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Treasure in watercolour

The artistic journey of Kenneth Zammit Tabona







food trends 11 COVER STORY




As the stage is set for Valletta’s turn on the European stage as Capital of Culture 2018, Sarah Micallef discusses the significance of this major milestone with a number of key protagonists.

INVESTING IN THE FUTURE Leader of the Opposition Adrian Delia outlines what he sees as the industries of the future, and tells Rebecca Anastasi that the key is innovation.



Leading figures hailing from different sectors of Malta’s business landscape assess the past year and tell Marie-Claire Grima why they’re looking forward to a new year full of challenges and rewards.

WHEN ARTISTIC WORLDS COLLIDE Watercolourist Kenneth Zammit Tabona talks Martina Said through his artistic journey, his defining moments, and how his life’s passions all form part of the same puzzle.


37 IN FIGURES FAREWELL TO 2017… IN NUMBERS A look into the figures related to business and economy in 2017.




Martina Said speaks to Transport Minister Ian Borg, Opposition Transport Spokesperson Marthese Portelli and Malta Chamber Deputy President David Xuereb about Malta’s traffic issues.

Following an extensive restoration and design project, Sarah Micallef discovers how the 14th century ship repair building was transformed into one of the island’s most luxurious boutique hotels.

style review


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. This issue covers the period December 2017-January 2018.


The Exchange, Republic Street, Valletta VLT1117 Tel: +356 2123 3873 Fax: +356 2124 5223 EDITOR

Kevin J. Borg Editorial Coordinators

Sarah Micallef Edward Bonello Publisher

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 from painting by Kenneth Zammit Tabona

Malta chamber’s bronze collaborating partners DECEMBER 2017/JANUARY 2018


CC Editorial

Solving the HR challenge One issue which will certainly determine whether the economy will continue to grow in 2018 will be the country’s ability to generate the necessary human resources to fill the new vacancies that are expected to be created in myriad growing sectors in the new year.


recently conducted survey amongst Malta Chamber members showed how businesses were ready to create around 3,000 brand new jobs in the next three years. In the same survey, members however admitted that they were experiencing difficulties in locating the necessary human resources for their needs. During the last few years, a long list of social measures were introduced, resulting in a positive impact which contributed to encouraging a wider cohort to join the workforce. In fact, in 2017, the country has registered the lowest unemployment rate in history. This state of ‘full-employment’ however, has led Malta’s private sector to experience the great difficulties to fill vacancies with DECEMBER 2017/JANUARY 2018

the HR challenge also being highlighted in the recent EY Malta Attractiveness Survey. These difficulties are expected to continue to manifest themselves well into 2018, as the labour gap exists both in terms of quantity and quality. As a short-term measure, most employers are resorting to recruitment of foreigners, with the situation being so acute that even Government is resorting to this solution to staff its operations in a number of sectors. Most of these workers are third country nationals and therefore require work and residency permits. The Malta Chamber has already called for added efficiency to the

complex work permit application process. While acknowledging improvements already implemented, there still exists significant room for numerous improvements to be introduced in order to reduce the duration of the work permit application process. A longer-term approach to resolving the widening labour gap is to conduct the necessary reforms to the country’s education system. The system is not producing the skills required by an economy that is presently experiencing rapid modernisation. This situation is evidently the result of a lack of the necessary foresight, planning and ability to react nimbly to the demands of the economy.

“A longer-term approach to resolving the widening labour gap is to conduct the necessary reforms to the country’s education system.” 07

CC Editorial

A recent Eurostat publication reveals that Maltese students are the second least likely to proceed to post-compulsory education. Improvements in this regard are desperately required, particularly in the number of students enrolling in vocational education

courses of a more manual nature, as well as other fields experiencing, or expected to experience, the largest gaps. Effective career guidance also has a significant role to play. It is imperative that career guidance counsellors are provided

with frequently updated information on the opportunities on offer, and the skills and qualifications in demand. The Malta Chamber is also strongly in favour of all forms of work-based learning. It is a priority that students further their studies to a post-secondary level. Students should be given the opportunity to learn in a classroom, while also applying and expanding their knowledge at the workplace. This system has been used successfully in other economies with very positive results. The Chamber’s members continually express their perceived effectiveness of apprenticeship and internship programmes in improving the overall skill set of young people. A reform in the country’s work-based learning system is fundamental to improve the success of newly qualified job-seekers, while also serving to narrow the skills gap by increasing the number of apprentices and interns in the job market. If unaddressed, the HR challenge may become a serious threat to the country’s economic growth. The Chamber shall continue to provide policy makers with its researched advice about the solutions required to solve these challenges in a rapidly changing economic scenario. The Malta Chamber wishes all its members a most peaceful Christmas season and a prosperous 2018. cc


Photo by - Chen Weizhong

The time has come: Valletta takes centre stage As the stage is set for Valletta’s turn on the European stage as Capital of Culture 2018, Sarah Micallef discusses the significance of this major milestone with a number of key protagonists, as well as what lies on the horizon for the capital beyond 2018, and what can be done to keep up the momentum of its impressive renaissance.


inister for Justice, Culture and Local Government Owen Bonnici considers it an honour to be in his position during the time Valletta will hold the prestigious title of European Capital of Culture, and believes that while Malta’s capital has long been popular among tourists and the general public, its new status will ensure that Valetta continues to be an attraction not just for its uniqueness, rich history and imposing architecture, but also as a cultural venue, placing the Maltese islands on an international platform. “This title has enriched our islands, in particular Valletta, both culturally and economically. I will not hesitate to say that during 2018, we will be the envy of most,” he says. Valletta 2018 Foundation Chairman Jason Micallef also believes Valletta’s title as European Capital of Culture (ECoC) marks an important milestone in Malta’s social and cultural development, providing the country with a unique opportunity to mobilise its resources and direct them towards placing culture at the forefront of national discourse. “In this way, the true significance of Valletta 2018 will be represented by its legacy and its ability to act as a catalyst for the further strengthening of Malta’s cultural sector and the cultural participation of its citizens,” he maintains. “Valletta 2018 is a lifetime opportunity of regeneration through culture,” adds Valletta’s Mayor, Prof. Alexiei Dingli, affirming that it is only in the past decade that Valletta has experienced real investment. “We estimate that the money spent on the city in these past 10 years is more than what has been spent in the previous decades put together. Furthermore, the injection towards culture is unprecedented. Because of this, I consider the title highly significant for Valletta.” DECEMBER 2017/JANUARY 2018

Indeed, Malta Chamber President Frank V. Farrugia refers to Valletta’s ECoC title as “a year-long showcase of what the city, and by extension, the rest of Malta has to offer to the rest of Europe in a variety of areas,” maintaining that it is an opportunity for the city to put its best foot forward. “The title is an opportunity and it all depends on us on how far we are willing to take it. Forming part of the Board of Governors of the Valletta 2018 Foundation on behalf of the Malta Chamber, I can assure everyone that the Foundation has worked tirelessly for the past seven years and the programme we have produced does not leave one undiscovered aspect of Malta’s milieu of realities,” he says. Maintaining that Valletta should be proud to participate in the tradition created around the yearly nomination of Capitals of Culture, Konrad Buhagiar, architect and founding partner of Architecture Project explains that in many cases, the event not only sees the injection of funds into the economy of these towns, international exposure and a renewal of the cultural resources of the community, but also witnesses the evolution of the identity of that town. “The Capital of Culture is envisioned as an operation whose legacy will continue to sustain the economy of the city and catalyse the evolution of its identity as a centre for creativity and innovation. With this in mind, Valletta’s nomination as European Capital of Culture is probably the most significant event in its history since a large percentage of its inhabitants abandoned it during WWII,” he says. Certainly, on a commercial level, Valletta has been given a new lease on life in recent years, through entertainment establishments, restaurants, wine bars and a host of boutique accommodation – and the question on many

lips now is, can the momentum be sustained? Culture Minister Owen Bonnici believes that it can, with the proper vision and management. “Capital cities are the pulsing heart of any given country, and that is how our own capital city should be. Up until a few years back, Valletta was practically a dead city. As soon as the business community closed shop and office workers ‘called it a day’, the capital became deserted,” he explains, adding that recent years have brought about an enthusiastic interest in Valletta, with new establishments, boutique hotels, restaurants and wine bars set up. “These are all giving a new life to our capital. I live in Valletta, and am pleased that this interest is not only generating commerce but is also injecting a new life into the city.” Chairman Jason Micallef maintains that a central focus of Valletta 2018 is ensuring that the changes taking place within Valletta are sustainable and in respect of the wellbeing of the residents and visitors to the city. “The developments mentioned, such as cultural spaces, boutique hotels and restaurants, help ensure the livelihood of the city through the presence of cultural, creative and social activity, however these must be balanced with the needs of the local community and respect the city’s heritage and character. For this reason, Valletta 2018 is leading a number of community-oriented projects which seek to further bring to light the role of the local community in shaping its own urban and social spaces,” he says. Mayor Prof. Alexiei Dingli also believes the momentum can be sustained, but cautions a word of warning: “we have to ensure that we do not go overboard.” Whilst having a mixed usage district is important for the survival of any city, he insists that one type of usage must not overshadow the other. 11

CC COVER STORY “A bar should not provide entertainment at the expense of the resident, who cannot get some rest. We need balance. That is why the re-establishment of the rule of law is important, because these need to co-exist without disturbing each other if we want a living city,” he attests. On behalf of the Malta Chamber, President Frank V. Farrugia augurs that investment in Valletta is made with its long-term sustainability in mind. “Within this context it is very important that Government continue to invest in the capital as it has done in the run-up to the prestigious title next year. We must continue to see innovative projects take place, as well as the organisation of events that attract foot-fall to the streets of the city,” he attests, referring to Valletta’s dilemma in the past as akin to a chicken and egg scenario. “Businesses had a modest appetite for investment for Valletta, as it lacked the footfall and public sector investment. The public, on the other hand, had nothing to actually draw it to the city beyond the fashion retail sector. Now that this impasse appears to have been broken, it is important that we keep this wheel going and this will take the concerted effort of all,” Mr Farrugia says. According to Architecture Project’s Konrad Buhagiar, whether or not this development of Valletta’s hospitality and recreational sectors is sustainable is largely dependent on the feasibility of catering for large numbers of foreign visitors to the city. “Projections show that figures relating to low cost travel are on the rise, as are the number of cruise liners reaching our shores every year,” he says, adding that on the other hand, the efforts of local authorities, the Malta Tourism Authority in particular, to steer the industry away from its dependence on ‘sun-and-sea’ tourism has been bearing fruit, and this has increased the demand for high-level cultural events in our historic centres as well as for accommodation within the city of Valletta. On the other side of the coin, residents have expressed concern that the nightlife aspect in the capital might be getting out of hand. Reacting to the perceived risk of Valletta becoming too commercial, Minister Bonnici attests that while he respects residents’ fears, he does not believe this will be the case, stating, “Valletta will not become another Paceville.” On this point, Mr Micallef further emphasises the need for the injection of cultural, social and commercial activity in Valletta to be balanced, through careful consideration of the city’s local community and the social and historical sensitivity of the site. “Various Valletta 2018 projects are seeking to tackle these issues in various manners, ranging from community projects such as Altofest and Ġewwa Barra to extensive research work on the relationship between infrastructural development and local communities that is taking place through the Foundation’s Evaluation and Monitoring 12

“This title has enriched our islands, in particular Valletta, both culturally and economically. I will not hesitate to say that during 2018, we will be the envy of most.” Owen Bonnici, Minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government research. Furthermore, the Foundation has chosen to organise a series of annual conferences tackling these themes, primarily the liveability of cities and their sustainable and holistic development,” he maintains. The Malta Chamber President is in agreement that we must do all that we can to prevent Valletta from becoming too commercial, stating, “we must be careful that the city does not become a soulless copy of larger cities on the mainland. When visitors choose to spend their time here, they do so because they see some characteristic that inspires them, which they wouldn’t find elsewhere. With the ever-increasing availability of cheaper travelling options, we have seen the rise of individual travel – tourists who will visit multiple cities a year, seeking authentic experiences. Residents provide such elements of authenticity, as they are part and parcel of the city.” Looking at the flip side, Mr Buhagiar argues that all cities are commercial. “Where there is no commerce, there is no city in the true sense of the word,” he says, maintaining that Valletta, in particular, was designed to be an efficient commercial city, “during the 17th and 18th centuries, the infrastructure of the harbours was improved to cater for the increased trade that was taking place in the Mediterranean at that time. This brought an increased number of visitors to its gates and more wealth and well-being among its residents.” His argument lies in the quality of the commercial establishments that are taking root in Valletta. “A vibrant nightlife, too, is the mark of a thriving city. We need to ensure that any noise pollution that is a product of such activities does not reduce the quality of life of the residents, by locating these activities, for example, outside the walls.” Apart from the commercial establishments, the city has also seen a number of extensive and remarkable restoration works take place

within its historic walls, yet there are still many places, including a number of major palazzos, which have been left abandoned. I ask, can we do anything to see such unutilised buildings come back to life? Upon starting his term as Minister responsible for culture, Minister Bonnici maintains, “I discussed this with those concerned and started an ambitious project together with the Restoration Directorate to see that Government-owned buildings in need of restoration are tackled. Today, we can boast of a newly restored façade for Palazzo Ferreria, and the soon-to-be-finished restoration of Palazzo Castellania, just to name two major sites. A splendid restoration job is at hand to house MUŻA at Auberge d’Italie; while the restoration of the building that will house the new Valletta Local Council offices is also nearing its end, and will be given back to the community – the list is endless.” Admitting that restoration is an on-going project not only in Valletta but across the Maltese Islands, the Minister explains that a substantial sum of €5.3m was allocated to 17 projects being handled by the Restoration Directorate, and another €870k went to restoration projects by Heritage Malta within the last Budget. “In all, during the coming year restoration works will start on 25 sites across the country,” he adds. Prof. Dingli meanwhile adds that while abandoned buildings still certainly exist, the number has been steadily declining within the past decade. “We’ve already proposed a solution several times – what needs to be done is twofold. Government should promote the restoration of such buildings by giving real incentives so that people are encouraged to restore them. On the other hand, Government should heavily penalise those who leave buildings to rot. It is unfair that we (the Council, Government and the private sector) are investing heavily in the restoration of DECEMBER 2017/JANUARY 2018


“The true significance of Valletta 2018 will be represented by its legacy and its ability to act as a catalyst for the further strengthening of Malta’s cultural sector and the cultural participation of its citizens.” Jason Micallef, Valletta 2018 FoundationChairman whether these prices are sustainable, Valletta 2018 Chairman Jason Micallef reveals that this issue is common to all European Capitals of Culture, and goes hand in hand with the development of the city’s international reputation and brand. “As is the case in other ECoCs, the increase in property prices represents both a positive indicator of the improvement in the city’s infrastructure and attractiveness, but also a very significant issue in terms of its impacts of gentrification on the city’s social fabric. The most significant challenge is to find social and economic models through which the city can remain attractive, active and liveable,” he asserts. On the issue of property prices, Mr Farrugia argues that one must look at the value of property in Valletta within the perspective of property value in other European city centres such as London, Rome or Paris. “I see owning property in the capital city of a country as nothing short of a privilege, and the city only to find some buildings which are falling apart due to the hope of some speculative deal. This is very much in line to what happens in other EU countries and we should follow suit,” he affirms. On behalf of the Malta Chamber, Mr Farrugia looks upon what has already been achieved positively, and maintains that it is now a matter of emulating them for the rest of the city. “For decades, the old market in Merchants Street was seen as an impossible project. The lovely Victorian architecture shouted at passers-by in a cry for attention. Now, weeks away from its re-opening to the public under a new business concept, it promises to offer visitors a fresh product previously unavailable in Valletta. Auberge d’Italie up the road, which previously housed the Ministry for Tourism, is at the final stages of welcoming Malta’s very own nationalcommunity art museum, using the gorgeous 17th century building to its full potential; and the previously abandoned Biċċerija l-Antika in the lower end of Valletta is also the site of an extensive regeneration project that will welcome the Valletta Design Cluster – a hub of community and economic development,” he says, pointing to these as excellent examples of how the amazing edifices of Valletta can be reimagined to reach ever-higher purposes. Undoubtedly owing, at least in part, to these developments, purchasing property in Valletta has become very expensive. Asked DECEMBER 2017/JANUARY 2018

“We estimate that the money spent on the city in these past 10 years is more than what has been spent in the previous decades put together. Furthermore, the injection towards culture is unprecedented.” Prof. Alexiei Dingli, Valletta Mayor



“It is very important that Government continue to invest in the capital as it has done in the run-up to the prestigious title next year. We must continue to see innovative projects take place, as well as the organisation of events that attract foot-fall to the streets of the city.” Frank V. Farrugia, Malta Chamber President

Valletta is not an exception,” the Chamber President maintains – an argument that Mr Buhagiar supports. “Like every other city in the world, the commercial value of property is subject to the whims of supply and demand, a fundamental rule in the contemporary economic structure that it will not escape. However, like every other property in the centre of European capitals, its value is also inherent and will remain buoyant due to the historical nature of the place, the vicinity of cultural institutions, as well as governmental offices, the service provided by the number of restaurants and bars nearby, etcetera So in the long term, it is my opinion that any investment is a good one,” the architect says. Yet Valletta’s Mayor sounds a word of caution, affirming, “in my humble opinion, some of the prices being requested are overpriced. I don’t know what will happen in the future – it will depend on whether regeneration in Valletta will continue and if we can sustain the current economic growth. What is certain is that it is very hard for young couples to settle in Valletta due to the price of property, and this may cause a problem in the coming years. The exodus of residents might make the city soulless, and we’ll reap the negative consequences in the future,” he warns.

