adoption.” Moving on to the current state and forecasts of Europe’s economy for 2017, Ms Marcegaglia asserts that the latest economic indicators are giving reasons for cautious optimism where, in recent months, there has been a steady continuation of economic recovery in the EU with growth of 0.4 per cent at the end of 2016. “Business confidence has also picked up, nurturing further growth at the beginning of 2017, leaving a positive impact on employment. More than three million jobs were created, with unemployment falling from 9.4 per cent in 2015 to 8.5 per cent, in 2016. EU economic output is now five per cent above 2008 levels. The

“Despite all its strengths, the EU is still perceived as a complicated and expensive place to invest in. High taxes, energy prices, nonwage labour costs and burdensome administration are among the negative factors.” 36

number of unemployed has gone down by over a quarter of a million since December 2016, however, unemployment is still 1.2 percentage points above pre-crisis levels,” states Ms Marcegaglia. BusinessEurope’s Autumn Economic Outlook shows that European business expects the EU’s economic recovery to continue despite an increasingly challenging international environment. “For 2017, we expect growth to continue by 1.6 per cent in the EU and 1.5 per cent in the Euro Area. Despite these positive numbers, it is also clear that growth is still strongly supported by temporary factors such as the support from the European Central Bank. We have to continue our reforms to secure sustainable long-term growth in the future.” The challenges currently being faced by European companies are serious and significant. One of the biggest ones, says Ms Marcegaglia, is protectionism. “One million European jobs depend on trade outside of Europe. 90 per cent of global economic growth in the next 10 to 15 years is expected to be generated outside of Europe. We need ambitious and modern trade agreements to open foreign markets to European goods and services to increase citizens’ prosperity and well-being. And we must defend a rulesbased international trade order.” At the same time, she continues, it is of outmost importance that the EU and its member states make real progress in removing obstacles to investment, improving the overall business environment in Europe and addressing the causes of uncertainty standing in the way of investment decisions. “After a decade of underinvestment, taking further measures to increase productive private and public investment is essential for Europe’s growth and employment prospects. APRIL / MAY 2017


CC INTERVIEW “EU industrial electricity prices remain more than twice those in the US and Russia, and 20 per cent higher than in China – these cost differentials undermine industrial investment in the EU. This is a serious challenge for many industrial sectors in Europe. Our industrial companies are losing ground in terms of global market shares and investment leakage has already been happening for a long time. The EU’s main competitors take strong actions to promote their industrial policy objectives, and Europe needs a renewed industrial strategy that looks at competitiveness in all its dimensions, which must be backed by a coordinated action plan and an ambitious timetable.” Despite being a major global destination for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), the EU’s share of worldwide FDI fell to 24 per cent in 2015 compared to 48 per cent in 2000. “This is a real warning signal. Despite all its strengths, the EU is still perceived as a complicated and expensive place to invest in. High taxes, energy prices, non-wage labour costs and burdensome administration are among the negative factors. Small and medium-sized businesses are affected even more than larger companies. Making better progress on the digital single market, the energy union and the capital markets union is essential for European companies.” Now that the UK has formally opened proceedings to leave the EU, it remains to be seen how Brexit will concretely affect the

bloc as well as foreign business operators set up in the UK. Ms Marcegaglia explains that EU and UK economies are profoundly interconnected – “41 per cent of total UK exports go to the EU, representing 11 per cent of British GDP, whilst seven per cent of total EU exports go to the UK, representing less than four per cent of the EU’s GDP. This compares with intra-single market trade amounting to 27 per cent of EU GDP.” The BusinessEurope president adds that the UK’s decision to leave the EU opens up factors of uncertainty, especially for the business community, making it essential to organise the UK’s exit from the EU in an orderly and constructive manner. “We are still in the process of assessing the impact of Brexit, but we already see some issues of concern for a number of sectors, such as customs procedures and the possibility of regulatory divergence in the future. As business, we have an interest to maintain as close economic relations as possible between the EU and the UK, while preserving the integrity of the single market and its four freedoms. BusinessEurope and its member federations from all over Europe are ready to play a constructive role in the search of solutions to establish a sound and balanced new model for EU-UK relations.” Ms Marcegaglia’s tenure as president of BusinessEurope happened to take place at a very trying time for the EU. She asserts, “it is an honour but also a great responsibility to take up the role of

“As business, we have an interest to maintain as close economic relations as possible between the EU and the UK, while preserving the integrity of the single market and its four freedoms.” president at BusinessEurope. I must admit that my presidency is taking place during very challenging times.” Brexit and the work done in the aftermath of the referendum is one such time she felt intrinsically part of a historical process, but another experience she’ll be unable to forget is the EU-Canada free trade agreement. “This agreement was finally ratified in the European Parliament at the end of last year, opening the way to its provisional application. This is a positive historic success for us. The agreement with Canada is the most progressive agreement concluded so far by the EU. We are convinced that it will become an engine of economic prosperity for the EU and Canada, and it will also bring our people and cultures closer together,” she concludes. “To defend unanimously-agreed positions of European companies in difficult moments, such as after the British referendum, and to be part of the historic achievement beneficial for Europe, namely the agreement with Canada, is actually the best reward for me as BusinessEurope president.” cc

“The [EU’s] agreement with Canada is the most progressive agreement concluded so far by the EU.”

APRIL / MAY 2017

39


CC CASE STUDY

RE/MAX – The Office Letting Specialists Office space in Malta is more in-demand than ever, and the RE/MAX Letting Department remains at the very forefront of this exciting real estate sector. Here, Regional Lettings Manager Edward Agius talks Jo Caruana through the latest trends and ongoing developments.

W

e all know that Malta’s real estate sector has evolved in recent years. Together with the sales market, the lettings market has seen growth – especially when it comes to commercial lettings. Edward Agius is RE/MAX’s regional lettings manager and he has been involved in the industry for nearly 20 years. He now heads a team of over 40 experienced lettings agents who are highly-specialised in the field and dedicated to offering their clients the very best. “Today, lettings is big business – but that wasn’t always the case. In my time in the sector, I have seen it evolve from its very early days, into one that is thriving, constantly expanding and persistently setting new standards,” Edward says. He has also helped to secure RE/MAX’s position as the island’s leading commercial lettings specialist, and his team has helped countless companies to find the right office space for them, whether they were small start-ups made up of two or three people, or multinationals with hundreds of staff. “The foremost trend currently driving the industry is the fact that a number of locallybased companies have merged, leading to the need for bigger, better office space than ever before,” Edward explains. “In the past

40

this would have posed a huge challenge as space was very limited, but a number of good projects are now coming onto the market – many of which have already been snapped up.” Edward explains that many companies

are also choosing to look well ahead, thus ensuring they have enough space to meet their expansion needs in the future. “Many of our clients found they were having to move every couple of years to keep up with their rate of expansion and growing teams,”

APRIL / MAY 2017


CC CASE STUDY

“Having the most prestigious office, with the best possible facilities and nicest environment, has become a genuine priority and one that local developers have reacted to.”

Edward continues. “This is, of course, good news for them from a progress perspective, but it does prove inconvenient and very costly – and finding the right new place can be difficult. To combat that, many are now moving into places significantly larger than their current requirements dictate, and then subletting the extra space to smaller companies on an annual basis until they need it themselves. This gives them the flexibility they need, as well as the long-term peace of mind that they are settled for the foreseeable future.” Another key focus for companies on the hunt for offices is additional room for their staff to relax. “Staff well-being has become a clear trend in recent years, and simple office space doesn’t tend to cut it anymore,” Edward says. “Recruitment is big business, so companies want to make their team as happy as possible – whether that’s by having a cinema, gym, bar or even a spa within their workspace. Having the most prestigious office, with the best possible facilities and nicest environment, has become a genuine priority and one that local developers have reacted to. There are some truly incredible offices out there and in use at the moment, and many more on the way.” When it comes to the type of companies that have used RE/MAX’s office letting services, Edward explains that, “while some companies do stand out from others, we are not solely dependent on one particular segment of clients. We have iGaming companies, aviation, software companies, banking and finance, as well as trading and retail, as well as many others. The list is endless.” APRIL / MAY 2017

RE/MAX’s expertise in this area comes down to its experience in it; the company actually leased offices to the first iGaming company to ever set up in Malta back in 2000! In fact, it even rented offices to Warwick Bartlet, the man today considered to be one of the top iGaming gurus in the industry, and who is pro-Malta to this day. “He’s a firm believer that Malta has what it takes to support the needs of the iGaming industry,” Edward says. As for RE/MAX’s own understanding of what the commercial lettings sector needs, this also goes above and beyond. “Our team

of agents is incredibly able and experienced, and they know that, in this sector of the industry, it helps to really go above and beyond. That’s why we offer a truly holistic service when dealing with companies that are setting up here – from finding homes for their team, to giving them the contacts they need to get settled. We often become friends with our clients as they appreciate the dedicated service that we offer.” Finally, Edward explains how he believes this part of the industry will continue to develop in the years to come. “So many of these companies are wholly committed to Malta, and have made it part of their longterm plan,” he says. “This means that we, in turn, need to be able to keep giving them what they are looking for, and to evolve our product as time goes on. “Malta is very much on the map when it comes to being a great place to live, work and do business, and that looks set to continue. We have even seen a surge in interest since Brexit, and believe this could also have positive repercussions for the commercial lettings sector locally. We will be keeping a close eye on analysis and changing trends but, in our opinion, the future looks very bright.” cc

41


CC INTERVIEW

Brexit and the future of Europe Brexit negotiations have begun but no one really knows what their outcome will be. Here, Jo Caruana meets Stefano Mallia, one of three rapporteurs on the Brexit Advisory Group appointed by the Employers Group within the European Economic and Social Committee, to discuss how things may turn out.

Photo by Inigo Taylor

B

rexit is posing big questions for the European Union. What will leaving the EU mean for the UK in the short term? How will it fare longer term once it leaves? Will trade deals continue between the UK and the EU? Will businesses be affected or will they simply ride the wave? The truth is that it’s still far too early to know the answer to any of those questions, and so many more. Positive or negative, there are innumerable variables that will determine how things turn out, as well as months of negotiations that are likely to sway things in umpteen directions before anyone knows exactly how they will turn out – for better or worse. APRIL / MAY 2017

“Although a few things are clear at the moment – one of which is that the UK’s exit will have to be negotiated first. Only then can the UK’s future relationship be defined.” One man with his pulse on many of the ongoing discussions is Stefano Mallia – Vice President of the Employers Group that forms part of the European Economic and Social Committee and one of three recentlyappointed rapporteurs of the Brexit Advisory Group. “The simple reality is that no one knows exactly what’s going to happen,” he says. “Although a few things are clear at the moment – one of which is that the UK’s exit

will have to be negotiated first. Only then can the UK’s future relationship be defined. It is also clear that, as a result of Brexit, the freedoms of the EU will remain intact and that the UK will be treated like any other country outside of the Union.” After all, as Mr Mallia explains, if it is deemed to be straightforward for the UK to leave the EU with no repercussions, others may be encouraged to follow suit, and this could in turn have strong repercussions of its own. 43


CC INTERVIEW

“Leaders of the Brexit campaign made some ludicrous claims such as Turkey will be joining the EU very soon or that leaving the EU would permit the UK to put £350 million a week back into the NHS. These claims are now being seen for what they were… outright lies.” “It’s not that they should be given a hard time or punished, but it has to be clear that you’re either in or you’re out and the UK has now opted for out,” he stresses. Looking back on the lead-up to the EU referendum that drove the UK towards Brexit, Mr Mallia believes that the referendum was won on a campaign of misconceptions and even some ‘fake news’ – a term we have come to hear so often in the last 12 months. “I honestly believe that a number of people voted to leave without actually knowing what they were signing up for. Leaders of the Brexit campaign made some ludicrous claims such as Turkey will be joining the EU very soon or that leaving the EU would permit the UK to put £350 million a week back into the NHS. These claims are now being seen for what they were… outright lies. I have my serious doubts that the referendum result would be the same if it were held again today. But, it has happened now, and there is no going back. “Politically there have also had to be big changes. Before Brexit, Theresa May was in the ‘Remain’ camp, but she is now clearly committed to making Brexit happen. In her words, ‘Brexit is Brexit’ – so that stance has been made clear. She also set her marker at the very start of the process by saying that

‘no deal is better than a bad deal’. This has now put her in a vulnerable position subject to the hysterics of the tabloids which, at some point or another, are very likely going to call on May to leave the negotiations table. It’s this sort of approach, and pressure, that could leave the UK without the much-talked about potential ‘special relationship’ with the EU although I very much doubt that any UK politician is going to take such a leap in the dark.” When it comes to the implications for Malta, Mr Mallia believes they will be both positive and negative – although the extent of just how negative depends on the deal that will be negotiated. “This is the same across the EU, largely because only time will tell exactly what the repercussions of this new deal will be and what the future 44

relationship will look like. The EU has been clear that that any future relationship will only be discussed once the EU’s exit negotiations are finalised, so it will all be up in the air for some time.” And while the conceivable negatives for Malta are impossible to pin down in full, some are more obvious – such as for local companies currently exporting to the UK tariff-free, or providing a product or service that is automatically accepted. “Whether or not this type of business can still take place will be determined by whether or not a free trade agreement is enacted. One fact is certain, Malta has quite some exposure to the UK economy so any changes to the current relationship could have a considerable impact. APRIL / MAY 2017


CC INTERVIEW

As I said before, it’s not in the EU’s interest to give the UK a good deal but negotiations will hopefully try to take all aspects into consideration. This may mean that changes will have to take place when it comes to trading with the UK.” As for the positives, Malta could benefit if international businesses decide to shift their base from the UK to Malta, and there are already potential moves in the pipeline. “There seems to be quite a bit of interest in Malta and not only from companies in the financial services but also from companies in other sectors such as manufacturing. We have to acknowledge that we’re not likely to become a major player by any stretch of the imagination, but we do have the opportunity to attract some interesting companies to Malta. Things on this front will likely become clearer in the next few months as international businesses in the UK determine whether they can still see a future there,” Mr Mallia continues. So, as we stand at the crossroads of discovering the UK’s future role in the EU and vice-versa, it seems there are two possible 46

“I have also recommended to the Chamber of Commerce that once the negotiations start and results start emerging that an exercise is undertaken to ‘scientifically’ understand what the economic impacts will be.”

scenarios for how things will pan out. “On the one hand, things could move very quickly because the UK wants to get things done as quickly as possible to remove all uncertainty,” Mr Mallia suggests. “However, I have to admit this is unlikely – there’s a lot going on in the next two years, including major elections across Europe, and there are likely to be a number of sticking points not least amongst them the exit bill the UK will be asked to pay before actually leaving the EU.” “If things do drag on, this could lead to the UK feeling like it’s getting a bad deal and walking away, and this certainly wouldn’t be good for them. But I don’t think that will happen.” Thus, it seems that Brexit will remain a ‘wait and see’ situation that will become clearer over the next 18 months. “A lot of

work has already been done, is being done and will be done. The EESC will be monitoring developments as they take place, and then taking a proactive role by setting out our views on the outcomes from an employer perspective; there will be other views given by trade unions and civil society. “Meanwhile, my recommendation would be that any company currently trading with the UK carries out a thorough assessment based on a worst case scenario. I have also recommended to the Chamber of Commerce that once the negotiations start and results begin emerging, that an exercise is undertaken to ‘scientifically’ understand what the economic impacts will be. Because, while it is impossible to foresee the outcome of Brexit, it is important to do as much as we can to ready ourselves for it,” Mr Mallia concludes. cc APRIL / MAY 2017


STYLE

Spring Awakening

REVIEW

04. Return of the backpack

Shed some layers in preparation for spring which brings with it an array of exciting new trends in men’s and women’s fashion. Martina Said picks her favourite styles this season.

