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Corporate DispatchPro

Issue No.15 | December 2020

Corporate DispatchPro The Journal of CI Group

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Issue No.15 | December 2020

Corporate DispatchPro The Journal of CI Group EDITORIAL TEAM Managing Editor - Jesmond Saliba Editor – Nathanael Muscat

CONTRIBUTORS Aimee Donnellan Denise Grech Jennifer Hughes John Foley Keith Zahra Liam Proud

PRODUCTION ASSISTANT Laura Grima Shirley Zammit DESIGN TEAM Matthew Borg Nicholas Azzopardi

CONTENTS A dose of joy

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The world in pictures

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Carrying the year forward

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While we have left the EU, we haven’t left Europe - British High Commissioner Cathy Ward

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A year out of this world

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The purring twenties

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Malta Insights

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Malta News Roundup

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Comunique 49 Big Pharma’s vaccine immunity will be fleeting

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EU’s Google-Fitbit approval sets risky precedent

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Wall Street ends 2020 with embarrassment of riches

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SOURCES

Published By

ADDITIONAL SOURCES

Design Produced

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Corporate DispatchPro COVID-19 Vaccine

A dose of joy On December 8, the world took a glimpse of the future and it looked like a frail 90-year-old woman with flaxen hair sitting in a doctor’s office. Margaret Keenan became the first person to receive the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, a week after UK regulators approved the jab for emergency use. It was a moment everyone had been waiting impatiently for since the start of the outbreak even while experts and governments were doing their best not to raise expectations unnecessarily. The development of the vaccine in record-time was itself an achievement of science and collaboration and by the time Keenan was administered her dose, three projects had already announced successful completion of their trial processes. Another 18 were in phase-three testing. This flurry of vaccines demonstrates not only the dynamism of researchers and the pharmaceutical sector, but the creative force that the scientific community is. In January, the entire genome of the corona virus was sequenced and made publicly available, a feat that allowed scientists to identify the protein that the coronavirus uses to bind to receptors that usher it inside the cell. Pfizer/BioNTech was the first to announce phase-three results in early November, sending a spontaneous wave of celebration across the globe. The impressive results showing 90 percent effectiveness was closely followed by the Moderna trial conclusions, achieving nearly 95 percent effectiveness. Both teams were working with an innovative technology known as Messenger RNA (mRNA). Traditionally, vaccines introduce modified versions of a virus to teach the body how to fight a particular disease in the future. This approach has proved fairly adequate in the last 70 years and it is estimated that up to three million lives are saved annually from inoculation. Producing these vaccines, however, is a long process and, many times, resource intensive.

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Corporate DispatchPro RNA vaccines, by contrast, can be created within days and modified along the way if scientists observe mutations in the virus. mRNA vaccines such as those developed by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech encode molecules with a sequence that, when injected, instruct immune cells to mimic the pathogen, triggering the body to develop its own defence system. The downside to this approach is that vaccines need to be stored in extremely low temperatures ranging between -20°C and -70°C, making it more difficult for countries without the right infrastructure in place. An alternative solution developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca is a DNA vaccine that can be stored in a regular refrigerator. Moreover, the pharmaceutical company has committed to sell the product at cost price for the duration of the pandemic, bringing its price down to less than a quarter of the other two RNA vaccines. The Oxford-AstraZeneca technique introduces a re-engineered DNA of the virus into the body which the cells then transcribe into RNA to induce the needed immunogenic response. The relative low cost and durability of this approach makes it a complementary solution to the global vaccination programme, but the project has been slowed down by a series of questions over the reliability of its testing. The partners trialled the experimental vaccine in Brazil and the UK, but while the former cohort registered an effectiveness rate of 62 percent, results shot up to 90 percent in the latter. It was later discovered that participants in the UK had been given a half-dose in their first injection, not the regular full one. Although the findings suggest that the incident may prove to be serendipitous, other tests in the US had to be suspended while an investigation was launched. On the plus side, participants in the Oxford-AstraZeneca project were routinely swabbed for coronavirus so effectiveness in their case means that the vaccine prevents infections and transmissions. The solutions proposed by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech can so far only reliably indicate that they prevent the disease and its symptoms. The announcement of the vaccine was indeed a moment of cheer. Many leaders have trumpeted it as the beginning of the end of the virus, even if the vaccine will take long months to reach the entire global population. But even if no one has received the full double-dose yet, news of the vaccine has injected a sense of comfort and hope in the world as it looks forward to 2021. 5

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GOOGLE SERVICES RECOVER AFTER GOING DOWN IN WORLDWIDE OUTAGE Many services from Alphabet Inc, including YouTube, Gmail and Google Drive, were down for thousands of users across the globe on Monday. The company’s video platform did not load for users and had an error message: “Something went wrong…”.