Finally, while we have seen radical changes in social patterns surrounding Valletta, during the day it is still essentially dominated by office workers, court, civil service and Ministries workers – long term, will we see a further shift from office to hospitality, retail and entertainment usage? According to the Culture Minister, being the major hub in Malta, the seat of Government and its Ministries and housing offices for major companies as well as commercial outlets, a major change in this is not expected, at least for the near future. The Valletta 2018 Chairman argues that, as is the case with many capital cities around the world, Valletta is also shaped not only by its residential, social and cultural functions, but also by its administrative function, where it is the seat

“What gives the city its social vibrancy are the inhabitants, and we should ensure that as much as possible, the city will continue to attract residents from all walks of life.” Konrad Buhagiar, Architecture Project Founding Partner


of the highest institutions in the country. “I believe that Valletta will continue to serve all these functions over the coming years,” he maintains. The city’s Mayor is in agreement, adding, “Valletta is the capital and as such, it has a number of parallel realities which co-exist (residential, shopping, workers, entertainment, tourists, etc). It is the mix which makes a healthy city and that is what we are trying to retain.” Certainly, as the Malta Chamber President explains, “Valletta’s administrative function is very much established and I don’t imagine it changing in the foreseeable future. This activity on the other hand also gives the city its very specific flavour, whereby Republic Street is typically representative of all of the island’s walks of life – from politicians to business people, lawyers and other professionals to shoppers. Changes will definitely take place as the years roll by and trends come and go, but the important thing is that Valletta does not lose its vocation as a meeting point for everyone and anyone.” Finally, Mr Buhagiar draws attention to the most important element of a city’s social composition: its residents. In his view, the fact that Valletta attracts all manner of office activity during the day is positive, as well as visitors in search of entertainment during the night. However, he concludes, “what gives the city its social vibrancy are the inhabitants, and we should ensure that as much as possible, the city will continue to attract residents from all walks of life. There is the danger that foreign investment will displace the authentic local resident who carries with him the memory of the city and is a guarantee of its continuity, in favour of residences that are second homes remaining vacant during long periods of the year.” cc DECEMBER 2017/JANUARY 2018


Culture creates capital investments On the eve of Valletta’s tenure as European Capital of Culture 2018, businesses are investing in Valletta at a furious pace, with many putting the final touches on new projects and ventures. Rebecca Anastasi talks to some of them to find out what’s special about next year.


alletta has never felt so vibrant. On the eve of 2018, the year the city holds the European Capital of Culture title, people crowd into its bars and restaurants which spill onto the street; music is heard on every corner; and its baroque facades have been given a facelift. The city has come alive. Despite some hiccups along the way, there is palpable expectation that 2018 will be the capital’s best year yet, with arts and culture at the centre of Valletta’s regeneration as a top class European city. Investment in Valletta has taken an artistic turn, with rental apartments, boutique hotels, as well as retail outlets and watering holes busy preparing themselves for the opportunities the year will present. The Capital of Culture is also encouraging a spurt of public restoration and embellishment works in and around the city, much of which is being implemented by the Grand Harbour Regeneration Corporation (GHRC). “During the past years, Government has embarked on an investment programme to upgrade the general ambience of Valletta,” the Chairman of GHRC, Dr Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi, states. Indeed, the entity, which was instrumental in the completion of the Renzo Piano project at City Gate, as well as the restoration of Upper Fort St Elmo, has also been entrusted with the embellishment of Castille Square, and the restoration of the timber balconies along Ordnance Street. GHRC has also been commissioned by the Government to prepare all the upgrading works/restoration and services required for the meeting rooms, media centre and the main Conference Hall intended for the EU17 Presidency meetings held at the Grand Masters Palace. Now GHRC is in the final stages of completing the embellishment of Triton Square and the Valletta Land Front Ditch: “crucial for the official opening of the Valletta 2018 events that are scheduled to be held in this square,” Dr Zrinzo Azzopardi states. “The objective of the projects was to consolidate Valletta’s world heritage status and they have all led to an enhanced environment and a better use of the open spaces,” he claims. Hence, this will allow “more artistic and cultural events to be held for the general public and tourists to enjoy,” Dr Zrinzo Azzopardi continues. These works have all contributed to the enhancement of the capital and the city is also reaping financial rewards. “All these


“We all know that Valletta is now one of the locations sought-after by boutique hotels, niche entertainment areas and cultural event organisers. Valletta has been brought back to life.” Dr Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi, GHRC positive developments in Valletta have led to an increasing interest by the private sector and we all know that Valletta is now one of the locations sought-after by boutique hotels, niche entertainment areas and cultural event organisers. Valletta has been brought back to life,” he explains. Yet, Valletta’s status as a world heritage site meant that these projects were not without their challenges, though these were solved in collaboration with other public authorities. This concerted effort created opportunities, as was the case with the recent work at Triton Square. “Following communication with the Commission for the Rights of Persons with Disability, we have included slabs featuring markings which will assist the visually impaired in the design of Triton Square. This will be the first square in Malta and Gozo with such directional paving,” Dr Zrinzo Azzopardi describes. This, together with more recent projects

such as the €24 million ERDF Regeneration programme for Marsamxett Harbour, will set the foundation for the capital’s legacy in the future. “Valletta will not only be thriving during 2018, but also beyond that, as the projects taking place are enhancing its accessibility and revival,” he concludes. The city’s regeneration has also been felt by another member of Valletta’s community: Palazzo Ferreira, situated within City Gate square and opposite the open-air theatre. Part of the building houses Gio. Batta Delia, one of Malta’s oldest and most renowned retailers. From its early beginnings creating and selling furniture, to its evolution into Malta’s premier chinaware and glass stockist in the 1970s and ‘80s, the business stood its ground, despite the flow of changes impacting Valletta. “For many years, Valletta was losing its importance in business and the number of its inhabitants was reducing rapidly,” Patrick 19


Delia, whose great grandfather Giovanni Battista Delia opened the business, states. But, “remaining in the city was an obvious choice as Valletta was always going to remain attractive and the building we are in was, and still is, quite unique,” he explains. Mr Delia, who today runs the business together with his brother John, says that Government’s investment in Valletta, propelled by the City Gate project, and the upcoming Valletta Capital of Culture 2018, have resulted in a vibrant atmosphere in which business can thrive. “The façade of Palazzo Ferreria has recently been given a fresh clean look, a job well done by the Restoration Directorate and in a few months’ time the whole Palace would be like new,” he states. In the wake of these changes, Gio. Batta Delia, through its close collaboration with Trilogy Ltd, opened its doors eight years ago to Tommy Hilfiger and has seen a steady rise in sales over the years. “We are envisaging a greater number of visitors and locals to be coming to Valletta and we are more than prepared,” Mr Delia continues. However, he sounds a word of caution. “But, this all comes with great responsibility: to curtail over-development and to ensure the enforcement of basic rules. We must not let this success be the ruin of this great city,” he stresses. He fears the individual projects are not working in tandem. “I believe we lack a serious plan for the way to move forward. We cannot have many mini projects going on at the same time. Laws which may apply for buildings outside Valletta should be amended to cater specifically for Valletta,” he emphasizes. He sees collaboration between the authorities and the business community


as being essential to Valletta’s continued progress. “These very rare and special occasions don’t happen very often, and I sincerely hope that in years to come we will look back at 2018 with great pride,” he says. Indeed, several national institutions in the city are also looking towards the

future, such as the Manoel Theatre which has recently been revitalised with the installation of a sophisticated climatisation system. “The theatre felt like a sauna from May to October, and you can’t install an ordinary cooling or heating system in a historic theatre because of the noise and the potential damage it inflicts.

“This all comes with great responsibility: to curtail over-development and to ensure the enforcement of basic rules. We must not let this success be the ruin of this great city.” Patrick Delia, Gio. Batta Delia


CC INVESTMENT It also has to work 24/7 since abrupt changes in temperature can wreak havoc on the wood and the gilding,” artistic director Kenneth Zammit Tabona explains. The idea for the installation was formed in 2011, when Mr Zammit Tabona attended his first meeting of Perspectiv (the historic theatre association of Europe), during which he discovered that a climatisation system had been installed in another historic theatre. Though this was in Bavaria, Mr Zammit Tabona soon realised that this would work in Malta’s national institution, to fight the heat. He proposed the upgrade to the board, emphasising that the theatre would be able to operate for 11 months a year, only closing in August. The project was approved and allocated EU funds. Prospective theatregoers will now be able to enjoy innovative and quality performances without the sticky heat of Maltese high summers. And this experience is highlighted through the theatre’s new tagline: “It’s cool to be at Teatru Manoel”. But, there were other works carried out at the historic site and endorsed by Perspectiv, of which Mr Zammit Tabona is President. “We are doing everything in accordance with the practices laid down by the historic theatres association of Europe. We invested in the maintenance of the theatre, restoring the façade to its original 1731 condition. Moreover, there were further enhancements: new seats in the platea; the reintroduction of the parterre boxes, and the installation of proper wooden flooring which is standard for historic theatres,” he continues. The theatre’s new look and feel will be unveiled in time for Valletta 2018, and there are big plans in store. “The entire programme of Teatru Manoel in 2018 is designed to celebrate Valletta 2018. The city is

“The entire programme of Teatru Manoel in 2018 is designed to celebrate Valletta 2018. The city is undergoing a great renaissance, and all the activities which are taking place will make Valletta an even more desirable cultural hub.” Kenneth Zammit Tabona, Manoel Theatre undergoing a great renaissance, and all the activities which are taking place will make Valletta an even more desirable cultural hub,” he stresses. He also refers to the Valletta International Baroque Festival, of which he is artistic director. “The Valletta International Baroque Festival would not be successful if the capital were not what it is. The festival is going into its sixth edition and is considered to be one of the best in Europe. It is very much part of the Valletta 2018 scene,” he emphasises. This focus on artistic heritage has also been echoed by several business leaders in the capital. “You can’t separate Valletta from art and culture. The soul of this city,

its energy and the energy of its people, feed from it,” Dr Andrei Imbroll, Valletta Boutique Living (VBL) Chairman, explains. “In everything we do, we have to collaborate with artists and designers who love the city, and with tourists looking for authentic experiences,” he continues. VBL have put their money where their mouth is by pouring cash, time and effort into the creation of a Valletta-based company focused on invigorating the city’s real estate market. “Back in 2011, my business partner and I felt that Valletta’s property market was greatly undervalued, mainly due to the complicated ownership structures and the image it had with locals, especially the lower part of the city.

“Art and culture are crucial to our business. Without them Valletta would not be Valletta and we wouldn’t be here. We need to make Valletta 2018 the launch pad for the decades to come.” Dr Andrei Imbroll, Valletta Boutique Living (VBL)




“We also expect that tourists visiting Valletta in 2018 will be more focused on Malta’s culture and heritage, and many buildings in Valletta have rich architectural features. We therefore expect demand for people to stay in Valletta to be strong.” Michael Warrington, AX Holdings But, we believed that we could overcome these issues if the size of the investment made it worthwhile,” he stated. And it paid off. “We strongly believe that the shock we gave the Valletta market in the early days of the VBL Group pushed a few others to enter this market. This quickly built awareness among the small local business community with another three or four investors making substantial investments in Valletta. The spark was ignited and the rest is history. Fast forward to 2017 and VBL Group today is the largest owner of real estate in the city,” Dr Imbroll says. Now, the group is focused on launching its biggest venture yet: The Gut, a gastro-retail project in Strait Street which will see the previous red-light district given a facelift. The nipping and tucking will transform the area, giving it a youthful appearance, while respecting the character of its past. “The Gut will push boundaries in Malta and strive to fuse art and culture along with nightlife, good food and entertainment. It will be a venue aimed at a slightly more mature crowd looking for laid back quality entertainment,” Dr Imbroll asserts. The Kennedy is the first place to open and it will be followed by the Alchemy Cocktail Bar, The 99 and Thirsty Lawyer, all in the first quarter of 2018. VBL’s aim is for The Gut “to be one of the leading hotspots in the city,” he says. To this end, the group will also be setting up a live performance at the lower end of Strait Street. “We are now working round the clock to prepare an exciting programme of events for 2018, ranging from different live music bands covering different 24

genres to stand-up comedy, short plays and other acts,” he states. He claims the success of the venture is based on the integration of the arts within VBL’s strategy. Indeed, he sees Valletta 2018 as key to greater integration between the two sectors in the future. “Art and culture are crucial to our business. Without them, Valletta would not be Valletta and we wouldn’t be here. We need to make Valletta 2018 the launch pad for the decades to come. I would love to see it live on through an organisation which really has the city, its residents, business community, heritage and visitors at heart. I’d love to see citizens engaging with this organisation in a positive and constructive manner. If that happens, then Valletta 2018 would have really been a success,” he asserts. Another business which has invested in the capital is AX Group. The well-established company has renovated an old palazzo in Merchants Street and reopened it as The Saint John Boutique Accommodation. It has also purchased Palazzo Merkanti, and is in the process of transforming it into a fivestar luxury hotel due to open in 2018. “These are wonderful buildings that have found new use, and which have a strong focus on art. AX Group has been a strong advocator of the unique character of our capital city, and we had been looking for a suitable property to open a hotel there for many years, because we believe that it was best to revive it by finding new use for the palaces and homes within,” Michael Warrington, Chief Executive Officer of AX Holdings explains.

Indeed, the company invested over €11 million in these projects in 2016 and 2017, and plans to invest another €7 million in 2018. “We believe in developing functional but beautiful buildings that will withstand the test of time,” he emphasises. The advantages of investing in the capital are multiple, according to Mr Warrington. “As more and more businesses return to the capital, it has come alive and it is a vibrant place. This is good for business. We also expect that tourists visiting Valletta in 2018 will be more focused on Malta’s culture and heritage, and many buildings in Valletta have rich architectural features. We therefore expect demand for people to stay in Valletta to be strong,” he explains. Meanwhile, the early opening of The Saint John Boutique Accommodation was planned to coincide with the preparations for Valletta 2018 despite the hurdles encountered, Mr Warrington continues. “We opened The Saint John in time to be operating before 2018 and this was no easy feat. The main challenges to starting operations in Valletta are to identify the right property, obtain the necessary planning permits and finally the logistics of finalising the development within a reasonable timeframe,” he explains. Indeed, he believes that Valletta 2018 will mark a milestone in the revival of the capital, which will be felt for years to come. “We believe that the effects of V18 will be felt not only in 2018 but for some time after. V18 will leave a picture in the minds of travellers, particularly those seeking cultural holidays,” he concludes. cc DECEMBER 2017/JANUARY 2018


Looking ahead to 2018 Leading figures hailing from different sectors of Malta’s business landscape assess the past year and tell Marie-Claire Grima why they’re looking forward to a new year full of challenges and rewards.


hey say the past is no guarantee of future performance, but as far as the economy is concerned, 2018 promises to be a good year that is expected to carry on the current growth streak. Businesses are seeking to capitalise on numerous opportunities in a variety of sectors, and sales, exports, employment and investment appear to be on an upward trajectory, with enterprises across all sectors showing marked optimism about the future. Property was one of the foremost industries for Malta in 2018, with RE/MAX Malta CEO Kevin Buttigieg confirming that the company is currently operating in “an exceptionally vibrant market” in all of its industry sectors, namely buy-to-let investments, investments by individuals and companies that are new to the market, as well as buying and renting of properties by foreigners and locals. “These sectors exclude the significant influx of foreign workers requiring accommodation when settling in Malta. Maltese clients are the main players in the industry, which is a clear sign of a strong property market and a somewhat unique scenario when compared to other countries, where the market is based on foreign capital, and therefore a glitch on the horizon can cause their whole market to crash.” On the downside, however, Mr Buttigieg asserts that one of the company’s greatest daily struggles, one which persists at industry level, involves the way local banks operate. “The amount of needless red tape that anyone with an eye on investing has to wade through is incredible. This is hindering the property market from reaching its full potential. A lack of availability of rental properties especially in certain areas on the island, as well as upmarket properties, is also a trial for our industry. This is causing a ripple effect as obviously, if demand is constantly outstripping supply, a hike in prices is expected.” On the forecasts for the property industry for 2018, Mr Buttigieg asserts that the outlook seems promising. “The first-time buyers’ scheme introduced last year as well as the new schemes announced in the last Budget will continue to buoy the market to unprecedented levels. At RE/MAX Malta, we are working to add to this initiative in order to further encourage and make it easier for our clients to get on the property ladder. This year, we opened four new offices and envisage that six more will be open for business by the end of next year, which would obviously entail substantially increasing our manpower.” Over in the field of construction, the


“The amount of needless red tape that anyone with an eye on investing has to wade through is incredible. This is hindering the property market from reaching its full potential.” Kevin Buttigieg, CEO, RE/MAX outlook remains strong and positive, but the industry is facing various operational issues, especially shortage of personnel and workers, confirms Raymond Vassallo, CEO of JM Vassallo Vibro Steel Ltd. 2017 was a challenging and busy year for the company due to a major investment carried out during the first quarter of the year, namely the installation of a new electro-welded steel

reinforcing mesh production line. “This production line is equipped with the latest technological novelties in this field, providing greater flexibility to produce a wide range of non-standard wire mesh dimensions more efficiently even with minimum order requirements, thus reducing time, wastage and costs for our customer,” says Mr Vassallo. 27


“In 2018, we will be opening a new showroom dedicated specifically to green and energy-efficient products.” Ray Vassallo, CEO, JM Vassallo Vibro Steel Ltd “Today, our Vibro Mesh has a perfect planarity and remarkable flatness. Moreover, we have a full traceability system in place, allowing us to trace back all raw materials used in the production of each and every single longitudinal and transversal wire of every sheet produced.” Discussing challenges in 2018, Mr Vassallo cites the unfair competition with regards to undeclared imports entering our shores through free customs entry services. “The situation has been alarmingly aggravated since the introduction of excise duty on steel. Another factor of great concern is the restricted and shrinking space to discharge merchant vessels at the quay. Vessels arriving late on Friday very often remain stranded till Tuesday morning, until they are allocated a space to dock inside the port. Along with the lengthier time period it takes to clear imports from customs since the introduction of the excise duty in 2017, this has resulted in delays in unloading imports from vessels.” In 2018, the company plans to include the installation of new processing lines to increase its production output in respect of cut and bent steel reinforcement, and readyassembled beams and columns. “In 2018, we will also be opening a new showroom

dedicated specifically to green and energyefficient products,” Mr Vassallo reveals. “This would benefit developers, investors and residential owners as a fully dedicated team of knowledgeable and qualified personnel will be available to give information and advice on the innovative green products available. During 2018 we are also planning to organise more training and application sessions for Isomat and Kerakoll products, in order to train professional applicators on the correct ways such products are to be used and applied.” Meanwhile, logistics continues to be an important sector for Malta, as an international hub connecting three different continents. Franco Azzopardi, Chairman and CEO at Express Trailers, says that sustained economic growth in recent years has attracted new operators in different sectors to Malta’s market, namely in the gaming, maritime, aviation, construction and real estate sectors, which also brought a marked increase in Malta’s population besides an increased number of tourist arrivals, which has led to an increase in importation, consequently causing a growing imbalance when it comes to export. “The market’s reaction saw two new players entering the transport sector in the form of shipping lines carrying RO-RO trailers, which provided more possibilities in terms of sailing times and port destinations and hence,

more competitiveness,” he says. “Today, the main challenge for operators is finding the right tradesmen and skilled workers for the job. Resourcing the right human capital is turning out to be a major obstacle, even for a company like Express Trailers which enjoys a good degree of attractiveness as an employer.” Growth is both a function and a measure for the company, Mr Azzopardi says, as well as a function of investment and development. “Our key business drivers are space, equipment and people, and we shall sustain our investment in all three with the interesting projects we’re currently working on. Our industry is a key link in the supply chain of almost everything we can see and touch – with accelerated activity in the construction sector, we anticipate a significant demand in the importation of building materials. However, I reiterate that the challenge of an ever-widening gap in the imbalance between import and export persists, increasing the pressure on import costs to finance the freight to export empty trailers. If we manage to attract more northbound hubbing of cargo imported from, for instance, the Far East, this will help. This was one of the main reasons that led Express Trailers to invest in more warehousing space, better racking and more equipment, in order to push for more growth in the field of managed warehousing.”

