COURIER THE OFFICIAL BUSINESS MAGAZINE OF THE MALTA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, ENTERPRISE AND INDUSTRY SINCE 1947
JUNE / JULY 2017
Of strength and malleability
Discovering the art of Marie Louise Kold
NEWSPAPER POST GOLD COLLABORATING PARTNERS
IN THIS ISSUE INDUSTRY LEADERS DISCUSS THE NEW LEGISLATURE AND HOW IT WILL SHAPE THE ECONOMY / SIX MAJOR ELECTORAL PLEDGES THAT CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE TO YOUR BUSINESS / THE COMMERCIAL COURIER TURNS 70 / ECONOMIST GORDON CORDINA ON WHATâ€™S NEXT FOR OUR ECONOMY / MEET THE PEOPLE LINKING MIGRANTS WITH LOCAL JOB OPPORTUNITIES / A STUNNING TAKE ON CONTEMPORARY DESIGN BY MMK STUDIO / THE LATEST BUSINESS NEWS
COURIER JUNE / JULY 2017
food trends 11 COVER STORY
TOP PRIORITIES FOR THE NEW ADMINISTRATION
Sarah Micallef speaks to key industry figures and thinkers to learn their thoughts on the new legislature, and what Government’s top priorities should be moving forward.
89 DESIGN TRENDS
Sarah Micallef speaks to architects Melissa Giordimaina and Kurt Vella from MMK Studio to find out more about a recent project: a stylish duplex penthouse in Xemxija.
LIGHT AND SHADE
6 ELECTORAL PLEDGES THAT YOUR BUSINESS CAN BENEFIT FROM Following a month of intensive campaigning and a flurry of electoral pledges, Martina Said discovers which of the PL’s election promises can be beneficial for your business.
25 IN FIGURES THE 2017 GENERAL ELECTION… IN NUMBERS A look into the figures related to the General Election.
27 COVER STORY 27 CELEBRATING 70 YEARS OF INFLUENCE As The Commercial Courier celebrates its 70th birthday, Martina Said speaks to the protagonists who have helped shape it into the success story it is today.
99 INTERVIEW MAKING THE CONNECTION
Jo Caruana meets the NGO bridging the gap between companies looking for the right employees and migrants searching for employment.
109 MEET THE ARTIST
THE SUSTAINABILITY OF OUR ECONOMY
THE MAGIC OF METAL
Gordon Cordina talks Jo Caruana through his assessment of the local economy, predictions and suggested strategies for the years to come.
Marie Louise Kold chats with Martina Said about her artistic journey, working with metal, and the importance of artistic integrity.
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. Articles appearing in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission of the publishers is strictly prohibited.
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ON THE COVER Detail of Lines of Flight, by Marie Louise Kold.
Malta chamber’s bronze collaborating partners JUNE / JULY 2017
Photo by Kurt Arrigo - viewingmalta.com
“Further consolidation in our economic growth depends on private investment” The Malta Chamber and Government share the same aims. In the run-up to the General Election, the Chamber formulated 71 concrete proposals for an eventual new Government and each of these was aimed at enhancing the soundness and competitiveness of Malta’s business environment. The Chamber now appeals to the new Government to heed the Chamber’s proposals which are objective, well-researched and most importantly deeply rooted in the sentiments of the business sectors they directly affect.
he newly elected Administration must recognise that further consolidation of our economic growth depends on private investment and this in turn depends on a sound and competitive business environment where there is a level playing field for one and all, where checks and balances function properly and where the rule of law reigns supreme. At the top of the Chamber’s priority list was a dedicated attention to the sector of R&D which for many years has fallen on the back burner of priorities. In view of the strong impetus which Malta still requires in this field, the Chamber called on the Prime Minister to seriously consider appointing a dedicated member of cabinet for Research and Development within a Ministry dedicated to industry or the economy. In the past R&D had been combined with completely unrelated subjects, which did not help unleash the full potential of this crucial element in today’s industry. R&D, in a valueadded economy like Malta’s, requires the full and undivided attention of Government to
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motivate innovation-driven companies to make the leap forward to the next level. Air Malta must also rank very highly on the to-do list of the new Government as the urgent solution to the national airline situation is not only linked to the tourism sector but also to the remainder of the economy. Thousands of business operations depend directly on frequent flights towards specific destinations in Europe. The Chamber’s suggested solution remains based on three columns: reduce the company’s operational costs, rectify the airline’s debt situation and subsequently divide the company’s shareholding into three parts – Government, an international aviation strategic partner and local investors. The Chamber is heartened by the Prime Minister’s declaration that the rent law reform will get the Government’s speedy attention. Following an internal technical analysis of the situation the Chamber is in a position to assist the incoming Government with this reform, with a view to encourage the early implementation to the benefit of all landlords and tenants.
“Air Malta must also rank very highly on the to-do list of the new Government as the urgent solution to the national airline situation is not only linked to the tourism sector but also to the remainder of the economy.”
“The newly elected Administration must recognise that further consolidation in our economic growth depends on private investment and this in turn depends on a sound and competitive business environment.”
The Chamber is wholly in favour of active labour market policies and recognises that these partly contributed to the positive economic performances registered in recent years. At the same time, however, the introduction of leave entitlements to care for a sick child and the electoral promise to compensate workers for public holidays that fall on a weekend are of concern to the Chamber as such measures further erode Malta’s competitiveness and potential for growth. That said, the Chamber submitted a proposal aimed at mitigating increases in labour costs in the way of fiscal incentives for companies that employ workers on night shifts. This measure would reduce labour costs especially in segments of the economy that work 24/7 such as manufacturing and hospitality. Such measures have been successfully implemented in other European countries such as Belgium and have reaped positive results. Another priority for the Chamber is the reduction of administrative burdens particularly through the reversal of the measure introduced in the last Budgets imposing excise duties on certain products of daily use such as mineral water and toiletries. Not only has this measure compounded administrative burdens and operating costs for business but it also failed to generate any notable effect in the fight against illicit trade. Excise taxes were introduced as a replacement for ecocontribution but ended up being just a new tax that was piled on top of older taxes. According to the previous regime, self-complying businesses that subscribed to private waste-management schemes in order to recycle their waste were exempt from eco-contribution. Yet, with the introduction of excise duties, the same operators are paying excise duties on top of the scheme fees, hence incurring additional tax and administrative burdens. The Chamber remains of the steadfast opinion that the new excise duties must be reversed immediately. In conclusion, Government must remain vigilant on excesses and give high priority to the utmost and unwavering respect for the rule of law. Government must act with ever-more discipline with itself and exceptional accountability every step of the way – and be evident to be doing so in the process. As the country’s foremost representative of the business community the Malta Chamber is committed to remain available and willing to provide Government with sound objective and reliable advice and support throughout the new legislature in the interest of our businesses and the growth of the economy at large. cc 08
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CC COVER STORY
Top priorities for the new administration Following the Labour Party’s victory in the General Election on 3rd June, Sarah Micallef speaks to key industry figures and thinkers to learn their thoughts on the new legislature, what Government’s top priorities should be moving forward, and how Government will shape the local economy over the next five years.
point on which many are sure to agree, is that one of the main challenges of Malta’s newly elected Government will be to sustain the country’s economy, which, according to Former Alternattiva Demokratika Chairman and sociologist Dr Michael Briguglio, requires a balance between economic, social and environmental priorities. “During the last decade or so, Malta registered relatively fast real GDP growth when compared to most EU member states, with growth accelerating during the past four years. However, there are various weaknesses in the economy, mostly associated with impacts on people’s quality of life, social disparities and weak governance,” Dr Briguglio says. Taking the construction industry as one such example, he points to the rapid rate of increase in construction permits by the Planning Authority, which he argues has led to deterioration in the quality of life of many residents due to dust emissions, rubble and building debris, as well as the uglification of the surroundings. He also draws attention to the fact that the intrusion of construction developments into ODZ and green areas has led to a reduction of open spaces. Naming modal-shifts to alternative means of transport as another priority for the new Government, Dr Briguglio moves on to non-polluting economic activities such as financial services, where he points to problems due to lack of regulation. “It is vital that institutions such as the Malta Financial Services Authority are reformed so as to enjoy universal trust by economic and political players.” Highlighting excessive dependence on the igaming industry, Dr Briguglio believes that Malta should continuously seek to diversify its economy, noting another unintended side-effect of the growth of such industries. “Due to lack of proper regulation, the inflow of highlypaid foreigner workers has led to a rapid increase in rent of residences, with spillover effects on the whole rental market. As is well known, this in turn has led to major social problems for low-income earners.” In his view, the new Government should ensure that regulatory institutions are properly equipped to investigate and enforce on such matters. Finally, while admitting that it has indeed generated funds for Malta, Dr Briguglio criticises the Individual Investor JUNE / JULY 2017
Programme, arguing that it “is not a sustainable way of generating economic growth and is not helping much to improve Malta’s reputation.” Moving forward, he believes, “Malta’s new Government should address these shortcomings so that Malta’s economic growth will also be sustainable and inclusive. It should lead to factual and tangible improvement in the quality of life and social well-being of residents in Malta.” Prof. Lino Briguglio, Professor of Economics and Director of the Islands and Small States Institute at the University of Malta is in agreement that the Labour Government of 2013-2107 has had a good track record in terms of civil rights and economic growth as measured by real GDP changes, which he believes has undoubtedly contributed to the party’s recent electoral victory. However, he maintains, “the previous Labour Government has also made major mistakes, and it is the wish of many that these will not be repeated. “The current Government must take steps to appoint suitably qualified persons to direct such bodies and to desist from
interfering in the workings of same bodies, in the interest of good governance,” Prof. Briguglio argues. The economics professor continues to assert that the fast economic growth between 2013 and 2016 was not as inclusive and sustainable as he would have liked, citing high environmental and social costs. “While a section of the population obviously gained from such growth, many experienced a rapid increase in residential rent and inflationary pressures, with very little action being taken to shield low-income earners. In addition, many had to bear major discomfort as a result of uncontrolled malpractices by building contractors, intrusions into green areas approved by a body charged with controlling development abuse, and excessive traffic congestion and air pollution. Very little, if at all, was done by Government to minimise these sources of discomfort,” he says. Prof. Briguglio goes on to point out that certain economic activities and business practices may have tarnished Malta’s reputation.
“It is vital that institutions such as the Malta Financial Services Authority are reformed so as to enjoy universal trust by economic and political players.” Dr Michael Briguglio 11
CC COVER STORY “During my recent travels, a common remark I heard when Malta was mentioned was that the island is a seller of passports, as if this is our only or major industry. Malta is also considered as a haven for international tax evaders in some quarters,” he warns. Finally, pointing to another matter that may have negatively contributed to Malta’s image, Prof. Briguglio refers to the fact that Government may have tolerated bad business practices by high-echelon officials, while adding the caveat that social media and the international press may have contributed by possibly exaggerating mentioned malpractices. “It is therefore of utmost importance that the present Government takes steps to improve Malta’s reputation,” he concludes. According to Bank of Valletta’s Chief Executive Officer Mario Mallia, the first priority for the incoming administration is to continue diversifying the economy, so that Malta does not rely unduly on two or three key sectors. “We should be questioning the economic and social sustainability of certain established sectors, and looking towards new industries which are more sustainable in the longer term,” he says. Highlighting maritime and aviation as two such sectors which show significant growth potential, Mr Mallia affirms, “we need to incentivise new players to come over and operate in these and similar sectors which are still ‘young’ and which therefore hold promise of long-term sustainable growth.” A second priority mentioned by the bank’s CEO is cultivating knowledge-based and high value-adding sectors in the fields of IT and
communication. “Information technology continuously offers new opportunities, and these are only constrained by the limited supply of the necessary skills. Sectors such as blockchain technologies and FinTech (financial technology) are growing exponentially, and we have the chance of being among the first countries to develop centres of excellence around these technologies. But we have to move fast, the market isn’t going to wait,” he asserts. Arguing that the financial services industry will remain crucial for the Maltese economy, Mr Mallia points out that the industry has lately suffered reputational damage, which the administration must address by taking the steps needed to strengthen confidence in the sector. “Strong and diligent supervision, high-profile international marketing of the jurisdiction, and the cultivation of innovative finance and FinTech start-ups are just some of the measures which may be necessary, and which may be relatively easy to implement,” he says. Finally, Mr Mallia maintains, there must be ever-closer liaison and cooperation between economic operators and the academic world. “Professional and technical education and training must be more efficient in addressing the skills gap which is limiting economic growth; indeed, they should be anticipating future needs, rather than attempting to plug today’s gaps,” he says, positioning it as a key concern that the incoming administration would be wise to address, in the interests of the long-term sustainability and attractiveness of the local economy. Meanwhile, HSBC Bank Malta p.l.c. CEO
“We should be questioning the economic and social sustainability of certain established sectors, and looking towards new industries which are more sustainable in the longer term.” Mario Mallia, Bank of Valletta 12
“It is of utmost importance that the present Government takes steps to improve Malta’s reputation.” Prof. Lino Briguglio
Andrew Beane is also looking ahead at the new legislature, affirming, “HSBC Malta continues to support the local economy and looks forward to working with the Government and all stakeholders in this regard.” From Deloitte Malta, Director Claudine Cassar considers it very positive that the Prime Minister has retained the responsibility for financial services and digital economy within his office. “It is clear that stabilising the situation in the financial services and gaming sectors, which are two very important pillars of our economy, is a top priority for the current administration,” she maintains. On the part of the Malta Chamber, President Frank V. Farrugia states that the newly elected administration must build on the successes garnered in the past legislature and continue to create a competitive environment which encourages economic growth that depends on private investment. “Government would do well to ensure a level playing field for one and all at all times, where checks and balances function properly and where the rule of law reigns supreme,” he says in this regard. JUNE / JULY 2017
CC COVER STORY
“HSBC Malta continues to support the local economy and looks forward to working with the Government and all stakeholders in this regard.” Andrew Beane, HSBC Bank Malta
Underlining the priority areas, Mr Farrugia believes that Government should tackle the Air Malta situation first and foremost. “The situation of uncertainty has gone on for long enough and the repercussions of a failed national airline do not affect the tourism industry only, but entire sections of the economy at large,” he explains. Moving on, the Malta Chamber President also draws attention to the Rent Law reform, which he considers to be well overdue. “The Chamber is heartened by the Prime Minister’s declaration that the Rent Law reform will get the Government’s speedy attention. The Chamber is in a position to assist Government with this reform, with a view to encourage early implementation to the benefit of all landlords and tenants,” he continues. Mr Farrugia further maintains that Government should also consider implementing the Chamber’s proposal to help businesses that operate around the clock with the labour costs bill. “Companies
that work with night and shift labour encounter additional costs in the form of premiums and bonuses to compensate their employees for the disadvantages of these special working hours,” he says, highlighting the Chamber’s proposition that Government
help reduce labour cost, particularly in segments of the economy that work 24/7, such as manufacturing and hospitality. Finally, Mr Farrugia believes that Government should reverse the new excise duties that were introduced to supposedly replace eco-contributions with immediate effect. “According to the previous regime, self-complying businesses that subscribed to private waste-management schemes in order to recycle their waste were exempt from eco-contribution. Yet, with the introduction of excise duties, the same operators are paying excise duties on top of the scheme fees, hence incurring additional tax and administrative burdens,” he says, affirming that the Chamber remains of the steadfast opinion that the new excise duties must be reversed immediately. Speaking of the result of the General Election, Dr David Zahra, President of the Malta Business Bureau (MBB) states that the Maltese people have spoken, and now expects Government to continue implementing important economic and social reforms required for the sustainability of growth and more creation of jobs. However, he points out that at the same time, the fact that the Nationalist Party in Opposition has not managed to convince the majority of the electorate to vote it back to Government, does not make its proposals bad ones.
