The Commercial Courier April/May 2019

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Of art and history

The 500-year-old home to MUŻA





34. 88.





The newly-restored Auberge d’Italie in Valletta, now home to the National Museum of Art, is a fascinating building with a 500-yearold history. Martina Said discovers what went into bringing it back to life.

THE ANT AND THE GRASSHOPPER Marie-Claire Grima speaks to the experts about Malta’s economic growth, asking, is enough thought and planning going into ensuring a sustainable economic future?

34 INTERVIEW CHAMPIONING CHANGE AND EMBRACING NEW OPPORTUNITIES Newly-elected Malta Chamber President David Xuereb shares his vision for his twoyear Presidency with Martina Said.

41 IN DEPTH CHANGES AHEAD: EUROPE’S MEP ELECTIONS With just weeks to go until the EU’s MEP elections, Jo Caruana talks to key experts to gain insight into what we could expect – and what the Maltese business community should hope to avoid.






49 IN FIGURES A look into the figures related to the European Parliament elections.

Antonia Bonello talks to Vanessa Conneely about why she loves working at BuzzFeed and how she’d one day like to have a house in Malta.





Jo Caruana speaks to the experts to gauge their expectations for the next steps and outcomes of the latest Brexit developments.

Artist Gabriel Buttigieg speaks about his artistic journey and the importance of believing in your work with Sarah Micallef.



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 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 months of April/May 2019. 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.

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




Jean Mark Meli Matthew Sciriha

Content House Ltd Mallia Building, 3, Level 2, Triq in-Negozju, Mriehel BKR3000

sales coordinator

Tel: +356 2132 0713

Antoinette Micallef

Sue Ann Pisani Tel: +356 2132 0713 Design

ON THE COVER MUŻA. Photo by Alan Carville

Malta chamber’s bronze collaborating partners APRIL/MAY 2019


CC Editorial

An illustrious past, a keen foresight for the future As the electoral cycle of the Malta Chamber comes to a close, and the Council and President establish themselves in their new offices, the organisation looks ahead to continue building on the work and heritage of its past, while it takes all necessary action to be even more relevant in the future.


he Malta Chamber is proud of its open and transparent democratic system which necessitates the choice of the right leadership to propel the Chamber’s priorities at any point in time. This means that the Malta Chamber, within its most intrinsic design, holds the mechanism to allow the organisation to reinvent itself with fresh perspectives and ideas on a regular basis. The new Presidency, always ushers in with it a renewed sense of expectation for direction and vision for the upcoming 24 months, and Perit David Xuereb’s election as President of the Chamber in March was no exception. In his first address to Council on 29th March, Perit Xuereb provided a detailed picture of where he envisioned the Chamber to be by the end of his Presidency, setting his priorities for the upcoming 24 months. Relevance to members and to the economic scenario is expected to be key, both in the immediate term as well as for the future. The Chamber shall strive to achieve this by reaching out to tomorrow’s members, to hear them out and potentially bring them on board


to learn from them, and align the Chamber’s strategy to their needs and aspirations. The Chamber is well aware that the business community is working in an ever-changing digital environment. In this light, the organisation will endeavour to continuously keep abreast with the latest disruptive technologies to match and even potentially lead the way, when it comes to state-of-the-art standards and systems. These in turn will allow the Chamber to deliver its service to an exactingly high level of professionalism, reaching out to new and wider audiences, while identifying new areas of development. In the coming months, the Chamber will gear itself to be prepared for the challenges expected in the future. This it will also do via an extensive and ambitious business plan to guide it in adapting to issues which it would face in the next few years. The business plan, which will eventually be communicated to all members, will be testament to the Chamber’s commitment to remain a central player in Malta’s socio-economic and environmental scenario.

Photos by David Pisani

“Relevance to members and to the economic scenario is expected to be key, both in the immediate term as well as for the future.”


CC Editorial The Malta Chamber is truly appreciative of the fact that it can boast a team of brilliant individuals coming from all the economic sectors of the country, that form the newly elected Council. In fact, the Chamber’s highest organ consists of a perfect mix of experience and young energy – all highly successful entrepreneurs that can guide the organisation towards the challenges of the years to come. This Presidency marks 10 years since the merger between the Malta Chamber and the Federation of Industry in 2009. This was a watershed moment for the two organisations which rose above any differences they might have had in the past, and appreciated the strength of collaboration in the interest of their members. The result is that today, businesses have a stronger ally to represent them in matters that concern their day-to-day needs. The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry is the members that make it, and their needs remain the utmost priority. The Chamber’s history is made illustrious thanks to the work of many brilliant individuals who lived very much in their own present and had a keen foresight for the future. This remains the goal of the Chamber today, as it prepares to continue building on its achievements. cc


“The Chamber’s highest organ consists of a perfect mix of experience and young energy – all highly successful entrepreneurs that can guide the organisation towards the challenges of the years to come.”



The ant and the grasshopper Malta is currently enjoying high rates of economic growth and prosperity, but economies move in cycles, and nothing gold can stay. How long will Malta continue to thrive at the rate it is going, and is enough thought and planning going into ensuring a sustainable economic future? Marie-Claire Grima speaks to the experts to find out more.


he fable of the ant and the grasshopper is one that we learn from when we are small children. The flighty grasshopper sings all summer when food is in abundance, while the industrious ant toils away, hoarding food. The grasshopper thinks the ant is silly for working so hard – after all, summer seems like it will last forever – but when winter finally arrives, it is the ant, who has made provisions for difficult times, who has the last laugh. In the case of Malta, which by all accounts is going through an economical ‘summer’ of high growth rates and low unemployment, are enough preparations being made for a downturn? Marisa Xuereb, Deputy President of the Malta Chamber, is sceptical. She says that while there is no doubt that in the last few years, Malta has undergone unprecedented growth, the sustainability of the growth could be called into question, which could have far-reaching effects. “The decrease in R&D expenditure as a percentage of GDP since 2013 indicates that our investment in research has not kept pace with the unprecedented economic growth


we have experienced in the last five years. Common wisdom holds that there is no better time to allocate resources to fuel future growth than when the economy is doing well, yet it seems we are not doing this to a satisfactory level.” R&D and innovation, she continues, are considered key drivers of profitability and growth. “Ensuring the economy’s sustainability in the long term is the best way forward for any country which is undergoing fast-paced growth. If one had to analyse the macro-economic indicators, we would conclude that our economy as a whole is doing well. But not all sectors and industries are growing at the same pace – we know there are specific challenges for some important sectors such as manufacturing.” Ms Xuereb adds that there are also broad-impact challenges, which are a direct consequence of the increase in population due to the influx of foreign workers. “This is resulting in more pressures on our healthcare and education systems, our infrastructure including the road network which is experiencing increased congestion,

and increases in rents due to accommodation shortages that are imposing serious housing affordability constraints on the long-term growth potential of the country.” Ms Xuereb reiterates that the Chamber has gone on record in saying that Government should capitalise on the present economic boom to invest in the necessary infrastructure and safeguard long-term fiscal and economic sustainability. “Further to this, our key proposals in the last pre-Budget discussion included the carrying out of a detailed impact assessment of the country’s current growth with a view to set sustainable targets for maximum carrying capacities and output levels, in the country’s various economic segments. It was further proposed that this analysis would be coupled with a long-term socio-economic and environmental masterplan for the country post-2020. It is evident that R&D has failed to keep up with the large-scale economic growth currently being experienced by the country. This was discussed in detail during the ‘State of the Maltese Economy’ conference organised by the Malta Chamber and EMCS in March.” APRIL/MAY 2019

CC COVER STORY As Ms Xuereb says Mr Stivala warns that too much growth in a short span of time can be detrimental as well, with potential strains on infrastructure, and upward pressure on prices (demand-pull inflation). “The economy needs time to digest economic growth – in other words, it needs time to adjust supply in response to more aggregate demand,” he states. “Historically, Maltese businessmen have typically exercised prudence in favour of exuberance. Obviously, there would always be some businesses which operate at the margin, with little headroom in the case of a downside scenario. Of course, the danger of unprecedented growth is that this becomes viewed as the norm, and businesses start undertaking investments which only make financial sense in a booming scenario.” Mr Stivala also quotes the latest European Commission Country Report, whose

assessment of Malta included low skill levels, low innovation expenditure by firms, and poor educational outcomes. “As a country, we are already laying strong foundations, but more is needed to enhance economic resilience to slower growth,” he says. On the other hand, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna says that excess demand in an economy arises when the supply of resources – especially labour – are not forthcoming. “This is not the case of the current economic situation. Proof of this is the absence of wage inflation. That job vacancies occur at a comparable high level is to be expected for an economy growing over six per cent. The supply of supporting infrastructure is responding well too. It is in the interest of developers, however, to get the supply right and not overdo it since the market is ruthless.”

“There is no better time to allocate resources to fuel future growth than when the economy is doing well, yet it seems we are not doing this to a satisfactory level.” - Marisa Xuereb, Deputy President, Malta Chamber of Commerce

Steve Stivala, KPMG Malta’s Senior Manager for Economics Advisory Services, agrees, stating that economies pass through cycles, and the Maltese economy is no different. “Such level of economic growth cannot be sustained indefinitely. In fact, real growth has already slowed down from almost double-digit numbers in 2015, and indeed, both the IMF and European Commission are predicting a tapering of growth, albeit still forecasting reasonable growth numbers when compared to the rest of the EU.” He says that the objective should always be to seek further growth, but in a way which is controlled, diversified and sustainable, as opposed to temporary fiscal boosts. “Government has already embarked on a series of initiatives to do just that – blockchain, AI, and regulation of space activities to name just a few,” he states. “But further sustainable growth should not be at the expense of fiscal consolidation – we can have solid growth whilst still registering a fiscal surplus (or even deficits), with surpluses also driving down the national debt levels.” APRIL/MAY 2019


CC COVER STORY Economist Emanuel P. Delia adds that so far, there is nothing to indicate that Malta’s economy is approaching an inflationary spiral. “If anything, the overall average price level is within the parameters set by the European Central Bank. One has to recall that Malta’s policy-makers have no say in the value of the rate of exchange of the euro; and the ECB runs monetary policy on a rule that considers inflation across the whole zone.” However, he says that the “up-thrust pressure on rents which could affect adversely living standards,” is affecting more than a few people. “Consequently, social pressure could push for a reconsideration of pension income support initiatives and for wages to rise. But to date the pressure on wages that would have arisen from a labour shortage is eased by the inflow of outside labour. It is this personal-social element that complements statistical economic data that has to be followed closely. Otherwise, the set of data referring to aggregated or average results on prices may not indicate the real situation emerging in society.” He says that to identify whether economic activity in the Maltese islands is “eyeing long-term sustainability, one therefore has to address two sets of issues, namely, the stability of the existing set of rules conditioning international movements of goods, capital and labour; and the projected life-span of the present net immigration model that has been supporting the recorded economic growth.” “Malta is a member of the European Union and of the Eurozone. Both Unions represent ‘work-in-progress’, especially the single-currency area. Their development envisages further institutional integration of policy-making and procedures regarding finance, taxation, the single market and even political representation. Such an evolution would represent a re-drawing of the parameters within which decisionmaking by both the public and the private sectors will be undertaken. This critical consideration for future development has so far been omitted from the discussion on Malta’s economic future. In its absence one cannot meaningfully comment on the degree of preparedness of the Maltese economy to sustain potential future shocks.” “Again, regarding the demographiceconomic model in operation, one has to consider the timing and method of its tapering off. Decisions on these policy issues would depend not so much on aggregate numbers as on the composition of the annual flows – primarily skills, and residential duration,” he continues. Prof. Delia says that in a small open economy like Malta, imports represent an important share of consumption expenditure. “Countercyclical economic policies refer to entire sectors. But problems could start in one industry and spread to others depending APRIL/MAY 2019

“As a country, we are already laying strong foundations, but more is needed to enhance economic resilience to slower growth.” - Steve Stivala, Senior Manager for Economics Advisory Services, KPMG Malta on the intermediate inter-relationship that links one industry to another.” “Thus low cost-airlines linked the Maltese islands to a greater number of airports; they brought in more tourists whose expenditure benefited a wide array of operations on the islands. If one such airline becomes too big and for some reason fails, then an entire sector could be affected. The net result, giving an adjustment time, would depend on the response by the other players in the sector; in part this would reflect their capacity.” Economist Jean Paul Fabri, who leads the Economic and Management Advisory Unit and the Digital Economy Unit at ARQ,

remarks that the resilience of an economy needs to be seen and analysed in relation to the source of the downturn. “When the global economic downturn hit Malta in 2008, the island was the least-impacted EU member state. This was because the economy was resilient to the sources of the downturn and the policy response was timely, targeted and temporary. The sources of an eventual downturn can be manifold and can include externally-driven downturns or internally-driven downturns which in turn can be sector-specific, a general economic slowdown or also a reduced attractiveness proposition.” 19


“That job vacancies occur at a comparable high level is to be expected for an economy growing over six per cent.” - Prof. Edward Scicluna, Finance Minister He says that if the downturn is externallydriven – “and we are already seeing signs of reduced global economic economy and increased stresses and risks” – Malta would be able to respond to such a scenario easily, given the healthy Government finances and a well-diversified economy. “Although externally-focused, the sectoral fabric of the Maltese economy has increased in its diversity and constitutes an important source of resilience,” Mr Fabri says. However, Mr Fabri adds that there are various local sectors that can constitute a source of risk. “The tourism sector is facing increased competition from other regional players which might lead to reduced numbers at a time when the supply of bedrooms is going through a transformational change; both through an increase in hotel capacity and also due to the increase of privateaccommodations being transformed into tourism accommodation. These two forces can be a source of risk on the local economy.” “Related to this is the local property market, which has been very bullish in the past couple of years and which can lose some of its momentum and can leave a number of investors highly exposed and over-leveraged. Given the linkages and multiplier effect the property market has, this can be a high source of risk going forward. The property market and the increased rental prices is also potentially eating into our general attractiveness proposition, together with other general inefficiencies which might reduce the Malta proposition to external investors. I see this a risk factor and which can be the hardest to mitigate. Therefore, when analysing the whole picture and possible scenarios; I believe that Malta is well-prepared to react to some particular sources of an eventual economic slowdown and not so much on others.” Indeed, Mr Fabri says that competitiveness and growth are multi-faceted in nature. “Malta has been faring well in attracting international businesses and the fast growth is a testament to this. However, several stresses are appearing which can have a substantial impact on our competitiveness. Malta needs to definitely become smarter and more efficient in its governance operations. The civil service and Government authorities need to fully embrace technology and the country needs a complete digital transformation.” “As a jurisdiction we are seeing the emergence of digital countries which have developed a whole online interface, 20

and which attract investment due to the speed and efficiency of governance and administrative systems. From an ecosystem perspective, we have been doing a great job in developing new sectors through regulation such as blockchain, remote gaming and others, but weaknesses in the ability of the banking sector to service such investments is threatening the attractiveness of the jurisdiction. The availability of skilled human resources continues to be a long-standing risk to the Maltese economy and despite the strong migratory flows towards Malta,

we need to have lower school drop-out rates, increased workforce participation and increased tertiary educated students.” On the other hand, he points out that the inward migratory flow is creating pressures on the local rental market, which might become an Achilles heel in terms of competitiveness. “The increase in rates will impinge on affordability and lead to wageinduced cost pressures. Regulatory pressures and reputational risks are also on the upside and these can impinge on the general attractiveness features. APRIL/MAY 2019

CC COVER STORY as established businesses in Malta.” “The Malta Chamber remains of the opinion, which it has voiced numerous times, that the Government should invest the dividends from the current economic growth in future-proofing the country. Six years ago, the Chamber took the innovative step to prepare an Economic Vision for Malta which identified 11 sectors for growth, while it recommended some 50 measures to enable the achievement of the Economic Vision that we were promoting. This document was endorsed by Government and the Opposition, and a number of our recommendations were adopted.”

“In continuation of this, in the past weeks the Chamber has announced that it will be publishing a second Economic Vision – this time for 2021 and beyond. Work on the document is well underway and the comprehensive document is expected to be presented to our political leaders in the months to come. The Malta Chamber believes that this is the opportune time to capitalise on the successes of recent years and plan long-term where we want to take our country. These are exciting times indeed, and the Chamber is all too pleased to once again be an integral part of the process.” cc

“Countercyclical economic policies refer to entire sectors, but problems could start in one industry and spread to others depending on the intermediate inter-relationship that links one industry to another.” - Emanuel P. Delia, Economist

Also, Malta requires a general infrastructural upgrade, as investors need to be surrounded with the right environment to enjoy a good standard of living, and infrastructural bottlenecks and strains such as transportation, waste management and the general environment can also start eroding into Malta’s general attractiveness package. However, the biggest issues of immediate concern are the need for a Government and public service digital transformation and the banking sector which needs to support the sectors we are regulating and developing as a country.” The Chamber’s Deputy President Ms Xuereb concludes by reiterating that it is imperative to acknowledge R&D and innovation as fundamental drivers of future economic prosperity and give this area the importance it deserves. “To this end, the Malta Chamber fully supports the drafting of an Innovation, Research and Development Strategy that is geared towards holistically supporting and enabling successful innovation-based growth of start-ups as well APRIL/MAY 2019

“Although externally-focused, the sectoral fabric of the Maltese economy has increased in its diversity and constitutes an important source of resilience.” - Jean Paul Fabri, Head of Economic and Management Advisory Unit and the Digital Economy Unit, ARQ 23


The impact of the economic boom Malta’s buoyant economy has precipitated new investment, encouraged business collaborations and widened opportunities for the workforce. But what are the trade-offs? Rebecca Anastasi speaks to leading local businesses about the challenges and opportunities they face.

Denise Micallef Xuereb Construction and Development Director, AX Group – page 27

George Mifsud - Managing Director, Deco Malta Ltd – page 28

Roberto Tumbiolo Director, Sterling Chemical Malta Ltd – page 28

Helga Ellul - Chairperson, Joinwell Ltd – page 32


Krista Vimont - Partner, lecocqassociate – page 31

Richard Padovani Director, Credit Mediation Services Malta

– page 31

George M. Mangion Senior Partner, PKF Malta – page 32



Denise Micallef Xuereb

Construction and Development Director, AX Group The AX Group, a household name in Malta, employs in excess of 1,000 people and specialises in four sectors: construction, development, hospitality and care. Its construction and development projects include the Parliament building in Valletta as well as restoration work in Birgu. It’s a shareholder in the Valletta Cruise Port and Valletta Waterfront, and plans to launch the UNESCO approved tunnel underneath Valletta connecting Birgu and Sliema in the coming years. How has the current economic boom affected your sector? That’s a simple answer: it has created rapid growth. This, in turn, has meant that many new players of various sizes have popped up on the market. What challenges and opportunities has your business encountered as a result of the buoyancy in the markets? One of the biggest challenges facing the construction and development sector is not enough of skilled and experienced human resources. In fact, it’s also a challenge in many other sectors across Malta. For example, within AX Group, we have a similar problem APRIL/MAY 2019

within the hospitality side of the business. There is a need to constantly catch up with growing demand, and it poses huge stress on the company. However together with acquiring and training people we have an opportunity to be selective on the projects we work on, and the business can specialise. Indeed, as AX Construction, we are now specialising on complex projects which combine restoration and construction, among others. How has your business adapted to the current conditions? There were several aspects which the business needed to equip itself with, particularly when it came to tackling the issue of human resources: we created robust internal structures and reporting procedures; we looked for experts in the field to solidify our position as leaders in the construction industry and to ensure we could continue to be a leader in providing complex jobs to our clients. Do you expect the current conditions to continue? And, what are your future plans to ensure your business can ride the wave of any fluctuations? I expect the growth within our sector to continue and in order to allow that we have

created a flat management structure to allow ease of flexibility to cater for various situations. One way to prepare for any situation is to diversify our areas of expertise, as well as to find a niche within which to specialise in. 27


George Mifsud

Managing Director, Deco Malta Ltd For over 30 years, Deco Malta Ltd has been supplying a range of bespoke design services, from printing to framing, while constantly investing in technology to compete in the market. The firm operates out of four stores and distributes to over 90 retail outlets, in Malta and abroad, to countries such as Norway, Sweden, Spain and the Middle East. How has the current economic boom affected your sector? Whilst in difficult financial periods, people can easily choose to do without purchasing

home décor, in times of prosperity, people demand more. The economic boom and the increasing demand have encouraged us to look for new product lines which satisfy the demands of customers, both locally and internationally. Our base is mainly manufacturing, and this requires a lot of investment in material and equipment. All of this comes at a cost, but you can never have a top-quality product without investing and learning. What challenges and opportunities has your business encountered as a result of the buoyancy in the markets? Like everything else, the economy works in phases, and, currently, the Maltese economy is experiencing a boom, which provides new opportunities. But various challenges must also be confronted. As the economy grows, production is expected to increase, yet the amount of resources remains the same, especially when it comes to labour. Like every company in Malta, finding human resources – especially skilled workers – is becoming more difficult by the day, and the more difficult this is, the more impossible it is to satisfy the increasing demand.