“Our industry is a key link in the supply chain of almost everything we can see and touch – with accelerated activity in the construction sector, we anticipate a significant demand in the importation of building materials.” Franco Azzopardi, Chairman and CEO, Express Trailers 28



“There’s a need for greater awareness about [private and occupational pension plan schemes], so that young people can plan ahead for the future when joining the labour market.” Felipe Navarro, President and CEO, Mapfre Middlesea

Within the local insurance industry, Felipe Navarro, President and CEO at MAPFRE Middlesea says that the main challenge in 2017 was related to the new level playing field created by the implementation of Solvency II. “It has brought about a new way of observing and catering for the capital needs of insurance companies. The risk, compliance and actuarial approach is being given more importance, and the industry has had to invest a lot to be in line with Solvency II. The advantage within our group is that we have sufficient capital to deal with this – the two companies within our group are financially stable, and we are leveraging the control functions already active in the group, which has made the adaptation quite smooth for us.” Furthermore, the application of the Insurance Intermediaries Directive, which Mr Navarro says will change the way insurance reaches the client, is posing its own set of challenges. “It will cater, among other things, for the intermediary to advise on the right insurance cover for the special and individual needs of the client, and will allow for insurance policies to be simplified and better understood by the end-client.” DECEMBER 2017/JANUARY 2018

Despite such challenges, however, MAPFRE Middlesea experienced major growth in 2017. By the end of 2016, the company had a 35 per cent share of the non-life market, whilst MAPFRE MSV Life now has a market share of over 70 per cent in the life insurance market. Looking towards further developments next year, Mr Navarro anticipates that the home insurance and home contents cover market will continue to grow, as home owners invest serious money in refurbishment projects, as well as their home’s interiors. “Other areas I believe will grow are life protection, moving beyond the purchasing of a life protection policy only due to mortgages, as well as pension plan schemes. Private and occupational pension plan schemes are still new products to the market, and locally, we are the leading group in marketing a satisfactory final solution for the client in this area. However, there’s a need for greater awareness about this, so that young people can plan ahead for the future when joining the labour market.” Meanwhile, on the retail front, Lionel A. Lapira, CEO of Plaza Centres p.l.c, says that 2017 was challenging from a political, social, economic, technological and market perspective. “The retail market has faced intense competition over the past few

years and competition will continue to grow with the opening of further stores. Both new and established retailers faced a very challenging market, with replacement – as opposed to new demand – being the key challenge. From a company perspective, the group maintained high occupancy levels whilst seeking to consolidate its market share. In Q4 of 2016, the group invested in a subsidiary company as part of its growth strategy, which contributed positively to the group’s 2017 performance. During the year, the group also invested in upgrading both the parent as well the subsidiary’s premises in order to keep abreast with new entrants to the market. Overall, 2017 was a positive year.” In 2018, Mr Lapira envisages further growth at a group level as the company seeks to improve and consolidate the 2017 performance. “Further investment in the group’s premises is also planned. Having said this, we will remain alert to the external challenges which impact the industry’s dynamics whilst maintaining a traditional prudent approach to the market. As always, the challenge is to maintain a competitive advantage in a highly competitive industry.” “The main challenge in our location is the road infrastructure, as traffic has become a veritable nightmare.

“The challenge for retailers is devising new incentives and schemes to maintain and increase market share.” Lionel A. Lapira, CEO, Plaza Centres 31


“The significant fast growth and increasing spectrum of services offered within the aviation industry in Malta over the past few years has resulted in increased intensive competition for a limited supply of skills.” Ivan Refalo, Head HR & Corporate Communications, Medavia

Offering a different proposition is one of the key factors that will determine our industry position and with this in mind, we plan to launch a new concept in the early part of Q2 in 2018. Overall, the outlook for 2018 is no different than this year – challenging, demanding and the opening of further new locations. The challenge for retailers is devising new incentives and schemes to maintain and increase market share.” Finally, Ivan Refalo, Head HR & Corporate Communications at Medavia, shares his thoughts on the year within the aviation sector. “There were an immense number of challenges for all the business sections within the Medavia Group in 2017, namely the chartering of the company’s own fleet, Aircraft Charter Brokerage and Ground Handling service, as well as for Medavia Technics. The year started off well for the chartering arm, with a new contract on a humanitarian mission in a remote country, along with increasing enquiries and a number of secured maintenance contracts with national carriers from Europe, Africa and Russia for maintenance, repair and operations (MRO). Medavia Technics, the maintenance and design arm of the company, has added multiple maintenance approvals from various national aviation authorities 32

(NAAs) and updated the scope of approval for the Part 21J DOA.” Mr Refalo says that a substantial growth in headcount was required to address the increasing work demand, in particular within the MRO side. “Originally, a growth of around 25 per cent in MRO headcount was projected for 2017 alone. Current figures show that this estimate will be surpassed by the end of the year. New charter contracts and business relationships with large clients have taken place in practically all areas of the business. Medavia has now also obtained its Part M CAMO certificate and will be adding the service to its portfolio of services already offered to clients.” Given the likelihood that the positive projections for 2017 will continue well into 2018, Mr Refalo says he envisages that the increased business will affect all areas. “There is likely to be more direct focus on the new and existing charter market and for the MRO to develop further the regional turbo prop market capability, and also to develop related workshops to support such activities. Medavia seeks to invest further in the workforce with the greater part going to the technical aspect.” Two main challenges that are expected to persist over the year to come for all

aviation companies based in Malta are recruitment and maintaining a competitive edge. “The significant fast growth and increasing spectrum of services offered within the aviation industry in Malta over the past few years has resulted in increased intensive competition for a limited supply of skills, and the number of young Maltese newcomers embarking on a career in aviation appears to be smaller than the forecasted demand that would be needed by the industry players to address present and near future requirements,” Mr Refalo confirms. “This is resulting in spiralling wage costs which could possibly lead to the loss of the competitive advantage enjoyed by the industry in Malta over the past few years. This could in turn affect smaller players much more drastically.” “Furthermore, the current situation in the country is leading to increasing demand for foreign skilled employees. This needs to be coupled with sufficient training and increased motivation for the established workforce base. Attracting young newcomers to the job market through apprenticeship schemes and internships will help to address future challenges, allowing them to grow within the company and fit well with the team.” cc DECEMBER 2017/JANUARY 2018


IN Figures

Farewell 2017, hello 2018

€6.4 Million

The fiscal surplus recorded in Malta for the first nine months of 2017. It was termed by Eurostat as being the highest within the EU.


In 2018, after incorporating the expected impact of the measures introduced with the 2018 Budget, the fiscal surplus is expected to decline to 0.5 per cent of GDP.


The forecast rate of GDP growth in Malta for 2018, with private consumption expected to become the main driver of growth.


Strong export growth, particularly in services, and a fall in imports is pushing up the current account surplus, which is forecast to approach 10 per cent of GDP by end 2017.


The unemployment rate in Malta as of November. It remains the third lowest in the EU, preceded only by the Czech Republic and Germany.


The average increase in the local supply of workers each year. However, over the next five years, the Maltese economy is expected to create nearly 9,000 jobs each year, creating an extremely high demand for workers.


The number of new companies registered this year with the Malta Financial Services Authority till end October 2017.

€1.7 Million


The number of tourist arrivals from January to September 2017 – an increase of 16.3 per cent over the same period in 2016.

The number of people gainfully employed in full-time jobs in both the private and public sectors.



The Government debt-to-GDP ratio in 2017. After falling below the 60 per cent threshold in 2016, it is forecast to decline further in 2018.

Total tourism expenditure in Malta from January to September 2017 – 13.6 per cent higher than that recorded for 2016. Source: Malta International Airport


Sources: NSO, Eurostat, European Commission, Central Bank of Malta, Jobsplus


Source: Gozo In Figures, National Statistics Office, Malta



RE/MAX Malta: In 2018 and beyond Following another landmark year for RE/MAX Malta, Jo Caruana speaks to CEO Kevin Buttigieg, COO Jeff Buttigieg and General Manager Josie Theuma to discover what’s next for this unstoppable brand.


ost companies reach the end of the year with a sense of pride – so much will have been achieved, and there’s always a lot to be excited about come January. But, for RE/MAX Malta, 2017 really was a landmark year in which several major milestones were hit and expectations exceeded. “One of our proudest moments was winning Global Region of the Year for the first time,” says company CEO Kevin Buttigieg, who travelled to Las Vegas in the USA to receive the award alongside RE/ MAX Malta COO Jeff Buttigieg and General Manager Josie Theuma. “We had been nominated twice before but hadn’t won, so hearing our names being read out was absolutely amazing. Malta may be a small region in the RE/MAX family, but we have proved that we can play ball with the big boys and even come out on top. Nevertheless, we returned from this event even more inspired to keep doing our best, and to keep striving for new and exciting achievements for the RE/MAX team.” RE/MAX also marked other milestones internationally, when it was named one of the top eight franchise brands anywhere in the world by Entrepreneur Magazine, a Franchise 500 survey and the Fortune Franchise Times Top 200. Plus, according to a survey completed on a local level, RE/MAX Malta is also the most recognised brand on the island. It’s no surprise, therefore, that RE/MAX Malta plans to keep growing in the new year and beyond. The company is aiming to recruit another 100 agents to join its sizeable team – bringing its total tally to more than 450. “And the growth won’t stop there, as plans are in the pipeline for us to open at least another five branches across Malta and Gozo,” says Jeff Buttigieg. 38

Of course, this growth also brings demand for ever-better levels of service and quality, and the RE/MAX Malta team has plans in place to deal with that. “We have re-invested heavily in our training academy, and have hired a regional training academy manager who will work closely with Malta’s most established real estate trainer and coach, Paul Vincenti. This exercise will further improve our standard of service,” Jeff Buttigieg continues, explaining that agents at RE/MAX Malta receive training in everything from sales techniques to customer care. “Through integrated technology systems such as our online training platform, consistent mystery shopping, and both qualitative and quantitative research, we are able to benchmark our standard, pinpoint our weaknesses and improve accordingly.” With this in mind, RE/MAX Malta introduced a learning management system in 2017, and this has now been integrated into classroom training. In fact, associates now have to complete an online version of

the classroom training, as well as a test, to get certified in the different categories. And training is set to get even more complex as, in 2018, the company will be expanding its training academy and the online learning system, and will be introducing a point system that will provide their associates with extra benefits in terms of online exposure, discounts and rewards. However, while RE/MAX Malta is doing everything in its power to continue its upward trajectory of success and to keep its workforce moving in the right direction, it’s important to note that there are a few challenges facing the market – particularly when it comes to the consistently high demands for property and the far lower levels of supply. “This is an incredibly fast-paced sector and it can be very hard to keep up with demands,” says Mr Theuma. “We are pleased, however, that a number of exciting projects will be coming onto the market in the coming year. Plus, there’s the challenge of human resources, as it is getting increasingly



difficult to find good people to join our team, especially as we are constantly in ‘growth’ mode. “But we are pleased to report that growth at the moment is very steady. Although a lot of projects are in the pipeline, most of them have already been spoken for as people are buying and investing on plan, both when it comes to residential and commercial properties. We have never seen so many people interested in Malta and that gives us reason to believe in a strong future, although

it is important to invest heavily in quality.” Thankfully, though, it seems that quality is high on the local agenda, with new projects being finished to elevated standards and with the high-end facilities that the market demands in place – including everything from gyms and supermarkets to spas nearby. “Property in Malta has become more of a lifestyle rather than just property,” continues Kevin Buttigieg. “We’re witnessing a lot of change but it is good for the island to keep moving in this direction.”

Thus, with all that in mind, property in Malta continues to be a solid investment, and the RE/MAX Malta team doesn’t see that changing any time in the short-term future. “Residential properties are securing a rental yield of between five-to-7.5 per cent, while commercial yields are even going up to nine per cent, which is very strong, especially when compared to other markets in Europe,” Kevin Buttigieg says. As to what to expect from the future, it seems that the southern part of the island will continue its growth spurt, along with the north, which is also gaining popularity. “The infrastructure currently being finished in Kappara, as well as the plans for Marsa, will help to better connect these parts of the island and increase interest in them. “Of course there are questions about quality of life, but the important thing here is to ensure that there are more public spaces for people to enjoy, so that people have the space they need. Having great quality of life doesn’t mean that all development should stop, it means it should be wellplanned to allow people to live well. We believe in focusing on this into the future, and will continue to encourage high-quality investment and high-quality results,” Kevin Buttigieg adds. cc

“We have never seen so many people interested in Malta and that gives us reason to believe in a strong future.”




FIMBank’s operational evolution Rebecca Anastasi meets FIMBank’s Group Chief Operating Officer Howard Gaunt, to discuss the bank’s transformational strategy and how recent developments continue to lead the institution to sustainable profitability.


IMBank Group Chief Operating Officer Howard Gaunt describes FIMBank’s operational structure as a key driver for growth, guaranteeing higher stability. Speaking of what’s been instrumental in spearheading the bank’s operational management, he highlights the “synchronisation of policies and procedures.” “Minimised operational risk has also


promoted better governance. Today, two years after my appointment, we have improved operational processes, which are in line with our risk appetite and business development aspirations. We are now in a position of predictable and sustainable profitability with no reliance on one-off successes, coupled with a congruent yet flexible strategy, which can be adapted to different circumstances,” he explains,

“FIMBank will continue to develop on its strengths and provide services relating to trade finance, factoring, forfaiting, cash management and real estate.”



“To enhance its service offering and its operational efficiencies, the bank has also recently launched its digital banking platform, FIMBank Direct.” further highlighting that FIMBank’s efforts have been recognised by the ratings affirmation provided by long-term reviewer Fitch Ratings, which looks at credit and related risks.” “Our operations are potentially best in class and over time, have the opportunity to become a shared service centre for all members of the FIMBank Group, operating in the different jurisdictions. As this develops we also aim to integrate an intra-group shared services centre, whereby members of the KIPCO Group (a multi-disciplinary group which FIMBank is part of) will also make use of our advanced infrastructure,” he continues. Mr Gaunt further comments that if this shared services model reaches the desired expectation levels, “there is the opportunity to do selected back office work with competitor banks that don’t do what we do.” This innovative and collaborative approach may as well be one of the new major trends in banking. When discussing infrastructure, Mr Gaunt states that a certain degree of consistency and commonality must be maintained across all offices and branches to “sustain a mark of quality”. He cites investment in training throughout as a key element here. Apart from empowering employees, such investment also signifies a coherent and consistent message across all bank offices and channels, ensuring uniformity. As part of its diversified strategy, FIMBank will also be identifying further avenues to strengthen its services for corporate customers. “Throughout my career as a corporate banker, I would say that customers seek good value for money, speed, reliability, low complexity, a product that meets their expectations and a corporate banker who can sit down with customers and have an intellectual discussion about their business. In light of this, we owe it to ourselves to build simple products, good well-rounded bankers and a service proposition that is fast, transparent and at a good price,” he asserts. Mr Gaunt heavily emphasises the importance of a tailor-made service whereby corporate bankers are well inclined to understand the customer’s business, providing “differentiation in execution”. To enhance its service offering and DECEMBER 2017/JANUARY 2018

its operational efficiencies, the bank has also recently launched its digital banking platform, FIMBank Direct. The new platform allows corporate customers the convenience to securely manage their funds online. FIMBank Direct is set to become one of the bank’s primary channels to cater for customers’ international business needs. The system is set up for corporate activity, with the necessary security and authority levels, supporting a range of business activities. Through FIMBank Direct, customers can transact using international currencies, in a similar fashion as that for local settlements. From an operational point of view, the digital banking platform allows the bank to process payments in a straight-through processing format, with lesser expense and no manual intervention. This allows FIMBank to better deploy its resources. Mr Gaunt is excited about the prospect of enhancing customer experience via FIMBank Direct. “Today, FIMBank Direct is largely a deposit-taking platform that allows on-boarding and also to remotely manage finances. We look at FIMBank Direct with a view of it having the potential to allow customers to manage trade, credit requirements and connect FIMBank Direct to all other internet banking platforms, achieving aggregation. Through FIMBank Direct, the bank aims to further establish the FIMBank brand, and to be well equipped to meet current demands, whilst continuing to invest further in the development of its capabilities,” he states. Speaking of its product development strategy, Mr Gaunt states that FIMBank will continue to enhance its service offering by providing bespoke services in the countries it operates in. A case in point would be the bank’s recently launched real estate financing product suite for local established developers in Malta, for selected projects. That being said, FIMBank will continue to develop on its strengths and provide services relating to trade finance, factoring, forfaiting, cash management and real estate, “focusing on what we know how to do and doing it extremely well,” Mr Gaunt concludes. Indeed, FIMBank seems to be well equipped in creating added value and shareholder equity by further refining its services and adapting to both current and future customer requirements. cc

Howard Gaunt, Group Chief Operating Officer, FIMBank

Howard Gaunt is an American from New York and joined the FIMBank Group in November 2015 as the Group Chief Operating Officer. He is responsible for the overall operations-related functions across the group and sits on several committees including the Executive Committee, Credit Committee, AssetLiability Committee and the IT Steering Committee. Mr Gaunt is also a director of FIM Property Investment Ltd and FIM Business Solutions. Before joining the FIMBank Group, Mr Gaunt was the General Manager for the Wholesale Banking Group activities in the Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and GCC regions at ADCB between 2007 and 2015. He was responsible for the strategic development and end-to-end management of the Commercial (SME), Corporate (TTLC) and Government (GRE) businesses across the local, GCC and Indo-Arab trade corridor. He successfully integrated the customer coverage and analytics units allowing for the industry and customer segmentation, single banker customer coverage and the creation of the Client Service Team. Mr Gaunt’s banking career spans over 31 years in senior national and international assignments with Wells Fargo and Company, Citibank, Citicorp, Citigroup and Samba Financial Group. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and International Relations from the University of Southern California (USC) and is a Certified Investment Manager, CIMC, with the Investment Management Consultants Association, IMCA.