SCHIPHOL AIRPORT GEARS UP FOR CHILLED VACCINE CARGOS In cavernous cold-storage warehouses at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, KLM workers are gearing up for a surge next year in COVID-19 vaccine cargos that will need to be flown around the world at ultra-low temperatures.

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Corporate DispatchPro MICK SCHUMACHER WINS FORMULA TWO TITLE BEFORE GRADUATION TO F1 An ‘overwhelmed’ Mick Schumacher graduated to Formula One as the 2020 Formula Two champion on Sunday despite failing to score in his last race before joining the U.S.-owned Haas F1 team.

PRIEST IN CHARGE OF DRUG REHAB COMMUNITY IN CATANIA KILLED IN ARSON Fr Leonardo Grasso, 78, died in an allegedly deliberate arson at the headquarters of the rehabilitation community for drug addicts and for assistance to AIDS patients ‘Tenda di San Camillo’ in the Catania area.

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ITALIAN POLICE DISMANTLE DANGEROUS MIGRANT SMUGGLING GROUP A dangerous cartel of the international smugglers of migrants connected with criminal groups in Turkey and Greece was dismantled by the Italian police in an investigation that was led by the authorities in Catania, Italy.

MARADONA BURIED NEXT TO HIS PARENTS Argentine soccer icon Diego Armando Maradona was interred Thursday alongside his parents at a cemetery on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. Only around 30 people were permitted inside the gates of Jardin Bella Vista, where the elder Diego Maradona was buried just five years ago, for the hourlong ceremony at the grave site.

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Corporate DispatchPro ISRAEL RECEIVES ITS MOST ADVANCED WARSHIP AS IRAN TENSIONS RISE Israel received its most advanced warship on Wednesday, describing the German-made vessel dubbed “Shield” as a bulwark for vulnerable Mediterranean gas rigs as tensions with Tehran soar over the assassination of a top Iranian nuclear scientist.

PRINCE HARRY AND DUCHESS MEGHAN MOVING OUT OF UK HOME FOR PRINCESS EUGENIE Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan are moving out of their UK home so Princess Eugenie can move in. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s personal items were reportedly collected from Frogmore Cottage, Windsor by removal vans one evening, meaning the pregnant Princess and her husband can move in.

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ROYAL FAMILY SAID TO BE OUTRAGED AT NEW SEASON OF THE CROWN Britain’s royal family is said to be outraged by the new season of the Netflix series “The Crown”, which deals with the relationship between Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

MARADONA WOULD STILL BE ALIVE HAD HE PLAYED FOR JUVENTUS RATHER THAN NAPOLI – CABRINI Maradona would still be alive if at that time he had been Juve’s and not Napoli’s,” Juve great and 1982 World Cup winning defender Antonio Cabrini said in an interview with a local TV in Avellino. The former Italy left back later apologised to Napoli supporters, saying he never meant to offend their club.

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Corporate DispatchPro A RARE WWII ENIGMA CIPHER MACHINE FOUND UNDER WATER OFF GERMAN COAST Handout photos by Submaris, showing underwater archaeologist Florian Huber viewing the rare WWII Enigma cipher machine, found under water at Geltinger Bay in Baltic Sea, off German coast.

US HITS 12 MILLION COVID-19 CASES AS MANY AMERICANS DEFY THANKSGIVING TRAVEL GUIDANCE The United States recorded its 12th million COVID-19 case on Saturday, even as millions of Americans were expected to travel for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, ignoring warnings from health officials about furthering the spread of the infectious disease.

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Corporate DispatchPro Editorial

Carrying the year forward The murmur of voices rising from the departures lounge is cut by the highpitched chime announcing the latest airport updates. The holiday season is typically a busy period for travel. Typically, but not surely, as last year – the year of Covid-19 – has shown. It is the final weeks of 2021, when the world did a collective jiggle to shake off the coronavirus. Vaccines that first started being administered in the richer regions in the dying days of 2020, have since arrived in all countries and the absolute majority of people in all continents have finally had their jab-moment, which has become a thing. The elderly now appear re-invigorated, children carry bigger aspirations. Families kindled a new glowing warmth as they reunited after months of terrible distance. And the reunions were more regular and more jubilant. There is a general sparkle in cities and towns and markets are brimming with confidence. But economies are not out of the woods yet and businesses are still reeling from the devastation of the pandemic. Nevertheless, investors are looking forward to better times and entrepreneurial minds are flickering with possibilities for innovation. The private sector is engaging in creative ways to drive social purpose and share its expertise with public and other stakeholders to strengthen communities, sustain resources, champion social justice, and improve governance. 2021 has been the year for international collaboration, beautifully epitomised in the precarious but hugely successful events from the Tokyo Summer Olympics to the Dubai Expo to the Milan Salone del Mobile.