How has your business adapted to the current conditions? Each and every industry works differently, yet they all have elements in common. Products that were a success 30 years ago are out of fashion in today’s modern world and each product has its own life cycle. The only way to survive is to be a step ahead of what customers demand, and that’s what we try to do. Do you expect the current conditions to continue? And, what are your future plans to ensure your business can ride the wave of any fluctuations? It’s almost impossible for the current boom to remain as it is and, for the economy to be strong, it requires its ups and downs. So, as much as we wish that things remain the same, the reality is we need to prepare ourselves for what is to come. We believe that diversification is the key to success and having a range of products which cater for different clients will help to minimise the effect of a declining economy.

Roberto Tumbiolo

Director, Sterling Chemical Malta Ltd Sterling Chemical Malta Ltd, established in 2013, forms part of the Group, S.N.I.F.F. Italia S.P.A. The company, operating in the pharmaceutical market of API production, has its plant in Ħal-Far, which includes R&D and Quality Control laboratories through which it carries out research, scale-up operations and the production of active pharmaceutical ingredients for use in the chemicalpharmaceutical industry. How has the current economic boom affected your sector? In the last few years, the global chemical market has experienced a constant increase in demand and the global demand for medicines is expected to maintain this path of growth for the next five years, at an average rise in profitability of 4-7 per cent per year. API production is not well-known to the media, and, as a result, does not benefit as much from public policy interventions and state aid. But, worldwide demand for better health, despite the significant differences between industrialised and emerging economies, continues to go up. Looking at it from the local level, the economic growth of the Maltese islands has helped the company positively, through aiding it to expand its business across the world. 28

What challenges and opportunities has your business encountered as a result of the buoyancy in the markets? During the last few years, the company has experienced substantial business growth thanks to the favourable conditions provided in Malta, in terms of fiscal incentives and grants which have enhanced the amount of investments made. This has allowed the company to reach several opportunities and to achieve remarkable results in just a few years. How has your business adapted to the current conditions? As the production of API is highly regulated by manufacturing standards and regulations, the company has always aimed to achieve excellence by setting up the appropriate and adequate internal structures dedicated to the supervision of the manufacturing processes. This has included ensuring safety procedures are adhered to and investing in safety certifications, together with the training of personnel. We have also instituted engineering solutions, and are creating new synergies with biotechnology, both of which have become increasingly necessary to comply with the standards demanded, allowing us to compete with Asian manufacturers, whose

lower production costs and weaker safety compliance regulations pose challenges to increasing our market share. However, the changes we’ve implemented have allowed the company to stand out from the crowd and have ensured business sustainability over time. Do you expect the current conditions to continue? And, what are your future plans to ensure your business can ride the wave of any fluctuations? It is well known that market conditions are cyclical, and that they can change suddenly. To meet any of the challenges this poses, the company keeps itself aware of new opportunities and we are constantly looking into R&D studies of innovative products which may be desirable on the market in the future. This will continue to be a priority. APRIL/MAY 2019


Richard Padovani

Director, Credit Mediation Services Malta Credit Mediation Services was set up in 2013, and specialises in debt collection, recovery and credit management expertise. The company, since its inception, has handled over 3,000 accounts spread over various industries, dealing with businesses in the first two years of operation.

How has the current economic boom affected your sector? During an economic boom, credit supply tends to expand. Moreover, according to a recent survey, conducted by the Malta Association of Credit Management among its members, the Average Days Sales Outstanding (DSO – a measure used by a firm to calculate the amount of days it takes to collect a payment after a sale has been made) in Malta during 2018 improved, when compared to the previous year. This will affect our sector positively as an increase in recoveries is expected.

and the supplier has deteriorated to such an extent that debt collectors are assigned to recover the debt. But, over the past year, we have seen an increase in requests from businesses across various industries to assist them in managing their credit control function. This is the stage where the relationship between the customer and the supplier has been ongoing for a while and, therefore, a different approach is applied. To deal with this demand, a team of trained Credit Controllers or Account Managers has been formed to handle this function.

What challenges and opportunities has your business encountered as a result of the buoyancy in the markets? Together with other businesses, the biggest challenge we are currently facing is recruitment. It is proving to be quite a task to find the right candidate for the job.

Do you expect the current conditions to continue? And, what are your future plans to ensure your business can ride the wave of any fluctuations? I am no economist. However, as things are progressing, I expect the current conditions to continue, at least in the short term. My concern is that the boom we are currently experiencing may eventually turn into a bubble, resulting in a subsequent bust that will definitely leave an impact on our sector since the DSO will increase significantly as a result of fewer recoveries.

How has your business adapted to the current conditions? Initially, our business focused primarily on debt collection. This is the stage where the relationship between the customer

Krista Vimont Partner, lecocqassociate

The lecocqassociate Group consists of four international offices: lecocqassociate Geneva – a boutique law firm specialised in the niche areas of regulatory banking and corporate finance; lecocqassociate Malta – a regulatory advisory practice; lecocqassociate (DIFC) Dubai – a structuring advisory practice; and lecocqassociate (ADGM) Abu Dhabi – legal consultants. How has the current economic boom affected your sector? We continue to experience growth in the regulatory finance field as more clients are attracted by the efficient system here. We are also experiencing very strong interest from clients in the realm of data protection due to the increase in awareness following the introduction of the GDPR last year. As we employ legal experts in this subject, our firm is well-positioned to help our clients ensure they transition well into the GDPR compliant world and remain compliant. What challenges and opportunities has your business encountered as a result of the buoyancy in the markets? Malta is one of the EU’s fastest-growing economies, and this brings about quite a few APRIL/MAY 2019

exciting opportunities for our firm and the industry, as more clients look to domicile their companies here. We are experiencing strong interest from new clients as well as from our existing client base in areas such as data protection and setting up cryptoexchange platforms and payment service businesses. As the regulatory landscape changes, this brings about challenges for our clients that need to be addressed with pace and quality. Our firm is in a prime position to help companies address these challenges. How has your business adapted to the current conditions? I would summarise this in three key approaches: diversification, awareness and investing in the firm’s future. The strength of our business lies in the diversity of talent across the four geographical sites. We continue to recruit key talent from various backgrounds, and we strive to cross-train our people to make sure our clients’ needs are addressed. We are also expanding our footprint into other jurisdictions and we continue to be aware of the opportunities that arise from the economic environment by staying in touch with our clients. This is extremely important. Last, but not least, we invest heavily in infrastructure, technology and talented personnel to make sure our firm epitomises the law firm of the future.

Do you expect the current conditions to continue? And, what are your future plans to ensure your business can ride the wave of any fluctuations? The regulatory environment is becoming more complex and technical. This places more pressure on businesses from the various industries in terms of keeping up with the pace of development, whilst maintaining a balance between risk and reward. We continue to invest in our people to ensure we are in a prime position to help these businesses address their regulatory challenges and concerns and we are positive that this trend will continue. Having a diversified and agile company set up as well as investing in key talent will ensure that our firm is in prime position to meet any economic fluctuations. I believe that we are in a prime position to address that. 31


Helga Ellul

Chairperson, Joinwell Ltd Joinwell was founded in 1947 in the aftermath of World War II and started winning contracts for the repair of war-damaged doors and apertures. The company flourished over the ensuing years and went on to become a leading player in the furniture industry. The company has, over the last 20 years, replaced the volume furniture production business with the distribution of prestigious European furniture and furnishings’ brands, whilst its factory is now a leading manufacturer of bespoke solutions. How has the current economic boom affected your sector? There has clearly been a revival in demand for bespoke joinery solutions and joinery-related services as a result of the increased economic activity. Joinwell is experiencing growth in the hotel and marine industries as well as the office sector, where it is particularly strong in creating holistic work places befit of the modern workspace. This growth comes on top of a corresponding increase in the demand for imported furniture, albeit in a somewhat more segmented form.

George M. Mangion Senior Partner, PKF Malta

PKF Malta is a member of PKF International, a network of independent firms of accountant and business advisors with more than 440 offices in over 150 countries. It provides a wide range of financial services in the realms of tax and DLT, accounting and auditing, as well as offering economic analysis and feasibility studies.

What challenges and opportunities has your business encountered as a result of the buoyancy in the markets? The current economic boom has increased the demand for our products and services, but it has also segmented the market significantly, with each segment requiring its own business model. At the same time, as we continue to push for growth, we are faced with a very volatile labour market which has made recruitment of new personnel particularly challenging. How has your business adapted to the current conditions? We have achieved significant growth during the last few years through investment in HR as well as by becoming nimbler through investment in IT systems and flexible workpractices. Do you expect the current conditions to continue? And, what are your future plans to ensure your business can ride the wave of any fluctuations? There are indications that a good part of the current conditions have some mileage still left in them whereas we are also

How has the current economic boom affected your sector? The positive aspect of the current business boom is that it has opened new horizons and opportunities, which are, of course, welcome. The birth of many new sectors is a remarkable aspect of this administration and one needs to make hay while the sun shines. What challenges and opportunities has your business encountered as a result of the buoyancy in the markets? The current conditions have exacerbated the problem of staff shortage. Moreover, the complexity of more EU regulations has strained professional firms that have had to retrain staff, and this has caused productivity to suffer. The deluge of forms and declarations oozing out of Government agencies such as the MFSA and the FIAU, as well as international banks and Brussels, is unprecedented. Fiscal rules have become more complex, AML directives stricter and there are additional responsibilities with regards to the protection of personal data. All this has taken a toll on most corporate service providers, though one appreciates the exciting opportunities which are opening in every sector. How has your business adapted to the current conditions? We have expanded our operations by adding


expecting some of the recent growth to permeate to other, so far untapped, market sectors. We plan to participate in this growth and continue to build alliances which would then also be better equipped to cope with the eventual negative fluctuations.

modern office space and the firm has invested more in international business promotion. We are working harder and to tighter schedules to meet the increasing demand from both local and international clients, and we are also mindful to implement staff retention measures. Do you expect the current conditions to continue? And, what are your future plans to ensure your business can ride the wave of any fluctuations? Like previous economic cycles, the current conditions will, most likely, be followed by a period of stabilisation, or a cooling-down phase, during which business operators can retool and plan for the next upswing. The important lesson to be learnt from this period of economic growth is to be prudent and not to be overwhelmed with the irrational exuberance which gripped the financial world in the early 2000s. The ideal solution is for corporate service providers to carefully assess the current commercial trends and, to, prudently, prepare for any correction in the markets which inevitably follows a period of economic growth. Moreover, one augurs that Government will continue to help start-up companies since these are the essential building blocks of a vibrant economy. cc APRIL/MAY 2019





Championing change and embracing new opportunities The newly-elected President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry has a clear vision for his two-year Presidency, and he isn’t wasting any time to implement it. Martina Said meets Perit David Xuereb to find out what’s in store.

“We are also realising, which is positive too, that the rate of growth we have experienced in the last few years needs to stabilise. Consistent growth is good, but unregulated acceleration and momentum can only create havoc.” APRIL/MAY 2019

Photos by Alan Carville


he newly-elected President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, David Xuereb, is already bringing something new to the table after less than a month in office. The Chief Executive Officer of QP Management, an architect by profession, has clear priorities for his term as President, one of them being a regeneration strategy for the future priorities of this long-standing institution. “The business environment we are living in today is agile, ever-changing and developing on a day-to-day basis. The Chamber is cognisant of this, and needs to ensure that its structures, systems, vision and missions adapt to this reality,” says the President. “The regeneration strategy is about upgrading the structure of the Chamber, to ensure that it remains vigilant and as relevant as possible for the business needs of today and tomorrow, but also attracting the ever-increasing number of young entrepreneurs in this country. That the Chamber appeals to non-members is important, but that it appeals to young entrepreneurs – its future members and presidents – is an absolute priority.” Moreover, Perit Xuereb says the aim isn’t merely to attract, reach out to and connect with this cohort of the business community, but also for the existing business community to learn and be energised and motivated by younger generations, upping its act in the process. “I always see this relationship between the mature and young business person as one akin to a relationship between a coach and an apprentice. In reality, however, although it appears as if the coach is supporting the apprentice in this situation, the apprentice is actually motivating, challenging and energising the coach and his or her respective environment. It’s a two-way street,” says Perit Xuereb. “Frankly, this is what all businesses do, and it is a positive stance for the Chamber to take, for the manner in which it renders its services to the business community in Malta, and which will

certainly add value, relevance and focus to the Chamber.” Turning our focus towards the current state of play of business in Malta and its prospects for 2019, Perit Xuereb says that his thoughts are very much aligned with what most people already know, that is, that the measure of confidence of the consumer, of the employer and projections for growth all look relatively positive. “We are also realising, which is positive too, that the rate of growth we have experienced in the last few years needs to stabilise. Consistent growth is good, but unregulated acceleration and momentum can only create havoc. In my own layman terms, I would describe it as generating wealth today from the resources of the future,” says Perit Xuereb. “We would much rather benefit from the wealth and value of today by what we do today, rather than over-accelerate and expect more by using the resources of the future. It’s important that what we do as a nation is profitable, and therefore has a positive contribution to the wealth of the country.” With that in mind, the President says that predictions can only go so far, and are affected both by what we know of on this island, as well as what we know, and what we don’t know of what’s happening around us. This calls for Malta to be vigilant with developments related to Brexit, the UK, environmental, economic and policy developments in the EU, developments in the North African coast, especially Libya, as well as developments by the significant economic players in the world such as the USA and China. “Our perceptions of what will happen next are very dependent on what’s happening around the rest of the world, even if our own local predictions are good and our budgets look right. We have to be sensitive to the realities of the volatile economic, socio and environmental situations beyond our shores. Predictions are the same as mapping out a business plan or budget – we can only predict as far as we can see.” 35


“Predictions are the same as mapping out a business plan or budget – we can only predict as far as we can see.”

“Our ambition and work ethic are ideal for people to develop new ideas. What we are missing is the incubator for intellectual drive, creativity, research and development to thrive.” Looking ahead towards opportunities for Malta and business, Perit Xuereb believes, and hopes, that the next great opportunity for Malta lies in the development of intellectual property. “Malta has a strong entrepreneurial mind-set, that’s the reason why we are where we are today, and our youngsters share that too. Our ambition and work ethic are ideal for people to develop new ideas. What we are missing is the incubator for intellectual drive, creativity, research and development to thrive.” APRIL/MAY 2019

Perit Xuereb says the country would benefit from working with other countries in this space, namely the UK, which boasts mature and well-established intellectual property incubators, such as universities, to establish an industry in Malta. “This would allow young entrepreneurs to develop their thoughts and ideas in Malta, develop IPs in our territory and therefore grow the manufacturing, retail and also services sectors outside of Malta because the IPs are developed here. The majority of the work

we do, in all sectors, be it retail, importation and manufacturing, has thrived on R&D and ideas that were developed elsewhere to our country.” He maintains that, as seems to be currently the case, Government should continue to create new opportunities for Malta to develop a strong regulatory framework for intellectual property in order to enable all economic sectors to make their next steps. “Distributing economic activity from traditional sectors such as tourism and the building industry to aviation, financial services and other sectors was a positive development which both the business community and the Chamber agree with. But what we want to ensure is that the highest possible added value is retained in Malta, and that our education system can sync up with that objective. The development of the education system is slower than the development of ideas, so we need to be agile enough to connect the dots – this will be our challenge.” The President emphasises that the more connected business is with the country’s education system, the higher the chances of success in spreading new business development opportunities. To this effect, the Chamber is working on proposing a strategic plan for 2020 and beyond, and has brought together a number of top CEOs in Malta to put forward ideas for a so-called Economic Vision for Malta that looks towards successful, strong, and sustainable business growth moving forward. “The business community doesn’t want jumps and starts, but rather growth that can be sustained for the long term, which can make us the best economy in the region and beyond. But we need the preparedness of our resources, primarily in the form of graduates but also the training of our existing workforce, in preparation for these changes,” says Perit Xuereb. “This Economic Vision will hopefully motivate the business industry, but also our policy-makers and Government to adopt some of these ideas into the country’s business plan.” The notion of sustainable growth is central to the President, who has frequently advocated that economic growth and sustainable development should not be mutually exclusive. “The moment we believe that they are is when we begin burying ourselves into a hole. I would like to believe that in anything we do, we are looking at the long-term impact of our activities. The short term sounds great – most of the time it is easier to embrace, but it will not find appreciation and success with future generations.” 37


Perit Xuereb uses Malta’s tourism industry as an example, which was supported by timely and effective policy and regulation, and although not everyone saw its potential in the beginning, the business became one of the country’s pillar industries. “However, if we look at the kind of visitor we are attracting today, it is primarily the low-spending traveller that comes here on a budget, particularly younger travellers,” he asserts. “I think it is time for the industry to question whether the type of tourism that we have today, extrapolated with the official numbers, is the right business model. We are holding discussions on quality and luxury tourism, with less people coming here to spend more and consume less, but we are finding it much harder to implement the policies required to make that change.” The President says that luxury tourism is about having a luxury country, which includes restaurants, hotels, roads, landscaping and beaches. “We should focus less on being too happy with the records that we break in terms of airport traffic, and prioritise the type of visitor we attract. For us to be able to improve our revenues, increase our bottom line and improve our quality of life, we need to keep improving 38

“We need to keep improving in everything that we do, while keeping in mind the sustainable use of limited, local resources.” in everything that we do, while keeping in mind the sustainable use of limited, local resources,” he asserts. “This all comes down to vision and regulation.” One sector which is offered a lack of appreciation for sustainable living is in agriculture, he continues. “The fact that we are not giving enough importance to local produce in lieu of imported products implies that our appreciation for quality and sustainable living is not as high as we think it is. We need to be courageous but also regulated by the appropriate legislation – change has to come from the policy-maker, everyone else will adapt.” As a professional hailing from the building industry, Perit Xuereb’s position has evolved since his early years in the industry to align with development that works in tandem with environmental harmony, and he is working and lobbying for this in practical terms. “Any development takes away from the environment, because development is disturbance, so I look forward to development which gives back to the environment - this is not a hypothesis nor dream – it is ambition

and vision,” he explains. “There are various ways to measure how development can give back to the environment, and compensate for the resources that such developments depleted. Numerous buildings around the world have been constructed in adherence with sustainability measures, which tangibly exhibit their respect for the environment. I look forward to a Malta where the construction industry embraces these opportunities, to improve its practices and be among the best in the world.” Together with the Chamber, Perit Xuereb is working in the areas of sustainable certification as well as the Considerate Contractor Scheme, which aims to regulate development and construction with respect to the environment. “These ethical codes are known, understood, and are realistic, and there is nothing that should be stopping our country from embracing these opportunities. In a way, I feel that I am championing some of this change, and I look forward to at least some of it being implemented in the short term.” cc APRIL/MAY 2019


Changes ahead: Europe’s MEP elections With just weeks to go until the EU’s MEP elections, speculation is rife about how this important vote could affect the business community and European society at large. Here, Jo Caruana talks to key experts to gain insight into what we could expect – and what the Maltese business community should hope to avoid.


he European project – as the EU is often called – is about so many things. Peace, prosperity, freedom of movement, education and, of course, business. With elections for the EU’s new European Parliament Members (MEPs) taking place in May, many argue that this vote could change a lot. But what exactly should the Maltese business community expect from them? “As always since we joined the EU in 2004, the upcoming cycle of MEP elections will determine which individuals will represent Malta’s interests in the European Parliament for the next five-year period,” explains Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry Director General Kevin J. Borg. “This is nothing short of an opportunity to choose representatives who are best suited to put Malta’s economic and social well-being on the European agenda.” Mr Borg highlights how Malta’s current economic boom is well-recorded and acknowledged by all. “The recent growth in economic activity has been the result of various factors; not least the assiduous and courageous appetite for investment characterising our entrepreneurs. The inference is therefore very simple: Malta has a lot at stake, and a lot to defend. We are entering this cycle forming part of the elite performers among our European peers, and this means that eyes are locking onto us.” However, while many would like the European status quo to remain, others are eager to rock the boat – and change may be afoot when it comes to the new parties and individuals being elected. “In the shadow of Brexit and the various challenges we are facing (such as international protectionism, climate change, digital transformation and lack of labour supply and skills) a stronger populist and Eurosceptic wing is expected in the EP,” explains Malta Business Bureau CEO Joe Tanti. “With diminished centrist pro-European parties elected, this could have repercussions on the ability of the Parliament to negotiate future EU legislation. “Polls so far indicate that the two biggest parties – the European Peoples’ Party and the Socialist and Democrats – will not be able to broker a majority alone, as was the case in the current legislature. For EU legislation to pass, they will require the support of the Liberal and Green parties, which shall consequently require tougher negotiations to find compromises. This, in itself, is not a bad thing, as a wider compromise means a larger representativeness of different political ideologies and positions of interest groups.