Country in a gridlock: What’s the plan for Malta’s bleak traffic scenario? Malta’s traffic situation appears to be deteriorating, and worse still, little seems to be changing. Martina Said speaks to Transport Minister Ian Borg, Opposition Transport Spokesperson Marthese Portelli and Malta Chamber Deputy President David Xuereb to find out what lies ahead.


alta’s traffic congestion problem has become more than merely a roads issue; it’s a national concern and talking point that dominates many a conversation among those living and commuting here. The frustration is palpable – from hours stuck in a gridlock in what is typically a 15-minute drive to the subsequent annoyance caused by a lack of parking spaces all over the island, commuters are fed up, and often don’t feel safe turning to faster options, the likes of bicycles and scooters. Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects, Ian Borg, is in agreement that traffic in Malta is a challenge which needs to be overcome without delay. “I, like


other commuters, use our roads on a daily basis, and I too get frustrated when faced with difficulties on the road,” he asserts. “The recent boom in our country’s economic development, the resulting increase in population and constantly-rising tourism figures are increasing the pressure on all our modes of travel, including road transport. This has not been helped by the years of haphazard development and a reluctance to rectify obsolete road designs, which have also taken their toll on our land transport infrastructure, causing unacceptable social, financial and environmental impacts.” Focusing on laying down a 20-year project when the public needs solutions for daily commuting today is useless, the Minister

says, which is why the island’s transport issues need to be addressed in different ways. “The Ministry has laid down a series of short-, medium- and long-term solutions. From my first days in office, we immediately started working on tackling bottlenecks that are reducing the efficiency of our country’s major road network nodes, especially at peak hours. We have already completed projects at the busy Lija junction and the critical roundabout outside the Malta International Airport. We implemented 25 projects within the first 100 days of this legislature, and are continuing with several other projects as we speak. By the end of 2017, we would have invested a total of €13 million in the upgrading of our road network.”


CC COVER STORY While the Kappara junction project will be completed by the end of 2017, last month saw the start of another major project, Phase 1 of the Marsa Junction Project, an investment of over €70 million. “This project will see the elimination of traffic lights in this junction and the creation of seven flyover structures. It will not just change Malta’s road network in this part of the country as we know it today; it will affect the lives of all those who live or work in the southern part of Malta,” says Dr Borg. “To augment the benefits of the Marsa junction project, we launched a separate €20 million project to upgrade the nearby Santa Lucia roundabout with two tunnels linking TalBarrani Road directly to Vjal Santa Lucia and on to Triq Aldo Moro, and vice versa. This investment aims to make the junction safer, more efficient and easier for nearby residents to get in or out of their home towns.” In one of its 2018 Budget commitments, Government announced that it will be resurfacing 160 unmade roads; ones which, Dr Borg asserts, remain in a substandard state. In 2018, the Ministry will also be setting up the new roads agency, with the aim of introducing a paradigm shift in the way Malta’s road network is managed. “The Ministry has tripled this year’s road development budget allocation and for the upcoming year, we have allocated €60 million towards the improvement of our roads,” says Dr Borg. “Upgrading the road network is just one of my priorities to overcome our current difficulties. We are also embarking on other commitments to encourage a modal shift and reduce our current dependency on private vehicles. In the 2018 Budget, we announced several measures pertaining to this, including free school transport for all students, free public transport for young people and incentives aimed at the electrification of road transport.” While not limited to the shortcomings of Malta’s road network, driving locally is becoming increasingly reckless, perhaps partly due to the sheer frustration of getting stuck in traffic at every turn, unpredictably, and at any time of the day. From the beginning of 2017 until the end of the third quarter, there have been 17 road traffic fatalities according to NSO reports, on par with the same period in 2016. Adding to the unsettling statistics are the results of a European Transport Safety Council report, which stated that Malta registered the highest increase in fatalities in Europe in 2016, double the fatalities of the previous year, crashing to the bottom of the EU road death table. “This is not a question of statistics,” says Dr Borg. “I am deeply concerned by every accident that causes injury or is fatal. The Ministry, together with the 44

“The Ministry has tripled this year’s road development budget allocation and for the upcoming year, we have allocated €60 million towards the improvement of our roads.” Ian Borg, Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects

Malta Road Safety Council and Transport Malta, is implementing several campaigns to encourage responsible driving and increased attention to road safety. The newly-inaugurated Traffic Control Centre in Paola has the prime objective of monitoring and helping road users deal with traffic flow difficulties. However, it will also help

us identify and study behaviour by road users. We are also committed to setting up a national authority to investigate and better understand the technical conditions that may cause accidents on our roads, and to ensure that any measures to reduce such risks are duly carried out without delay.” DECEMBER 2017/JANUARY 2018

CC COVER STORY Opposition spokesperson for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects, Marthese Portelli, cites an increased demand for cars as one of the key causes of traffic congestion. “The post-1987 economic boom has led to a significant increase in the percapita vehicle ownership in our country, increasing both private and commercial traffic. Car ownership, car dependence and motorisation have shot up. Throughout the past 20 years, over 15,000 new licences have been issued in Malta every year, at times even exceeding 20,000. The number of licenced vehicles on the road is constantly increasing,” she asserts. “Another key reason for traffic congestion is our limited and ineffective mobility due to the continued deficit in the national transport infrastructure, the lack of alternative means of transport, and poor innovation. Public transport has also failed to achieve the desired results.” Dr Portelli says that a co-ordinated and well-mapped out plan needs to be implemented in order to address the problem, as currently, mobility is operating in a fragmented environment based primarily on isolated initiatives that do not always synergise with one another. “The solution to our traffic problem can only be achieved with the right attitude, a determined drive for systemic change, a passion for innovation, a holistic approach and a sincere collaboration across the board by all stakeholders. I reiterate what I have stated time and again – I am willing to help Government implement the change that is required through constructive criticism, ideas and support. All of us must do our part.” One of Government’s grandest electoral pledges before the June elections was to re-surface all of Malta’s roads in seven years – how will this measure help abate traffic? “Re-surfacing of roads and addressing traffic congestion should not exclude one another,” says Dr Portelli. “Although the re-surfacing of roads might not address the traffic congestion issue, it is not a project that should be abandoned – people are entitled to decent roads. Also, having better roads will help to reduce certain bottlenecks as it will help to divert and disperse traffic through roads which are not so commonly used because of their dilapidated state.” Dr Portelli continues that a number of initiatives can be taken in the short-, medium- and long-term to drastically reduce traffic, and all policy decisions have to based on sound information and knowledge about peoples’ behaviour and needs. “We must keep in mind that the commuter is not the problem, but the point of the service. Secondly, it is important to properly coordinate the rolling-out and implementation of policy decisions – single actions cannot be effective on their own, but a range of policy decisions, if properly coordinated, implemented and enforced, can have an DECEMBER 2017/JANUARY 2018

“Throughout the past 20 years, over 15,000 new licences have been issued in Malta every year, at times even exceeding 20,000. The number of licenced vehicles on the road is constantly increasing.” Marthese Portelli, Opposition spokesperson for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects appreciable positive effect in the immediate future.” In response to Government’s 2018 Budget measures aimed at tackling traffic, the Opposition has made it clear that they leave much to be desired. Dr Portelli says an intense set of initiatives were expected to be announced, rather than a handful of sporadic ones, and a mass transport system should be worked on without further delay, coupling this long-term solution with shortand medium-term initiatives. “To mention a few: introduce free publicly-funded school transport for all schools rather than simply embarking on a ‘study’; dedicated transport routes to and from concentrated centres such as the University, MCAST, etc; dedicated transport from strategic locations for public

administration employees; incentives for shared transport initiatives; voluntary opt-in schemes whereby car owners may opt to use their private car on selected days and during particular times; incentives to encourage companies to opt out of using heavy and long vehicles at peak times; and better coordination of waste collection times, among many others.” Deputy President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry and Chief Executive Officer of QP Management David Xuereb asserts that it is obvious that with an aged and poor quality road infrastructure, inherited over many years and across the country, it was inevitable that the ever-increasing demands would hit a maximum capacity. 47


“The lack of proper planning, education and incentives to motivate people to use public forms of transport over many years has failed tragically, and society has now become accustomed to owning its own car because of poor alternatives.” David Xuereb, Deputy President, Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry


“This is where we are now. It is also obvious that the lack of proper planning, education and incentives to motivate people to use public forms of transport over many years has failed tragically, and society has now become accustomed to owning its own car because of poor alternatives.” While he believes that improving the country’s road infrastructure will certainly help improve the quality of our travel experience while ensuring that it is safe for drivers, passengers, cyclists and pedestrians alike, Mr Xuereb states that investment in

road junctions and intersections will push congestion to another location and will not remove time wasted in traffic jams. “We really need to look beyond fixing what we have, but rather need, firstly, some easy quick-fixes to immediately address obvious bottle-necks in our road network, and secondly, to think innovatively by being strategic in the manner with which we wish our people and visitors to travel across the country.” The consequences of traffic congestion go beyond waste of time and impeded quality of life; it is also affecting the efficiency of local business and the potential strength of the country’s economy, says Mr Xuereb. “While some commercial activities require employees to conduct one main trip a day, many other businesses depend on efficient transportation and movement throughout the day. Increasing travel time in multiples of two to ten during normal hours is a serious setback to Malta’s business cost structures and hence its competitivity. This cannot be acceptable, and we certainly cannot remain complacent to the far-reaching consequences of inaction.” Asked what alternative modes of transport he believes are worth exploring for Malta, Mr Xuereb says he’s a firm believer in the solutions that make use of artificial intelligence through the Internet of Things, namely shared, automated and electric transportation. “I dream of a time when very few in Malta will need to own a car, which also limits associated costs such as fuel, maintenance and storage, and will share into a network of IT-driven, driverless and electric vehicles.” Electric transportation might not be such a far-flung idea, as the electrification of Malta’s transport system is another priority under this legislature, Minister Borg states, with the primary aim of reducing vehicle emissions, which is the biggest source of pollution on the island. “Malta has set a target to have at least 5,000 electric vehicles registered on the road by 2020. In line with this objective, we announced a number of schemes and extended others for the coming year in the 2018 Budget. One new incentive is to waive the registration tax and road licence of new or imported electric vehicles for five years, and commercial companies that qualify under this scheme can also benefit with a capping of €200,000. Transport Malta also recently signed a contract with CarToGo Israel, which will be providing carsharing services on our island, with a total investment of over €8 million. The company will invest in a 150-strong fleet composed of a mix of fully electric vehicles of different classes and in 225 charging pillars to bring our country’s total to 450. Added to the 102 existing ones installed by Government, we will be exceeding the EU-set national target of 500 for 2020 by 52 points.” cc DECEMBER 2017/JANUARY 2018


BNF: A new era in banking As BNF Bank unveils its updated branding and new mortgage product, Jo Caruana meets CEO and Managing Director Michael Collis to discover what else is planned for this dynamic high-street bank.


here have been big changes afoot at Banif Bank. In fact, it’s no longer called Banif, but was recently unveiled as BNF Bank in a move that has given the company a new impetus for the future. “In essence, this new name places our focus on the individuality of each of our customers – just as the fingerprint motif on our logo suggests,” says BNF Bank CEO and Managing Director Michael Collis. “It is our desire to treat our customers as individuals – to start conversations with them, to discover what their needs are, and to help them achieve their aspirations. We want to work out how best to serve them.”

Mr Collis explains that the idea behind the rebranding exercise was to modernise BNF Bank. “We took one element of the old brand, the bow and arrow, and included it, while modernising everything else,” he says. “We were keen to keep the bow and arrow because it signifies the clear direction that the bank is moving in, as well as the ambition that we have and share with our clients.” Mr Collis himself brings a wealth of experience to BNF Bank, as he has worked in the sector throughout his career, including in London for 20 years and the Middle East for 10 years. He moved to Malta three months ago, having previously joined the bank’s board of directors a year ago. “My first three months have been dedicated to drilling down into the detail of the bank and the bank’s DNA, as opposed to seeing it all from boardlevel down. I have been so impressed by the fantastic people we have working here and am very encouraged by everything I have witnessed. I am extremely enthusiastic about this bank and helping to move it forward.” All of this change was kick-started when Al Faisal International for Investment, one of Qatar’s largest private diversified groups, took over as BNF Bank’s major shareholder last year, with an 86.64 per cent stake in the bank. The remaining 13.36 per cent of shares are held equally by four Maltese shareholders, namely PG Holdings Ltd, Virtu Investments Ltd, Sak Ltd and Mizzi Capital Projects. Mr Collis has nothing but compliments for the previous management of the bank, and says they did a splendid job of establishing it on the island. “It’s not easy to come into a foreign market to start a bank, especially when it’s not one that’s offshore but one that is working with clients on the ground providing key services.

“The way forward is to grow, and grow very quickly.” 50

“Now that the bank has built a great customer base and has opened 12 wellsituated branches, the challenge moving forward is to take the good work that’s already been achieved and really push the business of the bank to a new level. So, the fact that BNF Bank has been accepted within the country and produced a stable financial performance means the way forward is to grow, and grow very quickly.” While BNF Bank isn’t as big as some of the other commercial banks operating in Malta, its unique offering lies in its personal approach. In fact, its recently-unveiled mortgage product is now in competition with the other mortgage offerings on the market – priced at a fixed 2.25 per cent interest for the first two years. “It’s the most competitive product on the market and we’re very proud of it,” Mr Collis says. “If you are looking for a mortgage then it now makes a lot of sense to consider BNF Bank among your options for financing.” Looking to the future, the bank’s DECEMBER 2017/JANUARY 2018


customers can expect to see more new products coming onto the market. “Our mortgage product is the first example of what customers should expect. Mortgages are so important in Malta, especially as buying a home is a priority for so many people – whether they’re buying for themselves, as an investment, or for a family member. It’s an exciting product, and one we are sure customers will want. “As for other developments, customers can expect to see us roll out a number of BNF Bank products of this kind in the months to come, and they will all reflect the needs of modern life. There are lots of new initiatives in the pipeline and lots to be announced, although it is early days. What I can say is that, at BNF Bank, we believe that retail banking – banking for the man on the street – is what banking is all about, and we will be placing a lot of emphasis on getting our offering out through our branches in 2018. We are proud to continue to be an integral part of this fantastic community.” cc DECEMBER 2017/JANUARY 2018



Investing in the future Much has been made of Malta’s positive economic figures, but how can we plan for the island’s continued success? Leader of the Opposition Dr Adrian Delia outlines what he sees as the industries of the future, and tells Rebecca Anastasi that the key is innovation. Photos by Alan Carville





hile Malta seems to be riding high on a wave of prosperity, concern has been raised in various quarters about the long-term future of various sectors of the economy. Discussions are now turning to which industries the country can develop to guarantee continued economic growth in the face of global issues such as climate change and Brexit, as well as appropriately planning ahead for challenges developing locally. “There are various areas we can invest in, including the technologies of the future, and knowledge-based economies and sectors,” states Leader of the Opposition, Dr Adrian Delia. He sees the current financial buoyancy as the result of policies instituted in the past, and indicates a lack of attention to the growth of innovative industries. “We are spending less than we are earning, but that’s because we are not investing in capital projects, and because we are not investing in the future. We are spending less, not because we are being cautious or careful, but because we are simply not thinking of what we need in the coming years. And we are earning more, not because we are creating new opportunities or investing in new sectors, but because we are reaping the fruits of the past and simply gorging on them. We are not generating new areas of business, new sectors or opportunities,” he claims. The future, he says, is linked to our environment and to creating sustainability from what we would usually discard. “Government has now panicked, because it’s realised it has a massive waste problem on its hands. Waste is not to be dumped, it’s a resource. If Government were thinking ahead, it’d be thinking of new technologies, of solar energy, of wind energy, of wave energy, of energy in waste; all in a timely manner. These are industries which create proper high-paid jobs,” he emphasises. Another sector he would like to see further developed is health. “We thought we would be moving from investing in pharmaceuticals to investing in health. This is an area we can help flourish, not only by giving the best possible service to the Maltese, but also by creating a centre of research and development. Instead, we have given our hospitals to promoter shell businesses which are only interested in making a quick buck, and which lack expertise in the area,” he continues. Progress in these industries is dependent on education. “We cannot have the lowest number of students wanting to continue their education. We cannot have the highest number of school-leavers ever,” he asserts. Dr Delia sees growth opportunities


“There are various areas we can invest in, including the technologies of the future, and knowledge-based economies and sectors.”

within the field of education itself, quoting the achievements of past governments to support his case. “There is an opportunity to invest in education. The Nationalist government had created a whole industry in Malta based on foreign students coming to learn English. This is a business which has kept on increasing and which can become something more. Education can become a new sector of investment.” And what does he see as the future of tourism, specifically Air Malta? “I do not view Air Malta only as a company, but for what it is: a 40 per cent contributor to the tourism sector. Uncertainty is the most powerful enemy of business growth and

everyone involved in the industry has a right to know what is happening with the airline,” he states, going on to stress the need for clarity on the airline’s future. “Government needs to start explaining whether one of our major airline carriers is going down the route of closure, which Government has actually threatened to do in order to subsidise workers’ claims, or whether it intends on investing in Air Malta,” he continues. Dr Delia’s strategy in relation to Air Malta, he explains, would be to continue developing the airline through “strategic investments”, which, he believes, would bring the necessary knowledge and contacts into the island. DECEMBER 2017/JANUARY 2018

CC INTERVIEW “Malta is a regional hub and, in the aviation industry, not growing is dying. There could be an opportunity to bridge with, for example, North Africa, or other island states. There is a lot which can be done. There could be strategic investments, where partners of choice would contribute, not necessarily money, but expertise or connectivity,” he explains.

