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THE COMMERCIAL/91

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

SEPTEMBER 2020

Contemporary life

The honest art of Ryan Falzon

NEWSPAPER POST GOLD COLLABORATING PARTNERS

IN THIS ISSUE BUDGET 2021 AGAINST THE BACKDROP OF COVID19 / A CHAT WITH SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH CHARMAINE GAUCI / THE FUTURE OF THE LOCAL LOGISTICS AND TRANSHIPMENT INDUSTRY IN LIGHT OF NEW EU REGULATIONS / FINANCE MALTA CHAIRMAN RUDOLPH PSAILA ON HIS WORK IN CREATING OPPORTUNITIES FOR PLAYERS WITHIN THE SECTOR / THE IMPORTANCE OF THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY / DESIGNING THE HUB: A COLLABORATIVE LEARNING AND INTERACTION SPACE / THE LATEST BUSINESS NEWS







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THE COMMERCIAL/91

COURIER SEPTEMBER 2020

96. 96 DESIGN TRENDS WHEN INNOVATION AND DESIGN WORK IN HARMONY

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FOOD TRENDS

Architect Alan Galea tells Martina Said about what went into designing The Hub – a collaborative learning and interaction space for a professional services company.

36 FOCUS

14 COVER STORY LOOKING AHEAD TO BUDGET 2021: SUSTAINABILITY, DIGITISATION AND RECOVERY Rebecca Anastasi asks four stakeholders how the country can prepare for the future through the forthcoming Budget 2021.

UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL

107 BUSINESS

Sarah Micallef delves into the reasons behind the recent surge in membership at The Malta Chamber with stakeholders and members, old and new.

Sarah Micallef meets Roberta Lepre, Managing Consultant at Weave Consulting, and Christopher Busuttil Delbridge, Managing Director at Evolve Ltd to discuss their involvement with the YCN.

44 FOCUS MOBILISING MALTA TOWARDS A CIRCULAR ECONOMY

A look into the figures related to public finance in Malta.

As discussions and actions on the circular economy gain global and national ground, Martina Said asks the experts what Malta is doing to improve its environmental track record.

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88 IN DEPTH

ADAPTING IS THE KEY TO SURVIVAL

FEARS EU MOBILITY PACKAGE WILL RAISE FREIGHT COSTS AND AFFECT ECONOMY

23 IN FIGURES PUBLIC FINANCE … IN NUMBERS

As COVID-19 continues its local spread, Martina Said catches up with Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci to discuss the latest developments, preventative measures for businesses and the availability of a vaccine.

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STYLE REVIEW

Ray Bugeja reports about concerns that new road transport rules approved by the European Parliament will push freight costs up, impact fair competition and the European Green Deal.

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110 INTERVIEW AT THE VANGUARD OF FINANCIAL SERVICES FinanceMalta Chairman Rudolph Psaila, who was appointed last November, tells Rebecca Anastasi about his work in creating opportunities for players within the sector.

118 MEET THE ARTIST A LIFESTYLE IN ART Sarah Micallef chats with painter and printmaker Ryan Falzon, who has carved a name for himself within the local art scene for his distinctive portrayal of contemporary scenes.

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 delivered to leading businesspeople across the Maltese islands.

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

This issue covers the month of September 2020.

EDITOR

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

EDITORIAL COORDINATORS

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

Kevin J. Borg Sarah Micallef Edward Bonello PUBLISHER

Content House Ltd Mallia Building, 3, Level 2, Triq in-Negozju, Central Business District, Birkirkara CBD3010 We care about the environment Because we care about the environment, The Commercial Courier is printed on FSC-certified paper, a certification which provides assurance that the paper is from sustainable and well-managed sources, thereby minimising its environmental impacts.

Tel: +356 2132 0713 info@contenthouse.com.mt www.contenthouse.com.mt

DIRECTOR OF SALES & BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

Matthew Spiteri CORPORATE SALES & BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER

Bernard Schranz CORPORATE SALES & BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT EXECUTIVE

Matthew Mizzi SALES COORDINATOR

Sue Ann Pisani Tel: +356 2132 0713 DESIGN

James Debono – Design Studio at Content House Ltd

ON THE COVER ‘Plants my Friends grew in Quarantine’ by Ryan Falzon

MALTA CHAMBER’S BRONZE COLLABORATING PARTNERS SEPTEMBER 2020

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CHAMBER/91

EDITORIAL

Recover – re-invent – re-invest Ahead of the announcement of the Government’s Budget for 2021, The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry presented its recommendations in favour of a clear vision to ascertain the recovery of the economy, stimulate re-invention and entice re-investment.

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EDITORIAL

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n this upcoming Budget, which is being regarded as one of the most crucial financial cycles in recent times, the country needs to take stock of the current realities, take note of the lessons learnt during the COVID crisis, and develop objectives that are based on a resilient and sustainable way forward for our economy. The Malta Chamber is therefore making a number of recommendations that effectively and tangibly deliver the much-needed impetus into the economy in this ever-so delicate time we are living in. In this editorial we shall be covering some of the highlights of the recommendations made by The Malta Chamber. The full recommendations will be published soon. Firstly, Government is urged to maintain the COVID wage subsidy scheme until a vaccine is administered to our people. The Malta Chamber welcomed the Government’s decision to extend the wage support scheme up till the end of October and looks forward to further extensions until this is necessary to ensure conservation of employer-employee relationships. The Chamber continues to recommend that the said scheme ought to be linked to the Re-engineering of businesses, refreshing of business plans and motivate employee adaptability and flexibility through reskilling and upskilling. Restoring and safeguarding Malta’s reputation also remains a major priority for the Business Community at the Chamber. It is essential to support the development of good governance structures within the public and private sectors. This can be done by incentivising the recruitment of good governance infrastructure to support and direct business, large and small. Moreover, it is important to increase resources in all Government and regulatory bodies responsible for transparency, law enforcement, investigation and prosecution of any activity that undermines ethical business and damage Malta’s reputation. The Malta Chamber welcomed the Prime Minister’s vision for a zero-carbon footprint

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for Malta by the year 2050 during the extraordinary Cabinet meeting which was held at the Exchange Buildings in August. Driving towards a zero-carbon economy needs to be done by incentivising training and education in sustainability in its widest context, including the built environment and transport. Taking a leaf from the recent COVID experience the world has been through, the country should invest in contactless infrastructure, with solutions to reliably safeguard the health and safety of the population. The rolling out of national contactless driven solutions for businesses such as the improvement of the effectiveness and convenience of e-Government services will boost the efficiency and the quality of service to businesses. In this context, The Malta Chamber will be following up on the 2021 Budget Recommendations to further contribute towards a positive change in the wellbeing of society. This will incentivise businesses to support society with a shift towards Resilience, Sustainability and an improvement in Quality in all that is done. The Malta Chamber believes that the forthcoming Budget should strongly prioritise the Long-Term National Interest ahead of any attempts for quick returns during this special time in the country’s history. The country should aim its medium-term Economic Vision, towards achieving A Smart Sustainable Island that seeks to increase economic growth whilst enhancing the quality of life of the people. It is the wellbeing of our people that drives the economy, and economic growth drivers must respect the country’s sustainable development goals and the physical and mental wellness of citizens together with their livelihoods. The measure of economic progress should go beyond GDP growth alone as it should be coupled with an improved Quality of Life for society at large. cc

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Looking ahead to Budget 2021: Sustainability, digitisation and recovery 2020 will go down in history as the year when nothing went to plan, with COVID-19 sweeping across the globe, disrupting economies and increasing debt. But, eight months since the start of the pandemic, within a context of persistent uncertainty, how can the country prepare for the future through the forthcoming Budget 2021? Rebecca Anastasi asks four stakeholders to outline the priorities for business and the country.

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his has been a year like no other: COVID-19 has become a household name, with the pandemic having shuttered businesses and stalled people’s lives for several months. And, while there is hope that a vaccine will be developed – and governments across Europe pledging that there will not be another economic lockdown – the immediate future is still stained with uncertainty, for the virus still has the power

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to, potentially, dictate the rules. But, what does this mean for any economic plan, and for Malta’s Budget 2021? “The underpinning message of The Malta Chamber ahead of the announcement of next year’s Budget, is in support of a vision of ‘A Smart Sustainable Island’ that seeks an honest reality check of the true effects of COVID while benefitting from associated lessons learnt and, hence, increase economic

growth while enhancing the quality of life of the people,” President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry David Xuereb says, adding that “this is the true ambition.” To this end, and in its recommendations to Government, The Malta Chamber is “advocating the implementation of effective growth-enhancing measures that are conducive towards the country’s

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leave no stone unturned to have the proper infrastructure in place and stakeholders need to ensure that they have the right people, procedures and processes to guarantee good governance and benefit from sustainable business development through these underlying principles,” he insists. Moreover, the efficient and effective use of national resources is also central to a strong recovery, he says, adding that “Government, national stakeholders and private enterprise need to put sustainable development goals at the centre of their strategies if we hope to achieve the ambitious objectives we have set ourselves.” These ambitions can be achieved, however, by also ensuring “a strong business backbone in infrastructure” which, The Malta Chamber President asserts, enables resilience in our economic development. Thus, investment is required to develop “the best business development ecosystem our country deserves” and The Malta Chamber “encourages Government to plan and prioritise” such investment. With regards to lessons amplified during the pandemic, Perit Xuereb points to the fundamental need for digitalisation and innovation, which he describes as “powerful enablers for the economy”, saying that there needs to be an increased focus on the potentialities of big data and how this can contribute towards economic buoyancy.

Finally, “all this must be driven by intense and focused development of talent and human capital,” the President continues. “In most sectors, demand for skills is becoming increasingly specialised and more sophisticated while soft skills and emotional intelligence are ever so appreciated and necessary.” This is particularly the case since work practices and the gig economy are expected to change the current employment landscape. As a result, he concludes, “closer collaboration is required by all stakeholders to invest in schemes of excellence driven by the best-case studies that the world has experienced. We should aim for no less.” For Gordon Cordina, Executive Director, E-Cubed Consultants, “the COVID-19 event warrants a clear economic strategy.” This, he explains, should be developed through three related impulses. “First, to sustain confidence and keep business whole through grants and loans; second, to engineer a gradual recovery in domestic and foreign demand for business to restart; and, third, to undertake the investments needed towards economic competitiveness for years to come, especially to succeed in the new ways of doing business under COVID,” he asserts. In his view, Malta is still operating within the first imperative, and this is “likely to continue to be needed for at least some more months.” Despite this, the second

“The underpinning message of The Malta Chamber ahead of the announcement of next year’s Budget, is in support of a vision of ‘A Smart Sustainable Island’.” – David Xuereb, The Malta Chamber

sustainability goals and the physical and mental well-being of our people.” For, Budget 2021 is “even more critical than any other budget we have had before”, he continues, since it is required to focus priorities on both “the recovery of our damaged economy” and on the stimulation of re-invention, to “entice a vision-driven re-investment.” Within this context, The Malta Chamber has outlined myriad calls to action to Government, which were formulated following the establishment of a think tank and roundtables with the organisation’s members. These “propose solid policy recommendations to the movers and shakers of the country for a better and more resilient Maltese economy and inhabitants of tomorrow,” he explains. Elaborating, Perit Xuereb says that good governance and the rule of law remain key underlying principles. “The country needs to Photo by Ray Attard SEPTEMBER 2020

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Photo by Jan Zammit

has “tentatively started” while the third goal “is as yet incipient” and this is where the forthcoming Budget 2021 should be moving towards. “Overall, the objective to maintain confidence and business integrity has so far been, by and large, achieved, with employment and activity levels having been conserved to a better extent than in other countries. This success requires results in the other two areas in order to be sustained, at a time when the COVID situation is straining fiscal resources,” Dr Cordina explains. Thus, economic competitiveness, he continues, will be reliant on new approaches. “Going digital, going green and specialising in less vulnerable niches will be key to future success,” he specifies. “This approach needs to permeate all sectors, especially the worsthit ones. It is also an approach which our economy and business have been calling for for years, and the COVID situation may, to an extent, be seen as the opportunity which has created the tipping point to effectively move in these directions,” he adds. He points to the tourism sector as being in dire need of a sustainable approach, saying that “the mantra of lower numbers and higher value added is now a necessity rather than a desirable goal.” Such a change in direction will necessitate an overhaul in the way in which Malta is marketed to incoming tourists, as well as how the island transports

SEPTEMBER 2020

“Going digital, going green and specialising in less vulnerable niches will be key to future success.” – Gordon Cordina, Economist

and accommodates visitors. Along the same lines, Dr Cordina sees the necessity for change in wholesale and retail, as well as construction and real estate. “In both these sectors, it is not enough to stimulate demand. Economic policy also needs to ensure that business is in a position to provide effective supply, especially in situations of difficulties in logistical arrangements and labour movement,” he explains. Speaking more generally about the necessity for some leeway in plans being made for next year, the economist emphasises that the annual budget exercise works as “part of a continuous programme of reform and development under EU fiscal monitoring frameworks”, an approach which allows for flexibility “within a trajectory”. For, as a result of the pandemic, the original intentions for 2020 had to be altered by “means of more frequent interventions and the permitting of deviations from long-term stability targets on the levels of fiscal deficit and debt.” And next year, this dynamic “will need to continue for a time,” Dr Cordina says,

adding that, despite the fact there are the instruments to allow for such flexibility, these are “by no means a long-term panacea”. Rather, “getting economies and business to function again will be key to sustainability. This could take the form of sporadic waves for the time being, until the necessary adjustments towards stability can be achieved.” Echoing many of these sentiments, JP Fabri, economist and Partner at Seed Consultancy, said that COVID highlighted the “inherent weaknesses of a globally interconnected economy” and the growing realisation that “every business is part of a web which continuously faces a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environment.” Indeed, being cognisant of the challenges such an environment presents is key to surviving upheaval. “This means that it is always important that, when the going is good, the country and businesses build up their coffers to face such unexpected circumstances,” he asserts, adding that the pandemic has thrown in high relief the necessity for business continuity plans and

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enterprise risk practices, which will buffer companies through rocky times. Moreover, it has shown the need for digitisation and – echoing Dr Cordina – an emphasis on quality over quantity in hospitality. “This crisis has shown that much more sustained effort – done in a concerted and coordinated way – needs to be undertaken to ensure that Malta truly becomes a much-needed digital society.

Another lesson that should have been learnt is that a greater reliance on quality rather than quantity needs to be undertaken in Malta in relation to most sectors, including general economic growth and more importantly, tourism. Higher quality is typically more resilient to external shocks,” he explains. This resilience, he adds, can be built into Budget 2021, which needs to “carve out a

“This crisis has shown that much more sustained effort – done in a concerted and coordinated way – needs to be undertaken to ensure that Malta truly becomes a much-needed digital society.” – JP Fabri, Economist

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personalised and tailored approach wherever possible” to be able to help businesses confront the difficulties developed in the wake of the pandemic. “Hospitality, accommodation, retail and supporting services are still feeling the brunt although the second-round effects will soon start to be felt across a broader category of local businesses. This also very much depends on the situation within Malta’s external trading partners. Therefore, the Budget is going to be a very delicate exercise in trying to stimulate short-term economic activity, direct economic activity towards longer-term goals,” he asserts. Moreover, due to the uncertainty which persists, businesses should continue to gain access to much-needed liquidity, “through incentives to support investment”, though there must be a “greater emphasis on conditionality”, he insists. Added to that, diversifying the country’s economic base remains imperative, while, at the same time, transforming current industries and determining “how these can be made future-ready whilst also building on the intersectoral synergies and complementarities.” Supporting the vulnerable in Maltese society is also key to a long-term focus in Budget 2021, Mr Fabri continues. “This means that growth needs to be more inclusive and, therefore, Government needs to continue supporting the most vulnerable in our society by ensuring that everyone benefits from growth in Malta. The recent statistics on social and living conditions have shown that poverty is on the rise locally and this needs to be addressed,” he says. Greening the economy by incentivising households and companies “to embrace investments in greening their houses and offices,” while also “kick-starting the green economy which can contribute to economic activity and jobs” will be just as pivotal, he asserts, going on to say that teleworking will become part and parcel of our working environment and this will aid in supporting work-life balance and the environment. Ronald Attard, EY Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe and Central Asia Strategy and Transactions Leader, admits that this has been “a strange year” with Governments across the globe having to pull in reserves to help ailing sectors and their employees. Yet, as we move into the autumn, and “the scale and persistence of the crisis is becoming increasingly clear”, the “continued investment in health needs to be the number one priority” in Budget 2021, he insists, adding that investment in MedTech and technological innovation, for instance, could help “curb the spread of the disease

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and mitigate further economic hardship.” The second priority, in his eyes, is the prevention of “wide-scale” job losses. For “ensuring that employees are as safe as possible, and businesses have secured financial stability” is fundamental to the economic health of the island, and this is a concern for Government as well as individual businesses, he says. “As we deal with the immediate impact of COVID-19, organisations should be thinking about how they’ll thrive in a postpandemic world. This really is a time in which businesses must re-pivot for the long-term and some are already exploring how they can set themselves up on the right trajectory for growth as they come out the other side,” he describes. To this end, and speaking more generally, Mr Attard asserts that the three main priorities for Budget 2021 should be “the acceleration of technology for cost reduction and customer access; a stronger focus on climate change and sustainability; and a reconfiguration of supply chains with a strong focus on Malta as a nearshoring destination.” Elaborating, Mr Attard says that the crisis has “accelerated digital transformation” and shown us the power digital tools have to “enhance, sustain and grow businesses”.

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He points to remote working as a positive development, saying that while teleworking opportunities may have already been available, the pandemic has allowed this mode to become more mainstream, thus alleviating traffic, reducing infrastructure pressure and creating less need for office space. Thus, the forthcoming Budget must be one which implements sustainable strategies “at country and company levels”. And, he says, the importance of such an emphasis is being corroborated by investors on the ground, with the 2020 EY Malta Attractiveness Survey (to be released in October) finding that nine out of 10 FDI investors believe Malta should prioritise the environment as part of its COVID-19 reboot strategy. “We would like to see this shift in strategy in most quarters as we need to carefully consider the built environment with less focus on physical space such as offices, protect ODZ areas, improve waste management and build on the circular economy. Improving our sustainable tourism offering goes together with improving the quality of life for all our citizens,” he explains. Moving on, Mr Attard also highlights the need to support local businesses in a context where retail spending has plummeted, explaining that, according to the Central Bank

“Flexibility to provide focused action and support in the coming months is critical.” – Ronald Attard, EY

of Malta’s economic updates, the volume of retail trade and industrial production have contracted, while the EY Future Consumer Index highlights how consumers globally are becoming more careful with their money. “Many governments are urging consumers to get out and spend, but a number of consumers are deciding they’d rather not – or not yet,” he says, adding that incentives and schemes to support local industries will be of utmost importance in such a context. Ultimately, he concludes, Budget 2021 “must be a Budget that looks far into the future”, offering companies peace of mind, despite the unpredictable context. Yet, he is hopeful that a crucial balancing act can be achieved in Government’s plan for next year. “Malta is a small and nimble country and we have already seen packages of economic incentives being brought in at the outset of the pandemic with speed. Flexibility to provide focused action and support in the coming months is critical.” cc

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PUBLIC FINANCE… In Figures

6.6% the contraction in GDP expected this year.

CC IN FIGURES

€2.1 BILLION

the recurrent revenue at the end of July, down 20.2 per cent in the same period a year earlier.

56%

the decrease in income tax at the end of July.

€494.3

€106.6

the drop in GDP in the second quarter.

the interest component of public debt servicing costs between January and July, down €2.5 million.

MILLION

MILLION

€206.7 MILLION

the decrease in income tax at the end of July.

€1.1 BILLION

€1.2

the deficit in the Government’s Consolidated Fund in the first seven months of this year.

the increase in Government debt by the end of July over the previous year, to stand at €6.6 billion.

BILLION

€2.6 BILLION

8.6%

the projected deficit in public finances in relation to GDP.

the recurrent expenditure in the first seven months, up €200.1 million over the corresponding period in 2019.

€478.2 MILLION

the capital spending at the end of July, a rise of €195.8 million.

Sources: Central Bank of Malta, National Statistics Office.

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CC INTERVIEW

Adapting is the key to survival Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Malta, Superintendent of Public Health, Charmaine Gauci, has been a pillar whose words many have relied on and hung onto. As the virus continues its local spread. Martina Said catches up with Prof. Gauci to discuss the latest developments, preventative measures for businesses and the availability of a vaccine.

Photos by Matthew Cutajar

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“F

or the foreseeable future, we can expect COVID-19 numbers to go up and down in successive waves. This is what the experts, even internationally, are pointing towards,” says Prof. Charmaine Gauci, Superintendent of Public Health and an Associate Professor at the University of Malta. Throughout an eye-opening hour-long conversation, Prof. Gauci made it clear that the best way to deal with the current reality is by adapting to it. “We don’t know when a vaccine will become available, so we should adapt to this new way of living and accept it. If we don’t, it will be much harder.” Before delving into the issue of vaccines, Prof. Gauci shares her assessment of the current reality, where, following days of no cases as well as very low numbers in July, the population was shocked by an overnight spike in the number of positive cases throughout August. “What was worrying to me was the sudden upsurge,” states Prof Gauci. “At the very beginning, back in March, we started with imported cases and the contacts of these cases, and then we had community transmission. At that stage, we introduced strong mitigation measures and managed to reduce the spread within the community to a point where we had no reported cases for eight days. I say reported because surely there were some cases still out there in the community.” Since reopening the airport and restarting the economy, which she states had to be done, numbers started going up again, but it was the steep increase – which peaked on 15th August with 72 new cases – that concerned the Superintendent. “However, with the robust investigations that we do here, we identified the main clustering around potential sources, and we found that they were coming from parties and major events where large numbers of people gathered, especially youths.” Prof. Gauci singles out youths – who she says even the World Health Organisation Director had alerted about, making this an issue not merely related to Malta – because “they are the ones who socialise most and, if I may say, their behaviour is harder to

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control. The message circulating before the upsurge was that we won the war and everything was over, and after a prolonged period at home, they wanted to go out and enjoy themselves. This was coupled with the number of tourists arriving here once the airport opened.” More concerning, however, are the sporadic cases. “We still have a number of sporadic cases which you don’t find the actual source of and through our investigation we won’t be able to link to

other cases or potential sources of infection. Those are the ones that worry us. However, currently, numbers range between 30 to 40 cases a day, and our intention is to monitor the situation closely to see whether we could reap more benefits from the mitigation measures recently introduced.” With respect to the measures, Prof. Gauci says these are a balancing act between controlling the situation with the least restrictions possible while monitoring community spread and examining areas

“We don’t know when a vaccine will become available, so we should adapt to this new way of living and accept it. If we don’t, it will be much harder.”