“It is clear that stabilising the situation in the financial services and gaming sectors, which are two very important pillars of our economy, is a top priority for the current administration.” Claudine Cassar, Deloitte Malta JUNE / JULY 2017
CC COVER STORY
“Government would do well to ensure a level playing field for one and all at all times, where checks and balances function properly and where the rule of law reigns supreme.” Frank V. Farrugia, Malta Chamber
“Considering the development of events that emerged in the past year and particularly throughout the electoral campaign, and in spite of the outcome of judicial cases currently examining corruption claims or otherwise, it is a fact that Malta’s international reputation has been tainted and the future of important economic sectors and investment can be negatively impacted,” warns Dr Zahra, maintaining that all politicians must seek to attain the highest standards of democratic values and should agree to further reforms leading to the strengthening of checks and balances and independence of the institutions. On the new administration’s priorities, the MBB President believes that it should focus its energy on the continued fostering of economic growth through further diversification of the Maltese economy, with the creation of new sectors, with particular focus on areas characterised by research and innovation. “Government should also keep public finances in check, with smart investment on capital projects that would have a positive impact on the economy,
and at the same time controlling recurrent expenditure such as the public sector wage bill. Government needs to continue investing in education and continuously refining its
strategy to ensure that sufficient youth and people taking up lifelong learning opportunities are equipped with digitalisation and STEM skills, which are required in a modern labour market,” he continues. Finally, referring to the near future, in which this administration will be tasked with negotiating Malta’s share of the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework post-2020, Dr Zahra augurs that “Government develops a strong strategy to maximise on the opportunities that Malta can benefit from EU funding, keeping in mind both the economic support companies require in every stage of the business lifecycle, capital infrastructures for better traffic management, as well as products to improve our tourism product, among others.” cc
“Government should keep public finances in check, with smart investment on capital projects that would have a positive impact on the economy, and at the same time controlling recurrent expenditure such as the public sector wage bill.” Dr David Zahra, Malta Business Bureau 16
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CC IN DEPTH
6 electoral pledges that your business can benefit from Following a month of intensive campaigning and a flurry of electoral pledges, Martina Said sifts through the Labour Party election promises to find out which ones can actually be beneficial for your business and the economy at large.
If economic growth reaches 6.5 per cent, business will thrive In 2016, Malta’s economy grew by an astonishing 5 per cent over the previous year, making it the fastest growing economy in the European Union last year. Early on in the electoral campaign, the Labour Party asserted that, with the implementation of its electoral proposals, the country can increase its economic growth by 6.5 per cent in the years to come. A healthy and thriving economy driven by domestic demand generally translates into more spending power for citizens, which in turn helps businesses prosper. Adding to this spending power, one of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s first electoral proposals was to provide a one-off tax cut in the form of a tax refund for every worker earning up to €60,000 a year. The cheques, to be received at the end of the year, will range between €200 and €340 per year, depending on the individual’s income. Although the Prime Minister has repeatedly insisted that the pledge is well costed, seeing as it is estimated to cost Government €46.5 million, it should not impinge on the tax burden of businesses.
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Further public finance stability would be achieved if Government manages a surplus for the coming years The Government has managed to register a budget surplus, which is a first for Malta in the macro-economic reality of this day and age. Moreover, the Government is promising a surplus every year for the years to come, which of course is good news for Malta’s economy and the business community at large. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Finance Minister Edward Scicluna have recently gone on record stating that they are expecting that the surplus in Government finances could reach €50 million per year in the coming years. Taking a deeper look at economic forecasts for the next five years, Dr Muscat added that through the PL’s proposals, economic growth could increase from the projected 4 per cent per annum to 6 per cent per annum. Commenting on the surplus milestone reached earlier this year, the Prime Minister had said that such an upward trend would reduce pressure to raise taxes and would help Malta move forward with large infrastructural projects it desperately needed. Essentially logic dictates that if Government will manage a surplus every year for the years to come, the pressure to introduce or increase taxation for businesses is likely to be minimal, and therefore that could spell good news for local businesses. However, surplus should not come at the expense of capital and infrastructural expenditure – Government should complement the level of investment undertaken by the private sector.
CC IN DEPTH
Less bureaucracy if more SMEs qualify as VAT exempt, while level playing field must be ensured
The Labour Party has promised to raise the VAT-exempt threshold for small businesses from those whose income is no more than €14,000, up to €20,000. This would result in savings of around €1,000 per year for small businesses. It is also a measure aimed at reducing black economy and bureaucracy, and as such the measure can be beneficial to the economy and to businesses at large. Although it’s debatable whether this measure alone will curb the black economy, Government should certainly endeavour to make it happen in order to guarantee a level playing field.
If IIP is extended, expect the property market and other sectors to continue doing well This Government has pledged to extend the controversial Individual Investor Programme (IIP), better known as the sale of passports to wealthy non-Europeans. Whether you agree with the scheme or not, the fact remains that it is a massive revenue generator and it has also proven to be a major stimulus for the property market, both in terms of purchase and renting of properties. That means that any talk of bubble in the property market can be postponed by a fair bit as the extension of this scheme is likely to continue boosting the property market. The PL’s commitment to extend the scheme beyond the capping of 1,800 main applicants – in line with its agreement with the European Commission – could mean an extended period of immense profitability for real estate agencies, mitigating the perception that the same industry is operating in a bubble that’s just waiting to burst. That said, it has yet to be determined whether extending the IIP will go down well in Brussels, and over and above that, checks and balances need to be in place to ascertain that the preoccupations expressed by several entities, including the Chamber, when the IIP scheme was introduced are continuously addressed.
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CC IN DEPTH
Financial services and gaming promoted to OPM, but will that be enough?
Government promises more financial assistance for local companies The PL proposed to boost the value of assistance for companies where the majority of shares are held in a woman’s name, for self-employed women and for enterprises based in Gozo up to €70,000. Meanwhile, the value of assistance for enterprises based in Malta will be raised from €30,000 to €50,000. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has also promised three years of tax exemption for those companies in Malta that decide to relocate and employ people in Gozo. Another proposal called for the setting up of the Brexit Task Force, the Malta Business Council and Destination Hub for Startups jointly with private enterprise, intended to reduce bureaucracy, meet new challenges and attract new investment to Malta.
Silvio Schembri, a new face in the newlyappointed cabinet, has been chosen as parliamentary secretary for digital economy, financial services and innovation, the first position of its kind. His role is directly under the watch of the Office of the Prime Minister, signalling the importance of the gaming and financial services industries for this Government’s new legislature. In fact, on his first day as newly re-elected Prime Minister, Dr Muscat visited the offices of gaming giants Betsson in Ta’ Xbiex, in a bid to dispel rumours that the company – which employs around 1,000 people – is seeking to relocate its offices in light of the political scandals that rocked the country during the past two months. During the same visit, the Prime Minister also announced that two ‘world leaders’ in the gaming industry have applied to operate from Malta. Behind closed doors operators in the financial services industry say that damage to Malta’s credibility has been done following the Panama Papers saga and its aftermath as it has unfolded in Malta as well as a result of Malta Files. Whether the action taken by the Prime Minister to dedicate resources, time and energy to focus on these critical sectors will be enough to retain the positive status quo in the financial services and gaming industry remains to be seen. cc
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CCCC COVER in IN INTERVIEW figures FIGURES STORY
The 2017 General Election
The percentage by which the incumbent Labour Party won the electoral vote. The Nationalist Party obtained 43.6 per cent of the vote, giving Labour a 35,280 vote majority.
39 The number of years since Labour’s last re-election victory with a popular majority in 1976.
The number of districts won by the PN.
The largest Labour majority percentage. This was in District 2, a Labour ‘fortress’ comprised of Vittoriosa, Senglea, Cospicua, Zabbar, part of Fgura, Kalkara and Xghajra.
Percentage-wise, this was the lowest turnout since 1966, albeit just 1 per cent less than the 93 per cent turnout registered in 2013.
The largest PN majority percentage. This was in District 10, a PN stronghold which includes Gzira, part of Naxxar, Bahar ic-Caghaq, Pembroke, St Julian’s, Paceville and Sliema.
The highest turnout by percentage, in the 4th district.
Labour’s seat majority in Parliament.
35,850 The number of votes which went to women candidates, out of the 310,665 valid votes cast. Consequently, just eight women were elected to Parliament.
The number of districts won by the PL.
The lowest turnout by percentage, in the 12th district. Source: Malta International Airport
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Source: Gozo In Figures, National Statistics Office, Malta
The last time before 2017 that Malta’s parliament featured a party other than the PL and PN. This changed with the election of Marlene Farrugia, who ran on the Partit Demokratiku ticket, even though officially and legally the candidates representing this party still contested on behalf of the Nationalist Party.
CC COVER STORY
Celebrating 70 years of influence As Malta’s leading business publication, The Commercial Courier has a lot to be proud of on its milestone 70th birthday. Martina Said speaks to the protagonists who have helped shape it into the success story it is today.
n the fast paced-age that we live in, where content is consumed at a staggeringly fast rate and media sources appear to multiply by the minute, staying relevant and ahead of the competition is tough. But The Commercial Courier, which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year since its first issue way back in 1947, has stood the test of time, and continues to stay ahead of the curve in all manners – aesthetically, editorially and commercially. Kevin J. Borg, Director General of the Malta Chamber, recalls having been responsible to coordinate and edit the publication when he first started out as Policy Coordinator at the Chamber in January of 1997. “Back in the day, the publication was printed in a glossy A4 format. With its distinctive pale blue cover, it is a perfect reflection of publishing in the late 90s in Malta. At the time, the Chamber used to take care of all the content of the publication, from cover to cover, and it used to be comprised completely of news from the Chamber and policy articles.” Mr Borg recalls his first editorial – “I wrote to congratulate then Minister Lino Spiteri’s
Budget Speech for putting an emphasis on the importance of Fiscal Morality – an issue which was and continues to be flagged vociferously by the Chamber in its pre-budget proposals. The Chamber had actively participated in this process, which led to the first Budget of the newly elected Labour Government. Time passes, issues roll, but the Chamber’s message seems not to have changed much.” He asserts that The Commercial Courier remains a valued tool in the Chamber’s set of reach-out instruments that allow the organisation to communicate with its members and the business community at large. “The Commercial Courier is 70 years old last month, and does not look the age at all. A lot of work and thought goes into keeping the publication as young and fresh, vibrant and relevant as ever, with the strong involvement of our media partners, Content House Ltd. At a time when the print media is facing serious challenges, The Commercial Courier maintains a strong position in the country’s print media scene, and at the top of its genre, commanding an unmistakable esteem in the field.”
President of the Chamber of Commerce Frank V. Farrugia believes that The Commercial Courier has always been a window onto the Chamber as an organisation, having consistently reflected the ambitions and values of its constituted body. “Through the years, the publication has gone through a number of changes and stages of development which reflect the dynamic and vibrant character of the Chamber itself. In its bid to constantly reflect the ever-changing commercial sectors it represents, the Chamber is constantly seeking to stay ahead of the curve, and in doing so, it updates and fine-tunes its tools accordingly.”
“At a time when the print media is facing serious challenges, The Commercial Courier maintains a strong position in the country’s print media scene.” Kevin J. Borg JUNE / JULY 2017
CC COVER STORY
A word from past Chamber Presidents
With the launch of the Chamber’s online portal last year, www.maltachamber.org.mt, the Chamber’s weekly newsletter, Chamberlink, and the online B2B directory, Mr Farrugia asserts that the organisation’s comprehensive cross-platform media and communications programme mirrors the demand for reliable and efficient online communication. “Following their most recent renaissance, the Chamber’s communication tools look beyond the services of the Chamber and are designed to provide business people with the necessary information-based tools required in this day and age.” Mr Farrugia adds that the online products complement The Commercial Courier, which goes into further depth with interviews and features on current issues that characterise the country at the time. “Through the magazine, the Malta Chamber is able to provide the Maltese business person with insightful articles and interviews with the prime protagonists of the country. We are proud of the publication and its long journey which brought it to the prestigious place it’s in today. As President, I augur The Commercial Courier another 70 years (at least) of quality communication with business people.”
“The Chamber’s communication tools look beyond the services of the Chamber and are designed to provide business people with the necessary information-based tools required in this day and age.” Frank V. Farrugia 28
Joseph N. Tabone President of the Chamber 1985-1986, 1989-1990, 1993 “Having served as President during three separate terms, between the mid-80s and the early 90s, besides other posts, I experienced the leadership of the Chamber during challenging times for the country. Throughout my tenure as President, I witnessed the country shift from a controlled economy to one which was swiftly opening up to private investment and gearing up for accession to the EU. They were breathtakingly exciting times for the country, and upon becoming President in January of 1985, I decided to ask the newly installed Prime Minister Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici for a meeting, during which I emphasised the need for cooperation on matters of national economic interest. One of my main aims as President was to open up a healthy dialogue with a broader market spectrum on an international level. Early in the day, we set our eyes on the Russian market and immediately decided to organise a business mission to Moscow. As the iron curtain had barely fallen, we were already setting the way for a mutually beneficial business relationship between our countries. This meant that, during such times, the Chamber needed to make use of every weapon at its disposal to keep its members up to date with its developments, and The Commercial Courier was the Chamber’s foremost tool in this regard. Through the publication, we didn’t just keep our members informed about meetings and decisions taken at the Chamber, but we also campaigned in favour of our opinions and galvanised our positions. I am proud to say that, during my Presidency and through The Commercial Courier, the Chamber’s voice was heard and contributed substantially to the improvements the country underwent in the economic and political climate at the time. I am also happy to witness the evolution of The Commercial Courier into the topnotch business magazine it is today. The Chamber today relies on an excellent battery of communication tools, which also includes the Chamber’s business portal that ensures that we are moving with the times, ascertaining a powerful and relevant mouthpiece in our battery in this digital age.” Francis Gera President of the Chamber 1994-1995 “Since my time as President of the Chamber of Commerce, I have seen The Commercial Courier evolve from a glorified pamphlet into a prestigious professional publication. In 1994/5, during my time as President, the Chamber was much smaller and had not yet merged with the then Federation of Industry. Its significance has, in time, increased appreciably because it now keeps members in touch with all the latest business news and the day-to-day administration of the Chamber. Needless to say, the latest modern, fast electronic means of communication may have rendered The Commercial Courier somewhat slow in providing information to members. However, the way in which the publication is compiled and presented goes a long way to foster pride in how the Chamber of Commerce has grown and expanded to cater quite adequately to the needs of Maltese enterprise. My feeling is that the Chamber has managed, over time, to transform itself into a professional and efficient entity, and today’s The Commercial Courier provides us with a clean and polished publication about how the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry manages to successfully improve business interests in a growing economy.”
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CC COVER STORY
In 2005, The Commercial Courier was taken over by Content House Ltd, back when the publication was intrinsically pitched as an in-house publication of the Malta Chamber. “Gradually, we started to make substantial changes to it across the board,” says Content House Managing Director Jesmond Bonello. “From a printing perspective, we invested in better-quality paper, full colour printing, over time a perfect bound gloss laminated cover, and over the years we carried out at least three major creative and design overhauls. The publication went through various rebranding and revamping exercises over the past 12 years – our philosophy is that no product can remain stagnant, and in this kind of industry, you either move forward or are pushed backwards by the highly competitive market. At Content House, we are renowned for working hard to push for change, risk and invest in a better product while pushing boundaries.” Mr Bonello adds that, while the magazine
“The Commercial Courier has grown as a brand on its own and speaks with authority to Malta’s business community.” Edward Bonello JUNE / JULY 2017
remains the official publication of the Malta Chamber, Content House’s Editorial Department is fully plugged in and responsible for the content generation, while keeping in sync with the policies and values of the Malta Chamber to ensure consistency and credibility. Today, The Commercial Courier is widely regarded as Malta’s leading and largest business magazine. Besides publishing The Commercial Courier for the past 12 years, and the Malta Chamber Annual Report for the past 10 years, in 2016, the Malta Chamber and Content House reached a milestone agreement which enabled the two organisations to invest in a number of enhanced digital products. “Through this long-term agreement, Content House became the exclusive media partner of the Malta Chamber of Commerce and an overall bronze sponsor of the Malta Chamber. Together, we invested heavily to launch www. maltachamber.org.mt as Malta’s first business news portal, which also houses the Malta Chamber official site. The business portal has really taken off, and in the first year has reached 300,000 people.” Together with the www.maltachamber.org. mt, which is now ranked as Malta’s leading business portal, the two organisations also launched the B2B Digital Business Directory, which now has over 1,500 businesses within it, and re-launched a completely new version of Chamberlink, the official weekly digital newsletter of the Malta Chamber. “Through this agreement,” Mr Bonello asserts, “the Malta Chamber is benefiting from significant resources of Content House, from editors and journalists to creative designers, and business development and sales teams, providing that additional value-added for the Malta Chamber projects.” Edward Bonello, editorial coordinator of The Commercial Courier on behalf of the Chamber, is in agreement that the publication has become an institution in Malta’s media landscape. “The fact that this bi-monthly magazine is celebrating 70 years, and is going as strong as ever says quite a lot about it. The Commercial Courier has grown as a brand on its own and speaks with authority to Malta’s
“The publication went through various rebranding and revamping exercises over the past 12 years – our philosophy is that no product can remain stagnant, and in this kind of industry, you either move forward or are pushed backwards.” Jesmond Bonello business community,” he asserts. “Throughout its history, the Malta Chamber always sought to remain relevant and reflect the daring and dynamic nature of its members. This has led to a constant process of evolution of its media tools, not less The Commercial Courier. Gone are the days of thousands of photo-copied newsletters that were sent by snail-mail to the Chamber’s membership. As the world changes, the Chamber has developed and fine-tuned its tools to better reach its audience effectively.” And in an increasingly loud and competitive media landscape, he adds that this magazine can certainly be acknowledged as the country’s leader in the business genre. “Together with its media partner Content House Ltd, Chamber today offers a complete portfolio of media products that is not only designed to keep members updated with the goings-on from within the Chamber walls, but also speaks out to members of the business community at large, communicating premium content of a wider interest.” cc 31
The sustainability of our economy Malta’s economy has grown at an unprecedented rate in recent years, but is this sustainable into the future? Here, economist Gordon Cordina talks Jo Caruana through his assessment, predictions and suggested strategies for the years to come. Photos by Jan Zammit
he Maltese economy is thriving. Among a number of highlights, the GDP has registered growth year-onyear, while the economy grew 7.4 per cent in real terms in 2015 – the highest growth in the past decade. The balance between inflation and unemployment has also been reasonable, with unemployment falling to just 4.7 per cent in 2016. Finally, and arguably most importantly of all from a sustainability perspective, Malta registered a surplus of one per cent of its GDP in 2016, with public debt declining well below the 60 per cent of the GDP benchmark. For economist Gordon Cordina, from e-Cubed Consultants, analysing the ups and downs of the economy is part and parcel of his daily routine. Overall, he says Malta’s current performance is very positive – but that’s not to say there shouldn’t be improvements, and possible pitfalls along the way. “We observe wide chasms between different sectors in our economy,” he says.