Reminiscent of school, you say? Perhaps so, but the sleek and sophisticated backpack has made a remarkable comeback, and it’s a welcomed one. Designed using superior leather and the most pristine finishes, the modern day backpack could and should replace the briefcase.

01. Bold Stripes

05. Nautical details

On par with the white t-shirt or the Little Black Dress, stripes evoke a classic look that is suitable for day and night. Designers went to town with bold colours for their 2017 spring/summer collections – think blues, oranges, pinks and reds, reminiscent of beach umbrellas.

01.

While blue and white stripes are never a miss, try interpret this timeless look through the details – think infrequent stripes, white accessories and touches of navy blue or dark red to bring the whole look together.

06. Square ambition From tight squares to Prince of Wales checks, squares made a bold appearance in men’s spring/summer 2017 collections, overshadowing the pin stripe as the suit pattern of choice this year. cc

02. Earthy tones From Valentino to Alexander McQueen, a neutral stone colour – somewhere between white and sandy beige – took runways by storm. The bright and airy tones of cream and all its variants are a fresh choice for summer, especially when paired with more breathable fabrics, the likes of linen and cotton.

Trussardi

02.

03. Nude neutrals Nude tones have been around for some time now, and they probably won’t be going anywhere fast. Be it a body con dress, ballerina pumps, long-line waistcoat or a loose-fitting blouse, anything in nude is feminine, flattering, and right on trend.

Mara Hoffman

Diane von Furstenberg

03.

05. APRIL / MAY 2017

Coach Alexander Wang

04.

Lardini

06. 49


CC HEALTH

“Experiencing a world without any dependence on glasses” The Commercial Courier discusses the services and procedures provided at the newly relocated state-of-the-art Saint James Hospital Eye Clinic with General Manager Andrei Camenzuli. The greatest advantages of this unique technology over the previous generation of laser systems is that patients do not feel any pain both during and after the surgery, and experience immediate visual recovery, which is truly impressive. With older methods such as surface ablation procedure (PRK), most patients tend to experience a considerable amount of pain and visual recovery can be very slow, taking several weeks to stabilise. This inconvenience is completely eliminated with the Femtolasik and SMILE procedures carried out at the Saint James Hospital Eye Clinic today.

What services and procedures are offered at Saint James Hospital Eye Clinic, particularly with regard to correcting one’s vision and eliminating the need for glasses once and for all? Since the introduction of the new Femtosecond laser to our clinic 10 months ago, we are now able to offer a safe and reliable solution to practically every individual wishing to remove both far and close sighted glasses. This is uniquely available at the Saint James Hospital Eye Clinic. With Femtolaser, we are nowadays performing minimally invasive procedures such as SMILE, which is the safest and most popular refractive treatment of choice worldwide. The new Femtolasik technology also allows us to offer solutions to those people wanting to remove the inconvenience of needing glasses for far as well as close vision (presbyopia), producing impressive results, giving people improved quality of life by experiencing a world without any dependence on glasses. 

Are tests/consultations carried out by the surgeon prior to treatment to ensure individual compatibility with treatment? Pre-screening is crucial to the successful outcome of refractive laser surgery. In fact all patients will first attend an informative lecture where detailed information regarding laser surgery and the various options are discussed. The lecture provides patients with the opportunity to share any questions they would have as well as to familiarise themselves with the facility and the setup of this specialised clinic. Following this, a pre refractive surgery assessment is performed by our specialised and experienced optometrists in refractive surgery together with the supporting refractive surgery assessment team. The last step is to have a consultation with your surgeon of choice to determine which procedure will be most appropriate to ensure the best possible refractive outcome.   What is the expected recovery time following treatment? And what follow-ups are required post-treatment? Patients undergoing these procedures will be able to resume with their work routine two

days following the treatment or even earlier, with most clients reporting that they were able to return to work the following day. Patients are asked to attend a post op visit the following day after the treatment and two further assessments one after a week and a final one after four weeks. How long-term are the benefits of such interventions? And what is the success rate like? Prior to undergoing refractive surgery we ensure that the person’s vision has been stable for at least a year to avoid the risk of any changes in vision post laser. Once the treatment is done there should be no need to wear glasses again. The satisfaction rate recorded by patients following Femtolasik and SMILE procedures is impressively high, with the vast majority of patients reporting a significant improvement in their quality of life within the first week of undergoing treatment. Traditionally, business people and professionals might have been discouraged to undergo laser eye treatment due to the slow recovery process. Are these new treatments an option for such individuals now? The new refractive surgery procedures which are exclusively available at the Saint James Hospital Eye Clinic allow for immediate pain free visual recovery – something our treated clients refer to as the ‘wow effect’. So yes we do recommend these treatments to professional people without any hesitation. cc   Contact the Saint James Hospital Eye Clinic on T: 2247 2630; E: info@stjheyeclinic.com; www.stjheyeclinic.com

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE – ANTHONY APAP “Having Femtolasik surgery was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I was informed that my glasses prescription had to be stable with no changes for at least 12 months so that made me a good candidate for the surgery. The feeling of opening your eyes in the morning and seeing clearly felt amazing! The procedure is actually very fast; not more than 15 to 20 minutes for both eyes. There is no pain involved, and no injections are given. The staff of Saint James Hospital Eye Clinic made sure I knew what was going on all throughout the surgery, so I felt safe and reassured. I was back to work two days after the procedure. Looking back, I must admit that I had worried a lot unnecessarily before the surgery and I would highly recommend the Saint James Hospital Eye Clinic for making this possible and for the excellent service! I feel like a new person with renewed energy and motivation.”

APRIL / MAY 2017

51


CC EU FUNDS

Tap EU funds with the help of the specialists using the FUNding Approach Any business today must decide whether to remain just one horse in the pack or differentiate itself from others via specialisation or differentiation.

Specialisation is loosely defined as the process of concentrating on and becoming an expert in a particular subject or skill, whereas differentiation is the process of distinguishing a product or service from others, to make it more attractive to a particular target market. We, at DConsulta, aim towards differentiating ourselves from other accounting and advisory firms by specialising in growth services, thus leading to differentiation of our service offering. Growth Services is the umbrella term which comprises our specialist EU funding advisory services and other related consultancy services that assist our clients in growing their business or organisations by putting their dreams into concrete and feasible plans of action. Over the years, the founder of the firm, Michael Debono, has immersed himself in the EU funding advisory sphere, dating back to the grant schemes made available to local SMEs for pre-accession projects designed to prepare such SMEs for the impact of accession to the EU. This work continued during the 2007-2013 EU Budget Programme and is still going strong with respect to the grant schemes available under the 2014-2020 programming period. Our experience in participating directly in projects, applying for funds, providing financial management, writing applications and research reports, handling dissemination activities, project

management of large ESF projects and finally auditing of such projects means that we have seen and experienced the whole value chain. This insight is crucial for an intimate understanding of the key success factors and the common pitfalls relating to EU-funded projects. Today the firm is a registered service provider under the Business Enhance SME Consultancy Services Grant Scheme, offering business planning, feasibility studies, organisation and operations reviews and process and systems reviews. Entities applying for funding through DConsulta can benefit from an 80 per cent grant for the business plan or feasibility study up to a maximum grant of €4,000. A sound and sturdy plan will lead to a strong application for funding under any one of the other five schemes – start-ups, SME growth, e-commerce, diversification and innovation, and internationalisation grant schemes. Furthermore, DConsulta assists clients with setting up new start-ups and benefiting from the varied tax incentives such as micro invest, investment aid and other benefits such as the allocation of industrial property. Over the years, the firm has perfected its EU Funding Advisory methodology using the FUNding approach as depicted in the diagram below:

The DConsulta FUNding Approach Finding

Ô Project Concept Vetting & Programmes Identification (Central vs Decentralised) & Eligibility & Timeline Testing & Project Partners (MT or abroad)

Undertaking the application

Ô Business Plan + Financial Plan & Compliance Testing & Application Process & Online Submission & Post-Application Liaison with Managing Authority (MA)

Nurturing the Project

Ô Vetting of Expenditure & Maintenance of project file & Publicity Compliance & Support during inspections/audits & constant liaison with MA

Supported SMEs/NGOs/Local Govt on EU funding for 12 years

Over €4m funds for tourism/ manufacturing & other local sectors

DConsulta’s tried and tested FUNding Approach has produced results in the past and will continue to do so in the future. We thus urge you to take this opportunity and contact DConsulta, the EU Funding Specialists, get a free consultation and quote, and if you like our approach embark on a successful journey that will see your SME embark on unprecedented growth. cc 52

Financial & project management proven expertise for projects by central & local govt, NGOs & private enterprise

T: 2747 4414; E: info@dconsulta.eu; www.dconsulta.eu APRIL / MAY 2017


CC CASE STUDY

Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates: Challenging Archaic Rent Laws Outdated rent laws continue to disadvantage the property owners caught up in decades-old contracts – but, today, something can be done to challenge them. Here Jo Caruana talks to lawyers Malcolm and Cedric Mifsud, of Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates, to discover what landlords can hope to achieve.

L

ocated at the end of Melita Street, Mifsud & Mifsud is an understated boutique law firm in the heart of the capital that has certainly made its mark in recent years. Set up by brothers Malcolm and Cedric, the firm has secured its reputation across many aspects of law – including litigation, corporate, commercial and maritime. In addition they operate a corporate services company called AEGIS and, together, both entities employ a team of 11. However, since their launch in 2007, rent law has also come to be a cornerstone sector for the firm and, today, they have positioned themselves as forerunners within this very particular part of the law. “Rent law has been a contentious issue for many years,” explains Cedric. “In fact, the laws within it are often unconstitutional and in breach of the fundamental human rights that relate to landlords’ property rights.” Cedric is, of course, referring to the longestablished rent laws that have enabled tenants to live in properties for many years, but pay well below their worth because it is stipulated that Maltese residents needing the property as their own homes can stay in it indefinitely. “For decades, landlords have been gridlocked because their tenants

54

can’t be removed as long as they are living in the property, regardless of how little they are paying. However this started to change five-or-so years ago when a judgement in Strasbourg stated that landlords had a right to enjoy their property and to receive an appropriate amount of rent for it.” Change was also set in motion when Cedric won a landmark case in 2010 that was filed in favour of the landlord, not the tenant. “It was the first case of its kind but there have been several others since; the precedent was definitely set and we have found ways round the laws to enable landlords to reclaim what is rightfully theirs or, at the very least, receive the appropriate value for it – whether by upping the rent or even selling the property to the tenants for a fair price.” Many of the cases the Mifsuds have won have been similar. “Often, someone has inherited a property, but that property has been found to have a tenant living in it that is rented according to the 1979 rental laws that means they are paying a very small amount,” continues Cedric. “They then come to us to ask for advice on what can be done to rectify the situation.” And, although the law still states that the tenants have a right to stay in the property

“For decades, landlords have been gridlocked because their tenants can’t be removed as long as they are living in the property, regardless of how little they are paying.”

APRIL / MAY 2017


CC CASE STUDY

“We start by showing the court the value of the property today and highlighting the rent it should be getting as opposed to the rent that is actually being received for it… it is then our job to show the court that this is disproportionate.”

indefinitely, clients often ask the Mifsuds to challenge that and attack the law – which they have done successfully on numerous occasions. “We start by showing the court the value of the property today and highlighting the rent it should be getting as opposed to the rent that is actually being received for it. For instance, we have had cases where a property is found to be worth €400,000 and with a rental value of between €800 and €1,000 per month, but which is only receiving around €300 per year. It is then our job to show the court that this is disproportionate.” The Mifsuds have won all their cases on the subject thus far, resulting in the courts admitting that the landlords were suffering loss of income and filing that the tenants should face eviction. “However most cases don’t actually result in eviction because the tenants and landlord choose to come to some sort of agreement, whether that’s a higher rent package or even the sale of the property for an agreed amount,” Cedric says.

APRIL / MAY 2017

But despite the progress that’s been made, the brothers refer to the law as a ‘hot potato’ and admit it won’t be changed overnight – but they are pleased to have proved that the law can work in favour of landlords. “While some changes have been made to the 1979 law, they have so far been inadequate when it comes to properly compensating landlords,” Malcolm says. “In my opinion, the most balanced way forward would be a phasing out of the current law. I would suggest a cut-off date of, say, 10 years, within which tenants need to have moved out or bought the property as per an agreement with the landlords.” Asked about how landlords (or even tenants) who feel disadvantaged should proceed, Cedric recommends contacting a lawyer for advice. “If possible, have the rental contract with you so it is clear what was agreed and when the contract was signed. The process will start with a valuation of the property, as this will clearly define where you stand from a financial loss perspective. Once that information is clear, the work towards rectifying your situation can begin in earnest,” Cedric asserts. cc

55


CC HEALTH

Malta: A destination for top-class dental treatment Dr Joseph Xuereb reveals why so many patients travel to Malta for dental treatment.

Savina Dental Clinics are at the forefront of Malta’s emerging image as a destination for first class medical and dental treatment. For several years, Savina Clinics have been sought after by local and visiting patients for extensive oral rehabilitation procedures. Implant surgery cases with associated bone augmentation procedures as well as non-surgical facelifts, designer smile makeovers and the latest gum treatments form the bulk of patient requests. A recent addition to the clinics’ repertoire of treatments has been the patented Eagle Grid® implant system, whereby patients with little or no bone for conventional implants are able to have fixed replacement teeth within hours. Constant investment in emerging trends, equipment and staff training is the lynchpin of the clinics’ business plan. Accreditation with various international medical tourism institutions assists in conveying confidence to patients considering travelling to Malta for their treatment – this attests to

APRIL / MAY 2017

best practice in quality control, patient management and treatment standards. Since 2007, Savina Clinics have served as International Patient Visiting Centres for Zimmer® dental implants – one of the world’s foremost implant brands. A steady flow of patients from overseas has always formed an important portion of the clinics’ business. There are strong signs of this flow increasing, both in volume as well as in diversity of country of origin of these patients. Word-of-mouth has traditionally been the only means of advertising and it is amazing how far word travels! The clinics’ web profile is constantly updated and improved and, as the potential patient’s first point of contact, it is an invaluable asset. Patients’ comments and testimonials give credibility and a personal touch to the clinics’ services and the multilingual staff facilitate patient confidence and communication no end.  For visiting patients, impeccable planning is essential. From their initial contact, patients are made to feel completely at ease and that every requirement will be taken care of – from detailed written treatment estimates to arrangements with local service providers to organise all auxiliary post treatment services. These range from selecting accommodation and special dietary requirements through medical domiciliary visits to spa therapy during their rehabilitation period. To this end, Savina Clinics have teamed up with AMCT Malta as their exclusive medical/ dental tourism providers. The relatively short travelling times

from most European cities as well as the availability of many low-cost flight options make it quite easy for patients to choose Malta as their dental treatment destination, and in many cases to return for all their follow-up and maintenance appointments. Meanwhile, treatments are priced at a level that is considered very advantageous for visiting patients. As with everywhere else, even locally, costs vary, but the fundamental consideration for every patient contemplating treatment in Malta is the standard of care provided. cc Joseph Xuereb is Principal at Savina Clinic – Dental & Implantology Centres. He graduated in Malta in 1985 and completed post-graduate education at The Royal College of Surgeons of England. He is a Member of the International Team for Implantology, The International Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons and the British Society for Advanced Dentistry as well as a Fellow of the International College of Dentists and Key Opinion Leader for Crest Oral Care and ZimmerBiomet Dental Implants.