“Malta has a lot at stake, and a lot to defend.” – Kevin J. Borg 41


Nevertheless, it may delay the progress of much-needed reforms. At a time when EU trust among citizens is faltering, this does not bode well for the implementation of EU political priorities, particularly with respect to a good and efficient functioning European single market.” Agreeing, Mr Borg stresses that businesses depend on a serene, stable and predictable environment that is conducive to investment. “We must ensure, at all times, that we maintain this environment,” he says. “In this vein, it is the Chamber’s view that the campaign that has already started be one that benefits Malta and brings out the best qualities of our candidates, as opposed to one that is detrimental to our country and its reputation. We operate in a globally-connected scenario and the world is watching. Anything we do and say is likely to be picked up and will raise our country’s 42

“In the coming EP mandate, I would certainly like the Maltese business community to take an active interest in topics that are of concern to them.” – Alfred Sant profile in the global stage or be used to hurt Malta’s reputation with the obvious negative repercussions. “Consequently, we reiterate our call for a campaign wherein prospective candidates are constructive in their approach, respect the intelligence of the electorate and are proactive in their ideas about how they can make a difference in the European Parliament for their Maltese constituents. Elections should be won on trust rather than mistrust, and the Maltese electorate must vote for what they want rather than for what they don’t. The Chamber, therefore, expects constructive, concrete and plausible ideas for the electorate to consider, judge and vote for.

“It is crucial for all involved to keep in mind what the aim of the game ultimately is. The question we want to see taking centre-stage is ‘how can we contribute towards a better EU’? ‘How can we make a difference and addresses the challenges currently being faced by the political block?’” Hoping to be among those chosen to answers those questions again are MEPs Alfred Sant and David Casa, who are leading the PL and PN party delegations respectively. Asked about how his delegation is preparing, Dr Sant said that, as of the moment when the EP is dissolved, the Labour delegation will wait for the outcome of the election to know who its new members will be. APRIL/MAY 2019


“On that basis, future approaches will be mapped out, taking into account Malta’s specific needs as the smallest member of the Union. “All elections are important as an exercise in democracy. However, the upcoming EP elections are especially important because they come at a crucial moment in EU history. Britain – the second largest economy of the EU – is leaving the bloc under conditions of maximum uncertainty. The rift is growing between east and west of the Union in financial, economic and social terms. The eurozone is still adrift, having overcome the battering of the 2018 financial crisis, but still unable to follow a full course to establish a well-grounded system for its future functioning. “In the coming EP mandate, I would certainly like the Maltese business community to take an active interest in topics that are of concern to them, like other national business communities do. Most of


the time, the economic feedback we get comes from the Government. This applied, for instance, to issues like changes to VAT procedures for SMEs, changes in banking regulations and the ongoing efforts to promote tax harmonisation while classifying Malta as a tax haven.” Mr Casa, meanwhile, also highlights the rise of populist parties as a major concern, and one that will likely come at the expense of bigger more established parties, and result in more fragmentation at the EP. “This will have an impact on decisionmaking processes,” he says. “Traditional, established alliances will no longer be as effective as they are now. This could result in narrow national interests superseding the common good. Thus, MEPs with experience, contacts and a track record of successful negotiation and compromise-building are likely to overcome these challenges, so that is what we need to push for.

“Traditional, established alliances will no longer be as effective as they are now.” – David Casa



“The MBB will continue to ensure that the decisions taken by the legislators reflect the aspirations of businesses and citizens at the local level.” – Joe Tanti

“We are part of the EPP Group in the EP, and that is well-placed to retain its position as the biggest and most influential political group. However, due to the possibility of more fragmentation and the growth of smaller parties, reaching compromise solutions will be more difficult. We are foreseeing how this will work and what political groups we will be able to align with. A crucial decision is that of who will succeed President Juncker at the helm of the Commission. We are working to ensure that that person is Manfred Weber – a dedicated European and friend of the Maltese people,” Mr Casa says. So, it seems, regardless of the specific outcome, change is afoot. And already preparations are being put in place, locally and internationally, to deal with that. “In light of the elections and new EU legislature, we at the MBB published a business manifesto that reflects on current political trends, analyses legislative outcomes from the last legislature, and communicates the expectations of the Maltese business community from the EU in the next five years,” Mr Tanti continues. “This MBB manifesto proposes a set of guiding principles to MEPs, backed by policy recommendations that we believe should guide their work during the next EU mandate. “Thus, in the face of challenges that there will undoubtedly be in the coming years, the MBB will continue to ensure that the decisions taken by the legislators reflect the aspirations of businesses and citizens at the local level. The MBB will continue to support the elected MEPs in their work in Brussels and Strasbourg, by providing them with feedback on the impact that legislation would have on sustainability and competitiveness of Maltese businesses.” Finally, Mr Borg stresses that the business community has a strong responsibility to speak up, and to explain why the EU is so important for our people’s future. “We must ensure that things are going in the right direction,” he says. “Businesses are the backbone of Europe’s economic stability and people’s prosperity. Entrepreneurs 46

invest, create jobs and make the economy grow. The private sector in Malta and in the rest of Europe is responsible for the creation of jobs, investment and prosperity. Business is committed to transforming the economic, social, technological and environmental challenges we are facing into opportunities, and to promote and continue to improve our European way of life. “Though it seems remote, we must remain vigilant against extreme and populist notions. No country is immune to it, as is evident from the repercussions of political irresponsibility

affecting a number of our European partners. Several well-documented examples of populistdriven campaigns have, in fact, presented the Union with unprecedented challenges landing the Union in completely uncharted territory. “Therefore, ahead of the forthcoming MEP election campaign in our country, we continue to appeal to both our politicians and electorate to act responsibly. Our politicians must endeavour to ensure that they maintain a mature quality of debate that brings the very best of our country’s values and nothing else,” he adds. cc APRIL/MAY 2019


IN FIGURES: The European Parliament Elections


36.2% The average number of women MEPs.

The number of standing committees (and two subcommittees) in the EP, each covering a different policy area.


74.8% The percentage of people who turned out to vote in Malta in the last MEP elections. Malta has one of the highest voting turnouts in the EU.


The greatest number of European Parliament seats belonging to a single country – Germany.




The year direct elections were first introduced in the European Parliament.

The number of MEPs currently in the European Parliament.


The number of seats up for grabs in this election, adjusted downwards due to Brexit in 2018.

The voting age in Malta, after a unanimous vote in 2018.

The countries with the fewest seats are Malta, Luxembourg, Cyprus and Estonia.




The number of seats needed for a majority in the EP.

The average age of an MEP. In 2018, the oldest member was aged 89 (from France) and the youngest 29 (from Spain and from Bulgaria).

Source: Gozo In Figures, National Statistics Office, Malta

The number of political groups in the current Parliament. A political group needs at least 25 member MEPs to be valid.

Source: Eurostat

Source: Malta International Airport APRIL/MAY 2019



Cardinals’ Hall (Inquisitor’s Palace)

Heritage Malta: Extraordinary destinations for corporate events A conference in a centuries-old fort or a meeting in a palace? As Jo Caruana discovers, events at Heritage Malta are limited only by the imagination.


hether you are thinking of organising an intimate activity for your team or a wider event that is open to your clients and other industry stakeholders, chances are you want to leave an impression. And, in a sea of venues that don’t stand out, historic destinations and timeless spaces always will. “At Heritage Malta our venues are becoming increasing popular over time for that very reason,” explains Senior Sales and Marketing Executive Ryan Vella. “After all, each site gives a unique setting to any event being organised.” The sites and museums that make up Heritage Malta’s portfolio of locations form part of its identity and are considered valuable national assets. “Our values of exclusivity, uniqueness and pride are transmitted across every event,” Mr Vella continues. “And the list of possibilities is endless. To date we have housed all sorts of events – from weddings and staff parties to concerts (both rock and classical) and conferences.” Asked about how the event planning process works at Heritage Malta, Mr Vella explains that it all starts with a bespoke proposal, which is drawn up meticulously to fully respect the site’s environment and its surroundings. Then, armed with the


knowledge of what each venue can offer them, clients can take the best decision to match. “That said, often our experience so far has given us the confidence to know what our guests are after,” he says. “For instance, the planned number of guests will make some venues more practical than others, while the time of year can also determine whether we recommend somewhere indoors or out. Overall, I would say that Fort St Elmo and Fort St Angelo are the most sought-after venues we have, largely because of their majestic position within the Grand Harbour, and because they do offer a plethora of bespoke options for the clients choosing them.” It’s no surprise, therefore, that the Heritage Malta team has a vast collection of completed events and happy customers to look back on – including events organised by private individuals, SMEs, Government agencies, and even multinational foreign companies. I ask if any stand out in their memories. “One does come to mind,” Mr Vella continues. “It left its mark because of the extensive set-up and very particular requirements that were needed. It involved transforming Fort St Elmo into a media centre for nearly 1,000 journalists from

across the globe; they were here to report on and cover the Valletta Summit in 2017. Similarly, Fort St Angelo hosted a number of events related to Malta’s EU Presidency. Both events are still fresh in our minds, and we look back on them fondly. However, there are hundreds of other events that we enjoyed putting together – all different in scale and nature, and held across the 15 locations that fall under our administration.” Of course, it is no surprise that Heritage Malta’s venues have become so popular for corporate and other events – they truly are some of the most unique places anywhere on the island, and in the wider Mediterranean region. “I think people like the thought of being part of an event that is truly out of the ordinary,” Mr Vella explains. “Our sites are different from the usual proposition. Historic sites always offer a particular context; a setting that sits outside the realities of mainstream elements that are usually associated with events. “Apart from the environment, we place emphasis on providing an experience that goes far beyond the norm of renting a venue. For this reason, weight is given to flexibility, and our events are tailored to each client’s individual requirements. This tailor-made approach has given us a list of satisfied APRIL/MAY 2019


Piazza D’Armi (Fort St Elmo)

customers, and many of them now seek Heritage Malta’s support for every event that they organise.” Notably, Heritage Malta clients don’t have to feel tied to particular catering agreements, as the organisation’s catering policy does not offer exclusivity within any of its venues (except the newly-inaugurated National Community Art Museum – MUŻA). “People have different preferences and different budgets, so imposing restrictions on caterers would also restrict the number of potential clients for us,” Mr Vella reasons. “To date, all of the island’s established caterers have conducted events within our sites, and we are pleased about that. In fact, we facilitate matters by providing an infrastructure that supports their operations, and we find ways of collaborating so that we can meet the needs of our customers.” And Heritage Malta also tries to make it as easy as possible to get started on organising your event – and simply requires an email with introductory details. “If a potential client wants to get in touch with us, we just need some general information about their hopes for the event so that we can check its feasibility and consider what is available to match. We then schedule a site visit, which will give us a better understanding of what the client wants, and will give our Site Executives the chance to explain any location-based logistics that the client may need to be aware of. It couldn’t be easier, and we pride ourselves on the assistance we give throughout the whole process – including after the event is completed.”

“Our events are tailored to each client’s individual requirements.” APRIL/MAY 2019

St Angelo Hall (Malta Maritime Museum)

However, despite the wonderful flexibility of the team, it is recommended for clients to think ahead when it comes to booking these historic venues – largely because they do get reserved well in advance. “The larger sites get snapped up months – if not years – ahead of time,” Mr Vella says. “And the Malta Maritime Museum, the National Museum of Archaeology, Villa Bighi and Vilhena Palace in Mdina are also extremely popular, especially

at certain times of the year. “Nevertheless, it all starts with a quick email – we will certainly do our best to make your event happen, exactly when and where you want it to,” he adds. cc For more information about Heritage Malta’s venues visit or email

Ex-Royal Naval Hospital (Bighi)



Photos by Alan Carville

Turning Malta’s challenges into opportunities for growth Martina Said meets David Farrugia, Director at DFK Malta, to find out about the current climate of Malta’s financial services sector, the challenges that lie ahead, and how these can be turned into opportunities for this industry and beyond.


alta’s economy has been on a consistent upward trajectory for a number of years now, a reality cemented by recent statistics published by the National Statistics Office (NSO), on the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) estimates for 2018. Last year, Malta’s GDP amounted to €12,320 million, an increase of €1,006.5 million, or 8.9 per cent, when compared to 2017. In terms of volume, GDP went up by 6.6 per cent. David Farrugia, Director at DFK Malta, says Malta’s economic performance is there for all to see, and while it’s undoubtedly in a position of strength, it’s creating a tricky scenario. “The issue of volume is a doubleedged sword. It is necessary and important to up the numbers and reach a certain level of performance which then translates into GDP, but we’re also noticing the undesirable impact of volume on the country as a whole, which we should remain watchful of,” says Dr Farrugia. “Malta is attracting so much investment and interest from other countries for a reason, because it has the right 52

ingredients, but we must bear in mind what type and level of activity Malta was built for – that includes our roads, our regulators, our authorities, our financial institutions, whilst we must move accordingly with the times to be able to keep up with growth across the board.” Dr Farrugia says that all challenges bring opportunities – and the challenges the country is currently facing could prove particularly intriguing for those who have a capacity to think outside the box. “As history teaches us, necessity spurs creative thinking, which has led to many great inventions over time. Without comparing like with like, Malta and the many industries that operate within it should use these challenges as opportunities to improve their own operations.” He goes on to single out a specific industry. “The banking sector in Malta, which, as a player in financial services affects us directly, unfortunately is one problematic area which merits reflection. Malta’s financial services jurisdiction is well placed, and has a

strong regulator, the MFSA, which has been regulating various markets to great success, including insurance, securities, registry of companies and others. The regulator is in fact one of the main factors which contributed significantly to Malta’s success as a financial services centre,” says Dr Farrugia. “The process for registering a company in Malta is well-regulated and very efficient, but of course you cannot have a company or business registered in Malta without having a local bank account, and in my view, and the view of many other practitioners in the field, this remains a serious issue. There is a need for banks to become more flexible in order to be more business-friendly.” Dr Farrugia adds that he understands the challenges banks face, which often relate to impositions by foreign banks that the local sector has little control over. “Also, I am definitely in favour of conducting the right amount of due diligence on each and every client, which we are required to do too as a regulated industry and firm. Reputation is fundamentally important in any sector. Banks APRIL/MAY 2019

CC CASE STUDY are subject persons as well, but we must be careful to not close the gates too much because of insufficient resources that cannot keep up with demands,” he explains. “What if other authorities were set up specifically to assist banks to carry out their due diligence? Or if the rules of prevention of money laundering and due diligence are drawn up to make corporate and financial service providers less dependent on banks, thereby reducing their pressure?” Issues emanating from increased volume, however, do not start and end with financial services or banks, as the strain is visible in other sectors too, namely transport, logistics and tourism. Weighing in on the long-term implications, Dr Farrugia says that the most important components for accommodating larger numbers are there. For instance one must not underestimate the important benefits of having a highly capable workforce, which is also multilingual, giving Malta a significant advantage over other European countries. “The regulators that were established for various sectors are also there, and are well-respected, namely for the iGaming industry, the financial services industry, the maritime industry and the tourism industry. Being a signatory to the main Treaties and Conventions applicable to the Maritime industry, coupled with an excellent geographical location continue to enhance Malta’s reputation as a respected maritime jurisdiction. These are all crucial building blocks, but they go hand-in-hand with a sound infrastructure that is likewise very important, and everyone is aware of how much that needs to be taken care of.” A central component of a good infrastructure is transport, and Dr Farrugia believes it is crucial to determine a long-term plan for the island’s mass land transportation problem. “I am aware that various attempts are being made to address this, but it raises issues about how such solutions will still be viable past the medium-term. This doesn’t only apply to transportation – increased volume brings with it an increased number of transactions that have to be monitored by banks, so whereas banks would have been monitoring, a particular number of transactions daily, they now have to monitor double that amount, and the same applies to regulators such as the MFSA,” he asserts. “These authorities were set up with the aim of catering for a certain number of units, but we might now have to revisit the model and re-think how such regulators operate in order for them to be more efficient to keep up with increased volumes.” Zooming in on the financial services sector, Dr Farrugia says that it is thriving and faring well, but is also facing bumps in the road, not least with respect to human resources. “One of the biggest challenges we are currently facing as a country is that of being adequately resourced – we APRIL/MAY 2019

“Malta is attracting so much investment and interest from other countries for a reason, because it has the right ingredients, but we must bear in mind what type and level of activity Malta was built for.”

know that Malta’s strength lies in its robust workforce, but it is no secret that finding the resources to strengthen it is not easy, particularly to keep up with the increased demand for services. This is being felt across many sectors, including financial services, tourism, manufacturing and construction,” he asserts. “It points back to the main cause – an increase in volume. Looking at the glass half full, however, such changes in Malta’s economic landscape are one reason why, in my view, there is a greater interest in innovative IT solutions, such as blockchain technology, which Malta welcomed with open arms.” Dr Farrugia asserts that Malta’s openness to the technology could be a mix of wanting and needing to adopt it, “but if blockchain technology can help make us more efficient in transportation, in the logistical planning of our freight, in monitoring transactions of financial institutions and more, then it is a good opportunity for all.” Could it prove to be a death knell for those businesses that fail to get on board with this new development? “Whether companies embrace this or not of course depends a lot on the specifics of each industry. Some industries are more resistant to change, while others might demand more of the technology. Some might embrace blockchain entirely and quickly, others might be slower, and others still might not be dependent on it at all. It is still early days to tell how far it will reach.” Despite this, however, Dr Farrugia undoubtedly sees the emergence of this technology as a chance to up our game. “Even if it offers significant time savings and efficiencies, especially at a time when it is not easy to find human resources, this may give an organisation a cutting edge over another one that is still relying on traditional methods of operating,” he asserts. “Like anything which is new, it comes with its own risks, which means one needs to be more aware that there is a price, and sometimes the higher the price, the greater the reward. Malta did the right move in being the first country to legislate it, but here too we must ensure that we have adequate resources to continue monitoring and regulating it.” Looking ahead, Dr Farrugia explains that no industry or sector can be seen in isolation – they are all inter-related, and one depends on the other. “Take the property sector, for instance. We cannot downplay the negative impact it has on Malta’s environment, but we must also bear in mind the positive spill-over effect it has on other industries as well. With increased economic activity in this sector, there is increased turnover in building

materials, furniture suppliers, architects, notaries and accountants, and the same applies to any other industry,” he asserts. Crucial to all this, he adds, is finding the right balance. As a country that is dependent on tourism, Dr Farrugia says that Malta has always been perceived as an island with its own specific characteristics, and while it is important to change and evolve, it is equally important to retain Malta’s attractiveness, and not just for investors. “It can be done if all stakeholders pull the same rope and think sustainably. Other countries, including various Mediterranean countries that have similar characteristics to ours have managed to build sustainably by respecting the heritage and volume of the specific region, and by ring-fencing investment.” Dr Farrugia adds that Malta is currently riding on a very good wave of investment and attractiveness to foreigners, but it must not be taken for granted. “Foreigners and investors come to Malta because they obviously perceive it as being more attractive than where they’re currently working or their home country, for various reasons. But if they come with a perceived idea and they find the opposite, or it becomes the opposite in a few years’ time, it doesn’t augur well. Long-term planning is crucial to sustain this current level of growth.” cc



Express Trailers supporting Maltese retailers to export globally at low cost Maltese retailers are constantly facing competition from international online stores. The natural and more logical reaction to this foreign competition is to go global by selling online themselves.


ne of the biggest challenges when seeking to sell online, apart from the investment in an e-commerce platform and having it updated with all the product pictures and description, and having the platform linked to an online payment gateway, is then how to ship orders abroad. Express Trailers has been working silently on an innovative logistics platform purposely designed to support retailers, and anyone selling online, in the export function of their online sale. The platform is a redesigned website that ‘talks’ to the retailer’s e-commerce software, enabling them to ship their products abroad and effectively be able to take their business global. “Express Trailers has always worked very closely with Maltese retailers and few


understand the needs of these retailers as we do. We know that to operate and remain competitive, one needs to be backed up with the right logistics set-up and a robust IT platform. This is where our ShipLowCost service for businesses comes in, also supported by our managed warehouse services,” says Franco Azzopardi, Chairman and CEO of Express Trailers. Businesses that want to sell their products abroad can now work with Express Trailers through the portal. They will enjoy a seamless experience ranging from simply booking a delivery through portal after their own e-commerce website registers a sale, to opting for a total solution through our warehousing services where we manage the warehousing of their stock. ShipLowCost.