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Corporate DispatchPro Everyone looks forward to a life of closer interactions, free from wary looks between strangers and muffled conversations from behind masks. But 2020 was not a wasted year at all – it was a year of teaching. Webinars can now be scaled up to hundreds of thousands of participants and technologies such as Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence have advanced by leaps and bounds in an extremely short period to be able to shift any conference or occasion online. But attendees still flocked to major events almost as if to make up for the lack of human contact during the 2020 pandemic. Now as 2022 approaches, the world is getting ready for lift-off. *** In truth, 2021 is still all to be lived and the challenges that the new year has in store are yet unknown. But the spirit of hope and optimism that normally guides people from one year into another is more palpable this time as we consign the 2020 calendar to litter bin. Everyone looks forward to a life of closer interactions, free from wary looks between strangers and muffled conversations from behind masks. But 2020 was not a wasted year at all – it was a year of teaching. We learned that the power of communities is bigger than the most daunting of challenges. We learned that economies are only as strong as their essential workers. That technology integration opens unimagined opportunities for better quality of life. That production processes can be a force for social good. That the dignity of every person is a treasure held in common. If 2021 feels so full of promise, it is because we ready to put the lessons of 2020 into practice. JESMOND SALIBA 15

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Corporate DispatchPro DENISE GRECH

While we have left the EU, we haven’t left Europe - British High Commissioner Cathy Ward Cathy Ward was appointed British High Commissioner for Malta in a year of extraordinary events. Denise Grech caught up with the new High Commissioner as the Brexit deadline looms.

How is the UK seeing itself as an international player following Brexit? The UK will continue to be a world-class, open and vibrant economy, an attractive destination for investment, business and people. While we have left the EU, we haven’t left Europe and will continue to work with our European colleagues, like Malta, to uphold the international rules-based system and tackle the global challenges that we and future generations face - such as leading international efforts on climate change, tackling modern slavery and promoting gender equality. As a member of the UN Security Council, G7, Commonwealth, NATO and the WTO amongst others, we will stand up for values of democracy, tolerance and freedom because they help to keep people safe and improve their quality of life. With just a few days to go before the end of the Brexit transition period, how do you foresee Maltese-UK relations? Malta and the UK have a long and deep-rooted relationship based on shared values and a commitment to the rules-based system. The UK has always valued Malta as a partner and ally whether inside the EU or in the wider international arena where we are working

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YOUR PURPOSE IS YOUR BIGGEST ASSET

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together on shared challenges from the prohibition of chemical weapons to tackling climate change. Being outside the club doesn’t preclude us from continuing such excellent cooperation in the future, both as active Commonwealth members and in a bilateral and commercial context. How do you propose keeping the borders of Gibraltar open once freedom of movement ends on December 31? The UK Government are steadfast in our support for Gibraltar, its people and economy. In its negotiations with the EU, the government is acting on behalf of the UK Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories: the whole UK family, including Gibraltar, remains fully committed to the Gibraltar Protocol in the Withdrawal Agreement. What do you envision will be the sectors of economic growth that the UK will focus on in the coming months? Recently, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson launched the UK’s 10 Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution which will mobilise £12 billion of government investment, spur up to three times as much 19

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Corporate DispatchPro private investment by 2030, and support up to 250,000 jobs. Even though climate change will definitely be a priority, especially since the UK will co-host COP26 in November 2021, it is not about focusing on one area or another. Clearly, we have to wait to see how the negotiations play out and what sort of trade agreement is in place in the new year. But like all the world economies we are having to deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic which is created a challenging environment for all of us. Despite this, I am confident that the UK economy will continue to thrive in the future. There are some who believe that Britain has rested on the Commonwealth as a substitute for the EU’s influence on foreign affairs. How do you think the UK can establish stronger international ties beyond just relying on the influence of the Commonwealth? I don’t think that is the case at all. The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 54 countries working together to promote democracy, prosperity, and peace. The UK has maintained strong international relationships beyond both the EU and the Commonwealth and will continue to do so. What was your impression of Malta before you arrived? I had heard it was beautiful. And it is! What was your favourite place that you’ve lived in so far? Tanzania What are you most looking forward to from your posting in Malta? The opportunity to work with Malta on issues close to the British Government’s heart - Climate Change and Protecting the Oceans, Human Rights and maintaining a strong UK-Malta relationship post Brexit. On a personal level I am looking forward to spending more time with my daughter, supporting her through her IGCSEs, and the sea! How do you like your coffee before meetings? Espresso with a dash of milk.

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A year out of this world The world felt firmly stuck in 2020 but seen from afar, it was abuzz with activity. Space launchers, moon landers, telescopic probes were firing off beyond the Earth’s atmosphere and pushing humanity’s boundaries further.