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of higher risk, and acting on those areas. “Currently, the majority of people being affected are of a younger age, with some spillover into the elderly, and this is what we have to be careful of. If more elderly become affected, and therefore more people will need to be hospitalised, then we’ll have to introduce more stringent measures. We have to thread carefully.” Although in recent days the number of new active cases has dropped slightly, Prof. Gauci says it is still too early to tell whether cases will go up again. To this end, she asserts that experts are pointing towards successive waves of cases, where numbers will continually go up and down. “Soon, University and schools will re-open, which will bring people together, and so we expect to see more cases. What I hope and wish for, which is part of our work here, is to reduce the number of cases as much as we can till then so that we will be able to deal with another upsurge.” Prof. Gauci notes that many of the clusters reported in recent weeks originated from the workplace, making this a new area of attention. In June, the Ministry for Health issued standards and guidelines for the workplace – namely keeping a physical distance of two metres between people, and the encouraging of frequent hand-washing and good personal hygiene – which Prof. Gauci states every employer should adhere to, because in doing so, they will contribute towards limiting the spread of the virus, but also safeguarding their own workforce and business. “Having staff out on quarantine decreases productivity and impacts the

work environment. When speaking to management and employees of companies that have been affected, we see that tension is high, and even those who are not affected become very apprehensive, which creates a problematic atmosphere at work,” says Prof. Gauci. To this end, she asserts that, first and foremost, all companies should have a prevention strategy in place. But, in the instance that a team member tests positive for COVID-19, a lengthy procedure kicks off whereby the person is contacted by the COVID response case management team, who investigates the person in question, inquiring about symptoms, possible source of infection, and the people they were likely to expose. The contact tracing team takes over to investigate the two days prior to the onset of symptoms and people exposed until the point of diagnosis. Those who were in close contact with the positive person are placed in mandatory quarantine and asked to get tested around the fifth day from exposure – which is the appropriate time needed for detecting the virus once exposed. “We’ve developed good working relationships with Human Resources departments of companies with COVID-19 positive staff members. They help us with the risk assessment and, especially in the case of large companies, they help identify employees who might have been exposed. HR would know who was at work on specific days and the part of the office which might be impacted, and some HR teams have taken up the task of informing contacts to go into quarantine, while we book their tests.”

“Soon, University and schools will re-open, which will bring people together, and so we expect to see more cases.”

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Prof. Gauci stresses that all companies are exposed to this risk, which is why preventive measures are crucial both to avoid infection and for business continuity. She also encourages that members of staff who are key to the company are kept apart from each other to minimise the impact on the company if one of them tests positive, as, while some work can be done via teleworking, other work cannot. For many, the pandemic has ushered in an agonising kind of uncertainty, but what is certain, Prof. Gauci states, is that the way we work cannot go back to how it was before COVID-19. “The identification of different modes of working is important, such as working from home which has worked for many companies, and avoiding high-risk situations at work, such as get-togethers, which may lead to entire departments going away on quarantine, or worse, needing hospitalisation.” With respect to a COVID-19 vaccine, Prof. Gauci plainly states that “it is very difficult to say” when it will be available. “Vaccines go through three phases of clinical trials. There are vaccines in phase two and others in phase three. Malta has joined the European Commission for a procurement of a vaccine for member states, and there is already an agreement with a pharmaceutical company for the provision of this vaccine,” says the Superintendent. From what we know, work is in progress on the licensing of this vaccine and its manufacturing, but an estimated date cannot be confirmed as yet. On a positive note, a lot of investment and money is going into the research, which has not happened with all vaccines. As absurd as it sounds, when the economy is hit hard, everyone is willing to invest money to get it back up again.” Asked if the vaccine should be administered to the whole Maltese population, Prof. Gauci insists that indeed it should be, and in fact, that is what Government is catering for. Once available, the vaccine will first be given to priority persons who are more vulnerable due to the condition of their health, as well as essential workers who are frontline workers. It will then be available to all the population. The speed with which COVID-19 vaccines have been developed has raised questions about their safety and effectiveness. It took years for countless other vaccines to be developed, so should this be a cause for concern? Prof. Gauci says that for the European Medicines Agency to license a vaccine, specific criteria need to be followed and met, including passing all phases of the clinical trials.

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“The evaluation of vaccines is extremely rigorous, and, as the COVID-19 vaccine will be rolled out to the whole population, one cannot afford to have a vaccine that isn’t safe, both in terms of the health consequences it can have on the public, and also because it won’t be taken up by the public if it causes major side effects. Therefore, the European Medicines Agency is fully focused on this and monitoring the phases of the clinical trials closely.” A COVID-19 vaccine not only offers the security of preventing infection; it also gives hope of a return to normality. But, as Prof. Gauci states, such a ‘return’ may not be clear cut. “Honestly, COVID has taught us many things, some of which I believe should remain, such as hygienic measures. In Australia, they’re reporting less cases of influenza than usual, which could be due to the non-pharmacological measures that are being adhered to. Changes to the way we work is another positive consequence – having online meetings, where possible, saves a lot of time in a day’s work.” With the cooler months around the corner, and the impending arrival of flu season, Prof. Gauci says the the Superintendence of Public Health Health is working on an influenza strategy with various other entities that maps out their response to the presence of both the flu and COVID-19 viruses, given

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“Suddenly, there was an influx of public health specialists who just stopped their usual work and joined our team. That was beautiful.”

the similarity of symptoms of both viruses. The strategy includes a plan for testing, the mitigation measures needed, as well as treatment for both influenza and COVID-19. Despite this, however, she asserts that there’s no way of knowing what will happen, and can only hope for a similar scenario to Australia. “We hope to have a greater uptake of the flu vaccine. In fact, we ordered 200,000 vaccines this year – twice as many as last year, and we encourage the vulnerable in particular to take it, meaning those who are over 55 and children under five years of age, people with chronic diseases and essential workers,” says Prof. Gauci. “However, what we hope is that the measures of wearing masks and frequent hand washing, which are now ingrained in people’s minds, will reduce the spread of the usual seasonal viruses like flu. Of course, this depends a lot on people’s behaviour, and behaviour is not easy to predict.” On a personal level, Prof. Gauci says that, although she has worked on contingency plans with her team for Avian flu, Ebola, and other infectious diseases, she never

imagined she would have to prepare for a pandemic that would hit the globe so hard. “This is where my public health training fit in perfectly,” she states. “The biggest challenge was to make sure we had enough human resources to deal with the surge in cases as the team that deals with infectious diseases is small, but the response of the public health COVID-19 team was amazing, and suddenly, there was an influx of public health specialists who stopped their usual work and joined our team. That was beautiful.” Hundreds of workers are involved across several teams, namely the 111 helpline, swabbing centres, the case management team, contact tracing team, follow-up team, communications team, central coordination team, the data management team, enforcement team and a senior advisory team, who informs the Superintendent of the latest evidence-based developments going on around the globe. Other entities within and outside of health are also doing their utmost in this extraordinary situation. “We’re like a large family,” she concludes, “and have supported each other through it all.” cc

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Photo by Tyler Calleja Jackson

Jobsplus: Facilitating access and investing in Malta’s workforce Raphael Scerri, Head of Division of EU Funded Schemes at Jobsplus – the organisation that aims to meet the labour market needs of employers, jobseekers and employees – discusses Investing in Skills (IIS) and Access to Employment (A2E), two aid schemes financed through the European Social Fund, with Sarah Micallef, revealing how these could be beneficial to local employers and jobseekers alike.

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obsplus offers several different services and schemes aimed at the islands’ employers and jobseekers, with a mission to ‘enhance accessibility to the labour market through modernised and targeted services, whilst facilitating labour mobility and promoting investment in human capital.’

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Raphael Scerri, Head of Division of EU Funded Schemes, is tasked with the management of two such schemes, financed through the European Social Fund for this programming period 2014-2020: Investing in Skills (IIS) and Access to Employment (A2E). Discussing the difference between the two, Mr Scerri explains that through the IIS

scheme, “we promote training and encourage employers – which could fall into micro, small, medium and large categories – to train and upskill their workforce knowledge and skills by subsidising training and wage costs.” The Investing in Skills scheme was launched to promote the training of persons actively participating in the Maltese labour

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“We promote training and encourage employers – which could fall into micro, small, medium and large categories – to train and upskill their workforce knowledge and skills by subsidising training and wage costs.”

market, aimed at increasing productivity and enhancing adaptability, he continues, adding that with a budget of €5 million available until 30th June 2023, this scheme falls under Malta’s Operational Programme II of the European Social Fund – ‘Investing in human capital to create more opportunities and promote the well-being of society’ for the 2014-2020 programming period. Meanwhile, with the A2E scheme, Mr Scerri affirms, “we offer wage costs – that is, a lump sum amount – when our employers (which could be self-employed and even NGOs) recruit disadvantaged workers,” going on to clarify that disadvantaged does not necessarily just mean persons with a disability, but also those who have been unemployed for a number of months, or persons who are over a certain age. Indeed, the Access to Employment

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(A2E) Scheme provides employment aid to local enterprises in order to promote the recruitment of the more challenged amongst jobseekers and inactive persons. Through this scheme, he maintains, the integration into the labour market is facilitated by enhancing opportunities to access the labour market and providing work experience to those furthest away from gainful employment; bridging the gap between labour market supply and demand; and increasing social cohesion. In a nutshell, Mr Scerri continues, the scope of the A2E is to encourage employers to recruit disadvantaged workers as part of their workforce. “In so doing, we will support part of the wage cost depending on the target group,” he says, adding, “employers applying for the A2E Scheme are eligible to receive a subsidy of €104 per week per new

recruit engaged, for a period of 26 weeks, 52 weeks or 104 weeks, depending on the target group. In the case of registered disabled persons, a subsidy of €155 per week for a maximum of 156 weeks is provided.” “There is a list of target groups which is quite open, and we will hopefully be introducing new target groups in September. These will mainly include youths of 16-24 years of age who have followed our work exposure schemes and have so far not been eligible,” he adds. Giving some insight into how these schemes have benefited employers and the local job market since they were introduced, the Head of Division of EU Funded Schemes reveals that when it comes to Access to Employment, €6,500,000 of the available €12,000,000 budget have been disbursed so far, resulting in 1,500 employees having

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“We offer wage costs – that is, a lump sum amount – when our employers (which could be self-employed and even NGOs) recruit disadvantaged workers.”

Photo by Tyler Calleja Jackson

been engaged through the scheme via 639 participating employers. As for the Investing in Skills scheme, which has attracted 2,900 applications, €2,500,000 have so far been disbursed of an available €5,000,000, resulting in training being provided to 13,000 workers. Speaking of how these aid schemes can make a difference to local enterprises, and more broadly, the business landscape in Malta, Mr Scerri highlights the impact of the IIS scheme within the particular scenario of COVID-19. Against the backdrop of the pandemic, which led to several business having to close their doors for an extended period, he reveals that “the IIS was really attractive because many employers, thanks to other wage subsidies received through Malta Enterprise for example, 32

decided to invest further in their workforce by applying for the IIS scheme rather than terminate the employment of their employees.” Affirming that while the scheme was always useful, it proved particularly useful in this period, enabling employers to train their workers while they were idle, so as to gain additional skills and knowledge. “The A2E also had a very important impact on the economy, because it not only facilitated cash flow to employers – which is particularly important at this point in time – it also contributed to lowering our unemployment rate,” Mr Scerri continues, adding that while Malta already has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe, “this scheme was one of the main promoters that helped Malta to reduce our unemployment figures.”

He goes on to explain that, having only returned to Jobsplus in April, following a stint managing European funding instruments after 20 years of working with the employment service between 1991 and 2011, he felt nervous about the timing, predicting a rise in unemployment levels as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. His concern was that rather than signing new agreements, he would have to recover funds as unemployment increased and A2E participants were made redundant, but thankfully, this has not been the case. “Luckily, we have only had two cases since April,” he states, noting that among the conditions of the scheme, “if an employer is going to receive a wage subsidy, that employer will need to keep the employee in employment for a certain number of months depending on the target group.” Pointing to this as a potential reason, he adds, “even though we have had a slight increase in unemployment figures, I can say that the majority of participants recruited through the A2E have been retained.” “Meanwhile, we are still receiving a number of applications,” he attests, adding that Jobsplus receives anywhere from 60 to 100 applications per month, even at the height of the COVID-19 period. “We are also doing a lot of promotion in order to encourage employers, and we also held a number of webinars with our stakeholders and social partners which had very good turnouts,” Mr Scerri continues. His goal now is not only to commit but also disburse all the European funding available for the schemes by the end of the year. “My target is to commit and disburse the remaining funds as soon as possible so that Jobsplus can begin drafting and launching the new aid schemes financed from the new financial period 2021-2027,” he says, adding that Jobsplus is working closely with the Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs in the drafting of the operational programmes for the new operating period, and is already drafting guidelines in the hope that the new aid schemes will continue to be simplified and more straightforward to further encourage employers to apply and obtain such funding. Meanwhile, Mr Scerri reveals that Jobsplus itself has also embarked on a simplification exercise, through which the entity is simplifying its internal procedures. SEPTEMBER 2020


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“We will be launching an online application system,” he explains, adding that while the documents are currently available on the Jobsplus website, employers are still obliged to download, print, fill, scan and submit. “We hope that through the online system our procedures will be simplified apart from being more useful for our employers, as this will also give them the opportunity to track the application process,” he says, affirming that the upgrade is already at an advanced stage. “We hope that by the end of this year Jobsplus will be much greener – this will enable us to reduce a lot of paperwork as well as introduce electronic services for the benefit of our customers: employers and jobseekers.” Going on to encourage employers, social partners and stakeholders to get in touch, Mr Scerri affirms that this does not necessarily have to be to apply for the current aid schemes, but also to provide Jobsplus with insights for the new programming period. “We have already received feedback and are

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very open to recommendations,” he asserts, adding that even during the COVID period, Jobsplus launched the second IIS aid scheme after receiving feedback from employers. “Most of the training was being organised online not in a classroom style, and the original aid scheme prevented employers from applying for wage costs during online training courses. Thanks to the feedback received, we immediately revised the scheme, and on 6th May we launched the second call,” he says, explaining that employers applying for the IIS scheme will now be eligible to receive a subsidy of €25.70 per trainee per hour in the case of training costs and €5.15 of wage costs, with the subsidy for wage costs being extended to training that is held by distance learning or online during working hours. “At the moment we are also revising the A2E scheme, in which we will be introducing new target groups, so we are open for any suggestions,” he continues, affirming that while Jobsplus does have a legal framework

to adhere to, employers and stakeholders are encouraged to come forward and discuss. “We are even ready to hold webinars and meetings to explain our services and listen to recommendations in order to improve our offering,” he maintains. For interested parties, Mr Scerri affirms that he is reachable by email on raphael.p.scerri@gov.mt or direct mobile number 7900 0490. “We are ready to set meetings either online or at the workplace. The self-employed and NGOs are also eligible,” he says. cc Operational Programme II - European Structural and Investment Funds 20142020 ‘Investing in human capital to create more opportunities and promote the well-being of society’ - Aid schemes partfinanced by the European Social Fund. Co-financing rate: 80 per cent European Union; 20 per cent National Funds. www.jobsplus.gov.mt

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Driving the digital economy through education Launched in 2014, the eSkills Malta Foundation has poured expertise and effort into ensuring the island’s digital comeptencies compete with its European counterparts. Here, Carmel Cachia, the entity’s Chief Administrator, speaks to Rebecca Anastasi about the Foundation’s aims and its future.

Photos by Inigo Taylor

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ver recent years, Malta’s economy has shifted gear towards a more digitally-driven ecosystem, with sectors such as iGaming and financial services utilising sophisticated technological tools to create business momentum. This has led to further investment in areas such as machine-learning, artificial intelligence, big data, data analytics and internet security – including in the provision of human resources and e-government services – to ensure firms possess the means necessary to continue thriving. As a result, out of the 28 member states of the European Union, Malta ranks fifth in the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) for 2020, which tracks the continent’s digital performance across a range of digital categories, namely competitiveness, human capital, the use of the Internet, the integration of digital technology and the provision of digital public services. Indeed, the island scores highly in all these categories. And its higher than average digital competencies have drawn particular praise, with 38 per cent of people in Malta having above basic e-skills, outperforming the EU average of 33 per cent, while the

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percentage of ICT specialists and graduates currently stands at 4.8 per cent of the total employment and 7.9 per cent of all graduates respectively (compared to the continent’s average of 3.9 per cent and 3.6 per cent). “Malta is considered a leader in the digital world,” says Carmel Cachia, the eSkills Malta Foundation’s Chief Administrator. Set up in 2013 and launched in 2014, the Foundation builds on the previous work done by the eSkills Alliance, and aims – together with its stakeholders and founding members which include the Malta Information Technology Agency (MITA); the Ministry for Education and Employment; Malta Enterprise; the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA); The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry and the Malta Communications Authority (MCA) – to drive progress in digital skills development. Yet, despite Malta’s strong performance across a number of European indicators, there is still much work to be done. As a case in point, this year’s DESI 2020 also specifies that Malta is slightly below the EU average for basic digital and software skills, with 56 per cent of people having entrylevel competencies, while 58 per cent have basic software abilities (compared to the

EU averages of 58 per cent and 61 per cent respectively). Moreover, Malta’s emphasis on technology in driving the economy requires a broader range of expertise to ensure companies, across various industries, have a large enough talent pool. Cognisant of these local and global developments in the digital sector, the Foundation works diligently on several strategic goals, with one of the principal aims being to cater for the industry’s needs. “So, we were given a set of important mandates: to advise Government and stakeholders on policy matters relating to ICT skills; to instigate further reform in ICT education, contributing to capacity building in the ICT education community; as well as to oversee the revision of curricula, and the introduction of pedagogies, including those within vocational learning,” Mr Cachia explains. Thus, energising the education ecosystem is one of the most important targets of the Foundation, he adds. “The ICT Education System in Malta needs regular support to provide the competences and skills needed by the ICT industry. The Foundation strives to increase short and long-term skill supply because a lack of human capital constrains

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“The movement to an online ecosystem has been productive, not only for companies, or events, such as conferences, which have seen greater attendance, but even for learning.”

economic growth; it also works at increasing awareness on the future skills trajectories, providing guidelines on continuous professional development, and promoting the best HR practices in the digital sector,” Mr Cachia outlines. To this end, Malta has developed a National eSkills Strategy published last year, in which it outlines the ways in which digital competencies can permeate every level of education, from primary to beyond tertiary, right into life-long learning and Continuous Professional Development. And this echoes the necessities raised in the National Digital Strategy 2014-2020. Integral to the eSkills strategy, Mr Cachia says, is ensuring recognition for professionals in the ICT sector. “It’s time we professionalise our approach, particularly as Malta moves to embrace more disruptive technologies, such as the Internet of things and AI, amongst others,” he explains. Another important mandate of the Foundation is the recognition and further development of the ICT profession. Asked whether this means introducing a ‘national recognition system, the Chief Administrator asserts that the Foundation is working

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towards such a development, though progress takes time. However, he insisted, creating a framework in which professionals can be nationally accredited will increase transparency and accountability, thus strengnthening workers’ ethical code of conduct in a sector which provides so many critical systems for so many other industries. Digital transformation has become increasingly essential as global developments push societies to embrace technology quicker than predicted, particularly in the wake of COVID-19. “The corporate world has now realised that online meetings are effective and less costly, avoiding traffic and the journey itself, for instance,” Mr Cachia describes, adding that, in his view, there’s no turning back now. “I think we’ll be better off, overall, since operations will be blended, and this goes for the educational sector as well,” he asserts. Indeed, he sees a great opportunity in e-learning courses, online classes and libraries, which, he says, need to be made more use of by Maltese children and adults like. “The movement to an online ecosystem has been productive, not only for companies or events, such as conferences, which have seen greater attendance, but even for learning,” the Chief Administrator insists. In line with this perspective, the eSkills Foundation itself has shifted many of its projects into the digital sphere, with online career sessions, for instance, replacing inclass meeetings. “These are usually carried out with secondary school students, and while we did have to cancel some elements, there were opportunities to show the power of technology as a result of the restrictions imposed,” he continues.

He also outlines other productive work the Foundation is conducting, firstly, with the National Council for Further and Higher Education (NCFHE) in setting up an accreditation system for those ICT practitioners who may not have a formal IT qualification but who may have the skills required to enter the workplace as a junior or associate. Secondly, work placements organised for secondary school students – in which they gain valuable experience – have also been instrumental in pushing the drive towards digital competencies. “All our work depends on stakeholders, ultimately,” Mr Cachia adds, underlining the collaborative effort that needs to be made across the board. Looking ahead, the Chief Administrator pointed to the upcoming revised National Digital Strategy being championed by the Ministry for Financial Services and Digital Economy, to which, amongst others, the Foundation is contributing. “Malta is working on this strategy that doesn’t only include eSkills, but which is broader, and the Digital Economy Ministry has set up a Think Tank to come up with a comprehensive range of future possibilities,” he explains, adding that, separately, the Foundation will soon be launching a beginner’s course in Artificial Intelligence, which will be open to citizens from all walks of life. “While the future still remains a bit uncertain due to the pandemic, our future goal remains an increase in maturity when it comes to digital competencies in Malta,” Mr Cachia summarises, concluding by expressing his conviction that awareness will keep growing so the island can maintain – and perhaps even improve – on its very positive performance in the digital sphere. cc

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United we stand, divided we fall As the island’s business community struggles to right itself following the blows continuing to be dealt by COVID-19, it has never been more important for businesses to come together and speak as one. The Malta Chamber’s mission is to be that voice, and in doing so, has attracted a surge in membership in recent months. Sarah Micallef delves into the reasons behind this with stakeholders and members, old and new.