com will, in such situations, ‘talk’ to the WarehouseManagementSystem about what to pick, pack and deliver on behalf of the customer. A business client who has been using ShipLowCost for export is Paul Musu, owner of a retail shop in Valletta. He has been working with Express Trailers throughout his retail career. “My business collaboration with Express Trailers goes back over 40 years since they have always been at the forefront with a groupage service covering all Europe and beyond, and since I also imported from Asia, their service matched my business needs. In fact, their service has always been very professional and satisfactory. When one of the largest manufacturing clothing companies in Turkey with whom I had been working for some years, asked me to act as their agent in Europe, choosing Express Trailers as my export partner was a natural thing to do,” explains Mr Musu. “Knowing I was being backed by the ShipLowCost platform, I started participating in various fairs held all over Europe, receiving the goods from Turkey and re-distributing APRIL/MAY 2019


them to my various clients. I have been exporting to Italy, Sweden, Portugal, Spain and as far as Canada and Ecuador through the ShipLowCost portal. Without ShipLowCost, my business activity would have been more costly, but thanks to this platform’s efficient and easy-to-use features, I have been able to grow my business further,” he adds. Express Trailers launched www. in 2012 to help consumers bring their online shopping or purchases to Malta via Express Trailers’ hubs across Europe. “Although initially we were seen to be serving the consumer, this was only the launchpad to be business enablers for the local retailers, initially in the import of smaller consignments and now in the delivery of their exports sold online or otherwise,” adds Mr Azzopardi. The service started operating from four depots, in the UK, Germany, Italy and France, followed by Sicily a few months after the service was launched. Eventually, as the service grew, another three depots were added in Austria, Netherlands and Spain. “Our ShipLowCost online service, APRIL/MAY 2019

“Express Trailers launched in 2012 to help consumers bring their online shopping or purchases to Malta via Express Trailers’ hubs across Europe.” coupled with Express Trailers’ foresight on e-commerce and the success of this solution, all proved the company’s vision was a correct one. Today, companies no longer even need their storage warehouses and their fleet of delivery vans locally. The next announcement

will be another major milestone for the Maltese online retailer. So I suggest you stay tuned in to our frequency. Express Trailers, as always, is the benchmark gateway for retailers and casual sellers to go global,” Mr Azzopardi says. cc


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Jacques Cousteau’s Calypso arriving in Montreal returning from several weeks of exploration in Lake Ontario. By René Beauchamp –, CC BY-SA 4.0,

The spirit of Jacques Cousteau returns to Malta Life has a funny way of going round in circles. We all know about the adventures of Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Many of us recall eagerly watching his TV episodes on board his famous scientific ship, the Calypso – described by many as a ‘floating legend and a worldknown symbol of his epic adventures’. What most will not know is that Captain Cousteau had initially acquired this ship in Malta in 1950. The Calypso was originally a USA built wooden mine sweeper. She was commissioned by the Royal Navy and assigned to active service in the Mediterranean Sea; her official base was Malta during World War II. After its decommissioning in 1946, it remained laid up in Malta where, for a short while, it was used as a ferry between Marfa, Malta and Mgarr, Gozo. Captain Cousteau discovered the Calypso in 1950 when he travelled to Malta to find a suitable ship for his new adventures. He immediately knew she was the one; he transformed her from top to bottom into an oceanographic vessel and began his worldwide sea explorations that showcased the beauty and mysteries of underwater ecosystems and their inhabitants through his 120 documentaries. For over 40 years, the Calypso was involved in different expeditions, mostly scientific in nature, which required her to be equipped with different tools, including submersibles and a helicopter, to make her fit for her various missions. In 2012, the historical vessel was awarded the label ‘Boat of Heritage Interest’ by the French Maritime and River Heritage Foundation. APRIL/MAY 2019

Although Jacques-Yves Cousteau sadly passed away in June 1997, his spirit lives on in the embodiment of his beloved Calypso. A process has commenced to refurbish the vessel and to have her re-registered in Malta to enable this iconic vessel to, once again, fly the Malta flag after almost 70 years from the ship’s original purchase from Malta. Meanwhile, the recently set up Cousteau Foundation (a Maltese not-forprofit organisation dedicated to heritage management and research) has decided to further continue strengthening its ties with Malta. The Cousteau Foundation has, after negotiations with Heritage Malta, secured a deserving place in the Malta Maritime Museum in Birgu. Heritage Malta shall undertake extensive restoration and expansion works at the Malta Maritime Museum, planning its re-opening to the public around 2021. In the newly restored part of the museum, a floor will be dedicated to the legacy of the Calypso and the works of Jacques-Yves Cousteau. The exhibition is set to display numerous artefacts used by Captain Cousteau during his fantastic adventures as well as a wooden rib taken

from the original Calypso. In the true spirit of Captain Cousteau, the main aim of the exhibition will be to highlight the importance of actively protecting the marine environment and its treasures for the benefit and well-being of present and future generations. It is an extremely important mission considering the inane amount of waste that is polluting our seas and seriously harming wildlife. The decision adopted by Cousteau to register its flagship, the Calypso, in Malta and to establish a foundation here is solid proof that Malta indeed provides the right milieu for major international players to use Malta as their spring board. It is the law, the ‘can-do’ approach of the authorities and our culture generally (together with the subtle interplay between all) that were key in convincing Cousteau to consider Malta as one of its international bases. We need to recognise the vast opportunities that such players bring to Malta and understand the sometimes complex reasons that make all of this possible. Cousteau comes to Malta with global educational and cultural heritage that is immense. The spin-off benefits that Malta could reap in the educational sector, oceanographic exploration and environmental protection are countless. cc Partner Dr Jotham Scerri-Diacono and Associate Dr Jan Rossi form part of GANADO Advocates’ Shipping team. Specialising in maritime, commercial and environmental law, Dr ScerriDiacono and Dr Rossi regularly assist clients in registering their ships and yachts under the Malta flag as well as in the sale and purchase of ships and ship management generally.


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Mriehel: Development with a Vision Location, location, location. In the geographic centre of Malta and already home to key business and financial institutions (the Malta Financial Services Authority to name just one), Mrieħel is without a doubt the business address that should be on your radar.

Centrally connected to the rest of Malta and boasting easy access to the airport, it comes as no surprise that the island’s main business and financial operators have strategically set their basecamp in what could easily be described as Malta’s financial and business capital. And with the Central Business District Foundation (CBDF) spearheading and coordinating the development of the Mrieħel Industrial Estate under one cohesive vision, Mrieħel really is gearing up to be Malta’s foremost business district – managed by the very professionals who have set up shop in this hub of business activity.

class facilities for the benefit of its tenants. Mixed commercial areas spread over two levels have been crafted to include open spaces, landscaped piazzas, dining and retail options, a fitness centre, a supermarket, a childcare centre with a green outdoor play area, as well as areas for meetings and conferences. All the providers of the amenity services are top local and international names that are leaders in their own area; and serve to ensure that the working community within The Quad can enjoy a facilitated work-life experience found nowhere else on the island.

The central business district at a glance The Central Business District Foundation – formerly the Mrieħel Enterprise Zone Foundation – comprises 35 organisations from the private sector that have come together with representatives from the public sector, with the objective of improving the quality of service for people working in the area across all sectors. The scope of the CBDF is to provide holistic improvement and a unified, controlled direction for Mrieħel, whilst acting as a point of reference for enforcement actions within the location. With the convenience and relevance that the CBD brings to its financial institutions and businesses, it comes as no surprise that it has become the address of choice for many new operators planning the future of their businesses.

Connectivity Geographically located at the centre of Malta on an arterial road, serviced by three separate bus routes with a fourth route currently in development, The Quad allows for ease of accessibility no matter where the working community lives. The short distance to the airport and

The Quad: The future of workspace Enter The Quad Business Towers – envisioned to be the landmark address within the CBD that is best defined through its vision: “a business address like no other”. An idea borne of the Gasan and Tumas Groups, two of the most notable real estate development groups in Malta, the concept of The Quad is to create an unmatched space for modern, professional companies in which to conduct business. Projected to achieve LEED® Platinum Certification (certification of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), The Quad Business Towers will be a true next-generation office development. The four-tower concept, reaching a commanding maximum height of 19 storeys with over 44,000 square metres of mixed commercial floor space, has been carefully designed to foster the best possible tenant experience whilst implementing notable green building concepts. An amenity-rich community Besides being striking from a visual perspective, The Quad has been designed to provide top58

dedicated visitor set-down areas within the complex make it the ideal destination for businesses with international clients and visitors. The development will include circa 1,400 car parking spaces, providing for tenants’ needs; as well as retaining ample spaces for visitors and for public use. Motorcycle spaces, bicycle spaces and preferential spaces allocated for car-sharing vehicles are all initiatives that the operators of The Quad are undertaking to promote their Green Transport Plan. This aligns the values of The Quad with the vision of the Central Business District Foundation’s goals to safeguard green spaces and pedestrian zones – leading to greener, more sustainable development all-round. cc For more information about The Quad visit

* Details taken from the CBDF website at









Style Review

04. Spring prints

Welcome the start of spring with new wardrobe staples and striking fashion trends that will take you from day to night, and everything in between, as Martina Said discovers.

Floral prints always make a comeback at this time of year, and we never get tired of them. Whether in a large and colourful print on a floaty tea-length dress or a small and dainty design on a gorgeous silk fabric, dresses of this kind can be adapted to any occasion – smart or casual – under the sun.

01. Beige

05. Shades of green

Not exactly the first colour that comes to mind for spring, but the timelessness of beige makes it popular all year round, and a fittingly neutral colour for wardrobe office essentials, be it a trench coat, wide leg trousers, or that trusty handbag that you can take everywhere.


Blue and grey suits can take a back seat for now, while this striking colour in menswear has its moment. Various shades of green for smart suits are making a strong case this season, ranging from sage to hunter green, which pair perfectly with brown accessories.

06. Bright feet

It’s the ultimate fashion item for the man who appreciates fine tailoring, and the kind of wardrobe staple that you know you can hang onto for many years. In 2019, doublebreasted jackets have a more relaxed fit, and can take you from the office to a casual business dinner with total ease.

One of the trendiest colours this spring is lilac, and although not many would consider wearing it on their feet, we say, why not? Besides looking feminine and fun, putting the attention of your outfit on your feet is a fashion-forward move which won’t go unnoticed. cc



02. Double-breasted blazers


03. Versatile lace



Once a fabric used almost exclusively for special occasions, lace has become as versatile as it gets. Blouses with lace inserts, two-piece suits with lace detailing and smart-casual dresses with lace panels are just a few of the ways lace is being adapted for day-to-day wear, including smart wear for the office, and for after-work drinks.

Brunello Cucinelli

Gent With




Maryam Nassir Zadeh

06. Farfetch




NEWS Events & Initiatives

01. Chamber’s views on transfer of public land, clear and consistent

02. Proposals on Government’s rent White Paper

In a statement to the media in January, the Malta Chamber said that its views on the ongoing negotiations between Government and Corinthia Group on the land in St Julian’s were consistent with those it had expressed two years ago when commenting on the similar DB project. “Of course, from the information appearing in the media, the Chamber is aware of notable differences between the two cases. Nevertheless, it has also emerged that although the agreement for the DB project was subject to general disapproval and remains under investigation by the National Audit Office, Government is basing its negotiations with Corinthia on similar parameters,” the Chamber clarified. Quoting its previous statement from 2017, the Chamber said, “although the sale will provide a positive effect in terms of added investment and business opportunities in the country, the actual mechanics of the deal are the cause for serious concern… The transfer of public land to private interest is often the subject of serious controversy and going forward, we believe that agreements and procedures must be – and be seen to be – above board and transparent. People dealing in public land must act as if they were dealing with their own property. They must be made accountable for earning the full market value expected from the asset. Our main concern with ensuring that transactions involving public property are open, transparent and properly valued is to ensure a level playing field in business. We believe that this is not difficult to achieve if the existing laws and procedures are properly implemented.”

In light of the Government White Paper titled ‘Renting as a Housing Alternative’, published in Autumn 2018, the Malta Chamber embarked on a comprehensive internal and external consultation process with an aim to contribute a set of recommendations that effectively tackle the numerous issues characterising the Private Rental Sector (PRS) in Malta at present with a view to alleviate the resulting societal and economic pressures being felt throughout. In its comprehensive report, the Malta Chamber said that the status quo in the PRS is not a sustainable option for Malta. “The country, its society and economy cannot afford the current rate of increase in accommodation costs to persist. Therefore, strong and timely action is required to tackle the different factors that are contributing to the situation in order to safeguard the quality of life and sustainable growth in Malta.” As a responsible organisation with an overarching aim to safeguard and enhance the country’s long-term sustainability and competitiveness in the global market, the Malta Chamber proposed, among others, the following recommendations: • a clear and directional role for the Planning Authority in ensuring supply of affordable permanent housing that addresses the needs of today and those planned for the future whilst preventing overdevelopment for speculative purposes; • re-assessment of the IIP programme’s property investment eligibility criteria; • a thorough audit of all private and public vacant property followed by efforts and incentives to place said


resources to good use and form part of the rental property market; • implementation of the reforms proposed by the Malta Chamber and GRTU regarding Pre-June 1995 leased residential properties; • feasible, effective and reversible housing solutions that create immediate supply of affordable, comfortable yet reversible accommodation.

03. Chamber urges MEP hopefuls, political parties to contribute to a responsible, mature debate In a statement to the media in February, the Malta Chamber called for a responsible campaign as the country gets ready to switch into election mode, ahead of the upcoming MEP elections. “The Chamber is calling for a campaign that brings out the best qualities of our candidates as opposed to one which is detrimental to our country and its reputation,” the press release said. The Chamber said that it looked forward to a responsible and mature debate that will ultimately result in the election of the candidates that will best represent Malta and help build a better Europe. Reiterating President Frank V. Farrugia’s call in an opinion piece earlier this month, the Chamber reminded everyone involved that in a globally-connected scenario, the world is watching. The statement urged candidates and political actors alike to refrain from engaging in cheap exercises of mudslinging, especially if this is baseless and implicates innocent parties.

04. Malta Chamber launches ‘Make it’ in collaboration with Malta Enterprise Launching ‘Make it’, a campaign aimed at encouraging young people to consider a career in manufacturing, Frank V. Farrugia, President of the Malta Chamber said in February that the manufacturing industry was expected to create 53 per cent of the vacancies that were anticipated to be created in the next three years. This is the case, even though the sector is only responsible for 30 per cent of the interviewed candidates in the study. Mr Farrugia was quoting a study carried out by the Malta Chamber last December whereby the importance of manufacturing as a creator of job opportunities was underlined. “In a survey carried out among all Malta Chamber members regarding the expected recruitment they are projecting 65

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for 2019, 2020 and 2021, manufacturing came out on top, as it is expected to provide 530 job vacancies from the 995 expected to be created in the next three years,” Mr Farrugia said. The President reiterated how these numbers continued to strengthen the Chamber’s argument about the importance of the manufacturing sector and how well advised it is to continue to support its permanence in Malta. Taking the podium, William Wait, Chairman of Malta Enterprise, stated that the manufacturing base today is very diversified from the production of car switchgear, toys, food and packaging, repairs and maintenance of aeroplanes, engineering, building of machines and production of medicines. He also reiterated the importance that one needs to factor in all the research and development activities being undertaken related to all the aforementioned sectors. Patrick Cachia, Chairman of the Manufacturing Economic Group within the Chamber said that manufacturing in Malta had come a long way. “In fact, even in a world where the economy is increasingly looking at the services industry, manufacturing remains an important element of our economic equation,” he noted. The campaign launch was also addressed by Chris Cardona, Minister for the Economy, Investment and Small Business. “The manufacturing industry is the backbone of a strong economy. We want to bolster the industry in the nation’s long-term future. There are incredible job opportunities in our country that are a far cry from the prevailing perception,” said Dr Cardona.

05. 05. Information session on hiring of pleasure yachts The Malta Chamber Yachting Services Business Section in collaboration with the Malta Maritime Law Association held an information session regarding the publication by the Maltese authorities on the 1st March 2019 guidelines relating to VAT on the hiring of pleasure yachts. The session, which was addressed by Dr Alison Vassallo as Chairperson of the Yachting Services Business Section, and Dr Anthony Galea as Chairperson of the Yachting sub-committee within the Malta Maritime Law Association, was well attended by members of both entities. The new guidelines address the manner in which the leasing of yachts by Maltese registered entities is to be treated for VAT purposes. The guidelines relate to the calculation of the effective use and enjoyment of pleasure yachts within EU waters for the purposes of Article 59a of the VAT Directive and are based on recent EU developments and best market practices. This development has been welcomed by the local yachting industry and continues to build on Malta’s strength, position and experience as a leading maritime jurisdiction.

06. ‘Parliament for Enterprises’ gives Malta’s entrepreneurs opportunity to voice concerns and opinions The first-ever Maltese Parliament of Enterprises, which was organised by the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry in collaboration with EUROCHAMBRES in March, offered Malta’s business leaders the opportunity to voice their concerns and opinions on a number of issues affecting the economy in Malta. The event allowed participating entrepreneurs to discuss themes such as skills in the modern labour market, competitiveness, sustainable development and research, development and innovation. Opening the session on behalf of the Malta Chamber, President Frank V. Farrugia said “these themes are very close to our hearts. As people in business, we cannot emphasise enough how important it is for Malta to get it right on these four fronts, in order to create jobs and growth for the country and our people. “Our event today is aimed at bringing businesses and our Parliament faceto-face for one morning, so as to enhance dialogue and mutual understanding.” Taking the floor, Christopher Leitl, President of EUROCHAMBRES said that entrepreneurs in Europe should be

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proactive, providing appropriate answers in a world full of uncertainty, challenges and disruption. He spoke of the important role that business people and entrepreneurs played within the social ecosystem, and the need for backing from other sectors of society in order for this role to be effective. “We are paying taxes, creating jobs, serving the countries and the people within them by doing that and we are proud of that, but we need support from Government, as well as social partners.” Speaker of the House Angelo Farrugia introduced the session as part of the Parliament’s outreach programme, stating that the House is open to all European citizens, and encouraging citizens and civil society to participate in political discourse that transcends national borders. Apart from entrepreneurs coming from all sectors of the economy, the session was addressed by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Leader of the Opposition Adrian Delia and members of Parliament from both sides of the House. The session was organised in collaboration with the Office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives and EUROCHAMBRES.

07. Yachting sector everso important to the Maltese economy The Yachting Services Business Section (YSBS) within the Malta Chamber provided a snapshot of the current state of the yachting industry in Malta during a press conference in March, as it gave details of the work it carried out during its two-year tenure. Minister for Finance Edward Scicluna addressed the press conference alongside the President of the Chamber

of Commerce, Frank V. Farrugia and Chairperson of the Yachting Services Business Section Dr Alison Vassallo. Welcoming guests, the President of the Malta Chamber Mr Farrugia said that the collaboration between the Chamber’s Yachting Services Business Section and the Ministry of Finance proved to be instrumental in solving issues relating to matters of direct interest to Chamber members. “I am directly referring to the long saga concerning the application of VAT on yacht leasing which our section was particularly active about for months on end. This long and complicated matter highlighted the importance of Business Sections within the organisational structure of our Chamber. Indeed, the members in our section highlighted the threat which was hanging on their businesses and on the Maltese economy, appealing for the support of the Chamber and our Council. Naturally this support was immediately forthcoming and thankfully this also brought about the full support of Minister Scicluna and his Ministry in tackling the situation in Brussels,” Mr Farrugia said. Dr Alison Vassallo said that the yachting sector had, over the past 12 years, experienced gigantic leaps. “Malta has become a go-to destination for yachting, both from the point of view of the flag which currently homes over 750 yachts over 24 metres in length and also for the level of logistical and legal services that are offered by our jurisdiction,” Dr Vassallo noted. “Leaving aside the flag and legal services, the number of sectors that feed off the yachting sector is striking. Dr Vassallo thanked the authorities for the support shown in addressing this most important matter over the past year and

for the excellent collaboration between the authorities and the private sector which set an example to other jurisdictions. The press conference was also addressed by the Minister for Finance, Edward Scicluna, who referencing the study conducted by EY highlighted that indicative estimates pointed at the industry generating €100 million in revenue, which excludes tax and flag registry revenue together with direct employment of over 1,500 people.

08. Chamber welcomes Air Malta’s financial turnaround In a statement to the media in March, the Malta Chamber said it was encouraged to note Air Malta’s historic financial turn-around registered in 2018. The news of the national airline registering a profit of €1.2 million after so many years was very warmly welcomed by the business community, no less by the Chamber, who always considers Air Malta as a vital partner to the country’s continued economic growth. “The Chamber has in fact consistently aired its views publicly over recent years about the importance of ascertaining a sustainable future for the national airline. Air Malta plays a pivotal role in Malta’s economic and social development. The airline’s international route network, built by sustained investment over the years, is vital for the country’s economic development.” In this light, the Malta Chamber reiterated its congratulations to Air Malta and its leadership for the positive financial results achieved. The Chamber augured that this may be just the start of a continued sustainable operation for the national airline.