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“For instance, the avant-garde gaming industry has grown to provide 13 per cent of Malta’s GDP – and this is dependent on around 6,000 jobs in a few hundred firms. The more mainstay consumer and tourism services sector generates 20 per cent of the GDP, but generates over seven times more jobs, within almost 12,000 firms. High productivity in gaming is restricted to a relatively small productive base, and the industry may be subject to downside risks, as well as potential great opportunities. The low productivity over the much wider productive base in consumer and tourism activities is, in itself, a cause for concern, compounded by concerns on the extent to which the country can carry a larger population and tourism base. The challenge is to diversify high productivity business to enhance their internal resilience and reinforce their linkages with other economic sectors to ensure broad-based growth.” And there’s another potential risk to consider in this area – namely our economy’s reliance on a few key firms. “We estimate
“The avant-garde gaming industry has grown to provide 13 per cent of Malta’s GDP – and this is dependent on around 6,000 jobs in a few hundred firms.”
that around one-third of our island’s economic activity is generated by fewer than 200 firms, spread across a number of sectors,” continues Dr Cordina. “This has particular weight when you consider that EU programmes give a great deal of support to small and micro firms, but not so much to the large ones, on which a small economy like ours is, perhaps paradoxically, so heavily dependent. It is also important to help large firms in small economies like ours, as over 30,000 jobs rely on them.” 35
CC INTERVIEW That said, Dr Cordina believes there has been a reasonable balance between the growth of ‘new’ economies and ‘traditional’ ones. Gaming, tourism, the public sector and professional services all grew in 2016, while manufacturing has been in decline, except for a few pockets of innovative outfits – typically micro and small-type firms. “Balance between traditional and new is vital because, while important, high-growth ‘new economy’ sectors are typically characterised by high volatility,” Dr Cordina explains. “Traditional economic activities enjoy more stable growth, even in cases when that growth was relatively high.” When it comes to the reasons why the economy is growing in these sectors, Dr Cordina explains there are various contributing factors to consider. ‘External demand’, for instance, highlights aspects like tourism, merchandise, and services driven by regulatory and fiscal arrangements. ‘Domestic demand’ also plays an important role – namely household and government consumption, and the development of new
productive assets. Finally, the ‘increased supply of human capital’ is also relevant, whether through labour market activation measures (especially for women and older workers) or the inward migration of workers (particularly within the highest and lowest skill categories). Of course, the key question is whether all of this growth will be sustainable in the years to come, or whether change is likely to be afoot. “There’s a lot to consider,” Dr Cordina continues. “There are some excellent opportunities out there that will drive our economy, such as the need for tertiary services and office space, niche markets – such as superyacht servicing, and the development of interesting lifestyle propositions. “On the flip side, though, there are a number of threats peering over the horizon. These include our dependence on individual firms and sectors, the erosion of our international regulatory and competitiveness, the sunset of key large individual projects, and labour market saturation.”
“The redevelopment of the 6,600 unoccupied dwellings that are in a bad state of repair could represent an economic opportunity, with a capital value of close to 10 per cent of the GDP, while providing substantial improvements in urban environments and overall living standards.”
“Malta needs to become the regional place of choice for people from all over the globe to work, learn, relax, heal and develop culture and art.”
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“We need to address economic strategies for diversification within and away from our overweight sectors, maximising opportunities from Brexit and diversifying away from excessive dependence on tax competitiveness.” One key area of interest is, of course, the sustainability of real estate prices, which have been relatively stable since 2012. “Price increases in the range of five-toeight per cent since 2015 were influenced by specific transactions in upper market properties. Its occurrence and eventual reversal should not be interpreted as trend effects,” Dr Cordina says. “Meanwhile, rental prices have increased at a faster pace and may be subject to more instability due to international client demand.” And there are opportunities in this sector too. “While there are worries about the number of empty properties on the market, Malta does not have a ratio that is excessively high when compared to the 17 per cent EU average and when you take adjustments for touristic use into consideration. That said, the redevelopment of the 6,600 unoccupied dwellings that are in a bad state of repair could represent an economic opportunity with a capital value close to 10 per cent of the GDP,” the economist continues. “This has the potential 38
to provide substantial improvements in urban environments and in overall living standards.” Nevertheless, it is important to address the many risk factors that our economy faces as we move forward, and to bear them in mind. Dr Cordina identifies a number of points, including growth in trading partner countries and globalisation factors, as well as international tax and reputational risks that could, mainly, affect the financial and gaming services. “We also need to consider other risk factors,” he says, “such as uncertainties surrounding Brexit, our excessive dependence on individual sectors and firms, and the restructuring of strategic activities including air and land transport. Plus, there’s the public sector wage bill and spending to consider, as well as pressures related to our ageing population from a poverty and a health perspective. In the absence of a more focused approach towards the efficiency and effectiveness of public spending, our fiscal surplus may not be able to withstand a slowdown in economic growth.” Finally, with all of the above in mind,
Dr Cordina identifies the strategies we should be focusing on for the future of our economy, starting with a concerted effort towards the development of the ‘global lifestyle hub concept’ for Malta over the medium term. “Malta needs to become the regional place of choice for people from all over the globe to work, learn, relax, heal and develop culture and art… This will build upon our distinctiveness as a people and Malta’s unique heritage and geography. We also need to address economic strategies for diversification within and away from our overweight sectors, maximising opportunities from Brexit and diversifying away from excessive dependence on tax competitiveness. “From a practical perspective, it’s important that we have a strategy for the maximisation of our human capital value – with better use of EU funding for learning and continuous training, and the reaping of opportunities for the availability of human labour. Lastly, I would stress the need for renewed focus on housing as a determinant of poverty and on more costeffective solutions for poverty reduction, as well as continued focus on investment in the energy sector to help us sustain our competitiveness and reduce poverty,” Dr Cordina concludes. cc JUNE / JULY 2017
RE/MAX Malta sets new standard for employee training With renowned international trainers and an exclusive online training platform, RE/MAX is investing even further in its employee training. RE/MAX Malta has once again named employee training and development as one of its key priorities for investment in the coming year. Chief Operating Officer for RE/MAX Malta Jeff Buttigieg says, “training is one of RE/ MAX’s core values to empower our people. We attribute a lot of our growth in our team and in our revenue to the fact that we have a proper foundation of training.” In the past year, RE/MAX Malta has invested in an exclusive online training platform to be a counterpart to face-to-face training in the classroom. Students can revise classroom content uploaded to the platform, as well as complete additional online training modules. The integration of the two provides an enhanced learning experience that is proven to boost production, a benefit that translates into an even greater standard of service provided to the public. “It is our belief that by training our agents and empowering them with all the tools to succeed, they are able to serve our customers to a far higher standard,” explains Mr Buttigieg, “That is why we invest thousands of euro per year in their training – the more we support our agents in this way, the more they will provide a better service and sustain our reputation for expert service.” An exclusive contract signed with top local trainer Paul Vincenti, who has been leading the primary training modules for the group for the past eight years, continues to keep RE/MAX employee training a priority. The main modules provide focused training for all agents, whether at the very start of their
career with RE/MAX, or for more highlyspecialised topics. ‘My RE/MAX Career’ is an introduction to the industry for new agents in their first three months with the company. The ‘Succeed’ Programme follows with a mentoring programme for those who have been employed for up to six months, providing them with all the industry fundamentals such as guidance on marketing, property listing techniques, building a database, customer service, MEPA regulations and property photography, ultimately assisting them with their first property sales. Additionally, the company offers a ‘Luxury Real Estate Course’ which is an advanced course for those agents seeing to specialise in the high-end real
estate course, exploring everything from presentation and etiquette to client protocol. Other mini courses within the curriculum that are offered through classroom and the new online training platform include Total Organised Agent, Total Assertive Agent, Total Objections, Total Lead Generation and Total Buyer Qualification. Meanwhile the ‘Tom Ferry Business by Design’, compiled by the world’s leading real estate coach Tom Ferry, helps agents to achieve a higher level of expertise, sharing with them in-depth techniques relating to social media, ideas generation, audio scripts, communication training and buyer and seller psychology. This course, which will replace ‘Tom Ferry Sales Power’, was launched on 31st March at the RE/MAX Network in Malta during a full-day seminar featuring Tom Ferry himself. Malta was one of four countries chosen in Europe to be part of the Tom Ferry Tour 2017. “Thanks to our unparalleled network of international contacts, we were uniquely privileged to have hosted Mr Ferry himself during his European Tour. As with all our training initiatives, we know this will continue to set our agents apart in the highly-competitive and ever-evolving world of real estate,” Mr Buttigieg asserts. cc
For further information about joining RE/MAX Malta and training opportunities available, contact: email@example.com or contact one of the 23 local RE/MAX franchises. JUNE / JULY 2017
CC CASE STUDY
Servicing Malta’s medical sector
here are some sectors you don’t really think about until you really need them – and the provision of medical products is one such area. After all, consider the plethora of equipment needed in every hospital room, treatment room or operating theatre – where do they all come from? Locally, Sidroc Services Ltd is a company specialised in the promotion, distribution and servicing of medical equipment, health and beauty products. “Our quality products and services are our top priority, and a must for the medical industry,” explains managing director George Bonello. “Everything we do is tailored to the needs of our clients and thus ensures their satisfaction.” And it is exactly this that has set Sidroc apart. So much so, that the company now considers many of Malta’s top healthcare providers among its clients, including Mater Dei, Karen Grech, Saint Vincent de Paule, the Saint James Hospital Group, Gozo General Hospital, and a number of private care homes and clinics. Sidroc first launched in 1996 and has five divisions – namely hospital equipment and disposables, home care and elderly equipment and disposables, the leasing of medical equipment, sleep diagnostics and treatment and, finally, over the counter pharmacy and sports products.
Sleep diagnosis and treatment is one area that the company is particularly focused on and specialised in. “Obstructive sleep apnea is a major concern in Malta – although people often don’t know they have it and live with it for many years before seeking diagnosis,” continues Mr Bonello, who originally trained as a nurse and thus brings a wealth of healthcare experience to the company. “It causes them to repeatedly stop breathing during sleep because their airway collapses, and this leads to a number of complications.” Untreated, sleep apnea can actually put you at risk of a number of life-threatening conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, and abnormal heart rhythms. Beyond that, it can also increase the likelihood of driving- and work-related accidents. Mr Bonello refers to a recent case of a person who sought the company’s help. “He was suffering from a variety of symptoms, including snoring, choking and gasping for air, and making frequent visits to the bathroom in the night. By day, this made him irritable and sleepy, and led to a lack of concentration; he even mentioned falling asleep during routine activities and at work. It was really worrying for the client but, to us, was a text-book case of sleep apnea and we knew immediately which course of treatment to take.”
Photos by Jan Zammit
Sidroc Services Ltd is a leader in the provision of medical equipment and health products. Here, company director George Bonello talks Jo Caruana through the company’s portfolio and goes into detail about the care of one particular condition – sleep apnea.
“Untreated, sleep apnea can actually put you at risk of a number of life-threatening conditions.”
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CC CASE STUDY
“Sidroc specialises in fitting masks to treat sleep apnea, which clients wear throughout the night.”
Could you be suffering from sleep apnea and need sleep apnea therapy? Answer the following questions to find out: } Do you regularly feel un-refreshed, even after waking from a full night’s sleep? } Do you fall asleep easily during your working hours, while at home or at work? } Are you a loud, habitual snorer? } Has your bed partner witnessed you choking, gasping or holding your breath during sleep? } Do you often suffer from poor concentration or attention, memory loss, irritability, or a bad mood? If you answered ‘yes’ to two or more of the above questions, then you may be suffering from sleep apnea. Contact a health professional for advice.
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Sidroc specialises in fitting masks to treat sleep apnea, which clients wear throughout the night. “Not all masks are the same, but the right mask can make a huge difference to a client’s quality of life. We have eight different types for people to choose from, based on a variety of factors including their anatomy, likes, fears and so on. For instance, if a client is claustrophobic, then they may be adverse to a type of mask that makes them feel hemmed in; others will need to take regular travel into consideration, so will want something light and portable. Whatever the requirements, we find the option that is tailor-made to suit.” And the great news is that a sleep apnea mask can make a huge difference to sufferers of the condition. Among the many benefits, users find they have more energy and are more alert, have lower blood pressure, have a decreased risk of strokes and heart attacks, increase their effectiveness at home and work, and enjoy improved overall quality of life. “Clients often tell us our products have changed their lives for the better – and even that they’ve ‘got their lives back’,” Mr Bonello smiles. Naturally, training and ongoing innovation play an important role at Sidroc, and the company is dedicated to staying at the forefront of its industry. As a result, company employees undertake regular training locally and overseas, and make frequent visits to relevant events, such as the annual ‘ERS – International Congress’ organised by the European Respiratory Society and the ‘EuroPCR’ world-leading course in Interventional Cardiovascular Medicine in Paris. “All of this input ensures we are secure in our knowledge of the latest products and newest techniques to ensure Sidroc leads the way locally. It is our innovative products, high-end equipment and services, professional and specialist training, and the round-the-clock top-notch support that have helped us secure our reputation, and which will continue to position us at the very top of the industry,” Mr Bonello concludes. cc For more information about Sidroc Services and its products, T: 2133 3212; www.sidroc.com 43
Women in business While huge strides have been made for workplace equality, there is still a noticeable lack of women in executive roles. Marie-Claire Grima speaks to six businesswomen to find out all about their careers, work-life balance, and what they think can be done to challenge the status quo.
Janine Houghton, Director, FGP What’s a typical day like for you? I have two young boys so it’s an early start at 6am, getting them ready for the day. Then it’s a race against traffic to get to the office to get as much as possible done. No day is the same, sometimes I’m just working on the things I am responsible for, other days I have to manage the problems, issues or crises that arise unexpectedly. My elder son usually comes to the office after school and spends a couple of hours with me before we go home. Then we head home for play time, supper, bath time and bed time for the boys. My husband is usually in charge of dinner once the boys are in bed. What’s the most satisfying part of your job? There are various rewarding parts of the job – I cannot just pinpoint one. I like that my primary responsibility involves interacting with employees on all different levels of the organisation. I love that every day I still get to learn new things. I love a challenge and the satisfaction of solving problems.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned as the director of FGP? It is important to keep learning, to be open to suggestions and new ideas, and not to shy away from challenges. It’s also essential to surround yourself with a good team – you’re only as good as your team. Do you think women in boardrooms face more obstacles than men? What can be done to remedy this? Women are still looked at as the primary caregivers for their children and are often made to feel that they are not as fully committed to their jobs as their male counterparts are. There is still a perception that you are more effective at running your business if you don’t have children. To remedy this, it is important for women to have a good support network. Both men and women need to have flexibility at work so that they can share family duties.