And, according to Dr Delia, a lot more can also be done for the island to capitalise on the opportunities of Brexit, as well as prepare itself for any eventual repercussions created in its wake. “Are we able to attract exiting companies to Malta? Are we able to propose a specific product package which could be offered

“We do have one important resource: human resources, raw talent.”


to those seeking passporting rights in an EU country? Are we geared to have our industries poised to offer opportunities to the UK’s exiting structures? Again, Government has been silent. And again, a lot can be done to ensure that this is not something which will have a negative effect on Malta, but that it will be a challenge which we can confront,” he expounds. The key for prosperity in the future, for Dr Delia, lies in Malta’s greatest resource: its people. “We do have one important resource: human resources, raw talent.” But, this comes with a caveat. “We need to understand that we cannot simply be happy with zero unemployment.” Indeed, this is not just a numbers game, he maintains. “We cannot just be happy with low-end jobs which are barely enough for people to survive here. We cannot have people who are working 60 hours a week in order to make do until the end of the month,” he stresses. It is also essential to ensure adequate representation of women in a workforce which can cater to increasingly expanding industries, Dr Delia continues. “Government has been vociferously preaching that it is pro-women, but we need to understand the hurdles which women face, and which stop them participating in the work-force across the board. So, let us start engaging with the principal stakeholders in this debate: women. What do they need? What do they want? Why are they keeping back? Has Government listed the hurdles which keep women from entering the workforce, if they want to enter at all? Do we have statistics showing how many women want to join the workforce and cannot?” he asks. Dr Delia goes on to note the importance of instituting flexible employment conditions such as flexi-time and the establishment of remote working environments. “There’s so much you can do over the Internet, and that will also lock in to help solve transportation issues,” he continues. He links this to the need to understand the broader cultural foundations of Maltese society. “We need to understand whether Maltese society is geared for the changes this would imply, acknowledge, understand and plan for them,” he says, referring to the increase in the number of women in the workforce, going on to state that this rise cannot be solely attributed to Government. “We need to see why the numbers have started to increase. Is it because of incentives, or because of individual need?” he concludes. cc



Style Review

‘Tis the season to inject a dose of festive style into your wardrobe. Whether you’re at the office or off to one of the myriad events of the season, Sarah Micallef lines up the latest trends. 01. Gold Metallics are the obvious neutral of choice during the festive season, and gold remains synonymous with festive cheer year after year. Whether you go for an all-out look in top-to-toe gold if you’ve got a festive event coming up, or opt for gold separates to give your day-to-day look a bit of a seasonal edge, you’ll certainly be hitting the right notes, be it at work or at play.

02. Tuxedos Few things are as classic in a formal event as a tuxedo, but this season, it’s both men and women who will be wearing them. From the classic man’s tuxedo to feminine takes on the signature cut, the tuxedo trend is a strong one this season, and will also see a number of variations and influences, including tuxedo-inspired dresses for the ladies.

03. Red This one’s an obvious choice at the holidays, and to top it off, it’s a major A/W 17 trend too. Avoid going down the kitsch route by opting for a deep red number in a luxurious fabric like silk or keep warm in a cosy knit. Meanwhile, if bright red is simply not your cup of tea and you’d prefer to go a little darker, merlot is certainly a shade worthy of trying, and will keep you from going down the tried-and-tested black route.




04. Velveteen We just love soft, tactile fabrics during autumn and winter, and options abound in this fabric for both evening and casual wear. Velveteen looks fabulous in the form of a suit, separates or even accessories, with colour favourites including deep red, navy blue and dark green. It also gets a few extra points for being a soft and comfortable option on these colder days!

05. Hats After a substantial absence from the runways, hats seem to be stealing the show once again in this season’s collections by top designers. From leather berets at Christian Dior to baker hats at Miu Miu, it’s looking like we might be seeing a new and fashionable crop of headwear on the high street this season, and with the temperatures dropping, we welcome stylish options of head cover.

06. Monograms Initials, acronyms and monograms are gaining popularity among designers the likes of Balenciaga and Dior this season, and they can really add a touch of luxury to any outfit, during the day or night. If you prefer a more low-key look, an elegant monogram can make for a toned down yet equally festive addition to any outfit. cc



Rachel Zoe

04. Sam Edelman


Emporio Armani


Tom Ford Dolce & Gabbana


CC make the headlines

Value Added Tax on the catering industry – is it time for a change? By Miriam Sultana, Head, Economics Advisory, PKF Malta We can all agree that the tourism industry is one of the pillars of Malta’s economy. The industry generates significant business activity on the island, contributing to the generation of thousands of jobs. In turn, the industry creates demand for other industries including the food and beverage, manufacturing, agriculture as well as the retail and wholesale sectors. Catering services play a critical role in this sector, and recent media articles have noted that the current VAT rate at 18 per cent is denting the competitiveness of the catering industry and hence, the tourism industry. As part of its Corporate Social Responsibility programme, PKF took the initiative to investigate this topic and analyse how a potential change in the VAT rate charged on restaurant services could impact the sector and the whole economy. Currently, Malta charges 18 per cent VAT on food and alcohol sold in restaurants and compared to competing Mediterranean countries, like Italy (at 10 per cent) and Cyprus (at 9 per cent), this rate is found to be significantly higher. Interviews with a number of stakeholders confirmed this perception and outlined the plethora of challenges that operators are facing. The incidence of significant overheads is eroding the viability of the sector, making it unattractive for start-ups and causing problems to retain high-quality staff. There are also claims that restaurant owners often try to evade VAT and corporate taxes through an undeclaration of sales, in a bid to improve their low profit margin and return on capital. Many are of the view that such measures are the only way that restaurant owners can afford to pay higher undeclared wages and salaries, which is


essential for staff retention. This is creating a two-way structure where those who abide by the fiscal rules end up suffering a lower return on capital, and those who abuse the system earn a higher return and in turn can afford to pay higher salaries. This is undoubtedly creating an element of unfair competition within the industry. Also, many argue that the current VAT at 18 per cent is also uncompetitive vis-à-vis the VAT charged by hotels on all-inclusive accommodation packages at seven per cent. In our study, we propose an introduction of a lower VAT rate from 18 per cent to 13 per cent for a short experimental period, say two to three years. This would be a similar strategy which was introduced with some success in Greece in 2013, in the midst of an economic crisis. Whilst our economic realities do not mirror that of Greece back at the time when it required a boost in aggregate demand to save its economy, a similar measure that favours the catering industry is warranted given the difficulties encountered in our study. This is expected to result in a boost to the catering industry, and also result in positive spillover effects on the economy. PKF took the initiative to study this hypothetical scenario using a number of simple assumptions. Assuming that the Government revenue forfeited from a lower VAT will be displaced onto additional household consumption, a unit elasticity of demand and no savings, we calculated that the decrease in VAT from 18 per cent to 13 per cent will bring about an increase of around €49 million in 2017 and €51 million in indirect and induced effects over the real GDP for 2016. This implies a net increase in GDP of around 0.56 per cent in 2017 and 0.58 per cent in 2018. This scenario also assumes that

the decrease in VAT will be fully passed on to consumers in the form of lower prices. In reality, the degree of pass through is debatable. There are those who argue that the benefit will be selfishly kept by restaurant owners and will not be passed on to consumers. Then, there are those who argue that restaurant prices would need to be lowered in order to remain competitive within the industry. PKF also took the initiative of presenting this study to a number of stakeholders involved in the policy-making process. Our presentation was welcomed by all parties, and there are those who argued that a simple decrease in VAT across the board would not work in favour of the industry or consumers, and tax evasion will still persist. As an alternative, there are those who suggested a tax capping system for various categories of catering establishments. Deciding which system would eventually work in practice clearly warrants further assessment and analysis in order to explore ways of reducing tax evasion whilst simultaneously softening the challenges faced by the industry. cc T: 2148 4373; E:



NEWS Events & Initiatives


lifestyle and a balanced diet, fun physical activities, flexible working arrangements, healthy snacks and drinks at the workplace, as well as monetary assistance to purchase equipment or to participate in a list of approved physical and well-being activities. Linking Enterprise is a series of events organised by the Malta Chamber’s HR Committee with an aim to expose members to ways of enhancing their business operations, with particular focus on matters related to HR.

03. Chamber President calls for timeline on constitutional reform In a TimesTalk interview on 1st November, Malta Chamber President Frank V. Farrugia said that the Chamber had immediately condemned the brutal murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, and called upon Government to examine the situation, find those responsible and bring them to justice. “From this tragedy, we have to seize the opportunity. We need the Constitution to change, as we’ve been discussing since this administration first came into power in 2013.”

01. Chamber expresses condemnation In a statement issued on Tuesday 17th October, the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry expressed its most categorical condemnation of the brutal murder of leading journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. “At this dark hour, the Chamber reiterates its appeal for national unity, respect and justice, in the interest of all society in Malta,” the press release said. The Chamber extended its deepest sympathy and condolences to Mrs Caruana Galizia’s husband, three sons and daughter in law.

02. Taking employee wellness a step further During a Linking Enterprise event organised by the Malta Chamber’s HR Committee at Atlas Healthcare on 2nd November, members were provided with insight into how and why corporate wellness programmes developed around the world and the reasons for their recent propagation in Malta. A wellness programme for employees goes beyond the provision of free private health insurance. Programmes offered by employers in Malta tend to include education and awareness on the ingredients for a healthy DECEMBER 2017/JANUARY 2018

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“There needs to be unity in parliament – let the politicians set aside their differences, put their heads together and set up a timeframe for these changes to be implemented. We don’t want to wait 20 years for these changes to happen. We’re not insensitive to the situation. The institutions have to work. Corruption laws and whistleblower laws have to be used. The mechanism we have in place at the moment hasn’t worked – that’s why we need to put our heads together, and find the right formula.”

04. Malta Chamber meets Leader of the Opposition The Board of Management of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry welcomed the new Leader of the Opposition Adrian Delia for a familiarisation meeting at the Exchange Buildings on 26th October. During the meeting, both sides spoke about the importance of collaboration, as the business community and the country’s political leaders have the national interest at heart, and, to this end, the Chamber is always committed to contribute its

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constructive and well-intentioned advice. Opening his brief address, Frank V. Farrugia underlined the apolitical status of the Chamber, as its mission remains the promotion of the interest of the private sector. The President told Dr Delia that with this aim in mind, the Chamber had produced an Economic Vision document as at the time, the Chamber felt it needed to be proactive and provide a business agenda to Government, rather than wait for Government to provide business with its own agenda.

05. Malta’s economy has a lot to lose from a protectionist stance “Malta as an open economy has a lot to lose if the EU takes a protectionist stance on trade and investment,” said Andre Fenech, Head of Policy Development at the Malta Chamber as he participated in a panel discussion organised by MEUSAC on 9th November. The event discussed the European Commission’s reflection paper on harnessing globalisation and the future of Europe. Mr Fenech said that governments needed to curb populist calls for trade protection in some European countries. “Malta has a lot to lose from a protectionist stance, and we need to do everything in our power to safeguard the values of

the European single market,” he said. Mr Fenech also said that migration could bring about opportunities in view of changing demographics on the European continent. “Globalisation cannot be stopped or reversed. The EU needs to embrace the changes brought about by globalisation. It must also be forceful in taking measures when the level playing field is threatened during trade discussions amongst others”.

06. Chamber together with leading financial institutions welcome PANA Committee’s validation of Malta’s tax system The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, FinanceMalta, the Institute of Financial Services Practitioners and the Gozo Business Chamber have welcomed the PANA Committee’s confirmation that the Maltese tax system is in line with current international and EU standards. Furthermore, according to the Committee, Malta has transposed EU rules and respects OECD standards in terms of transparency, the fight against tax fraud and money laundering. In the co-joined statement, it was acknowledged that the PANA Committee’s testament of the Maltese tax system confirms that Malta is not a tax haven as it

has been labelled by a number of ill-informed speakers from various EU countries as well as certain sectors of the international media.

07. Malta, our country Writing in the Times of Malta of the 14th November, Chamber President Frank V. Farrugia said that Malta is currently under a bright international spotlight and all parties must make an effort and refrain from seeking to gain sectorial or political mileage to the detriment of the country’s reputation as a worthy business destination. “Anything short of this will, in turn, come at a cost to the well-being of us all – employers, workers, professionals, pensioners and students.” Penning the day’s Talking Point, Mr Farrugia expressed his views on the current situation in Malta in the wake of unjust allegations on the country’s taxation system and October’s tragic event. Maintaining that everyone must be responsible for their statements and actions which have a serious influence on the country’s economic progress, he said, “no innocent party and no member of the upstanding business community must be caught in friendly fire or feel unjustly treated. Moreover, individuals who made justifiable use of our transparent, EU-certified structures and invested legitimate funds in or from Malta do not

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CC news

08. deserve unfair or ill-judged treatment from local sources. Ultimately, their actions also contributed to the generation of jobs and the common good in our country,” he said. “Our Chamber also expressed itself on matters concerning the rule of law ahead of the last General Election in a position paper presented to the main political parties and the media. The first of 12 chapters contained in our document was, in fact, entitled ‘Reputation and Good Governance’,” he said. “Matters have since escalated and the country cannot afford to freeze in the proverbial headlights,” the President warned. “Our nation must look ahead. The recent horrendous event has shocked us all, but must now serve to trigger the necessary changes which may come about through constitutional reforms that enjoy broad national consensus.”

08. SMEs learn about financing solutions Businesses seeking solutions on access to finance in order to invest in, and grow their operations were provided with all 70

relevant information on the benefits of two different financing instruments available for SMEs. The BOV JAIME Financing Package and the Business Enhance ERDF Grant Schemes were presented to SMEs during an information session held at the Malta Chamber on 21st November. The event was the latest in a series of collaborations between the Chamber and BOV p.l.c., in a drive to inform SMEs on the availability of financing instruments tailored for their needs. In his welcome address, Malta Chamber Deputy President Perit David Xuereb encouraged members to consider the two instruments in particular as they are notably SME friendly. Obtaining finance as an SME is often restricted due to the lack of assets, goodwill and reputation on which to rely. Meanwhile, in his concluding remarks, Albert Frendo, Chief Credit Business Development Officer at Bank of Valletta said that across Europe, access to finance remains a hurdle for SMEs. “At Bank of Valletta, we retain our focus on SMEs because they are the backbone of our economy.” DECEMBER 2017/JANUARY 2018


NEWS Internationalisation

01. 01. EEN Sector Group meeting held in Malta The Malta Chamber, as Chair of the Enterprise Europe Network’s Sector Group Retail, hosted the bi-annual meeting in Malta in October. The Sector Group is a delegation of business experts from various countries that come together to offer tailored support to retail companies with the aim of helping them innovate and grow internationally. The two-day meeting discussed the work plan and strategic initiatives that are being organised in Malta and on a pan-European level, to maximise partnering opportunities for selected companies. The Sector Group meeting also presented Network partners with a platform to stimulate the exchange of best practice and knowledge, and foster innovation to strengthen the use of eCommerce by retail companies. Indeed, during the two-day meeting, the Malta Chamber also provided an opportunity for Maltese companies with an advanced franchise capacity to pitch their business to the network of partnering experts from several European countries.

November, President of the Malta Chamber Frank V. Farrugia said that great scope for strengthening ties between Malta and Colombia exists, as both countries share numerous commonalities which can be developed for mutual benefit.

The event had the aim of exposing investment opportunities in Colombia, which has access to 47 countries and more than 1.5 billion consumers through its network of free trade agreements. Mr Farrugia said that economic

02. Opportunities of collaboration with Colombia underlined Addressing an event from the ‘Doing Business with:’ series held on 6th DECEMBER 2017/JANUARY 2018

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collaboration between Malta and Colombia was increasing. In fact, between January and December 2016, Malta registered €2.6 million imports from Colombia; doubling the amount of imports (i.e. €1.3 million) during the previous year. This shows a growing positive predisposition to do business within Colombia. “There is scope for strengthening our ties with Colombia because it is a strategic

partner for the European Union, and is the third largest economy in the region after Brazil and Mexico,” Mr Farrugia said. He also underlined the fact that Colombia is ranked 59th in the Ease of Doing Business classification by the World Bank in 2017. The event was addressed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion, Carmelo Abela, the Ambassador of the Republic of Colombia in Italy, H.E. Juan

Mesa Zuleta, together with Pascual Martínez Munárriz from ProColombia, which is the equivalent of our Malta Enterprise in Colombia. Jeff Galea of Room4 Media and Alex Camilleri of Chamber College who are already doing business in Colombia also spoke about their experiences in the South American country.