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09. launched “ shall be instrumental in taking the prolific tech industry to the next level, building on the strengths that it already enjoys and move forward to new ambitious highs,” said Frank V. Farrugia, President of the Malta Chamber, welcoming guests to the official launch of on 25th March. Addressing attendees, Mr Farrugia said that the Chamber, together with Government, had been working on such a collaboration for a number of years. “I am delighted today to witness its birth,” he said. Mr Farrugia proceeded to explain how shall assist tech companies based in Malta in exporting their information and communications technology beyond Malta’s shores. “ shall do this by enabling the necessary sales channels for the export of information and communications technology, while positioning Malta as a quality and creativity delivery country. Doing this, our public private partnership shall expand the value of Malta’s ICT industry, as it will seek to attract international conferences on key tech areas and facilitate innovation in new technologies.” The press conference was also addressed by the Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation Silvio Schembri. “Through, Malta will be actively promoted in foreign fairs and conferences, as well as educational institutions such as universities. The interest in Malta and its activity within this new emerging sector was quite remarkable, giving rise to companies which had already announced their decision to relocate to Malta. Tech. mt will be supporting these companies by assisting them in promoting their services away from our shores,” said Mr Schembri. Taking the floor, Chairman

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09. Mark Bugeja said, “today is another important ‘Block in the Chain’ of events that the Government embarked upon a couple of years ago. I’m proud to be part of this capable team of governors composed of members of the Government and the Chamber, and I am sure we will keep the name of Malta at the forefront of this emerging digital economy.” is a foundation set up by the Government of Malta together with the Malta Chamber as a public private partnership to promote Malta as a tech centre for innovative technologies. Tech. mt is composed of Mark Bugeja (Chairman), Francois Grech (Deputy Chairman), Frank V. Farrugia, Gordon Micallef, Roland Scerri, Charles Scerri, Marouska Pisani Bugeja, Raymond Spiteri and Jillian Spiteri.

10. Chamber to propose a new Economic Vision to Government Addressing the Annual General Meeting of the Malta Chamber in March, President Frank V. Farrugia said that the Chamber would be proposing a new Economic Vision to Government in the coming months. “It is my pleasure to announce that our Chamber has already set the ball rolling on the design of a new Economic Vision that builds on the previous one which we published in 2014. The Chamber, once

again, is being a leading force in Malta’s economy as, through its business-leader members, it will once again propose a blueprint to Government to sustain and assure a sustainable and competitivenessbased economy for the future. I am truly honoured to have kicked off this ambitious and vital process,” Mr Farrugia said. The Economic Vision will be the second of its kind, which is being published by the Malta Chamber following the across-theboard success registered by the first. Mr Farrugia then proceeded to report to the Annual General Meeting the milestones and achievements of the organisation in the past 12 months, as well as throughout his two-year term as President. Kevin J. Borg, Director General, delivered a detailed report of the work carried out by the Chamber in the past 12 months.

11. The state of the economy “Our economy as a whole is doing well. But not all sectors and industries are growing at the same pace, so we need to ascertain its sustainability,” said Frank V. Farrugia, President of the Malta Chamber as he was welcoming guests to The State of the Maltese Economy event. The event, which was organised by the Malta Chamber together with EMCS, provided an analysis of the performance of the Maltese economy and featured contributions by a list of international guest speakers together with Malta’s leading economic voices. Mr Farrugia said that the Chamber members were generally positive about their economic prospects. “The country, however, must ensure that it does not take success for granted. The international situation is ever volatile and we must remain nimble and efficient to respond to internal and external shocks,” Mr Farrugia said. Interviewed by Stefano Mallia, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that the success Malta is experiencing boils down to one fact, “being fearless of reforms”. Dr Muscat admitted that it would be much easier for Government not to change, but “the moment Government stops APRIL/MAY 2019

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13. Malta Chamber Board of Management in place

11. changing and reforming, is the moment the country starts its downfall.” The Prime Minister spoke about the current reforms, from the energy sector and the change-over to electric cars, to promoting increased female participation in the labour market through incentives such as universal free childcare. He pointed out another major reform that was announced the day before, aimed at achieving equal representation in Parliament. “If in the history of our Parliament there are only 27 women and hundreds of men, then something must be wrong. And this is ample reason to challenge ourselves to bring about the necessary change.” Leader of the Opposition Adrian Delia, who was also interviewed by Stefano Mallia, asked who was benefitting from the successes the country was achieving. He said that economic growth should not depend on growth in population size. The Leader of the Opposition proposed a long-term plan that would determine which industries are best suited for sustainable growth. Focusing on issues related to transportation, Dr Delia said that the country needed a metro system in place. He said that resurfacing roads at a great cost was not going to result in any benefit for the country, as a long-term plan was warranted. The event also featured a key-note speech by Peter Mckiernan, Professor of Management and Director of the Global MBA at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland. Gordon Cordina, Robert Geismann and Philip Von Brockdorff delivered presentations on the state of the economy of Malta. The event was concluded with a panel discussion lead by Silvan Mifsud, with the participation of David Xuereb, Marisa Xuereb, Nicholas Zahra and Stephanie Fabri.

Economic Group, has served as Deputy President of the Malta Chamber since 2017, and held various other positions within the structures of the Chamber in previous years. He represented the Chamber in several local and international fora, including leading delegations on behalf of the Chamber, the latest being the European Parliament of Enterprises. He also chaired the Energy and Environment Committee within the Chamber since its establishment in 2009. Addressing Council for the first time, Mr Xuereb said he was honoured to be elected to preside over the Chamber Council and promised to work closely with his fellow Council members and the members of the Chamber. He outlined his main priorities for the Chamber in the coming two years, top of which is the implementation of a regeneration strategy that will be targeting the future priorities of this prestigious institution representing its membership for 170 years. This objective will ensure that the vision and approach of the Chamber are completely aligned to the current and future needs of its wide membership, and the ever-changing national and international business environment in which the organisation operates. Mr Xuereb thanked outgoing President Frank V. Farrugia who led the Chamber over the last 24 months, and invited him to remain active within the structures of the Chamber.

Following the electoral process which took place in March, the Malta Chamber’s newlyelected Council convened for the first time on Friday 29th March to elect Perit David Xuereb as President for the next two years. Next was the establishment of the Board of Management, which is tasked with advising Council on policy matters and the administration of the Chamber. Marisa Xuereb, who hails from the Manufacturing Economic Group was elected Deputy President, while Hugh Arrigo (Services Economic Group) and Frank V. Farrugia (Importers Economic Group) were elected Vice-Presidents. Liz Barbaro Sant (Services Economic Group), Andrew W.J. Mamo (Importers Economic Group) and Matthias Fauser (Manufacturing Economic Group) were elected Officers on the Board of Management. Council of The Malta Chamber 2019-2021 The remaining members of the Council are listed below. Importers, Distributors and Retailers Economic Group Fava Reginald, Tabone Anthony, Vassallo Cesareo Christopher, Zahra Charles A. Manufacturers and Other Industries Economic Group Cachia Patrick, Cuschieri Ruben, Pace Joseph, Xuereb Nicholas Services Providers Economic Group Casolani Ian, Cutajar Marcel, Sullivan Matthew E., Vassallo Alison

12. Perit David Xuereb elected 70th President of the Malta Chamber Following the Annual General Meeting of the Malta Chamber which was held on 25th March and the subsequent electoral process, the newly-elected Council convened and elected Perit David Xuereb as the 70th President of the Malta Chamber. Perit Xuereb, who comes from the Services APRIL/MAY 2019

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NEWS Internationalisation

01. A commitment to consolidate the relationship between Malta and Tunisia Welcoming H.E. Mr Beji Caid Essebsi, the Head of State of the Republic of Tunisia, to the Chamber in February, Malta Chamber President Frank V. Farrugia said that the Business Forum, the third in a span of 14 months, was another clear testimony of the commitment to consolidate the healthy relationship between Malta and Tunisia, and to provide tangible opportunities for the respective business communities. The Business Forum which was hosted by the Malta Chamber formed part of a State Visit to Malta by the President of Tunisia. “Our bilateral ties give us an incentive to engage and explore deeper reciprocal commercial cooperation in manufacturing, logistics, aviation, maritime and several other sectors. Such conviction derives from our history of strong collaboration in Mediterranean affairs and regional cooperation. Improving our trade relations will go a long way in achieving a healthier environment and economic prosperity in the region,” said Frank V. Farrugia. The Business Forum brought together more than 50 business persons from Malta and Tunisia in a successful meeting of ideas and collaboration. The event was attended by H.E. Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, together with officials from the Tunisian Embassy in Malta and UTICA, who helped with the organisation of the same.

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01. 02. Canton Fair and China International Import Expo 2019 take centre stage at the Chamber “The Malta Chamber sees in China a strong partner that provides Maltese businesses with immense opportunities on both import and export directions.” This was stated by Frank V. Farrugia, President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry; during a promotional event of the 125th edition of the Canton Fair and China International Import Expo (CIIE) 2019, organised in March by the Malta Chamber. The event was organised together

with Trade Malta, in collaboration with the Economic and Commercial Counsellor’s office of the Embassy of China in Malta and the China Foreign Trade Centre. The event provided practical information about two important business fairs, elaborating on how such occasions create an open platform for international cooperation where all countries, including Malta, may meet in one place and share their experiences in a spirit of commercial collaboration. The promotion event was addressed by Carmelo Abela, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion by means of a video message in his absence due to official business abroad. H.E. Jiang Jiang, Ambassador for the People’s Republic of China in Malta and Xu Bing, Vice-President of the China Foreign Trade Centre also addressed the participants. They explained how China is moving from rapid growth to high quality production, providing fertile ground for business matchmaking opportunities. During the event, Moira Attard, Director General of the Ministry for European Affairs and Equality, encouraged the interested companies to make use of the SME Internationalisation Grant scheme, an EU co-funded grant scheme, to support Maltabased companies to exhibit their products and solutions during overseas business fairs. Trade Malta is a joint-venture between the Government of Malta and Malta Chamber which helps Malta-based businesses to go international. It can be contacted on T: 2247 2400 or at E: cc FEBRUARY/MARCH 2019


Brexit: What happens now? While it’s almost impossible to keep up with the latest Brexit developments, one thing is for certain: no one knows exactly what the next few months will bring. Here, Jo Caruana speaks to experts to gauge their expectations for the next steps and outcomes – both economic and otherwise.


ooking back on the 2016 Brexit referendum in the UK, did anyone really know what they were getting themselves into? In the 35 months since Britain voted to leave the European Union, the one thing that has become clear is that nothing in this scenario is clear-cut. Even today – as this publication goes to print, and with another extension having been granted to the British government by the EU – no one is quite sure how things will pan out. That uncertainty has created a number of challenges for those within the UK and outside it. Questions have been raised about everything from healthcare to


citizenship, and very few certainties have been underlined. Meanwhile, at the centre of it all, the global business community has kept a close eye on proceedings; however few definitive solutions have emerged here, either. So, what can that community – both locally and internationally – expect from the months to come? Minister for the Economy, Investment and Small Business Chris Cardona immediately highlights that challenges do lie ahead. “What is for sure, is that there will be many more ups and downs in the months to come,” he says. “Malta went from being a former colony, to becoming one of the UK’s

staunchest allies in the EU and now one of the protagonists in negotiating the UK’s exit from the European Union. “Nevertheless, it is our responsibility as politicians to reach an enduring solution cast in the interests of the people we are elected to serve. Only in doing so can we move on to building a bold new economic relationship that can underpin the deep and special partnership we all want to see between the UK and Malta, and also the UK and Europe.” Meanwhile, across Europe, politicians and citizens are sizing up the damage that Brexit will cause – whether on a societal or economic level.



“Brexit has been very damaging for the European project, as well as for the image of the United Kingdom around the globe,” says MEP Roberta Metsola. “I do not think anyone expected it to be plain sailing but the way it has developed politically, socially and economically since the referendum has been very painful for everyone concerned. “I think that people have now realised that leaving the EU is not as easy as some unscrupulous politicians had initially made it out to be. I am proud that the EU has insisted that the freedoms its membership offers cannot be uncoupled from each other. EU membership never was and never can be an à la carte option.” MEP Miriam Dalli, meanwhile, calls Brexit a ‘wake-up call to all politicians and EU leaders 78

“It is essential that businesses prepare themselves for a cliff-edge, so that they are not taken by surprise.” – Chris Cardona

that sweeping citizens’ concerns under the carpet leads us nowhere’. “The Brexit vote was a clear message that politicians cannot pat themselves on the back when they get a good deal out of the EU, and then blame the EU for something that goes wrong. While safeguarding citizens’ rights and making sure that people do not bear the brunt of political failure, Brexit should also send a clear message that you cannot be out of the EU but still enjoy the rights of membership,” she says. And there is even more disbelief from

other parts of society. Stefano Mallia, President of the European Economic and Social Committee Brexit Committee, recalls that, in 2016 and from a UK point of view, it looked like it would be a ‘walk in the park’ where the UK would get most of the benefits of EU membership whilst ‘taking full control’. “The reality however did not take too long to emerge,” he says. “The EU soon took a unified stand that, if the UK wanted to leave with some kind of agreement, it would be the EU that would set the terms and not the other way round. APRIL/MAY 2019


“People have now realised that leaving the EU is not as easy as some unscrupulous politicians had initially made it out to be.” – Roberta Metsola

This position became clearer with each passing day and, slowly, the UK came to realise that, by setting the various red lines at the early stages of the negotiations, they had painted themselves into a corner out of which they are now struggling to emerge. “What might have caught many by surprise, however, was the division and confusion that would reign within the House of Commons. While agreeing on what they do not want, the UK Parliament cannot seem to decide what they do want in terms of how they should leave the EU. The EU, which has remained steadfast in its united positions, has continued to try and coax the UK towards a deal of sorts, however it is clear that there is now Brexit fatigue within the Brussels set-up and a final deadline, 31st October 2019, has now been set.” Although the terms of Britain’s departure from the EU have yet to be agreed, Minister Cardona says he is hopeful that any deal will include a transition period that will give businesses some breathing space within which they would be able to operate. “However a no-deal Brexit is still a real possibility,” he explains, “and the EU has been, and will need to continue, carrying preparedness and contingency planning, in parallel to the negotiations. “That said, this does not mean that private stakeholders and actors should rely solely on such measures to protect their businesses. It is essential that businesses prepare themselves for a cliff-edge, so that they are not taken by surprise. This is why we introduced a scheme to provide advisory support to Maltese businesses, so they can get ready for the various possible future trade relationships that may be in place between the EU and Britain. Aid shall be granted in a form of a cash grant covering 50 per cent of the costs for advisory services.” Dr Dalli explains that, since the early days of Brexit, the local Government has taken proactive steps to ensure that any impact APRIL/MAY 2019

from Brexit is minimised as much as possible. “A special unit was set up to evaluate the general impact of Brexit on Malta. The same happened when talks of a no-deal started to emerge, with the Government making the necessary preparations for that possibility. With proper planning, there could also be opportunities for Malta. But we need to be also prepared for any challenges or any eventualities like the issue with medical products coming from the UK. “Meanwhile, a no-deal Brexit would mean no trade deal between the EU and the UK,

and checks are needed to preserve the integrity of the single market. But ultimately, it is for the UK to decide what sort of exit it wants. It is a sovereign state. Whatever is decided, Malta is prepared and continues to update proposed legislative frameworks for all scenarios.” Regardless, Dr Metsola stresses that the implications for Malta and Gozo remain serious. “Our businesses cannot plan effectively,” she says. “This means that industry is forced to take measures to ensure stock, alternate routes of supply and more. 81


“With proper planning, Brexit could also bring opportunities for Malta.” – Miriam Dalli

Our Maltese citizens living in the UK are still unclear as to what exactly their rights will be and the same goes for all those British subjects resident in Malta and Gozo. It is the uncertainty of it all that is the worst. “Thus, having a deal has always been the aim of any responsible politician. Only a deal would provide the parameters with certainty on how business can be conducted and only with a deal can people be sure of their rights. A no-deal Brexit would spell economic and social hardships, and I hope that this option remains firmly off the table. “Nevertheless, in terms of Malta, we must continue to play a constructive part in the process and ensure that our industry has all the information and awareness to be able to move forward whatever the scenario. Whatever happens, I am confident that the historic and cultural ties between Malta and the United Kingdom will remain as strong as possible.”

“A second referendum would be a positive decision for the EU and an even more positive one for the UK.” – Stefano Mallia 82



But, whatever happens, there will almost certainly be an impact for Malta and our business community. “The Maltese economy will be impacted on various levels,” Mr Mallia makes clear. “First and foremost there will be an immediate direct impact in those industries that sell directly their goods (such as food) and services (such as tourism and printing) to the UK market. “There will also be an impact on those manufacturers that source materials and components from the UK if such materials and components would be faced with a tariff and hence an increase in costs. It also remains to be seen how the value of the pound would respond to such an event as a no-deal Brexit. “At this stage I would certainly say that the best-case scenario would be one where a decision to go for a second referendum takes place and a vote in favour of remaining in the EU is taken. This, I personally believe, would be a positive decision for the EU and an even more positive one for the UK. The second-best-case scenario would be for the House of Commons to agree to the deal already negotiated between the EU and the UK government. This would lead to an orderly Brexit that would, at least, avoid the chaos of a no-deal Brexit.” Finally, and with all of this in mind, Minister Cardona stresses that the main aim for the UK and EU moving forward should be good access to each other’s markets. “We want competition between us to be fair and open, and we want reliable, transparent means of verifying we are meeting our commitments and resolving disputes,” he says. “This is an area where the single market is most established and both the UK and the EU have a strong commercial interest in preserving integrated supply chains. “To this end, I believe there are several areas through which bold and creative thinking can deliver new agreements that are in the very best interests of all our people – both across the EU and in the UK. And in the face of a worrying rise in protectionism, I believe such agreements can enable us to set an example to the world.” cc APRIL/MAY 2019


Tech Trends


04. LG Signature OLED TV R9 LG’s new, disappearing OLED TV has a screen that can stretch to 65 inches and then roll into a compact box. The 4K HDR TV set unfurls itself silently and engineers have told LG executives that the TV can be furled and unfurled around 50,000 times – giving you at least 34 years of daily viewing. The OLED TV R9 is expected to launch in the second half of 2019, and will be compatible with Google Assistant and Alexa.

VR, cryptowallets, and the launch of Apple’s first-ever credit card – Marie-Claire Grima rounds up the latest and most hotly-anticipated arrivals from the world of tech. 01. Oculus Quest Facebook-owned Oculus’s third VR headset, the Quest, launches this spring, and promises to offer an experience that’s close to the company’s flagship Oculus Rift model. With a sleek all-in-one design, hand-tracking controller technology and a comparatively reasonable price, tech analysts believe this could be the VR headset that truly captures the mainstream market.

05. Withings Move Activity Tracking Watch

02. Ledger Nano X From the makers of the popular Ledger Nano S cryptocurrency wallet comes an upgraded version: the Nano X. The flash drive-sized Nano X has Bluetooth connectivity allowing users to connect it to their computers and phones wirelessly to send and receive cryptocurrency, making it the perfect toy to show off at the next hi-tech gathering.



06. Mophie Juice Pack Access If your iPhone is always flashing the battery low signal, Mophie’s portable charging case could be just right for you. It gets its power from any Qi wireless charging pad or its included charging cable, giving you up to 31 hours of battery life. Compatible with Xs Max, Xs/X, and XR iPhones, it’s also strong enough to protect your phone from any bumps, scratches or drops – ideal. cc

03. Apple Card Apple flipped the world of credit cards on its head in March by introducing one of its own: Apple Card. By taking on payment cards, Apple has shown willingness to disrupt mobile payments that no other media giant has ever attempted before. So far, only plans for Apple Card in the US have been announced, but it’s possible that Apple will use the US as a testing ground before expanding into other countries, and it may already be negotiating with other banks and international institutions.

Withings’ newest smartwatch, Withings Move, monitors your activity and your sleep. It has a GPS tracker and syncs with the Health Mate app, but most impressively, it works for 18 months without requiring a battery charge, so you only have to worry about charging every year and a half or so. Its understated analogue clock face belies its capabilities, making it far more futureproof than other trackers on the market.

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Food trends

Spring sings health, flavour and vibrance, with fresh ingredients and imaginative dishes gracing mealtimes. Rebecca Anastasi shows you how to make the most of the prettiest season with the latest culinary trends. 01. Spice it up with some harissa Love some heat? Prepare for summer with an ingredient to put a bit of the exotic on your plate. Harissa, a bright-red paste made from chilli, red pepper, tomato, as well as an assortment of spices and herbs is a popular ingredient in North African cuisine but is set to pack a punch in kitchens around the globe.

02. Low-ABV beer


You need not feel guilty on Friday nights this season, with beer producers looking for ways to make their suds healthier. Brews are being reformulated to include Himalayan sea salts – known to balance sugar levels and improve hydration – as well as reduce the level of carbohydrates and calories in each sip. Now, there’s no excuse not to wake up for a jog on a shiny Saturday morning!

03. Sea-sourced snacks



Living on a Mediterranean island has its plus points, and we may not need to travel far to make the most of this latest trend from the culinary world. Think light bites made from seaweed, including the brown, stringy sort you’ve seen washed up on shore, known as kelp. It may not look like anything special lying limp on the sand, but it’s been touted as the new superfood.