The classic space race of the 1960s was a two-way competition between the Soviet Union and the United States. Today, the internation competition is still palpable, but the field has broadened significantly, and the challenge feels more like a multisport discipline than a straight sprint. Countries from India to South Korea to Canada have established successful space agencies and developed programmes from human spaceflight to space stations to extra-terrestrial probes. Big steps for humankind were not only taken by governments but by commercial interests too. In May, Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched two NASA astronauts into a 19-hour flight to the International Space Station. This was the first time in history that a commercial aerospace company carried humans into the orbit, paving the way for more space adventures in the future. Meanwhile, SpaceX continues to launch satellites for its Starlink internet constellation and celebrated its 100th lift-off in June. In July, the US Federal Communications Commission has also approved Project Kuiper, a rival satellite internet network by Amazon. The tech giant is estimated to pour €10 billion into the initiative before the end of the decade and the first satellites are expected to be launched in January. Amazon has not yet declared whether the constellation will be carried into orbit by Blue Origin, the aerospace company also owned by Jeff Bezos. The side venture is currently busy leading the

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Corporate DispatchPro effort on a lunar lander that plans to send the first woman to the moon by 2024. Speaking of the moon, China’s unmanned Chang’e 5 made a landing in December on a mission to collect lunar samples for the first time since 1976. The lander was designed to live one lunar day – 14 Earth days – and when the sun finally set on the ‘Ocean of Storms’, radio enthusiasts detected no further signals from the robot. But the ascent vehicle took off successfully carrying the precious twokilogram delivery from space. Another special package this year was Japan’s Hayabusa-2 spacecraft which touched down in the Australian desert after a long journey through space. The capsule collected two layers of material from the Ryugu asteroid, believed to be one of the building blocks

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left over from the formation of the Solar System. The second layer is ‘pristine material’ retrieved from a deeper cut into the asteroid’s core and has not been in contact with the space environment like the outer layer. Although there is an exciting mix of new players in aerospace, the original rivalries still surface between Russia and the United States. Roscosmos has in fact conducted a successful test of its new Angara rocket – the first range of launchers developed since the collapse of the Soviet Union. NASA celebrated the launch of Perseverance, the rover dispatched to look for signs of life on Mars. Decades of experiments have generated millions of space debris, including over 34,000 pieces bigger than 10 centimetres. The European Space Agency has an ambitious plan for that and this year it has signed a deal with a Swiss operator to send out a space garbage collector by 2025. Many of us could not leave their homes for long weeks in 2020, let alone the planet. But human curiosity and ingenuity is a hopeful force unbound by the immediate challenges, a defining trait that not even the pandemic could arrest. 27

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The purring twenties In 1920, a Johnson & Johnson employee came up with a simple solution to dress minor cuts – the adhesive bandage. His employers trademarked the invention and started mass-producing the world-famous Band-Aid. Besides the geniality of the idea, its success was in part driven by a novel wave of consumerism and technological optimism that culminated in the culturaleconomic revolution that swept through the Roarin’ 20s. It was a decade of “rugged individualism” that democratised cars and launched transatlantic flights; introduced women’s suffrage in the US and Coco Chanel’s little black dress in France; filled airwaves with frothy jazz and city squares with Art Nouveau. It was a time of rekindled confidence in human capability, rebuilding from the horrors of the Great War and the decimation of the Spanish Flu. A century later, the world finds its roar silenced by a crushing pandemic. Expectations for the future remain generally high, but the events in the first two decades leading to the 2020s have injected a sense of caution, particularly in the youngest generations. The century started with the 9/11 attacks which exposed a dangerous clash of values and established political terrorism on a global scale. The events altered the world’s collective consciousness and radicalised beliefs at both ends of the spectrum. The ensuing ‘war on terrorism’ marked the Bush Presidency and pitted allies against each other. The raging global economy was not to be deterred by the Washington agenda, but it ground to a halt when trouble hit Wall Street. The 2008 credit crunch spread like wildfire causing the biggest financial meltdown since the Great Depression. The word ‘crisis’ flashed from every news broadcast for months on end as millions of people lost jobs, houses, and savings. 29

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Between one tragedy and the other, the world kept spinning fast. The Euro currency entered circulation while China formally became a member of the World Trade Organisation; former Soviet countries joined the EU and an American-led alliance invaded Iraq. The science train continued to steam full-speed ahead with amazing discoveries including the completion of the Human Genome Project. The early 2000s witnessed the emergence of new technology that would open a new era of civilisation: Facebook was built in 2004, the iPhone unveiled in 2007. Information flowed away from the mainstream media and specialised institutions as new sources of knowledge, advertising and public discussion surfaced in the form of Wikipedia, Google Adwords, or Twitter. On the other hand, the power of centralised government agencies to capture information created a new kind of angst among citizens.