Maronna Filletti, Executive Director, Joseph Cachia & Son Ltd You’ve held a number of executive roles throughout your career – what’s the most challenging position you’ve held and why? The first challenging role I had within the Group was working my way up through the ranks from Junior Secretary to Executive Personal Assistant to Joe Demajo. I found myself handling the office of the Chairman and CEO, which started off as a ‘Devil Wears Prada’ role. However I battled on, facing all the challenges of handling the office
of a prominent, visionary and demanding businessman. I was given the opportunity to grow professionally and besides proving myself, it showed that the organisation empowered individuals to reach new heights. Eventually I was also appointed to the post of Group HR Director while also holding a post within the Canadian Consulate. All of this experience, along with my academic qualifications, helped me reach my current position as Executive Director of one of the Group’s most dynamic divisions, Joseph Cachia & Son Ltd.
have changed, particularly when it comes to women in executive roles? The Group has evolved and so has its human capital. Opportunities for personal growth are endless and offered to all, regardless of gender; besides, we adopt a policy of ‘equal pay for equal work’ and also have family-friendly measures. I believe it is up to the individual to ‘bite the bullet’ and forge ahead, and I sincerely wish that there are more women holding executive roles, besides myself and the female executives of the fourth generation.
What’s the most satisfying part of your current role? Apart from working with a great team, the most gratifying moments are when we win large-scale orders and tenders together with our Principals. A particular highlight in JCS’s achievement was when Nexans Norway won the bid for the Malta-Sicily interconnector. Our role as representatives covered all aspects of the bid’s stages and it was a particularly rewarding time when I joined the Nexans team in the negotiations.
As deputy president of the Malta Employers Association, what are your thoughts about Malta’s complement of women employees? Malta’s complement is still very low, with a high percentage falling within the undeclared work areas such as hair-dressing, babysitting, house-cleaning, book-keeping and so on. This trend must be addressed by the competent authorities, not necessarily through enforcement, but through the introduction of initiatives that encourage women to regularise their positions, thus taking advantage of social service benefits, most importantly pensions. As MEA, we constantly lobby for good business ethics and responsible citizenship.
As a long-term employee of the company, what’s your perspective on how things JUNE / JULY 2017
Maria Bartolo Zahra, Founding Partner, SurgeAdvisory What inspired you to start your own consultancy company? My father is my inspiration. We both had the desire to start a boutique advisory firm which focuses on forging supportive, fiduciary and long-term relationships with a small clientele base. However, there were other factors that allowed me to take this leap. I needed a change from the routine schedule. I’m passionate about business advisory, particularly in relation to human resources and in no way did I want to let go of that. Surge Advisory has given me the opportunity to focus on doing what I love, yet also giving me the freedom and flexibility to make my own decisions with the aim of finding the right balance between our business and other things that matter to me in life. What’s a typical day like for you? I’m up by around 5.30am to get the routine home chores done. I’m a morning person so I aim to be at the office by 7.30am. I would have checked my e-mails before leaving for the office. That gives me the opportunity to get cracking as soon as I arrive. My coffee is a must. I list down my priorities for the day and make sure that priority actions related to business development are included in this list. I would usually then start off client meetings. There are occasions when I spend days at our clients’ offices. We tend to
prefer to set meetings at the client’s premises as this helps us get a better understanding of the organisation’s culture and modus operandi, which is of course very important to understand prior to giving advice to business. I make sure that most of my evenings are spent with my husband. I’m a true believer in work-life balance and I very much do anything to live up to it. I try to get my seven-to-eight hours of sleep. A good night’s sleep helps me recharge and be ready for the next day. What’s the most satisfying part of your job? The smallest actions give me the most satisfaction: a client who calls to ask for my opinion on a decision that the company is about to take and then seeing the results of advice given to businesses. These actions give me the reassurance and confidence that our belief in partnering with business is being achieved to the benefit of both parts. Naturally it also reassures us that our relationship is based on trust. As a businesswoman, do you think women who are entrepreneurs face more obstacles than male entrepreneurs? It depends on the environment the woman has around her. Balancing work and family, both of which are important commitments, is indeed a challenge. Having a supportive
family and the skill to manage time and delegate (even at home!) is crucial for a woman entrepreneur. A business woman needs to find her own way of mastering work, family, life and at times, parenthood. In my opinion, society can create a lot of measures to reduce these obstacles. But the driving force needs to come from the woman herself. The biggest obstacle a woman needs to overcome is the thought that she can’t make it; that she will fail. Being yourself throughout, combined with having the necessary confidence in whatever you’re doing are the departing points to accomplish what you want and believe in.
Fiona Borg, Chief Operating Officer – Corporate Clients, MIB What’s a typical day like for you? My day kicks off early to ensure I’m on time for my first appointments. In view of the number of meetings that I have to attend daily, I try not to take appointments one day per week in order to dedicate time to keeping contact with my staff to ensure continuity in the service provided. Most weekdays, I find dinner ready when I arrive home, and I take the opportunity to spend some time with the family. When handling particular projects which have deadlines, there will be
days when after enjoying some quality time, I would have to switch on my laptop again to finish reports, or send emails. What’s the most satisfying part of your job? As a Chief Operating Officer for corporate clients, I oversee new business, renewals and claims. Whilst closing off a new client or renewing a major project is satisfactory, the claims negotiation is very rewarding. As they say the ‘proof of the pudding is in the eating’. When a client’s core business goes up in flames or faces a liability claim, s/he would want an insurance broker who is on their side until the claim is solved to their satisfaction. What’s the most challenging project you’ve ever worked on? Having a complicated project, breaking it down into pieces and solving the puzzle by designing an enhanced insurance product to meet the needs of the client, is the most challenging aspect of my job. In recent years, I was involved in two major projects which were not only challenging because of the size but also because of the innovative nature
of the risk to Malta. We worked round the clock with the necessary technical people to ensure that the policy was secured on time, with all the necessary covers required. What do you think can be done to encourage more mothers in Malta to work outside the home? There are a lot of women who are capable in Malta and their knowledge should be utilised for the benefit of the economy, whether in the public or private sectors. There are already a number of family-friendly measures provided by the Government, such as the child-care facilities, and the reduced tax rates if one returns to work, however the most important encouragement, is the family. Once you have the support of the family that you are doing the right thing, then everything else will fall into place. Unfortunately we still live in a society where the public in general feels that once you have a family, it is the woman who is to take care of the children. I personally encourage women to promote their strengths, work on their capabilities, and challenge the unchallenged! JUNE / JULY 2017
Valentina Lupo, Founder, Atelier del Restauro in daily contact with the work of art, so we get to know every little detail. Although the conservation and restoration interventions are to be set and executed in a systematic and scientific way, the relationship with the art work often goes beyond the technical knowledge and establishes a feeling that – at least for my colleagues and I – lasts a long time. It is very hard to explain the feelings we have when we are in front of a masterpiece, the great responsibilities that we have, and the privilege we feel at touching the work created by the artist.
What’s the most challenging project you’ve ever worked on? It was definitely the conservation of the important Siculo-Byzantine wall-painted image of Our Lady, found in the Sanctuary of Mellieha, which was inaugurated last year in June. The project was challenging first and foremost because of its advanced state of degradation, due to the environmental conditions, as well as the past restoration interventions which were carried out with materials which were not compatible with the painting. Furthermore, the image was painted on a rock-cut aedicule, which only complicated matters further. The project was indeed an elaborate one and took three years to complete; it involved a series of scientific studies with foreign institutions prior to the actual treatments. Do you ever feel attached to a completed work? Yes I do feel attached, as we work so closely to these works, sometimes for several months. Unfortunately I never get the chance to admire the completed work for a long time at our laboratory, as once we finish the work we have to return it straight away to the owner. During the restoration phase we are
Photo by Jonathan Borg
What sparked your interest in conservation? From a young age, I was always interested in art and painting was my main hobby. My parents would accompany me on museum visits frequently, so I was always ‘immersed’ in the word of art. I was a teenager when the Conservation and Restoration laboratories opened at Bighi in 1999 – my mother took me to an open day and I remember that visit very well. I fell in love with the job as soon as I entered the first laboratory which was the one dedicated to paintings and polychrome sculptures. After taking up the degree course offered by the University of Malta, I dreamt of opening my own restoration laboratory. Today, that dream has been fulfilled with the help of my two partners Maria Grazia Zenzani and Simon Dimech – we established our company Atelier del Restauro in 2012, and today we have a team of four professional conservators working with us, all of whom are specialised in different fields of conservation. Because of our specialisations, high-quality work, knowledge and the great care we give to each and every project, we have been commissioned to restore and conserve a series of prestigious works of art over the years.
Alexandra Mizzi, Managing Director, Early Learning Centre What’s a typical day like for you? I’m usually up by around 7.30am, unless Max, my two-and-a-half-year-old son, wakes up before me. The first thing I do is check my emails, then I start getting dressed and ready for my day. I drop Max off at nursery and finally I can start my ‘working’ day – mornings are usually taken up by meetings relating to the business and my legal practice. I try to keep the afternoons free of meetings to catch up on work in the office. I usually pick Max up from nursery at 4pm and I make sure to spend some quality time with him. Although, I must admit, I keep on working at the same time, as the emails and calls never stop – the beauty of technology is that you can reply from wherever you are. At around 7pm
we start our ‘bedtime routine’, dinner, bath and finally bed – but not for me. Once Max is in bed, my husband Andrea and I can finally catch up on what happened during the day. Twice a week, Andrea takes over this routine, so I can go for a session to the gym. After dinner on a normal evening, I usually keep on working till 11pm as the day doesn’t have enough hours to do everything I need to do. It’s a very long day but I wouldn’t have it any other way. What’s the most satisfying part of your job? Since both my profession and my business depend on clients, the most satisfying aspect is when the client is happy with the service given. In retail, competition is cut-throat and the edge on others is when one offers quality, good value-for-money and friendly service. I am always pleased to attract new clients, of course, but the greatest satisfaction lies when the client returns – because that is the real test that the client is pleased with what we are offering, both in terms of product as well as service. What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt in your role as Managing Director of ELC? The greatest lessons I’ve learnt are to be patient and to try and keep calm as much as possible. As with everything in life, there are
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ups and downs, and having a clear mind to deal with the problems, is the best tool one can have. Clients can be very demanding but I have learnt how deal with a disgruntled or disappointed client in the right way, which ensures that the client leaves with a smile, satisfied that the problem has been resolved. What do you think can be done to encourage more mothers to work outside the home? Women are still expected to multi-task but it is not easy to juggle work, career, home and children, even though culturally we are honed to handle both a job and family. The Government incentive offering free childcare to working mothers has been a game-changer, as it allows mothers to have a full 40-hour working week whilst their child is being taken care of. Promoting flexible hours, when this is possible, is also an incentive to attract women to the labour force. However, the biggest challenge is a change in culture where men assume the same family and home roles as are traditionally handled by women. This is still not the case, which means that certain women do not have the choice of getting a job or pursuing a career. Only then can women really be free to choose work outside their home. cc 49
Challenges, threats and opportunities Peter Zammit, iAS Ltd director, explains his view on a number of issues in relation to project management in the local construction industry.
The terms ‘project management’, ‘project manager’, and ‘construction management’ are frequently used in the construction industry. Is there a clear definition of the term ‘project management’ that is agreed across the industry? Various definitions of project management exist. If one had to group the commonalities between the different definitions, it would be the coming together of a group of people for a fixed period of time to deliver a project from its concept to its realisation, through a change process, within an agreed timeframe, to an agreed cost and to an agreed level of quality within a safe working environment. For iAS the definition of project management has evolved over the last 10 years and strongly focuses on the early recognition of risk. We strongly believe that in undertaking the role of steering the project, that project manager should be in a position to pre-empt risk, be it threat or opportunity, as early as possible in order to allow sufficient time for proper avoidance, mitigation or acceptance. Has the role of the project manager always been part of the local construction industry? Yes. In the past, the role of the project manager was mainly a shared responsibility between the architect in charge and the developer. We have to appreciate that until 20 to 25 years ago, the majority of buildings in Malta where still relatively simple in nature – there were no complications in building
services, few health and safety laws, and simple client requirements. As projects got larger and more complex, with tighter timeframes and more budgetary constraints, it became evident that the level of management had to be shifted a notch up and a structured way of managing projects started being introduced. For a lot of people project management is about managing time, among other aspects of the project. So why do our local projects always take longer than originally planned? The management of time is only one aspect of project management. Admittedly, the majority of projects, and this is not only the case in Malta, take longer than originally planned. In my personal opinion and in projects that iAS have been involved in, the reason is wrong planning at the very beginning which is then carried through the rest of the project. In most cases a financial business case will only make sense if the project can be undertaken within a specific period of time. Going beyond that period of time will increase project costs and delay returns on sales, putting the feasibility of the project at risk. When things start to go wrong, the original timeframe does not have the necessary buffers built into it, and the problems encountered result in delays. Does society in general have what to benefit from project management? Be it a public or private funded project, project management should, and does create the necessary checks and controls to ensure that the project is executed in a structured manner in all aspects, from design development to health and safety, and pollution control during execution of works. Through these controls the end result will be better which in turn leaves a positive contribution to the well-being of society in general. Is project management just a bureaucratic exercise where people justify their existence through the creation of systems and paperwork? There are two sides to project management. There is the paperwork part, such as collection of data of what happened yesterday, what is happening today, quality control testing and more. At iAS we tend to refer to that as the retroactive part of project
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management. More importantly there is the proactive part whereby, through our systems and processes we try to foresee the future as much as possible to determine where the potential risks exist, which will allow us enough time to find an alternative route. This to us is the most exciting part of project management where, through our systems and processes, together with our project team and the client, we can actually steer the project away from potential pitfalls. Larger projects and recent trends indicate a number of high-rise projects. Is the industry geared up to handle such projects, and what contribution will the project management profession make to their successful completion? The local industry has always adapted to the needs of the day. Be it professionals or contractors, I dare say that they have always stood up to the challenge. I agree that the challenge of high-rise buildings should not be taken lightly and we are already seeing a number of professionals teaming up with larger international firms who have previous experience in such structures. In relation to the project management team, it is essential that this is in place as soon as possible to guide the project through all its different phases, creating the necessary controls and mitigating any risks. Approaching such projects without the necessary management team can potentially lead to insurmountable problems. cc 51
CC make the headlines
KPMGâ€™s real estate database By Hermione Arciola, Director, Advisory Services, KPMG in Malta, and Steve Stivala, Senior Manager, Advisory Services, KPMG in Malta Discussions on real estate have always generated interest on our island, whether it is from banks having a concentration of real estate exposure, from investors seeking to value property for a particular development, merger or acquisition, or from a newly-wed couple concerned about housing affordability. Real estate has become one of the main building blocks of the Maltese economy, both literally and metaphorically. The real estate industry and the construction sector, which provides its foundation up the supply chain, supports other non-related economic sectors across a diverse set of activities. As one of the more important pillars of the Maltese economy, the real estate sector demands more attention, scrutiny and analysis. Price indices, like the ones readily available in the public domain, are all well and good, providing intermittent glimpses of the faĂ§ade of an otherwise complex structure. However, in order to appreciate the underlying supporting
foundations, access to the machinery driving the market is essential. At KPMG, we are regularly called upon to assist in carrying out feasibility studies in connection with real estate development projects, real estate valuations and impairment assessments. In the absence of a reliable and detailed property price index, over the past years, we have tracked the local real estate market by reference to advertised property prices (including sale and rental). Spanning over 72,000 data points, our real estate database incorporates a quarry of property price observations across multiple types of property namely residential property, land
and commercial property. The database further includes details on specific characteristics such as condition, locality, view type, internal area and/ or plot size, and garage capacity, among other variables. The intrinsic power of having access to such a rich database lies in the fact that we can easily isolate the effect of separate variables on prices, whilst keeping other variables constant. We hope that stakeholders in this area, whether they are banks, investors, contractors, or policymakers, continue taking prudent and informed evidence-based decisions in the sector, which will further cement Maltaâ€™s place as one of the leading small economies in Europe. cc www.kpmg.com.mt
Restoring beauty Atelier del Restauro offers museum-quality conservation and restoration of books, manuscripts, watercolours, canvas paintings, panel paintings, wall paintings, gilded frames, papier-mĂ˘chĂŠ and polychrome sculptures.