04. Burmese cuisine You’ve had Thai, Japanese and Vietnamese, but have you ever tried specialities from Myanmar, a country in South East Asia? Cradled by India in the west, Thailand in the east and China in the north, Burmese cuisine features fish and seafood as frequent fixtures. You might even want to try making mohinga – a breakfast made of rice noodles covered in a fish-based soup and sprinkled with deep-fried fritters.

05. Vegan cheese This plant-based product might not be on the hit-list of most lovers of le fromage, but maybe it should be. Vegan parmesan, camembert or cheddar have been gracing supermarket shelves for some time now, and with an increased awareness on how our diets shape the planet, we should, perhaps, all take Greta Thunberg’s example.

06. Rum Gin has headlined the drinks trend list for quite a few years now. And while we still can’t get enough of those G&Ts with a cucumber twist, this season is all about rum. This 17th-century Caribbean drink – whether white or dark – will grace many a signature cocktail over the next few months. Time to get some stock in! cc




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The Convenience Shop outlets expected to number 71 by end of 2019 The number of The Convenience Shop outlets in Malta is growing exponentially, with expectations that it will increase to 71 by the end of 2019, according to CEO Martin Agius.


artin Agius knows a thing or two about the retail business, having spent over two decades with General Soft Drinks, one of Malta’s leading soft drinks companies. As Sales and Marketing Manager, he managed to help the brand grow its business in a challenging market and a change in mind shift of consumer behaviours for soft drinks. In December last year he decided to take up a new challenge as the CEO of the rapidlyexpanding The Convenience Group, which already has 62 outlets under its umbrella as either fully-operated stores or franchises. “It was clear the shareholders behind The Convenience Shop had a clear vision to take the chain to different heights. It was tough to leave my former post, but their drive and

determination to succeed had great appeal,” Mr Agius says. The first The Convenience Shop outlet was relatively inconspicuous, opening in Zebbug 10 years ago in an attempt to target changing market trends. However, it did not take long for the founders to realise the concept had enormous potential. “The original owners were humble, but visionary at the same time. They saw quite quickly that more and more people were seeking outlets that fitted in with a more hectic lifestyle and they started to service this market by opening more stores in various towns and villages around Malta,” says Mr Agius. “The formula has remained the same: a family-run business focused on delivering a special customerexperience while retaining a local feel. All

“The first The Convenience Shop outlet was relatively inconspicuous, opening in Zebbug 10 years ago in an attempt to target changing market trends.” 90


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“The Convenience Group also places significant emphasis on human resources – it already has 750 members of staff on its books – and acknowledges their contribution to its success.”

our stores have a traditional look, such as wooden shelving, but are presented in a way that captures shoppers’ emotions. That’s what makes us stand out.” Mr Agius explains that the ‘convenience concept’ has become more important than ever, due to Malta’s changing demographics and socio-economic environment, particularly the expansion of the expat and tourist sectors. “We are not competing with the traditional supermarket model, because the vast majority of our shoppers don’t want to spend much time in a store. We actually complement supermarkets as our customers are all about ‘quick mission shopping’. Our role is to meet their expectations in a five to 10-minute period.” The key to achieving this aim is to ensure that each shop is stocked with an adequate range of items and to tailor the contents to each locality. “There is no one-size-fits all. That doesn’t work for us. We are focused APRIL/MAY 2019

on the specific needs of our customers, and items like freshly-baked bread and milk remain big sellers. We are also committed to buying stock from local distributors and suppliers, and do not engage in parallel trading. We support local businesses and believe in the importance of nurturing close relationships with them,” Mr Agius says. The Convenience Shop outlets are now present in almost all Maltese towns and villages, except Mellieha and Gozo, although Mr Agius affirmed that there will be no hesitation in establishing a presence in these areas when the right opportunities come along. The current business model is based on a 60/40 split of fully-operated stores and franchisees which see the benefits of being part of a successful modern brand. “Our strategy is to continue to grow rapidly,” Mr Agius continues. “Our growth strategy involves identifying new localities without cannibalising volumes, with the aim of retaining all the good elements that have made us popular with customers.” “The Group is very conscious of the challenges presented by its expansion plan, and is investing in a sophisticated IT infrastructure to efficiently analyse market information and make informed decisions and ensure its workforce has the necessary information to take the right strategic decisions.” The Convenience Group also places significant emphasis on human resources – it already has 750 members of staff on its books – and acknowledges their contribution to its success. “The company wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without them and we consciously operate an equal opportunities policy that has at its heart diversity and inclusion. We invest in training and stress to all our employees that we can offer not just a job, but a career. We are training our people in customer care, merchandising, food preparation. Several of our people started off as stackers and have made it to management positions, so the opportunities are there.”

In line with its growth, the Group is also focusing on creating a solid corporate governance structure. Along with shareholders Ivan Calleja, Joe Pace, Manuel Piscopo and the recent addition of lawyer Dr Kevin Deguara, who brings a wealth of experience from a corporate legal and financial perspective, two independent directors have been appointed, Benjamin Muscat and Charles Scerri, who have extensive experience in the retail, real estate, accounting and corporate finance sectors. In its efforts to continue expanding and improving its operations, the Group recently invited the capital market to invest in the Convenience brand via the issuance of a €5 million bond. This was fully subscribed and is now trading on the Malta Stock Exchange Prospects MTF List. “This was further confirmation that the Convenience brand has become a household name and a strong vote of confidence in the Group’s activities,” Mr Agius says. “We are striving to enhance and grow both our management and organisational structures. Our mission is to be the best convenience retailer in Malta by consistently serving the changing needs of consumers, as well as ensuring the company has a sound administrative backbone to support our expansion.” Environmental considerations are also high on the list of priorities, as the Convenience chain seeks to be a champion in waste management. “We want to be at the forefront of environmental initiatives,” Mr Agius says. Corporate social responsibility is also an integral part of the philosophy of the Group – it recently opened a The Convenience Shop for Puttinu Cares in Qormi, the profits of which will be donated entirely to the Puttinu Cares Foundation. “Our business is not just about profits. We want to play an active role in the community and this initiative is just one way of giving something back. We will provide support for good causes wherever we can; we believe in sharing and support towards the community,” Mr Agius concludes. cc 91


Peeling back the layers of a 500-year-old building The newly-restored Auberge d’Italie in Valletta, now home to the National Museum of Art, is a fascinating building with a 500-yearold history that served as a pillar around which the museum was modelled. Martina Said meets the project’s trailblazers to find out what went into bringing this building back to life.





Photos by Alan Carville

hen Malta’s National Museum of Art, known as MUŻA, opened its doors to the public last year, there was enormous anticipation for its grand reveal, after many months of intense work to have it ready in time by the end of Valletta’s tenure as European Capital of Culture in 2018. For many, anticipation and excitement mounted for more than one reason – the art community was eager to view and experience the newly-displayed art collections, but many were just as eager for the grand reveal of the newly-restored Auberge d’Italie, the historic building that houses the collections – and both lived up to, and exceeded, expectations. After speaking to three experts who led different aspects of this project, and whose work was pivotal to its success, I learned that the Auberge d’Italie was and is much more than just a ‘house’ for MUŻA – as the museum’s Curator and former Project Lead, Sandro Debono, aptly puts it, “the Auberge was the container within which the collection had to fit. The ambition was to create a glove-in-hand situation – the Auberge is the glove and the collection is the hand.” Dr Debono says that the project adopted an interpretative design approach which was all about letting the building speak, understanding the complexity of its 500-year old history, and reacting to its many layers, rather than imposing new layers onto it. The scars and marks left on the Auberge’s walls were acknowledged as part of the building’s history, and therefore left exposed. These included graffiti, but not just, given that the building had been severely mutilated over

time. “The idea was never to adapt the building to be a museum, but rather the other way around,” he asserts. This went hand-in-hand with developing the concept for MUŻA, which moved away from the model used for the now-defunct Museum of Fine Arts. “We didn’t create a collection from scratch for this new institution – it is a historic collection, re-engineered and re-thought into stories that communicate better with the viewer.” The interventions were carried out so as to provide a better and clearer reading of the historic layers of the Auberge, says Dr Debono. “We opted for surgical interventions to remove what was absolutely necessary, rather than removing a layer to expose the underlying one. This was all part of one concerted vision that guided the restoration of the building and the rethinking of the collections into narratives. There was an intentional attempt at polyphony, woven through all the various and multifaceted components of the project, and this too informed the conservation and restoration of the building.” The road to getting this project off the ground was long and complex, and began with an international design contest based on a brief prepared by Heritage Malta, after an intense period of workshops and focus groups to establish the storyline and experience of the community art museum, says Perit David Zahra, Head of Projects at Heritage Malta. The detailed design phase started towards the end of 2016, while

works on site began at the beginning of 2017. “Historic buildings provide a wealth of data about past habits, manners, techniques and aspirations. Hence, the restoration intervention has to preserve, without distortion, this full range of evidence, supplemented by research and documentation,” says Perit Zahra. “The intervention at the Auberge d’Italie aimed at identifying the various layers which constitute the historic building that stands today, and understand the organic manner in which this developed, in response to ever-changing needs and requirements, throughout its history. This approach required extensive research, making use of archival and published sources over a period of roughly 500 years. In order for the Auberge to tell its written and unwritten history in its totality, it was necessary for the intervention to retain and make legible all surviving layers found within it.” As with any restoration project, unexpected yet invaluable discoveries were made at the Auberge, albeit ones that were obliterated through war damage and extensive modifications, but which completed the narrative of this important building – namely the Camerone and the grand staircase, or La Scala Grande. “The former was a double height space, practically occupying the entire wing overlooking Pjazza de Valette, with a pitched roof and high windows, similar in scale and style to the Grand Salon at the Auberge de Provence, albeit this being at ground floor level,” says Perit Zahra.

“The Auberge was the container within which the collection had to fit. The ambition was to create a glove-in-hand situation – the Auberge is the glove and the collection is the hand.” - Sandro Debono APRIL/MAY 2019



“All evolutions are an intrinsic part of a building’s story, and every evolution is important. The restoration concept became, almost, one of archaeology, one of layers and skins.” - Robert Sant

“The only hint to this space was a chase in stonework of the external wall on the existing roof, indicating the pitched roof profile. During the works, the original paving was uncovered, the position of the coat of arms was identified, and the original profile of the high windows (that direct light downwards) understood, hence requiring a major re-design of this space to enable any visitor to understand the original proportions of this space, even though in a small area of the former Camerone.” As for the staircase, Perit Zahra says that, since the early stages of the project, one element that eluded all was the lack of a grand staircase in such a building. “This was very unusual for period buildings. Hence, even though it was understood that such a staircase was demolished, its position was as yet unknown.” Following the demolition of the more modern staircase and the cleaning of the walls, elements started to emerge within the stones that started to point towards an elaborate and elegant configuration of La Scala Grande, in line with what one would expect in such an Auberge. “Even though no historic drawings were found, after a thorough site analysis, compounded with a laser scan survey of APRIL/MAY 2019

the walls, the original configuration of the staircase could be established. This was complete with cross vaults on each landing, connected with barrel vaulted staircases, over two metres wide, surrounding a largish void (stairwell) and lit by very large arched windows, one on each landing.” In line with the restoration philosophy,

Perit Zahra says it wasn’t possible to reconstruct the staircase and obliterate subsequent layers of the fabric. “Therefore, the proposed staircase evokes the memory of space and light, while using modern materials to re-create the unique experience of La Scala Grande.” There were many other practical applications of this theoretical approach to the restoration process which yielded interesting results. Perit Zahra highlights some of them: “the kitchen (now the cafeteria) has recovered its original hard stone flooring, and the curved marks of the hood on the walls of what once was the original kitchen fire pit are now visible on walls which still hold traces of soot. Also, La Scala Grande can now be understood and experienced thanks to the recovery of a lost spatial relationship and its corresponding light sources, these being large windows that are now clearly visible on the external and partly on internal walls. This approach sought to expose and articulate the complexities of the building’s surviving fabric and its historic layering.” Perit Robert Sant, Project Architect and Head of the Integrated Design Team (IDT) for MUŻA – which included his company Design & Technical Resources (DTR), the interpretation consultants (Martello Media and DMW Creative), engineers (Cyan Engineering), restoration consultants (MCG Architects), and project managers (iMANAGE) – says the project brief called for the restoration of the Auberge as well as the generation and installation of MUŻA. “MUŻA is about stories, connection, about stimulation, about asking people to find dots and connect them, even dots as yet unseen by the experts.


CC DESIGN TRENDS It is this basic understanding that underlies the work of the architects and interpretation consultants.” Perit Sant explains that, as Heritage Malta and the IDT studied and explored the Auberge, and its walls were uncovered, the complexity and convoluted history of the building emerged, and so the questions arose: “what exactly does one restore the building to? All evolutions are an intrinsic part of a building’s story, and every evolution is important. The restoration concept became, almost, one of archaeology, one of layers and skins. The restoration intervention became one of surgical intervention to peel back various layers of skin, carefully revealing what lies underneath, then applying a graft, should this be required, or applying the graft to the spirit of what no longer is, or can be, what has been taken over by evolution, but which has left deep signs of its passing on the very walls.” The restoration of the building attempts to reveal the very story of the Auberge as completely as it was understood, Perit Sant adds. “The building comes before MUŻA, and shall perhaps even outlive MUŻA. Everything put into it in 2016, 2017 and 2018, including MUŻA, can be taken out, and the Auberge will remain, restored, unmarked and well able to take on its next function in its evolution.” Therefore, he continues, “we did nothing to adapt and prepare the space to house a national museum. Instead, we adapted MUŻA to be housed within the Auberge d’Italie. No space is created other than that which already exists, and MUŻA merely occupies such spaces without any imposition.” As the designs for the museum evolved, and whenever there was a call for compromise, Perit Sant says the decision always went in favour of the building. One such instance was when the Preti gallery in the museum had to accommodate the loss of space to reveal the Camerone through a physical intervention. “Substantial building services needed to be installed. The same ethos had to be applied to such installations too and, whenever a MUŻA-related installation needed to be attached to the building, such attachment would have to be justified and, when accepted, shown to cause the least possible mark on the building fabric,” he asserts. “For example, when embedding new services into the walls, the engineers were required to use existing chases. Intervening even minimally on, say, the chases for socket outlet boxes, to improve alignment, required special permission. MUŻA-footprint and volume were sacrificed to wall lining which allowed for externally mounted service installations. The decision as to how to suspend ceilings from the building fabric took months and about six proposals.” Part of the restoration process involved applying grafts of new skin, where necessary, to the Auberge, “to soften the wounds and 96

“The proposed staircase evokes the memory of space and light, while using modern materials to re-create the unique experience of ‘La Scala Grande’.” - David Zahra mark the glory,” as Perit Sant explains. “This skin is light, transparent, yet visible and perforated to allow one to realise that there may be more than initially meets the eye, to stimulate a desire to delve deeper. This new skin is not in itself a pure construction material but, seeking to inspire a story of construction, is associated with it.” This is where the use of copper came in, which the architect says has played a role in buildings for many years, but not really for structural purposes. “Copper has always been applied to buildings as a skin and this understanding, we feel, is engrained in society’s psyche,” explains Perit Sant. “We chose TECU Premium, a light bronze (a copper alloyed with a small portion of tin) and applied it in thin, 0.7mm sheets, perforated to an even pattern, both for visual lightness and also for transparency. In the Grande Scala installation, the TECU skin evokes that which no longer remains. In other places, such as the Pjazza de Valette façade, the TECU screen is all that remains of a building torn away, and now marks the extent of that tear, while also providing protection to the wound of exposure, while asking the viewer to peer deeper through it.”

The challenges encountered throughout this project were many and various, ranging from the scale of the structural interventions to design modifications that had to accommodate new discoveries. The museum’s curator says intervening on the building as little as possible while staying true to the original concept of MUŻA was among the greatest challenges. “Respecting the fabric of the building was key, but the museum also needed a sound infrastructure suitable for a contemporary art museum, which includes climate control, lighting and, in MUŻA’s case, transforming a historic building into a zero carbon footprint institution,” says Dr Debono. “All the energy consumed is generated on site, making it the first museum in Malta, and one of few in Europe that generates energy this way.” The complexity and scale of this project make it unique in many ways, and now it also serves as a prototype of a sustainable historic building which could pave the way for future projects of this kind. True to its name, MUŻA serves to inspire visitors, and through the thoughtful engagement between the building and the art, it opens up a world of opportunity for centuries-old discovery and exploration in a remarkable setting. cc APRIL/MAY 2019


Office Trends

04. Free-range cohabitation spaces

01. Experience-drive spaces

Co-working spaces were a hit in 2018, and are ever more so in 2019. This type of design brings different companies together under one roof. In this new co-existing sphere, the walls are coming down, allowing different companies to share the same space, resources and sometimes even talent. The open-plan design incorporates light, mobile furniture and plenty of desk space as opposed to closed off cubicles.

With 2019 in full swing, Jillian Mallia takes a look at popular office trends that are making waves this season. Incorporating direct experiences into the business space is a common practice nowadays, with a thirst for experience being prioritised in the workplace. This trend incorporates the ‘human potential,’ giving importance to employee experience including massage therapy, meditation areas, game rooms, espresso bars and corporate sports tournaments.

02. Glass Gone are the days of secluded offices. Glass rooms are the new deal, giving an openplan space an integrated vibe to the whole office design. Incorporating glass within the interior design of office spaces gives a touch of privacy while keeping a community feel.

03. Geometric patterning The days of plain and single colour walls are behind us. Say hello to abstract patterns and geometric forms that are making their way into meeting rooms, lobbies and hallways of offices everywhere, giving a more vibrant look to the office’s ambiance. New patterning gives the brand a personality and can really make things pop.


05. Natural materials Associating a brand with environmental activism is a growing trend, and it’s become imperative for companies to go green wherever possible. There has been a substantial uptick in the use of natural material in office décor, such as green walls, plants, wood and cane. Some companies even take this a step beyond and use these materials in their logos, taglines and other projects, bridging the gap between the brand and activism. cc




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Dripping with history: Valletta’s stunning Hotel Domus Zamittello Celebrating its first year in business, General Manager Fabien Vella gives Vanessa Conneely a tour of the Domus Zamittello boutique hotel, that’s been transformed from a post-war partly derelict building to something of an elegant beauty.


omus Zamittello has only been a hotel for just over a year, but the building on Valletta’s Republic Street has a 400-year-old story to tell. Records show the palazzo, then known as Casa Pensa, was used as far back as 1633, when it was the residence of various knights of the Langue d’Italie. A few years after the Order of the Knights of St John left Malta in 1798, Casa Pensa and its dependencies were transferred by the British Government in 1805 to Auditor Giuseppe Nicolo Zamitt (Zamittello) in exchange for land know as Tax-Xemx u l-Qamar and Ta’ Blat il-Kbir. The building then became known as Palazzo Zamittello. Zamitt was a superior judge of the Law Courts, as well as a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George. Knighted in 1818, a large monument to his honour remains in the Upper Barakka Gardens today. Sir Zammit had one daughter, Maria Theresa, who married the third Baron of Buleben and whose lineage was later merged through marriage in 1889 with the Count of Mont’Alto family.