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High-profile whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden and Sergei Magnitsky are still either revered as heroes or reviled as traitors. The third millennium has already seen a surge in popular uprisings, from the Orange Revolution in Ukraine to the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong. In late 2010, protests in Tunisia exploded into the Arab Spring that swept through North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, toppling powerful, longstanding regimes like a bowling ball crashing into skittles. While autocratic leaders such as Muammar Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein and Hosni Mubarak were removed, a new crop of strongmen such as Rodrigo Duterte, Tayyip Erdogan and Daniel Ortega have cemented their positions. In Europe and North America, a populist hurricane blew through the landscape traditionally occupied by left-and-right parties. But it is not only the political climate that has changed drastically. World temperatures have been on an accelerated rise in the last two decades leading to the most severe coral reef bleaching ever observed and the lowest arctic sea ice extent. The hottest ten years ever recorded globally have all occurred since 2000, reaching a record 0.94°C above century average in 2016 with 2020 on course to match it. Some of the most devastating natural disasters like the Boxing Day Tsunami in the Indian Ocean or the uncontrollable wildfires in Australia and the mudslides submerging Brazil galvanised a 31

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Corporate DispatchPro broader movement for environmental sustainability, cusping in the worldwide school strikes set off by Swedish teen Greta Thunberg. Another teenage girl, Malala Yousafzai became the youngest Nobel Prize laureate after taking on the Pakistani Taliban to defend education for women and suffering a point-blank shot for it. Social justice for women swelled in the #MeToo movement that pushed back against years of sexual harassment and abuse. Meanwhile, racial equality reached a watershed moment with the historic election of US President Barack Obama in 2008, but the Black Lives Matter movement born just five years later exposed the depth of the social scar, especially when it sparked global riots in 2020. The most enduring representation of the protests was perhaps the pulling down of a statue for a slave-trader of the British colonial era in the UK. As Bristolians were earnestly separating the bronze figure from its plinth, the British government was busy separating the UK from the European Union. The two sides could still not find a way to untangle their ties, four and a half years after the Brexit referendum. These eventful two decades were capped by outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. The deadly virus pulled out the plug on everything that is considered ordinary and threw everyone into a state of helpless disorientation. But it did not stop the world as governments, scientists, business leaders, advocacy groups all worked together to develop vaccines as fast and as effective as the spread that they are designed to eliminate. The first fifth of the 21st century formed a more globalised mind, a natural awareness of the world beyond our immediate horizons. A smoother individualism now characterises people as nodes in an elaborate web that crosses communities, economies, ecosystems, and ideas. One hundred years ago, the folly of destruction gave way to the annĂŠes folles. May we transform the openness of the last twenty years into a decade of opportunity for all. 33

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HOTEL NIGHTS DOWN BY TWO-THIRDS FROM LAST YEAR Hotels saw a dip of 55.5 percent in guests in the third quarter this year compared with the same period in 2019. Figures by the National Statistics Office show a total 241,179 hotel visitors between July and September, the smallest Q3 numbers in the three years under review. One in two guests stayed at four-star hotels while another 46 percent chose accommodation at either five or three-star hotels. Another 23,265 guests stayed at alternative collective accommodation including hostels and guesthouses. Since the beginning of the year, hotels welcomed a total 538,428 guests, a drop of 62 percent in comparison with the first nine months of 2019. Nearly 280,000 choose to stay at four-star hotels while five and three-star hotels welcomed 243,881 visitors between them. Guests at other collective accommodation numbered 47,744. The total number of nights at hotels was 1,003,422 in the third quarter, a decrease of 66.5 percent from the previous year. Hotels registered a total of 2,289,255 nights since the start of 2019, a sharp fall from 7,145,247 in the same period last year.

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PUBLIC SPENDING JUMPS BY €394M IN FIRST HALF OF 2020 The Government total expenditure rose to €2.7 billion in the first half of 2020, an increase of 16.9 percent compared with the same period last year. Figures by the National Statistics Office show a deficit of €895.6 million in the Consolidated Fund between January and June, up from €156.1 million last year. While expenditure surged, driven by a €228 million in recurrent expenditure, total revenue in the six months decreased from €2.2 billion in 2019 to €1.8 billion this year. Income Tax fell by €128 million, Value Added Tax by €86 million, and Licenses by €54 million. On the other hand, revenue from Fees of Office and Miscellaneous Receipts increased by €15 million and €32 million, respectively. Government debt rose by €896 compared with the first half of 2019, reaching €6.377 million at the end of June. This debt was mainly financed from Treasury Bills and Malta Government Stocks, which registered increases of €522 million and €380 million, respectively, from the previous year. 37

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Corporate DispatchPro ALMOST 700 KILOGRAMS OF WASTE PER CAPITA IN 2019 Municipal waste generation per capita rose to around 680 kilograms in 2019, up from 650 kilograms a year earlier. Figures by the National Statistics Office show a total increase of 7.3 percent in municipal waste generation from 2018 to 2019, equivalent to 23,825 tonnes. Kitchen and canteen bio-waste registered the biggest year-on-year rise amounting to 20,165 tonnes, but 2019 was the first full calendar year to during which organic waste collection took place. This, in fact, led to a decrease in mixed waste, down by 21,372 tonnes from 2018. Waste generation was the highest in the five years under review by the statistics, indicating an increase in most waste types over the years except for metals which rose to their highest in 2016 with 2,000 tonnes before going on a gradual reduction to 1,493 tonnes in 2019. Glass went the other direction, from 4,447 tonnes generated in 2015 to 8,709 in 2019. A significant increase was also observed in Bulky waste, growing from 32,182 tonnes to 68.084 in the same time period.