03. Maltese and Tunisian Chambers cooperate successfully during trade mission 26 Maltese business representatives from 19 Malta-based companies participated in a successful two-day trade mission organised by the Malta Chamber of Commerce Enterprise and Industry together with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Tunis in November. The trade mission coincided with the state visit of H.E. President of Malta Marie Louise Coleiro Preca in Tunisia, which marked the 50th anniversary of the start of bilateral relations between the two countries. This event, which registered approximately 100 business-to-business meetings, was facilitated through Enterprise Europe Network (EEN), a network helping companies thrive internationally, within which both Maltese and Tunisian Chambers operate. cc

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CC make the headlines

Content house launches new website Content House Group, one of Malta’s leading publishers in both print and digital sectors, producing premium content for discerning audiences, has launched its new corporate website on The new corporate website features details of the Group’s prestigious brands, which include some of the island’s most renowned glossy magazines, business publications and digital portals. It allows visitors to browse the latest edition of each publication, as well as to access details of each brand, such as target audience and distribution channel. Moreover, it also introduces the company’s new ventures and provides details for exciting job opportunities across its departments. “Following industry trends, the new corporate website includes many new features and makes use of the latest technologies,” Raisa Mazzola, who is a Business Development and Digital Media Strategist at Content House, explains. “Besides providing information on each of our print and digital products, the site also gives users access to all social media platforms and allows them to easily download official Rate Cards directly from the website. Users can even submit their CV and apply for a job directly through the site, using a simple application procedure.” The site was designed by Think, one DECEMBER 2017/JANUARY 2018

of Malta’s foremost website development companies, whose emphasis on creating a stylish yet functional corporate portal resulted in a product which can reflect the needs of the growing organisation. Indeed, the home page also includes a show reel, produced by leading audio-visual company Maka Visuals, which showcases the diversity of content produced by the Group. Moreover, the brand pages contain an overview as well as strong imagery for each publication or portal. “When we were tasked with designing the new Content House website, we immediately knew that we wanted to create a site which was fresh and bold, and which will reflect the company for who they really are,” Think’s Chief Designer Nick De Gabriele says. “This is why one of the first ideas was to include a show reel which really showcases all the work which goes on behind the scenes of their publications and portals.” Indeed, as Ms Mazzola explains, “the use of images and video play an important role throughout, giving users a visual feel of what the company represents.” Sean Aquilina, Director and Cinematographer at Maka Visuals, echoes

this. “The idea from the very start was to approach the video in a fresh, fun and engaging style, both for filming and editing. This reflects Content House’s identity and the work executed at the brand,” he says. He notes the texture given to the images. “To achieve this visually we tried to include movement in most of the shots and capture specific moments that sell a feeling and mood. This is all in all what Content House do: they tell a story and approach it from the best perspective, so the same approach was taken for the show reel video production,” he concludes. Content House owns and manages Malta’s largest portfolio of high-end magazines and business publications: Style on Sunday, Gwida, Bliss Weddings & Homes and Guide Me, as well as The Business Observer, Business Agenda, The Commercial Courier, Economic Vision and the annual reports for the Malta Chamber of Commerce and the Malta Business Bureau. Moreover, its portals, including and, have experienced year-on-year growth. In addition, Content House is the exclusive national representative of the global Time Out International brand, based in London, producing one of the world’s most recognizable travel guides: Time Out Malta & Gozo. The Group is the Exclusive Media Partner and Bronze Partner of the Malta Chamber of Commerce & Industry. Content House and the Malta Chamber manage a joint venture involving leading business print and digital brands. cc 77


Tech Trends

Looking for the perfect gift for a tech lover this Christmas, or simply keeping an eye out for January sale bargains? Marie-Claire Grima looks at the best gadgets to round off 2017. 01. Meural Canvas


Are you the kind of person who has thousands of beautiful family and travel photos stored on the Cloud that you never do anything with? Or an art aficionado who can’t commit to just one painting for a specific area of the room? The Meural Canvas might be the solution you’ve been searching for. The company’s secondgeneration Canvas digital art 27-inch display allows you to choose what to display, using either the web interface or the mobile app. You can also upload any of your own photos and organise them into playlists, so you’ll never get bored of looking at the wall.

02. Moov Now The Moov Now fitness tracker is a small but versatile piece of tech, able to record a wide range of exercises from swimming to boxing. Unlike other trackers it has no built-in watch, but it’s relatively inexpensive and allows you to track your steps, your sleep, your fitness, your running technique and much more. It’s also relatively cheap and has a six-month battery life – now that’s a real bargain!


03. Touch-Screen Projector


With all the utilities and accessories that our phones contain, a projector that turns any surface into an interactive touch screen could soon become a common household gadget. Stay well ahead of the curve with the Sony Xperia Touch, which allows you to do a wide range of tasks, from annotating a presentation, to playing outsized mobile phone games, to beaming a tricky recipe on to your kitchen surface and scrolling through that, instead of getting your phone dirty.

04. iHome Distortion-Free Mirror Add some pizazz to your morning routine with this ingenious distortion-free mirror from iHome, which features a built-in Bluetooth speaker to play music while getting ready, and a USB jack to keep your phone charged. A removable 3.5-inch mirror with 10x magnification and variable LED lighting around the frame allows you to see as much detail as you want. There’s also a built-in mic with echocancelling technology and support for Siri and Google Assistant, allowing you to get minor tasks done in the middle of your beauty routine. If it saves you an extra five minutes of sleep, it might just be worth it!

05. Amazon Kindle Oasis Amazon’s Kindle Oasis is the first waterproof Kindle, with a large, highresolution display that “reads like printed paper, without glare, even in bright sunlight.” A single charge lasts for weeks, and you can choose between 8GB and 32GB for maximum storage space. It also has the typical advantages of an e-reader, including a massive selection of books, from the latest bestsellers to Kindle exclusives, as well as over 200,000 audio titles from Audiobook. However, it’s worth noting that it doesn’t have a headphone jack, so this feature is only compatible with wireless headphones.

06. Bowers & Wilkins PX Bowers & Wilkins set the gold standard for headphones, and these wireless creations are appealing on every level. The wireless synchronisation is effortless and uninterrupted, the noise-cancelling aspect can’t be faulted, and the blue-and-bronze combination option is extremely handsome. Plus, in a rather left-field move, Bowers & Wilkins have sloped the speakers to direct the sound diagonally, rather than at right angles. That’s music to our ears. cc


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Photos by Alan Carville


When artistic worlds collide Watercolourist Kenneth Zammit Tabona talks Martina Said through his artistic journey, his defining moments, and how his life’s passions all form part of the same puzzle.


enneth Zammit Tabona’s life and art have many things in common – both are colourful, brimming with charisma and defined by a love for things Maltese. His home, which is where we met for this interview, is a showcase of beautiful objects that inspire him and that he holds dear, from fine furniture and collectibles to mesmerising pieces of art and books. And as artistic director of the Manoel Theatre and the Valletta International Baroque Festival, his different roles are all part of his world, one which is defined by art and culture, and an appreciation for beauty, be it in the form of an opera, a poem, or a painting. As we settle in the sitting room of his St Julian’s home, Kenneth tells me that his love for art has been with him since childhood, but a full-time career as an artist wasn’t always on the cards. “I doodled all my life – as a child, whenever I saw a piece of paper and pencil lying around, or even a wall, I’d doodle, sketch and create,” he says. “Throughout my years in college, art became peripheral – in my generation, the last thing we were encouraged


to do was become artists; if you knew how to draw, it was a ‘hobby’, and that’s what it remained for me until the 80s, when a very important meeting in my life took place between myself and Nicholas de Piro.” While their meeting had nothing to do with Kenneth’s art, Marquis Nicholas de Piro, who resides at the stunning 16th century palace in Valletta, Casa Rocca Piccola, encouraged Kenneth, who at that time worked at a local bank, to pursue art professionally. “Nicholas de Piro was and still is a great authority on art, architecture and Maltese history. He is the author of many books, including one which we worked on together, ‘Lost Letters’. I illustrated the book, which I very much enjoyed doing, and went on to illustrate a few more since then,” says Kenneth. A turning point in Kenneth’s journey came about when Marquis de Piro’s cousin, Peter Apap Bologna, opened Melitensia Art Gallery, giving Kenneth the impetus to host his first solo exhibition, which took place in 1992, followed by another exhibition in 1995.

“I doodled all my life – as a child, whenever I saw a piece of paper and pencil lying around, or even a wall, I’d doodle, sketch and create.” 81


“Peter Apap Bologna is very much responsible for my name as an artist because in those days, the art scene in Malta was a very closed shop, and a watercolourist like myself was looked down upon. A memorable accolade I got many years later, from my dear friend and divine artist Pawl Carbonaro, known as ‘Il-Profs’, was “int ma dhaltx milbieb imma dhalt mit-tieqa”, which I thought was great fun,” he quips. Kenneth’s art is a reflection of his surroundings and his primary sources of inspiration: Maltese landscapes and interiors, painted in fluid watercolour. For his landscapes, he’s inspired by the rugged and dramatic coastlines of Malta and Gozo. “Rocks tumbling into the sea, rough seas, and strange cliff formations – they’re all very dramatic to me, and some of the locations I’m most fascinated by are Fomm ir-Rih,


Hondoq ir-Rummien and Filfla. I used to do al fresco work, which is very challenging but rewarding, as your work takes a completely different tack when working under pressure due to rain, sun, wind, insects and all sorts

of unpredictable elements. But you learn to work fast, and painting outdoors is extremely exciting.” As for his other source of inspiration, Maltese interiors, Kenneth needn’t look very far. His home is a treasure trove of fine, striking objects and collectibles, similar to the ones in his paintings. “Beautiful tables, Chinese porcelain, Maltese furniture, Maltese tiles, Majolica, coloured walls – whatever you’re seeing here is a reflection of me, and so is this genre, which nobody else does in Malta,” he says. Dubbed ‘fuoridentros’ by the late Fr Peter Serracino Inglott, the name of the genre is a twist on ‘room with a view’, where the paintings incorporate a variety of objets d’art within a Maltese setting, with a landscape seen through an open window. Asked what attracts him towards these particular themes, Kenneth says “you paint what you feel, enjoy, and absorb from your surroundings. Very rarely do I get inspired by a landscape or a subject that is not Maltese – I’ve done a few Moroccan paintings which I enjoyed, and a series of Indian paintings as I fell deeply in love with the country the first time I visited, but apart from those, it’s always been Malta.” DECEMBER 2017/JANUARY 2018

CC MEET THE ARTIST vases in my paintings, for instance, are my own. I observe, I study, and then I create my own. It has to be a creation, it cannot be a copy. Even when I painted al fresco – my landscapes were an interpretation of what I saw in front of me.” Kenneth made the transition towards a full-time artist in 2001, after leaving his job at the bank where he worked for 29 years. He pursued his artistic career professionally for 10 years, and today, divides his work as an artist with the role of artistic director at the Manoel Theatre and artistic director of the Valletta International Baroque Festival. “Both of these roles are creative; when I’m designing a festival or a season for the theatre, it’s like painting a picture,” he explains. “As an artist, people often ask how long it takes to finish a painting, but the answer is that you never really start or finish; what you put into a particular painting is a culmination of everything you’ve learnt, all the techniques you’ve mastered, all the ideas you’ve absorbed throughout your life, and it’s the same with my other roles. I believe it’s the same with all the arts really, which is why I find both my jobs to be so congenial.” His first solo exhibition in 2001, which took place within weeks of leaving the protected environment he worked in for so long, was a defining moment for the artist, as well as a leap into the dark. “Suddenly, I was on my own and dependant entirely on what I was creating. The success of that exhibition, which took place at the Malta Chamber of Commerce in November 2001, offered the reassurance that hard work pays off.

Kenneth’s medium of choice is watercolour, inspired by his childhood mentor, Giuseppe Arcidiacono. Following his illustrations for ‘Lost Letters’ in pen and ink, the artist experimented with gouache for a while, before switching to watercolours when he started painting al fresco, satisfying both his imaginative side as well as his love for colour. “Watercolour is wonderful but also very unforgiving, in that what’s done is done and cannot be altered, so it’s a challenge every time. Of course, my work today is the result of experimentation – every painting is an experiment, and every time you’re faced with a blank paper, whether or not it will work is an experiment. However, refining your style, technique and colours is truly a case of practice makes perfect. I don’t think there is a self-satisfied artist – you are your own worst critic.” Despite the resemblance between his own home and the interiors depicted in his paintings, Kenneth doesn’t paint from still life. “I suppose I could but I prefer to do my own. I’ve always hated copying anything, and whatever I paint is from my own imagination,” he explains. “The Chinese DECEMBER 2017/JANUARY 2018

“Beautiful tables, Chinese porcelain, Maltese furniture, Maltese tiles, Majolica, coloured walls – whatever you’re seeing here is a reflection of me, and so is this genre, which nobody else does in Malta.”



“Watercolour is wonderful but also very unforgiving, in that what’s done is done and cannot be altered, so it’s a challenge every time.”

Art is hard work, which people might not always realise. There’s this idea that artists float through life on a cloud, occasionally producing work, similar to the 19th century poet living in melancholy wearing stained shirts and funny berets – it’s not like that at all. 20 per cent is inspiration, another 30 per cent is knowledge, but the other 50 per cent is blood, sweat and tears.” With the sixth edition of the Valletta International Baroque Festival kicking off in January 2018 and the recent re-opening of the Manoel Theatre, the artist admits that, although he’s not painting as much as he would like to, he’s still happy to be creating a form of art that can be shared and experienced. “At the moment, the creative side of me is happy doing what I always felt Malta deserved with the Manoel Theatre, as well as through the Valletta International Baroque Festival which I conceived and is now in its sixth year. All my roles are creative and ones I’m passionate about. So as long as I’m being creative, I’m happy.” cc 86



Evolving into a leaner business Ing. Joseph Micallef, Partner and Chief Operations Officer at BEAT Limited, discusses how the elimination of process waste within a company can help improve efficiency and deliver greater productivity.


dentifying and eliminating process waste requires determining whether something is adding value or not. One has to ask questions such as, “Is the customer willing to pay for the activity?” and “Does the activity add value to the good or service?” One should also ask whether the activity is being done first time round or otherwise. If the activity is a rework or a fix, it can be immediately deduced that such subsequent activities are sheer waste. Preventing reasons for rework, redoing and/or verifying outcomes is one of the simplest means of eliminating waste. Ing. Joseph Micallef, Partner and Chief Operations Officer at BEAT Limited, a Maltese niche-based consulting firm specialising in the provision of project management, strategic advice and business transformation solutions, defines waste as “anything which does not add value to one’s product or service offering. This applies to all types of business activity, since businesses operate through processes.” Ing. Micallef says that an essential part of implementing Lean Management principles lies in identifying the process waste: the non-value adding activities. “Whilst these are more evident in the more tangible operations-oriented business set-up – think about rejected stock carried within the quarantine stores, for example – it becomes trickier to identify such waste in less tangible, service-oriented business settings. But just imagine a pool of administrators who are busy tapping at their keyboards, repeatedly keying in data bits into a myriad of e-forms, possibly duplicating and making data entry errors in the process too! Waste can occur in any type of business process, whether

it is a tangible operations-oriented one or (possibly even more!) service-oriented one and within an administrative environment,” he maintains. The foundation for a solution lies in developing as correct a process definition as possible, with clear roles and responsibilities being identified for specific activities and tasks. From this, the skills and talents demanded by each role are identified, and subsequently fit the rightful resource capability within that role. “It goes without saying that building the right culture, which recognises the strengths and potential contribution of your people, promoting team work, providing sufficient training and coaching, and empowering leadership will contribute towards the engagement of all employees,” Ing. Micallef states. “When it comes to human capital, Lean Management principles promote optimised people who are flexible, multi-skilled and cross-functional, who can deliver value across the process value stream.” Of course, some degree of specialisation is inevitable, so some specialist roles have to be maximised by directing them towards their relevant strengths. “The most successful organisations are those which manage to encourage their people to take ownership of their areas, processes, products and services, thus promoting a sense of pride, involvement and engagement. Your people are your biggest asset: respect them, nurture them and involve them in your business, and you will reap the rewards,” he advises. Poor communication can be said to be at the source of many inefficiencies and waste, Ing. Micallef insists, and most issues, such as defects, excess processing and







overproduction, can generally all be traced to poor communication and an unclear understanding of goals, roles, targets, standards, procedures and systems. “While completely eradicating any form of waste can be a difficult task, defects, for example, can certainly be limited by the communication and application of standardised work plans, more stringent quality assurance at all levels, a full understanding of work requirements and customer needs, and simple job aids such as poka-yoke, which is Japanese for ‘mistakeproofing’.” This is where BEAT comes in. The company’s mission is to ensure that organisations who call on the company for support benefit from a well-designed methodology which will improve efficiency and deliver greater productivity within their processes. “Our end-objective is to achieve a leaner organisation that is adaptable to changes and ready to evolve in anticipation of its internal and/or external environment and influences,” Ing. Micallef says. “To do all this, we work hand in hand with executives and staff at all levels within the organisation. Information gleaned from the client’s strategic direction, operational activity and organisation set-up, together with participative stakeholder consultation workshops, will help us identify missioncritical business processes, key operational and management metrics, and priorities for improvement. This would be followed by the appointment of Business Process Owners and Change Champions within the organisation, who are empowered to lead the process internally. We then proceed with an analysis of existing processes, identifying critical weaknesses and outlining the relevant redesign principles,” he explains. Together with management, BEAT defines process improvement goals, identifies the investment required for the proposed implementation plan, and sets out to formulate and deliver that plan. “We remain on hand to carry out the implementation phase and to see the project through till its completion. We also place considerable attention on the transfer of knowledge and expertise to ensure ownership and the longterm validity of our work, providing innovative and pragmatic recommendations to allow in-house personnel to implement and follow up on our work effectively into the future,” Ing. Micallef says, emphasising that business process management revolves around three DECEMBER 2017/JANUARY 2018


“Without the right methodology and the core people to execute, improvement can be somewhat limited.”

Photo by Inigo Taylor

“It’s inevitable that a small business growing at pace will need new systems and processes to keep moving forward, but while scaling up sounds ‘sexy’ in theory, in practice it can be a minefield.”


important factors: methodology, people and technology. “Without the right methodology and the core people to execute, improvement can be somewhat limited. Technology is there to be ‘exploited’ after we have mastered the first two factors. If technology is applied to a situation in which people are being utilised ineffectively, or if the process design and methodology is less than optimal, technology will, at best, help save some time, and at worst, help an organisation generate waste faster!”