Savina Clinic - Dental & Implantology Centres are located in Victoria, Gozo and at SkyParks Business Centre, Malta International Airport. www.savinadental.com 57


CC PLANNING

One year on... the new Planning Authority 2016 was the year that the Planning Authority found itself split from its environmental arm as the result of a demerger, but this upheaval did not stop it from making a profit – in the region of €3-4 million – for the first time in 20 years.

This profit is just one of a number of performance indicators that Johann Buttigieg, Chairperson of the Planning Authority’s Executive Council is proud of. Another important fact has been that the pending caseload has been brought down, in spite of the fact that the Authority handled some 8,000 planning applications last year. This is partly the result of a focus on internal processes – the development control unit was reorganised and IT systems were upgraded – but not at the cost of governance. In fact, the public objection period on applications was extended and some ‘projects’ previously covered by the DNO procedures were put back into the applications framework, ensuring that third parties had the right to object where appropriate, ensuring fairness and transparency. Another major change was the automation of notifications to statutory consultees with entities such as Transport Malta and Enemalta, which was previously done by the case officer after ascertaining which of the entities was relevant to a particular application. “This used to take weeks and cause confusion at times. But now, all 11 statutory consultees are notified automatically and it is then up to them to inform us if they are going to give feedback on a particular application. This makes the system more efficient and faster,” Mr Buttigieg said. The Authority is also tackling long-standing enforcement issues through a two-year regularisation scheme for illegalities within the development boundaries. “People are coming forward to regularise their property as one cannot get bank financing unless everything is in order. The fees are quite steep and they will go up by 25 per cent if the scheme is extended by a third year. Until now we have billed more than €3.5 million,” he said. He stressed that only 10 per cent of this money goes into the coffers of the Authority, to cover its administrative costs, with the rest divided between the Planning Fund, which helps Local Councils with projects, and the Irrestawra Darek Grant Scheme. The regularisation scheme is only one part of an attempt to really get to grips with the enforcement issue. Another important part has been a concerted effort to persuade owners that it was in their interest to remove illegalities – rather than have them removed by the Authority at their expense through so-called direct actions. Mr Buttigieg noted that infringements removed by owners have almost doubled over the past three years. 58

“Once you show that you mean business, it makes a difference. Direct action should always be the last resort, but we should make a distinction between just ‘threatening’ people that we are going to do something and actually doing it. For example, there were 980 letters warning of direct action issued between 2008 and 2012 – of which only a few were carried through. No new letters were issued between 2012 and 2015 – but there were more direct actions carried out than in the 2008-2012 period.” He said he was satisfied with the way in which the demerger took place, even though it might have taken a bit longer than anticipated. “In the end the result is what we were hoping for: two separate authorities with equal powers, looking after each other in terms of sustainable development and the environment. “Sometimes there are issues where our staff take a stand which is contrary to that of the Environmental Resources Authority staff and vice-versa. But in most instances I would say our roles are complementary, not confrontational. “People need to remember that good planning does not go against the environment. Even advanced societies and the most sophisticated and environmentally concerned states – like Sweden or the Netherlands – implement projects which have an environmental impact: take the huge amount of land reclamation over the last 50 years and which is still ongoing. “You have to consider the best way to achieve a good social and economic balance with the environment,” he said. Having the Environment and Resources Authority will keep environmental issues at the top of the country’s agenda. He admitted that a recent attempt to take a holistic approach to good planning was not well

received: the Paceville Masterplan. “People did not understand what we were after. It is true that it showed roads passing through existing properties but there have been theoretical roads passing through these properties since the 1960s. You do not plan for next year but for the next 20 or so years. “I admit that this did not get across. The Paceville Masterplan put forward an ideal to work towards if there were ever the chance – offering incentives by compensating for buildings being lost by having taller height limitations on others. Those who had to move would get compensation through a better price or a better view for their new homes. But there was never any question of their being obliged to do so,” he said. The Authority still believes in the concept of the Masterplan and will not drop the idea, although it will take on board the negative reactions. “The idea of a Masterplan is sound. Indeed, if we want to take planning to another level, we need to have these sort of plans – and not just for Paceville but also for St Paul’s Bay and Buġibba, and for Mrieħel.” One thing he did stress, though, was that development cannot be put on hold until a Masterplan has been drawn up – even at the risk of making decisions which would not fit into the future vision. “We are not stating that everything that has happened is wrong or that everything in the local plans is bad. After all, they have passed through public consultation and parliamentary debate. “If we do not agree with them, it is possible to change them – although they take a minimum of a year to prepare and another year to actually get approved. But plans cannot be suspended: people have made financial commitments based on them. It would cause havoc if we were to do that.” cc APRIL / MAY 2017


CC TRANSPORT

Waters White Vans Support services to local and international businesses

• Do you run a small business in Malta or Gozo? • Do you require delivery or collection from addresses in Malta and Gozo? • Do you have to get your product to your clients/customers in a cost-effective and timely manner? • Do you find you/your staff are wasting time in traffic or finding addresses in Malta and/or Gozo? We can help! Waters White Vans is a professional, family-run business and we understand the importance of being professional, punctual and delivering a customer experience that is

second to none in Malta and Gozo. That’s why we already have 65 reviews and testimonials with five-star ratings from clients in the last 18 months. We recognise that transportation may not be your core business and it’s very likely to be just one aspect of your wider business; that it often takes a large percentage of your time, commitment, coordination and money to successfully manage. Getting your product to your target market/clients however is critical to your organisational success. At Waters White Vans, we offer a wide range of transportation solutions, including delivery services, for small commercial enterprises such as shops, on-line shops, as well as manufacturers and distributor centres. We can help you with your large and small deliveries, frequent or infrequent; we work with you as your local partner to ensure your product gets to your distributor/client when you need it to. As an outsourced solution we are fully committed. Morever: • We are competitively priced. • We offer a professional and punctual service. • We have excellent client-facing communication and problem-solving skills.

Working with local partners for UK-Malta transport services Waters White Vans works with local partners to provide a seamless and professional delivery, moving and shipping experience to you when moving from UK to Malta or vice-versa. From Malta, we can protect and pack, transport, ship and deliver to any location within the UK that you require. We will come to your property and provide you with a quote for the entire process, taking the stress and coordination away from you and managing the entire process ourselves here at Waters White Vans.

• We know Malta and Gozo well as we are in the business of transportation! • We work in a structured and highly organised manner to provide a timeefficient and professional service. We provide outsourcing services to a number of local businesses that do not want to tie up capital in vans, signage, drivers, etc, and offer an outsourcing solution that is professional, affordable and efficient. Get in touch to see how Waters White Vans can support your business by providing storage, delivery and collection services, which in turn lets you focus on your business and your business growth. cc Get in touch for more information or for a detailed quote: M: 7902 6070; E: transport.solutions@mail.com. #samequalityserviceeachtimeeverytime.

APRIL / MAY 2017

61


CC APPRECIATION

Tonio Casapinta, Chamber Vice President An appreciation: 20th February 1949 – 1st April 2017 Tonio Casapinta, Vice President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry passed away early on 1st April at the age of 68. The Malta Chamber remained closed for business on 3rd and 4th April as a sign of mourning. Mr Casapinta had been a member of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry since 1985, serving as Council Member and Honorary Assistant Treasurer of the Malta Chamber of Commerce and Enterprise between 2001-2003 and 20062008 respectively, prior to the merger with the Federation of Industry. In 2013, he was appointed Chairman of the Middle East Business Council under the auspices of the Malta Chamber. In December 2014 he was appointed Director of Trade Malta Ltd, a Public-Private Partnership between the Government of Malta and the Malta Chamber of Commerce, responsible for the internationalisation of Malta-made products and services. Tonio Casapinta was Chairman of Casapinta Design Group Ltd and Casapinta Project Management Ltd. He was also Director of Pan Libya (Malta) Ltd, a joint venture between ATEX – The International Exhibition organisation in Libya and Casapinta Design Group Ltd in Malta. The President, Council and permanent staff of the Malta Chamber extend their deepest condolences to Mr Casapinta’s family. cc

APRIL / MAY 2017

65


CHAMBER/71

NEWS Events & Initiatives

02. Appreciation – J.G. Vassallo The President and Council of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry extended their deepest condolences to the family of J.G. Vassallo who passed away on 18th February aged 93. Mr Vassallo served as Director General at the Malta Chamber of Commerce and Enterprise between 1971 and 1990, and later as Senior Vice President. Under his guidance, the Malta Chamber, amongst other things started Business Education Courses, obtained scholarships from Luther College in the United States and put in place a number of Joint Cooperation Councils with other local business-oriented constituted bodies.

03. Leader of the Opposition meets Malta Chamber Council

01.

The Leader of the Opposition Simon Busuttil met the Council of the Malta Chamber to discuss the PN’s document on retail and other issues of an economic nature. Welcoming the Leader of the Opposition to a meeting with the Council of the Malta Chamber, President Anton Borg said that the pursuit of prosperity is and must be an ongoing one.

01. Archbishop visits the Chamber H.G. the Archbishop Charles Scicluna visited the Chamber on 17th February and met President Anton Borg to discuss issues including the proposed minimum wage increase and equality act. Illustrating the Chamber’s position on the proposed increase in minimum wage, Mr Borg explained that while the Chamber believes that poverty ought to be eradicated, raising the minimum wage is not the solution. Mr Borg stressed that any increases in wages across the board will have significant detrimental effects on the competitiveness of local companies in a number of industries. Regarding the Equality Act, Archbishop Scicluna shared his concerns and reservations about certain provisions in the draft. Both parties agreed that while positive in its intention, the act needs to introduce more practical mechanisms to solve cases arising from it so as to avoid unnecessary excessive litigation. APRIL / MAY 2017

02. 67


CC news

Mr Borg told Dr Busuttil that the Malta Chamber had studied the PN’s document on retail in detail. “As a general reaction, we believe that overall it is a positive document and it continues the encouraging trend for the Party in Opposition to publish its sectoral blue-prints well in advance of an electoral campaign. It is also encouraging insofar as investor confidence in the country is concerned, as it certainly sends the correct message,” he said.

04. Chamber President takes Prime Minister Muscat to task over unaddressed competitiveness issues Chamber President Anton Borg warned that businesses are concerned about “the issues of good governance that we are allowing to constantly persist,” in a meeting that included business leaders as well as Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. In his remarks, Mr Borg noted that last year’s EY Malta Attractiveness Survey reported a 15-percentage point drop from the previous year in the perception about the stability and transparency of the political, legal and regulatory environment. Moreover, Malta recently plunged 10 places to its lowest-ever ranking in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index. “The business community expects to operate in an environment where certain situations are not allowed to exist,” Mr Borg told Dr Muscat. “Malta’s international reputation has suffered, and so could our future economic success if there are any repercussions on our financial

03. services and remote gaming sectors that collectively contribute to around one quarter of our GDP. Our islands need stability and confidence in the rule of law.” Mr Borg also criticised the recent transfer of public land in St George’s Bay previously occupied by the Institute of Tourism Studies to the Seabank Group for €60 million, saying

that while the sale will provide a positive effect in terms of added investment and business opportunity, the actual mechanics of the deal – which involved a simple Request for Proposal instead of selling public land by tender or by parliamentary resolution – were worrying. He added that if adopted as a benchmark for future projects, the payment considerations for the sale of the Pembroke land could distort the market.

05. Framework agreement on active ageing signed

04. 68

Malta Chamber President Anton Borg attended the signing ceremony of an agreement between EU employers and trade unions, on an approved framework agreement on active ageing and an intergenerational approach. The signing follows nine months of negotiations between the involved parties. The agreement aims to ensure a healthy, safe and productive working environment and work organisation to enable workers of all ages to remain in work until legal retirement age. It aims to facilitate the transfer of knowledge and experience between generations at the workplace and takes into account the changing national demographic and labour market realities. APRIL / MAY 2017


CC news

06. Making work pay as a way to promote employment and social inclusion Participating in the Tripartite Social Summit that was held in Brussels on 8th March, Malta Chamber President Anton Borg said that Europe is still facing persistent high unemployment, especially amongst European youth, which continues to afflict European economies even in the aftermath of the economic crisis. “We certainly support the fact that the Maltese Presidency has made social inclusion one of its priorities. This would minimise the risk of poverty and social exclusion,” he said. Speaking about the positive results Malta achieved in the last five years, Mr Borg said that Malta has undergone a major transformation in terms of labour market developments. He explained how the major change came about from the policy makers’ recognition that active labour market policies were more effective in the long term. “Coherent strategies need to include retraining opportunities as well as unemployment benefit systems that balance the rights and duties of the unemployed, and ones which avoid that the unemployed become dependent on social systems.” APRIL / MAY 2017

07. 07. “We cannot write off entire sections of our society for one reason or another” Welcoming H.E. the President of Malta Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, Anton Borg said that both the Chamber and the President shared the value of a sound work ethic which is one of the most basic building blocks for a healthy society. Speaking ahead of a yearly dinner at the Malta Chamber with the President of Malta, Mr Borg said that the recent successes of the economy couldn’t be denied and this brought an increased standard as new sectors have opened new opportunities for myriad people. “Our country is venturing into new and exciting places, providing new employment

and opportunities. We would like to see, however, a greater effort to widen these opportunities to those amongst us who are more vulnerable,” he said. “We cannot write off entire sections of our society for one reason or another. These people have a lot they can offer and our economy and our society would be better off to benefit from the value they bring to the table,” Mr Borg explained. Moving on to the subject of the proposed increase in the minimum wage, Mr Borg said that this would not help in the shared goal to eradicate poverty. “Unfortunately the lion’s share of people who live under or around the poverty line are out of employment. So increasing the minimum wage will not help or affect them,” he said. 71


CC news

09. Chamber President underlines importance of trade with UK

08.