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he Malta Chamber has always been engaged in every economical and commercial event that has shaped Malta’s economy, however the organisation felt that it needed to go the extra mile, and has set out to build stronger relationships both with its existing members and the business community at large,” begins Business Development Manager at The Malta Chamber Stefan Bajada, addressing the surge in membership in recent months. With its revised services, Mr Bajada explains that the Chamber seeks active participation and engagement with its members on a personal level to provide oneto-one value support to businesses. It is this approach which he credits with the renewed interest from the business community. “Learning is a never-ending journey. When I meet prospective members, I acquire knowledge about their company’s journey, their successes, their challenges and their plans for the future. Every enterprise, be it a start-up, SME or an established company, is unique in its own way. Even if companies operate in the same sector, offering the same services or products, they will differ in their market approach, their operations and their level of ambition,” the Business Development Manager maintains. Indeed, members of the Chamber come from different sectors, and each is considered unique. Affirming that there is no one-size-fits-all solutions for companies, Mr Bajada says that the reason behind the Chamber’s engagement on a personal level is to understand the stage a business has reached, its size and the industry it operates in, as these impact the type of support they would ultimately need. “The Chamber has refreshed its platforms to help companies increase their local and international visibility, to support with overcoming challenges and ultimately grow and thrive for the benefit of the local economy,” he adds. Resolute in its mission to be the voice of the Maltese business community, the improvements in the organisation’s services are the result of the introduction of tools that aid efficiency, such as the Members’ Gateway launched in July and the adoption of virtual platforms for meetings, Mr Bajada continues, adding that an improved structure saw the set-up of new horizontal policyoriented committees and Think Tank round tables, which gave new life to the Chamber’s economic groups. “Members’ participation

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“The phrase ‘united we stand, divided we fall’ can be traced back some 2,600 years and is more relevant today than it ever was.” – Stefan Bajada, Business Development Manager, The Malta Chamber

and interest in these committees increased dramatically, and in turn, their valuable feedback continues to enable our policy positions and lobbying efforts to truly reflect our members’ needs,” he says. “The phrase ‘united we stand, divided we fall’ can be traced back some 2,600 years and is more relevant today than it ever was,” Mr Bajada affirms, stating that The Malta Chamber provides the platform, but it is up to local businesses to make use of it. “I am hopeful that our efforts in reaching out to the business community are being heard and serve as an eye opener for businesses to realise the difference their individual contribution can make towards guaranteeing future success in their respective sectors.” “With the COVID-19 pandemic being with us for over five months now it has been an extremely challenging year on all business sectors,” says Malta Chamber Board of Management Member Liz Barbaro Sant. “Being the independent voice of the private sector, The Malta Chamber has taken a proactive role by aiding to create action plans on how Malta’s economy could recover.” In recent months, she continues, informative webinars were hosted; a Think Tank Project was set up to study and propose scenarios for a sustainable and competitive future for Malta; events were held highlighting businesses that managed to

turn the COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity, giving members the exclusive opportunity to meet and ask questions to Prime Minister Robert Abela – all of which undoubtedly attracted new members to the Chamber. As one of the Directors of Trade Malta, Ms Barbaro Sant adds that being a member of the Chamber automatically exposes its members to sister companies TradeMalta and Tech.mt. “Trade Malta is dedicated to helping Malta-based businesses go international. It provides specialised training programmes in international business development and internationalisation programmes, whilst promoting worldwide business opportunities,” she explains, affirming that webinars on international business were also held to assist exporters with their international business efforts during the months of the pandemic. “Back in February, we travelled to Ghana on a trade mission, and some of the companies that were present have already managed to secure some business,” she adds. Meanwhile, she also highlights the Young Chamber Network which was launched in 2019 as an exclusive branch of the Malta Chamber, which is dedicated to young entrepreneurs interested in sharing and growing on a personal and professional level. “The YCN brings together a high powered pool of individuals who can support each other within the context of the Chamber,”

“Being the independent voice of the private sector, The Malta Chamber has taken a proactive role by aiding to create action plans on how Malta’s economy could recover.” – Liz Barbaro Sant, Board of Management Member, The Malta Chamber SEPTEMBER 2020

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“The sense of belonging and getting together to brainstorm on exit strategies, new business models and solutions provides an appropriate environment that nurtures optimism for the future.” – Lino Mintoff, Head of Projects and Internationalisation, The Malta Chamber

of direct value to members. And beyond that, he continues, “we also have to ensure that we have foresight to anticipate the future characteristics that each business will encounter to map out possible solutions for them.” In his view, the Chamber’s internal reorganisation came at the right time, and is proving to be an effective approach to deal with the difficult external environment faced by the business community. “Our members, as well as potential ones, are seeing the value in belonging to such an organisation that can give them a voice and tangible assistance to secure appropriate support measures based on representative researched data,” he says.

she says, adding that being a member at the Chamber exposes its members to constant networking – “this is a valuable way to learn from the success of others and aids your business to grow and flourish, thus resulting in greater business opportunities.” Lino Mintoff, Head of Projects and Internationalisation within The Malta Chamber agrees that the strategic planning and groundwork that has been implemented over the last months is coming to fruition, resulting in a surge in membership. “It is gratifying that every person in the secretariat has become more conscious that we need to be member-focused more than ever and ensure that we understand their immediate and future needs,” he asserts. From the businesses’ perspective, Mr Mintoff believes that this time of uncertainty has reinforced the need for collegial efforts and sharing of experiences between different companies and the Chamber. “The sense of belonging and getting together to brainstorm on exit strategies, new business models and solutions provides an appropriate environment that nurtures optimism for the future,” he says. Admitting that recent months have not been easy, with the pandemic creating “a sense of uncertainty without precedence”, Mr Mintoff maintains that it has been of utmost importance to ensure that the Chamber delivers support services that are

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Moving forward, Mr Mintoff affirms that the only way to retain these members is by providing them with relevant researched support and international assistance at the right time and in the best way. “We are always sensitive and engaged with our members so as to find efficient ways of interacting with them without burdening them with many requests for information whilst at the same time being smart enough that when we do so, either virtually or physically, we are maximising the effectiveness of such information,“ he explains, adding, “the local business community needs a home that can bring together the best minds to ensure that there is a common vision and practical solutions that can create commercial opportunities, locally and internationally, for the benefit of all members. This home can be the Malta Chamber.” “The business community has been hit hard this year. It is a frustrating time to be running a business because things keep changing and it is impossible to plan,” says Founder at WriteMeAnyything and Finesse Consulta Jo Caruana, who is a member of The Malta Chamber, in full agreement that now more than ever, the business community needs to be aligned, and work together for a common goal.

“There’s so much to learn from the many members of the Chamber and its leadership, and there’s solace (and inspiration) to be sought from other entrepreneurs at this time.” – Jo Caruana, Founder, WriteMeAnyything and Finesse Consulta SEPTEMBER 2020


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“The Malta Chamber offered us the opportunity to be heard and voice our concerns while offering a way forward for our industry.” – Gianni Zammit, Director, JUGS Malta

“We also need leadership on a collective solution and vision, and the ability to lobby Government for the support to keep businesses afloat – and I don’t necessarily mean financial support, but support by way of trustworthy information, innovative education and a clean reputation. This is where the Chamber comes in,” she says, adding that many business owners, particularly those in younger categories or start up sectors, have witnessed a new energy from the Chamber. “People want to be a part of it, which is fantastic. It’s breathing new blood into the Chamber at a time when the community needs to be as effective as possible and focused on the future of success, which is going to look very different to the past,” she maintains. On a personal level, Ms Caruana says she enjoys being part of a network of like-minded individuals. “There’s so much to learn from the many members of the Chamber and its leadership, and there’s solace (and inspiration) to be sought from other entrepreneurs at this time,” she says, highlighting that businesspeople need to fight for change to prevent the economy from faltering, “whether that’s because Malta is at risk reputationally, because of COVID-19, or because of growing threats like climate change and environmental collapse. We’re in time to save Product Malta but we better work fast.”

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Ms Caruana believes that The Malta Chamber can continue to be beneficial to local business by putting expert views from every sector into the limelight and encouraging Government to listen and heed their advice. “Whether it’s related to the economy, sustainability or the well-being of our society, the Chamber and its members should be fundamental to planning an effective and realistic vision of Malta’s future,” she maintains. Fellow member Gianni Zammit, who is a Director at JUGS Malta, also feels that the situation with COVID-19 placed many businesses in need of a voice – “a voice to make their situation known to the authorities, as well as discuss and confer with other businesses in similar situations.” Speaking of his own experience with the organisation, Mr Zammit maintains that “The Malta Chamber gave me the opportunity to sit at a table with a body of people who have a direct line to Government,” adding that with his industry being one of those which was heavily hit by the pandemic, businesses in the sector needed a voice and representation. “The Malta Chamber offered us the opportunity to be heard and voice our concerns while offering a way forward for our industry.” Indeed, he continues, The Malta Chamber offers more than this voice. “It offers an opportunity to be able to network and fundamentally discuss and constantly learn about new approaches and methodologies of doing business, as well as general life experiences.” Directors at India Ltd Jackie Scudamore Urpani and Theresa Bartolo Parnis are recent members of The Malta Chamber. “We believe that much can be achieved if we tackle issues and obstacles as a group, so we immediately applied for membership,” they say. And the timing couldn’t have been better, the business partners admit. “When COVID-19 hit, retailers needed to pool ideas and come up with suggestions which could then be presented to the authorities for consideration. We really believe that the issues we raised through the Chamber reached the right ears, and were taken into consideration, which was invaluable for us retailers going through this crisis.” Discussing how The Malta Chamber can continue to be beneficial to local business moving forward, they maintain that retail as

a sector is underrepresented and was not given the importance it warrants in the past. “Our wish is that the Chamber continues to build on the good work it has done in this crisis by listening and communicating to the authorities when it comes to aspects that can be improved and ideas that can be introduced which would benefit the industry,” the directors affirm, adding that “if the powers that be are aware of these incentives and the impact they could have on the sector, retail could get the boost it needs at this time.” cc

“We believe that the issues we raised through the Chamber reached the right ears, and were taken into consideration, which was invaluable for us retailers going through this crisis.” – Jackie Scudamore Urpani and Theresa Bartolo Parnis, Directors, India Ltd

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Mobilising Malta towards a circular economy Changing the way natural resources are used and waste is disposed is no longer an option, but a necessity. As discussions and actions on the circular economy gain global and national ground, Martina Said asks the experts what Malta is doing to improve its environmental track record.

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he unsustainability of a linear economy – one where goods are produced, used and discarded – has become plain for all to see, giving rise to environmental and waste management crises the world over, including on our very own shores. However, the obstacles with making the move towards a circular economy, wherein products and services are designed in such a way that makes them reusable, are complex and multi-faceted, and, in order to be considered effective, require a concerted effort. In recent months, in the EU and on a national level, conversations around

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the state of Malta’s environment and the circular economy have become more frequent, and it seems more urgent. Recently, the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) announced the launch of Malta’s National Strategy for the Environment (NSE), a long-term plan following 18 months of research, consultations and studies that aims to achieve major milestones by 2050, including making Malta carbon neutral. Perit Michelle Piccinino, ERA Chief Executive Officer, says that an essential building block of the circular economy is the move to a more sound and efficient waste

management system. The revised EU Waste Legislative Framework, which entered into force in July 2018, provides, among others, for more ambitious recycling rates while strengthening waste prevention and waste management measures for various waste streams, including for marine litter, food waste, and materials containing critical raw materials. “In recent years, Malta focused its efforts on improving its waste management system, mainly by upgrading the waste infrastructure and the setting up of waste separation and collection systems, and recycling systems,” says Perit Piccinino. “In parallel, various

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“The transition from a linear economy to a circular economy will lead to the creation of green jobs, which will eventually benefit the whole economy.” – Perit Michelle Piccinino, CEO, Environment and Resources Authority educational campaigns have been launched that aim to facilitate the transition towards a circular economy.” ERA has recently published two public consultation documents; one targeting single-use plastic products and another on construction and demolition waste with the aim of changing the process of products’ lifecycles in line with those required by a circular economy. “Furthermore, Malta is currently working on a National Waste Management Plan 2021-2030, which will include several measures aiming to move up the waste hierarchy, while encouraging options that deliver the best overall environmental outcome.” Discussing ERA’s National Strategy for the Environment and where the circular economy fits within it, Perit Piccinino says it is central to the strategy’s ‘Wellbeing First Vision’, as it is one of the key environmental challenges of moving beyond the current linear economy model. “One way of achieving this is by reducing a reliance on landfilling and addressing the first ‘P’ of the waste hierarchy – that

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of waste prevention. In tangible terms, the NSE’s vision seeks to increase collaboration between all players, be they Government, market or research institutions, to maximise resource efficiency towards a circular economy, with progress being registered incrementally over a generation,” says Perit Piccinino. “The internalisation of environmental costs, increased research and innovation, provision of suitable infrastructure and improved waste management are seen as key to prevent the generation of waste and maximise the use of material that was previously thought of as waste.” Acknowledging the far-sightedness of the 30-year vision, Perit Piccinino adds that more plans spanning 10-year cycles will be developed, and ERA is currently working on the thematic strategic objectives and targets for 2030, 2040 and 2050. Focusing on the role of businesses in all this, Perit Piccinino states that “waste minimisation during the production process and product design at the beginning of a product lifecycle are considered essential

for ensuring circularity.” She adds that “even though the initial investment might be viewed as a burden, the adoption of such practices by businesses will lead to increased competitiveness and benefits in the long run. In addition, the transition from a linear economy to a circular economy will lead to the creation of green jobs, which will eventually benefit the whole economy.” Delving into the mechanics of the circular economy, Ing. Oliver Fenech, General Manager at PT Matic, explains that the circular economy is a concept with increasing interest and merit, as it creates the conditions to go beyond the limitations of the existing economic model (of take-producedispose), which itself compromises future economic growth due to the consumption of resources which are inevitably finite. “Circular economy emphasises the more efficient use of materials and further optimisation of their flow through engineering advances to preserve natural resources. It therefore opens new opportunities for innovation across fields such as product design, engineering, technological development, business models, economy, food, farming, recycling, biological feedstock, and entrepreneurship, while it examines the potential behaviour of people who have to play a critical role in this model, either as suppliers of raw materials, such as waste, or as consumers who buy recycled products or reuse existing products.” Ing. Fenech says that, in Malta, this concept is still very much in its infancy, as traditionally, “our focus remains narrowed down towards simply tackling the various waste streams that our economy generates without attempting to convert them into a usable resource,” he asserts. “Given the environmental challenges that Malta faces, we should be thinking differently and aiming towards achieving circularity not only through proper waste management but by optimising the use of the various materials we consume.” To get there, Ing. Fenech stresses the importance of a wider perspective to the way we deal with environmental issues and industrial processes, to include goals such as social justice, poverty alleviation and global and local connections, among others. “All sectors of society would benefit from a circular economy, yet nothing ever happens on its own. Grand efforts should be made so that we can finally see the change upon which we all agree, yet that very few of us are willing to implement,” he states. “Passing proper legislation and enforcing it remains critical for implementing the necessary

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“The Malta Chamber recommended that Government invites the private sector… to identify, build, finance, operate, and maintain wastemanagement technology that enhances recycling.” – André Fenech, Head of Policy Development, The Malta Chamber

changes. In this regard The Malta Chamber has an important role to play by advising policy makers while inciting change within industry.” As Chair of the Circular Economy committee within The Malta Chamber, Ing. Fenech is leading the Chamber’s efforts with respect to the circular economy, and explains that, to achieve feasible sustainable solutions, “we must look at the interface between economy, policy, engineering, implementation and production from a different angle. Technological progress that is required to meet the new sustainability challenges should follow the environmental route.” The goal of a circular economy is to enhance the welfare, health and safety of people with the minimal use of natural resources, he adds, which provides new opportunities for businesses that can target new niches. “In this regard the Circular Economy Committee has already opened a dialogue with a number of stakeholders such as the Resource Recovery and Recycling Agency (RRRA) and the Directorate for the Environment and Climate Change. In turn, the committee will push to see the involvement of industry in bringing a tangible change towards a circular economy,” he says. André Fenech, Head of Policy Development at The Malta Chamber, says the idea of the circular economy is particularly relevant to Malta given its geographical

circumstances, high import dependency, and lack of natural resources. Embracing the circular economy principles, he believes, would have an immediate positive impact on the environment while benefitting Malta’s long-term economic prospects. “From a policy perspective, we are aware that Government is currently working on a renewed waste management plan which should be released for consultation later this year. Furthermore, earlier this year, Government announced the largest ever investment in waste management

infrastructure with the prime focus being an investment of close to €400 million in a waste-to-energy plant, which will in itself significantly limit our landfill volumes. The investment also includes a new plant for the management of dry recyclables, an organic waste treatment plant to extract energy and produce compost for use in agriculture, as well as the replacement of the clinical and abattoir waste incinerator.” Mr Fenech states that, since EU accession, Malta has improved its waste management infrastructure, however, the growth of the

“All sectors of society would benefit from a circular economy, yet nothing ever happens on its own.” – Oliver Fenech, General Manager, PT Matic

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“To truly overcome this challenge, we simply cannot relegate it to a sectorial issue. It is of common concern and our collective responsibility.” – Norman Aquilina, Group Chief Executive, Simonds Farsons Cisk

country’s economy prior to the COVID-19 crisis was coming at a cost to environmental sustainability. “Examples of this include the sudden labour shortages, which resulted in thousands of foreign workers moving to our shores, as well as the increase in tourist arrivals. These brought about challenges in the form of increased infrastructural needs, housing availability, waste generation, further depletion of our scarce water resources, a higher demand for electricity, more vehicles on the road, and increased pressure on our public health and education systems.” These developments, as well as increased domestic material consumption outgrew the pace of the investment needed in sustainable development, he says, adding that waste management in key sectors such as construction, for example, remains a major issue. “This requires a holistic plan that takes into consideration long-term sustainable growth, also in view of the recent developments related to the pandemic.” From a policy perspective, The Malta Chamber has and continues to commit to the principles demanded by the circular economy. This was reiterated in The Malta Chamber’s Economic Vision 2020-2025 published last February, which highlighted the major waste-management challenge Malta is facing, and the setting up of a new committee within the Chamber focused exclusively on the circular economy. “The Malta Chamber recommended that Government invites the private sector by means of the Private Financing Instrument (PFI) to identify, build, finance, operate, and maintain waste-management technology 48

that enhances recycling and, in doing so, spurs the circular economy. For example, gasification technology converts municipal waste into syngas, which can be turned into energy and higher-value commercial products such as transportation fuels, chemicals, fertilisers, and even substitute natural gas.” Achieving the targets set for becoming a circular economy requires collective effort, by civil society and business. But what will it take to get there? Mr Fenech says two key issues in terms of policy are to reduce the cost of compliance and increase enforcement, but, unfortunately, many private-sector investors and operators in Malta still view compliance with environmental requirements as costly and bothersome that seemingly add little to the bottom line, “which in part can be true”. “To compound the issue further, lawabiding companies are competing with operators that are constantly trying to cut corners,” says Mr Fenech. “Lack of enforcement of these rules by the authorities creates an unlevel playing field for those who do their part and ‘rewards’ businesses that take the risk and do not abide by the rules.” Sharing his perspectives, Norman Aquilina, Group Chief Executive at Simonds Farsons Cisk stresses that waste management is a national issue which needs a culture change involving all society, including Government, the business community and the consuming public. “To truly overcome this challenge, we simply cannot relegate it to a sectorial issue. It is of common concern and our collective responsibility.”

Mr Aquilina asserts that the Legal Notice setting the path for the establishment of the Beverage Container Refund Scheme (BCRS), which is intended to be led and managed by the private sector, has just been published. “Notwithstanding the challenges it will have to ensure it is successfully introduced and sustained, it is good news for our environment,” he adds. “It is however important for everyone to understand that the use and misuse of plastic and glass bottles, along with aluminium and metal cans, goes way beyond the beverage industry, and that it takes a collective effort from everyone to increase recycling in a meaningful way.” While supporting the BCRS, he adds that what should be fundamentally supported is a national drive towards the development of a broadly encompassing circular economy for all packaging waste. Also, while he applauds ERA’s National Strategy for the Environment, Mr Aquilina believes that launching a holistic plan “which is yet to establish our waste management strategy, after having already set in motion the eventual introduction of the compulsory deposit on beverage containers, would seem like having placed the proverbial cart before the horse.” Despite this, Mr Aquilina says that with the long overdue holistic plan now in motion, “one cannot fail from auguring for a positive outcome of the recently announced National Strategy for the Environment with a view towards driving us towards the successful development of a circular economy. This, of course, will require an unwavering political commitment along with the involvement of all stakeholders.” cc

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Harnessing the power of family businesses in times of crisis As the COVID-19 pandemic continues on its destructive path the world over, businesses are having to face the long-term prospects more than ever before, and this is especially true for family businesses that face their own unique challenges. Joseph Gerada, Regulator at the Family Business Office, tells Martina Said how such businesses can adapt, survive and thrive.

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s business owners face up to the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t going anywhere fast, adequate planning, preparation and support are going to be crucial to ensure their survival beyond the coming months. And, as family businesses constitute approximately 70 per cent of all businesses in Malta, it is safe to say that the pandemic has impacted, to varying degrees, most, if not all family businesses operating on the islands. Dr Joseph Gerada, Regulator at the Family Business office says some businesses may have been struggling to survive or had to deal with a major decline in revenue, whilst others had to deal with greater demand for certain products or services and a stressed supply chain. “However, with the timely intervention of Government and the Ministry for the Economy, Investment and Small Businesses, most of the affected sectors have received and are still receiving the much-needed support they require.” 50

“Further incentives which were announced earlier this year are still being rolled out, such as the Electricity Bill refund and the Rent Refund schemes. These and other incentives launched earlier this year should go a long way in helping businesses which have been struggling as a result of the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and hopefully, will give these businesses the lifeline required to make it through these difficult times,” says Dr Gerada. Highlighting the unique challenges faced by family businesses, Dr Gerada explains that the structures they are built on and their form of ownership gives family businesses the ability to take critical decisions and actions that could help them through these unprecedented times. “Family business owners have powers that are often taken for granted. Through the exercise of executive powers, they could change almost every aspect of how their company works and operates.

These decisions vary from deciding on the manpower required by the company at any particular point in time, to deciding on changing the service or products offered by that business in order to cater for the changing current demand,” he asserts. “Furthermore, family business owners have the power to decide how the business is passed on from one generation to the next, giving them an unprecedented ability to position the company for long-term success, or, on the other hand, lead it to failure, as this exercise of power can be a double-edged sword.” In times of crisis, Dr Gerada states that the extent of these powers is magnified. Unlike non family-owned businesses, family businesses usually value objectives which go beyond the potential of financial returns and, in Malta, these include family legacy and the family’s reputation. “The current COVID-19 crisis is therefore creating a situation wherein family

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business owners often have to make very difficult decisions which may result in trade-offs among objectives which under normal circumstances would have been unimaginable. All of this while dealing with the complex dynamics of family relationships.” However, Dr Gerada believes that a crisis like this can also be a call to action. “From our experience at the Family Business Office, the majority of family businesses we meet have shown that they have managed to turn this situation in their favour by stopping and focusing on the areas which they had neglected and that now, more than ever, they need to take care of – such as legacy issues, moving on with the times and reviewing the revenue streams of the company, as well as focusing on diversification, which is often best effected by introducing new blood in the business through generational renewal.” On the topic of generational renewal, Dr Gerada emphasises that now is an opportune time for family business owners to communicate with the Family Business Office as well as with other family members in the company that may have been pushed aside when things were going well. “As a general rule, family business owners have to take decisions, not on ways that rely on results this quarter or maybe next year, but in being able to make investments that might not pay off for a year or two, or even longer. That generational approach and mindset can be valuable in a time like this. An advantage of a family business is that its owners are naturally thinking ahead, he adds, and that they want their business to last beyond their lifetime, for the next generations, for their children, and their children’s children. “That mindset can in itself have a very motivating effect.” Apart from the general support offered through the Family Business Office, registered members can tap into incentives which provide the required assistance they may currently need. Among these is its advisory services incentive, which provides registered family businesses with the opportunity to receive legal, notarial, and accountancy advisory services of €2,500 annually over five years, up to a maximum of €12,500, for the purposes of assistance in the succession or business transfer of a family business. The Office also offers an incentive which enables registered family businesses to acquire training for the owners and the employees of up to €1,000 annually per family business. In times of crisis, diversification may be the key to ensure new sources of revenue, and the ideas for such diversification may exist in the minds of family members who have not been asked to participate in the

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family business. Dr Gerada highlights that challenging times such as these tend to provide fertile ground for bringing family members into discussions that might otherwise not have been asked to get involved, who may provide the creativity and ideas required to overcome some of the obstacles that the business is currently facing. “The new generation very often tends to come up with ideas which are in line with the developments the world is experiencing in our times. For example, many retail family businesses have now started selling their products online. Ecommerce has been with us for several years, but it is only now that many family businesses have realised the potential of the internet and the huge marketplace it gives them access to,” he asserts. “This is an opportunity to bring the next generation into the conversation so that they can learn from the founders and the previous generations, whilst giving their input and bringing new ideas into the business. The new generation can help the family business focus on innovation,” Dr Gerada continues. Beyond financial results, family businesses strongly value the impact of their business on the local community, the Regulator adds. “Through innovation, they can create something that motivates and brings people together or provide a useful product which they can produce by making some changes to their current production line. This may require re-training or re-skilling of employees but would ultimately provide the alternative revenue streams which the business requires to survive.” Speaking about the Family Business Office’s upcoming plans, Dr Gerada states that the strategy it devised for this year at the end of 2019 had to be put on hold when the pandemic struck and was forced to refocus its efforts to the current reality. However, the Regulator says that the office has tentative plans to hold a conference during this year’s SME week in November. “We are also collaborating with a new TV programme which will be aired on the national channel from the end of September, with a focus on sharing experiences of family businesses, good practices, legacy issues and generational renewal.” The Office is also currently working on the creation of new incentives to be launched from 1st January 2021. “By looking at what we have already been offering and the takeup of these incentives, we are looking into ways of improving the current incentives and creating new ones to cater for areas where family businesses require most support,” states Dr Gerada.