Before and after conservation and restoration interventions on Saint Biagio, an important 18th century oil on canvas painting
Atelier del Restauro, 17, Marco Montebello Square, Mosta, MST 2030. E: firstname.lastname@example.org; M: 7953 4766/7927 8777; W: www.atelierdelrestauro.com; Fb: Atelier del Restauro Ltd. JUNE / JULY 2017
CC make the headlines
Personalising your shipping service International shipping has never been more personalised thanks to market leader Attard Holdings. But how can a shipping service be personalised? Well, for starters, Attard Holdings are experts in creating tailor-made solutions for any transportation problems that consumers might have. For instance, one of the most recent unique export problems occurred in May 2017. A 70-footer boat needed to be removed from the sea following a leakage that required immediate repair. Due to the large size of the boat, Attard Holdings, together with their partners Bonatti Transporti, was the only company that could provide the client with a truck that had the capacity to transport the boat to the required port and the boat was then shipped to Italy for repairs. Attard Holdings managed to make a seemingly impossible task possible – and this is just one example of the challenges the Group overcomes on a weekly basis. Other examples include transportation of the unique balconies ordered for the new Hotel Holiday-inn Express in Paceville, logistics co-
ordination for multiple Isle of MTV concerts and transportation of Pope Benedict XVI’s pope mobile to Malta for his visit in 2010, just to name a few. Attard Holdings, along with their partners Passalaqua, have also gained access to a number of new hubs in Italy, which in turn have made it possible to increase their shipping destinations significantly from Sicily, Italy and beyond. These hubs can be used as storage facilities with daily exports/arrivals –
no matter the size of the package. Attard Holdings are licensed to transfer waste material and what’s more… their services are affordable. That’s right, the services are provided in the most cost-effective manner to satisfy all your transportation needs without breaking the bank. Now that’s value for money! cc Call us on 2144 3031 for any enquiry. Attard Holdings will move your items anywhere you need!
Summer is here, and so are a bunch of cool and quirky gadgets to help you make the most of it. From Snapchat glasses to the Polaroid Pop, Martina Said picks her favourite gadgets this season. 01. Motiv’s Fitness Tracking Ring No one will know that the slate grey or rose gold ring on your finger – which could easily pass as a wedding band – is in fact a fitness tracker. Motiv, which has been working on the ring for the past five years, crammed a whole fitness band’s worth of functions into an attractive ring which tracks sleep and fitness including steps, calories and distance, an optical heart rate sensor and a battery life of up to five days on one charge, which blows many other fitness trackers out of the water.
02. Griffin Connected Toaster Love toast? Who doesn’t! Whether you consider this nifty gadget to be brilliant or ridiculous, you can rest assured you’ll get perfectly toasted bread each and every time. This sleekly-designed toaster relies on digitally-controlled heating elements that allow users to key in the precise temperature for perfect toasting. And to ensure you never burn another piece of bread ever again, it uses a Bluetooth connection to a free app that saves a user’s toasting preferences. Genius!
04. Wacom Bamboo Notepad Perfect for those who love to sketch and scribble notes on paper, but need to scan said notes or sketches every time to transfer them online, the Wacom Bamboo Notepad combines the best of both worlds. It uses regular paper for an authentic notepad touch and a smart pen for tracking what’s being doodled on paper, but instantly sends notes or drawings to the user’s smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth.
05. Logitech G900 Chaos Spectrum Gaming Mouse Gamers will have a ball with this high-end mouse which is considered to be the best of its kind, and resembles a spaceship from a sci-fi movie. The Chaos Spectrum gaming mouse offers pro-grade performance in wireless and wired mode, ambidextrous design with customisable buttons and lighting, as well as excellent battery life.
06. Snapchat Spectacles Snapchat fans will love this new development from parent company Snap Inc., which debuted its first foray into hardware. The Spectacles have been a hit thanks to their stylish look and video-recording capabilities – at the press of a button on the stem of the glasses, you can record a 10-second video from your very own visual perspective, which is then saved automatically to your memories on Snapchat. The product comes in a variety of fun colours, and charges in its very own case. cc
03. Polaroid Pop Unveiled this year at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the Polaroid Pop is an instant camera which returns to the same company’s iconic sized photograph of 3x4 inches, although with an improved megapixel count of 20. The Pop’s sleek design includes a 3.97-inch touchscreen LCD for a preview before a photograph prints (saving you a bunch of bad photos which could end up being costly), and the photos print on Zink paper, rather than film.
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NEWS Events & Initiatives
01. Malta Chamber welcomes agreement on minimum wage increase The Malta Chamber expressed its satisfaction following the announced agreement on an increase in the minimum wage. The announcement followed long discussions and negotiations, in which the Malta Chamber was actively involved together with other employers’ representative organisations. The agreement stipulates that minimum wage earners would receive an increment of €3 per week following the completion of a year’s employment with the same employer. A further €3 weekly will be added upon completion of a second year. Employees earning more than the basic minimum wage will also receive an increase pro-rata. The increases do not include COLA. All other workers will receive a supplement of €1 to their COLA for 2018 and 2019. Social partners also agreed to set up a Low Wage Commission by 2020 to establish an effective mechanism to determine whether the minimum wage will need reviewing. This commission will submit its recommendations to Government every four years, the first being due in 2023.
02. Business calls for political stability The Malta Chamber called on political parties to exercise caution and maturity to protect Malta’s reputation. “In the interest of continued economic prosperity, the Chamber urges all political parties to exercise caution and maturity to ensure Malta’s reputation as a respectable global
centre for business is safeguarded.” “The Malta Chamber has followed with utmost concern the recent developments taking place in the current political scenario,” a statement issued by the Chamber said. “The country’s political leaders know where the Chamber stands on issues of national interest because it has never shied away from expressing its views. As a responsible organisation, the Chamber believes that business cannot thrive without economic and political stability.” “In the interest of continued economic prosperity, therefore, the Chamber urges all political parties to exercise caution and maturity to ensure Malta’s reputation as a respectable global centre for business is safeguarded,” the statement concluded.
03. Malta Chamber issues stark warning against ‘irresponsible electoral promises’ The Malta Chamber reiterated its warning to both major political parties not to make promises that could undermine Malta’s business competitiveness in order to gain votes. “The Malta Chamber has warned both political parties not to enter a race to out-bid each other with electoral promises that risk to undermine the foundations of our economic competitiveness. This would be nothing short of irresponsible,” a statement from the Chamber read. The Malta Chamber said that with an electoral campaign that was barely one day old, it had already noted promises concerning public holidays that fall on weekends and the recently-signed agreement on the minimum wage being
described as a step in the right direction. “The Chamber has gone on record to state that it regards the issue of public holidays as a closed-case. Similarly, as far as employers are concerned, the minimum wage agreement is also final. This is the result of six long months of sensitive and courageous negotiations which made sure not to upset industrial relations, wage relativities and export competitiveness.”
04. Meg executive board meets BusinessEurope DG Markus Beyrer In the lead-up to the BusinessEurope Council of Presidents (COPRES) meeting which was held in Malta on 4th and 5th May the Malta Chamber’s Manufacturing and Other Industries Economic Group (MEG) Executive Board met with BusinessEurope Director General Markus Beyrer to discuss issues faced by Malta’s manufacturing sector within a European context. Among matters of interest, MEG Chairman Norman Aquilina highlighted the challenges for the industry of operating from an island on the periphery of the European continent, with all the extra logistical costs this brings with it. This geographic reality offered an added challenge that was not experienced by other islands, much larger than Malta, but which are favoured with a remote region status. Mr Aquilina also referred to the reduction in the availability of Government support for industry which had been reduced since Malta joined the EU to the current very limited levels, as well as the shortages of labour which the industry is facing currently and the relative pressure on its wage bill.
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05. BusinessEurope Presidents meet President MarieLouise Coleiro Preca As part of the programme of events of the Council of Presidents of BusinessEurope, the heads of delegation attended an audience with the President of the Republic H.E. Marie Louise Coleiro Preca at San Anton Palace on Thursday. Addressing the heads of delegation H.E. the President said that it was only within a united Union, built on social, economic, and political values of solidarity and shared prosperity, that the storms of uncertainty can be weathered. “I believe that it is this heritage of solidarity, and a firm commitment to peace, which must guide our steps towards sustainable prosperity for our peoples,” she said. In the evening, the contingents coming from 30 countries attended a gala dinner at Xara Lodge which was presided by the Speaker of the House of Representatives Angelo Farrugia. Welcoming guests to the evening, Malta Chamber President Frank V. Farrugia provided a brief background and history of the Malta Chamber. He said that Malta’s EU Presidency had served to give Malta a central place in Europe’s political map as evidenced by the level and number 62
05. of delegations present for the event. “The continued resilience of Europe’s businesses depends on the effectiveness of the COPRES meeting, particularly at this time when so many uncertainties characterise the European political and economic climate,” he said. Guests were entertained by Clare Ghigo who was accompanied by harpist Britt Arens and Red Electrick.
06. Malta Chamber hosts the BusinessEurope Council of Presidents Malta Chamber hosted the BusinessEurope Council of Presidents (COPRES) meeting, with Presidents and Director Generals of the most prestigious business organisations from all over Europe congregating to Malta for the biannual meeting. The Council of Presidents, which is habitually held in the country holding the Presidency of the European Union met at the Agostino Portelli Hall at the Exchange Buildings on Friday JUNE / JULY 2017
06. where matters of importance to industry in Europe were discussed. Welcoming the delegates to the Exchange Buildings, Anton Borg in his capacity as BusinessEurope VicePresident said that the meeting was taking place during a particularly challenging period for the European Union. “Steering Europe’s economic recovery forward in the past months while facing growing populism and geopolitical tensions on our southern and eastern borders, as well as on an international level, has not been an easy feat. Furthermore, the forthcoming elections in numerous prominent member states and commencement of Brexit negotiations are further contributing to these unpredictable times – times that are far from ideal for business,” he said. Addressing COPRES, BusinessEurope President Emma Marcegaglia said that at this particular juncture in the life of JUNE / JULY 2017
the European Union, business leaders had an ever-important role to play to influence their respective governments to put competitiveness and economic growth at the fore of their agenda.
07. Illogical decision to reduce English lessons should be revised Following a Press Release issued by the Malta Chamber in reaction to a report that English lessons for Form Four students were to be reduced by one lesson a week next year, the Ministry for Education said no changes in the number of lessons of English would take place. The Malta Chamber expressed its utmost concern on the reported news and said that the decision went against any logic and ought to be revised with immediate effect. “Unfortunately the level of English has already demonstrably been experiencing
a decline among the young in recent years. This decision certainly is illogical as it is bound to compound this negative trend. This decision is seen by the Malta Chamber as a change in policy direction,” the Press Release said. In its statement, the Ministry for Education and Employment said that the Ministry would be investing in further training for English teachers through an agreement with Cambridge English, with the aim that students receive an even better learning experience in this subject.
08. Chamber steps up its reservations on proposed lidl project Businesses from various economic groups voiced their concern with the Malta Chamber that the proposed Lidl Distribution Centre in Malta will cause an unfair playing field. 65
Government announced last April that the project would receive assistance from Malta Enterprise and Malta Industrial Parks. The Malta Chamber entered discussions with the relevant authorities on the subject as it is voicing the concerns of its members. The members are contending that the proposed project will cause an unfair playing field in the local market if Lidl would be allowed to use its Distribution Centre to also hold and distribute stocks destined for its Malta-based outlets.
09. David Zahra appointed President of the Malta Business Bureau David Zahra has been appointed President of the Malta Business Bureau (MBB). On his appointment as new MBB President, Dr Zahra commented: “It is with pleasure that I am taking on the role of MBB President at an exciting time for the organisation, but also during testing times for the European Union. I am confident that the MBB will continue to be a promoter of EU values, and looking to make the best of the opportunities it offers for our business and the economy in general.” The MBB thanked John Vassallo, the former President, for his guidance, invaluable advice and utmost dedication throughout his tenure as President and Director of the Board. His commitment saw the organisation develop and increase its impact through advisory and strategic lobbying with the EU institutions. During the Annual Board Meeting, the MBB announced the new Board: David Zahra as President, Kyle Borg as VicePresident, and Charles A. Zahra, Mario Spiteri, Reginald Fava and Malcolm Jones as Directors. The MBB also thanked outgoing Director Norman Aquilina who served on the Board for the past year.
12. 10. Malta Chamber calls for establishment of a task force on Malta Files In a statement, the Chamber said that the Malta Files episode had triggered a series of attacks on the integrity of the country’s fiscal structures and financial services industry. “There has never been a time when the country needed to form a common and undivided front more than today. Time is of the essence on this matter. Every minute is valuable and all stakeholders need to come together immediately to address this very serious issue.” The Malta Chamber offered its 170 years of experience to help bring together all impacted stakeholders at this understandably very sensitive time to produce a common front on this issue. The Malta Chamber argued that in an open and investment-based economy, the Malta Files and the ensuing inferences endanger the entire economy.
11. The rule of law is not an option but a must
In a strongly-worded statement, the Malta Chamber called on Government to restore confidence, to insist on uncompromising standards of integrity within Government and to strengthen the independence and effectiveness of essential institutions. It is important to ensure the full independence of public entities from any direct or indirect political intrusion and interference. “The Chamber’s role and mission is to represent the business sector in the widest sense possible, and with it to promote the
economic development and prosperity of Malta and Gozo,” the Chamber said. While it is clear to all that Malta has experienced robust economic growth over the past years, the Chamber said it was concerned about the growing levels of uncertainty arising from the failure of some of Malta’s key national institutions. This led to serious questions being asked about the stability and reputation of our country. The Chamber said that Malta’s economic well-being is of common interest to all.
12. Malta Chamber signs pledges with European Alliance for Apprenticeships The Malta Chamber signed a pledge with the European Alliance for Apprenticeships to collaborate closely with educational institutes such as MCAST to disseminate more information about apprenticeships among its members. Malta Chamber President Frank V. Farrugia signed the pledge during a reception at the Exchange Buildings on the occasion of the fourth anniversary of the establishment of the European Alliance for Apprenticeships (EAfA). Addressing the delegates present, Mr Farrugia spoke of the importance of apprenticeships which play an important role in helping to meet companies’ skills needs, while helping people into, and progress within, the labour market. Over 200 delegates from across the European Union met in Malta between 30th and 31st of May to attend a highlevel event organised by EAfA in close cooperation with the Maltese Presidency. JUNE / JULY 2017
13. Proactive proposals for a competitive Malta In its bid to represent its members, the Malta Chamber presented political parties in Malta with its concrete policy proposals ahead of the General Election of 3rd June. The proposals formed the document titled ‘Policy Proposals for a Competitivenesscentred Electoral Manifesto,’ which analyses 12 aspects of Malta’s economy and provides researched opinions on each. The following are the main proposals forwarded by the Malta Chamber: 1. Ensure the full independence of public entities from any direct or indirect political intrusion and interference. 2. Give the new Commissioner of Standards in Public life the adequate resources and full autonomy once the new Government is established. 3. Secure capital investment in order to generate long-term competitiveness and growth. 4. Conduct a comprehensive study of the whole public sector to determine over/understaffed departments. 5. Lobby European Commission to eliminate discriminatory EU Regional Aid policies. 6. Air Malta – Reduce the company’s operational costs, rectify the airline’s debt situation and subsequently divide the company’s shareholding into three parts – Government, an international aviation
strategic partner and local investors. 7. Ensure level playing field on imports from other EU member states. 8. Consider the Minimum Wage agreement as final. 9. Implement a support scheme to lower costs of night and shift labour. 10. Engage in a concerted effort to push up the spend on R&D to 3 per cent of GDP through a robust framework of accessible investment incentive programmes and support mechanisms. 11. Urgently ensure that the Malta Development Bank is operational. 12. Use PPPs and funds from the IIP scheme to make a capital investment in transport projects. 13. Reduce energy tariffs for industry further by introducing night tariffs, flexible purchasing of energy from different sources, energy vouchers credited against energy bills based on investment in renewable energy sources and energy efficiency. 14. Conduct a comprehensive review of the short-sighted Strategic Plan for Environment and Development (SPED) to curtail present haphazard development. 15. Consider a national sustainable development master plan rather than regional ones. 16. Improve ease of doing business and reduce administrative burdens by establishing a national competitiveness
watchdog, reversing implementation of excise duties and concluding merger of public revenue-collecting entities. 17. Increase the use of alternative dispute resolution such as mediation and arbitration rather than litigation and increase small claims tribunal threshold from the current €5,000 to €10,000.