During his final dialogue with the Prime Minister as President of the Malta Chamber, Anton Borg underlined the importance of trade with the UK “Europe’s negotiators must go to any necessary length to preserve trade and business relationships between Europe and the UK,” said Anton Borg as he was addressing Prime Minister Joseph Muscat during a meeting with members at the Malta Chamber. Mr Borg was reiterating the importance of undisrupted trade with the UK in all economic sectors. “Many Maltese businesses depend on stable and cost-effective trade relations with the UK,” he told the Prime Minister. “We understand Government’s position

08. Chamber and Hsbc renew collaboration agreement The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, and HSBC Bank Malta plc once again agreed to collaborate to promote enterprise by renewing their gold partnership agreement. By virtue of a gold partnership agreement, which was signed on 13th March by Andrew Beane, CEO, and Michel Cordina, Head of Commercial Banking, on behalf of the bank and Anton Borg, together with Frank V. Farrugia on behalf of the Chamber, the parties agreed to collaborate exclusively on a number of projects aimed at promoting entrepreneurship and helping businesses internationalise. Addressing those present, Mr Borg said that HSBC Bank and the Malta Chamber have a long history of collaboration. He explained how through the new agreement, both parties will collaborate to create new initiatives aimed at guiding enterprises both large and small to run more professionally and more profitably. In his address, Mr Beane said: “the bank was delighted and honoured to be renewing its partnership with the Chamber as a sign of its ongoing commitment to support the economy and entrepreneurship.” He also congratulated Mr Borg on his outstanding contribution to the business community in his term as President. 72

09. APRIL / MAY 2017


CC news

11. to favour a deal that is less favourable than membership, however, during the European Council meeting to adopt the guidelines for the Brexit talks on 29th April, we urge you to deliver a message we have repeated on many occasions in your presence, that notable disruptions to present trade practices and costs will have severe repercussions on the economy,” he said. Speaking on the subject of the Presidency of the EU, Mr Borg said that this served to truly place Malta on Europe’s political map. “Our Chamber has been invited to participate in a number of exclusive boards and fora such as BusinessEurope’s Vice President Committee and Executive Board, as well as the Council’s Tripartite Social Summit.

10. New council at the Malta Chamber The Malta Chamber elected its new council for the upcoming term, up to March 2019. Voting opened immediately after the Annual General Meeting which was held on 27th March and ran for three days. The elected members that will make up the new Council of the Malta Chamber are: IMPORTERS, DISTRIBUTORS AND RETAILERS ECONOMIC GROUP Frank V. Farrugia Reginald Fava Andrew W.J. Mamo Anthony Tabone Christopher Vassallo Cesareo Charles A. Zahra

APRIL / MAY 2017

MANUFACTURERS AND OTHER INDUSTRIES ECONOMIC GROUP Norman Aquilina Patrick Cachia Matthias Fauser Joseph Pace Marisa Xuereb Nicholas Xuereb SERVICES PROVIDERS ECONOMIC GROUP Hugh Arrigo Elizabeth Barbaro Sant Tonio Casapinta Spiteri Mario Matthew E. Sullivan David Xuereb Josie Ellul Mercer led the Electoral Commission which was composed of Louis Apap-Bologna, Victor Camilleri and Michael Cutugno.

11. Frank V. Farrugia elected Malta Chamber President Frank V. Farrugia was elected President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry. Mr Farrugia was Deputy President of the Malta Chamber since 2015 and held the post of Vice President for the preceding two years. Addressing the Council for the first time, Mr Farrugia outlined his priorities for his Presidency for the coming two-year term. He said that he was honoured to take the baton from a tireless outgoing President who enjoyed the respect of the business community as well as our political leaders. He said that his presidency will aim to maintain the Chamber’s leading role in the representation of business, and it will seek to face the new challenges of the times. Mr Farrugia said that he looked

forward to working with all members, boards and committees of the Chamber in order to bring about the necessary changes that would result in greater competitiveness for the country. Frank V. Farrugia joined the Malta Chamber of Commerce in 1976 and is well-placed to lead the Malta Chamber having served in virtually all positions. Apart from Deputy President and Vice President, Mr Farrugia served as Honorary Treasurer in 2001 and Honorary Secretary in 2002/3. He also served as member of the ethics, import levies, VAT and taxation committees; Chairman, Vice Chairman and Secretary of the Manufacturers and Exporters Trade Section; Member of the Commission Agents Screening Commission and served as Chairman of its Trade Section; Chairman of the Importers Trade Section, and founding member of the Maltese American Chamber of Commerce. Frank V. Farrugia is owner and managing director of Alphacom Int. Services Co Ltd, a company specialising in the supply of textiles, industrial sewing machines and all related equipment, as well as Alcom Enterprises Co Ltd, which specialises in the supply of professional tools, garage equipment, engineering solutions, exhaust extraction systems, industrial maintenance and treatment chemicals, industrial plant and heavy equipment, ROs and water treatment technology. Besides the Maltese market, the group also exports and offers its services to companies in North Africa.

12. New Board of Management at the Malta Chamber The new Board of Management of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry which will be serving for the term 2017-19 was elected during a Council meeting which was held on 10th April. The new Board of Management reflects the changes to the statute which were approved by an Extraordinary General Meeting last year, namely the election of two Vice Presidents to better represent the Economic Groups of the Chamber. The members of the Board of Management are: Frank V. Farrugia – President David Xuereb – Deputy President Andrew W.J. Mamo – Vice President Marisa Xuereb – Vice President Hugh Arrigo – Officer Matthias Fauser – Officer Charles A. Zahra – Officer

75


CHAMBER/71

NEWS Internationalisation

01. Chamber hosts Turkish Prime Minister for high profile meeting Welcoming the Turkish Prime Minister H.E. Binali Yildirim at the Chamber, outgoing President Anton Borg underlined the strong links that exist between Turkey and Malta, and highlighted the immense potential that exists for future trade opportunities. Mr Borg said that although Turkey and Malta established formal diplomatic ties in 1967, relations between the two countries strengthened considerably over the last decade, due to growing business interests and the support of effective political commitment at both ends. Mr Borg was addressing a high-level meeting, which was held at the Malta Chamber on 17th February, in the presence of the Prime Minister of Malta Joseph Muscat, Ömer Cihad Vardav, President of DEIK, and members of the business community from both countries. Mr Borg said that growing commercial ties with Turkey led to the establishment of a Maltese-Turkish Business Council (MTBC) in 2007, which under the Chairmanship of Mark Bencini, works tirelessly to bring together business people from the two countries to collaborate and build on each other’s knowledge and experiences. “To this end, MTBC leverages its contacts with DEIK and other stakeholders to promote business and investment ties between the two countries,” he said. He said that statistics clearly indicate that the integration between Malta and Turkey’s economies is growing steadily. Trade between the two countries currently stands at €22 million in terms of exports from Malta and €325 million in terms of imports from Turkey. Turning to tourism, he said that both countries have seen a steady increase of tourist traffic both ways with people travelling for leisure and business purposes. “It is safe to say that this marked improvement is directly attributable to Turkish Airlines’ increased presence in Malta offering direct connection between Malta, Istanbul and beyond. This contributed in no uncertain way to the opening up of business gateways between the two countries in various sectors such as maritime,” he said. Mr Borg also mentioned the strong presence of Turkish investment in Malta’s

76

01. maritime sector, whereby Yildirim Holding invested €200m in 2011 to acquire a 50 per cent stake in the container terminal at Malta Freeport. Four years later, in November 2015, Global Liman Isletmeleri acquired a majority stake in the cruise liner terminal, Valletta Cruise Port. “In the banking sector, one cannot fail to mention the strong presence of Turkish banks operating in Malta (including Akbank, Türkiye Garanti Bankası A.Ş, Finansbank (Malta) Ltd, Yapi Kredi),” he said.

“Having said that, as a Chamber we believe we are only scratching the surface and that there is more that we can achieve together. Our two countries can bring specific elements to the table that may be valuable to the other party. With a population of 78 million people and a recent history of robust economic expansion, Turkey is an immense country of great resources. Malta makes up for its diminutive size by its excellent strategic geographical position, and membership in the European Union and the eurozone,” Mr Borg said. cc

APRIL / MAY 2017


CC design trends

Situated between West Street and Old Theatre Street, the recently completed offices of translation company GTS, is the latest project by promising young architecture firm, A Collective. Adorned with five Maltese balconies and enjoying views of the Anglican Cathedral, Carmelite Church dome, Marsamxett harbour and Valletta rooftops, the Valletta property provided a characterful, albeit challenging backdrop for architects responsible, Steven Risiott and Patricia Grech. They tell Sarah Micallef how they went about it.

78

Photos by Alex Attard

An eclectic functionality

APRIL / MAY 2017


CC design trends

T

he brief presented to A Collective’s Steven Risiott and Patricia Grech for this office building was to provide a space which moves away from a typical office structure to provide a flexible, interactive environment which caters to a translation company’s growing needs. “We were lucky that our client was very openminded and trusted us fully. They wanted to create a flexible, adaptable and inspiring space, in which staff could feel happy and comfortable,” the architects explain. The first step was creating a plan detailing how best the brief could work with the space. This proved to be a challenge – mainly stemming from the fact that the property was previously a residence, and one which was uninhabited for several years at that. They consider the main challenge to have been converting what was once a residence into an office that could cater for up to 25 people. “Firstly, we had to figure out a way of fitting the services needed for a contemporary workspace,” they explain, while taking the building and its context into account. Admitting that they don’t have a set style, Steven and Patricia maintain, “we prefer to listen to the building and the site. Our approach mainly deals with bringing in light and maximising the potential of the site. “Our clients wanted as much openness as possible, but the building was anything but open. In terms of design, there wasn’t need to seek out many sources of inspiration. The building itself already posed a challenge. As architects, we like to keep things quite simple and minimal. We had this contextual site and challenging brief, so we let it flow naturally,” they explain. Within the resulting conversion, the first structural alteration combined two front rooms on the first floor to create a large, open-plan area which would house the majority of the staff. “Before, you would come up the stairs from the reception area and find a wall in front of you, with a door that was offset from the centre of the staircase. We demolished this wall and a perpendicular wall, joining what were previously two rooms – now, as you come up, you see the entire translation office. In place of the wall, we put in an acoustic screen composed of timber slats and upholstered modules. It was designed to follow the pattern of the steel column in the middle, creating a rhythm.”

“The reception desk appears to float above the floor, thanks to a mirrored panel which reflects the pattern, creating a perfect symmetry, rendering the desk practically invisible.” APRIL / MAY 2017

79


CC design trends To allow for more flexibility, comfort and increased motivation, a series of alternative working environments were created so as to encourage employees to move around and work from different areas, reflecting a more contemporary mentality. The five traditional Maltese balconies were consequently put to good use, doing just that. “Since the building has so many balconies, we placed a relaxation spot in each room in the balcony. They also double up as meeting rooms or casual workspaces – in the first balcony, for example, there are three planks of wood aligned with each window bay, which swing up to form a desk.” In the spirit of letting more light in, the architects also opened up one of the balconies’ doorways, which was previously boarded up. And when it comes to achieving that delicate balance between aesthetic appeal and practical usage of space, the pièce de résistance has got to be the subtlety with which the services were concealed –

80

effectively turning an old residence with its own history into a fully functioning, contemporary workspace. “Before designing the space, we organised the services – we wanted to conceal the services in such a way that the office can function while still respecting the building. In the open-plan area, one of the biggest challenges was the fact that, since it was going to have a high occupancy of people, it needed quite a few ACs and a lot of lighting, so we designed a series of gypsum islands that are suspended from the ceiling, which conceal the ACs above them. The lights, meanwhile, are in line with the gaps, suspended between these islands,” they explain. Finally, in keeping with the building’s period of construction, they introduced classical motifs framing the islands, adding a decorative element.” Throughout the space, the architects utilised quirky details and elements as a nod to the building’s history, which, according to a plaque on the façade, dates back to the

APRIL / MAY 2017


CC design trends

“We prefer to listen to the building and the site. Our approach mainly deals with bringing in light and maximising the potential of the site.”

1900s. This involves a strong use of colour and pattern with an intended purpose. “The work involved in translation features a lot of black and white surfaces… be it a dictionary, computer screen or printed material. In contrast, we wanted the space to be bright, colourful and bold,” they explain, making reference to the yellow light fittings, colourful bathroom tiles and the patterned tiles in each room which feature the same pattern in different colours. Other bespoke elements serve to personalise the space, differentiating it from the serious office spaces Valletta has come to be associated with. One such feature is shelving comprising of steel bars and timber APRIL / MAY 2017

planks, and a series of builders’ steel mesh sheets which were sprayed white and clamped to the wall behind the desks. “They feature a series of steel hooks, so that employees can hang corkboards and other belongings, personalising the space without making it look shabby. It’s very flexible – you can have as many hooks as you like and hang whatever you please.” Meanwhile, a third room on the same floor was converted into the boardroom. “Here, we wanted to make a statement when it came to the design – we chose a herringbone patterned floor and wall panelling which features a concealed door providing access to the corridor,” they explain. 81


CC design trends

“Since the building has so many balconies, we placed a relaxation spot in each room in the balcony. They also double up as meeting rooms or casual workspaces.”

In the boardroom, the services are also concealed above the ceiling, via grilles hidden in shadow gaps, and the ceiling light, which is reminiscent of a chandelier, adds some quirky character to the room. Downstairs, the ground floor comprises a single room which serves as the reception area. However, what is undoubtedly the talking point is a bespoke marble patterned floor and its exquisite reflection, mirrored in the reception desk. The reception desk, mirror and mirror-clad doorways create an illusion that the small reception looks far larger than it is. “The reception desk appears to float above the floor, thanks to a mirrored panel which reflects the pattern, creating a perfect symmetry, rendering the desk practically invisible,” Steven and Patricia explain, noting that each triangular element of the floor here was numbered and laid, piece by piece, according to a pattern they designed. “We didn’t want the traditional marble floor for the entrance hall – rather, we

wanted to create a marble carpet. And since the reception is on a different level altogether, we could afford to have an aesthetic which was a bit different to the rest of the rooms. We also applied microcement on the walls downstairs – we actually integrated the company’s logo in this way, by engraving it into a PVC panel and covering it with microcement.” Speaking of the primary materials and finishes used, Steven and Patricia affirm that the common feature when it comes to materials resonates with a common feature that is shared among their projects: “every material looks like what it is – it’s honest. There are no ceramic tiles that look like cement, or tiles that look like wood. We strive for material honesty.” 82

As for the overall design style achieved, the pair believe that in its eclecticism, it is consistent with its home, Valletta. “Valletta is not just a Baroque city. If you walk around, there are lots of beautiful wroughtiron or Industrial-era details, and so much else. It is this blend of styles that make it so unique. The design marries well with Valletta’s image,” they explain. Indeed, the sometimes quirky, sometimes contemporary and sometimes minimal aesthetic of the GTS offices is one so unique to the fabric of the building and area itself, that it would be impossible to pluck it out and apply it elsewhere. It wouldn’t work in another building, another area, another European city, but here, work it certainly does. cc APRIL / MAY 2017


STYLE

Office trends

REVIEW

04. Experimenting with colour Colour is a powerful tool in office design, and 2017 seems to be a year of experimentation. Be it in the form of wall paint in a recreational area, a feature wall in a meeting room or bright pieces of furniture dispersed throughout floors, designers are bringing colour to offices in new and exciting ways.