“I can gladly say that we have had no de-registrations to date due to business closure since the COVID-19 pandemic hit our islands.”

As for the future of the islands’ family businesses, Dr Gerada believes they are wellpositioned to survive this business shock. “In Malta, I can gladly say that we have had no de-registrations to date due to business closure since the COVID-19 pandemic hit our islands. This is very encouraging and a sign that our family businesses are resilient and prepared to withstand the tests and obstacles faced during such a crisis.” Dr Gerada adds that he is aware of family businesses that have had to make drastic changes to the way they were used to doing business but this, in fact, is a positive thing. “Such nimbleness, agility and the ability to adapt to the current market situations are elements that can put a business ahead of its competition,” he states. “Family businesses have a certain pressure, also due to the reputation and legacy they would have established over the years, not to fail. This makes them hardy and able to take tough decisions so that they can adapt and survive.” cc 51


CC BUSINESS

A Group built on vision, humility and dedication Dedication, vision and asking for help when stuck helped three young entrepreneurs turn a small electrical and plumbing business into an extensive group of companies. Ray Bugeja learns how it all happened.

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E Installations Ltd, as we know it today, was set up 12 years ago by three young, enthusiastic and passionate individuals who yearned to embark on a new beginning. CE was originally CI, which had originated back in the 1990s and stood for Camilleri Installations. At the time, Camilleri Installations was a small electrical and plumbing business run by Joe Camilleri as a sole trader. His son, Mark, took over the business in 2004 and started buying his electrical supplies from BMV Ltd. This developed into a healthy business relationship and, in fact, led to both parties joining forces and forming CE Installations Ltd, employing 10 workers and carrying out electrical and plumbing jobs.

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“From the outset, we had a vision and our objective was to become one of the main and leading mechanical and electrical contractors in Malta,” CE Group Director and Co-Founder Marlon Brincat says. The new company’s first major project was the NSTS campus, which, he proudly recalls, was carried out effectively and to the satisfaction of the client. Other projects followed and, over the years, CE Installations was able to boast having been entrusted with projects of a certain calibre and importance such as Hilltop Gardens, the Kirkop school, Midi’s Q2 in Tigné, Tritons’ Square, Urban Valley Hotel, Reach the Fortina project, as well as the University Campus Hub. These projects served to give the company and the team behind it new

goals and invaluable exposure. They also served as further steppingstones to larger milestones as the company endured an expansion process, both in terms of the size of the projects being undertaken as well as their complexity, Mr Brincat says. He explains that the determination to increase the business was ever-present, but the directors were always careful not to overdo it: “we offer a quality service, as per our customers’ requirements, and we deliver on time.” The directors, all technical people in their line of work, each have their own competencies, are handson and make it a point to be side-by-side with employees whenever necessary, he adds. At a very early stage, they realised that the company needed to enhance its

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administrative set-up and that a general manager to handle the operations had to be engaged. The directors considered Carlo Vassallo, one of the company’s first employees, and he was chosen due to his leadership and communicative skills. The new GM lost no time in getting to work to build the management and administrative structure necessary for the company to be able to handle large projects, which, in turn, led CE Installations to forge professional and business relationships with other big organisations, working together on even larger projects. “We have empowered our management and engaged professional people in order to give the best service,” Mr Brincat asserts. Still, the directors opted to retain

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their hands-on approach, which, he points out, employees appreciate. The company is pleased that it has a very low staff turnover, he continues. The mechanical and electrical contracting division employs 183 people while other companies within the CE Group employ another 251 workers, bringing the total to 434 persons directly employed by the organisation. The number would grow to 500 if one were to add the employees of subcontractors. Mr Brincat explains that the CE Group embraces a number of companies that it owns 100 per cent, and others in which it is involved through strategic partnerships that are already in place or being formed. He explains that the plan was to expand from the provision of mechanical and electrical services to offering turnkey services within a natural progression process. This, he continues, came about from requests by clients who were pleased with the way CE Installations handled their mechanical and electrical needs and wanted to have the same quality of service in finishing and electrical low voltage work. Unique Décor, a turnkey contracting company, was established in 2012 precisely for this purpose. Mr Brincat defines the first major diversification as the Group’s acquisition of Villa Robinich in Fgura in 2016, which was converted into a 300-bed old people’s home and named Residenza San Ġużepp, opening its doors to residents last year. The Group also set up Dawra Durella, a childcare centre in the heart of Naxxar and one of the largest such facilities on the island. It also has a stake in Noni, one of only three restaurants in Malta that was awarded a Michelin star last December. “The Group will continue investing in all these sectors,” Mr Brincat pledges. As the Group got larger, it outgrew the offices it occupied and so it was time to invest in its own office block in Mosta, which was completed in mid-June, together with its own centralised stores across the road. This, he explains, made it possible for management and administration to be

centralised, thus maximising efficiency. It also makes it easier for the directors to meet with management and clients. The technological set-up in place also puts directors and management in a better position to properly discuss with clients how the company can enable them to achieve the best possible result from the projects they are about to embark on. “Now that we are properly settled in our new offices, we are working on the formal consolidation of all our companies into a group of companies and on the rebranding of this group of companies,” he maintains. “12 years ago, this was all a dream, but now we feel it is important to rebrand as one single group instead of several individual companies. As we now employ 434 people it is imperative for us that all our employees feel that sense of belonging to the CE Group and not merely to the particular division they work in,” he continues, adding that “further expansion is on the cards and we will be employing more people, thus it becomes even more important for all employees to feel a sense of pride in being a part of our group of companies.” The Group, he points out, is constantly diversifying, forming strategic partnerships with other business groups and joint venture partners, and that means more projects for the future, hence the reason why the CE Group expects to increase its workforce. Mr Brincat concludes with a wise word of advice to young entrepreneurs: “Follow your dream. We started out 12 years ago when we were still in our 20s. We believe that the secret to our success was dedication and vision while keeping our feet firmly on the ground and seeking support wherever it was deemed necessary. It is a learning experience which motivates you to seek a better future.” “Most importantly,” he continues, “any failures encountered during the journey were all taken as a learning opportunity rather than a setback and gave us as fresh impetus to try harder and achieve!” cc

“We believe that the secret to our success was dedication and vision while keeping our feet firmly on the ground and seeking support wherever it was deemed necessary.” 53


CC BUSINESS

How a venture a bank manager ignored and rejected became big business Paul Degiorgio tells Ray Bugeja the business started by his father and uncle, pioneers in the service industry, remained loyal to clients over the past 50 years.

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“We are always looking at ways to improve the service to our customers, but we also have a strong CSR policy.”

peak of the Fortress Alliance Group and most will wonder what you are referring to, but mention Mr Clean and they will understand exactly what you are talking about. The cleaning business was founded in 1970 under the name Mr Clean Cleaners Ltd by brothers Joseph and Emanuel Degiorgio, at the time in their 20s. They had travelled to the UK and Canada doing all sorts of jobs to make a decent living. When they settled back in Malta, they agreed to start a cleaning business. The company they set up had only been in operation for a few months when it encountered cash flow problems because of the expense incurred in buying vans and cleaning equipment. The Degiorgios had no alternative but to knock on the door of their local bank to obtain an overdraft but the bank manager burst out laughing commenting that such a business would never work in Malta and he even suggested they should go back to Canada. It was two renowned Maltese businessmen, Spiro Mizzi and Joseph Gasan, who solved their cash flow issues once and for all when they contracted the two brothers to handle all the cleaning requirements of their showrooms and warehouses. And so, slowly but surely, a venture that a bank manager had ignored and rejected, became a big business that helped thousands of people along the years to make a decent

living. Mr Clean, the successor of Mr Clean Cleaners Ltd, today forms part of Managing Consulting Service Industry Ltd, which, in turn, falls within the Fortress Alliance Group. Paul Degiorgio, Joseph’s son who runs the mammoth operation today, explains that there is not one but various business attributes that lead to the success his company enjoys. He lists 10: a clear vision on what we want to do and achieve; a good business for every project in hand; focus on short-term goals that are achievable; a skilled workforce; constant marketing of products and services in which social media is key; knowing customers and their requirements in the full knowledge that a happy customer is a returning customer; willingness to change, diversify and grow bearing in mind that as technology changed a great deal from 50 years ago so did the way in which one does business; being financially prepared for any issue; refusing to give up even when things get tough; and being passionate about what the whole team does. He notes that throughout the past 50 years, the business kept growing and focusing all its efforts and expertise on property and facility management. In its first 25 years of operations, the company had been involved in five major sectors. Today, the Group portfolio incorporates over 30 brands and companies, which also operate in other countries and are renowned for

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applying state-of-the-art systems such as the waterless microfibre colour cleaning system and touchless disinfection solutions. Among the companies and brands within the Group are MCSI Ltd, Servizi Malta Ltd, Triton Properties (Malta) Ltd, which encompasses property management and maintenance, facility management, hygiene, cleaning, and disinfection, ECO Alliance (Malta) that is responsible for waste management, conservation services and recycling, Malta International Recruiting Agency Ltd, Sanox International Ltd and Love Study (Malta). The Group also has organisations whose operations are related to security and finance, such as Debt Recovery Services (Malta) and Malta Repo Services (Malta) that operate under the Brand Collection Hub International Ltd London. This, Mr Degiorgio explains, puts the Group in a good strategic position to be able to manage any project of any size. On employment, he says that, along the years, the companies within the Group recruited many thousands, offering them the possibility of making a decent living out of a simple job. He does not dare mention a figure, saying anything between 20,000 and 30,000 employees worked full or part time for his business, some staying for many years and others just a short time. “We do not discriminate on the basis of race or colour and we try to find work for all those who knock on our doors. We believe it is a human right to earn a living and, where possible, our Group has been a problem solver for a lot of people, especially those with no formal education, former inmates and, above all, the homeless,” Mr Degiorgio admits. The end result, he points out, was that good teams could be put together to handle some of the largest projects on the island and also abroad. There were quite a few

but, by way of example, the entrepreneur explains that Servizi Malta Ltd was involved in a consortium that worked on Malta International Airport and Mater Dei Hospital. It was also involved in the building of the Island Resort Doha, Hamad Hospital and DNB Bank in Qatar. St Luke’s Hospital, ST Microelectronics and a children’s hospital in Tunis were among the projects MCSI Ltd was involved in. The Fortress Alliance Group deals with pharmaceutical supplies for the Libyan government, Love Study (Malta) worked on an educational project for the Tunisian government and Sanox International Ltd handled medical supplies and equipment for a general hospital in Qatar. The Group also forms part of Global Health Services Consortium to recruit and subcontract doctors, nurses and caregivers on a global scale. Malta International Recruiting Agency Ltd, which is licensed with the Department of Industrial and Employment Relations, works in conjunction with MCSI Ltd to provide a wide range of workers that include but are not limited to cleaners, housekeepers, waiters, chefs, storekeepers, clerks, accountants, draughtsmen and construction workers, among others. SanonDaf Ltd, another company within the Group, is a leader in bacteria and germs cleansing services, Mr Degiorgio notes. It was set up in 2015 and was the first company in Malta to disinfect the operation theatres at Mater Dei. The touchless disinfection solutions it uses combine the effect of both spraying devices and disinfectant solutions, thus enabling the air and surface in a room to be disinfected automatically. The disinfectant, he points out, is a patented, highly effective, oxidizing agent that kills 99.99 per cent of all hazardous germs and bacteria without posing a threat to humans, animals or plants.

Notwithstanding its many and varied operations, the company strives to ensure it leads by example and continuously upgrades the services it offers. “We are always looking at ways to improve the service to our customers but we also have a strong CSR policy whereby we are always looking to bring businesses to invest in Malta and also providing innovating ideas to the public sector via research white papers that we finance,” Mr Degiorgio says. Among the white papers funded by the Group was the one on the Cottonera Revitalisation Project, another themed ‘Malta Nature’, presented to the Environment and Resources Authority, and ‘Well-being Bond’, which dealt with irregular migrants in Malta. Other projects included ‘Bags for Help’ and donating tablets to the Ministry of Education for needy students. The Group’s philosophy, he continues, is to build value together with all its stakeholders and customers in five main areas: offering customers products and services that exceed expectations; fostering a corporate culture that promotes individual and company growth; contributing to a sustainable society by being involved in the community locally and abroad; building relationships promoting mutual growth; and increasing share value through sustainable profit growth and shareholder returns. The Group is present on the five continents and has more than 100 clients worldwide, ranging from governments to private international groups, Mr Degiorgio says, adding that the local database contains 70,000 clients. In 2015, the Group acquired ISO 9001 certification to ensure it is more professional in every aspect of trading with clients, Mr Degiorgio points out. In other words, he wants to ensure a truly clean operation, from beginning to end. cc

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Other house brands that are related to the Group include Repo Collection Hub – London; Sanox International and Sanondaf; Delivify; Autohub Malta; and Global Care Alliance. The Group also helps people and animals through Degiorgio Charity and Malta Pet Adoption.

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Can a force majeure clause be invoked in view of COVID-19? By Dr Gianluca Cappitta

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force majeure clause is commonly inserted in contracts as a means to excuse the performance of a contract on the basis of a defined set of circumstances, which could include but are not limited to wars, acts of God such as floods, earthquakes, etc. A force majeure clause is therefore invoked by parties to be released from executing their obligations. For the purposes of this article, the obligations which shall be assessed will be limited to contractual obligations and obligations of debtors and lessees.

What constitutes force majeure? Our law does not give a definition of what constitutes force majeure, but throughout the Civil Code one will find a number of references to the terms force majeure, ‘fortuitous event’ and ‘irresistible force’. Therefore, to better understand what

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constitutes a force majeure, an analysis of Court judgements is required. In the judgements of Alfred Zarb et v. Mondial Travel Agency (Court of Appeal, 30th January 2009) and Mapfre Middlesea p.l.c. v. Carmelo Saliba (Small Claims Tribunal, 9th January 2019), the Courts had concluded that the terms force majeure and ‘irresistible force’ are used interchangeably. The Maltese Courts have provided much needed guidance to establish a set of principles of the force majeure defence against liability, as well as to define the notion of an ‘irresistible force’ or a ‘fortuitous event’ and the circumstances giving rise thereto. The judgement of George Farrugia et. v. Pacifika Masini noe (Civil Court, First Hall, 7th January 2008) observed that for the purposes of force majeure, the following elements must result ‘simultaneously’.

a) The event must be dictated by an irresistible force in that it subjects the party in question to the impossibility of fulfilling his obligations; b) The event must be unpredictable; c) The event must be external; d) The event must not be able to be foreseen by a bonus paterfamilias, i.e. by the reasonable man.

Is the COVID-19 pandemic a fortuitous event? Considering the above elements, it could be safely concluded that the pandemic may not fully meet these criteria for the outbreak to be considered as a fortuitous event. It is not COVID-19 in and of itself which is hindering people from honouring their obligations but rather, it is the effects of legislative intervention in an effort to curb the pandemic over the past months which

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may have or may continue to prevent people from living up to their obligations. In the judgement of Emmanuel Ellul v. Victor Custo noe et (Civil Court, First Hall, 3rd October 2002), the Court held that an agreement between two persons is always subject not only to civil law provisions of public order, but above all else, also to what the law dictates. The intervention of the Legislature can always neutralise private agreements and the only limitation on Government is that it must, in every case, respect the fundamental rights of the citizens as protected by the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. Referring and resting on several judgements, the same Court continued to argue that an act of the Governing Authority is a fortuitous event which excuses whosoever does not honour an agreement. It continued by arguing that “in order for there to be a fortuitous event, there must be an event which does not depend upon a debtor, an unpredictable and inevitable event,” and that “an action of the Administrative Authority is equated to force majeure”. Whether the interpretation of our Court on the enactment of the various legal notices over the past months will fall within the same argumentation of our jurisprudence remains to be seen.

Contractual obligations If a contract has included a force majeure clause, and if such a clause has been worded in such a way as to encapsulate the Legal Notices enacted over the past weeks or the term has included the pandemic itself, it is very likely that parties to that contract may be excused from their obligations or liabilities arising under that contract. However, for parties to be so excused, it must be clearly proven that the force majeure event made it impossible for them to execute their obligations under the contract.

extinguishment of an obligation as laid down by Article 1207 of the Civil Code. These provisions of the law remain subject to the various doctrine as established by the various pronouncements of the Civil Courts, which seem to have qualified the instances giving rise to a force majeure event from time to time. Article 1571 concerns lessees as it stipulates that, if, during the lease, the thing let is destroyed in part, the lessee may demand either an abatement of the rent or the dissolution of the contract; the lessee may also demand an abatement of the rent or the dissolution of the contract if, owing to a fortuitous event, the thing let has become unserviceable. In the case of debtors, it is clear that force majeure does not mean that debtors can choose to default from their obligation. Rather, it means that, if debtors cannot do something due to force majeure, then they are not liable for damages. Therefore, force majeure may not be used to avoid carrying out an obligation, but it may be used to justify why the obligation could not be honoured. In the case of lessees, the law allows the possibility of dissolving the contract or asking for a reduction in rent. In addition, the contract may be dissolved, or the rent may be reduced if the thing let (a) is destroyed in part, or (b) has become unserviceable. The term ‘unserviceable’ is not defined in the Civil Code. In this respect, the Maltese

version of this Article provides some clarity and guidance as it reads ‘il-ħaġa mikrija ssir ma tiswiex biex wieħed jinqeda biha’. The term ‘ma tiswiex biex wieħed jinqeda biha’ is significant when considering commercial leases, wherein owing to the effects of the Legal Notices brought about by COVID-19 (which notices have restricted retail outlets and bars, amongst others), such leases were not serving the purpose for which they were leased.

The way forward Taking into consideration the impact of COVID-19 and the factors impinging on the severability of contracts, it would be prudent to review all active commercial contracts, giving particular attention to force majeure provisions and applicable law. Consequently, initiate discussions with the contracting party, if applicable, with an aim to amicably resolving the contractual position. Specific attention and care should be exercised if new contractual agreements are being entered into at this time, especially in relation to the force majeure clauses. When considering a force majeure claim, legal assistance ought to be resorted to so as to avoid the consequences of a wrongful claim, which could be substantial. cc Dr Gianluca Cappitta LL.D. – Senior Associate, Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates T: 9948 6256; M: 2723 7172; E: gcappitta@mifsudadvocates.com.mt

Obligations of debtors and lessees Article 1134 of the Civil Code stipulates that “The debtor shall not be liable for damages if he was prevented from giving or doing the thing he undertook to give or to do, or if he did the thing he was forbidden to do, in consequence of an irresistible force or a fortuitous event.” Whilst ‘irresistible force or fortuitous events’ are not defined in our law, this wording is repeated in other articles of the Civil Code as a source of exoneration from civil liability. For instance, in a scenario of a contract for use, a borrower is not liable for indemnity if the thing forming the subject of the contract perishes by a fortuitous event (Article1828 of the Civil Code). The loss of a thing due can also bring about the

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An independent audit offers invaluable insight for business owners With decades of experience and expertise between them, KPMG’s four Audit Directors in Private Enterprise – Thomas Galea, Kevin Mifsud, Norbert Bugeja and Justin Axiaq – lay out the benefits and value of a good and independent audit, and how it may provide businesses with a competitive edge at such uncertain times. Being part of a global firm with offices in 155 countries and working with experienced professionals, the auditor can help the business owner leverage extensive insight.”

Thomas Galea

Thomas Galea What are the key features of a good audit? “Often, an audit is just seen as a statutory requirement, and so companies have an audit carried out in order to tick a regulatory box and go about the process ‘to comply’ – without seeking to reap the good benefits for their business,” says Thomas Galea. “An audit should be an exercise where shareholders, directors and management obtain further insights into their business, on their processes and practices, and how they could be doing things differently.” Mr Galea says that this becomes especially important when the stewardship function in a company is substantive. “Broadly speaking, we encounter two set-ups: companies in which the shareholder, directors and management roles are all vested in the same group of persons, or a set-up where each position is occupied by different people, and these need to be approached differently.” “In the first scenario, an audit could provide a different perspective to the way you’re currently going about certain processes, which could profoundly improve your business, while in the second scenario, the audit gives additional comfort to the shareholders of what’s taking place at the level of management,” says Mr Galea. Mr Galea adds that the business owner can also leverage on the experience of the auditor and the firm. “Behind each and every KPMG leader there is the global firm that has extensive exposure to all industries. 58

What further value can an audit offer in the age of COVID-19? Setting aside the statutory and legal requirements of a company audit, Mr Galea says that, at a critical time like this, an audit can provide added value to business owners. “Part of our audit involves considering impairment assessments. If last December someone had suggested an improbable scenario where, for six months or so, a company would have zero revenue from an annual revenue of a few million euros, it would be dismissed as a joke. But, unfortunately, this became a reality, which got us thinking that we now really need to understand how a company and management can preserve value.” Preservation of value, Mr Galea adds, is the only thing that can get companies out of this period alive, which means businesses should rethink everything – their processes, procedures, and business rationale. To this end, an audit can help a business owner understand what they could do differently. “An audit is a rigorous and often an intrusive exercise, but through that, one can gain invaluable insight on how things can be done differently, and now more than ever, doing things differently might be the critical factor between those companies who survive the impact of COVID-19 and those who don’t. Previously, doing things differently could have just improved your processes with limited perceived bottom-line impact. In the world we are living in today, doing things differently may mean survival.”

audit – very often, we deal with the CFO who has various responsibilities and is involved in many aspects of the company’s finances.” In terms of the quality of an audit of a smaller business, Mr Mifsud asserts that there should be no difference, “and there cannot be a difference because the risk is the same. The risk here is of getting the audit opinion wrong, and you cannot get that wrong because there are stakeholders relying on your opinion.” When carrying out an audit on a small business, Mr Mifsud says that an auditor will need to adopt a more informal approach. “They expect more meetings, less emails and less reports. From an audit process, we focus more on detailed testing. When it comes to guidance, for that to work, ideally you get to know the client before you start the audit so that the CFO has sufficient time to gather the information required, therefore there needs to be a longer preparation period.” With less resources at their disposal, Mr Mifsud adds that the auditor will need to be more focused when working with a smaller business. “The expectation is that you are out of their premises in a matter of a few weeks as they wouldn’t want the audit process to be disruptive, so the way to address that is to send a skilled team that knows the business, processes and controls very well.” How do you evaluate a good audit? “Depending on the needs of the different businesses, one delivers a good audit if it meets the demands of the customers and addresses the key audit matters – identifying them, addressing them and reporting them in the audit report for the users of the financial statement to understand and get a view of the opinion itself,” says Mr Mifsud.