14. Chamber extends its congratulations to new Government In a Press Release to the media issued on 6th June, the Malta Chamber congratulated the Labour Party for its electoral victory following the General Election. The Malta Chamber augured Prime Minister Joseph Muscat the very best for his reappointment at a time when Malta needs to focus its attention on building on the successes achieved in the last years and maintaining a vigilant eye on the country’s competitiveness. “With an intense electoral campaign behind us, it is now time to look forward and start implementing the ambitious Labour Party’s electoral programme,” the statement said. The Malta Chamber said that it remained available and willing to work closely with Government to implement as many of these proposals as possible for the benefit of the country’s economy.
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01. 01. Cidic Business Forum and Networking event Chamberâ€™s Internationalisation Desk organised a Business Forum and Networking event, to coincide with the visit made by a business delegation from CIDIC (Cercle International Diplomatique et Consulaire), which is an International Circle for Businessmen, Diplomats and Consuls.Â The business delegation included company directors and CEOs from
various sectors such as real estate, healthcare, civil engineering, consultancy, business development, law firms, and educational institutions. The event aimed to bring together Dutch, Belgian and Maltese entrepreneurs, businesses and universities in order to 70
deliver diplomatic, economic and academic scope during the Maltese Presidency. The event was addressed by the Malta Chamber President Frank V. Farrugia, the Minister for the Economy, Investment and Small Business, Christian Cardona and former Minister for Gozo, Anton Refalo. cc JUNE / JULY 2017
CC CASE STUDY
Onwards and upwards The financial services wave of the late 2000s brought with it a number of international companies eager to set up shop in Malta, including FXDD. FXDD Malta’s Head of Finance Rebecca Portelli talks to Marie-Claire Grima all about the intensive regulatory process for finance firms, Malta’s ongoing success in this field and the company’s plans to continue growing locally and internationally.
“We keep an open line of communication with our regulators and we are very fortunate that the MFSA takes this approach – it is quite rare to be able to have this direct and open communication with a regulator.”
regulator. “The initial capital requirement for a Category 3 licence is €730,000, and this needs to be satisfied on an ongoing basis, not just at the initial stage. Furthermore, the MFSA has to ensure that the Board members and the individuals occupying senior positions within the company have the necessary competence to be able to effectively contribute to the decision-making of the Board. There are also the criteria related to shareholding structure, which reflect the competence of the management team, the target market, the level and nature of the risks involved being operating and business, and the due diligence that needs to take place; corporate governance, which ensures that the company has internal controls to monitor the company’s goings-on on a daily basis, and record-keeping – the company should have real-time access and control over all transactional data from offices in Malta,” Ms Portelli says. Other obligations that FXDD, like others in its category, have to comply with are the submission of audited financial statements, yearly tax returns, and quarterly VAT submission, in line with the established accounting standards. Additionally, FXDD’s accounting staff regularly attends seminars to keep up with any changes related to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), which also serve as a refresher on any regulations, in particular those which are specific to the company. “As a Certified Public Accountant I am also obliged to undertake Continuing Professional Education as per the
Photos by Alan Carville.
XDD Malta Ltd was part of the first wave of financial services companies that identified Malta as a potential finance hub as early as 2009, when the sector was still relatively small locally. The company started off as FXDD, in 2002 in New York as an online foreign exchange company mainly servicing individual retail clients. After achieving success in the United States, the shareholders decided to expand the company’s operations in Europe. Malta was identified as the ideal hub, and operations in Malta started in February 2010, from where it now services clients from over 200 countries. The company is a Category 3 Investment Services Licence registered by the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA). FXDD Malta’s Head of Finance Rebecca Portelli explains the comprehensive reporting process that such a company has to undergo. “We need to submit our returns to the MFSA on a quarterly basis. Among other things, this report includes the company’s capital adequacy – our own funds and capital ratios; credit and counterparty credit risk; geographical breakdown; operational risk; market risk; any large exposures, and a list of any complaints that occurred during the quarter. Most complaints are minor. Our customer service representatives always strive to ensure that complaints are handled in a timely and efficient matter.” Furthermore, Ms Portelli explains, a financial services company such as FXDD needs to abide by certain criteria and keep up to date with the requirements specified by the
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CC CASE STUDY
“Malta’s anti-money laundering laws reflect European standards; in some cases Malta’s laws are even stronger, since the MFSA has stricter requirements than those within the general EU directive.”
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Malta Institute of Accountants and Accountancy Board regulation,” Ms Portelli affirms. Malta’s status as an inviting financial services hub is greatly helped by the MFSA and the working relationship it maintains with the firms operating in Malta, Ms Portelli asserts. “We keep an open line of communication with our regulators and we are very fortunate that the MFSA takes this approach – it is quite rare to be able to have this direct and open communication with a regulator, and it is something that foreign clients in particular are very appreciative of. In fact we are on good terms with the regulatory authorities – we have quarterly and yearly calendar notes to set reminders on any reports due, so that we don’t miss any deadlines.” Ms Portelli believes that Malta’s success in the field of financial services has made it the target of febrile allegations, including the recent Malta Files revelations. She harbours no doubt about whether Malta remains a stable and attractive jurisdiction for financial services, or whether its method of operations is sustainable in the longterm. “Malta is a solid jurisdiction with strong regulations and an even stronger financial services regulator. Its anti-money laundering laws reflect European standards; in some cases Malta’s laws are even stronger, since the MFSA has stricter requirements than those within the general EU directive. At FXDD, all our staff are brought up to speed, thanks to our in-house anti-money laundering training. The current system is the one that Malta joined the EU with, and through it, it has flourished. Unfortunately, sometimes, when something reaches such an unprecedented level of success, it can raise eyebrows. I think this is very much the case here.” While Malta’s financial regulations have long been applauded for their flexibility and thoroughness, the events of the past few months have put the system’s inner workings on full display, indicating that despite the exhaustive number of requirements by the MFSA, some companies can still slip through the cracks. Ms Portelli insists that the problem isn’t with Malta’s regulations, which reflect the regulations prevalent throughout the EU. “However, there could be some improvement in the enforceability of these regulations. For example, there certainly need to be more police officers in the Economic Crime Department, as at the moment there is only one officer who does all the work.” While FXDD has found in Malta a welcoming and business-friendly environment where it could continue to advance its business into Europe, FXDD’s presence has also been symbiotically beneficial to Malta. As one of the foremost international financial services companies to set up its headquarters in Malta, it bolstered its status as an emerging hub for foreign exchange trading and global finance – and Ms Portelli confirms that the company has further plans for expansion in the near future. “Over the next two years, we’ll continue to expand our business within the EU, maintaining Malta as our base. We will also be increasing the number of personnel within the local office.” cc 73
From photogenic eggs to tools to make the barbecue season a little bit easier, Marie-Claire Grima rounds up what’s hot in food. 01. Cloud Eggs The cutely-named cloud eggs are the latest must-eat among food bloggers and social media trendsetters. If you fancy making them for your next breakfast, whip the egg whites and bake them first, and add the orange yolk later for a further short bake. The white morphs into a fluffy cloud shape, while the orange yolk remains intact, sitting appetisingly in the middle.
02. Msemen Msemen is flaky Moroccan flat bread made with flour, semolina, olive or canola oil and butter. It is rich, chewy, and addictive; best eaten warm, drizzled with honey, with a glass of mint tea in the morning, or filled with caramelised onions, parsley, and spiced ground lamb for a savoury and delicious afternoon or evening meal.
03. Ochazuke Ochazuke or Japanese steeped rice, consists of steamed short-grain rice with hot brewed tea poured over it. While ochazuke may simply be enjoyed with rice and tea, it is often served with any number of toppings, including seafood, meat, vegetables, pickles, seaweed, and other Japanese ingredients. It’s growing in popularity worldwide, possibly because it can be enjoyed as a snack at any time of the day, but it is especially loved as a midnight snack, or as a hangover remedy.
05. Edible Flowers While edible flowers make every dish look delicious, they can also add surprising texture and flavour if used right. Common florals like nasturtium and rose, or herb blossoms like cilantro, radish and basil flowers look and taste great, and can be used in a number of different recipes, from infusing cocktails and garnishing salads to making a spice rub for meat.
06. Hamburger Press
With barbecue season in full swing, you’ll want something that lets you make quick and perfect home-made patties to toss on the grill. Enter the hamburger press – it shapes and flattens uniform hamburger patties, as well as chicken and turkey burgers, and even vegetarian patties. You can take them anywhere, be it the beach, a picnic or camping – so fire up that grill! cc
06. 03. Sagaform
You no longer need to make the difficult decision between a refreshing glass of rosé and a crisp spritz during those hot summer days. Combine the two tipples into one with the Rosé Aperol Spritz. Add a splash of passion fruit juice and a squeeze of lime for extra tartness or simply let the main ingredients do the heavy lifting.
04. Rosé Aperol Spritz
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How to influence market trends Influencer marketing is bridging the gap between traditional marketing and the demands of today’s online audiences. Here, Infiltrend’s Francesca Mifsud talks to The Commercial Courier about how her company’s innovative online platform is bringing brands and influencers together with excellent results.
hink about the last time you were watching TV and you switched stations when the ads came on, or you chose to ‘skip’ the ad that popped up on Youtube or another online site. You were blocking out advertising and choosing to ignore the traditional ways that brands have reached out to you. You were choosing which content to engage with, and which to ignore. This ‘blocking out’ phenomenon is proving very challenging for the brands trying to reach out to you. After all, in the informationrich world that we live in, how do brands cut through the noise to speak to potential customers? Well, this is where influencer marketing comes in. In a nutshell, influencer marketing revolves
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around brands working with key influencers to run their campaigns. Influencers turn this into content, which they share with their very engaged and tuned-in audience through their blogs or social media profiles. Through their content, influencers are subtly recommending your brand. As a consumer, you then follow the content created by the influencer you have chosen to follow – and thus, who you trust. More than ever, we’re a society surrounded by endless options but, ultimately, driven by a need to know what other people are doing and whether we should do the same. We are very much influenced by the opinions and judgements of others – be they family members, colleagues or other people we follow online.
“Influencer marketing has proved to be one of the most robust marketing trends to develop in recent years, and there’s a plethora of reasons why it is here to stay,” explains Francesca Mifsud, who runs boutique influencer marketing platform, Infiltrend. As a company, Infiltrend connects brands and influencers through its innovative online space, while also offering brands a vast range of supplementary agency services to ensure their campaigns are cohesive and targeted to the audiences they want to reach. It is a platform driven by innovation and the latest technology. Any influencer marketing campaign run through Infiltrend is measured and tracked – thus data is generated and brands can truly utilise it to their advantage. 77
CC INTERVIEW “In our busy online lives, we cut through the noise to find people we trust – and depending on our interests they could be bloggers, social media users, celebrities or respected experts in particular fields. We choose to engage with them because we like what they’re saying and look to them for advice. Similarly, we also come to engage in their conversations and trust their opinions – making them important influencers in our lives. This, of course, can be very valuable for the brands that they choose to work with and endorse.” Looking back on the history of influencer marketing, Francesca believes it existed longer before we fully understood it. “People have been creating profiles and getting noticed on social media or online for a while now, sometimes by accident,” she explains. “They simply created content that other people were interested in and organically developed a following. Perhaps they became known for their knowledge, looks, personality, status or their expertise in a particular area, but their popularity developed very organically in response to the content they were generating. They didn’t force their audience or bombard it, but instead developed a following that was interested in them and not the other way around. “This is remarkably different to many of the ways that information is fed to us today, and audiences are much less likely to want to ignore it or switch if off. Put simply,
influencer marketing enables audiences to engage with online personalities – whether they are individuals or groups – who have created a following centred on something that their followers are interested in knowing more about.” 2016 was a big year for influencer marketing – and for influencers themselves. Some of the most powerful online influencers in the world have generated hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of followers through their blogs or on platforms like
“Influencer marketing is quite different to many of the ways that information is fed to us today, and audiences are much less likely to want to ignore it or switch if off – that’s when Infiltrend comes in.”
Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. But an influencer’s reach doesn’t have to be that wide. “Some of the most powerful influencers in today’s markets have a more limited, but more dedicated, following,” continues Francesca, who works with key influencers both locally and internationally, across a number of sectors including business, health, fitness and fashion. “Niche influencers may only have a few thousand followers but are very powerful in their location – like Malta, or their industry – like fitness. If an influencer’s opinion can help their followers decide which brand of clothing to wear or which fitness trend to try, then they are extremely important for brands to engage with.”
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And this is where the power of influencer marketing and Infiltrend really steps in – by linking brands with the influencers that will help to get their products noticed by their audiences. “It all comes down to finding the right influencer for your brand and who will make the biggest impact,” Francesca says, adding that while influencer marketing was once seen as an industry buzzword, it is now considered an essential part of any campaign – however big or small. “Mass marketing could prove expensive and may often be ignored by your potential customers. What you need is a targeted campaign that gets it noticed by the people who are going to become your dedicated customers, and that can be achieved very effectively through influencer marketing.” To achieve that, Infiltrend’s easy-to-use platform has been designed specifically to help connect brands and influencers in the most effective way possible. From within one site and using one set of login details, brands can make use of the Discover tool to search through a range of potential influencers and choose the one/s that they’d like to work with to fit their brand and campaign goals. Then, through the Infiltrend Data Dashboard, brands can easily assess the engagement that their JUNE / JULY 2017
“If an influencer’s opinion can help their followers decide which brand of clothing to wear or which fitness trend to try, then they are extremely important for brands to engage with. Infiltrend uses technology to make this happen.”
campaign has garnered, irrespective or where that campaign was shared. It is a platform that provides everything you need to run an influencer campaign effectively, in a structured manner and with the data to show for it. “From the site it’s so simple to get a campaign going and to manage it – all within the Infiltrend site. Data and stats are also passed on seamlessly throughout the process so brands know exactly what’s working and are informed from start-tofinish about how audiences are responding across all of the social media sites or blogs they’re working on. Not only is it easy to use, but it’s a complete solution,” Francesca says, adding that Infiltrend can effectively handle the campaign holistically on a brand’s behalf. Now, having had some success in the UK, Infiltrend is launching locally and the company is currently reaching out to brands interested in trying what Forbes Magazine has called ‘the most exciting marketing
trend of 2017’. “Influencer marketing is big business internationally, and we believe it also has huge potential in Malta. Our extensive background in the sector perfectly positions us to be able to guide brands towards the right influencers – ones that are trustworthy, authentic and true to their audiences, which in turn ensures the audiences look to them for advice. This enables us to talk to them directly and create campaigns that interest them – from beginning to end. “So, from tiny niche products all the way up to multinationals, influencer marketing and the Infiltrend platform and agency make speaking to your market easier and more successful than ever. We look forward to guiding Maltese brands on this exciting new online adventure,” Francesca adds. cc For more information, E: email@example.com; www.infiltrend.com 81
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HSBC Advance customers win with their Visa Platinum Twelve HSBC Advance customers took home Apple prizes, including iPhone 7s and iPads, as part of a Visa Platinum credit card usage campaign. All customers who used their HSBC Advance Visa Platinum credit card for their shopping during the campaign period were automatically entered into a draw. The prizes were presented by HSBC Malta’s Head of Retail Banking and Wealth Management, Daniel Robinson, after a competition held during the prize ceremony. Addressing the finalists, Mr Robinson said: “this event and the prizes you have won are a small token of thanks for the loyalty you show towards the bank. It’s great to meet some of our Advance customers face to face, and hear their feedback and views.’’ Mr Robinson also thanked Visa for partnering with the bank throughout the campaign.
The winners took a trivia test to claim the 12 Apple prizes
HSBC Advance is a banking service which includes a number of exclusive benefits such as preferential rates on loans, banking services and investments that are not available on HSBC’s standard accounts. It is free of charge for all eligible customers. cc
More details about HSBC Advance benefits, terms and conditions, and upto-date information can be found on the dedicated website www.hsbc.com.mt/ advance or by contacting the bank on T: 2380 2380.
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Interactive Services – making best use of innovative technologies to offer cutting-edge services
Interactive Services is a Maltese business solution provider founded in 1996, with a consolidated knowledge and experience in the implementation and maintenance of:
Work integrity, unwavering commitment to quality and excellence.
} Telecommunication systems (fixed and mobile) } Lightning protection systems } FTTH/WAN/LAN systems } Facility management services (civil works, electrical, mechanical, thermo-hydraulic systems) } Building control systems In 2014 ISL established a branch office in Italy, where it currently supplies and manages the aforesaid services nationwide, through the consolidated premises of Roma, Padova and Bari.