Offices are no longer being designed as merely work spaces, but extensions of the employees’ identities, as Martina Said discovers. 01. Fun fittings Designers are increasingly looking to blur aesthetic and functional lines across all spaces, offices included, and one of the ways to do so is through intriguing light fittings combined with advanced lighting systems befitting modern-day work environments.

01.

05. Working with Mother Nature Besides the use of plants and greenery to enhance the feeling of being outdoors while inside the office, there’s also a move towards integrating natural elements in the workplace such as water features, living walls, outdoor office extensions and reclaimed wood.

02. Mid-century design Modern office design calls for clean lines, simple furniture and youthful concepts driven by the desires and requirements of millennials, but some designers are bringing back the elegance and attractiveness of the mid-century era, complete with sophisticated materials integrated with all the current tech.

06. New seating Seating arrangements at an office have a psychological effect on employees, which is why many offices, particularly the tech giants, are making use of unconventional seating options intended to create a level playing field, ranging from low tables with poufs to semi-circular sofas and hanging chairs. cc

03. Integrated technology

www.amazon.co.uk

02.

Integrating technology into work stations is an ever-growing trend, including the wireless charging of devices, office furniture with built-in power adapters as well as multimedia capabilities, setting the scene for flexible and up-to-date work spaces, while doing away with excess clutter on and around desks.

03.

Ikea www.allmodern.com

05.

www.dezeen.com

04.

www.feareygroup.com

06. APRIL / MAY 2017

85


GADGETS

Tech trends

From health and fitness aids to an ingenious prototype for restless babies, Marie-Claire Grima looks at some of the most innovative tech trends out there. 01. CubeFit TerraMat

01.

We’ve all heard about how bad a sedentary lifestyle can be for your health, but standing for long stretches of time takes quite a toll on your body too. Designed for people who spend a lot of time standing in one place, the TerraMat features a number of bumps and ridges designed to let you stretch, exercise and massage your feet while you’re standing, helping prevent spinal compression, muscle fatigue and other standing-related issues.

02. Gladius Underwater Drone

02.

Looking for a high-tech way to have fun at the beach? The Gladius is a submarine drone with a 4K camera that can dive to a depth of 100m. It is controlled via a phone-connected remote and it is semitethered, which means it can roll out about 500m away from the beach with the right gear. The basic kit comes with the drone, a 1080p camera, 30m tether, and a ‘Wi-Fi buoy’ that acts as a sort of a repeater.

03. Garmin Vivosmart 3 Featuring a new ultra-slim design, the Vivosmart3 includes higher-end fitness-tracking tools such as VO2 max (a measurable indication of aerobic performance that translates into fitness level) and fitness age. It also has all-day stress tracking and a rep counter when pumping iron or doing push-ups or pull-ups.

04. Cambridge Sound Management Nightingale White-noise machines are extremely effective tools for people with sleep problems, but the Nightingale sleep system goes beyond that by being highly customisable with varied and recurring sounds, making it suitable even for people who have other conditions such as tinnitus. The package includes two speaker-equipped smart plugs, which can be installed on opposite sides of the room for a surround sound effect.

05. Bialetti Cold Brew The weather’s heating up so many of us will be looking to get our coffee fix in a more frosty way. The fuss-free Bialetti Cold Brew makes sizable batches of cold-brew coffee, which is conveniently poured from its glass pitcher. It makes less of a mess when decanting, has a filter basket with a wide mouth to receive grounds and is less bulky than others of its kind, allowing it to fit easily into the refrigerator for storage.

06. Max Motor Dreams Ford’s latest creation isn’t a car at all – it’s a small cot for babies called Max Motor Dreams for babies who sleep best when they’re in a moving car. It simulates a drive using sound and motion, along with LED lighting designed to mimic yellow-hued streetlights. Unfortunately, it’s still just a prototype, but due to popular demand, the Max Motor Dreams could see an eventual production run. Keep dreaming. cc

03.

06.

05. 04.

86

APRIL / MAY 2017


CC make the headlines

Introducing FrameFour:

Focusing. Teaming. Conferencing. Collaborating. Work is a series of transitions. Every day we move from individual to group work, collaboration to personal focus. FrameFour® by Steelcase makes transitions practically seamless, providing a consistent ecosystem of spaces that support resident, nomadic, meeting workstyles throughout the work environment. FrameFour provides a complete workplace for mobile and resident workers, workspaces that support technology and tools. FOR THE RESIDENT ZONE – FrameFour provides individual privacy while fostering connections and collaboration that helps support the group’s interactions. Each workspace offers plenty of work surface, storage, technology support and tools. Enclosed spaces enable privacy, while keeping a sense of connection to the larger group. FOR THE NOMADIC ZONE – Whether working alone or with others, workers can

see and be seen by their peers. FrameFour comes in desk and bench configurations, with either a supporting storage leg or a four-leg frame. The collaborative space nearby is a convenient haven for information sharing and brainstorming. FOR THE MEETING ZONE – The flexible space is designed for deep collaboration, supporting the cycle between individual and collaborative modes throughout the duration of a project. Integrated cable management, uninterrupted leg room and broad expanses of work surface are all part of FrameFour’s broad statement of line. All of this invites users for productive work sessions. Support for every workstyle For nomadic workers who need longer-term workspaces, these temporary home bases support task work to focus and rejuvenate. The personal locker integrated in the storage leg keeps belongings secure, puts bags and backpacks within easy reach and offers multiple power outlets. A casual collaboration area provides a change of posture and a setting for sharing, evaluating and generating content. Dedicated resident workspaces support users during long periods of focused work. Monitor support maximises the work area, while screens provide visual privacy.

FrameFour can be customised to adapt to workers’ needs thanks to a wide set of features. cc For more information on how your workplace can be designed to foster innovation, speak to the sales and design consultants at Oxford House in Mriehel. T: 2546 4000.

Experts in leak detection and repair CHI Consultants Ltd has been in operation since 2012. Coming from a background of engineering and marketing, we have put together our expertise and have focused our attention on taking an innovative stance on the products and services we offer. We started our business journey by focusing on various projects, both local and EU based, in the fields of energy efficiency, water conservation and research. While working on projects related to water conservation, we came across a niche market which captured our interest. We realised that there were few services offered locally which solve water leak problems, and these services were rarely successful and carried out professionally. Therefore, we shifted our attention and efforts to find a solution to this very common problem. During the last year, our main focus was to offer an efficient and excellent service relating to the mundane problem of domestic and commercial water leaks in pipes and 88

drains. The water leak detection service offered is a non- destructive testing of the plumbing system in order to find the location of the leak/s present. Leaks can be found through wall tiles, floor tiles, parquet and so on. We also offer non-destructive testing and consultancy for rain water ingress detection in leaky terraces or roofs. Subsequently, recommendations on leak repairs are given onsite too. Our testing is conducted by professional engineers who are experts in the field. The service is a great success and has also helped our company in developing collaborations with many other professionals

in the area to help in solving many of the issues they encounter in this regard. We have continued to grow and strengthen our product and can today offer a solid service with regards to non-destructive leak detection using pipe testing, use of infrared thermography and CCTV cameras to find the leak location, consultation on repairs, repairing of the leak, reporting of findings and job tracking so that the service runs smoothly. All this for very affordable prices. cc For further information or an appointment kindly contact Rubyanne on 7983 9810 or send us an email on info@chi.com.mt. APRIL / MAY 2017


CC business

Paving the way for future growth A thriving economy creates a good climate for businesses to grow, but a shortage of skilled workers and increasing operating costs are presenting serious challenges. Martina Said speaks to industry leaders across different sectors to find out what’s in store for their business in 2017, and what challenges and opportunities lie ahead.

Raymond Vassallo James Bonello

PAGE 92

David Abela

PAGE 95

Jesmond Pace

Sarah Gauci Carlton

Michael Gatt

APRIL / MAY 2017

PAGE 95

PAGE 99

PAGE 96

Sonke Stein

PAGE 96

Peter Apap

PAGE 99

PAGE 100

Karl Schranz

PAGE 100

91


CC business

James Bonello Managing Director, KPMG Crimsonwing 2016 was a great year for us – one which proved that our clients and prospects welcome and value the Microsoft technology delivery capability of KPMG Crimsonwing, as well as the synergies with KPMG’s business transformation and integration capabilities. This helped us win significant new business, with revenue growth of approximately 40 per cent over the previous year. Last year, Microsoft launched Dynamics 365 – a cloud based offering combining CRM and ERP capabilities into a variety of applications that work together seamlessly. This ties in perfectly with KPMG’s advisory services around cloud adoption and digital strategies. Moreover, KPMG Crimsonwing was the implementer of one of the very first ever Microsoft Dynamics 365 implementation projects and the client benefited from better customer service, lower operating costs and

92

improved margins. For 2017, one of the main changes will be around mobile. More pertinently, the coming together of cloud and mobile is very much near the top of Microsoft’s innovation agenda, and this can make Dynamics 365 a game-changer in our industry. As for future challenges within the ICT sector, we feel the main ones will be the availability of IT professionals as well as salary inflation. I joined the company in December 1999, when the total Malta headcount was 90 and all project work revolved around one customer who accounted for over 70 per cent of our total revenue! Today, we are 280 staff servicing 150 clients spread across the globe. Our next milestone is to hit the 300 mark and work hard to retain our corporate culture, which makes KPMG Crimsonwing a special place.

APRIL / MAY 2017


CC business

Raymond Vassallo CEO, JM Vassallo Vibro Blocks Ltd & JM Vassallo Vibro Steel Ltd Our company registered a seven per cent increase in turnover during 2016 compared to the previous year. The increase was achieved thanks to important capital investments carried out during 2015. However, there were other important factors that contributed to the increase, such as the introduction of new products, particularly energy efficient materials, and an increase in demand for factorycontrolled, ready assembled steelreinforced beams and columns which carry a significant value added content. First quarter results for 2017 show that activity has remained on the same levels as last year. Our forecasts remain very positive as more projects are expected to start during 2017. The construction industry is facing new challenges, namely finding enough skilled workers, with the consequence that operating costs are increasing substantially. The biggest challenges ahead remain those related to fair competition and efficiency. With the introduction of excise duties on the majority of steel

raw materials, our great concern is the possibility of undeclared material entering the country. On the other hand, the promotion of innovative and energyefficient materials is an area that we intend to continue investing in. Our main objectives for this year are

the consolidation of our operations. During the first quarter, we installed a new plant for the production of electro-welded steelreinforcing mesh. This will help us introduce new mesh typologies into the market and increase our efficiency to supply custom mesh in a short time.

David Abela Managing Director, EuroBridge EuroBridge has grown exponentially over the last three years, and last year it continued to consolidate this trend. The company has been in operation since 1995 but we can now say that 2016 was our best year on

APRIL / MAY 2017

record. Malta’s positive economic situation has definitely helped, however, within the company, everybody did their part to achieve such big success. It’s starting to look like 2017 will be even better than 2016, and with some margin as well! We have secured new traffic and clients that are helping us reach targets way before we thought we would. Shipping and logistics are directly linked with several other local industries, so if the economy is doing well in general, our sector should mirror that. In fact, the feedback I am getting from my fellow freight forwarders is that business is going well, if not great, for most of them. As for challenges and opportunities, one current issue which we should start giving due attention to is the possibility that the Hal Far Groupage Complex at Hal Far, which is Government property, could soon be privatised, and this might change the whole situation with regards to groupage cargo. On the other hand, this might be a great opportunity for us freight forwarders, especially the small players, to expand our operations to include local logistical services. Another big challenge is finding

the right people to employ. The employment situation in Malta, where it is almost at full employment, has made it really difficult for us to find suitable candidates to employ. The shipping industry is very demanding and all those employed within it need to be ready to handle a lot of pressure, but on the other hand, it gives a lot of satisfaction back. Not everybody is ready to take such a plunge, and that is why it is so difficult to find the right candidates. As for the rest of 2017, we have a lot of ongoing projects at the moment and we are targeting to achieve them all at the earliest possible. The first is my current pet project of the groupage export service. We are offering unbeatable rates on the usual great service and have to say it has already started showing great promise after only starting this service in March. The next in line would be implementing a new paperless system within the office that will make us even more efficient in our work. Finally, we should be moving to a brand new office installed with all the latest technology in approximately two months. There is more to come even before the end of the year, but we will be announcing them in due course. 95


CC business

Sarah Gauci Carlton Commercial Manager, Creek Developments Plc Creek Developments has been operating the Msida and Ta’ Xbiex Marina since January 2011. From the beginning, the focus has been on bringing the marina up to the highest international standards, which meant a period of intense upgrading, innovation and investment in staff and marina infrastructure. The last few years have seen year-on-year growth as we improved our facilities and service to match the uniquely sheltered and central location, with 2016 being no exception. The yachting industry in the Maltese islands is becoming increasingly competitive as new operators enter the market, with more berths available and a strong support service industry. The increased competition has kept standards rising, lending a positive outlook to Maltese yachting in general. For Creek Developments Plc, the Msida and Ta’ Xbiex Marina is now established firmly as a year-round berthing destination, attracting more long-term visitors each year. Winter 2016-2017 has been especially busy, as the

exceptionally bad weather sent many yachts in search of a sheltered marina, but we are also expecting a busy summer with many returning and recommended visitors. When the economy is thriving, it is very easy to become complacent. Both the challenge and the opportunity are to use the good times wisely to build a reputation for providing excellent service and value for money. We must not forget that currently, many neighbouring countries are hampered by unrest and economic problems. When conditions improve, we can expect them to be hungry for business and if we are not well prepared, it will be harder to compete. It is also important to ensure that Malta’s appeal to yacht owners is sustainable, hence a balance needs to be struck between the needs of development, industry and maintaining a clean and attractive environment. This year will be about fine-tuning and examining every aspect of our operation to ensure we are giving the best possible level of service to our customers.

Sonke Stein CEO, Oiltanking Malta Ltd Oiltanking Malta had a stable 2016, meeting its budgeted figures, which were in line with the performance of previous years. We foresee no major disruptions in our industry in 2017, and are expecting to meet our budget figures. The main challenges to our industry currently are the availability of suitable manpower, its training, as well as the retention of our human capital. Furthermore, we need to focus on potential shifts and changes within the Mediterranean oil market. Changes in oil consumption patterns as well as regulatory changes with regards to quality of oil pose both an opportunity and a challenge to our business. As for priorities this year, the company is in the process of streamlining its operational and financial systems towards new corporate standards – my focus will be to support my personnel in this process.