Kevin Mifsud Do you distinguish between small and large businesses when it comes to carrying out audits? “Firstly, one needs to understand what the characteristics of small businesses are and how they differ from large businesses,” says Kevin Mifsud. “In the case of small businesses, there’s an expectation to guide them more in certain areas because they might lack the expertise to tackle new areas that they hadn’t encountered before. They also have less resources to deal with the SEPTEMBER 2020


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“For a small business, considering their specific characteristics, I would say one evaluates a good audit not only based on quality, but also on the extent to which one delivered those value-added services, such as solutions to challenges the client would have discussed with you,” Mr Mifsud explains. “This kind of value-added service is very important, which small businesses really appreciate.”

Norbert Bugeja What should a business owner look out for when choosing a good and reliable auditor? Choosing an auditor is not a straightforward decision and, whatever the size and type of the company, whether listed or regulated or a smaller entity, there are many factors to consider to come up with the best choice of the auditor, says Norbert Bugeja. “The obvious factors are that the auditor is qualified and is a registered auditor, independent and of high integrity. But there are other factors that must be considered. One factor is reputation, as the company’s officials must have confidence in the people carrying out the audit,” he says, highlighting expertise as another crucial factor. “If the auditor has experience in that industry it will typically translate into a more efficient audit and avoid generic questions which will be a waste of the company’s time. Besides it will be beneficial to the Company as an experienced auditor will provide more meaningful input in a management letter point.” Understanding the quality assurance processes that the audit firm has is another factor to look out for; aspects, such as firm policies on training covering both core and SEPTEMBER 2020

professional topics are imperative to ensure that the quality of the professionals is truly of the calibre to meet the ever-increasing requirements brought about by the more complex business landscape. Mr Bugeja adds. “Relationship is important too. We are all humans with different characters but, in the end, it is a question of chemistry between the company’s people and the auditor. Healthy professional relationships augur for openness and transparency and would not compromise the quality of the audit.” Mr Bugeja suggests that, before the auditor is chosen, the company meets not only the partner who will lead the engagement but also the people who will be managing and doing the fieldwork. “Transparency and effective and timely communication are key and ultimately, all these will affect cost. Cost is also an important factor in the decision; however, it shouldn’t be the only decisive factor as there are other factors likewise important as mentioned earlier.” What is the value of an independent audit for a business owner? While an audit is unavoidable ‘to comply’ with statutory requirements, other benefits of an audit are the improvement of systems and controls, and credibility with stakeholders. “Through an independent audit, the financial statements will gain enhanced value – both for a bank, where audited financial statements help in the assessment of credit when advancing or renewing a facility, and also for creditors, who tend to use audited financial statements to make their assessment on whether to extend credit terms.”

Justin Axiaq What are the key steps involved in an audit that businesses should know about? As Justin Axiaq explains, an audit proceeds through a number of phases and, prior to commencing, the audit firm will look into the nature of the client’s business and its complexity, and conduct an assessment of the potential risks and the resources needed. Following this, the auditors meet the client’s audit committee or management to discuss the audit plan. “The examination of financial records forms the bulk of the audit work – analysis, testing and verification of the statements. Materials examined include the company’s accounting books, transaction records and other relevant documents and activities. During the process, auditors gather a deep understanding of the business and its industry, and may benchmark the company’s financial data and records against general industry patterns to identify anything out of line.”

Additionally, auditors often assess the effectiveness of a company’s internal control over financial reporting, to ensure that the company has established effective procedures to reduce the chances of errors or fraud. “As an audit nears completion, the audit firm will meet those charged with governance to discuss any questions of judgement that have arisen, beyond the validation of the numbers. Finally, the auditor issues its audit opinion based on its evaluation of the evidence gathered and audit findings.” In the current business climate, what added benefits may an independent audit offer? “Businesses around the world are responding to a period of unprecedented change. Technology and other market forces are disrupting business models, blurring the lines between industries, and requiring an entirely new way of thinking and developing business strategies. Change is now a given, but some things remain constant. One is the vital role audit plays in the trust and confidence of investors in the capital markets,” says Mr Axiaq. He asserts that the users of financial statements need high-quality financial information and relevant disclosures to allow stakeholders to make well-informed decisions, and it is the objective scrutiny that auditors bring which gives the business community confidence in the numbers. But there is additional business value: “companies can gain valuable insight into how their business is performing. Auditors challenge assumptions and unlock valuable insights based on a thorough understanding of an organisation’s business and industry,” says Mr Axiaq. “Audits are much more than ‘rear view mirror’ reports on the business, as they can also help companies plan better for the future.” cc www.kpmg.com.mt 59


CC INVESTMENT

Photo by Omar Camilleri

Investing for a rainy day The Minister for Home Affairs, National Security and Law Enforcement Byron Camilleri explains how important it is to plan ahead and that if this year has taught us anything it’s to save for a rainy day. How is the government saving for a socalled rainy day? Over the past few years, the government has steadily worked on boosting the economy and generating economic growth. This strategic economic policy has led Malta to register one of the highest rates of economic growth in the European Union. This policy has led to sound national finances which enabled us to effectively combat a global pandemic and save thousands of jobs. This approach does not only apply to economy but also to law enforcement. As the Ministry for Home Affairs, National Security and Law Enforcement our job is to ensure that our disciplined forces are well-equipped to face the challenges they deal with on a daily basis. That is why we are investing in new technologies, more training and highend equipment so as to help our officers be more effective and efficient. Recently the Police Force has achieved remarkable results. What is your take on this? The developments we’ve seen over the past weeks have proven just how capable 60

our Police Force is. The arraignments in the Sliema double-murder case and in other major crimes this year, show just how committed our investigators are. The hard work of our officers led them to achieve results. I always knew that our Police Force is made of talented and professional officers however, solving such a big case reinforces it in the eyes of the public. How are law enforcement agencies using technology in their work? As technology is used to commit more sophisticated crimes, law enforcement officers are increasingly using tech tools to combat crime. The latest innovations can make police work not only safer for officers, but the public as well. As Minister for Home Affairs, I believe that we should use these evolving technologies for our benefit. That is why the Malta Police Force is investing in virtual simulators to help train its officers in different scenarios. The Rapid and Special Intervention Unit will be strengthening their training following an investment in a cutting-edge simulator. The simulator has over 200 scenarios

ranging from bullying to traffic stops, and burglary which RIU officers will be using as part of their training. The simulator also responds to artificial weapons so that the officers can feel as though they are in a reallife situation which will enhance their skill set in the real world and be better prepared to serve our communities. How can this technology make a difference in the lives of those most vulnerable? The MPF has also recently inaugurated a Domestic Violence simulator which will train members of the police to be more empathetic with victims. Through a virtual reality headset, officers will better understand the impact this crime leaves on children who experience domestic violence in their home. Domestic violence is the third most reported crime in Malta and we are making a conscious effort to deal with this reality. We mean business when we say we will work on domestic violence. In the next few months, we will launch the use of bodycams for police officers. This investment will see all officers donning a bodycam for their own personal protection SEPTEMBER 2020


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as well as for the protection of people they face. Many police forces around the world saw a drastic decrease in false allegations made against their officers once bodycams were introduced. They are important for police accountability but the footage can also turn out to be useful for court proceedings too. We usually speak about the Police Force, however, another important aspect of security includes the Civil Protection. What significant investments are being made? Recently, we inaugurated a ₏1 million investment in the Civil Protection Department which will allow it to be better prepared for any circumstances that might crop up. Amongst the vast arsenal of equipment, this investment includes two rotating telehandlers which can be transformed into a forklift, a cherry-picker, a crane or any other piece of machinery that reflects the situation at hand. One might ask, but is this really significant? It definitely is since the Civil Protection is now set-up with state-of-the-art technology which means it can tackle anything from accidents in construction sites to infrastructural damage created by severe storms. Even though Malta is known as the island where the sun always shines, we still experience our fair share of thunderstorms and gale force winds. Some storms have had a devastating impact on the country’s infrastructure and in these circumstances, the Civil Protection Department is called in to assist. That is why we made it a priority to invest in the latest equipment which is not

Photo by Omar Camilleri

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only useful in these situations but can save valuable time during delicate operations. How is the Civil Protection Department adapting to the new realities it is facing? Training. I believe that our biggest asset is the human resources we have. We can have the best technology money can buy but if we do not have well-trained personnel who know how to use it, then our investment would be futile. That is why, together with the Director General of the Civil Protection, we are emphasising on specialised training programmes for all officers. The realities of

the job have also changed. The country has a lot more high-rise buildings than it did a few years ago and these bring with them their own set of safety challenges. We also have more active construction sites. It is for this reason that we are adapting training programmes according to what is needed on the ground. Through a collaboration agreement with Malta Industrial Parks, the CPD is now also fully-equipped to deal with fires that might happen in industrial estates. In just a few years, Malta’s industrial estates expanded substantially and this meant that the CPD needed to equip itself to deal with these particular safety challenges. CPD is also providing training to those working in industrial estates so as raise awareness on safety at work. What other projects are in the pipeline? As a policymaker, it is my job to look to the future. The reforms we implement today will help us live in a better world tomorrow and that is what we are actively working on. We spent the summer working on important projects which will materialise in the coming weeks. Our focus is to ensure that law enforcement capabilities in the country are strengthened and that citizens feel safe and protected. My message to readers is for them to be a part of the change they want to see in the country. Law enforcement can be more effective if citizens are on their side. Collaboration with the community is essential and I encourage everyone to communicate with law enforcement officials on a regular basis. Together we can achieve more. cc 61


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NEWS EVENTS & INITIATIVES

04. Getting ready for changes

06. 01. An SME strategy for a sustainable and digital Europe The European Commission adopted an SME strategy for a sustainable and digital Europe in July, aiming to support SMEs through strengthening their capacities to adapt to climate neutral challenges, helping them to reap the benefits of digitalisation, and reducing the regulatory burden that SMEs face while improving opportunities to access to finance. The strategy considers three pillars: capacity-building and support for the transition to sustainability and digitalisation; reducing regulatory burden and improving market access; and improving access to financing.

02. MCESD Employers’ Bodies – “Government needs to practise what is preached re MCESD role” MCESD holds an important advisory role in the governing and policy-making structures of the country. It is therefore discouraging to note that despite the various reports, recommendations and discussions held over the past years to ascertain the appropriate status of this important national institution, Government has not consulted MCESD members in a suitable manner in the latest appointment of the new Chairman. If Government really wants to uphold the principles of good governance, it needs to start practising what is preached by first abiding to expected procedural practices in important decisions such as the appointment of the MCESD Chairman, whose role is critical

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to ensure the appropriate functioning of the Council. The press release was signed by David Xuereb, President of The Malta Chamber, Tony Zahra, President of the Malta Hotels & Restaurants Association (MHRA), Doris Sammut Bonnici, President of the Malta Employers’ Association (MEA), and Paul Abela, President of the Malta Chamber of SMEs.

03. Malta Chamber and Atlas Insurance sign Bronze Partnership agreement The Malta Chamber signed a Bronze Partnership agreement with Atlas Insurance PCC Ltd in July, intended to enhance collaboration between this prominent insurance company and the Chamber. Speaking during the signing, Perit David Xuereb, President of The Malta Chamber said that the agreement will certainly bring new value for Chamber members whilst contributing to put physical and mental wellness higher on the national agenda. Matthew von Brockdorff, Chief Executive Officer of Atlas Insurance, said that this agreement cements the close relationship between Atlas and The Malta Chamber: “with the formation of the Health and Wellness Committee, the business community will benefit from a better exchange of insights and policies.” The agreement was signed by President David Xuereb and Deputy President Marisa Xuereb on behalf of The Malta Chamber and Matthew von Brockdorff and Catherine Calleja for Atlas Insurance PCC Ltd.

The European Commission released the latest Preparedness Communication relating to the post-transition period between the European Union and the United Kingdom in July. The communication aims to highlight the main areas of inevitable change and to facilitate readiness and preparations by citizens, public administrations, businesses and all other stakeholders for any unavoidable disruptions. Through this communication, the EU Commission covered a wide range of scenarios relating to customs, certificates, data flows, financial services, mutual recognition, mobility and recognition of professional qualifications and all modes of transport. This document ensured readiness for the end of that transition period on 1st January 2021, when the United Kingdom will no longer participate in the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union, nor in Union policies and programmes, nor benefit from the Union’s international agreements.

05. Transport and logistics sector at the core of The Malta Chamber’s policy concerns The main discussion during the meeting was the EU mobility package and the outcome of recent developments on the proposed legislation at EU level. The repercussions of this new law on the logistics sector, the retail sector, the manufacturing industry and the Maltese consumer were discussed. Possible initiatives to support the logistics sector which would be aimed at cushioning the impact at the national level were discussed. The meeting also discussed the hardships endured by companies providing mass transport and yachting services during COVID.

06. The Malta Chamber signs agreement with Evolve Ltd for an economy of quality over quantity The Malta Chamber signed a Bronze Collaboration Alliance Agreement with Evolve Ltd in July. On behalf of The Malta Chamber, President David Xuereb said that “business leaders must partner with Government and civil society to inculcate a culture where the current ‘good enough’ attitude is replaced by ‘nothing but the best’.” Managing Director of Evolve Ltd Christopher Busuttil Delbridge said that “to reach that larger audience we are

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Entertainment Industry and Arts Association (MEIA) digitally in July. Addressing members from a variety of fields related to the arts and entertainment, Perit Xuereb noted that the formation of the MEIA augured well for the sector. Newly elected President of the MEIA Howard Keith Debono said, “I believe we have a lot of valid people here and I certainly would like to see them all involved in some way or other. It took a pandemic to get the whole industry represented through an association with one common voice. This is long overdue. We’re all determined and want to start working immediately.”

10. “Connectivity is crucial in life as well as in business”

10. collaborating with a like-minded organisation, The Malta Chamber of Commerce, to start what we are calling the Quality Committee – an initiative aimed at the heart of Malta across all business verticals.” The Bronze Collaboration Alliance Agreement was signed by Perit Xuereb and Marisa Xuereb as President and Deputy President of The Malta Chamber, respectively, and Mr Busuttil Delbridge as CEO of Evolve Ltd.

07. Contactless Payments system becoming the new norm “Contactless Payments are slowly becoming the new norm as more people seek to use them because they are both fast and efficient.” These were the opening words of David Xuereb, President of The Malta Chamber, as he introduced a webinar on Contactless Payments in July. Perit Xuereb added that “Bank of Valletta has always been at the forefront of this sector, offering a range of e-commerce solutions based on the enterprise requirements. All EPOS terminals have now been converted to contactless and consumers can also opt to transition to BOV Pay, Apple Pay and Garmin Pay by simply uploading their contactless cards on their devices. BOV Mobile to Mobile payments also provide retailers with further options on how to accept payments.”

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08. Malta Chamber notes some establishments still closed as pandemic fallout continues to damage business On 20th July, The Malta Chamber noted that some establishments, mainly in the hospitality sector, have failed to reopen as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. The Chamber predicted a “series of closures” on the basis of research conducted among members. The Chamber stated that “the majority of Malta Chamber members (75 per cent) do not foresee a return to pre-COVID-19 levels of business for their companies before March 2021, with only 25 per cent optimistic that this could happen by end of year.” “At a global level, the uncertainty surrounding people’s appetite for holidaying abroad has a direct bearing on Malta’s hospitality and tourism industry, affecting direct players and also the satellite industries that supply them,” President David Xuereb added. On the other hand, he noted a “heightened sense of adaptation” throughout the crisis, mainly brought about by necessity.

09. The Malta Chamber hosts establishment of the Malta Entertainment Industry and Arts Association (MEIA) The Malta Chamber hosted the election and formal establishment of the Malta

Participating in a business breakfast on the country’s challenges related to transport and traffic organised by Newsbook in July, Chamber President David Xuereb said that the country needed to discuss the movement of goods within the country, as well as the mass transit of persons. Innovative transportation such as electric solutions needed to be seriously considered, said Perit Xuereb. More pressure needs to be put on the leadership of the country to employ innovation so that the challenges related to traffic are eased, the Chamber President concluded.

11. Assistance for businesses to create business plans discussed “The constant examination of the health and resilience of our businesses through the use of carefully crafted business plans, is the only way to ensure a sustainable and nimble economy,” said David Xuereb during a meeting with Economy Minister Silvio Schembri in July. Perit Xuereb led a delegation from The Malta Chamber for a meeting with the Minister to discuss issues related to economic matters post-COVID, with special reference to Government’s announced scheme to help businesses create solid business plans. “The Malta Chamber welcomed Government’s intentions to take on board the Chamber’s proposal in favour of a scheme that would help businesses rejig their business plan, with a view for long-term sustainability,” said the President.

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12. Fatalities cannot continue to be seen as collateral damage of a successful industry that remains in dire need of discipline The Malta Chamber commented on the shocking situation the construction and building industry finds itself in, with the latest incident, yet again, resulting in loss of life on a construction site in July. This was the fourth construction-related fatality this year. The country cannot accept these fatalities as collateral damage of a successful industry. In its Economic Vision, The Malta Chamber proposed that Government take immediate corrective action and impose the agreedupon sanctions in the event of malpractice or abuse of the new construction regulations.

By doing so, they would strongly show that the reforms have drawn an unwavering line across the previous laissez-faire approach to construction.

13. The successes within COVID During an event of the Young Chamber Network, members met to discuss best practices of how certain businesses managed to find the opportunity during COVID times to turn the challenges brought about by the pandemic into successes. Ian Casolani from Belair Property said that the real estate sector was hard hit by the COVID crisis. He said that one of the greatest challenges was to ensure that his agents remained motivated, as a solid

line of communication was key to maintain healthy relations between tenants and landlords. Jo Caruana from writemeanything spoke about the fact that COVID meant that her revenue streams dried up over a weekend and together with her team, she got creative and dedicated time to examine her business plan and to training and growth. Sebastian Ripard from Bolt explained how the company managed to successfully pivot in a short period of time from a transporter of persons to a food delivery company. He shared the challenges of shifting focus from one mode of operation to a new one, in a brief period of time.

14. Succeeding the Moneyval test is a shared responsibility The Malta Chamber led a delegation, composed of key associations in the financial services sector, to discuss the pending Moneyval evaluation with Prime Minister Robert Abela in July. In the past weeks, The Malta Chamber established a forum with the aim to bring together players in the financial services sector, to present a unified voice, and support Government ahead of the upcoming Moneyval evaluation. During the meeting, a document prepared by the same forum entitled ‘Recommendations for the Moneyval Assessment’ was presented. Recommendations included a clear communication strategy to report on unambiguous progress achieved in updating Malta’s regulatory infrastructure relating to Anti Money Laundering and Combatting the Financing of Terrorism as well as the Rule of Law.

15. “Announcement of measure to further extend vacation leave entitlement ill-timed and insensitive”

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On 30th July, The Malta Chamber was dismayed by Government’s ill-timed announcement regarding the granting of an additional day of leave during this very sensitive and unprecedented period of the economy for Malta and the rest of the world. “Increased operating costs resulting from the implementation of this and similar measures over the years have impacted Malta’s competitiveness and jeopardised its export potential in cost-sensitive sectors,” said Chamber President David Xuereb.

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16. In the past, The Malta Chamber called for this measure to be neutralised by compensating measures to safeguard competitiveness such as a reduction of Employers N.I. contributions, compensation to private companies by means of a refund, or changes in sick leave benefits.

16. Less Government, more governance On 4th August, The Malta Chamber presented the preliminary report of its Think Tank and roundtables which for the past months have been engaged to study and propose scenarios for a sustainable, resilient and competitive future for Malta. The Think Tank called on Government to adopt The Malta Chamber’s Economic

Vision 2020-2025, which was presented by the Chamber in February, outlining actions to render sectors of the economy more sustainable and resilient. The launch was held under the extraordinary auspices of President of Malta, George Vella, who also addressed the proceedings.

17. The Malta Chamber strengthens its partnership with RSM Malta in renewed Gold Partnership On 6th August, The Malta Chamber and RSM Malta renewed their Gold Collaboration Agreement for a second term, with a view to collaborate in the establishment of policies on the workforce, talent management and

industrial relations through the horizontal thematic committee dedicated to Talent and Human Resources. George Gregory from RSM said, “our belief is that business strategy is brought to life through the people. We lead our firm with this principle, and it guides our engagements with clients. This focus will continue strengthening the renewed efforts of The Malta Chamber and its important supportive role to the Maltese business community.” The Gold Collaboration Alliance Agreement was signed by David Xuereb and Marisa Xuereb as President and Deputy President of The Malta Chamber, respectively, and Mr Gregory, Managing Partner Designate at RSM Malta.

18. The Malta Chamber presents Cabinet with the findings and recommendations of its Think Tank During an extraordinary meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers which was held at The Exchange Buildings in August, the country’s political leadership was presented with the preliminary report of its Think Tank and roundtables in favour of a sustainable, resilient and competitive future for Malta. Perit Xuereb then proceeded to explain the reasoning behind the Malta Chamber’s proactive approach to policy, and how the Think Tank, under the leadership of Joshua Zammit, made use of the vast expertise of

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23. The Malta Chamber’s membership in order to propose solid policy recommendations to the movers and shakers of the country for a better and more resilient Malta tomorrow.

19. Malta Chamber shares Think Tank recommendations with Opposition During a meeting with the spokespersons of the Opposition Mario de Marco, Kristy Debono and Claudio Grech in August, President David Xuereb presented the preliminary report of the Malta Chamber’s Think Tank in favour of a sustainable, resilient and competitive future for Malta. “As the country’s foremost business representative body and as an apolitical organisation, we strive to cast our message as far and wide as possible. This morning we welcomed the Prime Minister and his Cabinet of Ministers as we presented them with our recommendations. With the same objective drive, we are honoured to present the same report to the Opposition, in order to ascertain that the country’s Opposition is on our same page and to ensure continuity and stability for the country’s economic prospects,” Perit Xuereb said.

20. Prime Minister Robert Abela shares his economic vision during meeting at The Malta Chamber Addressing a historic Cabinet meeting which was held for the first time at the Exchange Buildings of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise, and Industry in August, Prime Minister Robert Abela spoke about his economic ambitions for Malta for the coming years.

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During his speech, the Prime Minister listed five main principles that would serve as an economic model for the future. These five points of principle were good governance, education for a long-term healthy economy, improving Malta’s infrastructure, carbon neutral by 2050 with intermediate targets every 10 years, and economic growth for a better quality of life. Prime Minister Abela addressed the need to include more women within his economic vision. “I want to see more women within high economic roles making decisions. Not because they are women, but because they are women of competence who can give a different perspective to us all.”

21. Lack of discipline and enforcement has led to a retrograde step in COVID battle The Malta Chamber largely welcomed the measures announced by the Deputy Prime Minister and Superintendent of Public Health to curb the further spread of COVID-19, on 17th August. The Chamber itself had, in fact, requested clearer guidelines for businesses to follow, to ensure public health and safety for all. Business and public health must go hand in hand. The Malta Chamber also noted Government’s commitment to reopening schools in September. This is seen by The Malta Chamber as crucial, not only for the proper functioning of the economy but also for ensuring that upcoming generations do not suffer educational gaps that would jeopardise their futures and the country’s future HR capabilities.

Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service. The Chamber is recommending for the Head of the Civil Service to do the right thing in the interest of good governance and for the country to ensure that all individuals serving in public office, whether elected or appointed are, in fact, persons of integrity, lead by example, and take the indisputable moral high ground where legitimate doubts or concerns arise.

23. Healthcare Committee meets Deputy Prime Minister Fearne In August, The Malta Chamber met with Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne, accompanied by the Ministry’s Chief of Staff Lorenzo Vella, Superintendent of Health Charmaine Gauci, Pharmacy of Your Choice (POYC) CEO Isabelle Vella and Foundation for Medical Services (FMS) CEO Carmen Ciantar. Perit David Xuereb led the Malta Chamber’s delegation composed of the Director General Kevin J. Borg, Chairperson of the Healthcare Business Section, Robert Magri, Deputy Chairperson Giulia Attard Montalto and Chairperson of the Importers and Distributers Economic Group Marcel K. Mifsud. Mr Magri affirmed that the Healthcare Business Section has a very good working relationship with the various sections of the Department of Health. However, certain challenges, such as issues relating to tendering, have arisen due to this pandemic, and require a high level of attention.

22. All persons serving in public office must lead by example

24. “We have a long way to go to progress from words to business” – David Xuereb

“The Chamber has consistently advocated the strengthening of the three main pillars of good governance, namely: (1) accountability, (2) transparency and (3) the rule of law. The Chamber made this statement in its document entitled ‘Ethical Business calls for change’ which it published and presented to the Prime Minister last January. Consequently, it was left perturbed by news that a Government official was reportedly re-instated to the Civil Service after being convicted of fraud and interdicted. Of additional concern to the Chamber was the fact that the public officer in question is the brother of the

In the article titled ‘An Economic Vision – From Words to Business’, David Xuereb said that The Malta Chamber had, in various documents, advocated an Economic Vision for Malta to become a Smart Sustainable Island that seeks to increase economic growth while enhancing the quality of life of the people. “This Vision has been shared with Government in regular submissions. The Chamber is aware that it has successfully managed to bring this message home to Government, so much so that during the recent Cabinet meeting held at the Chamber Building in August, the Prime Minister said it was pointless achieving economic growth

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26. unless this translates to a higher quality of life,” Perit Xuereb said.

overseeing the global business operation across Europe, Africa and Asia.

25. The Malta Chamber announces appointment of a Chief Executive Officer

26. The Malta Chamber teams up with PT Matic Environmental Services Ltd

The Malta Chamber announced, on Monday 24th August, the appointment of Edward Chetcuti in the new role of Chief Executive Officer. Mr Chetcuti said, “The Malta Chamber of Commerce is one of the longest established social partners serving the business community since 1848. Being appointed as Chief Executive Officer for The Malta Chamber is an incredible honour. This is a credible, professional and non-partisan institution and our work needs to be at the highest level to reflect that.” Mr Chetcuti had been previously employed with De La Rue since 2012, being appointed as the first ever Maltese General Manager for De La Rue Malta until he was promoted to International Director of Operations

The Malta Chamber has signed a Bronze Collaboration Agreement with PT Matic Environmental Services Ltd. The agreement supports the establishment of a new horizontal thematic committee within the structure of The Malta Chamber on the subject of the Circular Economy, which will provide leadership for businesses in areas relevant to resource management and sustainability. Oliver Fenech from PT Matic said, “we are proud to be supporting The Malta Chamber at this time and pleased that we found synergy in our commitment of pushing to put our environment on the forefront of decision making, for a cleaner and greener Malta.” The Bronze Collaboration Alliance Agreement was signed by David Xuereb

and Marisa Xuereb as President and Deputy President of The Malta Chamber, respectively, and Ing. Fenech as General Manager of PT Matic Environmental Services Ltd.

27. Meeting with Minister Silvio Schembri to discuss business re-engineering scheme A delegation from The Malta Chamber led by President David Xuereb, met with Silvio Schembri, Minister for the Economy in August, to discuss the development and involvement of the Chamber in the implementation of the business reengineering scheme which the Chamber itself proposed in its pre-COVID budget proposals. These proposals focus on the continued flow of liquidity to address hard-hit sectors and impacted businesses in the rest of the economy, the importance of mobilising labour supply while incentivising businesses and jumpstarting the economy. The initiative would thus ensure the required shift in mindset in various sectors and stimulate innovation that will in turn enable the economy to emerge even stronger. The meeting also discussed serious issues being faced by importers in the wines, spirits, beverages and tobacco business due to the sharp drop in business.

28. T4B Services Ltd to support The Malta Chamber through new Bronze Collaboration Alliance

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The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry and T4B Services Ltd have signed a Bronze Collaboration Agreement through the setting up of a

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29. new Energy Efficiency and Conservation Committee. “Our strategy is to remain focused on the mission of The Malta Chamber to be the true and vibrant voice of business, as we maintain our strong and researched position to influence policy and decisions on the quality of our environment and the health of our economy and our businesses,” Perit Xuereb said. “Energy efficiency is the cornerstone of a sustainable economy. Efficient use of available energy resources means lower operating costs, long-term sustainability and improvements in our environment, resulting in better quality of life,” Mr Spiteri Staines said. The agreement was signed by President David Xuereb and Deputy President Marisa Xuereb on behalf of The Malta Chamber, and Patrick Spiteri Staines, Chief Executive Officer on behalf of T4B Services Ltd.

The Chamber President was accompanied by Deputy President Marisa Xuereb, CEO Edward Chetcuti, Director General Kevin J. Borg, Head of Policy André Fenech and Policy Executive Diana Miceli.

01. 6th August 2020 – Malta Chamber signs cooperation agreement with Rwanda counterpart The Malta Chamber and the Rwanda Private Sector Federation signed a memorandum of understanding, with the aim of identifying areas of opportunity, and

to create a level of trust between the two countries, that will encourage entrepreneurs to partner with each other. The agreement was signed by David Xuereb, President of The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry and Stephen Ruzibiza, CEO, Rwanda Private Sector Federation in the presence of H.E. Ambassador Ronald Micallef, High Commissioner of Rwanda for the UK H.E. Yamina Karitanyi, Sheila Mutavu from the Rwanda Ministry of Foreign Affairs and The Malta Chamber’s Head of Internationalisation Lino Mintoff. cc

29. Malta Chamber presents Budget recommendations to Prime Minister The Malta Chamber presented its preBudget recommendations to the Prime Minister on 1st September. “We believe the upcoming Budget for 2021 should outline one holistic national vision to achieve a Smart Sustainable Island that seeks to safeguard economic growth while enhancing the quality of life of our people,” Perit Xuereb told the Prime Minister. The Chamber President also noted how the Budget for 2021 was critical to ascertain the recovery of the economy, stimulate reinvention and entice re-investment. SEPTEMBER 2020

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Style Review

REVIEW

02. High-end masks

The past few months have seen the world change – and our wardrobes with it. Designers and retailers have responded by producing luscious wearable fashion for those of us who telework, or those of us who don’t, as well as outfits for social-distanced occasions. Rebecca Anastasi has the low-down on what will make you feel good – yes, even in a global pandemic. 01. Luxe leisure Comfy can mean smart, as this latest trend can attest, with polo shirts, T-shirts, soft jumpers and casual trouser shapes in smooth fabrics taking centre stage. Think muted tones and natural materials for wearable threads which will help you transition easily from work to play, even if you’re stuck in the same space.

A health imperative, masks can also be – let’s face it – something of a fashion statement for those looking to brighten up their forays in public spaces. Local and foreign designers are all getting in on the act, with styles ranging from lace prints to bright tones. Opt for breathable, multilayered options to make you feel at ease.

03. White trainers A perennial favourite with both men and women, white trainers have been on top 10 fashion lists for some seasons now. They work with any outfit you’ve got planned for the day: dress down a skater dress, or tailored trousers, and inject some laid-back youth into your overall look.

04. Sustainable clothing With major international organisations underlining the need for fundamental change in our relationship to the environment, this trend is hardly new, but it has been gathering pace. Eskew fast fashion in favour of items which will last, and which have been made from recycled materials, such as polyester made from former water bottles.

01.

Reiss

Billie Jean King, Andre Agassi, Björn Borg – perhaps not names which immediately spring to mind when you hear the words ‘fashion icon’ (although tennis is, unarguably, one of the most stylish of sports). But the summer season has been all about vintage tennis, with the trend set to continue into the autumn – long after the Roland Garros final has ended.

06. Jersey No, not the island or the shore. Jersey material is breathable and adept at working whatever the temperature. Go for vibrantcoloured tops on jeans; dresses featuring puffed sleeves; or even jumpsuits for modern styling using a versatile fabric. cc

Collina Strada

05. Vintage tennis

02.

Nike

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Boden

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Ted Baker

Tentree

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Tech Trends

03. The Kettle

01. CleanPod UVC Sterilizer

04. Hypervolt Plus cordless massager

The compulsion to shop while spending more time indoors is real, and without doubt, there’s no shortage of gadgets out there aimed at making life at home easier and more comfortable. Martina Said rounds up some of the niftiest ones.

01.

In the age of COVID-19, this might be just the gadget you’re looking for. CleanPod releases a high-energy beam of UltraViolet C light at the press of a button, which effectively sanitises surfaces without using harsh chemicals. Via its specialised LEDs, it can kill up to 99.9 per cent of germs in under one minute.

02. Pixel Buds

02.

Google’s wireless earbuds, called Pixel Buds, promise brilliant sound, a comfortable and customisable fit, and five hours of listening time on a single charge, with up to 24 hours with the wireless charging case. The Pixel Buds easily pair with Bluetooth devices, and boast a long range of Bluetooth connectivity if your phone isn’t by your side.

It’s hard to deny the sleek design of this attractive kettle. Its creators, Balmuda, have crafted a kettle that creates a pouring experience based on ergonomic research. The pièce de résistance of this domestic appliance is the power light, comprised of a tiny neon tube at the base of the handle which emits a delicate glow visible from any angle.

If all the home workouts are taking their toll on your muscles, the Hypervolt Plus cordless vibration massager might be a good investment. Its lightweight and ergonomic design makes it ideal for applying myofascial release at home, while also increasing circulation to affected areas and relieving soreness.

05. Fillup™ by Fluidstance This sleek and portable water tower provides a handy supply of water on demand, wherever you may be. Capable of storing a full day’s supply of water, Fillup™ can be placed on your home or office desk, bedside table or even in the kitchen for easy reach, and its double-walled tank keeps water cold for 24 hours. Bonus – it also saves on single-use plastics!

06. Apple iPhone SE Apple’s new budget iPhone comes as a relief to Apple devotees for whom the brand’s latest models, such as the iPhone 11 and iPhone XR, seem entirely unaffordable. Launched this year, the SE is a 4.7-inch model that looks like an iPhone 8 but comes with internals similar to those of the iPhone 11. More importantly, it comes with an (approximately) €400 price tag, practically half of its newer counterparts. cc

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Unistores (Services) Ltd: Providing an integrated and fully-fledged supply chain

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nistores (Services) Ltd is a local company offering temperature regulated storage services including relabelling, coding and delivery services in order to meet today’s demands. In addition, such services will soon include dry storage facilities for any other goods (both food and non-food items). Unistores (Services) Ltd is a logistics service company that forms part of FG & Co Group and which is currently also involved in the retail and construction industries. Initiating services in 2009 from a 400m2 storage facility, Unistores (Services) Ltd is now operating from two centrally located depots with storage facilities exceeding 5,000m2. Unistores (Services) Ltd is also currently in the process of launching a new 10,000m2 logistics hub to cater mainly for the storage of non-temperature-controlled goods and therefore be open for any item necessitating storage. All the goods unloaded at our sites are stored in secure, well-equipped, state-of-theart depots covered by a 24/7 temperature control and offsite alarm system. Pest control maintenance is carried out regularly and all depots have fire equipment installed

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throughout. CCTV surrounds all premises and all depots are covered with an insurance policy covering theft, fire and accidental damage. In addition, improvements are continuously being undertaken, applying personalised tools to boost client commodity with synchronised decisions. Technological systems have been introduced in order to ensure the continuous monitoring and traceability of products stored in our depots. Our management software package ensures full record keeping and individual batch traceability of the stored products, including all the dry, chilled and frozen goods routed through our warehouses. Clients can also make use of our delivery services, which are currently only carried out using temperature-regulated vehicles with a storage temperature that can range from -40oC to +15oC depending on the item being transported. The vehicles are themselves monitored in real time in order to ensure that all products are delivered safely to customers. Unistores (Services) Ltd has now embarked on an extensive campaign to identify the appropriate Electric Assisted

“Unistores (Services) Ltd is also currently in the process of launching a new 10,000m2 logistics hub to cater mainly for the storage of non-temperaturecontrolled goods and therefore be open for any item necessitating storage.�

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“Today, the company employs over 50 professional staff who are committed to the company’s vision and are highly passionate about their work.”

Vehicles for the local market, in order to be in pole position to deliver the products in the requested configuration to clients in all localities at all times, without any restrictions. Today, the company employs over 50 professional staff who are committed to the company’s vision and are highly passionate about their work. The group invests heftily in training and attending international conferences such that the company can be kept abreast with the latest developments in this sector, and hence be in a position to continue offering avant-garde services to its clients. Unistores (Services) Ltd has recently been ISO 9001:2015 certified by Dimitto Certification Services. The company aims to have a global network of operations dedicated to managing the supply chain of goods for the Maltese islands. We employ industry experts who monitor every step of our clients’ supply chain. We also work closely with our clients in order to create a glasshouse supply chain which enables our clients to monitor our performance and the quality of their merchandise in real time. Our mission statement is that our client’s peace of mind is a priority for us.

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During 2015, Transporter Ltd, a subsidiary of Unistores (Services) Ltd, was founded. This set-up allowed the company to enhance its local services through the introduction of both assembly and delivery services. We do not only store goods on behalf of third parties but we also deliver their products to their customers. This means that we are not only holding goods for our customers, but we are also delivering their goods to the final destination of their choice. Blue Box, set up during 2018, is today a leading food repackaging company with a variety of customised capabilities. Food repackaging is one of the most important elements for keeping consumers loyal to their brands, and takes into consideration the needs of the customer without sacrificing the safety or the quality of the product. We ensure that the integrity of the product is maintained whilst delivering top-quality repackaging work each time. Our high-end competence meets the various needs of our clients and our customised food repackaging services allows us the flexibility to provide different companies with the tailor-made repackaging to meet the needs of their customers. We are always available along the way to provide guidance about our quality food repackaging,

the various options we have available, and how Blue Box can be a valuable business partner to you. From our experience we know what works, what sells and what keeps customers coming back for more – starting from a standard pouch in a carton to more complex master shipper designs. We are in a position to offer either piecemeal or even complete solutions including repackaging, storage facilities and delivery to the end consumer. Unistores (Services) Ltd has now embarked on an extensive campaign to identify new projects. In fact, we have recently teamed up with A-Safe – advanced industrial safety barriers, bollards and facility protection of an international standard which can be installed in all work depots and parking facilities. At Unistores (Services) Ltd we devote our time to think and strategise in order to ensure that our workers are working in a safe environment at all times. Unistores (Services) Ltd have a mission – to provide logistic solutions which involve people, locations, distribution and technology – working synergistically in order to provide an integrated and fully-fledged supply chain. cc

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Post COVID-19: Prescribing a cure for the hotel sector By George Mangion, Senior Partner, PKF Malta

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KF has, for a number of years, been following the performance of the hotel industry, which has seen glorious advancement, reaching a total of 2.7 million arrivals by the end of 2019. Sadly, the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic has turned the tables upside down. One had been hearing a lot of complaints from the hotel lobby asking for an end to the lockdown. Naturally, their complaints reflected the dire position of a three-month lockdown which was eventually lifted on 15th July 2020, when sea and airports were opened for traffic. Government quickly offered a furlough scheme for all employees which started in earnest in April and has been extended to October. In order to obtain a better understanding of the implications of such a dilemma, PKF has drawn an analysis which has been broken down into different sections according to the hotel category. Is it true that the quality of arrivals (spending power) is dwindling?

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The ensuing analysis shows that the island is going for quantity not quality. Starting with the two-star hotels, the graph shows that the year-on-year number of guests and nights spent by guests in such hotels is increasing. Over a six-year period, the total number of guests staying at two-star hotels has increased by 48.19 per cent, that is an average annual growth rate of 8.03 per cent. Although not to the same extent, the total nights spent in two-star hotels have also increased over the aforementioned period (27.5 per cent). Undertaking a similar analysis for threestar hotels yields comparable results to the ones attained above. From 2013 to 2019, the total number of guests staying at three-star hotels increased from 353,496 to 497,553, or by 40.75 per cent. More specifically, the number of guests declined by circa 5.27 per cent. The total nights spent by guests registered an increase of 16.09 per cent over the past six years, yet there was a small decline of

6.62 per cent from 2018 to 2019. On the contrary, the rate recorded amongst five-star hotels is a mere 4.21 per cent. The implication here is that although the number of tourists coming to Malta has increased by more than 54 per cent over the past five years, the quality of the visitors is declining, as evidenced by the great increases in guests in the lower quality hotels. On the contrary, there has been a marginal increase within the five-star hotels. This has been exacerbated by the sponsoring of low-cost airlines. This issue of quality tourism has been a regular topic by our political leaders. In fact, only recently the Prime Minister argued that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented an opportunity to realign the tourism industry to cater for higher quality visitors, rather than focusing on attracting large numbers. For quality tourism to prevail over quantity, a shift from overcrowded touristic areas to a more upscale niche tourism is required, thereby reducing the pressure on the local economy and environment.

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While one must admit that a lot of embellishment has been carried out during the past decade, there is the ongoing criticism that the burgeoning construction industry has been galloping ahead reflecting a recent cavalier policy by the Planning Authority when issuing new permits. The number of tower cranes that litter the sky has been on the increase. It is true that new roads have been planned, but more embellishment is needed to create recreational areas, better spatial planning and planting of landscaped public gardens. The Holy Grail is reaching higher quality tourism, as this would improve the standard of living of an overcrowded island. Let us review the financial performance of selected hotel properties. The question is: are these investments yielding a decent return on capital? The list of hotel groups selected starts with SD Holdings. This group manages and owns the db Seabank Resort & Spa in Mellieha and the db San Antonio Hotel & Spa in Bugibba. Despite having one of the highest returns on capital employed (ROCE), the group has been registering a decline in such ratio for the past four financial years. For the year 2016, it registered a high ROCE of 15 per cent, but this declined to nine per cent by the end of the 2019 financial year. Another important player is AX Holdings Ltd, which has been registering a lower albeit stable ROCE. More specifically, for the financial year 2016, the group’s ROCE stood

at five per cent, which then increased to six per cent in 2017 and to seven per cent in 2018, but declined again to six per cent in 2019. AX Holdings Ltd is a prestigious group owning a total of seven hotels. A similar pattern is observed by the Corinthia Group, with the Group’s ROCE standing at three per cent for the financial year ending 2016 and since then it has remained stable at four per cent. Contrasting from its counterparties, Phoenicia Finance Company plc ended its financial year 2016 with a negative ratio of -10.10 per cent. However, the group managed to change things around by the following financial year, during which the ROCE increased to 2.30 per cent. Another major operator is the International Hotel Investment (IHI) plc which owns, develops and operates a number of five- and four-star hotels at prime sites. For the financial year ending 2016, the group registered a ROCE of three per cent and since then it has remained consistently at four per cent. Another phenomenon that has challenged the profitability of hotels has been the popularity of Airbnb. More specifically, hoteliers are preoccupied that the system may attract house owners who are inclined to abuse the system, that is they do not register their property for rent regulations. In recent years, tourist arrivals have registered double digit growth rate. Notwithstanding, in recent months, collective accommodation

establishments such as hotels have experienced a slowdown in inbound tourist arrivals. On the other hand, growth in the private accommodation section was strong, whereby in March 2019, circa 30,000 (20 per cent) tourists rented a private accommodation. To this end, Airbnb has emerged as a major player in linking property owners with prospective visitors since its establishment in 2008. If users are not properly licensed or are not registered for VAT, then such non-regulated activity will generate an unfair disadvantage for hotels that must abide by the rules. Although no official data is available in terms of the supply of properties, it is estimated that Airbnb have had 813 properties listed for rent in 2013, over 1,000 in 2015, circa 6,800 in 2018 and 8,761 listings in 2019. However, one notes how the percentage of tourists who decide to stay in five-star hotels has been declining, while the portion of tourists who decide to stay in lower end hotels and Airbnb has increased. This highlights the fact that the quality of the visitors is declining. A cure involves upgrading our hotel assets by forming an SPV funded as a PPP, and over five years, start buying non-performing properties and demolish same. The vacated plots will be transformed by the SPV into recreational parks and public gardens adorned with elaborate water fountains. cc www.pkfmalta.com

George Mangion

Source: NSO: Collective Accommodation Establishments. Available at: https://nso.gov.mt/en/News_Releases/Documents/2020/02/News2020_032.pdf Source: NSO: Collective Accommodation Establishments. Available at: https://nso.gov.mt/en/News_Releases/Documents/2020/02/News2020_032.pdf Source: NSO: Inbound Tourism: December 2019. Available at: https://nso.gov.mt/en/News_Releases/Documents/2020/02/News2020_017.pdf Source: Times of Malta: Prime Minister lists main pillars of economic policy. Available at: https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/prime-minister-lists-main-pillars-of-economic-policy.811041 Source: SD Holdings Ltd Annual report. Available at: http://www.dbgroupmalta.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/SD-Holdings-Ltd-_-Audited-Financial-statements-31-March-2017.pdf Source: SD Finance: Publication of financial analysis summary. Available at: http://www.dbgroupmalta.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/SDF28.pdf Source: AX Holding Ltd: Financial analysis summary. Available at: https://axgroup.mt/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2019/03/AX-Investments-plc-FAS-2019.pdf Source: Corinthia finance plc: Financial analysis summary. Available at: http://borzamalta.com.mt/download/announcements/CFC116.pdf Source: Phoenicia Finance Company plc. Available at: http://www.phoeniciafinance.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/20190628-Financial-Analysis-Summary.pdf Source: Central Bank of Malta: Short term rentals in Malta: A look at Airbnb listings. Source: Times of Malta: Unlicensed room letting risks penalty of €23,000. Available at: https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/Unlicensed-room-letting-risks-penalty-of-23-000.490062 Source: Central Bank of Malta: Short term rentals in Malta: A look at Airbnb listings.

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Fears EU Mobility Package will raise freight costs and affect economy Amid concern that new road transport rules approved recently by the European Parliament will push freight costs up and adversely affect the economy, apart from impacting fair competition and even the European Green Deal, Ray Bugeja reports about the situation on the ground.