Vision and mission Be the leading-edge service provider by using highly innovative technologies. Interactive Services’ commitment is to actively contribute to sustainable development through environmental protection, social responsibility and economic progress. To us, that means meeting the needs of society today, while respecting the ability of future generations to meet their needs. At Interactive Services we never stop moving. It takes passionate, dedicated and talented employees to deliver the best service our customers expect and deserve.
Malta: Interactive Services Ltd – ISL Warehouse, Triq il-Brunzar, St Venera. SVN1752 Italy: Interactive Services Ltd – 34, Via dei Piani di Monte Savello, Albano Laziale, Roma. 0041 E: firstname.lastname@example.org www. interactiveservicesltd.com JUNE / JULY 2017
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The Malta International Arts Festival an exciting, colourful kaleidoscope
The 12th edition of the Malta International Arts Festival (MIAF) will be taking place all over Valletta from 29th June to 16th July 2017. It is being organised by Festival Malta within Arts Council Malta in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice, Culture and Local Government, and Valletta 2018; and supported by MSV Life, Esplora Interactive Science Centre and the Malta EU Presidency 2017. The artistic team, that is led by Dr Michelle Castelletti and includes Francesca Tranter and Ruben Zahra, has created a varied programme full of new work – premieres by Maltese composers, installations, new choreography, new theatrical work, calls for artists and much more.
THE PROGRAMME June 29 Malta Philharmonic Orchestra: Orchestra Folk Fusion The premiere of five new works for Maltese traditional instruments and orchestra Conductor: Riccardo Bianchi June 29, June 30, July 1 Paul Capsis & Julian Meyrick: Angela’s Kitchen
June 30 Opening of all live interactive installations – all free Iddi – installation on the steps of City Gate, Valletta, by Andrew Schembri & Toni Gialanzè
July 1 Puerto Flamenco – Ship of Theseus
Terra Verunt – a journey through the eyes of a child migrant
July 3 Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers
Angela’s Kitchen by Paul Capsis July 2 Puerto Flamenco – Ship of Theseus
Dance Hybrid Bandli by Project Management: Malta Association for Contemporary Music Technical Director: Sergio Costa Creative coding & music interfacing: Andrew Schembri Logo design & branding: KULURI ARS Electronica: u19 – Create Your World Tour in Malta
July 4 Malta Philharmonic Orchestra in collaboration with the National Youth Orchestra Dance Hybrid Puerto Flamenco masterclass by Francesca ‘La Chica’ Grima & Andrej Vujicic
Angela’s Kitchen by Paul Capsis
July 5 Nadia Debono with Ahmed Dickinson Cardenas Dance Hybrid July 6 KUBU – a collaboration project between Daniel Cauchi and dandDlab design laboratory, and performed by the Big Band Brothers London Sinfonietta in residence – a full day’s workshop for Maltese composers with players from the world-renowned leading ensemble for contemporary music, London Sinfonietta, culminating in an open, informal performance. Dance Hybrid
July 7 London Sinfonietta – Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin – with score by BAFTA winner Mica Levi Dance Hybrid July 8 Non Classical: Gabriel Prokofiev with DJ Mr Switch Dance Hybrid July 9 MNOZIL Brass July 10, July 11 Unifaun Theatre Productions: Il-Metamorfosi ta’ Ovidju Balzunetta Towers July 12 Bruno Heinen: Re-Imaginings, Piano Solo
July 14 Ultima Vez – In Spite of Wishing and Wanting Balzunetta Towers July 15 Malta Philharmonic Orchestra concert featuring Denis Matsuev Balzunetta Towers
July 13 Bacarisse Trio
July 16 Explore... Think... Imagine... Create! in collaboration with Esplora
For more information visit www.maltaartsfestival.org 84
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Why invest in property? By Benjamin Grech, Managing Director, Sara Grech Ltd Property has always been a top topic at our dinner table and ‘it’s safe as houses’ was and still is a well-known phrase: and it’s true. My grandfather, and mum would continuously discuss property, and agent services. I am now the third generation and my ideas come with ‘out with the old (not all) and in with the new (fresh ideas)’ sort of somewhat like has happened on our islands with politics. My background is in architecture and environmental design. The importance of environmentally responsible building systems is growing annually with Government more apt to concepts relating to the support of providing healthy, comfortable conditions for building occupants. Many property investors do not start off as intending to make a small fortune from property. In fact, most of them start off by chance, when they realise that the property they bought has increased in value. Buying at the right time and at the right price is key to an investor’s success. That is where we come
in. Most of our properties for investment do not even have time to hit the market. Property is a remarkably flexible investment. No matter what your financial goals are, you can find an investment strategy which suits you best. For example, many of our regular clients look for positive cash flow. They select properties that render rents that outweigh holding costs. Then we have other types of clienteles that are more interested in adding value, therefore, they purchase properties that need to be renovated and create value through sprucing up the interior and exterior. Sometimes an outlay of a few thousand euro can add twice as much to the right
property. It is worth mentioning that the Property Price Index (PPI) increased by 4.8 per cent when compared to the corresponding quarter of the previous year, while the Property Volume Index (PVI) rose by 11.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2017 compared to the same quarter in 2016.1 Whether you are interested in buying your first home, moving home, buying for rent or buying to construct units, give me a call on 2347 0000 and I will gladly assist you. cc www.evsaragrech.com 1
NSO News Release June 091/2017
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Think is smart, simple and sustainable Think by Steelcase is the chair with a brain and a conscience. It’s intelligent enough to understand how you sit and adjusts itself intuitively. The Think chair is an ergonomic office chair that senses what your body needs. The Integrated LiveBack™ System conforms to your body and moves with you as you change postures. It features an advanced weight-activated seat, so anybody can get comfortable, quickly. Think is easy to use. The intelligent ergonomic design allows the user to personalise their comfort through few manual adjustments. Well-being in the workplace Today, we’re seeing a shift from traditional ergonomics to a more proactive solution that encourages healthy living… one that focuses on the physical, cognitive and social needs of today’s workforce and understands how they’re related.
Movement People need different amounts and kinds of support for each region of the back; support that can change shape to follow the motion of the back. Pressure map testing helped Steelcase design the back flexors to provide dynamic, continuous support for each region of your back, with no pressure points or unsupported zones. Support is evenly distributed as you move in the chair. Orientation People need to change their posture frequently to stay healthy and comfortable. The Think chair’s weightactivated mechanism allows you to recline without leaving your ideal vision and reach zone.
People want uncomplicated adjustments: · Weight-activated mechanism that recognises your weight and adjusts itself accordingly. · Comfort dial allows you to select one of four positions to adjust the amount of back tension and recline. · Height, width, pivot and depth adjustable armrests provide personalised support for your arms. · Adjustable seat depth that allows individuals to achieve long-term comfort. 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.
CC DESIGN TRENDS
Light and shade Young architecture firm MMK Studio, set up in October 2015, is made up of architects Melissa Giordimaina, Kurt Vella and Mark Abela, who are connected by a shared passion for design. This sunny duplex penthouse in Xemxija has been a pet project for Melissa, as it is her own home â€“ a project in which she imposed few limitations, and an ideal setting to flex her design chops. Sarah Micallef speaks to architects Melissa and Kurt to find out more.
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CC DESIGN TRENDS
he small plot of land belonged to my family, and wanting my own property, I decided to develop it,” Melissa explains as she walks me through the layout of this wonderful duplex penthouse in Xemxija. “I was just starting out in my career when I began working on it, and I wanted to do something that was exclusively mine. It was difficult because when you have no boundaries or limits, apart from budget, it can be a bit maddening!” The project took around five years to complete, she tells me. Being her own, Melissa had the luxury of time, which she used to deliberate on ideas, weigh up options, and even take a few breaks to focus on other things. “I go through phases in my likes and tastes, so when I’m having trouble making a decision, I give it time,” she says. While a few of her ideas changed over the project’s progression, Melissa’s main priority for the penthouse remained constant: “my idea was not to have as many rooms as possible – I wanted it to be open, and for everything to be connected.” And that it certainly is. As you walk in, you find yourself in the kitchen, overlooking beautiful views of the Pwales Valley below. To the right lies a double volume where you’ll find the living room, which enjoys a great deal of natural light, thanks to a skylight. Further in, there’s a small bedroom featuring
“I wanted it to be open, and for everything to be connected.”
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CC DESIGN TRENDS
“The simple lines and clean aesthetic are softened by fabrics including a linen curtain and a fabriccladded wall in the study.”
a simple yet striking slit window. On the right, between the wardrobe and the staircase, is a corridor leading into the bathroom and the laundry room, and up the stairs, a study overlooks the double volume. The same unit that extends upwards against the staircase morphs into an elegant desk. Finally, the main bedroom and terrace sit at the very top, overlooking the valley. “You can see the majority of the house from the double volume, and that’s really what I wanted – for it to be one whole, connected space,” Melissa explains, adding that the natural light was also another essential factor. “I wanted as much light as possible, but it was also important for me to be able to shut it off if I wanted to, like in the morning, for example – so we created blinds for the skylight.” The main defining features of the space, according to the architects, are the sense of space thanks to the high ceilings, and the materials used, most of which are natural. “We used oak, concrete on the ceilings and floors, and different marbles including bardiglio in the bedroom and travertine in the bathroom.” JUNE / JULY 2017
CC DESIGN TRENDS And while the design makes use of simple shapes and clean lines, the space looks anything but stark. Asked how she would describe the design style, Melissa states that above all, it’s easy – easy to live in and maintain. “Most people think that contemporary or modern is minimal, bare and mostly white, but it’s not. My friends, in seeing the property for the first time, were surprised as to how warm and welcoming it all feels. I see my work as that of providing a neutral palette made up of timeless materials, varying textures and contrasts, against which the home owner can then finish off as they wish. As time goes by, I plan on filling up the space with a number of loose items – be they furniture, art, rugs, or decorative lighting. The spaces, even though physically bound, can keep changing with me. It should be a representation of me at that particular point in time,” she explains.
“The simpler the interior looks, the more work is generally involved.” And because the majority of the elements within the space are custom-made, the penthouse boasts ample storage space – a feature which combines aesthetic appeal and practical usage of space. “When there are very few loose items, you gain a lot of space. Under the stairs, for example, I have a closet. And the fact that the bedroom door slides into the wardrobe saves even more space,” Melissa continues. And as with every detail-oriented project, the process doesn’t come without its challenges. According to the architects, the most challenging part of the project was finding the right people to carry out Melissa’s vision, without shortcuts or taking the easy way out. “Trying to get people to do exactly what I wanted and to stick to the details was not easy, but once you find the right people, it works out well. One of the toughest aspects to coordinate was overlapping trades – for the kitchen for example, there are the services, marble, timber and stainless steel,” she says. Indeed, as partner Kurt chimes in, “the simpler the interior looks, the more work is generally involved.” Yet while issues did crop up and parts of the process did prove challenging, the architects’ persistence ensured that everything was carried out according to plan. Today, one of Melissa’s favourite elements is the skylight, particularly the effect it has in changing the room below. “The shadows move across the wall throughout the day, so it always looks different.” And as the team at MMK Studio gets busy with a number of residential buildings in progress, for which they offer a full service from architecture to interiors, the penthouse serves as a very personal feather in their cap, and, if it’s anything to go by, a sure-fire sign of interesting things to come. cc JUNE / JULY 2017
From elevated geometrics to the return of the seventies’ hippie luxe, Marie-Claire Grima looks at the latest interior design trends for offices. 01. Hexagon and Herringbone Geometric shapes have been big news for a couple of years, but now it’s all about hexagons and herringbone. Hexagons can be used in tile shapes and formations, room partitions, rugs, seating and so much more, while herringbone has become the parquet pattern of choice for people in the know. Interiors-related searches for hexagons have gone up 93 per cent, while searches for herringbone rose by nearly two-thirds.
02. Seventies Revival The wider seventies influence on interiors is also expressing itself in the revived materials, such as macramé, bamboo, rattan and shell. The hand-made look creates a laid-back bohemian atmosphere, and it’s usually more of a budget-friendly option for a quick style update, compared to brass and glass.
05. Vertical Gardening Blur the boundaries between the indoors and outdoors, and bring some greenery into your office life with a vertical garden. Nowadays they’re easier than ever to set up, thanks to modular planting systems and hanging planters that require minimal assembly. If caring for a living wall sounds too intimidating, go for one made with artificial plants.
06. Portable Lights Set your lighting free from the clutter and tangle of wires – portable lights (no, not the ones you turn on during a powercut) make great table centrepieces without the mess that comes with connecting cables. They charge via USB relatively quickly, and will give hours of illumination for when you need that extra burst of light. cc
The Interiors Collective / Herringbone – Houzz
Rich, tactile and luxurious, velvet is making a comeback in a big way; not just in plain rich colours but also bold, opulent prints, as well as delicate, softer colours such as powder pink.
Darlings of Chelsea
04. Pink And speaking of pink, it’s certainly the colour of the moment. From the ubiquitous ‘millenial pink’ to different shades of blush, you’ll see pink popping up on textiles, furniture, home appliances and even tech devices. The colour is warm and inviting, pairing beautifully with bold shades like green and orange. Flos Bon Jour Unplugged
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Christopher William Adach
Conde Nast Traveller
Making the connection So many local companies struggle to find the right employees, while so many migrants struggle to find employment. Now, one NGO is helping to bridge the gap between the two, as Jo Caruana finds out.
Photos by Jan Zammit
ow often have you heard an employer complaining about how difficult it is to find the right employees locally? Yes, our low unemployment rate is a good thing, but it can make hiring good people difficult, or even impossible. On the flip side, migrants in Malta are faced with the challenge of finding work in an environment that isn’t very supportive of their needs. This means they’re often left out in the cold, even if they have excellent skills and qualifications from their countries of origin. So, as with all good ideas, the African Media Association spotted a gap in the market and addressed a social issue, thus deciding to set up the Migrant Skills Register. These concepts were the vision of British resident David Millner, who is based in Malta. He put the two concepts together to create the Migrant Skills Register Pilot Project and set up theskilledmigrant.com, where
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migrants excluded by JobsPlus can record their skills and employers can register their vacancies. Millner considers working to be the most important step for migrants to attain self-respect, self-sufficiency and integration, along with speaking the language. “It is a vital part of integration,” he asserts. Now, two key volunteers run the project and have taken it to the next level – Natalia Padrón is an HR specialist with 25 years of experience, while Régine Psaila, a writer and freelance journalist, joined the project in November 2016. Together they handle the day-to-day operations, with the help of internship students from different European countries. “A key stage in the project was interviewing the migrants registered so we could learn more about their skills and professional experience in Malta, as well as in their countries of origin,” Natalia says.
“Working is the most important step for migrants to attain self-respect, self-sufficiency and integration, along with speaking the language.” David Millner
CC INTERVIEW “We also organised a training session which helped us expand the project by word of mouth through the migrants’ networks, as we wanted them to be aware that this new service existed and that there was help available if they were looking for work.” From the employers’ perspective, the team gradually established links with companies to find out their recruitment needs, and whether the NGO could help. “We met with willing employers to establish a connection, and regularly had to inform them about the practicalities and expectations of employing migrants. Misinformation is very often at the centre of the reason why some businesses avoid hiring capable migrants, while ingrained prejudices also play a part. It’s important to note that it’s much easier to hire a migrant than a Third Country National, but either way we are on hand to provide information and seek solutions. “So far it has worked very well because it has been mutually beneficial – employers are filling vacancies while migrants are gaining employment. We are also very fortunate to have received the support of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, which has in turn linked us to its membership.” The pilot phase of the Migrant Skills
Register has resulted in a quickly-growing database of 80-plus migrants, all of whom have been interviewed to assess their language and employment skills. “We also got a sense of their work history and assisted them in putting together their CVs and preparing for interviews,” Natalia says. It is a project that proves just how well the worlds of business and NGOs can complement one another. “Malta currently enjoys low unemployment and employers can’t always find people with the skills they need,” explains Régine. “Asylum seekers in Malta are either awarded recognised asylum status or, if their claims are rejected, they may remain in Malta for humanitarian reasons and work legally, subject to their employer securing a work permit. However they are still excluded from the JobsPlus register or placement system. “Thus, providing these people with easier access to jobs helps reduce exploitation by unscrupulous employers, reduces poverty and exclusion, and serves in some manner to improve the social climate. With that in mind, we think it is desirable for Government to review its policies and processes to make it more conducive for these people to secure employment.