96

APRIL / MAY 2017


CC business

Jesmond Pace Managing Director, FACT Group Our firm’s consistent, focused and professional approach and investment in its human resources continued to prove beneficial throughout 2016. We registered a positive performance and this was achieved through the engagement of new clients and also the provision of new services to existing clients. Whilst competition and market forces are all factors we cannot ignore, FACT Group always strives to keep itself dynamic and responsive to changes and developments in the economy. We believe that FACT Group, with its ‘can-do’ approach, has consolidated its position as one of the leading service providers in its mid-tier category in Malta. Malta has consistently registered an increase in the Gross Value Added in recent years – our firm is both eager and well prepared for the ripple effect caused by this consistent economic growth, and we feel proud that we are also contributing in our small manner to these achievements. The firm’s results in this year’s first quarter, and also the interest in our services from new potential clients has been very encouraging, and this bodes well for another successful year in 2017. However, there are a lot of challenges ahead which we need to overcome as a

country. I consider the key challenge to be Malta’s ability to come out as a creative and dynamic country in an entrepreneurial sense, and to keep developing industries that sustain Malta’s attractiveness as a jurisdiction. We cannot continue to rely on the fiscal advantage that Malta offers to non-residents. For years, we have been under pressure from the EU regarding the fiscal benefits we offer, and although implementation or changes to these rules won’t happen overnight, I believe it’s a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’. The other challenge is the labour force. Almost all industry sectors have experienced shortages in the labour market. Supply is significantly short of demand and this is undoubtedly a result of our own success. Perhaps a more efficient and sensitive system which simplifies the recruitment process would be helpful to ease the burden on firms’ administrative resources. However, the opportunities are numerous, and a major positive opportunity which is beckoning at our doorstep is the issue of Brexit. Our success in attracting business from the UK will prove to be a game changer to our industry, and its positive effects will be felt by all locally, not just those involved in the sector. This year, our goal is to continue investing in our human resources, seeking and

recruiting people with vision, ambition and professionalism. My personal goal is for the firm to be equipped with the expertise needed for the constant influx of demand for our services and new clients. Recruitment and ongoing training are the order of the day at FACT Group. Being relatively small and nimble enables us to adapt quickly to changing client requirements and expectations, and that is why we invest heavily in our human resources. Other than this, our growth path is such that we are rapidly outgrowing our current offices, and therefore plans are in hand for an expansion of our office space in the short term.

In 2016, Prohealth achieved significant double-digit growth in Malta, driven by continued growth of its dynamic Pharma Business Unit, and its leading DermoCosmetic brands coupled with further development of its recently established Medical Devices Business Unit. These positive figures were partially offset by a decline in exports due to the difficulties in the Libyan market, where Prohealth has been active since 2004. Forecasts for the company are positive so far, with sales just below our ambitious budget forecasts for 2017. We are confident that we can reach this year’s sales targets with the sales injection expected from ongoing projects, and new launches and initiatives throughout the rest of the year. The outlook for our industry remains positive albeit rather stable due to the particularly consistent nature of this sector. The biggest challenge in our market is the oversupply of products, and subsequent high level of competitiveness in virtually all

product categories and therapeutic areas within a market which is increasingly strictly regulated yet limited in size. The key to success lies in differentiation, by offering a dynamic yet superior level of service, at all stages of the marketing, sales, and supply chain processes. Intensive personal development of our Senior Executive Team and subsequent vertical and horizontal alignment of their teams is high on my agenda for this year, together with recruitment of the best-quality talent available. Achieving our challenging sales forecasts while maximising our resources and modernising and streamlining all processes are essential for us to further extend our footprint in Malta. We are also working hard to enter other high-potential overseas developing markets to offset dependence on the currently unstable Libyan market. I firmly believe that a customer-centric approach based on open communication lines internally and externally is the key for all this to be achieved.

Peter Apap CEO, Prohealth Ltd

APRIL / MAY 2017

99


CC business

Michael Gatt CEO, Atlas Insurance PCC Ltd In 2016, the non-life insurance industry continued to grow albeit at a slightly slower pace than the previous year. We at Atlas were satisfied with our premium growth which was in line with the previous year increase, however, our overall performance was negatively affected by an increase in the frequency and severity of claims, in particular bodily injury claims. In addition, investment returns were also well below the previous year’s performance, so all in all it was quite a challenging year for us but satisfactory nonetheless in the current environment. With reference to 2017 forecasts, market players, some more than others, had begun to adjust premiums in 2016 to stem the losses experienced over the last years, particularly on motor vehicles, and it is hoped that the effect of these adjustments will result in an improved performance for this class of business which makes up almost 50 per cent of the market premiums. If the economic activity in general continues to expand, then our industry could possibly be looking at a similar or even better year. However, it is difficult to project technical results due to the very nature of our business. Claims and

investment income, which are two very crucial elements, are both very difficult to predict and can be very volatile from year to year. The international insurance industry is entering a period of profound change, with the increasing momentum of fintechs and insuretechs entering the scene, changing buying behaviour, and growing needs and purchasing power of millennials and digital natives. These are challenging how insurance is bought, sold, underwritten and serviced in a fundamental way. It is up to us to seize opportunities presented by technology and data to create innovative solutions, reduce costs and capture greater value for our customers. Linked to this is the war on talent where we face competition from other sectors and need to find new ways to develop and attract young people to careers in the industry. As for future endeavours, each year is an exercise in improving our service for our customers, in terms of improved products, but also providing a more efficient and convenient experience for all our clients. This year, Atlas Insurance launched new and improved travel insurance benefits and is working on

a number of new products and services. Atlas Healthcare, together with AXA PPP healthcare, has also launched improved health and dental benefits. At Atlas, we take the feedback received from clients very seriously and, during 2017, we plan to continue adding service enhancements, particularly at claims stage, when clients need us most. Finally, we believe that happy and motivated employees are the backbone of our company. The continued attraction, development and encouragement of talent is becoming ever more crucial and ever more challenging at the same time. Through staff initiatives, training, and an emphasis on talent management, we aim to always improve our corporate culture, making Atlas a great place to work.

Karl Schranz General Manager, FCM Travel Solutions Malta 2016 was a great year for FCM Travel Solutions Malta – with our overall performance exceeding expectations by 20 per cent. This was largely due to our amazing team, which has grown substantially in 2016, to our expansion programme and the merger of EC Travel, Howards Travel, Westland Travel, as well as our very close working collaboration with JPE Travel and also KDM Travel. Now that we are nicely settled into our new, state-of-the-art Head Office located on the Birkirkara by-pass, we are more motivated

100

than ever to continue our growth – especially within the leisure travel industry. We are very excited about our new product ‘Stellina Holidays by FCM Travel Solutions’, which is proving to be extremely popular and is being received incredibly well by all our clients. With sub-offices in Mosta, Valletta and Gozo, we are focused on increasing our client reach and offering all kinds of logistical services throughout the world. A major challenge for our industry is the internet, as many seem to think that booking online is faster, cheaper and will always work in their favour – however, many times, this is not the case, mainly due to the false assumption that web bookings are fee-free. Upon closer examination, you will discover that fares through a travel management company are more competitive, because they are likely to have strong supplier relationships and industryinnovative technology which will work to the clients’ advantage. It is for this reason that we have invested in the latest OBT (Online Booking Tool) technology, where our corporate clients can use our services through the internet and book online or via email, allowing them to issue their own air tickets (including low cost carriers), hotel vouchers and more with no need for

credit card payments and with the peace of mind that they are purchasing from a trusted travel management company, with a 24/7 emergency service. We give our clients peace of mind and support, knowing that, should they find themselves in an emergency situation, our dedicated team will be of aid – web bookings can be unforgiving in these scenarios, with no rerouting, crisis updates, refunds or assistance being offered. On the positive side, the internet boom has also brought with it several opportunities for our industry, with information and communication at our fingertips. This has allowed us to build relationships with suppliers and other travel management companies all over the globe. Throughout 2017, we are looking towards further growth, with expansion programmes in place for our Malta operations as well as expanding our operations in Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt and Algiers. We plan to continue to negotiate, to enable us to offer special rates for our clients, which in some cases has allowed us to go even lower than BFOD, including conference rates – the more a client books through us, the more our booking volume grows, and this gives us the fuel we need to negotiate even better discounts for our clients.” cc APRIL / MAY 2017


CC CASE STUDY

From a single, passenger only vessel to over 300,000 passengers and 60,000 vehicles yearly Virtu Ferries Managing Director Henri Saliba speaks to Sarah Micallef about Malta’s growing link with Sicily, the company’s journey since its origins in 1988 and what lies ahead.

W

hether it’s for work or play, few Maltese can say they haven’t been to Sicily at least once, and for many, the instant association is Virtu Ferries – the operators of frequent and efficient car and passenger ferries specialising in the MaltaSicily route. The company finds its origins in 1988, and back then, as Managing Director Henri Saliba tells me, the ships in operation were far smaller than those on the route today. In 1993, Virtu Ferries made the switch from passenger-only to passengers and vehicles with their first vehicle-carrying vessel – the MV San Gwann – which had a capacity of 21 light cars and small vans. Some years later, in 2006, the company welcomed a larger vessel – the MV Maria Dolores, a 68m ferry. “It was then that we made a change from light cars to commercial trucks. With a capacity of 65 vehicles, out of which we could fit up to three trailers or trucks, the Maria Dolores operated till 2011, at which point we introduced the MV Jean De La Valette,” he explains. The new vessel took the company’s commercial and cargo

102

offering to a new level, taking a maximum of 16 to 17 trailers, small vans, trucks and cars. The company’s focus throughout the years however, has always been split – giving equal importance to the passenger and cargo sectors. “We keep our focus on our clients and ensure we offer value for money together with a high level of service.” Mr Saliba continues. And this focus lies in more than simple operation as a sea carrier. The Managing Director explains that Virtu also works to create business for each route, focusing on their different markets and customers. Their tour operating arm in Sicily, Vacanze Maltesi, is Sicily’s largest tour operator that specialises in Malta, and offers different packages to tourists interested in visiting. During 2016 Virtu Ferries carried about 55,000 tourists from Sicily to Malta including day trippers, he explains: we offer tourists residing in hotels in Sicily a day trip to Malta including an excursion, very much like tourists who come to Malta for a day on cruise liners.” Meanwhile, there are also passengers that

Photo by Inigo Taylor

“We keep our focus on our clients and ensure we offer value for money together with a high level of service.” APRIL / MAY 2017


CC CASE STUDY

“One simply cannot become complacent and must always be a step ahead.”

visit for longer than one day, primarily made up of Sicilians on business trips or holidays, but also including other markets which Mr Saliba says have been on the increase. “Apart from Italians coming to Malta, we also have an interesting market which has been growing since the beginning – the two-point holidays. Here, we work with major operators selling Northern Europe and Italy – and target tourists who are interested to travel down to Sicily and extend to Malta for a night or two or three. This is an interesting option, particularly for long-haul incoming tourists coming from countries like the US and Japan.” The same also works vice-versa from Malta to Sicily, with passengers ranging from Maltese day-trippers to tourists staying in Malta, for both day trips and two-point holidays. The Maltese market appears to be particularly on the increase, and Mr Saliba attributes this to a number of reasons. “Years ago, it was mainly to shop – Malta was not yet in the EU, and perhaps the variety of goods available in Malta was less than it is today. But while nowadays the Maltese still go to shop, things have changed. Now you have families going up by car to explore the countryside and agritourism market in Sicily, the uncrowded beaches, and in winter we have, for the first time, Maltese people going up in their own cars to ski, which was unheard of, until now. The Maltese are also becoming more adventurous – more are driving abroad, and because it’s so close, they feel at home,” he says. Nowadays, Virtu Ferries carries over 300,000 passengers and 60,000 vehicles APRIL / MAY 2017

more or less down the middle between personal and commercial travellers. When it comes to cargo, Virtu has revolutionised the way Maltese businesses import their goods, owing primarily to the frequency and the fast service. “Our clients import everything from fresh produce and meats to construction materials, metals, gypsum and clothes, and vary from wholesalers and distributors to importers. The Italians are now seeing Malta as an extension of their market, and it pays them to give the Maltese good conditions,” Mr Saliba explains, maintaining that nowadays, through Virtu’s service, it is as if Maltese businesses are crossing to an extension of the same country. “Malta is being seen as part of mainland Europe, apart from an hour-and-ahalf crossing. Getting to Malta from Pozzallo, for an Italian wholesaler, let’s say from Ragusa, is closer than getting to Palermo.” Meanwhile, apart from its Malta-Sicily route, Virtu also operates in Venice, Croatia and Slovenia under Venezia Lines. Over the last 12 years, Mr Saliba maintains, Venezia Lines has been operating between May and October with two passenger vessels, selling excursions to Venice to tourists in Croatia. “We also sell one-ways and two-point holidays between the two, much the same as we do in Malta and Sicily. We touch five ports in Croatia with two vessels which operate daily services,” he continues. And as the company has achieved steady growth over the years, plans for future growth are already underway. “We believe that you can’t afford to slow down. We strive to maintain our level of service, both for our passengers and cargo clients,” Mr Saliba maintains. “The vessels we operate are stateof-the-art, modern vessels that are very fast and comfortable, efficiency and speed come at a cost to finance and operate, but our clients appreciate that and demand the level of service we offer.”

“What we’ve done in the past is invest in the line and in our client, and our aim now is to expand,” he continues, affirming that the company has just signed the purchase of a new vessel – which will have a larger garage capacity than the La Valette, taking up to six more trailers. “The vessel will be delivered to us in approximately 18 months’ time, and the idea is to continue on the same principle, but to expand the routes and the flexibility,” Mr Saliba explains, asserting that once the new vessel arrives, it will be placed on the MaltaPozzallo run together with the La Valette. “The options are various and we’re keeping them open – touching more ports; basing one in Sicily and one in Malta, and giving better departure times; and criss-cross the voyages,” he adds. Finally, Virtu’s future plans also centre on the company’s terminal and business centre. In the coming months, the company will be organising exhibitions at the terminal, aimed at Sicilian companies that want to exhibit their products in Malta. “We are doing the same thing we do with our passengers – exposing the Maltese market to them and creating business and import/export between Malta and Sicily,” Mr Saliba maintains. Looking towards the future, both in terms of the new vessel and business centre, the Managing Director attests that Virtu will continue to do things as it has always done, improving incrementally and never accepting half measures. “Nowadays, we speak about innovation, which is important, but I don’t operate with a frame of mind of shock innovation. Instead, we apply small frequent changes. I probably tweak or change something every day. ‘We keep our focus on our clients and ensure we offer value for money together with a high level of service.’ That is how we’ve arrived at this point. I believe that small and continuous improvements lead to steady achievements.” cc

“What we’ve done in the past is invest in the line and in our client, and our aim now is to expand.”

103


CC FINANCE

The changing role of the CFO in today’s business operations Traditionally the role of the CFO largely consisted of looking after the financial well-being of a company, and implementing and monitoring adequate financial controls. Over the years, the CFO’s responsibilities have expanded. This change was largely driven by increasing complexities resulting from globalisation, regulation, information technology and changing expectations amongst others.