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MORE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CASES REPORTED SINCE 2016 The number of persons using domestic violence services increased by 26 percent between 2016 and 2018. Figures by the National Statistics Office show that there were a total 2,285 service users during 2018, 210 more than in 2017 and 469 more than 2016. An increase was also registered in the number of people seeking services for a second or third time, rising from 369 in 2016 to 504 in 2018. In the three years under review, the largest number of domestic violence were registered with the Police, with just under 4,300 reports received between 2016 and 2018. There has, meanwhile, been an increase in cases registered with other services including shelters, emergency health services, Victim Support Malta, and the Domestic Violence Unit within Aġenzija Appoġġ. The share of victims referred to Aġenzija Appoġġ grew to twofifths of all cases in 2018, up from a third two years before. Domestic violence reports have increased among both women and men over the three-year period, but violence against women surpasses 80 percent of the total cases in all three years.

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TRADE BALANCE AT ITS NARROWEST THIS YEAR Balance of trade registered a deficit of €84.2 million in October, narrowing the gap from the same month in 2019 when the trade deficit stood at €311.1 million. Provisional data by the National Statistics Office indicates that this was the smallest margin of difference in international trade since December last year. Imports registered a total value of €339.9, a decrease of €308.6 million from October 2019 driven mainly by a decline in machinery and transport equipment (-€157.6M). Exports also dropped from €337.4 million to €255.7 million year-on-year, with mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials contributing the biggest decrease of €49.2 million. Over the months from January to October, balance of trade recorded a deficit of €1.97 billion. In the first ten months of 2019, trade in international goods had reached a deficit of €3.50 billion. All categories of industry registered a deficit this year except for miscellaneous manufactured articles with a trade surplus of €107.5 million, an increase from a surplus of €16.8 million in the same period last year. 41

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Corporate DispatchPro DENISE GRECH

Malta News ROUNDUP Inland Revenue Commissioner Marvin Gaerty was called in for questioning by the police as part of an investigation into trading of influence. The probe was triggered by a 2014 message exchange between the Commissioner and businessman Yorgen Fenech. Malta imposed a travel ban to and from the UK following a discovery of a new strain of the Covid-19 virus in Britain. Citizens will be repatriated, and incoming persons will be required to quarantine for 14 days. The government is giving the commercial sector â‚Ź2.4 million in refunds for utility bills over Christmas. A total â‚Ź6 million fund has been created for the purpose and will be disbursed to businesses in a series of rounds.

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The chairman of the Book Council, Mark Camilleri, resisted calls by the Education Ministry to step down following an angry message exchange with a lawyer representing businessman Yorgen Fenech. Minister Justyne Caruana later withdrew the request for his resignation. Junior Minister Rosianne Cutajar is alleged to have taken a €46,000 cut on a property deal involving Yorgen Fenech in 2019 which eventually fell through. The Parliamentary Secretary for Reform denies wrongdoing but stopped short of dismissing the claims. Residents in Sliema and St Julian’s took part in a demonstration opposing large property developments in the areas. The manifestation was organised by NGOs Flimkien Għal Ambjent Aħjar and Moviment Graffitti but had the backing of the local councils in both towns. 44

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Corporate DispatchPro The police are investigating allegations that Lands Authority chairman James Piscopo has engaged in money-laundering activities of some ₏600,000. The claims are believed to have been made by former Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri. Keith Schembri testified before the Caruana Galizia public inquiry and confirmed that he was aware that information about the Electrogas power station had been leaked to the murdered journalist. The decision to hold elections in June 2017 had been taken by March that year, Schembri revealed. The government announced that, as from 2021, public holidays falling on weekends will be added to the annual leave entitlement. The decision, which requires parliamentary approval, will add three leave days in 2021 and four leave days in 2022.

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Corporate DispatchPro KEITH ZAHRA

EU BUDGET

European Parliament gives consent to EU budget Following the European Parliament’s consent, the Council has adopted the regulation laying down the EU’s multiannual financial framework for 2021-2027. The regulation provides for a long-term budget of €1,074.3 billion for the EU27 in 2018 prices, including the integration of the European Development Fund. Together with the Next Generation EU recovery instrument of €750 billion, it will allow the EU to provide an unprecedented €1.8 trillion of funding over the coming years to support recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and the EU’s longterm priorities across different policy areas. The next long-term budget will cover seven spending areas and will provide the framework for the funding of almost 40 EU spending programmes in the next seven-year period. Under the next multiannual financial framework, EU funding will be geared towards new and reinforced priorities across the EU’s policy areas, including green and digital transitions. Cohesion policy and the common agricultural policy will continue to receive significant funding and undergo modernisation to ensure that they best contribute to Europe’s economic recovery and the EU’s green and digital objectives.