“So far it has worked very well because it has been mutually beneficial – employers are filling vacancies while migrants are gaining employment.” Natalia Padrón
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“Providing these people with easier access to jobs helps reduce exploitation by unscrupulous employers, reduces poverty and exclusion, and serves in some manner to improve the social climate.” Régine Psaila That said, the fight against poverty and marginalisation is not only Government’s problem, so local businesses, as part of civil society, can extend their social commitment by including people from minorities in their social plan.” And there is proof that the Migrant Skills Register is having a very positive effect. For instance, two of the migrants placed by the NGO are now working in welding jobs, which had been their ambition. Others are working as labourers in the construction industry or have been hired by a five-star hotel, while a young lawyer has found work with an insurance company, which has given him the opportunity to restart the career that was interrupted by war in his country of origin. “These are just a number of the success stories so far,” Régine says. But while funding for the project by the Small Initiatives Support Scheme ended in January, the team hopes to maintain the momentum behind it and has since applied for EU funds in partnership with another NGO. “We would like to see this pilot grow into a fully-operational endeavour, but we do need support and funding in order to be able to achieve that,” Natalia says. “Beyond that, we also want to create a community where migrants have better access to jobs that match their skills and employers can fill vacancies with motived and skilled migrants. We intend to facilitate training and mentoring services, and to work closely with both migrants and local companies. We are also trying to engage with Jobsplus to see if some of the processes for securing work permits and ensuring their renewal can be streamlined, and hope our services can be complementary to the services they are already providing.” Finally, the NGO would like to extend an appeal to all local businesses to consider adding migrant workers to their staff, “thus facilitating their integration into the company for the ultimate benefit of everyone involved,” Regine adds. cc For more information, or to join the Migrant Skills Register as a potential employee or employer, email email@example.com JUNE / JULY 2017
CC make the headlines
A risk-driven portfolio solution to institutional investors Institutional investors such as pension funds, investment managers and endowments, along with corporate investors, are increasingly appreciating the importance of professionally managing their investment mandates within specific volatility limits. Increasing regulatory requirements along with ever-more demanding financial commitments necessitate not just expert investment management but also a more accurate monitoring of volatility ceilings. This is a relatively recent additional feature to the traditional flexibility and bespoke requirements that institutional and corporate investors look for. At BOV Asset Management Limited, we pride ourselves on providing our institutional clients with a concentrated focus on risk and volatility management in our approach to generate investment returns. Our core methodology utilises a risk-budget approach to a dynamic asset allocation. In this
respect, rather than following a static and predetermined asset class exposure, we modify exposures to different asset classes according to the risk and return trade-off being offered by the respective market segment. This enhances the possibility to achieve the long-term objectives of our institutional clients as their portfolios are constantly managed by taking into consideration the natural evolution of risk and volatility in financial markets. Risk is by definition volatile, thus different asset classes and investment vehicles exhibit different risk levels along changing business cycles. A static asset allocation would expose an institutional client to a higher element of volatility in the fair value of the portfolio should risk on a static asset class suddenly increase. This could have a direct impact on the profitability of the company at year end. We also noted that the tendency of exhibiting low tolerance for risk in such mandates is making risk management in these mandates ever more important. Traditionally, low risk tolerance and regulatory requirements have pushed such investors into low credit risk fixed income securities. These securities, however, tend to offer an element of interest rate risk as the value of such securities tends to have a negative impact in periods of increasing interest rates unless this risk is adequately managed. A risk-ceiling blended with a dynamic asset allocation would allow an institutional
investor to constantly pursue an element of investment return without jeopardising the overall portfolio’s tolerance for risk. cc Steve Ellul is a Chartered Financial Analyst, a visiting lecturer at the University of Malta, Chairman of the BOV Employees’ Foundation and Head at BOV Asset Management Limited. The information, views and opinions provided in this article are being provided solely for educational and informational purposes and should not be construed as investment advice. BOV Asset Management Limited is licensed to conduct investment services by the Malta Financial Services Authority. Issued by BOV Asset Management Limited, registered address 58, Triq San Żakkarija, Il-Belt Valletta, VLT 1130, Malta. Tel: 2122 7311, Fax: 2275 5661, E-mail: infoassetmanagement@ bov.com, Website: www.bovassetmanagement.com. Source: BOV Asset Management Limited.
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Not just trucking By Jonathan Vella, CEO of Express Logigroup, transport and logistics powerhouse. It is undisputed that technology is changing the concept of trucking, just as it has transformed and sometimes also disrupted so many other industries. It has improved vehicle performance, vastly increased the amount and type of data that trucking business must constantly evaluate, whilst also changing the role of the driver per se. Along with that, these innovative technologies can and should be viewed as cost-saving or rather an essential tool for the fleet manager and fleet owners. While we’re still a few years away from having an industry that runs on self-driving trucks, there are many technologies that exist today that not only help businesses grow their bottom line, but enhance the lives and safety of drivers – ultimately shrinking shortages and improving retention.
environment for drivers. From what we’ve seen of its impact to-date, we can expect a 10 per cent reduction in utilisation across the industry. This will result in a levelling of the playing field – making it easier for LTL carriers to compete with TL carriers. It will also help to eliminate the single greatest barrier to industry growth – driver shortages. While some have raised concerns that the ELD could worsen the driver shortage by managing and limiting work hours, others see it as a boon – creating a better experience for drivers who otherwise would have been overworked and attracting others to the industry. This would be a huge benefit for companies that have had to hold off on growing their fleet due to the driver shortage.
The rise of the Electronic Log Device The electronic log device (ELD) mandate is the single greatest change to the trucking industry. The ELD synchronises with a vehicle engine to automatically record driving time for easier and more accurate hours of service recording. This not only streamlines the accurate tracking and managing of records of duty status, but also creates a safer work
Improve safety, improve ROI Improving driver safety is an important priority and should always be a top concern for businesses. It can, however, also have the side-effect of improving a company’s bottom line. There are a number of driver-focused technologies available today that can help trucking businesses identify and address risky behaviour. For example, face recognition software can help to detect driver fatigue while wearable devices can monitor vital signs. This not only helps to remind drivers when it’s time to rest, but can also catch other risks affecting drivers before they cause issues on the road. In addition to technology that monitors the driver’s health, there are also systems that focus on improving driving. Collision warning and lane detection systems alert drivers to issues, increasing reaction times and in turn avoiding potential accidents. All of these advances contribute to lower insurance expenses and fewer claims that have to be paid. Businesses should not underestimate the value of such risk-abating technologies – it’s estimated that lane detection technology should provide a threeto-one cost benefit payback, with return on investment in just four to 12 months. The importance of analytics Access to new data streams are great, but are only truly valuable when there are systems in place to actually analyse inputs and take action based on insights generated. This can be as simple as analysing video to prove that a driver was not at fault in an accident, or as complex as reviewing all the elements of driving to improve performance. By making sure that investments are made
in analytic systems as well as connected truck technologies, trucking businesses can make more significant changes – not only identifying and eliminating risky behaviours, but instituting practices for the best driver performance. While some business owners may hesitate to invest in new technology because of upfront cost concerns, others will jump in quickly only to realise limited benefits because they cannot maximise their use. It’s important for owners to work with their team and advisers to determine which technologies can offer them the best return on their investment – which can do the most for them today to provide new insights and improve driver performance. Setting up dashboards and monitoring key performance indicators such as maintenance expense per kilometre driven can lead to true operational effectiveness and increased profitability, when approached from this perspective. cc
About Express Logigroup Express Logigroup, is a transport and logistics powerhouse serving business with dedicated freight solutions which overcome cost and time. Our experience in the transport and logistics sector is coupled with the ongoing investment in human capital and innovative transport solutions. We pride ourselves on being small but effective – our customer is centrally positioned in every aspect of our decision-making process.
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CC MEET THE ARTIST
The magic of metal Marie Louise Kold’s warm and gentle demeanour contrasts with the rough, heavy and at times dangerous materials that the metal artist has come to live and breathe, making her works of art that much more fascinating. She chats with Martina Said about her artistic journey, working with metal, and the importance of artistic integrity.
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between the cows to get to grandma,” says Marie Louise of her earliest recollections linked to art. “My grandma would have never called herself an artist, but she was. She worked with clay and painted, we’d go for walks in the forest and pick stones, then paint on them – there were no boundaries, everything was possible. She had it in her, and thanks to her, creativity existed throughout my entire childhood.” The artist moved to Sweden at the age of nine, and while she developed an interest for languages throughout her academic years, it was art that felt like the right direction for her to pursue. “While I was a senior at high school in America, a wonderful art teacher made me feel that art can be my focus, and while I was drawing and doing portraits at the time, I met Ġorġ in Holland at the age of 19. He sparked in me the need to express myself as an artist directly with actually expressing my emotions. I explored that and threw myself into experimenting with different materials.” She went on to study architecture for one year in Copenhagen, and while it proved useful to her career, she realised that being an architect was not her calling, and concluded that she wanted to make art for art’s sake, rather than art for the sake of architecture. Marie Louise proceeded to study art for two years in Sweden, where she experimented with clay, concrete, model drawing, industrial design, and copper printing.
“Throughout my studies, I kept thinking to myself, ‘this has to work!’ It isn’t the only thing I can do, but it’s the only thing I want to do, so it had to work.” Photo by Alan Carville
arie Louise Kold’s first encounters with art go back to the earliest years of her childhood, where she learned, through her grandmother, Anna, how to feed her creative drive in her native Denmark. But an accidental discovery as a result of experimentation during art school, and a chance encounter with a Maltese lecturer in Holland – who many years later, as fate would have it, became her partner – led the talented metal artist to discover a passion for a raw material that is enthralling, and pretty uncharted territory. Her art is fascinating, curious, physically challenging, and often dangerous for the artist herself, but it leads the viewer on a journey that is beyond the ordinary, and has Marie Louise hooked and excited in a way that is rare and genuine, and seldom so obvious for one to see in an artist. We meet at her apartment in Msida which she shares with her partner, illustrator and Head of the Media and Communications Department at the University of Malta, Ġorġ Mallia. Marie Louise’s art is displayed around their home, and while she’s got a variety of tools and materials to work with here in Malta, her studio is located in Sweden, and she splits her time between both countries. “Growing up, we lived in a small house in Denmark, and our nearest neighbours were my grandparents, who lived on a farm. From the moment I could walk, I would run in
CC MEET THE ARTIST
Delivering the work “Princess Estelle” to Prince Daniel at Haga Palace in Stockholm
“With copper printing, the copper sheet is a tool, which you scratch or cover with a protective layer, then scratch into that resist (protective layer), and then place in an acid bath that etches into the copper. What you then have is a piece of metal with grooves, and when you rub oil paint onto it, the paint sticks where you scratched or etched. You then press the sheet against a piece of paper, and the final result is a copper print. I loved the process, and a few months after learning copper printing, I stumbled upon one of my first printing plates, and it was incredible – instead of a shiny, even surface with whatever I scratched or etched, there
“Isabella Without Wings” (detail) – oil painting on etched and patinated brass, copper and bronze
was depth and life in the plate, and I was so excited that I would get the best print ever. So I carried out the whole printing process, but the end result looked just like the first prints, and I realised that the changes that happened weren’t on the surface, so they couldn’t be transferred – they were in the metal.” It was at that point, while Marie Louise was digging through her art school workshop looking for a hammer or tool of sorts, that she was love-struck by a piece of copper, which is when her journey as a metal artist began. Whatever project she had at art school from then on, metal would be present,
“Pinched Lines” (detail) - etched and patinated copper
and she hasn’t let go of it since, 20 years later. She experiments and works with copper and copper alloys brass and bronze, using different chemicals to discover how they react with the metals. “I didn’t just want to see what happens to these metals over time, but push those processes, and the deeper I delved into the art, the possibilities with these materials just grew and grew, and are more than I can ever take on!” Marie Louise attended a course at Lund University to study archaeology, to learn how metals change once they’ve been touched, handled and left in the ground for thousands of years. She also studied bronzecasting, and in 2001, the artist felt she had obtained the necessary building blocks to start working professionally as a full-time artist. “Working as a full-time artist does not literally translate into making money – the first few years I was working 80-hour weeks, but they were financially disastrous. To do things right, however, you need to let the process take its course. Throughout my studies, I kept thinking to myself, ‘this has to work!’ It isn’t the only thing I can do, but it’s the only thing I want to do, so it had to work.”
“Beyond” (detail) - etched and patinated brass
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CC MEET THE ARTIST
“Copper is so alive – in some ways, I’m extremely Scandinavian in that I want to get from A to B with full control, but I’ve chosen the wrong material for that.”
And work it did. Marie Louise has gone on to host successful, international exhibitions and work on numerous high-profile and prestigious commissions, including a portrait she made in 2005, commissioned by the wife of the then US Ambassador to Denmark, created using close to 3,000 squares of individually patinated bronze. More recently, the artist was personally requested by Prince Daniel of Sweden to do a portrait of his daughter, Princess Estelle, which she made using etched and patinated copper, bronze and brass. The works are mysterious, intricate and absolutely enthralling. “The reason I work with these three metals is because of what they have in common, which is how they age. Unlike rust on iron, which makes the metal disintegrate, the patina on copper is in many ways a protective layer. Copper is so alive – in some ways, I’m extremely Scandinavian in that I want to get from A to B with full control, but I’ve chosen the wrong material for that. Copper changes by itself, which is sometimes heavenly and other times disastrous to the point of it being ruined,” she explains. “Even after working with the same chemicals for 20 years, there are so many variables that I cannot predict the outcome. At times, I work with the aim of achieving a vibrant blue, and I get green. I cannot make the same work twice, which is good, but unpredictable outcomes can be very frustrating. It’s compensated for, however, when you make amazing discoveries – the other day, I got this electric, icy blue, which I didn’t even know copper could do!” The colours that emerge on every work are a result of a reaction between the metal and the chemicals used. “It’s not paint or pigment, it’s just chemicals, and that’s where the personality of the metal comes into play, because that’s what decides which way this goes, and it’s different every time. I still use techniques from copper printing though – for instance, I etch text onto the metal itself, and one time, when I fished the metal out of the chemical bath, I found that it had etched all the way through, which resulted in large JUNE / JULY 2017
Photo by Alan Carville
holes. Initially I thought it was ruined, but then I realised that it may be even better. If I were in full control, that wouldn’t have happened, and when it really works, these metals take me to places that I can’t even imagine.” A number of Marie Louise’s works of art also feature painted figures, a process which takes her back to when she drew
portraits as a budding artist. “When I drew as a teenager, my portraits were very photographic, and that’s what I intended them to be. They were also appreciated by viewers for their realism, but then love for metal struck,” she says. “When I felt the urge to paint again, it never crossed my mind to paint on paper or canvas, of course I had to paint on metal.
“Reimagination” (detail) - etched and patinated copper. “This work was created using more than a century-old copper from a roof that had to be changed, and the work was then built into a wall surrounding that same house, bringing back the copper to the same location, but in a new form.”
Photos by Alan Carville
CC MEET THE ARTIST
“When I felt the urge to paint again, it never crossed my mind to paint on paper or canvas, of course I had to paint on metal.”
Left to right: “A Tale of Forever” and “Fragile Wings”, both made of etched and patinated copper
Having a delicate, fragile, and realistic figure within an organic and somewhat rough setting creates an exciting contrast. The paintings on metal are done with oil paints, and the next step here will be to incorporate the paintings with the background, with some abstraction around the edges.” Never one to stop pushing her artistic and entrepreneurial limits, Marie Louise’s work is now also being represented by luxury interiors shop Camilleri Paris Mode in Rabat, and has been represented by Christine X Art Gallery for
several years. Next May, the artist will be hosting an exhibition, EX LIBRIS, at the National Library, which she’s visibly thrilled about, featuring copper books with texts. “I’m fascinated by the books there – they are incredible national treasures, and I can truly say that I consider this exhibition to be a dream come true. I also have a solo exhibition coming up this September at a gallery in Lund, Sweden.” Marie Louise is a visionary master of her own success, and besides possessing an immeasurable talent, she’s also got a
respectable work ethic that balances artistic integrity with business acumen. “I now no longer need to work 80-hour weeks, although it’s still more than full-time, and I can actually refuse requests that are not good for the art. Artistic driving force is what makes me want to go to the studio, not making money. Not being skint is useful for the art in many ways, though, and I genuinely believe that profitability is really good for artistic integrity. But it’s all about the art. Always. And without compromise. cc
“Memories of Julia” (detail) - oil painting on patinated brass and copper
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