C

FOs are experts in the field of finance, and their understanding goes without saying. However, recent years have seen an emerging function: that of active participation in strategic decision-making. The complex and dynamic environment calls on the analytical skills of the CFO to play a greater part in strategy validation and execution. CFOs are best positioned to provide insight and analysis to support strategic planning, they can lead key initiatives in finance supporting the overall strategic goals and also ensure that business decisions are based on sound financial criteria. As part of a study conducted in the UK in 2016, 200 CFOs were asked to rank their initiatives in order of priority in the short term and longer term. APRIL / MAY 2017

HOW CFOs SEE THEIR PRIORITIES CHANGING IN… THE SHORT TERM – 2017

THE LONGER TERM - 2020

Meeting regulatory

1

Keeping pace with changing technology

Keeping pace with changing technology

2

Harnessing/managing big data

Meeting accounting and financial 3 reporting standards

Meeting regulatory compliance mandates

Harnessing/managing big data standards

Meeting accounting and financial reporting

4

Source: roberthalf.co.uk

105


CC FINANCE As can be identified in the table, meeting regulatory compliance mandates and accounting and financial reporting standards ranked high in the short and longer term. The 2008 financial crisis, as well as recent finance industry scandals, have induced a plethora of changing rules and regulations, which directly and indirectly affect the organisation. Compliance with these regulations is nowadays expected of a company’s CFO. They are not only expected to keep abreast of the applicable regulations but also other developments which might have a positive or negative impact on the company. Examples of such instances include new data protection regulations or alternative sources of finance. This not only ensures that the company is in line with all laws and regulations but extends beyond regulatory adherence, to effective planning and forecasting. The fast pace of development in technology, however, is by far the greatest change in business and beyond. Big data offers unprecedented opportunities for analytical insight into business by the finance function. Advances in the sophistication and power of mobile devices and PCs are revolutionising business. “Technological developments will serve to help gather, organise, standardise and make data timely. This will drive more effective business intelligence for identifying new market and profit opportunities, measuring and managing business performance, running simulations, or bringing customer insights,” specifies a report by ACCA (2012). The increase in the use of technology in data analytics will lead future complex decision-making by correlating, forecasting, and predicting future scenarios. As the duties of CFOs expand, effective communication and interpersonal skills have also become a prerequisite: “Emotional intelligence (EI) is the capability of individuals to recognise their own, and other people’s emotions, to discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, to use emotional information to guide thinking and behaviour, and to manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt environments or achieve one’s goal(s).” CFOs have to develop the ability to understand themselves and their emotions, as well as have sound situational awareness, to lead a team effectively. A CFO lacking in emotional intelligence will not be able to understand the needs, wants and expectations of management and work colleagues. Modern CFOs have to think and act beyond the traditional role. Needless to say, the broadening scope and the potential to influence the future viability of a business means that the role and function of the CFO is vital. However, on their part, CFOs have to safeguard their trusted positions by ensuring that ethics and integrity are kept high on their agenda. cc

106

APRIL / MAY 2017


Want to find out what will be the stuff of foodie fantasies this year? Sarah Micallef dishes out the latest. 01. Blueberries Blueberries are hot in the food world this year, and are being tipped as a key ingredient to a variety of trendy flavour parings. Apart from their delightful natural tartness, they’re packed with Vitamin C and antioxidants, making this a food trend that won’t jar with your diet plan! For a wonderful contrasting heat, pair with red pepper and cilantro, or jalapeno and lime. Inspiring and trendy pairings include caramelised garlic, thyme, wasabi and salted pistachio, while complementary flavours like maple, honey, molasses, balsamic and ginger are bound to elevate your next baking adventure!

05. Sweet breakfast Dessert for breakfast you say? We’re in! And if you’re worried about the health benefits, a recent study by Syracuse University should help alleviate your concerns. Dark chocolate has been shown to benefit cognitive function, so eating chocolate in the morning could prepare you better for your workday. And that’s not all – another study has also found that eating dessert at breakfast aids weight loss efforts. Now we’re talking! With these studies and the undoubted appeal of dessert for breakfast, food trend predictions include brunch amuse-bouche chocolate cakes and dessert menus at brunch and breakfast restaurants, but you can also choose to go small, by adding sweet treats to your cereal, oats or porridge.

02. Egg yolk Yolk porn has been a thing on social media for quite some time, but that moreish yellow liquid is not about to go anywhere soon. For years, many limited their egg intake for fear of increasing cholesterol levels, but now that that myth has been debunked (the cholesterol in egg yolks doesn’t have much influence on serum cholesterol levels and by extension the risk of heart disease), eggs can be celebrated once more! And whether you choose to add sunny side up eggs to salads, grain bowls, burgers or avocado toast on your Instagram feed, you can do so safe in the knowledge that the yolks contain a rich array of essential vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamins A, D, E, B12 and K, riboflavin, folate and iron, while the whites are a great source of low-calorie protein – win-win!

06. Pop-ups Pop-up restaurants, temporary eateries, one-off and limited run foodie events have begun to, literally, pop-up all over the place, and 2017 is set to continue seeing this trend going strong. And while the trend has really gained traction overseas, it’s also reached our shores, with a number of foodie events having been organised in recent years focusing on visiting star chefs, specialised menus or celebrating seasonal and sustainable fare. cc

03. Tacos

www.foodnavigator.com APRIL / MAY 2017

01.

02.

05.

04.

www.mb-zwo.de

03. www.minimalistbaker.com

In keeping with the regional food trend, it’s tacos’ turn for their moment in the spotlight. Both locally and international, Mexican favourite tacos have found their way on the menus of a variety of trendy eateries and even food trucks – not to mention our social media feeds. And the best part? You can fill them with anything you like, whether you choose to go full authentic or new age and trendy – the choice is yours.

FOOD&WINE www.gamerfitnation.com

When most of us are faced with the prospect of eating insects, no amount of celebrity chef endorsement – even if it is Heston Blumenthal – will serve to tempt us. But, as awareness on sustainability grows, this might be set to change. Reducing intake of traditional protein sources like red meat is becoming more attractive, and introducing protein from unconventional sources is already on the rise. Add the fact that insects now come in powder form, and you might be on to something. Used much like other natural protein powders, insects could very well become a food trend du jour.

www.foodnessgracious.com

04. Insects

www.brooklynsupper.com

Foodie fantasies

06. 109


CC make the headlines

The Paradise Bay Resort Hotel… Malta’s best kept secret The Paradise Bay Resort Hotel is a very spacious and comfortable resort. It is situated in a unique location, overlooking the picturesque sister islands of Gozo and Comino, surrounded by the clear seas of the Mediterranean. With 276 rooms, all with sea views and balconies, the resort’s amenities also boast various dining outlets, bars, conference halls, a tennis court, three outdoor pools with extensive terraces and sun loungers, a large indoor pool that is heated during the winter months, a children’s playground with safety flooring, a games room for all ages and a private beach with water sports (during summer). A private car park accessible to hotel guests is also available free of charge. Its unique location makes the Paradise Bay Resort Hotel an ideal base to relax in. Alternatively one can also venture out to various nearby interesting locations such

de Valette’s dagger explored in Heritage Malta’s exhibition de Valette’s dagger is in Malta for the first time since 1798. As part of the events marking Malta’s 2017 EU Presidency, Heritage Malta is organising the exhibition, ‘de Valette’s dagger’ at the National Museum of Archaeology. This prestigious artefact is on loan from the Louvre Museum, Paris. This much-awaited exhibition is another hallmark in the series of high standard exhibitions organised by Heritage Malta. ‘de Valette’s dagger’ will also form part of the events linked to the capital city of Valletta. Last year Malta commemorated the 450th anniversary since the laying of the first stone of the city of Valletta, while next year Valletta will be the European Capital City of Culture. The exhibition ‘de Valette’s dagger’ explores different aspects of the dagger and the sword which were given as a gift to

110

as St Agatha’s Tower, also known as Torri l-Aħmar or Red Tower, built by the Knights of St John in 1647, and the Għadira Natural Reserve, which is very popular with bird watchers. The most beautiful sandy beaches are also close by. These include Paradise Bay, Armier Bay, Little Armier Bay, Għadira Bay, Golden Bay, Ġnejna Bay and Għajn Tuffieħa Bay.

Grand Master Jean Parisot de Valette after the victory in the Great siege. The exhibition is divided in three sections. The first part explains why these two weapons were presented to de Valette after the Great Siege. It also queries the direct relationship between the Order and the French, especially with General Napoleon Bonaparte who kept the dagger to himself till his death. The second part of the exhibition focuses solely on the dagger. Visitors have the opportunity to admire also the sword, exhibited in the same room with the dagger. Visitors are able to view a 3D model of de Valette’s sword suspended in mid-air. The sword is projected in its proper dimensions and is constantly rotated along its longest axis to show all its 360-degree details. In the last part of the exhibition visitors can read general information about the dagger and the sword, focusing mainly on Malta’s ties to these two ceremonial weapons. A select number of other related exhibits from the national collection, moreover, feature in this exhibition. A fully illustrated catalogue has also been published to accompany the display. ‘de Valette’s dagger’ will remain open at the National Museum of Archaeology till 9th

One can also take a boat trip to the small Island of Comino and visit the crystal-clear blue waters of the Blue Lagoon. A 360˚ experience all year round. cc The Paradise Bay Resort Hotel, Marfa Road, Ċirkewwa. T: 2152 1166; E: info@paradise-bay.com; www.paradise-bay.com

July 2017. Opening hours: 9am-6pm, last admission 5.30pm everyday. Admission included in the museum’s regular ticket price. cc More information about Heritage Malta’s activities can be obtained from www.heritagemalta.org

APRIL / MAY 2017


CC make the headlines

HSBC completes the rollout of talking ATMs As part of its commitment to make it easier for all customers to bank with them, particularly through the use of technology, HSBC have equipped all of their ATMs in Malta and Gozo with voice-enabled technology, making it easier for people with visual impairment to use these machines. A visually-impaired customer transacting using the newly-installed facility

All ATMs have audio jacks that customers can plug their standard headsets into to hear spoken instructions in both Maltese and English. For further security, the ATM screen is blanked out during the transaction, ensuring privacy. This functionality makes it easier for visually-impaired customers to access services such as withdrawing and depositing cash. In addition to Talking ATMs, all HSBC ATMS offer the choice of viewing the screens in larger fonts, a service which is very useful for elderly people or people with low vision. The roll out of this technology to the whole HSBC network makes good on a commitment made in 2016 when the bank organised a

“Express Logigroup emerges as the solution driver for any freight requirement” Jonathan Vella, CEO Express Logigroup Express Logigroup offers a diverse portfolio of services which converge into a freight and logistics powerhouse. Our experience is coupled by our flexibility to meet every customer requirement, be it a small-sized package to the transport of large exhibition events and valuables. Our principles are based on trust, quality and economical value, which are being represented by a management team which brings decades of experience in the field of transport and logistics. Our distinguishable yellow colour, unique branding, brings freshness to the dull screen of the local freight industry. One has to be extremely careful when considering the assignment of responsibility onto a carrier/freight forwarder or operator, commonly referred as the freight forwarder. The most notorious situation is that the APRIL / MAY 2017

number of practical, hands-on sessions to show customers how to use this functionality. These sessions were organised with the cooperation of the Malta Society of the Blind, Gozo Aid for the Visually-Impaired, Torball Society of the Blind, and Commission for the Rights of Persons with Disability. Dan Robinson, Head of Retail Banking and Wealth Management, said: “this is a great initiative that I and the bank are very proud of. We are committed to making it easier for our customers to get their banking done simply and conveniently, and we get great feedback on our Talking ATM functionality. So it’s brilliant that we can deliver on

the requests we have had to increase the availability of this technology.” Oliver Scicluna, Commissioner for the Rights of Persons with Disability, said: “I believe that HSBC Bank Malta have done an excellent job in making sure that full access is given to all their ATM users including persons with visual impairment and the blind. This proves well that the bank opted to address a social concern apart from their legal obligation.” cc

assigned party is incapable of delivering on the agreed terms. Using the right freight forwarder can save time, money and establish a more competitive base for the product being delivered. We suggest that whoever requires the assistance of a freight forwarder must find one that suits the needs of that individual or organisation. The following are some questions which would assist in completing this assessment.

industries. Our highest level of specialist competence comes from the years of experience and from listening and adapting to our customers’ needs on the one hand. On the other hand, our healthy growth also enriches our competition. We are reliable logistic experts, which consolidates and neutralises every challenge. Our future plans are ambitious and challenging! Our growth plan is coupled by primarily investing in our people. We believe in what the Maltese talent can provide and this is how we intend to bring the quality leap, which this industry has been long after. Concurrently we have continued with our overseas expansion. We are present all over Europe and now we’re branching into the eastern market, thus providing a wider network, which caters for all of our customers’ demands. Express Logigroup brings bright transport solutions with brighter colours! cc

Does the freight forwarder: } Have the appropriate network which services the location of pick-up or delivery? } Have experience in handling the type of product and shipment within the market place? } Have experience with the type of carriers you require? } Have favourable shipping rates and delivery schedules? } Receive good recommendations from other users? } Have a reputation for friendliness, competence, efficiency, reliability, costeffectiveness, trustworthiness and using fair business practices? Express Logigroup possesses far-reaching knowledge in logistics for all market sectors including specialised branches such as the health, retail, automotive and the chemical

Additional information about this service is available via www.hsbc.com.mt/atm or by calling HSBC Contact Centre on 2380 2380.

T: 2122 1999; www.expresslogigroup.com 113


CC make the headlines

Specialists in LED sports lighting Lighting design plays a key role in the functionality of sporting facilities. As well as providing illumination for players, officials and spectators, sports lighting must also fulfil various characteristics to optimise the quality of indoor and outdoor sports and recreation spaces. Altern Ltd has been working on INNOVLED, a project with the aim of developing an LED floodlight for sports applications. Altern brings in extensive expertise and experience within the sustainability and lighting industry, today offering a range of locally-built LED lights. In order to better understand the required characteristics of the product, the project team has been working with a number of local sports facilities to gain insight into the lighting needs of different sites, as well as the current challenges faced. Following in-depth research into the lighting requirements for different sports, the design team visited multiple facilities and conducted site surveys and interviews with facilities managers. The surveys revealed that there are lighting installations of widely varying quality

Cloud software can save your company time and money Small business accounting software that’s not available via the cloud can be tedious. Traditionally, it can suck up far too much of your business’ time and effort. This doesn’t add value, and takes the fun out of being in business. Cloud software can save your company time and money.

in the sports facilities, with some falling below recommended guidelines for lighting levels and lighting uniformity. Furthermore, through interviews it became apparent that sports facilities face various challenges relating to their lighting. While some installations may meet the lighting output requirements, most are hard to access, difficult to maintain, and are relatively high energy consumers. Moreover, control of these lighting installations was highlighted as an issue, with most of the on-site staff having issues switching on only those luminaires which were required, and not being able to dim or vary the light output from the current installations. Using the findings from interviews and surveys, together with research carried out, the project team at Altern has been designing a high power LED floodlight which will satisfy lighting requirements and provide additional functionality. LEDs are ideal for sports applications as they have high light output to power ratios, have long lifetimes, require low maintenance and provide lighting instantly. They can also be closely controlled and programmed to vary light output depending

on the particular use of the space, making them suitable for multi-use spaces such as sports halls used for conferences or events. Over the next few months, Altern shall be building and installing prototypes in select sports facilities, and carrying out in-depth monitoring, the findings from which shall be used to further develop the luminaire and control system design. This shall ensure that INNOVLED luminaires meet all required characteristics and provide high-quality sports and leisure facilities which can be enjoyed by participants, officials, spectators and building managers. cc

So what is this thing called the cloud? Think about when you use internet banking. Every time you access this data, you’re using the cloud. The cloud is a platform to make data and software accessible online anytime, anywhere, from any device.