While evolution is a challenge for businesses of all sizes, implementing it carefully is especially important for small but growing businesses, for which properly handled business process management can help maintain growth in flexible, sustainable and measurable ways. “It’s inevitable that a small business growing at pace will need new systems and processes to keep moving forward, but while scaling up sounds ‘sexy’ in theory, in practice it can be a minefield,” Ing. Micallef warns. “Bear in mind, wildlife that evolved over time is the ultimate survivor. If a business owner is not geared to evolve in anticipation of upcoming change, business success may be jeopardised.” To this effect, measures recommended by Ing. Micallef include improving cash flow, recruiting and maintaining competent staff, and promoting flexibility, multiple skill capabilities and cross-functionality with a careful dose of specialisation where needed. “Automating repetitive tasks that are generally expected to remain unchanged for a considerable number of processes whilst introducing more flexible automation for the more volatile tasks are just some of the considerations that can benefit from being systemised in a fast-growing business. Approached correctly, business process management (BPM) can help your company adjust to the changes that rapid growth brings. Whether you, as an SME owner, bring in a consultant or tackle it in-house, BPM can help reduce costs, improve overall company performance and organisational flexibility, and give your company an edge over competitors.” Whichever way one goes about it, reviewing one’s business processes on a regular basis ensures that these evolve in step with business growth. “Having simple systems and procedures makes it easier to ensure that things are done consistently, and that employees operate in an expected way. With any process that you implement, keep in mind that the beauty of a start-up is its agility; that you can change and evolve your business model overnight. Implement efficient processes to make growth manageable, but hang on to that agility for as long as you possibly can.” “At the end of the day, ignoring any waste generation activities in the process encourages negative development. Only systematic discovery and elimination of waste improves such processes, ensures positive development, and ultimately maximises output and profitability. And that is, after all, what every manager should be aiming for,” he concludes. cc 89


The art of reinvention One of the successes of a business is marked by how quickly and well it can adapt to an ever-changing environment, and Gio. Batta Delia is a perfect example of this. Martina Said chats with Patrick Delia, the fourth generation running the business, to find out how the business is still around after 116 years.


ocated at the beginning of Republic Street in Valletta, opposite what used to be the Royal Opera House, Gio. Batta Delia captures the spirit of times gone by, while reflecting a sense of innovation in line with modern times. The shop’s façade still boasts its original shop sign, perched above the stunning entrance of Palazzo Ferreria, which is a sight in itself. Flanked by a pair of Corinthian columns, the doorway is grand, ornate and reflective of the architectural masterpiece that is the entire palazzo. However, the shop’s scope has changed tremendously since its early years, and Gio. Batta Delia today houses the internationallyrespected brand Tommy Hilfiger, following a number of years in the furniture and retailing industries. The firm was founded in 1901 by Giovanni Battista Delia, the great grandfather of Patrick Delia, who today runs the business together with his brother, John Jr. “Gio Batta, as he was widely known, was born in Cospicua in 1882, where he received his early education. It wasn’t long before his artistic talents emerged, particularly in furniture design and woodcarving, and he set up his first small shop in Oratory Street, Cospicua, on 4th February 1901, when he was just 19 years old,” says Patrick Delia. “After a few years, his business started growing, and it was only

natural that he made the move to Valletta.” Before moving to its current location on Republic Street, Gio. Batta Delia occupied a number of adjacent shops in St Paul’s Street, opposite the old University, together with a number of houses on St Ursula Street which were used as workshops for his woodwork. “In the 1920s, the business started to expand significantly, while Gio Batta was already successfully participating in international trade shows in various European cities like London, Rome, Milan, Turin, Paris and Toulouse. He won several medals and certificates at international fairs for his work, which we still have today, and which recognised the originality and fine craftsmanship of his pieces,” says Mr Delia. As the firm’s reputation for excellence grew locally and abroad, Gio Batta moved the showrooms to Palazzo Ferreria on Republic Street in the 1930s. “Initially, he occupied a number of floors within the palazzo, which belonged to the Francia family. However, when World War II struck, the showrooms were closed and the family moved to Gozo for some time. Until this point, over 100 people were employed by the firm, but seeing as my great grandfather still had to make a living during the war, he was granted permission by the authorities to keep a few tradesmen, as nearly all the staff members were absorbed

“We had many esteemed clients including Princess Elizabeth and Lady Mountbatten, a number of governors as well as local VIPs.”


by the voluntary services.” Gio Batta’s son, Jack, had been helping out in the business for some time, and when the war ended, he took over the business completely. “Gio Batta had five children, including Jack. Once the war was over, he left Jack to run the business. His other two sons had joined the priesthood, and his two daughters were not involved in the family business, as was customary in those days.” Palazzo Ferreria was fortunate to escape a direct hit during the war; it sustained significant damage when the Royal Opera House was attacked and destroyed, but the damage was limited to the façade of the palazzo, mainly the balconies and windows. “We have in our records a written account by Gio Batta on how he, together with his family, heard Benito Mussolini over the radio declare war on Malta, and how they feared what was in store for them.” Mr Delia adds that, interestingly, many years before the war, when Gio Batta was in Rome participating in an international fair in 1928, Benito Mussolini himself had admired a particular piece of furniture made by the firm, and Gio Batta decided to leave the piece as a gift to him after the fair ended. “We have an official document sent by the Italian government thanking him for the gesture. As a firm, we still have an original piece of this type of cabinet, which featured revolving drawers and a shutter type of lock-up.” Gio. Batta Delia’s fine work enjoyed the attention of other notable names, not least Princess Elizabeth before she became Queen, who was invited to inaugurate a Trade and Industry Exhibition at the Chamber of Commerce to mark their 100th anniversary in 1948. The firm had participated, and Mr Delia’s grandfather, Jack, had the honour of meeting the Princess. “We had many esteemed clients who lived on the island for stretches of time, including Princess Elizabeth and Lady Mountbatten, a number of governors as well as local VIPs. We had received a number of letters of appreciation and thanks for purchases these people had made at the shop over the years. One or two remarkable pieces of DECEMBER 2017/JANUARY 2018


furniture may still to be found at The Palace in Valletta,” says Mr Delia. “The façade of the shop on Kingsway also used to be beautifully decorated for major events such as the Coronations of the King of England and later of the Queen of England. In fact, the firm had won a silver medal in a local competition for best decorated façade in Valletta for the Coronation of King George VI.” While Gio. Batta Delia continued producing furniture for years after the war, a shift started to occur in the 1960s, when Jack’s children, Albert and John, gradually took over the running of the business and began focusing increasingly on importation and retailing of fine chinaware and glass. “Slowly but surely, this move paid off, as while the furniture manufacturing side was struggling, the interest in beautiful and fine-quality giftware and dinnerware was rising. It must also be noted that in these years, the presence of the British forces and NATO in Malta helped this line of business greatly, and Gio. Batta Delia became the first overseas member to be accepted by the

Chinaware and Glass Retailers’ Association of the UK in 1970.” Over the years, Gio. Batta Delia became synonymous with brands of the finest quality, an Aladdin’s cave of porcelain, bone china and crystal. “The introduction of wedding lists on the island gave the business an enormous impetus, and we consider the period between the 1980s and the year 2000 to be our golden years,” says Mr Delia. “We can boast having had the largest collection of Europe’s finest brands under one roof, at that special space still occupying 307, Ferreria Palace.” However, following the turn of the century, this line of business also started to decline. “In hindsight, our great love for chinaware and glass blinded our sights for the future, and the business started to struggle. This was also at a time when Albert and John, nearing their retirement, took a step back. After Albert retired completely, the business was being run by John and his two sons, my brother, John Jnr, and I. Unfortunately, the international situation with most of our suppliers in chinaware and glass also took a turn for the worse, as many known brands started closing their factories and changing their sources of production.” It was at this point that the Delia brothers took the bold decision to change course entirely, in order for the business to survive and thrive. In October 2008, Gio. Batta Delia had its first ever sale to clear the stock they had left, and closed their doors for four months on 30th December that same year to embark on a new venture. “We had discussed many options for our next move, but in the end, we made a decision which has proven to be the right one. From being a showplace of fine arts, Gio. Batta Delia was converted to one of the most beautiful fashion stores locally, retailing international brand Tommy Hilfiger

“From being a showplace of fine arts, Gio. Batta Delia was converted to one of the most beautiful fashion stores locally, retailing international brand Tommy Hilfiger.”


through our collaboration with the franchise holders of the brand, Trilogy Ltd,” says Mr Delia. “The renovation of the premises was an outstanding experience, especially discovering areas which I had not seen myself in the 30 or so years that I had worked at the palazzo. The building got a completely different look as its walls became more exposed, after having been covered by chinaware showcases for over 50 years. A new colour scheme was introduced, and expertly-installed lighting brought out the magnificent treasures carved into the stone. One could really begin to appreciate the fine architecture of this palace all over again.” The firm has retained some of its roots, as apart from retailing Tommy Hilfiger, Gio. Batta Delia still sells chinaware and glass brands through Facebook and online, in part thanks to a number of loyal customers who have an affinity for fine gifts and tableware. Having been located in the capital for so long, and managed by four generations of the Delia family, Gio. Batta Delia and its employees have witnessed the transformation of Valletta from the royal box. Mr Delia asserts, “over the last 15 years, a great amount of work has been done to bring Valletta back to what it should stand for – a truly magnificent city. What Valletta needs now is a concrete plan with a way forward. Over-development will be counter-productive, and what I would like to see is greater enforcement when it comes to the daily upkeep and cleaning of the city, to make sure it is in ship-shape to welcome the thousands of visitors who flock to see it every day.” As Gio. Batta Delia celebrates its 116th year of business, Mr Delia says he only wants the best for Valletta, in keeping with its year ahead as European Capital of Culture. “We hope to be around for at least another 100 years, while doing our best to keep our customers happy with whatever we will be doing in the future. After all, apart from location, customer satisfaction is the key to success.” cc



Office Trends


04. Incorporating technology

The new year brings with it new trends when it comes to office interior design and ways of working. Sarah Micallef discovers what to expect. 01. Inspired by home Mobile working has been on the rise over the past years, but productivity still appears higher within an office scenario. This is leading employers to approach office design in a different way, incorporating elements that make employees feel comfortable and more ‘at home’. With most personnel preferring to work in an environment that feels like a home away from home, it’s no wonder that employers are taking notice, and doing so is likely to unlock new levels of engagement and an increased sense of wellbeing among office workers in 2018.

02. Gingham On a smaller scale, stationery and desk accessories always have a way of brightening up the office environment, and are subject to their own trends too. This season, it’s no surprise that stationery and accessories are experiencing a festive touch, with the print du jour currently being gingham. Along with plaid and tartan, gingham is certainly reminiscent of the Christmas season, and will infuse your desk accessories with a little preppy twist to boot.

A definite new trend in office design and furniture has to do with incorporating technology, through in-built technology ports, docking stations, cable management systems and easy to reach power points. One such option, the Silva desking range by Nurus (pictured), incorporates interesting options that allow users to add high-end cable management and smart technology solutions such as electric towers for multi-plug use.

05. Retro prints When it comes to office design, trends in interior design and décor do play a part if you’re looking to have some fun and add a little flair. One of 2018’s fresh trends will see a resurgence of bold retro prints, particularly when it comes to furniture and soft furnishings. Main elements include leaf prints, which look great against polished, minimal interiors paired with a couple of statement antique items.

06. Branding


Kellys Bleachers

While the importance and power of branding has long been known when it comes to your clients, its impact on employees has often been ignored – until now. Incorporating the company’s branding into your employees’ work environment can go a way towards fostering brand loyalty and workplace culture, and next year, trend forecasters predict a renewed attention to the importance given to branding in workplace design. cc

03. Green dividers The days of desk cubicles within the office environment are well and truly behind us, but for those workers who still value peace and privacy while they work, the way to go is green! Open office spaces and collaborative work environments are great, but if you’re looking to add a little privacy, free-standing green walls are a great way to do it. Forget dull walls and dividers, green walls not only make for an attractive barrier, but also reduce noise reduction and improve air quality.



Office Snapshots


Herringbone Hearts


Office Landscapes

Marksman Style


silva-desks OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2017



Transforming the iconic Macina

Photos by Elsa Allen

The historic ‘Macina’ building has been a permanent fixture overlooking Malta’s Grand Harbour since 1554, but it has come a long way since its days as a 14th century ship repair building. Following an extensive restoration and design project, it is now ready to start afresh as one of the island’s most luxurious boutique hotels, comprising 12 individually tailored suites each featuring its own beautiful, contemporary design. Sarah Micallef speaks to the team at DAAA Haus, who are responsible for its impressive transformation.





t was a privilege to work on such a prestigious site,” the team at DAAA Haus state, speaking of their recently-completed project. And it’s hardly surprising – formerly a 14th century ship repair building, the Macina certainly takes its place among Malta’s many distinguished historical sites. Because of this, they say, “it was essential to pertain many of the fantastic architectural features the building already had to offer.” Indeed, the aim behind the project was to combine natural features and traditional materials with modern clean lines, and the resulting design expertly juxtaposes what is truly old and of historic value with the new. “With amazing and intriguing communal spaces, large high-vaulted ceilings, ample natural light and unobstructed marina views, a minimal design was enough to create a luxury environment,” the DAAA Haus team explain. At the start of the project, the building had lain derelict for years, necessitating extensive rebuilding and restoration. Asked what the process was like, the team assert, “DAAA Haus follows a standard procedure when starting a project. After going on site, internal meetings in which many brainstorming sessions on design direction took place, after which a concept was constructed for the boutique hotel. The building itself inspired the design direction – its restoration was a big defining factor when it came to the process of the design direction.” Elaborating on the design, they explain that designing a modern contemporary hotel within the unique Macina building called for a strong palette of raw natural materials, not to mention a great amount of respect for the building. “Each room and corridor is unique, and therefore called for bespoke furniture and carpentry throughout. Meanwhile, the materials chosen had to be strong in character, high-quality and well-balanced, much like the building itself,” they maintain.

“With amazing and intriguing communal spaces, large high-vaulted ceilings, ample natural light and unobstructed marina views, a minimal design was enough to create a luxury environment,”




“Each room and corridor is unique, and called for bespoke furniture and carpentry throughout.”

Indeed, the team elected to use a combination of lacquered raw steel, limed oak and Carrara marble, slate, lava stone, Maltese hard stone and custom tinted glass and mirror throughout – contemporary materials that sit elegantly within the walls of Macina, reflecting light and the colours within the building. The DAAA Haus team went on to design custom furniture for every space within the building, that was then crafted by local craftsmen and carpenters, they explain, while for other pieces, they worked with reputable European designers to source unique lighting and finishing touches for each room. “Tom Dixon, Flos and Louis Paulson lights sit with hand tufted wool rugs, Scandinavian furniture and bespoke Italian sofas and beds. Bathrooms are a stark contrast to the chalk white walls and limestone throughout the building. Bathrooms are lined in contemporary natural slate, with large walk-in showers, marble vanities and separate dressing or wardrobe space; with some rooms featuring a very luxurious standalone bath tub,” they maintain. The rooms are certainly luxurious in size and appearance, and make for a truly worthy backdrop. Made up of large vaulted spaces with arches, mezzanines which float above huge custom bathrooms, as well as unique and historical industrial features from Macina’s former life as a ship repair building are on view everywhere. Rooms and common areas are also washed in natural light through custom linen curtains. DECEMBER 2017/JANUARY 2018



“Macina is a testament of taste, quality and luxury, reflecting the lifestyle of the guests that will be residing in the ultra-luxury suites.” Asked about the inspiration behind the impressive space, the team affirm that the project was unquestionably inspired by the history of the building. “It is a unique design, mainly involving the restoration of the circa 1,500-year-old seafront fortified building into the luxury boutique hotel it has blossomed into today,” they say. And while it may be difficult to pinpoint the design style achieved within such a unique project, the team refer to it predominantly as a modern contemporary style using raw and modern materials. “Macina is a testament of taste, quality and luxury,


reflecting the lifestyle of the guests that will be residing in the ultra-luxury suites,” they affirm. While hard pressed to point out a favourite or key aspect of the project, a feature that certainly sticks out is the iconic lift found in the heart of the building. “Modern materials are used against traditional Maltese limestone, creating a beautiful contrast. Going up in the lift is also a part of the experience for the guests, as it provides iconic views of the surrounding architectural features,” the team explain. Meanwhile, a project of this scale and complexity does not come without its

challenges, and the team faced a few of these throughout the process, when unforeseen issues cropped up due to the intricate architecture of the building, and plans needed to be adapted accordingly. “The main challenges were adapting the design to the many architectural features the building provided, retaining the essence of the building and further enhancing it by juxtaposing these with modern materials and minimal design,” they say – a feat that, given the Macina’s remarkable transformation today, was certainly a worthy one. cc


Food Trends

04. Gin all the way

‘Tis the season to gorge – but on what? From 1970s inspired fare to a taste of the Orient, Rebecca Anastasi has got your gluttony needs covered. 01. A 1970s Christmas Do you remember the days when you sneaked a naughty lick off your grandmother’s Black forest gateau? Well, get your taste buds ready because the ‘70s are back! The current love for all things vintage has now ventured onto our plates, with retro canapés such as vol au vents and the everpopular quiche featuring heavily on menus around the globe. Mushy peas optional.

02. Japanese comfort food You’ve had sushi and your fair share of miso and noodle soup (though you’d love to have a bit more sake). But now’s the time to truly indulge in some Japanese comfort food. Yakitori chicken skewers, the moreish okonomiyaki (a bit like tarja, but with meat or seafood on it) and octopus-filled batter balls, otherwise known as takoyaki, are sure to become firm favourites.

03. Mince pies… with a difference! Make this Christmas a truly special one with chocolate infused mince pies. Yes, you heard right. Chocolate makes an appearance in that firm festive favourite. And, while most seasonal customs should not be tampered with, any indulgent addons to traditional treats are fine by us.

There is no such thing as too much gin. Unless it’s 3am and you’ve got an early start. And while the drink may be more popular in the UK, it has caught on in Malta and has nestled into the routine of many an evening. But, make this tipple the deserved centre of your celebrations by selecting gin-cured salmon, gin-infused truffles and supporting sides like sloe-gin polenta. Have a very merry Ginmas!

FOOD&WINE Huffington Post

05. Florals Retailer Whole Foods’ predictions for food trends in 2018 include floral flavours, specifically mentioning elderflower as MVP (Most Valuable Petal). While this may be a springtime blossom, you can use the flower-based liqueur to add the infusion to your prosecco cocktails and spritzers. Flowers never tasted so good.