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hree years in the making, the adoption of the first wave of the EU Mobility Package in July immediately gave rise to controversy, with nine member states, including Malta, saying they consider some of the new provisions to be detrimental to their interests. The European commercial road transport sector employs nearly 11 million people directly, or about five per cent of total EU employment. Road transport accounts for nearly half of all freight transport operations and forecasts show that passenger transport is likely to grow by 42 per cent by 2050 and freight transport by more than 60 per cent in the same period. In line with a Work Programme unveiled in 2017, the European Commission proposed a set of initiatives to make traffic safer, encourage smart road charging, reduce CO2 emissions, air pollution and congestion, cut red-tape for businesses, fight illicit employment and ensure proper employment and social conditions for workers. But while the European Parliament immediately approved the new rules that will drastically change the transport of goods by road, European Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean noted that the regulations include elements that are possibly not in line with the European Green Deal’s ambitions and the European Council’s endorsement of the objective of achieving a climate-neutral EU by 2050. She highlighted two main aspects: the compulsory return of vehicles to the member state of establishment every eight weeks in the case of cabotage operations, or international freight transport, and the restrictions imposed on combined transport operations. Neither of the two requirements had been included in the Commission’s proposals of May 2017 and were not even subjected to an impact assessment, she pointed out. Meanwhile, Malta, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania are urging the European Parliament to modify the Mobility Package so it would take into account fair competition, EU climate policy objectives, the Single Market and post COVID-19 socio-economic realities. They fear that, as things stand, the new law will continue to weaken an already troubled EU economy.

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“We are concerned about the smooth function of the transport market in the EU. Restrictions in market access lead to monopolisation of the market by hauliers from some countries, which will lead inevitably to higher prices for many goods and services, impacting consumers’ budgets and economic growth,” the transport ministers of the nine member states said in a statement. Daniel Debono, the Malta Business Bureau’s Manager EU Affairs and Head of its Brussels Office, explains that the Mobility Package is a comprehensive package of legislation with a wide range of objectives looking to achieve social fairness, fair competition and improve the environmental performance of road transport operations. “The European Commission’s initial intentions had many positive aspects, including to modernise rules reflecting the digital age and reduce red tape for transport operators across the EU. However, unfortunately, the overall reform was undermined by dramatic alterations throughout the legislative process, which, from our perspective, ironically go against the EU’s objectives themselves, including the free movement of services and the European Green Deal,” Mr Debono observes. He mentions two examples, including the compulsory return of vehicles every eight weeks to their member state of establishment, which will have a significant impact on the increase in transport emissions in the EU, thus impeding Brussels

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in its long-term goals of achieving a 90 per cent reduction in transport emissions, and climate-neutrality by 2050. Operators claim that, in most cases, the vehicles required to return to their member state of establishment could travel empty and this could have a tremendous impact on traffic at border crossing points. The experience of recent weeks, Mr Debono notes, shows this is something we cannot afford. Moreover, he adds, the measure is excessively restrictive and discriminatory against peripheral countries and, particularly, island regions such as Malta and Cyprus due to the permanent disconnection from mainland Europe. It will put an unproportionate burden on haulage companies simply due to the geographical location of their member state of establishment and this goes against the principles of the Single Market. Another issue of significant burden, he remarks, has to do with the location of drivers’ rest period as drivers will no longer be allowed to take their rest in the truck cab and operators would have to pay for accommodation costs instead. Though the aim is to protect drivers, Mr Debono raises two issues. The new rules, he says, infringe on the right of drivers to choose where to spend their weekly rest. A European Commission study last year concluded that there is no sufficient infrastructure that meets the needs of modern logistics in terms of capacity

“The overall reform was undermined by dramatic alterations throughout the legislative process.” – Daniel Debono, Manager EU Affairs, Malta Business Bureau

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providing a safe and secure environment with adequate rest facilities for drivers and their cargo. This also increases the risk of cargo crime, Mr Debono points out. “While disappointed with the outcome of some provisions in the Mobility Package, the MBB welcomes the Commission’s decision to investigate the expected impact of the return of the truck provision on the climate, the environment and the functioning of the Single Market, and reserving the right for future targeted legislative action. “It will continue following any developments in this regard and liaise directly with The Malta Chamber and local operators to communicate their views at a European level. We will also continue working together with our European business network,” he asserts.

Karl Sullivan, Business Development Executive at Sullivan Maritime Ltd, notes that, in some way or another, all provisions will have a direct or indirect impact on Maltese companies. “The new clauses in the Mobility Package are directly inclined towards our clients and will impose a huge financial expense and increase in costs. As a result, Maltese companies, or the end customer, will also incur an increase in the cost of the services rendered or a decrease in their freight forwarding services and/or ultimately in profits,” he asserts. The extra expenses, Mr Sullivan explains, will be reflected along the whole supply chain, resulting in an increase in endconsumer pricing. Long term, it can mean less consumer spending power, which will

“The extra expenses will be reflected along the whole supply chain.” – Karl Sullivan, Business Development Executive, Sullivan Maritime Ltd 92

have negative implications on the country’s economic position. In order to alleviate the impact of the new policies brought about by the EU Mobility Package, Mr Sullivan thinks companies may have no choice but to increase their vehicle fleet and manpower to overcome the possibility of loss of business. However, he is quick to add, this is not the ideal situation, especially in the prevailing climate, as it brings about a substantial increase in operational, labour and resource expenses. In the wake of the negative impact the COVID-19 outbreak had on several businesses and organisations all over the world, businesses are now placed in a situation where their next strategies and decisions could prove critical in ensuring both their short-term and, if successful, long-term future, he says. “Imposing these new measures will only compound the situation as the clauses in the EU Mobility Package conflict with the cost-cutting measures that organisations are opting for in order to survive the decrease in business brought on by the pandemic,” Mr Sullivan predicts. Noting that the EU Mobility Package does not have any clauses directly related to ship agents, he adds that his company’s primary aim is to support clients as they face challenges. “We will communicate and coordinate with all stakeholders in the industry in order to dampen implications on our business relationships, while reassuring our clients that they have our full support,” he explains. All the provisions contained in the first phase of the Mobility Package will affect Maltese hauliers, Express Trailers Group Chairman and CEO Franco Azzopardi says, adding that he is aware that European peripheral countries are planning some sort of formal protest against the move. “In view of the overwhelming vote by which the new rules were adopted, I am not very hopeful things will get better,” he asserts, adding that a lot of work has already been done with regard to the implementation of the provisions. Yet, he says some EU governments and MEPs are still trying to see what can be done. “However, to us it is a fait accompli because the four main new rules, bar one, will come into force imminently,” Mr Azzopardi admits. He is referring to the provision that deals with trucks, two provisions that apply to drivers and a fourth that relates to cabotage. Trucks carrying out cabotage operations now have to return to the company’s operational centre every eight weeks. Moreover, drivers have the right to return home at regular intervals and are guaranteed that their rest periods are outside their vehicle, with employers covering the cost of accommodation. Finally, the existing limits

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for cabotage, that is three operations in seven days, will be maintained, but a fourday cooling-off period must be observed before more cabotage operations can be carried out within the same country with the same vehicle. Cabotage is the term used to describe the national carriage of goods for hire or reward carried out by non-resident hauliers on a temporary basis in a host member state.

Mr Azzopardi says that he fails to understand the EU’s stand with regard to cabotage. “Where is the competition and the freedom of movement Brussels speaks of,” he asks. In his company’s case, the main problem with regards to cabotage is Italy, and Mr Azzopardi feels the matter can only be solved politically through talks between the Maltese and Italian governments. It is Italy,

after all, that keeps insisting on roll on-roll off operations, he is quick to point out. At least on this point, he remains hopeful that some sort of arrangement can be found through dialogue between Rome and Valletta. Mr Azzopardi explains that drivers must now be sent home to rest every four weeks. Most of his company’s drivers are Eastern Europeans who work nine weeks on and three off and, at times, longer too. During the COVID-19 containment period, some of them worked for three months at a stretch. Things now have to be planned in a different manner and this, he is sure, will also cause inconvenience to drivers themselves, even if the EU claims the changes were made to improve their lot. In addition, rather than take their rest in the truck cabin, as drivers usually prefer to do, they will have to be given hotel accommodation for two days a week, Mr Azzopardi says. All this costs money, he adds. Express Trailers will need to buy a minimum of another five trucks, each costing about €100,000, to meet the demands of the new Mobility Package, he says, noting that his company is the only one on the island to have its trucks registered in Malta. Mr Azzopardi forecasts that the cost of freight will have to rise by six to 10 per cent to cover such expenses. Staple goods and essentials will bear the brunt of such an increase and that will likely push inflation up, he says. “At the end of the day, it will be the consumer who will have to pay and, of course, it is consumption that makes the economy go round. In fact, we suffered the moment we closed the airport, which immediately affected consumption across the board,” he argues. He notes that retailers have already suffered as eCommerce becomes ever more popular and, if they are not careful, some may risk drowning if further consumption is negatively affected as a result of this latest move by the EU. There may be casualties among retailers, Mr Azzopardi warns. The Malta Chamber, which has a Logistics Business Section, has raised the issue with Government. Individual companies also made representations. cc

“The cost of freight will have to rise by six to 10 per cent to cover the new expenses.” – Franco Azzopardi, Chairman and CEO, Express Trailers Group SEPTEMBER 2020

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When innovation and design work in harmony

Photos by Alex Attard and Sam Bonello

For the architects at MODEL, designing The Hub – a collaborative learning and interaction space for a professional services company – meant creating a building for which there was no local reference; a first of its kind. Architects Alan Galea and Simon Grech tell Martina Said what went into it.

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he future of work and learning revolve around collaboration and innovation – two ideals that are at the very heart of an architecturally striking building in Qormi, the design of which encourages teamwork, creative thinking and a stimulating learning environment across 2,000 square metres of space. The Hub, designed by architecture firm MODEL - behind which were architects Alan Galea, Simon Grech, Francesca Scicluna, James Dingli, Andrew Vinci and Nick Tonna who formed the design team - was commissioned by a professional services firm and lends itself to two concepts that the client was set to achieve – a contemporary learning space for the company’s in-house academy and a collaborative space to innovate with its clients. With this in mind, the vision of MODEL’s architects was to create a contemporary building whose

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exterior and interior evoke productive interactions, and to reflect the ongoing shift towards a focus on collaboration spaces, which is increasingly becoming a central facet of current, commercial builds. Architect Alan Galea says The Hub is the first of its kind with regards to its specific use and programme. “The client was looking to curate a training academy centred around innovation and one which, through design, would promote collaboration and interaction between users,” he explains. “This brief allowed us to explore a design and produce a building that would encourage the future user to go beyond their comfort zone, thinking creatively about their individual fields and in-turn develop their design thinking skills.” Spread across four floors, The Hub comprises collaborative and creative zones to nurture innovative thinking, an executive

“The client was looking to curate a training academy centred around innovation and one which, through design, would promote collaboration and interaction between users.”

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area that re-imagines the future of business, learning zones that encourage sharing of experiences and best practices, and an experience hub that embodies the agility required by the present day world of work. Alan explains that the purpose of The Hub is a flexible educational space with particular focus on the business community. “The focus of our design was to create various spaces and environments which evoke different experiences and break away from norms to immediately encourage the user to think outside the box. The building is a hybrid between a laboratory, café and a school.” The Hub includes a 200-seat conference hall, an auditorium, one 90-seat and two

50-seat lecture rooms, three IT labs, walk around lecture spaces, boardroom-style lecture rooms, one-to-one coaching rooms, offices, and over 1,000 square metres of flexible, casual lobbies with seating designed to encourage interaction. The design of these spaces was carefully studied with the aim of stimulating creativity in the users. Alan explains, “the room sizes, materials, colour schemes, fixed and loose furniture and technology used through the many spaces were all specifically chosen to achieve the ultimate goal of productive interactions,” says the architect. “The building removes all formalities one would expect from an educational facility and helps

the curator break away from traditional models of teaching. The layout was kept flexible to allow for the building to adapt over its lifetime.” One room that reflects this is the auditorium with its informal seating layout. Here, users are encouraged to grab a cushion and find a spot on the curved wooden bench. “The design of the room positions the furniture in such a way that the focus and energy of the users are directed towards the centre of the room, towards the speaker. In the learning zone, some of the rooms have picnic tables instead of the traditional desks and chairs, which sets the scene for an informal chat with a mentor

“The building is a hybrid between a laboratory, café and a school.”

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“The building removes all formalities one would expect from an educational facility and helps the curator break away from traditional models of teaching.” and is very different to a traditional learning environment.” The choice of colours for this project reflects the client’s own branding, and the architects followed a guideline which presented some limitations, but also an opportunity to apply the colour scheme they had to work with creatively, which they very well did. While most of the walls are white, the architects creatively applied colour to the ceilings, which served the dual purpose of covering up services while encouraging users to think outside the box. Plain white walls and furniture contrast against coloured floors and ceilings – in one room red, in another yellow, and in another black. “Red, for instance, instils excitement, so even subconsciously, colour plays a part in the person’s learning process. In the yellow lecture room, the setting is more formal, and we downplayed this by having a yellow

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ceiling. The conference room has a black ceiling, and the idea here was to discreetly blend the services into the ceiling.” Contrasting the design of these more casual spaces is the boardroom-style lecture room, which immediately invokes a more corporate look and feel. “This room reflects yet another style of coaching,” says Alan. “Its design is aimed at higher level businesspeople, and so the setting is more formal and psychologically on their level.” The setting is somewhat of a simulation, he adds, where the marble table, plush chairs and refined setting present a scene that is comfortable and also familiar to executives visiting. As for the exterior, Alan explains the rationale behind the white, perforated design of the façade, which too channels a sense of innovation and forward thinking. As the main façade is south facing, he says, “for us

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this means that we need to cater for strong heat gains and protect our building from direct sunlight. At the same time, it is the first impression that the building would give and, in keeping with our brief, we needed to find a shading solution which would also suggest innovation. For all these reasons, we designed a ventilated façade in the form of a perforated screen which allows natural light to seep into the building but provided the right amount of shading to the interior spaces.” These same perforated panels, which were custom designed and manufactured for this project, serve the additional and crucial purpose of making the building sustainable and energy efficient. As the architect explains, the ventilated façade plays a big role in controlling the heat gains of The Hub, and therefore reduces the cooling loads required for the building during the hotter months. “The natural light which enters the rooms is easily controlled using blinds and curtains, which also reduces the need for artificial light. The external apertures are a mix of fixed and openable doors to allow natural ventilation when needed and are of a high quality to assist in lowering the heating and cooling requirements, especially in the smaller rooms,” says Alan. “The structural design solution also allows for the building to easily adapt to any future use with the intention being that the demolition of the building would not be necessary to change its use, if it ever came to it. This was one of the sustainable approaches taken in the design process.” Launched in 2018, the construction of The Hub was a three-year process from initial concept to official opening. Alan asserts that the greatest challenge of this project was that there was no local reference for this building typology. On the other hand, “the greatest reward is seeing the building working harmoniously as we envisaged during the design stages.” Speaking of the client’s reaction to the building, Alan adds that, before the pandemic struck and working in close proximity to people wasn’t an issue, they loved the final product and overall appearance and functionality of The Hub. “It isn’t just a learning space; it is also an office space and an interactive space. The boardroom was a big hit, and many of the office employees started holding their standard office meetings there, so, much to our satisfaction, the staff has made use of the building beyond what we envisaged.” cc

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“[For the façade] we needed to find a shading solution which would also suggest innovation.”

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OFFICE

Office Trends

As the working world changes, so do demands on the modern office. Sarah Micallef looks at what will take centre stage in office trends moving forward. 01. Down with densification While open offices remain favoured by many, COVID-19 protocols have dictated larger physical distances between employees, resulting in less-dense office spaces. This could be achieved via spatial, physical, and temporal means, either by individual workstations being spaced further apart, the introduction of space-dividing partitions and potential rotating schedules for staff.

02. Industrial interiors Among the most dominant office design trends of 2021 is industrial style, which typically features exposed materials and services, weathered textures and bold furnishing choices. These also translate into the chosen office space itself – with large windows, concrete finishing and metal and wood featuring heavily.

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walls and partitions and other adjustable decorations make it easy to transform your workspace as your needs change.

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05. Focus on ergonomics If you’re fresh from a stint of working from home you’re likely more aware of the importance of comfortable, ergonomic furniture at the office. Designed to support the natural posture and movement of the human body, ergonomic furniture comes with plenty of health benefits, particularly if you’re spending a large chunk of your day at your desk.

06. Homey atmosphere The working environment is moving away from the traditional, formal space of old to shift towards a more casual, homey atmosphere. Apart from being comfortable, a cosy, home-like atmosphere at work is also thought to increase productivity and employee well-being. cc

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03. Sustainable design Another prominent trend is sustainability in office design, and the rise of the smart office. This not only means saving on resources but can also act as a powerful business tool which works towards improving efficiency. Ways in which to introduce sustainability within your office design are by focusing on renewable energy, reusable products and organically made furniture.

04. Movable furniture

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In a trend that lends itself well to shifting spaces according to different needs and uses, movable and modular furniture is on the up. Chairs and tables on wheels, movable

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FOOD&WINE

Food Trends

From traditional ingredients to innovative flavour profiles, Sarah Micallef discovers the latest in the world of food trends. 01. So long, sugar

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Sugar will remain the enemy into 2021 and beyond, leading to a rush to find adequate sugar replacement and sugar reduction technologies. One replacer that’s set to become a trend is allulose: a sweetener derived from wheat and a selection of fruits. Meanwhile, big names like Nestlé are focused on reducing sugar in their products by up to 40 per cent.

02. Chickpeas Rising to greatness thanks to ever-popular hummus, chickpeas continue to hit the right notes, and are set to continue to grace our plates in other forms. From chickpea flour to aquafaba, chickpea-based flatbreads and pizzas are next on the trending list, with dairy-free ice-cream, macarons and meringues made with aquafaba appealing to those with a sweet tooth.

03. Carob

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With the rise in popularity of plant-based diets, carob is entering the scene for its health benefits. High in fibre, calcium, iron, antioxidants, protein and HYP (an amino acid crucial for collagen production), the humble carob is also gluten-free, naturally

Photo by Georgiopolis

sweet and low carb, making it an excellent superfood for those who are choosing to steer clear of animal products.

04. Reductitarian approach You’ve heard of the flexitarian approach to food, but how about the reductitarian? While more of us have been willing to do without meat and animal products, many fall short of permanently swapping their meat for plant-based products. Enter the reductitarian – an approach which emphasises less meat rather than full elimination.

05. Umami meets dessert While seaweed paired with sweet caramel and fish sauce with burned sugar may not sound like the most appetising of combinations, a rise in experimentation when it comes to blending umami and sweet flavour profiles means that they just might be! Unusual flavour mashups look set to bring us exciting new dessert options in 2021.

06. Olive oil Going from being the good guy to the bad guy and back again, olive oil is once again falling into favour for its health benefits. New research has found that it contains both elenolide, a chemical component with hypertensive properties, and tyrosol, which is protective against neurodegenerative diseases. It points to olive oil becoming the favoured fat once more. cc

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CC BUSINESS

Meet the people behind the Young Chamber Network The Malta Chamber recently launched the Young Chamber Network (YCN), a forum within the organisation aimed at inducting young businesspeople into its folds. In this series of interviews, The Commercial Courier introduces its readers to YCN members. In this issue, Sarah Micallef meets Roberta Lepre, Managing Consultant at Weave Consulting, and Christopher Busuttil Delbridge, Managing Director at Evolve Ltd.

Dr Roberta Lepre Managing Consultant, Weave Consulting “Nowadays, the role of business and the expectations of society have changed drastically,” explains Dr Roberta Lepre, affirming that, whereas traditionally it was accepted that businesses were there primarily to maximise profits for the benefit of their shareholders, nowadays the impact of the activities of the businesses on a broader variety of stakeholders is becoming more prominent. “Consumer behaviour is also changing – there is a growing trend for consumers to lean towards brands which refrain from negative practices and which contribute to societal well-being,” she continues, explaining that Weave Consulting helps businesses of different sizes to understand the implications that their activities have on society and the environment, working hand-in-hand with them to update their practices in order to align themselves with best practices. Dr Lepre first set up Weave Consulting in 2007, going on to rebrand and change focus in 2018. Having previously worked in the public sector and the non-profit sector for many years, she admits to having become frustrated at the slow progress being made in certain areas and chose to focus on her consultancy work on a full time-basis. “I also had the realisation that in order to change things in society, you need the participation of the private sector – because it is the private sector which is the real engine of society,” she maintains, and, having had the opportunity to serve on the Guardian for Future Generations, Dr Lepre decided to transpose those principles and practices into the private sector. “I have been very lucky to have the opportunity to work with some of the leading businesses in Malta who really understand their social responsibility and want to contribute to a more equitable and sustainable future – these are also the forward-thinking players who understand that this ultimately also makes sense for the long-term viability of their business,” she says. Being a small firm, Dr Lepre says that forming part of the Young Chamber Network SEPTEMBER 2020

Photo by Daryl Cauchi

“My journey with the YCN has only just started, but I have to say that so far I am positively impressed!” provides the opportunity to share challenges and aspirations with a wider network of peers. “Moreover, The Chamber is a constant source of information and inspiration in itself – it helps me to keep abreast with the variety of developments in my field, and the various opportunities available, some of which are exclusive to members,” she says, adding that it also gives her the opportunity to meet new people with whom to co-create projects and initiatives. “My journey with the YCN has only just started, but I have to say that so far I am positively impressed!” “YCN can be instrumental in providing information to members and being the link to various opportunities available both locally and overseas. As they say, knowledge is power, so by providing knowledge and

information in a tangible way, YCN is greatly empowering,” Dr Lepre continues, affirming that being part of a community also has huge benefits. “YCN is also a channel through which we have a strong and united voice on matters which affect us, both directly and indirectly,” she adds. “The Chamber has already done some excellent work in designing its vision for our economy – one that is more equitable and sustainable. Moving forward, I think that the YCN can be instrumental in engaging members in this shift – one that does not measure success only based on GDP, but factors in other indicators of well-being, both for the business but also for society at large,” Dr Lepre concludes.

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Christopher Busuttil Delbridge Managing Director, Evolve Ltd “Evolve is all about enabling scientists and healthcare professionals do their job in a functional workspace without worrying about their tools or supplies,” says Christopher Busuttil Delbridge, explaining that the company designs, equips, trains and maintains scientific workspaces. “This started about 60 years ago within our 100-year old mother company, Attard & Co,” the Managing Director continues, adding that over the decades, Evolve has helped the entirety of the industry in Malta and beyond. “Nowadays we are taking on jobs comprising of complete turnkey projects in Malta and overseas which required all the skillset we have invested in,” he says. Starting out at Evolve 21 years ago, Mr Busuttil Delbridge admits to thinking he “knew a lot”, with several success stories, including setting up the Junior Section of the Malta Chamber of Scientists (SciLink); forming part of the MCST organising committee of Science Week; representing Malta twice in Cologne and London at International Science events; and being the student representative for the Faculty of Science under his belt. “However, I quickly found out how little industry knowledge I possessed,” he admits, throwing himself into learning what potential customers really needed. “I always pictured myself as a Scientific Consultant rather than a salesperson and that worked,” he maintains, going on to become highly experienced in analytical equipment. “Moving up the ladder into management I needed to develop new skillsets,” he continues, adding that it is extremely rewarding to be recognised as a business leader, particularly for the digital transformation process and employee wellbeing programmes at Evolve. Nowadays, Mr Busuttil Delbridge spends most of his days working on business development in Malta and overseas, and affirms that as a business and as a country, the only way to be sustainable and competitive is to look outside our shores. “The market in Malta is too small and stifled. The Young Chamber Network is a perfect platform to meet like-minded individuals and company leaders to join forces and collaborate in this venture. Safety in numbers, agility, introduction to various markets and potential customers, and

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“If there is a group of business leaders that can challenge the status quo and break our insular island mentality it is the group at YCN.”

forming focused groups in joint marketing campaigns and bids are among the many reasons I joined,” he attests. “Meetings of the YCN are always full of energy and ideas,” he continues, enjoying the space provided by the YCN to recharge and be inspired. “If there is a group of business

leaders that can challenge the status quo and break our insular island mentality it is the group at YCN. That would be the best achievement one can ever hope for,” the Managing Director continues, looking ahead. “What got us here, won’t take us there, and that is where we need to be.” cc

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At the vanguard of financial services As a member-based association comprising 300 firms, FinanceMalta is intent on ensuring Malta is placed firmly on the financial services map. Here, Chairman Rudolph Psaila, who was appointed last November, tells Rebecca Anastasi about his work in creating opportunities for players within the sector.