In the event of a natural disaster or fire, being in the cloud means business productivity doesn’t need to be affected because there’s no downtime. As long as you have access to any computer or mobile device connected to the internet, you’re back up and running.

Problems with traditional accounting software: } The data in the system isn’t up to date and neither is the software. } It only works on one computer and data bounces from place to place. This is not secure or reliable. } Only one person has user access. Key people can’t access financial and customer details. } It’s costly and complicated to keep backups (if done at all). } It’s expensive, difficult and timeconsuming to upgrade the software. } Customer support is expensive and slow.

Five ways cloud software benefits your business: } You have a clear overview of your current financial position, in real time. } Automatic updates mean you can spend more time doing what you love. } Everything is run online, so there’s nothing to install and everything is backed up automatically. } Upfront business costs are reduced – version upgrades, maintenance, administration costs and server failures are no longer issues. } Work smarter with accessible data in the cloud.

Cloud security is world class As a small business owner, you might be concerned about a cloud service provider storing your data. But the cloud is one of the most secure ways to store information. For example, using cloud software, if your laptop is stolen, no one can access your data unless they have a login to the online account. 114

Project INNOVLED financed by the Malta Council for Science and Technology through FUSION: The R&I Technology Development Programme 2015. T: 2099 6465; E: info@altern.com.mt; www.altern.com.mt

Altern altern.com.mt

Software updates can be developed and delivered faster in the cloud. This means you don’t need to worry about installing the latest version and you’ll get access to new features instantly and the possibilities are endless. cc Contact Sixteen Ltd, the leading cloud software provider in Malta, for further information. T: 2010 1616; E: info@sixteen.com.mt; www.sixteen.com.mt APRIL / MAY 2017


CC make the headlines

Electronic payments made simple Electronic payments simplify running a business, whatever its nature, from running a traditional retail outlet to selling online. Bank of Valletta’s Payment Business Unit offers businesses a broad spectrum of electronic banking services, designed to meet the unique needs of small and large businesses alike.

Generally a business’ first point of contact with the bank relates to a request to migrate wages from a manual to an automated system. Through its Internet Banking platform, the BOV 24X7 Services suite, the bank offers an automated file uploading system that makes this task as simple as the clicking of a button. The file format is also customised according to the business type. Security is a priority for the bank, particularly in this field. Through the use of the bank’s Internet Banking Securekey, the company may appoint different users to input data and to authorise, thereby adopting the ‘four-eye’ approach. As a business grows, its financial requirements grow exponentially. Credit transfers constitute another area where BOV can assist corporates in doing away with manual intervention. Moreover, this service can be customised to suit the needs of a wide cross-section of clients, starting from those needing to process an isolated payment to those requiring regular batch payments. Time is definitely a precious commodity nowadays. At Bank of Valletta, we make it our prerogative to ensure our solutions are simple and hassle-free. In fact, BOV corporate clients may use the same file to upload payments using the BOV24X7 platform, irrespective of the number of different currencies involved. Furthermore, they get the option to receive Swift statements on a daily basis via secure

email enabling automated reconciliation of their accounts. Corporate clients are also after SEPA direct debits, primarily in relation to subscriptions, such as utility payments and settlement of insurance premia. With the introduction of SEPA, creditors may choose the bank through which to process any type of SEPA payments within any jurisdiction across the EU. For us at Bank of Valletta, the client, whether personal or corporate, is at the heart of everything we do. This is what drives our innovations and service options. Going forward we shall continue to work hard towards harnessing technology to offer our clients the innovative and user-friendly services that will continue to make banking as easy and painless as possible. cc Clients wishing to discuss electronic payment solutions offered by Bank of Valletta are invited to contact the bank on 2275 1568, 2275 1154 or send an email on paymentsbusiness@bov.com Bank of Valletta p.l.c. is a public limited company licensed to carry out the business of banking and investment services in terms of the Banking Act (Cap. 371 of the Laws of Malta) and the Investment Services Act (Cap. 370 of the Laws of Malta). Registered Office: 58, Triq San Zakkarija, Il-Belt Valletta VLT 1130-Malta Registration Number: C 2833

La Roche-Posay’s safety commitment Since its creation in 1975, La RochePosay Dermatological Laboratory has been doing what it can to improve the quality of life of people with sensitive skin by liaising with dermatologists to develop safe, dermatologically-tested products. Studies carried out have shown that more than 50 per cent of women state that they have sensitive skin and this may be on the increase. Clinical signs can be identified by a dermatologist, and may include symptoms like redness, flushing, and irritation. Adding to this, skin conditions such as allergies, atopy, eczema, acne, rosacea, etc, can also have a profound psychological impact on patients, affecting their sleep quality, self-confidence, and performance at work or school. This is why La Roche-Posay’s commitment to safety is a solid one and based on the principles below u Products that go beyond international cosmetics regulations, and are 100 per cent allergy-tested, with zero allergic reactions being the prerequisite. If a single allergy case is detected during product

APRIL / MAY 2017

development, the product is reformulated in the laboratory. u Products developed in collaboration with dermatologists and toxicologists, that contain only the necessary ingredients at the right active dosage. u Product tolerance that is tested and verified on the most sensitive skin: reactive, allergic, acne-prone, atopic, damaged or weakened by cancer treatments.

u Selection of the most protective packaging associated with only the really necessary preservatives, to guarantee intact tolerance and efficacy over time. cc

117


CC MEET THE ARTIST

Finding beauty in the ordinary Be they the grand façades of marvellous buildings, a musical concert on TV or a flock of turkeys housed within a farm in Germany, fine art photographer Alex Attard looks for individuality in the ordinary and mundane. He recounts his photographic journey with Martina Said.

Modernist house stairwell - A Collective © alex attard

A

Photo by Alan Carville

lex Attard’s photographic work is the kind that makes you stop, focus, and move in to take a closer look. It makes you wonder whether what you’re looking at is what the photographer really says it is, or what you think the object of interest might be. Are those the tattered pages of an ancient book or the surface of a rough shell? Is that really a blob of silicon on a building’s unfinished façade or a piece of modern art? This kind of inquisitiveness is just what the photographer wants to achieve through his work, and he certainly appears to be fulfilling his aim. I visit Alex at his home in San Martin, a minute community encircled by Mġarr, Wardija and St Paul’s Bay, where chirping birds and the occasional barking dog are all you hear all day. As we settle in the living room of his old and beautifully converted house – a passion, as I soon find out, that extends beyond his own home – Alex tells me that his love for photography goes back

118

APRIL / MAY 2017


CC MEET THE ARTIST

Soweto Kinch 2015 Malta Jazz Festival © alex attard

“I clearly remember my grandfather re-touching negatives on a light box along with my uncle who also worked at the studio – I used to go with them in the darkroom, and can still smell the developer as if it were a perfume.” to his childhood, when his grandfather’s studio in Valletta proved to be an interesting playground. “My grandfather, John Ciancio, opened up his first studio in 1913 in Strait Street, and till this day the Ciancio family is synonymous with photography. We used to live in Valletta, and the outing of the day as young children used to be a visit to my grandfather’s studio, which later moved to Old Theatre Street,” says Alex. “There was always a lot of activity going on inside his studio; I recall lots of people going in and out of the shop, and watching British Navy sailors hanging around in the street. I clearly remember my grandfather re-touching negatives on a light box along with my uncle who also worked APRIL / MAY 2017

at the studio – I used to go with them in the darkroom, and can still smell the developer as if it were a perfume.” Alex says the first time he saw a print develop as a young child was a magical moment, one he will not forget easily. Although he never worked at his grandfather’s studio, he used his own little dark room at home to experiment and develop his own pictures when he was in his 20s – an endeavour which lasted around two years, before getting married, having a son, and moving on to other ventures, including running two restaurants and converting and selling old houses. The latter, he tells me, fit right in with his passion for architecture – a passion which was to have great bearing on

Yataka Shiina 2015 Malta Jazz Festival © alex attard

his success as a fine art photographer. “I let go of photography for around 30 years, apart from the occasional travel photography, and didn’t pick it up again until I was around 52 years old. I had just sold my second catering concern and decided to go on a long holiday in 2006. My wife, Christa, joined me for the first part of the trip where we visited Cambodia. She had to return to Malta for work-related reasons, and my son, Steven, joined me for the second part of the trip, where we visited Laos and Hong Kong. My son, who’s into photojournalism – the fourth generation interested in photography – decided to buy himself a camera, reminding me all about photography and how much I used to love it. Being in my 50s, it felt like it was a good time to pick it up again.” However, from dabbling with film photography in his 20s to picking it up again in his 50s, a lot had changed in the world of photography. “It was no longer about film, so I decided to start from the beginning with a digital photo editing course. 119


CC MEET THE ARTIST In 2006, I bought my Nikon D200 DSLR camera, and three years later, decided to exhibit six prints during Notte Bianca called The Street Performers, featuring Spanish dancers in beautiful costumes who were roller skating up and down Republic Street. All the prints were sold, giving me the impetus I needed to keep going,” says Alex. Alex went on to participate in the online Black & White Spider Awards, which features thousands of participants and some of the greatest international judges for black and white photography. On one particular year, he won the Outstanding Achievement in Fine Art Photography award, placed second in the architecture category, and third overall in the world. In 2011, he hosted his first solo exhibition, A Few Seconds of Light, which took him back to his roots in more ways than one. The series was about Valletta, which is where he lived and grew up as a child, and the exhibition was Parliament Chamber - The Overlooked Performance © alex attard

AP architects © alex attard

120

APRIL / MAY 2017


CC MEET THE ARTIST

“My son decided to buy himself a camera, reminding me all about photography and how much I used to love it. Being in my 50s, it felt like a good time to pick it up again.”

Urban Minarets © alex attard Maestro © alex attard

APRIL / MAY 2017

held at his grandfather’s studio in Old Theatre Street, which was sold after the business relocated. “I wanted to do the exhibition at his studio before it got destroyed, so I contacted the buyers, who were due to start works on the place in a few months, and I got the go ahead. However, it was in quite a state and needed a lot of work to look presentable. It all came together though, and it turned out to be a very sentimental project for me, which also got all my family together again at the very same place we used to call home years back.” One of his more recent exhibitions which amply displayed his skill in fine art and architecture photography, as well as his approach to photography at large, is The Overlooked Performance, featuring Renzo Piano’s parliament building. “I watched its construction evolve, and knew I wanted to do something featuring the parliament building, but I didn’t really know what. I got into the project at quite an advanced stage, when the building started being cladded. I got permission to enter the site through Architecture Project, and as I started wandering around, I would ask myself what’s attracting me to the building. I felt there was something deeper, and as you build a relationship, you start to understand what’s at hand. Once you discover your concept, it becomes easier to see things around you,” says Alex. The photographs explored that which lies beneath the surface of the building, including insulation panels, waterproofing membrane and rubber sealant – the very materials that workers mindlessly apply to a building, without a second glance. “The beauty of this project, which can be widely applied, is that there are many things in life which we overlook, but they exist – and if we take the time to look at them, they will communicate something to us. I am a photographer, so I’ll photograph. You can write about them, someone else can paint about them, or sculpt. It’s all about seeing.” It is in the same way that Alex approaches all his photographic work. “What really moves me is creating. I love walking around buildings to see how light strikes their surfaces, but what excites me is creating something out of seeing things in a different way,” he explains. “The Overlooked Performance was about architecture, but also about looking at the unconscious behaviour of workers on a work site, when they’re working on a surface that no one will see once it’s covered up. When framed in a certain way, you see a lot of abstract images, but it is deeper than a photograph of an abstract surface because there is a story behind it – the story of the behaviour of the workers.” 121


CC MEET THE ARTIST

“The beauty of The Overlooked Performance, which can be widely applied, is that there are many things in life which we overlook, but they exist – and if we take the time to look at them, they will communicate something to us.” The photographs he exhibited at The Mdina Biennale in 2015 are another example of this, ones Alex says are probably the easiest photographs he’s ever taken, in his living room. “I was watching a tribute concert of the late conductor Claudio Abbado, when strong winds affected the TV signal and suddenly, I couldn’t see a thing. The initial feelings were ones of frustration, but as I kept watching, the pixelated and distorted images started to look like an interesting painting,” he explains. “So I photographed the television, in a moment when the satellite dish was struggling to keep its signal in spite of the wind.” Earlier this month, Alex, together with three painters and a sculptor, exhibited his work in the last of a series of exhibitions organised by the Chinese Cultural Centre in Malta, following a two-week trip to China. “The group of artists included painters Catherine Cavallo, Simon Barthet and Darren Tanti, sculptor Antoine Farrugia and myself, and it was quite the experience,” says Alex. “Unlike the other artists, I had to produce my work for this exhibition there and then, without holding up the rest of the group. I’m the kind of photographer to go with a tripod, wait for the right light and investigate the area, but I didn’t have time for that and so, I had to shoot quite spontaneously.” One of the shots he exhibited from the trip features the Beijing National Stadium, also known as the Bird’s Nest Stadium, which is enveloped in numerous steel girders, creating a mesh effect that resembles

AP architects - Stairwell © alex attard

a bird’s nest. “It’s been photographed endlessly, but I wanted to achieve a painterly effect which would complement the rest of the artists’ works, so I took three exposures on top of each other, creating an abstract visual. It was a great experience which required me to work outside of my comfort

zone. The China Cultural Centre took this exhibition on tour, and it’s currently at its third location at the Monet Gallery at the Cavalieri Art Hotel, afterwhich it will be moving to the Parliament Building, and finally to Gozo. The overall response has been extremely positive.” cc

“The turkeys were photographed at the farm of my wife’s family in Germany. I spent time walking around these turkeys, seeing their reactions and getting quite close. An interesting bird, although they can be quite vicious.”

122

APRIL / MAY 2017


The Commercial Courier April/May 2017  

The Official Business magazine of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise & Industry since 1947.

The Commercial Courier April/May 2017  

The Official Business magazine of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise & Industry since 1947.

Advertisement