06. Hybrid food Creativity takes centre stage with an evergrowing concept in the gastronomic world: hybrid food. This involves combining two or more different culinary traditions, such as these Korean tacos, or the waffogato (an ice-cream waffle soaked in espresso) and the cronut (a cross between a doughnut and croissant). Cultural combinations such as these will amaze your guests and be the source of much conversation. cc

01. Bon Appetit

02. Taste & Smile

Piece of Yum

04. Delicious

06. DECEMBER 2017/JANUARY 2018



03. 103

CC make the headlines

Is our national pension scheme fit for purpose? By Marouska Camilleri, Marketing Executive, PKF Malta As part of PKF Malta’s CSR, we took the initiative to carry out an economic analysis of the current pension system. This analysis was considered necessary because according to recent economic surveys, Malta’s pension adequacy is predicted to be a positive one. Despite these predictions, the latest survey on income and social conditions issued by the NSO indicates that the number of individuals who are at risk of poverty as at 2016 amounted to 69,920 individuals, which translates to an increase of 0.2 per cent when compared to 2015. The study also highlights that the proportion of individuals aged 65+ who are at risk of poverty increased from 23.1 per cent to 26.1 per cent in 2016. EU member states determine whether an individual is at risk of poverty if their income level is at 60 per cent of the national equivalised income or less. Poverty is defined as the inability of an individual to afford an adequate standard of consumption. There are two types of poverty: absolute poverty and relative poverty. The absolute poverty relates to the inability of individuals to afford basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter over a long period of time whereas, relative poverty relates to the economic status of other members of society and is defined as the individual’s inability to afford goods and services that average people in society are accustomed to enjoying. When it comes to the local pension system, our study reveals that if the retirement benefits are not supplemented by external income, people in this age group of 65+ will fall into the poverty trap. Moreover, faced with the increase of an aging population and a decrease in the birth rate, this pincer effect is threatening the viability and effectiveness of the pension system, to the detriment of public finances. To check this, PKF has volunteered to undertake an analysis from the demand side


perspective, by conducting a number of one-toone questionnaires with people visiting Valletta and Sliema, and interviewing residents at three state-funded retirement homes. A factor which negatively influences the sustainability of the national pension system is the low female labour participation rate. As the latest employment statistics show, the female participation in the workforce is still low compared to the EU average. This situation was also confirmed in this study, since the majority of women interviewed stated that they do not have their own pension. An interesting observation from the study is that 14 per cent of respondents interviewed in Valletta/Sliema stated that their actual pension is less than €500 a month whereas 42 per cent of respondents receive more than €800 a month. In contrast, in the retirement homes, more than half of the respondents claimed that their actual pension income is between €500 and €700 a month. In fact, 64 per cent of the Valletta and Sliema respondents declared that they spend all their pension, and the rest stated that they manage to save less than €200 a month. On the other hand, 88 per cent of the pensioners in state-retirement homes spend all their pension income, and 12 per cent manage to save less than €200 a month. Moreover, some of the respondents also indicated that they often draw on past savings. Furthermore, a number of individuals highlighted that they are not able to be socially active and have no money to visit museums, attend concerts or even travel. However, paradoxically, when interviewees were asked about the adequacy of the pension system in Malta, most commented that it is adequate. The reasons for this contrasting comment could be attributed to various factors associated with conducting face-to-face

surveys, as respondents may have felt uneasy and uncomfortable to state that the pension system is not adequate. In reality, we may conclude that the pension (especially for lowincome earners) is just enough to cover their basic needs. In conclusion, our study calls for further upgrades to the pension system over the long-term scenario. In particular, Government may consider introducing the personal highincome rate account system, whereby private individuals would be able to invest savings and earn a higher return. The results of such studies were presented to a number of policy stakeholders. Most parties agreed with the results and referred to the 2018 Budget proposal to introduce the ‘equity release scheme’ whereby Government would provide the pensioner with a ‘loan’ using their matrimonial home as collateral. This loan would be invested to yield extra income which they could use to meet daily expenses. Another recommendation was to allow migrants to register for work legally, thus contributing to the pool of social security contributions. cc T: 2148 4373; E:


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Financial Planning sessions for BOV Investment Centre Clients November brought to a close a series of workshops focusing on Financial Planning organised by Bank of Valletta’s Retail Business Support Unit for clients of its network of six Investment Centres and their satellite branches. Hosted at various venues around Malta and Gozo, the sessions saw BOV speakers discussing the importance of consciously planning one’s financial priorities at different junctions in one’s lifetime. Discussing the initiative, Grace Debono who heads the Retail Business Support function within the bank explains, “often people tend to procrastinate on their investment decisions either because they don’t feel sufficiently confident or because they believe investment solutions to be complicated, and so they opt for the conventional term deposit account to put away their life savings.” However, as Grace explains, “we need to plan for our financial well-being in the same manner that we plan for other milestones in our lives, especially if we

Express Trailers investment takes warehousing to new level Express Trailers has acquired a new 2,800sqm warehouse in Qormi to centralise all its managed warehousing activity from one depot and to be able to cater for the increased business in this sector.

Some of the speakers who delivered presentations during this event. L to R - Robert Grech, Mark Vella, Grace Debono, Nadia Mizzi and Lawrence Farrugia

want to ensure that we can afford our current lifestyles once we reach retirement age and are no longer in gainful employment.” Pitted against the rising life expectancy age, forecast to be in the region of 84 by 2050 for the Maltese population, BOV speakers explain how one’s priorities in life change depending on one’s circumstances. “Likewise, one cannot retain the same financial plan throughout one’s life. The plan needs to match one’s circumstances; probably riskier for younger investors seeking to grow their capital base, and eventually growing more balanced and conservative as one gets closer to retirement and the main focus becomes income generation,” explains Mark Vella, Head of Marketing and Business Development at BOV Asset Management. Thus these sessions served to set the scene for clients to consciously think about when and how much they should start

investing at a given point in time, and what fallback measures one should adopt for a rainy day. The input of the Investment Centre and the satellite branches was critical for the success of these sessions, explains Grace Debono. The managers of the Investment Centre continuously work closely with the management at the respective branches, to ensure that the service delivered to the individual customer reaches the desired level of expectation. “Bank of Valletta strongly believes that it has an active role to play in the communities in which it operates. Financial education features highly on the bank’s agenda, and these sessions were among the initiatives undertaken this year to support the bank’s clients, enabling them to take more informed decisions vis-à-vis their financial goals,” concludes Ms Debono. cc

“The company always had vision. In 1995, Express Trailers was already the first local service company to attain ISO certification. Today, we are reaping the fruits of those business decisions,” says Franco Azzopardi, Chairman and CEO of Express Trailers. Commenting on what led to this move, Mr Azzopardi explained how space is increasingly becoming a very valuable asset and companies should look into more ways utilising it more productively. “Today, the prospects of more growth in this activity led us to start consolidating our available space and we decided to centralise our managed warehousing service under one roof

to be able to offer a better and more efficient service to an increased demand. Our pharma warehouses will remain next to our main offices but our current managed warehouses located opposite will be moved to this new 2,800sqm warehouse in Qormi, leaving us with more space that will be utilised better to gain more efficiencies,” adds Mr Azzopardi. “Companies should ideally concentrate on investing in their people and their core operations, and leave the handling of imports, exports, deliveries and distributions to a company like ours which is specialised and already equipped with the space and the means to handle this increasingly complex activity.” “What we are offering is a scalable storage and distribution solution, a ‘pay as you use’ system where merchants no longer need warehouses, equipment, human resources and a fleet of delivery vans but can avail themselves of the space they need, thus cutting significant costs, especially when their stored stocks are at their lowest.” “This latest investment in our new 2,800sqm warehouse in Qormi’s industrial estate is our company’s next important move. We are confident that this will be a concrete step that will cement Express Trailers as the leader in the local managed warehousing sector,” concludes Mr Azzopardi. cc



CC make the headlines

TradeMalta announces the winners for Malta International Business Awards The six winners of the first-ever Malta International Business Awards (MIBA) were announced on Friday 10th November. The awards were organised to honour the achievements of Maltabased companies seeking to do international business by selling their products and services abroad. Representing the best of Maltese exports to the world, the winners of the six categories of MIBA are: Small Business: 365 Squared, award presented by Big Exhibits Medium-Sized Business: Altaro Software, award presented by BPC International Ltd Large Business: Toly Group, award presented by TradeMalta Emerging Markets: Medserv, award presented by HSBC Bank Malta

Innovation Exporter: Ascent Software, award presented by Grant Thornton High Potential Exporter: Thynk Software, award presented by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion A seventh award, representing the overall winner of the MIBA was also announced during the evening. Toly Group won this award which was presented by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion Carmelo Abela. The event was endorsed by the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion. TradeMalta organised the events together with its strategic partner HSBC Bank Malta. Other sponsors included Grant Thornton, Big Exhibits and BPC

International Ltd. The awards ceremony was held during a gala dinner held at The Radisson Blu Resort, St Julian’s. For the inaugural edition, TradeMalta received a total of 38 applications containing more than 900 supporting documents. The finalists were identified following a rigorous scoring process which was published with the Entrant Guide and each participant was asked to submit documentation pertaining to a host of parameters, including international turnover, profitability, internationalisation efforts, competitive advantage, and innovation and internationalisation capacity. The audit firm Grant Thornton assisted in the scoring of the submitted applications. cc

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Five new robotic capabilities available to SME manufacturers A new generation of collaborative robots (or cobots) is already changing the game for many smaller-scale manufacturers, helping them compete more effectively. Cobots by Universal Robots are specifically designed to work side-by-side with the human workforce, without any costly, spacegrabbing protective installations and have five capabilities to be underlined. 1. Quick to set up With cobots from Universal Robots, even an untrained operator can unpack the new robot, mount it and begin programming simple tasks in a matter of hours. 2. Easy to programme – no special skills needed Most smaller manufacturing operations don’t have a robotic programmer on staff – and can’t afford to hire one. Universal Robots systems enables operators with no programming experience at all to quickly

programme robotic movements much like using a smartphone. 3. Work safely side-by-side with human operators Conventional industrial robots usually require large, separate enclosures, which add cost, take up operating space, and reduce flexibility on the production floor. Management also has to deal with the safety risks associated with anyone getting inside the protective enclosure while the robot is operating. But smaller manufacturers can rarely afford to set aside space for such requirements. By contrast, 80 per cent of the thousands of Universal Robots devices now in operation worldwide work right beside human operators with no safety guarding (after an appropriate risk assessment, of course). 4. Easy to move and re-deploy – quickly SMEs often have to work with limited

production batches featuring different specifications, and therefore require rapid change-overs. Collaborative robots provide new opportunities because they’re light and don’t take up much space, as well as being easy to move around, and re-deploy to multiple locations without changing the production layout. 5. Quickly earn their own cost Cobots from Universal Robots now make robotic automation affordable for such smaller operations by providing all the advantages of advanced robotic automation, with none of the traditional added costs associated with robot programming, set-up, and dedicated, shielded work cells. cc Universal Robots is distributed by Yield247, Cinzia Buildings 2, Guze Orlando Street, Birkirkara.

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Worldwide premiere of the new AZIMUT ATLANTIS 51 and AZIMUT 55 FLY The new Azimut Atlantis 51 and Azimut 55 Fly will be premiered in a world preview at the DĂźsseldorf Boat Show to be held between 20th and 28th January 2018.

Azimut Atlantis 51 is a yacht with the DNA of a true open, featuring ample space on board and aggressive styling by Neo Design. The main deck has been approached as one big lounge area, while the lower deck offers a remarkable three cabins, without sacrificing a full-fledged central dinette with folding table, representing the distinctive features of this best-in-class model in its segment. Azimut 55 Fly, on the other hand, stands out for its juxtaposition of taut, flowing exterior

lines by Stefano Righini, against warm, cosy and refined interiors defined by smooth lines and the creative flair of Achille Salvagni. The dĂŠcor is based on the combination of five different materials and, on this model too, the layout of the lower deck features three double cabins. cc For further information contact Niki at Azimut Yachts Malta on T: 9944 2122; E:

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Challenges in the office rental market With such a bustling commercial rental market, what is the biggest challenge that companies looking for offices are facing right now? Unfortunately, numerous service providers, gaming companies and banks are still finding it very hard to find quality office space in sought-after central locations that is available right away, especially when looking in Sliema, St Julian’s, Ta’ Xbiex, Gzira and the surrounding areas. Despite the numerous office blocks around, when compared to five or 10 years ago, all major business centres or office buildings are today fully tenanted, with most of them being committed to while still under construction. Although there are quite a number of large mixed-use projects or large office blocks in the pipeline, most of these will not be ready for use for another three to five years, which does not solve the current situation. This is why the latest, state-of-theart business centre at 14 East has been generating such great interest. Not only has it been designed and built to satisfy the

needs and expectations of most demanding organisations out there today, it also enjoys bright open spaces with an exceptionally high standard of finish, three levels of underlying parking and, most importantly, it will be available for occupation in Q1 2018. Finding the right staff and keeping that staff happy is a major challenge for most companies in today’s business world, hence companies are always looking to improve their work environment by offering quality work space with a ‘fun’ element. Bright recreational spaces as well as outdoor terraces, a café/ restaurant, piazza and landscaping at road level are all features available to the offices being offered within this project.

Four of the eight available office levels have already been committed to, with the first tenants expected to move in by the end of March 2018. This landmark 21-storey tower project is situated in Gzira, just 100 metres away from the Ta’ Xbiex yacht marina, the Strand and picturesque Manoel Island. Office spaces from 275sqm to 550sqm on a floor are available, whereas the possibility of multiple floors is also still an option. With prices starting from €260 per square metre per annum, this is definitely an option to explore! cc For more information on the 14 East Business Centre, contact Belair Property on T: 2011 8000 or E:

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Charles Scerri & Associates (CSA) Charles Scerri & Associates has been in practice since 1995. The firm is an established multidisciplinary audit firm based in Malta, which provides accounting and book-keeping services, audit and assurance, taxation, financial advisory, corporate services and residency programmes. Our clients include companies operating in the agricultural, information technology, construction, education, entertainment, energy, hospitality, manufacturing, shipping and transport industries, among others. At CSA we take pride in our clients’ success and try to combine professional knowledge integrity and an entrepreneurial approach for their needs. This can be done thanks to our professional and qualified staff. Response time and the level of service is what we boast of. We strive to know our clients individually, mainly through face-toface interface as well as continuous contact with the owners and directors

of our client entities. Our offices provide a one-stop-shop to our clientele with exceptional well-trained staff on situational problem-solving techniques. Being a member of international networks within the Top 10 lists of independent accountancy firms, CSA can offer its clients a wider array of services with easier access to international markets. CSA is a member and affiliate of three main international networks namely IAPA, Allinial Global and the UK 200 Group. Charles Scerri, a certified public accountant and a registered auditor, has over 30 years’ experience providing consultancy and tax services both in Malta and abroad. His fields of specialisation include tax advice both on local and international levels, trusts business, and Maltese residency products. CSA is now focusing on attracting clients from the US market. Together with its foreign partners, CSA endeavours to route US clients’ businesses through the Maltese jurisdiction rather than the natural destinations commonly used by US entrepreneurs. By continuously investing in technology and new concepts, CSA intends to increase its local and foreign client base alike. Through the Malta Individual Investor

Programme, the Malta Visa Residency Programme, as well as the advantageous tax incentives, Malta can provide an incredible gateway to Europe. cc

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The gift of luxury When it comes to choosing the perfect gift for your clients, the choice is endless. Here, Jo Caruana makes her pick of the most luxurious presents out there this festive season.



orporate gifts need to hit the perfect note and they’re so important to get right. For starters, they’re a way of saying thank you to your clients for their support and custom throughout the year, but they’re also an opportunity to touch base, set you apart from the competition, and make a great impression – one that will hopefully be remembered in the months to come! It’s no wonder, therefore, that international statistics show that corporate gift-giving is on the rise. With the world getting ever more competitive, giftgiving provides the opportunity to keep relationships open and current, as well as to reinforce your brand.


Here we’ve put together some ideas to get you in the mood for generosity! Absolutely Delicious Hampers packed with goodies are always much appreciated over the festive season, when everyone is a little more lenient when it comes to their intake of food and drink. Abraham’s and Vini e Capricci has an absolutely fantastic selection of hampers to suit all tastes and budgets. Favourites include their very highend De Gasperi chest which is packed full of bottles of San Leonardo Tenuta San Leonardo, Riesling Tenuta San Leonardo, salame al tartufo, pecorino con tartufo stagionato in grotta, pralina di torrone assortite, and fichi montagnoli, all for €215.

“With the world getting ever more competitive, gift-giving provides the opportunity to keep relationships open and current.”


CC LIFESTYLE Smart & Stylish Since 2000, Corporate Gifts Malta has supplied all sorts of promotional merchandise, which also make wonderful gifts. Their selection includes caps, lanyards, pen-drives, portfolios, pens, flags, calculators and so on, all of which can be branded with your company logo or corporate colours to create something that’s memorable and personalised. Smells Like Christmas Some of the most appreciated gifts smell as good as they look. From bath salts to scented candles, these presents will ensure your client thinks of you every time they get a whiff of the gift you’ve given them in the months to come. And for something truly


Corporate Gifts Malta

Pretty as a Picture If you’d rather give something completely unique to your clients, a beautiful piece of artwork could do the trick. Team up with a local artist and agree on a budget, then watch as they create a striking piece for you to present. For added bonus points, consider the client’s office setting and colour scheme before going ahead with your commission.

luxurious, why not create your very own scent? For a price, perfumers will craft an aroma that’s all of your own, and which can then be used in corporate gifts of all types. Tune In One of the most popular corporate gifts of 2017 is the headphone-wire holder. Given that most of us listen to everything from podcasts and audio books to music on our mobiles, these leather headphone-wire holders make very useful gifts. They stop your wires from getting jumbled in your bag or pocket, and you can even add your logo to make them that extra bit more personal.



CC LIFESTYLE What an Experience Once again, when it comes to getting a gift for the person that has everything, time is sometimes better than money. Experience gifts are now all the rage and, if money is no object and luxury the aim of the game, there’s lots of fun that can be had. One option is to take your clients on an all-expenses-paid trip away, complete with an activity organised by your team or tickets to a must-attend event. For something more low-key and local, you could go down the ‘eco’ route by attending a bee-keeper’s hive to watch honey being made or a winery to watch them bottle your favourite vintage, or, you could even organise something more off-the-wall like a treasure hunt or day at sea.



Docked Sticking with the technology trend, we also really like these docking stations, which can be used as a charging station for your phone, to hold a book, glasses, tablet, watch, and even your keys. Much like all the best corporate gifts, this wooden docking station can be customised to suit the recipient. Going Green As going green is on all our minds, it’s nice to give an all-natural gift that won’t harm the environment – if anything it will enhance it. Bonsai trees make beautiful, luxury gifts, and look great in any corporate environment. Yes they take quite a lot of care, but you could factor in a book on bonsai-keeping to make your gift even more complete. Giving Back Finally, for clients who truly have everything, why not make a donation to a chosen charity in their name? We all understand the importance of giving back to those less fortunate, especially during the festive season, and this is your chance to do exactly that. You could try to find out which charity means the most to them or, instead, could give a bulk donation to the charity of your choice on behalf of all your customers. Then, simply create a pretty card or letter explaining your decision, and let your clients know. We’re sure they’ll appreciate the gesture! cc 122


The Commercial Courier December 2017/January 2018  

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

The Commercial Courier December 2017/January 2018  

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