He died in 1833 and was interred in St John’s Co Cathedral, one of the very few Maltese to be found here amongst the Knights of St John. In this house, in 1833, Baron Azopardi, who married Sir Giuseppe Zamitt’s daughter, wrote his well-known Presa do Malta e Gozo. The home has remained in the family for seven generations, and is now called Domus Zamittello in honour of its previous owner. This fascinating history can be experienced even before walking through the giant front doors. “The huge replica door knockers represent the two coats of arms of the Buleben and Mont’Alto families,” says General Manager Fabien Vella, who’s been working at the hotel since before it opened in February last year. “The story of the building really seems to be attracting people, as well as the high standard of service of course!” “We’re extremely satisfied with our first year of operation, considering we are a new brand that is still building our reputation. We’re attracting an interesting mix of guests, many of whom are in Malta for business, but also including cultural travellers who want to know more about the history of Valletta, our hotel, the Three Cities and Mdina,” he explains, musing that Valletta has transformed in the past 10 years, and the type of tourist coming to Malta has expanded. “Until recently, Malta was only seen as a sunny destination, which people still appreciate, but now I think tourists visit for more reasons. I’ve been working in hospitality for more than 20 years and it used to be the case that January and February were always the slower months, but now that’s when a lot of corporate and business travellers come to stay, and the cultural tourist who actually seeks to avoid the summer months. Medical tourism has also become a thing, with many people coming both from Europe and beyond,” he continues. The beautiful lobby of Domus Zamittello is painted a cool, calming shade of pale grey. It’s where the old courtyard used to be, and

“We’re attracting an interesting mix of people, including cultural travellers who want to know more about the history of our hotel as well as of Valletta, the Three Cities and Mdina.” 100

has a retractable skylight which allows guests to enjoy natural fresh air with their morning coffee or afternoon aperitif. While the streets outside are bustling with tourists, none of that noise can be heard inside – which is exactly what Fabien and his team of 15 staff are going for. “We want people to feel relaxed and at ease here, be it if they are here for business or for pleasure. We have 21 rooms, six of which are suites. Five of those are duplex suites that span over two floors. This split level has a sitting room and separate bathroom which allows our corporate guests to hold private meetings if needed.” Some of what are now the hotel’s guest rooms were damaged during World War II. Now, they are luxurious and include large, cosy beds with soft embroidered linen and underfloor heating throughout. The owner has thought of every minute detail, and this is evident in the finished product, anything from the hand-painted custom-made furniture to the USB charging points. The traditional Maltese balconies have been replicated, and guests can view some beautiful sights, including the red church domes, the Triton Fountain and Pjazza Teatru Rjal. “In the evening people can sit on our private terrace on the third floor with an aperitif and even listen to the shows and music being played in the theatre,” says Fabien. “But don’t worry,” he adds, “we also have double-glazed windows if you just want some peace and quiet.” That attention to detail is everywhere, especially in the service, he continues. “We always get to know our clients and focus APRIL/MAY 2019


Photos by Alan Carville

on the little details which will make the difference between a regular stay and memorable one. It can be the simple dietary requirements or whether they prefer a bath over a shower for example, right up to booking of taxis for the next leg of one’s trip in another country. We address our guests by name and give them as much helpful information about Malta and what there is to do here as possible. A guest experience is not only determined by their stay in a hotel, so the assistance in planning a guest’s trip is always appreciated. “It’s very important to us that we invest in our customers and we take our reviews very seriously. Our guests have already ranked as


one of the top-rated hotels in Valletta after only one year in business, and this success is the driver for us to keep improving. We’ve also had the same core team since opening. It took us a while to select the right people with the right positive approach and today we are very proud of our team, as they and their personality are the driving force behind this success. It’s a special feeling when a customer comes back and sees the same people serving them, and anticipating their requests since we already know them,” he maintains. And those guests include some famous faces. Ever the professional, Fabien won’t disclose who one of them was, but would tell

me that it was a member of the British Royal Family. One area of the Domus which is even more special is the Piano Nobile, where apart from the suites there are the two original halls, the authentic Sala Nobile and warm and cosy Sala del Conte. Guests are served breakfast in the Sala Nobile. “The feeling of having breakfast in such a historical place which has hosted nobility throughout the past centuries, complemented with restored wall frescos, original flooring and natural light coming in from the high windows and balconies overlooking Republic Street is something special for all guests.” Fabien tells me that the Sala Nobile can be used for private events, both corporate as well as social, in the afternoon and evening, whereas the adjoining Sala del Conte can be used throughout. In the past few weeks, Domus Zamittello has added another string to its very elegant bow, in the form of Mezzodì Bistro run by Chris and Michael Diacono, along with Chef Ryan Vella. “Mezzodi has already become one of the top culinary addresses in Valletta, offering a stylish but casual ambience, with professional service and a good homely feel. We want people to know they can pop in for a quick plate of pasta at lunch, as well as go for the traditional extended three-course meal, which undoubtedly Valletta has become renowned for,” says Fabien. And even Fabien himself has a history with Domus Zamittello. “It’s a very special place for me. Growing up in Malta, I’ve been walking past this building on Republic Street since I was a little boy, so seeing what it has become and actually being here on a daily basis means a lot to me. ” Just one more story to be woven into the fabric of a 400-year-old piece of history. cc

“The huge replica door knockers represent the two coats of arms of the Buleben and Mont’Alto families.”



Championing Malta’s family businesses There’s no stopping Dr Nadine Lia and the team behind the Family Business Office. After a successful initial two years, Marie-Claire Grima finds out how they’re stepping up the game and taking the long-term view when it comes to the needs of family businesses in Malta.


018 was a busy and fruitful year for the Family Business Office. During its second year in operation, the office, which forms part of the Ministry for the Economy, Investment and Small Business, helped family businesses in Malta save €29 million thanks to the fiscal benefits, governance schemes and tax credits made available, raised more than €12 million revenue fiscally for public funds, helped with the successful transfer of over 1,000 different businesses from one family member to the other, and held 15 separate events targeting family-run enterprises throughout the year. “Our presence has increased and many businesses now approach us for help directly,” says Dr Nadine Lia, the Regulator for the Family Business Office. “For a start-up office, we have had immense results, as the statistics from 2018 show.” Dr Lia, a long-time champion of family businesses in Malta, states that the establishment of the office has led to increased awareness about the importance of such businesses to the economy as a whole. “This can be seen also through the high attendance during our numerous events, collaborations with other social partners and the professional community,” she says.

“We hope to continue to be an example to other member states and continue to pioneer this field.”


The fact that the Family Business Office is the first of its kind has also generated international attention. “We have also received a lot of interest from other EU member states about this innovative initiative and legislation, and the amount of family businesses that approach us to discuss these matters has increased.” The Regulator’s mantra is that family businesses are, were and always will be the backbone of the economy. “In Malta, micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises make up a huge majority of businesses here, with many of them being family-run. More significantly, 95 per cent of these SMEs are classified as micro-enterprises, having fewer than 10 employees. These companies generate around 80 per cent of all jobs in the economy and create 71 per cent of the overall value added. For both variables, this is about 14 percentage points more than the EU average.” In light of the exceptional period of economic success that Malta is experiencing, Dr Lia says that many family businesses have increased their growth and as a result, implemented the required changes to sustain that growth. “The incentives introduced for family businesses help and allow them to make the most of the growth whilst at the same time setting in place foundations to sustain that growth,” she adds. “We see businesses that started out as a sole trader for the first generation converting to fuller companies as they are passed on to the next generation. There’s also been the introduction of new legislative instruments such as trusts and foundations, which are given new scope to be used by family businesses.” Highlighting one of the most important incentives spearheaded by the office, Dr Lia says that “this last year, we introduced a new bank finance scheme in collaboration with Bank of Valletta and the Malta Development Bank to provide access to finance to family businesses, increasing the number of incentives to 11. We are constantly looking at new schemes we can develop and implement to assist family businesses and hope to introduce others in the future.” Dr Lia says that the concerns that most family businesses approach the office with are two-fold. “On one side they relate to financial and fiscal planning, and on the

Photos by Inigo Taylor

other side they relate to governance and succession planning,” she explains. “Most certainly, the most crucial is governance and succession planning, as by organising this aspect of the family business, the rest will fall into place.” In fact, she describes succession planning – or the lack thereof – as “the Achilles heel of family-controlled enterprises.” “An informal survey carried out in 2010 revealed that the majority of family businesses do not have formal structures governing employment, education and remuneration of family members,” she details. “The figures available for training and skills development also point to a need for catch-up in this area, and show that, for example, only 16 per cent of businesses in Malta provide training to their employees. This represents just two-thirds of the EU average. So, in failing to plan, a family business plans to fail.” Issues of succession and responsibility in APRIL/MAY 2019


“It is imperative that women who participate and own businesses are put at par with their male counterparts.”

a family business often centre around sons and brothers, and women often end up being the unsung heroes of the operation – an issue that the Family Business Office is also working to remedy. “Many times, family businesses depend on the use of family volunteering. This volunteering is mostly taken up by female members of the family. This unrecognised workload is not healthy or ideal,” Dr Lia says. “We tackle this by ensuring and encouraging all those who participate in the business are given their due recognition, both from an employment and an ownership perspective. Furthermore, this will then motivate the business to seek out the best and most suitable person to take over the business in the future.” Citing statistics which state that the majority – 60 per cent – of graduates today are women, Dr Lia says that the role of women in business has strengthened greatly and increased visibly. “It is therefore APRIL/MAY 2019

imperative that women who participate and own businesses are put at par with their male counterparts. Having said this, I believe that this should also go hand in hand with establishing and strengthening the role and rights of the father in the family, so that the traditional pressure for the father to be the main breadwinner is reduced. Fathers should have the same opportunities to nurture and raise their families at par with women. Our role is not to promote one gender over another, but to ensure that all genders enjoy equality in both aspects of family and the business where the operation’s management is concerned.” For an office that was established so recently, it has already produced some very encouraging results, highlighting how necessary it was to have an office focusing solely on the particular needs of family-run businesses. But Dr Lia is also looking ahead to the office’s long-term legacy. “In 10 years’ time, the Family Business

Office will hopefully be able to register statistics showing, on one hand, the high transfer rate of family businesses and a greater approach of governance planning, while at the same time registering a decline in the number of family businesses that failed to transfer. We hope to continue to be an example to other member states and continue to pioneer this field.” “Finally we hope to have increased and developed more incentives, according to needs of the businesses, as they develop and create a community. I believe that over time, the sector will also provide support within itself.” cc For further information about the incentives and benefits available or for assistance from the Family Business Office, contact T: 2220 9524; E:; Fb: Family Business Office Malta; 103


Santa Lucija tunnels

Quality infrastructure pays A new analysis by economist Dr Gordon Cordina confirms that we stand to gain over €1,200 million in benefits from seven road projects that Infrastructure Malta is implementing across the country. But what’s really in it for us, and for our businesses?


nfrastructure Malta was established less than a year ago, with an unprecedented €700 million seven-year budget to overhaul the country’s road infrastructure. Economic growth, increased mobility and rising population figures are taking their toll on Malta’s ageing road network. Through its road upgrades, this new agency forms part of a multi-faceted plan spearheaded by the Ministry for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects. It aims to improve existing transport systems, develop and popularise alternative modes of mobility and ultimately make our commutes quicker, safer and more sustainable.

Dr Gordon Cordina


In his new analysis presented in April, Dr Gordon Cordina reviews the impact of seven major Infrastructure Malta projects, adding up to €141 million, to identify and quantify their benefits to road users and to the Maltese economy. This sample comprises just a fifth of the agency’s planned infrastructural investment in the next few years. The seven projects reviewed include the reconstruction of the Marsa Ħamrun Bypass, the Marsa Junction Project, the widening of Triq tal-Balal between San Ġwann and Naxxar, the rebuilding of Triq il-Buqana between Mtarfa and Mosta, the new tunnels beneath the Santa Luċija roundabout, the Central Link Project between Mrieħel and Ta’ Qali, and the Triq Sant’ Andrija upgrade in Swieqi, Pembroke and St Julian’s. Whilst some of these seven projects are completed or nearing completion, others are planned to start soon. Through the reduced congestion attained by these projects, road users are gaining €25 million in fuel cost savings every year. As travel times are reduced, they will also have five million additional hours of free time for more work and more leisure. Air pollution caused by vehicles will also decrease substantially. Carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles, one of the main causes of climate change, will decrease by 62,000 tonnes every year, the same amount

saved every year by all photovoltaic (PV) panels currently installed in Malta and Gozo. “There are a number of other economic and social benefits and costs which are difficult to measure and were only assessed through a multi-factor criteria analysis,” Dr Cordina adds. “These projects do not only improve vehicle accessibility registered in time saving. They also encourage modal shift as a result of more new infrastructure dedicated to public transport, cycling and pedestrian mobility, such as reserved lanes, cycle lanes, safe pedestrian paths and crossings.” “Another important gain is the generation of induced occupational activity. The effect on level of employment is both direct, due to the phase of construction, and indirect, as a result of the general increase in accessibility of the area with consequent positive affect on the local economy.” By improving the arteries included in the seven projects, travel times along other parts of the network will decrease as well. Similarly, as arterial roads become more efficient, commuters are less likely to opt for alternative routes through village core streets and secondary countryside roads that are not meant for high volumes of vehicles. As air and noise pollution caused by congestion decrease, nearby lands and properties are likely to gain more value as well. APRIL/MAY 2019


Triq tal-Balal

The positive impacts of the seven road projects extend to local businesses as well. Dr Cordina refers to the current situation, with several major road links nearing overcapacity, causing delays and challenges. A European Commission study on the external cost of passengers and commercial vehicles shows that the average delay per kilometre of road travel in Malta stands at 16.93 seconds, over three times higher than the European average of 5.74 seconds. “This delay implies that people get to work late, causing stress and loss of productivity. Traffic congestion affects the operational costs and supply chain efficiency. The increased cost of doing business as a result of travel delays was estimated at €32.4 million as a result of slowdowns in freight delivery, business scheduling and general business operations.” “Therefore,” the economist adds, “the reduction in travel times and fuel consumption brought about by the seven projects will reduce operational costs as well. As we have seen, the study estimates that Maltese drivers will save €25 million per annum in fuel. At the same time, the five million hours less time in traffic being saved through these projects means that €18 million more working time is given back to businesses, equivalent to €75 working time per worker. In addition, individuals will gain 12 minutes more every week to invest in leisure time, which will eventually have positive impacts on their productivity as well.” cc APRIL/MAY 2019

Minister Ian Borg

Internalising benefits Dr Ian Borg, Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects explains that “people are getting back €7 in benefits for every €1 spent in these Infrastructure Malta projects. We believe that our families and businesses should continue benefiting from Malta’s economic success in every possible way. Through these seven projects, we are giving people less time in traffic, more quality time with family and friends and an opportunity to work more and rest more. How much more will our country gain when considering all the other infrastructural investments we are implementing? We are committed to attaining our vision of sustainable and effective transport systems in our country. We are getting things done, making sure that we utilise the money that people entrust us to administer in the best possible way, to reap maximum benefits, for a better quality of life.” The Minister also welcomes Dr Cordina’s proposal for Government to allocate a share of the 61 per cent return on investment of road projects for the setting up of a fund supporting complementary measures that can maximise the sustainability of road transport and mitigate the costs of increasing road mobility. The fund can be utilised to incentivise traffic reduction and modal shift or for environmental protection, road safety measures and carbon sequestration projects. This proposal will be put forward for inclusion in Government’s 2020 Budget.



One of Forbes’ European 30 Under 30: How one animator turned her hobby into a dream job Antonia Bonello talks to Vanessa Conneely about why she loves working at Buzzfeed and how she’d one day like to have a house in Malta.




“I love what I do, and I enjoy how much the industry of content creating has changed, even within the five years I’ve been with the company.”



t was a rather gruesome animation video of the TV show Game of Thrones that led Antonia Bonello to land her dream job at BuzzFeed. The 29-year-old is now an Associate Creative Director at the company’s London office, after working her way up to the coveted position over the past five years. But how she got the job is a little unorthodox. “BuzzFeed had commissioned me to do an animation called ‘Game of Thrones: 14 Most Brutal Deaths’ as 8-bit Gifs. It went viral and HBO, the makers of the show, contacted BuzzFeed in the US asking for my details. Our office there decided not to give HBO my number as they wanted to hire me for themselves.” After being snapped up for her talent, Antonia – whose grandfather is from Valletta – went on to win a litany of awards for her work. Most recently, she was included in a list of 30 Young Innovators within Media and Marketing on Forbes’ European ‘30 Under 30 for 2019’. She’s also worked on content campaigns for huge names such as Google, Nike, Netflix, Sky, Amazon, Diageo and Nestlé. The modest girl from East London says it’s good old-fashioned determination that has got her to where she is today. “- I worked hard and kept doing side projects and what I loved on top of my day-to-day jobs in retail and as a post-production runner. It was

my side projects that got me noticed by BuzzFeed and started off my career. They helped me turn my hobby into my job. I love what I do, and I enjoy how much the industry of content creating has changed, even within the five years I’ve been with the company. I work with businesses who want to reach their audience in a different way and bridge the gap from traditional advertising to making that real connection.” “For example, I worked with the dog and cat food company Purina last year. We did a series of posts and made-for-social media campaign which encouraged more workplaces to allow people to bring their dogs to work,” she continues. Google ‘Purina’ and ‘BuzzFeed’ and you’ll find more than a dozen articles written by BuzzFeed content creators which also advertise Purina. Titles include ‘11 Reasons Cats Are Actually The Perfect Companion’ and ‘10 Ways You Can Tell Your Dog Is Your Best Friend’. So, is this the future of advertising? Antonia believes so. Her and her team worked on another campaign for the UK car insurance company Churchill, where a stuntwoman jumps from one moving car to another. Antonia got to meet with that stuntwomen, Jessica Hooker, who’s starred in films such as Justice League and Tomb Raider. Afterwards Antonia wrote about it for BuzzFeed saying: “She took me through APRIL/MAY 2019

CC INTERVIEW my paces with various fight stunts and falls, building up to ‘The Leap’ challenge: a two-metre bound from one platform to the other. Of course, I wasn’t going to actually leap between two moving cars like Jessica does in the Churchill ad, I’m not that crazy (yet).This was a great experience that linked my love for movies and filmmaking, with martial arts, and my dream to one day be a stuntwoman myself.” And it’s this type of collaboration and marketing that Antonia believes works for companies that want to stay relevant and appeal to younger generations. “Technology is changing so rapidly, and there are so many areas that I need to constantly educate myself on. You need to be aware if hashtags or memes are still a trend and what’s working between the different age groups. Older audiences tend to use Facebook, while the younger demographic mostly prefers Instagram. A few years ago, if you wanted to share something with someone on Facebook you needed to copy and paste a link to them. Now you just use the @ sign.” Ever loyal, Antonia believes BuzzFeed is – and always has been – at the forefront of the online movement. “BuzzFeed was born on the Internet, and it’s always been part of our DNA. We were the company to start the video food channel, which was the first time a format such as this was ever used, and now it’s been copied time and time again.” Antonia says BuzzFeed is also blazing another trail, with its culture of inclusivity of its staff. “We have a ‘no haters’ policy at work and we really believe in equal opportunities for everyone. Diversity is also encouraged, and the company is extremely welcoming to members of the LGBT community, including myself. It’s nice to be able to talk about my girlfriend out in the open.” As well as her partner, Antonia’s family have been very much a part of her career. In fact, she used her grandmother as her inspiration for her university project. “The animation was inspired by me finding my gran jumping up and down trying to see herself in the mirror. She turned around and said to me: “that’s the problem with getting older, you shrink!” Antonia is also close to her Maltese grandfather, who moved to England when he was around 19 or 20. “He’s still alive but is very old now, and likes sitting on the couch and watching back-to-back programmes on TV.” Antonia has visited his homeland of Malta twice. “The second time was when I was 26,” she says. “I came with my mum for eight or nine days and we did all the beautiful sites and scenery there is to see in Malta and Gozo. One day I’d love to have a house there, so I could enjoy all of that sunshine and great food!” cc APRIL/MAY 2019

“Technology is changing so rapidly, and there are so many areas that I need to constantly educate myself on.”


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Finishing your property? Adore More has got you covered Adore More has over 10 years of experience in four key specialisations, namely windows, doors, blinds and outdoor shading systems. What distinguishes Adore More from the rest is the company’s tailor-made approach and flexible solutions. And if this is not enough, it is now broadening its offering to include the supply and installation of gates, fencing and railings.

Adore More is now offering stylish and modern aluminium gates and fences for all property types. With a wide range of colours and styles to choose from, you can secure your property easily, while never compromising on aesthetics. Adore More supplies aluminium gates that are strong, robust, need little to no maintenance and have a very long life span. Whether you’re looking for a sliding gate, a blind design or a swing gate, you can choose from a variety of designs and colours. On the other hand, if you need a fence to accompany your gate, Adore More supplies fences that complement your design perfectly.

The railings are available in either clear glass or aluminium. Both are aesthetically pleasing and safe. The clear glass railings are ideal for balconies, staircases and pool areas, while the aluminium railings are more durable. You may also opt for a combination of clear glass and aluminium for your railings systems. Adore More can easily adapt to accommodate all of your needs and specifications. cc If you are interested in any of these products, contact Adore More to request a quote and to find out more on T: 2145 6560/ 2145 6570; E: or visit their showroom in Mosta.