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Corporate DispatchPro KEITH ZAHRA

BORDER CONTROL

Nearly €760 million worth of goods seized by EU customs in 2019 Fake goods with a retail value of over €760 million were seized at the EU’s external borders in 2019, according to a new report published by the European Commission.

While this figure represents a €20 million increase in value compared to 2018, the number of detentions increased by over 30 percent in the same period. This annual report gives an overview of the work carried out by EU customs officials – responsible for the enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR) – at the EU’s external borders. Overall, in 2019, Member State customs authorities made over 90,000 seizures of goods that infringed on intellectual property rights, consisting of almost 41 million individual items (an increase of 53 percent compared to the previous year).

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Corporate DispatchPro KEITH ZAHRA

RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT

EU companies remain robust and increase investment amidst stiff global competition Companies in the European Union (EU27) have increased their investment in research and development (R&D) for the tenth consecutive year as included in the 2020 EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard.

In 2019, they invested 5.6 percent more in R&D, up from 4.7 percent in 2018. This growth is driven by the automobile, ICT and health sectors. One successful example is the German company BioNTech, leading the ground-breaking development of one of the first Covid-19 vaccines in use. Since its early days, it has benefited from EU R&D support now worth over â‚Ź108 million. BioNTech ranks at number 654 in the world ranking and has been in this Scoreboard since 2013 It has multiplied its R&D investment by 6 and its net sales ten times in this seven-year period. EU companies in the Scoreboard are highly internationalised, showing a diversified and strong technological and industrial base. In the ranking of the top 2,500 R&D investing companies worldwide however, they lose ground against fast growing ICT and health sector companies based in the U.S. and China.

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Corporate DispatchPro KEITH ZAHRA

AGRI-FOODS

€182.9 million to promote European agri-food products A total of €182.9 million has been allocated to the promotion of EU agri-food products in and outside the EU in 2021.

This promotion policy work programme puts a special focus on promoting products and farming methods that support more directly the European Green Deal objectives, prioritising organic products, fruit and vegetables and sustainable agriculture. EU policy for the promotion of agri-food products is designed to increase the sector’s competitiveness by taking advantage of expanding global agri-food markets and raising awareness of the high standards used in EU agriculture, including in terms of quality and sustainability. A new framework for the promotion policy will be put in place next year, as envisaged in the Farm to Fork strategy.

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Corporate DispatchPro KEITH ZAHRA

COMMUNITIES

MEPs demand stronger protection of cultural diversity In a resolution adopted with 524 votes in favour, 67 against and 103 abstentions, Parliament insisted that national and linguistic minorities in the EU are facing assimilation and are losing their languages, resulting in linguistic and cultural impoverishment. . Parliament calls on the Commission to propose legal acts to address the issue, expressing its support for the European Citizens’ Initiative ‘Minority SafePack – one million signatures for diversity in Europe’. Acknowledging that member states are responsible for protecting minorities’ rights, MEPs asked for a common framework of minimum EU standards. They add that regional languages must be promoted, linguistic rights protected where more than one official language is in use, and language communities defended in accordance with fundamental rights. The European Parliament added that positive action is needed in education, culture and public services, and to address the threat of extinction for some minority languages.

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Corporate DispatchPro AIMEE DONNELLAN VIA REUTERS BREAKINGVIEWS

Big Pharma’s vaccine immunity will be fleeting Big Pharma’s vaccine victory lap may be cut short. The industry’s triumph in dispensing inoculations less than a year after the discovery of the deadly coronavirus has partially vindicated the business models of groups like Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca. But as governments took on much of the risk, pharma groups’ pricing will remain a target after the pandemic.

Riding to the world’s rescue is a welcome corrective for the battered pharmaceutical industry. In recent years the sector has grappled with bribery scandals and accusations of aggressive pricing, exemplified by Mylan’s decision to hike the price of antiallergy injection EpiPen by 400%. Drug firms have long defended their prices as the necessary reward for funding expensive and risky research. The value of global scale, meanwhile, was evident in their ability to quickly test vaccines and manufacture enough doses to inoculate a third of the world’s population next year. The promise by Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca to sell their treatments at cost price for the duration of the pandemic further enhances their claims to benefit society. The warm feelings extended to the stock market, where share prices of vaccine makers Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca and Pfizer have outperformed the MSCI World Pharma index by an average of 5% since the beginning of the year. Moderna shares are up nearly 700% in the same period. However, the vaccines are more than just an endorsement of Big Pharma. Academic centres like the University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute and small firms such as Germany’s BioNTech played a 59

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Corporate DispatchPro critical role in pioneering the medical breakthroughs, helped by a mixture of public and private funding. Governments, meanwhile, helped to finance the cost of testing and manufacturing, and preordered hundreds of millions of doses without knowing whether the vaccines would be effective. Such public support has emboldened campaigners who argue governments should take a greater slice of pharma companies’ earnings, perhaps by claiming a share of new drug patents. The glow of their vaccine triumph may allow Big Pharma companies to shrug off such demands for a while. But U.S. drug prices rose 60% in the 10 years to 2018, according to the American Medical Association. Pressure to bring them down will soon return.