Photos by Tyler Calleja Jackson

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“I

was honoured when I was asked to chair the board of FinanceMalta,” says Rudolph Psaila, the Chairman of the entity, which is responsible for the promotion of Malta as an international financial services centre – financial services being one of the central pillars of the island’s economy. Indeed, the organisation, first established in 2007, has been at the forefront of creating a buoyant industry, and one which continues to grow in stature and relevance globally, Mr Psaila underlines. The entity is the central contact for all players in financial services and for those seeking investment opportunities on the island. To this end, FinanceMalta represents both the public sphere and operators within the private sector, forming an organisation “that is small, but effective”, according to the Chairman. Size and strength are, in his view, not correlated, meaning that Malta can aim to be a leader in financial services, sharing the field with the bigger players. “The provision of, or the promotion of, financial services is not linked, or dependent on, the size of a country, but rather on the attractiveness of that particular country in enticing international investors and companies to invest in, and move operations to, that country,” he explains. To that end, although Malta is considered a ‘late entrant’ in the financial services world – when compared to other established, European centres like London, Frankfurt, Dublin or Luxembourg – it still aims to reach the higher echelons. “Malta has to compete with these jurisdictions, and it is vital, therefore, that Malta has a presence on the international arena. FinanceMalta was therefore set up with a clear remit to promote Malta as an international financial services centre,” he explains. And it does this by “harnessing the strengths of all stakeholders in the ecosystem”, whether from the private or public sectors, he adds, gaining momentum from the professionalism of its members to whom FinanceMalta has a primary duty of care. The results speak for themselves; the Chairman says. “As a consequence of all this work put in by members and stakeholders

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“Malta has to compete with these jurisdictions, and it is vital, therefore, that Malta has a presence on the international arena.” involved in the sector, today, financial services is one of the key contributors to Malta’s economy, responsible directly and indirectly for around 12 per cent of the country’s GDP, employing in excess of 12,000 people,” he asserts. Prior to taking up the role, Mr Psaila – an accountant by profession – was the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Alleybe, “a boutique firm specialised in the provision of services to corporate and private clients,” he explains. He started his career out at PWC, where he worked for 10 years, half of which spent with PwC Jersey in the Channel Islands, before joining Amicorp in 2010 taking on the position of Managing Director for the Malta office. Here, he was later appointed Global Head of Commercial Operations with a remit to drive growth across all lines of services offered by the group, he explains. These years of experience in the sector, as well as working over five years abroad, stood Mr Psaila in good stead, he insists, saying that “PWC, Amicorp and also Alleybe were and are members of FinanceMalta, so I was directly exposed to the work this important promotional body carries out.”

However, his new role is not without its challenges. “My appointment as Chairman last November, and in the following months, coincided with a challenging time for the jurisdiction,” he recalls. Nevertheless, one of the first tasks he oversaw was the establishment of a strategic outlook for FinanceMalta, based on five pillars: innovation; value creation; inclusiveness; internationalisation; and being digital. “By building on these priorities, we aim at focusing on innovating our core traditional sectors whilst continuing to assist in developing new sectors. We also need to explore regulatory and operational innovation that will create more efficiency and effectiveness, resulting in a less cumbersome and bureaucratic operational environment,” Mr Psaila says of the first pillar. Secondly, “being close to our members and founding associations, focusing on their needs and offering them the services they require” will remain key. “We will focus on working closer together and creating more synergy for the benefit of the jurisdiction and reasserting the strengths of the sector,” he explains, going on to underline the necessity

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“As a consequence of all this work put in by members and stakeholders involved in the sector, today, financial services is one of the key contributors to Malta’s economy.”

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of “creating a spirit of working together with all stakeholders,” whether these are practitioners, Government, or regulators. In addition, looking beyond Malta’s borders is fundamental to forging links with international associations and stakeholders and, thus, reinforcing Malta’s position as a financial services jurisdiction at an international level, he says. Finally, FinanceMalta is working on strengthening its “presence across the digital platforms which will allow us to reach out more effectively and efficiently to further enhance Malta’s strategy in financial services,” he asserts. And much progress has been achieved in these last few months, the Chairman describes, despite the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. “We took stock of the situation and strengthened our focus on, and use of, social media platforms and produced a number of incisive and informative video clips by industry leaders that focused on various topical subjects including the realities of the pandemic and how this effects the different aspects of financial services,” Mr Psaila outlines. The coronavirus crisis also put in high relief the need to ensure connections with industry are maintained, the Chairman continues. And this motivation pushed the entity to create opportunities to do so. Webinars were created; a new “highly informative website with a focus on user experience” was launched; and a survey was sent out to the financial services community “to see how we can improve on delivering a better and more targeted service to the industry in general,” he explains. Broadening their horizons further, FinanceMalta also created a working committee to liaise with stakeholders on the difficulties being confronted as a result of the current banking environment, in order to “understand the complex difficulties and diverse viewpoints involved, with a view to creating more efficiency in the sector.” Moreover, representatives from the entity will be taking part in international initiatives aiming to promote “different structuring opportunities Malta has to offer to the different sectors in financial services,” while FinanceMalta’s flagship annual conference will be held – remotely – from 13th to 15th October, with the “promise of a high level of international and local speakers who will provide thought leadership on a number of interesting topics.” Looking even further ahead, Mr Psaila says that agility and innovation will become the cornerstone to any successful operation within financial services – a realisation

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CC INTERVIEW

highlighted during the pandemic. “These two attributes have always been hallmarks of the jurisdiction in terms of being a financial services centre. Our size is actually an advantage in terms of responding quickly and effectively to changing scenarios,” he explains. Elaborating, he explains that, here in Malta, “we are quick to adapt to new situations; we rank among the topmost countries when it comes to transpositions of EU legislation, and we adopt a ‘can-do’ attitude in anything we undertake. Innovation has always been key to the sector, and it is true to say that regulatory innovation is what has attracted so many players to our shores.” The Chairman also strikes a note of optimism, in his hope that, come 2021, “we will see a return to relative normality in terms of the pandemic which will allow us to further focus on attracting international reputable companies and investors to Malta,” while the forthcoming release of the Moneyval report “will also be very defining for the sector”, and it is hoped that this will yield a positive outcome, he asserts. Reputation is key to this sector and all stakeholders, including Government, should

“Despite everything, we must remain forward-thinking and continue striving to uphold Malta’s propositions in an everchanging and globalised society.”

continue focusing on restoring Malta’s reputation. In the meantime, FinanceMalta will continue to be in sync with Government strategy in terms of legislative frameworks, and also with the different regulatory bodies to ensure the continued development of the financial services sector, he says. Furthermore, it will continue working closely with all stakeholders to ensure that issues facing the industry are addressed. “Despite everything, we must remain forward-thinking and continue striving to uphold Malta’s propositions in an ever-changing and globalised society. As FinanceMalta, we owe our commitment first and foremost to our members, seeking opportunities for their growth,” he underscores. cc


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CC MAKE THE HEADLINES

Experience the transformative power of HSBCnet HSBC Malta’s sustained updating of its digital platforms, virtual services and online tools are helping its business customers adapt to change and maintain visibility and enhanced control over their finances. This award-winning online banking platform is accessible through HSBCnet and offers a fast, simple and secure way of running one’s business remotely. HSBCnet offers the possibility for businesses to pay bills, stop payments, view account balances and transfer funds, anytime and anywhere around the world. With its new interface and new search and filtering capabilities, HSBCnet makes it easy for business customers to run their business wherever they are. Through HSBCnet, customers can combine payments in various currencies and take advantage of flexible reporting tools that facilitate cash flow management and supply chain needs. In addition, HSBCnet adopts

the highest standards of security including biometric login, giving customers peace of mind. System enhancements are centralised and so there is no need to download updates. Joyce Grech, Head of Commercial Banking at HSBC Malta, said, “HSBCnet allows our business customers to operate their finances whenever and wherever is most convenient for them. Our trained employees are also always here to help, through our online ‘LiveChat’ service which is available Monday to Friday from 8am till 5pm, as well as our easy to use 24/7 Virtual Assistant support feature. All this can also be done from a customer’s personal mobile phone, as the HSBCnet Mobile app is available on all iPhone and android smartphones.” In the meantime, a new feature will allow customers to use their mobile devices to generate their HSBCnet security code when logging on to HSBCnet. With mobile authentication, customers can use their mobile device to log on and access HSBCnet services, instead of using a physical Security Device. cc

HSBCnet offers a fast, simple and secure way to run your business remotely

To register or for more information on the HSBCnet platform and how to set up mobile authentication call our Contact Centre on 2380 8000 or visit www.business.hsbc.com.mt/hsbcnet or connect with us via LiveChat by logging on HSBCnet. To log on the HSBCnet platform, simply visit hsbcnet.com

Cash as a contactless payment COVID has seen a rise in contactless payments. It has also driven an urgency in retailers to turn to cash automation. It is a way for retailers to implement processes that allow consumers to pay in cash whilst complying with social distancing regulations. Simply put, it turns cash into a contactless payment. In this way, retailers can avoid turning away revenue generated by cash paying companies and gives confidence to both customers and retail staff at the point of payment. And it can be implemented as a self-service or assisted service solution. As a solution, we at Joseph Cachia & Son Ltd are recommending the use of CASHINFINITYTM solution set from Glory Global Solutions, which are note and coin recycling machines that can handle cash in an accurate, efficient and safe manner. Front office solutions within the product

SEPTEMBER 2020

range can be deployed to help your staff and your customers keep their distance at the point of payment, transforming cash into a contactless payment method. For every businessperson out there, the daily struggle at the end of the day is to reconcile cash, and CASHINFINITYTM back office solutions can do the reconciliation without the need to count any cash. Notes are safely stored in a safe cassette, whereas the coins will be available as change in the machine for the next day. The CASHINFINITYTM solution set comes in various sizes to suit every business need. It is true that cashless payments have seen massive growth largely driven by contactless and mobile payments. But it is also the case that cash in circulation continues to increase. There have been some high-profile examples of large organisations abandoning plans to remove cash altogether, such as Amazon stores, and even legislative intervention to protect consumers who choose to use cash.

At present we are still using a large volume of cash daily, therefore we must do it in the most efficient and safest manner by using CASHINFINITYTM. cc Joseph Cachia & Son Limited, 103, ‘Demajo House’, Archbishop Street, Valletta. T: 2552 9000; E: info@jcs.com.mt

REDUCE START AND END OF DAY CASH RECONCILIATION TIME Savings of 30 mins Stores no longer need to prepare per manager per day and count cashier floats — — Minimise errors / discrepancies, Savings of 15 to 25 mins reduce recounts per cashier per day

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CC MAKE THE HEADLINES

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 AntiMoney 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 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 anti-money laundering 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 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 www.computimesoftware.com or email info@computimesoftware.com to learn more about AXON and how it can help your business remain AML compliant.

GO’s new Infinity Mobile plans help you and your business discover unlimited flexibility Over the past few years, organisations everywhere have embraced new, flexible ways of working to improve productivity, cater to today’s digital-first customers, and boost their bottom line. But to stay flexible, you need the right solutions in place – including the right mobile plan for everyone in your team.

And as the coronavirus crisis continues, this need for greater flexibility has grown. At GO, we wanted to do our part to help people and the businesses they work for stay flexible. That’s why we recently launched new mobile plans that can help your business get the agility it needs. Here are three ways our Infinity Mobile plans can help you and your business stay responsive.

1. Create your own plan Every employee is unique – and so are their needs. That is why you have the option to sign up to a data-only plan – and with our choice of 5GB, 15GB, 35GB or Unlimited data, you can make sure every employee’s plan meets their specific data requirements. For employees who are client facing, we offer an Infinity Voice add-on, providing unlimited voice calls, giving your team the flexibility they need to stay connected.

add-on, you can choose who will benefit most from unlimited calls and deliver it as part of their individual plan, giving you flexible connectivity, value for money and one less thing for you and your people to worry about.

3. Don’t compromise on connectivity At GO Business, we think digital services should be available to everyone. That means your connectivity should never be compromised. We aim to be totally transparent about our services, so with our plans, what you see is truly what you get. Our flexible, transparent mobile plans are here to help, offering 24/7 mobility and tailored individual plans that can help you adapt to your challenges today – and tomorrow. cc You can learn more about GO’s Infinity Mobile plans at www.gobusiness.com.mt

2. Get unlimited calls and SMS We provide a business plan offering unlimited data, as well as unlimited calls and SMS messages. As part of our Infinity Voice

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CC MAKE THE HEADLINES

A strategy for resilience The COVID-19 pandemic will go down in history as one of the strongest disruptors of this generation, driving dramatic changes in customer behaviour and unsettling entire business ecosystems across the globe.

It was a stark reminder that even the most comprehensive strategy can be made irrelevant by an unprecedented occurrence that destabilises the business environment. Does this mean that we don’t need to plan ahead? Absolutely not! As companies craft their business strategies for the future, they will seek to achieve resilience, or better still, a future proof business continuity plan, to avoid future shocks. But how can one contemplate strategy when business is eroding and how can one think long-term when the current environment is uncertain? The amount of effort needed to protect businesses will vary from company to company. In times of crises, it becomes harder to think strategically as operational issues become a matter of urgency. However, one must resolve to follow a plan of action and manage uncertainty along the way. Businesses must challenge themselves with the critical questions: What will the future look like in a post-pandemic world? What will it mean for our business; our customers, suppliers and other stakeholders? How will we adapt to survive and compete in the new environment? One can realistically foresee the behavioural shifts that are likely to persist in the post-pandemic environment. This

is an excellent time to challenge business processes, cut inefficiencies and improve the customer journey to ensure that each moment-of-truth delivers the desired brand experience. It is also an ideal time to embrace digital transformation, reducing a general reliance on everything manual and the need for physical evidence for every transaction in the business workflow. Bank of Valletta is fully committed to support local businesses during this challenging journey. The bank will continue to encourage and promote the needed change to counteract COVID-19 times and beyond whilst providing financing to inject liquidity and enable growth within the business community. It will also assist businesses to garner the advantages of moving towards a cheaper digital payment strategy. If your business requires financing, contact your BOV Relationship Manager or send an email on smefinance@bov.com. If you would like to discover more about digital payments contact our BOV Payments specialists on paymentsbusiness@bov.com or on T: 2131 2020. cc All loans are subject to normal bank lending criteria and final approval from the Bank. Issued by Bank of Valletta p.l.c., 58, Triq San Ĺťakkarija, il-Belt Valletta VLT 1130. Bank of Valletta p.l.c. is a public limited company regulated by the MFSA, licensed to carry out the business of banking and investment services in terms of the Banking and Investment Services Acts (Cap.370, 371 of the Laws of Malta).


CC MEET THE ARTIST

King of Monstera, Spray Paint and Oil on Canvas, 90 x 90 cms, 2020

A lifestyle in art Based between Malta and Berlin, painter and printmaker Ryan Falzon has carved a name for himself within the local art scene for his distinctive portrayal of contemporary scenes. Describing his work as “abrasive” and “brutally honest”, the artist – who prefers the term painter – shares his journey so far with Sarah Micallef.

“M

y journey in the arts derives from the usual cliché stories that artists were born with crayons in their hands and started creating masterpieces before being out of their nappies,” begins Ryan Falzon, in typical straightforward style, admitting that, to various extents, “all children like to draw, some more than others.” 118

The interest in art went from childhood pastime to his chosen line of study, which Ryan posits was possibly influenced by punk rock, “especially the first 1977 wave, the DIY approach, artworks by Jamie Reid and aesthetics from The Clash.” Completing his studies at MCAST in 2011, Ryan reveals a distaste for the term ‘artist’, which he describes as an “umbrella term”

and “problematic”. Describing himself as a painter, he affirms that he has been painting since his last year at art school and does not foresee a change in direction in the near future. He also works in printing – mainly lino printing – although, he admits, “creating static alternative realities and observational narratives are my interest, and painting serves me perfectly.” SEPTEMBER 2020


CC MEET THE ARTIST

Nicole at Reno's, Lino Print on Paper 15 x 20cms, 2019

In terms of thematic approach, Ryan points out the element of duality as a theme that keeps resurfacing in his work. “I always juxtaposed the sacred and the profane, the real and the virtual, the online and the offline, the dreams and the matters of fact,” he explains, venturing that “this element of duality can be traced to the Catholic upbringing ingrained in us from a young age,” and highlighting that many local artists have tackled religion at various points in their careers. Apart from this duality, Ryan’s work is imbued with a strong sense of narrative. “My work has been called layered, and can often be read like a collage, where the viewer

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is given bits of information to interpret and combine, either discovering the same trail of thought that I was working with as an artist, or else coming up with a totally new narrative and interpretation – both are equally valid,” he says. And the way in which the narrative is presented is different, Ryan continues, referring to past work to illustrate this. While ‘Quick Fix: A Morality Tale’ (2016) tells a story in a series of lino prints, a selection of large scale paintings titled ‘WE LOST THE WAR’ (2017) presents the viewer with a colourful overload of symbols from pop culture and history, while the artworks of ‘We Can’t Be Lovers’ (2018) are monoprints, comprising of a picture and a one liner. Indeed, he continues, “the story may be personal, social or political, the game being how much of the subject is directly exposed to the viewer.” Referring to other works like ‘Giga’ (2016), which Ryan says may present a confrontational narrative to the viewer, others like ‘Toni’ (2016) have a more

Photo by Sarah Chircop

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CC MEET THE ARTIST

Friyay, Lino Print on Paper 15 x 20cms, 2019

subtle narrative, “in this case personifying the character from the film Scarface as a Maltese Toni, with the painting being a warning on the rise of cocaine trafficking and use in Malta in the past years.” Admitting that the latter approach may be risky as it needs context and information to be fully communicated, Ryan feels that this can anchor the work in time and relevance. “For me, relevance to time and space is crucial in any form of art, and I believe that in today’s world, work lacking such relevance is merely a derivation.” There has also been an evolution in his subject matter, he adds, affirming that recent collections, including a series of acetone prints titled ‘Dirty Pictures’ (2017-19) and a collection of never exhibited oil paintings from his ‘Selfies’ collection (2018-2020) have dealt with the human body. “In this series, the representation of the physical bodies, whether in acid or through having emojis scratched onto the final work, the aim is not to express the beauty of the body per se, but to create images as vehicles to capture the essence of time and trends,” he clarifies. But how does the work come about? Ryan admits that the “creative process is never fancy”, revealing that it takes a lot of research and background reading to develop his ideas and get into the right frame of mind. “For me, the process of creativity consists of dissecting, reassembling and reimagining reality. In this sense, my art is my lifestyle,” he says. Painting for several hours daily in order to build the skills and techniques required to get the visual effects that express what he wants to say, Ryan shares his belief that a painter’s art evolves organically, following the daily graft he puts in. “For me, creativity is the gift that keeps on giving. Probably that

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is why some creative people appear to be messy and scatter-brained – when there is an urge, or rather a need to create, trivial tasks like the daily grind of living ‘normally’ take a secondary role in life.” Affirming that inspiration can be found everywhere, from others’ work, in books, trivial chats, the news, online, at flea markets, and even from snippets of conversations, Ryan admits that particularly in recent years, he finds himself dwelling on daily occurrences, the urban environment, and personal experiences. “There is a lot of me in my work, even if it is heavily disguised,” he reveals. Ryan also looks up to several artists, which run the gamut from “heavyweights up to the latest artist I discovered on

Instagram an hour ago.” Forever favourites include Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Jean Michel Basquiat, Francis Bacon, Chaim Soutine and Gerhard Richter. “In the past year or two, the triumphant return of the art of painting in big cities such as London and Moscow has been super exciting and very rewarding,” he adds, mentioning contemporary artists Danny Fox and Rose Wylie as particularly influential. I go on to ask about his most recent series of paintings depicting plants and still-life at home, which came about due to the circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. He says that when the virus hit Malta and a quasi-lockdown swept the island in mid-March, Ryan, who up until then was focusing primarily on painting figures, experienced a shift in mood.

“My work has been called layered, and can often be read like a collage, where the viewer is given bits of information to interpret and combine.”

Gastri u Pjanti mir-Recycle Malta, Oil on Canvas, 60 x 40cms, 2020

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CC MEET THE ARTIST

“Relevance to time and space is crucial in any form of art, and I believe that in today’s world, work lacking such relevance is merely a derivation.”

The subjects he was focusing on from social media platforms like Tinder and Instagram shifted from posting “saucy selfies” as he puts it, to content that was more honest and raw. “People who used to post cocktails after work and weekend getaways started baking, gardening and painting,” he says, admitting that this resulted in his raw material “drying up”. This coincided with more time to dedicate to another personal interest: gardening. “I always had a thriving garden during the summer,” Ryan says, but this time, with more time on his hands, he decided to extend his back garden and set up a roof garden. “Spending time with a subject is one of the key fire starters for interpretation, and after a short break from painting in March and April, I found myself painting my new pride and joy,” he says, clarifying that for him, it’s not about painting “pretty pictures”, but creating work that captures these unprecedented times. “They outline a sense of tranquillity achieved when life slowed down, as well as showing a sense of absurdity – how we are creatures of habit and we are driven by circumstances.” And while Ryan makes it clear that he considers art a lifestyle, he affirms that in terms of art as his career, at this point in his development, his goal is to be as professional as possible. “By professional I don’t mean living off art – the percentage of artists doing that is tiny, as well as linked with social class, location and management – but that one is constantly producing, constantly present and contributing by creating, exhibiting, attending and financially supporting art,” he says. As for exhibiting recent work, the painter admits that the future – like for so many other things – remains uncertain, but plans are still in the pipeline. “Unfortunately, I had to postpone an exhibition at Studio 87 in Valletta for the second time due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, things are looking brighter abroad and along with curator Michael Fenech, my 2017 solo exhibition ‘WE LOST THE WAR’, presented at Spazju Kreattiv and supported by Malta Arts Fund, will be exhibited in Berlin this October 2020, at OKK Raum 29 Gallery. Fingers crossed!” cc www.ryanfalzon.com

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Giga, 190 x190 cms, Acrylic and Collage on Canvas, 2017

Target Practise, 30 x20cms, Lino Print on Paper, 2015

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