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HSBC Malta appoints seasoned banker as Executive Director and new Head of Business Development

HSBC Bank Malta p.l.c has announced that Michel Cordina has been appointed as Executive Director on the HSBC Bank Malta p.l.c Board. Mr Cordina has also been appointed as the bank’s first Executive Head of Business Development, a new role created to usher the bank in its new phase of growth. Michel Cordina has been the Head of the bank’s Commercial Business for the past eight years. HSBC Malta CEO Andrew Beane says: “Michel is a seasoned banker and has a wealth of experience and we look forward to

Transaction monitoring is a key component of AML compliance Nowadays, it has become mandatory for compliance teams to think about regulation in a holistic way, and to find improved methods of managing the vast amount of transactional data being collected each day. Organisations must comply with Anti-Money Laundering (AML) rules, with the main purpose of detecting and reporting suspicious activity. This is effectively achieved through the use of an AML transaction monitoring solution. By monitoring and analysing cash deposits, withdrawals and wire transfers AML transaction monitoring software can provide the compliance team with a complete view into a customer’s profile, risk levels and predicted future activity. The need for a holistic approach There is a growing focus on monitoring every transaction, which leads to the importance of adopting a broad-based approach towards APRIL/MAY 2019

seeing Michel’s remarkable energy driving growth from our core business and from HSBC’s signature strength as the world’s leading international bank.” Mr Cordina started his banking career in 1981 with Mid-Med Bank Ltd and joined HSBC in 1999. He has worked in various areas of banking in both Personal Banking and Commercial Banking business units. He has also led a number of operational and support functions of the bank. He has occupied various executive roles within HSBC Malta including Deputy Head of Operations and Head of Business Transformation. He was also the Programme Manager responsible for bringing the HSBC UK Contact Centre to Malta. In 2010, Mr Cordina was seconded to HSBC Commercial Banking in London where he performed the role of Head of Sales Performance. In his new capacity, Mr Cordina will work with all global businesses and functions to develop the bank’s business with the bank’s primary clients and external stakeholders as it focuses on a balanced return to growth. Facilitating growth in HSBC’s corporate business will be a priority. Mr Cordina says: “I am honoured and privileged to be appointed as a Director on the bank’s Board and very excited to take on this new executive role in my more than

dealing with business risk. Organisations need to be able to identify potentially unusual financial transactions which might subsequently prove to be suspicious within the context of existing AML regulations. The mapping of these data points is critical for a full picture of the client’s profile, their commercial activities, private wealth distribution and management structure. Although many organisations have implemented robust and costly Know Your Customer (KYC) solutions, the problem often remains in the identification of suspicious transactions. This tends to involve submitting large amounts of alerts, many of which are false positives, without any form of analysis. Consequently, compliance teams are flooded with information which reveals very little intelligence. Therefore, KYC cannot simply be a random data grab if it is to provide any meaningful identification of suspicious behaviour. Rather, a suitable KYC solution requires intelligent transaction monitoring of a client’s activities, with the appropriate analysis necessary to create a holistic view of financial behaviour. An effective AML transaction monitoring solution is a powerful compliance tool for financial transaction analysis. It eliminates unnecessary manual work, minimises the likelihood of missing critical information

Michel Cordina will develop the bank’s business with primary clients and external stakeholders

37-year-long association with the bank. I am fortunate to be part of the HSBC Group and I look forward to strengthening our business in Malta and connecting our customers to opportunities, enabling them to thrive and supporting the Maltese economy to prosper.” cc

and assists organisations in maintaining a compliant profile. AXON AML transaction monitoring The AXON transaction monitoring solution helps organisations detect suspicious behaviour quickly and effectively. It optimises transaction monitoring by automating processes in order to minimise unnecessary alerts, while also offering real-time tracking and reporting functionality. With AXON, compliance teams become more accurate and efficient in their monitoring of potentially fraudulent behaviour. cc Visit or email to learn more about AXON and how it can help your business remain AML compliant. 113

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Saint John Paul II – A “significant ship” – The Royal Institute of Naval Architects The Saint John Paul II, delivered to Virtu Ferries on 6th February 2019, by shipbuilders Incat Tasmania, has been selected for the prestigious notation “Significant Ship 2018”, by the highly respected Royal Institute of Naval Architects (RINA). The Institute was founded in London in 1860, with the aim of advancing “the art and science of ship design”. Members of the Institute occupy positions of high standing in the maritime industry worldwide, including universities and leading maritime institutions. RINA publishes a highly select annual list describing the most innovative and important commercial vessels designs delivered during the year by shipyards worldwide. Saint John Paul II is described by Robert Clifford, Chairman Incat, as the “most

revolutionary built by the yard”. Over the last decade Incat has delivered 44 large commercial fast ferries as well as smaller craft. The standard, well-tried, Incat Wavepiercer Hull design was modified after extensive hydrodynamic model trials, using the latest computational fluid dynamics methodology, in the state-of-the-art UK Ministry of Defence Ocean Basin Research facility in Gosport Hampshire. This cuttingedge research was headed by Seaspeed Marine Consulting Ltd UK. This is the first time such research model testing has been carried out on high speed vessels of this tonnage and is a world first for Incat, Seaspeed and the Maltese maritime industry. The result is a hull specifically designed for Mediterranean weather conditions. Passengers have a choice between travelling Club Class on the Bridge Deck or Euro Class on the Main Deck. Significantly, although the vessel is classed, by international classification society DNV GL, to carry 900 passengers, there are 1134 seats on board, including 138 outside on the two passenger decks, to ensure enough selective seating for everyone. The interior design, with additional space in all lounges, is an added attraction. The garage is designed to carry 23 heavy commercial trailers or 167 cars. In commissioning the interior design of the vessel, Virtu has relied on 30 years of

surveyed passenger feedback on the Malta Sicily route and the experience gained from building the other six vessels that preceded Saint John Paul II. The Saint John Paul II complies with the International Maritime Organisation HSC Code 2000 rules, as amended, the Malta Flag Statutory Requirements, Italian Port State Rules and EU Directive 1999/35/EC. Members of the public will be invited to visit the vessel at the Virtu Terminal in the coming weeks. An announcement to this effect will be made via the local media. Virtu is a 100 per cent Maltese-owned company and it is with pride that all Virtu vessels fly the Malta flag. cc

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FCM Travel launches SEEQA and SAM – Your online travel booking tool and business travel app Guaranteed transparency, efficiency and full accountability of your travel expenditure. The logistical demands of business travel on any medium or large company are increasing in complexity as uncertain times give higher priority to security and cost-saving. Ask any corporate travel administrator about the challenge of keeping track of management and

Bunker survey testing and inspection Bunker survey testing and inspection from SGS – ensure the quantity and quality of the marine fuel that you purchase. When buying marine fuel, you need to be sure of its quantity and quality. We provide ship bunker fuel inspection testing and inspection services to help ensure the quality and quantity of delivered fuels during bunkering. Our testing protocols are in full conformity with ISO 8217 specifications. Why choose bunker survey testing and inspection from SGS? Fuel quality analysis can include the basic ISO 8217 slate but may also be extended to include additional tests, including fuel compatibility and blending assessments. We will help you to avoid costly engine and fuel system problems caused by mixing incompatible fuels. Incompatible fuels blended together can cause precipitates, filter plugging and other major issues.


staff travel. This is with the proviso that the corporation already uses the services of a reliable TMC. In spite of the internet, which smoothened work flows, a considerable amount of time still needs to be dedicated to admin and paper work. When a company must keep track of where its employees are located overseas, how and when they are travelling, where they are lodging and how they commute to their meetings, while ensuring that each ‘package’ complies with a defined travel policy, the practicalities are daunting. FCM Travel Solutions, a global brand which has won the top world TMC award for the eighth year running, has invested heavily in the development of travel expense management tools which integrate essentials under one ‘umbrella’. Under the expertise of a specialist team based in London, FCM in Malta is currently rolling out travel expense tools like HUB, Seeqa and Sam, giving corporate customers the possibility of locating all information in one spot via PC, tablet or mobile. HUB is a customised platform which acts as a gateway to the different travel tools. This site can carry generic information about the company but also shows global security alert, basic visa information and the company’s travel policy, and runs on a hierarchy defined by the corporate:

travellers, bookers, administrators, managers, etc. The parameters are highly adjustable and can integrate budgetary and approval levels. The actual online booking platform which is called Seeqa covers flights, hotel accommodation, transfers and trains. Again, this is done within customisable budgetary parameters and subject to any applicable approval level. Agreements which the company may have with suppliers such as airlines and hotel chains can also be integrated. The booker/administrator can view all live bookings within one screen. While managers have a complete overview, they are enabled to generate customisable reports at the touch of a button. There are several plugin extras but the SAM app (Smart Assistant for Mobile) is automatically included. SAM carries all the travel information relating to any one trip which the actual traveller (and his booker) views on his smartphone. Flight delays, gate changes, traffic alerts and a chat function enable the traveller to stay updated and in touch with his agent when intervention is required. cc If you would like to know more about these new online travel management tools, contact FCM Travel Solutions on

Given the major changes required by IMO 2020 and the increased usage and blending of new fuels, we are ready to help you protect your business interests. Fuel additive treatments are also available. With a global network of inspection and testing facilities located in key port cities, our personnel can respond quickly and efficiently. Our quality and quantity testing services enable you to establish compliance with a variety of regulations, including ISO 8217, Marpol Annex VI, Port State Control Inspections, SOx Emission Control Areas (ECA) and additional bunker delivery requirements. At the SGS Malta Branch we can cover both your inspection and testing requirements. ISO 8217 bunker fuel testing capabilities are fully available at the Malta Laboratory, together with basis latest test methods, while additional testing is performed at other SGS specialised laboratories covering: • Trace contamination analysis by GC/MS • In-depth forensic analysis • Additional testing capabilities The Lab has achieved and is covered by ISO 17025 accreditation for an array of test methods.

The Malta Branch consists of a highly experienced group of professionals and surveyors who are all committed towards achieving the same aim. Customer satisfaction is at the forefront of all our operations and for this reason we strive to make use of all the knowledge within the group so as to provide the best possible service. cc



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Cloud accounting software – Xero and QuickBooks Online in Malta Local interest in cloud computing is becoming increasingly relevant and important, as more SMEs embrace modern technology to automate their business processes. Cloud computing comes in different shapes. Most people do not yet realise how deep this technology has embedded itself within our life. Whether you are at home or at work, using a phone or a laptop, commonly used software such as Google’s mail, Gmail or Facebook, the social media platform, are the simplest, yet strongest form of Software as a Service, or SaaS. Over the last few years, the same SaaS-based concept has been applied to various industries, including the finance world. In fact, accountants can carry out book-keeping and accounting services directly from cloud applications – providing a smarter and central way to share data

between the accountant and his clients (the SMEs) without the need to send data or files back and forth over email. Two of the global leading cloudbased accounting platforms are Xero and QuickBooks Online. Whilst benefits are obvious and measurable, most accountants would still want to access the raw financial data in order to generate bespoke management reports. With Excel being the favourite data processing tool for the analysis and processing of data, a local Malta-based start-up identified this gap as an opportunity to deliver a service which offers the convenience of operating from the spreadsheet in a robust manner. DataDear is an Excel add-in, developed and maintained in Malta, which sits directly into the Microsoft Excel toolbar. DataDear has established itself as an important player in the global fintech space, providing accountants with the ideal toolkit to help them transition to cloud accounting software and manifest tangible benefits introduced through the SaaS model. Local companies should seek the services of an experienced Cloud App Integrator when implementing these tools, as this invariably allows them to tap into their knowledge of the app ecosystem. DataDear is one such app which allows advisors to address customer functionality

gaps in a bespoke and creative manner. The University of Malta is also participating in this DataDear project, focusing on improving the DataDear engine and the technology under the hood. Project DataDear is financed by the Malta Council for Science and Technology through FUSION: The R&I Technology Development Programme 2017. cc For further information visit

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medirectalk featuring Terry Smith – Funsmith LLP On Thursday 28th March, MeDirect held its first edition of medirectalk, a series of seminars featuring several financial experts and asset managers on market and investment opportunities. The first medirectalk – held at AX The Palace, Sliema – featured Terry Smith, the portfolio manager of Fundsmith LLP. The event began with an opening speech by Wilfred Mallia, one of the founders of Charts – a local stockbroking, wealth management and corporate advisory firm – which merged with MeDirect in 2018. Mr Mallia mentioned one of the key moments that led to Terry Smith’s rise in popularity. In 1992, Terry Smith was dismissed from his position as the Head of UK Company Research at UBS Phillips & Drew, following the publication of his bestselling book Accounting for Growth. Though some would see this as a controversial

OK Medical – supplying topquality medical and rehabilitation products and services for over five years The latest addition to the OK Group of Companies, OK Medical was founded over five years ago with a drive and commitment to offer top-quality medical and rehabilitation products and services to the local market. OK Medical supply a vast and evergrowing range of products, from basic first aid equipment and supplies, mobility aids, wheelchairs, automated external defibrillators (AEDs), motorised beds, CPAP & APAP machines, oxygen concentrators, specialised seating, medical trolleys, clinical and doctors’ equipment, hearing aids, hospital and surgical instruments, clinical APRIL/MAY 2019

move, it helped the book soar to the top of the bestseller charts, eventually selling over 100,000 copies. Founded in 2010, the Fundsmith Equity Fund is one of the most popular and successful funds investing in global equity, as it currently holds about £17bn assets under management. The company has also been able to deliver double digit returns through a clearly defined and simple investment philosophy. The fund is distributed locally through the MeDirect branch network, and available on our MeDirect online platform. During his speech, Terry Smith spoke

machinery, and much more. Coupled with this broad portfolio, OK Medical also seek to help all clients benefit from some of the best prices available on the market without compromising on quality or service. OK Medical is driven to ensure that all products are delivered with the highest quality of service possible. This is achieved by offering free on-site inspection and consultation, free delivery across Malta and Gozo, as well as after-sales consultation and training to ensure that clients’ needs are met and where possible exceeded. This approach forms one of the pillars of the company: “a happy, well served client is a healthy and safe client.” OK Medical clientele includes a wide range of clinics, hospitals, companies, hotels, private and public care homes, and private clients whose needs are ever-changing but are always satisfied to the highest customer standards. Ok Medical is also proud to have supplied various products to the Health Department. OK Medical currently operates two main outlets. Their main outlet can be found at Triq it-Torri, Swatar, and is open from Monday to Friday from 8am till 7pm, and on Saturday from 9am till 2pm. OK Medical opened its second outlet in Paola to better service its clients located towards the south of the

about the investment strategy that the company has adopted when selecting which companies to invest in, and explained how the fund has been able to continue growing for the past 10 years. The talk was followed by a question and answer session, during which Terry Smith answered questions that the 150 people in attendance submitted. Drinks and canapés were served to conclude the evening. cc You can watch the first edition of medirectalk featuring Terry Smith – Fundsmith LLP on our Facebook page.

island. This outlet can be found in Cospicua Road, Rahal il-Gdid and is open from Monday to Friday from 9am till 1pm and from 4pm till 7pm, and on Saturday from 9am till 2pm. cc T: 2147 0200; E:; or find them on Facebook. 117

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Humanity in its rawest form Inspired by primitive sources and that which truly makes us human, artist Gabriel Buttigieg has never pandered to the masses. He speaks about his artistic journey and the importance of believing in your work with Sarah Micallef.



Photo by Inigo Taylor

t just 26, Gabriel Buttigieg may rightly be considered a young artist, though his artistic journey already spans longer than most. “The first drawing I have is of an Indian from when I was five years old,” he recalls, looking back on the beginnings of his interest in the subject. “I still have it, and I think it’s interesting because even though I was so young, the way I painted it shows all the details of the body, including things like the nostrils and fingertips. The technique is also quite similar to what I do today, in that the focus is on the line and filling in with colour,” he muses. Gabriel reveals that he always had an inclination towards expressing himself artistically, as well as a certain sensitivity towards his environment, particularly in relation to the psychology of human beings APRIL/MAY 2019

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“Studying psychology has enabled me to find a nice balance between that which is abstract, as art is, and science.”

and relationships. Literature was another component in young Gabriel’s formation. “My father was a writer and would share ideas with me from a young age,” he says, referring to renowned local playwright Alfred Buttigieg. “His approach was always more existential however, while mine is more primitive in that I try to paint humanity in its rawest form, which I feel particularly makes sense within the modern day, as people continually manage their image and ideals depending on who they are around,” he says. The artist adds that he has always been inspired by primitive sources, like cave paintings and mythology, as well as those natural, innate aspects of ourselves that make us human: “anxiety, vulnerability, happiness and unhappiness – I try to portray all of these things in my work.” APRIL/MAY 2019

These multiple sources of inspiration and influence continued throughout his teens, during which, despite receiving tutelage from celebrated local artists including Caesar Attard and Ray Pitre, Gabriel preferred to carve out his own path. “To be honest I’ve never listened to anybody,” he smiles. “I say this with the greatest respect, and it’s not because their comments weren’t valid, but I view the subject as extremely personal,” he explains, revealing that he began and resigned from both Bachelor of Education and Bachelor of Fine Arts courses, preferring to seek inspiration from other sources like music and film. “I’m now studying psychology at University, which I feel makes a lot more sense for me,” he says. These varied sources of inspiration also come into play when I ask him about particular artists he looks up to, to which he admits there are too many to name, and their fields run the gamut of art, literature and psychology. “American painters from the ‘80s like Alex Katz and Eric Fischl, in literature the absurdity of Beckett, the psychology of Camus and Freud… so many things. There are also various contemporary artists, including 28-year-old Polish artist Igor Moritz, whose work is very much on the same wavelength.” Gabriel was just 18 years old when he began exhibiting his work, starting from a collective exhibition with a number of

other artists at Xarolla Windmill in Żurrieq. A number of solo exhibitions followed, including last year’s Saudade at Palazzo De La Salle in Valletta, and now, the artist is turning his sights abroad. “I have a residency in France and a solo exhibition in Poland coming up,” he reveals. In that time, I ask, has he developed a particular technique? “In the past, I would focus a lot more on the paint and the treatment of it,” he tells me, describing himself as a lot more expressionistic and impulsive at the outset – features which Gabriel feels reflected his age. “Studying psychology has grounded me in the sense that it joined the dots… I could make sense of certain thoughts and feelings I had, and it enabled me to find a nice balance between that which is abstract, as art is, and science,” he maintains, explaining that this led him to move away from the impulsiveness of paint and focus more on the narrative aspect. Confessing an enduring interest in drawing and a love of line, Gabriel affirms that for the work displayed at his most recent exhibition, Saudade, he “literally, like a kid, created a drawing and simply filled it in with colours.” As he goes along, Gabriel deems his technique more reductive, and continues to feel drawn towards narration, symbolic elements and creating a certain atmosphere, stripping away elements of technique in favour of theme and symbolism. 119

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Indeed, he goes on to affirm, while it often changes and develops, to a certain extent, the theme remains the same. “I continually delve into the same subject and interpret it in different ways. You could call it overarching as a theme, but the way in which I tackle it changes. At one point I can show it in a sweet, indirect way that is pleasing to the eye at face value, and at other times I could produce a series of drawings that portray the same subject in its rawest form.”

“Being inspired by primitive sources which are, in themselves, flat, it made much more sense for me to develop this kind of approach.”

Photos by Inigo Taylor

“I’ve actually had some criticism from people who compare my recent work with what I used to do before,” he says, maintaining that his previous work contained many more layers. “The criticism now is that some consider the latest work to be ‘flat’. I don’t see it that way because I feel that there are even more layers involved now, in terms of the composition, choice of colours, etc,” Gabriel attests, making reference to this style of ‘pop’ and ‘flat’ painting gaining ground overseas, in places like London, Berlin and Poland. “Being inspired by primitive sources which are, in themselves, flat, it made much more sense for me to develop this kind of approach.” And while at face value, the theme appears the same – sex – the artist discloses that there’s a lot more to it than that. “Along with sex comes a whole host of other things like attachment issues and vulnerability, for example. I feel that I depict sex because of the fact that it is, even from an evolutionary point of view, the most primitive experience a person can have. Relationships in general, and the way we interact with people, all boil down to this,” he says, and while many may interpret the work to be very sexual and intimate, in reality, Gabriel sees many things that go beyond that. “Being inspired by things like evolution, biology, evolution psychology, psychodynamic psychology… it’s inevitable.”


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“I really like the fact that I don’t always have complete control of what I’m doing.”

He goes on to reveal that in his current work, he intends to take this a step further and move away from the figurative to focus further on symbolism and metaphor. Showing me a selection of pencil drawings that were set to be exhibited later that week, he explains, “these are the rawest drawings I’ve ever done. I wanted to show the act in the most direct way, moving away from what I did for November’s exhibition entirely – I always have a tendency to go from one extreme to the other.” Asked about his creative process, Gabriel explains that he will often spend a length of time working continuously, followed by a pause in which he’ll think, observe and sketch. “Once I start, I tend to start with sketching on paper, moving on to paintings, one leading on to another, but I never set out to create a ‘final piece’ – the process always teaches me. I’ve always had this expressive element within me, and even though this may sound romantic, I also believe a lot in the unconscious – I really like the fact that I don’t always have complete control of what I’m doing. Certain elements come out in the work as I’m painting, and I don’t like to plan them out, but rather let them happen,” he says. Looking back on his journey so far, Gabriel points out several highlights, including a 2016 exhibition titled Paintings at Heritage Malta, which was followed some months later by Nudes, a collection

of works on paper, at Pjazza Teatru Rjal. Another satisfying experience was a series of drawings inspired by one of the books his father released in the 1980s called Dik il-Qtajra. “It was a very underrated book, dealing with themes that I feel are still pertinent in today’s age, so I created a series of small drawings related to it,” he explains. And while there’s undoubtedly much more to come for Gabriel, he does have a few words of advice for aspiring artists. “I’ve always been a bit hard headed, and in a sense rebellious. Everyone’s got their own approach when it comes to their work, but I’ve always believed in what I was doing. Painting is still a valid medium, and I think that the most important thing is to believe in it and to be determined, forget all the references and opinions, and believe in yourself and continue to study that which you really believe in,” he says, and we couldn’t agree more. cc 122


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