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Corporate DispatchPro LIAM PROUD VIA REUTERS BREAKINGVIEWS

EU’s Google-Fitbit approval sets risky precedent Margrethe Vestager is sending mixed messages to big U.S. technology groups. Days after vowing to crack down on companies like Facebook and Amazon.com through a major new legislative effort, the European Commission’s antitrust tsar on Thursday approved with conditions a $2.1 billion purchase of Fitbit by Alphabet’s Google. It sets a risky precedent for future tech M&A. At first glance Vestager appears to have drawn some meaty concessions from Google, which agreed to buy the maker of wrist-worn fitness trackers in November 2019. It has pledged to keep Californiaheadquartered Fitbit’s user data in a separate “silo”, so that it isn’t used to augment the search giant’s existing digital-advertising business. Google will also ensure that its Android smartphone operating system is still compatible with health trackers sold by rival manufacturers, like Samsung Electronics. Smartphones and fitness devices often work in tandem. Vestager reckons those commitments will stop Google from dominating the nascent digital-health market through its existing hoard of data and control of software for smartphones. The conditions will apply for 10 years, with the possibility of another 10-year extension, and will be monitored by an independent trustee. Yet there may be some cracks. The Fitbit data silo means Google’s ad business can’t directly access users’ health information. But it’s unclear whether that also stops it from drawing anonymous, statistical lessons about users’ health and using that to improve the quality of its advertising. And while the company has to offer Fitbit’s rivals the same access to Android tools as it does to other developers, Google could in theory still keep some future health-software innovations to itself. In other words, Vestager’s fear that Google could use its smartphone dominance to favour its own fitness trackers may still be a risk. 63

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Stay safe... Stay connected!

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Corporate DispatchPro The broader point is that such behavioural remedies are much harder to enforce than straightforward prohibitions. Companies are often two steps ahead: the commission in 2017 fined Facebook 110 million euros for providing what it regarded as inaccurate information as part of a 2014 merger review. According to the commission, the social-media giant said it couldn’t automatically link users’ WhatsApp and Facebook profiles, but then went on to do precisely that. The risk is that, by the time Vestager finds loopholes in her Google-Fitbit safeguards, the damage will already have been done.

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Corporate DispatchPro JOHN FOLEY VIA REUTERS BREAKINGVIEWS

Wall Street ends 2020 with embarrassment of riches The world’s biggest banks entered the Covid-19 crisis in good shape and are emerging with an embarrassment of riches. Wall Street lenders made huge profit from trading in turbulent markets and are ending 2020 awash with capital. Their mission for 2021 is finding an acceptable way to spend it.

Banks’ trading windfall is so big it’s practically visible from space. The five biggest U.S. firms – JPMorgan, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America – made $84 billion of combined markets revenue in the first three quarters. Call that $112 billion on a full-year basis. It’s $35 billion more than their average over the past 10 years, boosted by dislocations brought on by Covid-19, central bank support for financial markets, and a nail-biting U.S. election. They made an extra $7 billion too from underwriting share and bond issues. Next, there’s the effect of the default-hurricane that never happened. Mega-lenders JPMorgan, Citi, Wells Fargo and BofA set aside $52 billion to cover future credit losses this year so far. At JPMorgan, the incremental provisions were a colossal $15 billion. Yet Chief Executive Jamie Dimon says bad debt levels look “great,” mostly because government stimulus has kept borrowers afloat. Much of what they squirreled away should come back in 2021. Finally, there’s the fortification of banks’ balance sheets. The six biggest Wall Street financial institutions have $128 billion more of equity than they officially need, based on their third-quarter reports, aided by the Federal Reserve’s demand they halt stock buybacks. Incoming Citi boss Jane Fraser will inherit surplus capital equivalent to more than one-fifth of her bank’s market capitalization. And savers have flocked to the big banks. The top 25 gathered twice as

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Corporate DispatchPro much in deposits this year than all of America’s other 5,000 lenders combined. What to do with all this booty? Bank traders, executives and shareholders will all want a piece. Lower interest rates pose plenty of longer-term challenges. Yet it’s the government, and the taxpayer, to whom Wall Street owes thanks. Their gratitude thus far falls short: in America’s year of need, the big four main street lenders reduced their combined loans by 3%. Banks’ task in 2021 is to find creative ways to aid the real economy – and give back profit that was never really theirs to begin with.

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