CorporateDispatch Pro - Edition 29

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2022, a year of much deliberation War in Ukraine is a threat to Europe’s collective security

PURPOSE: Real good corporate behaviour or lip service?

Issue No. 29 | December 2022
Corporate

PURPOSE: Real Good Corporate Behaviour or Lip Service? 3 A Calendar To Celebrate A Company’s Purpose 9 Malta Insights 12 European Insights 15 MMXXII 19

Ukraine will emerge victorious but Europe needs to help more 23 EU.Review 28

Over a Coffee with Abigail Barbara 31

Marisa Attard With New Solo Exhibition Themed “Off-Kilter” 37

Liquigas delivers more than 8 million cylinders filled by Gasco Energy Ltd in past decade of operations 39 MDB launches two favourable financing schemes to facilitate €180 investment in economy 41 MEA proposes 13 solutions to address skill shortages after extensive stakeholder consultation 43

Editorial Team

Managing Editor - Jesmond Saliba

Corporate ID Group

Isabelle Micallef Bonello James Vella Clark Keith Zahra Matthew Borg Nicholas Azzopardi Shirley Zammit Tonio Galea

Issue No. 29
December 2022 Corporate
Contents PRODUCTION ADDITIONAL SOURCES
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PURPOSE: Real Good Corporate Behaviour or Lip Service?

Every so often, the debate crops up on what should be the nature and purpose of companies, business organizations and corporations. Many times, business leaders pose this question when their company or their respective industry would have gone through a particular crisis.

The recent global pandemic jolted many companies, compelling them to stop and question their ‘purpose’, beyond the archetypical strategic purpose of shareholder wealth maximization. New realities caused by the pandemic even helped companies realize what their purpose should be.

The notion that companies should prioritize the interests of shareholders had gained widespread acceptance in the 1980s but in the last decade, a growing number of CEOs, boards, employees, customers, social activists, and investors have started supporting a move from corporate governance focused on shareholders to one that prioritizes the interests of stakeholders.

The reality is pretty straightforward: shareholders and stakeholders have different priorities. Shareholders, rightly so,

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seek a return for their investment, whereas stakeholders not only expect good behaviour, but they also expect companies to prove a point – by contributing additional energy and resources beyond their remit, to showing the world that they are doing things right.

FACTUAL OR COSMETIC?

This sees companies on one side adopting lofty statements about ‘purpose’ that say very little about their priorities whilst on the other side, stakeholders continue to display a complete misunderstanding of the concept of shareholder value. And all this is happening within a context where the idea of stakeholder governance remains ambiguous making the debate on corporate purpose a never‐ending one. Especially over the past months, the narrative has been mostly taken up by issues concerning ESG, and companies have been increasingly referring to the pursuit of environmental and social goals in the definition of their purpose, raising

important issues concerning how trade-offs between profit maximization and social value are solved.

Whilst solutions may be found in creating the right balance through more transparency and a more efficient market for corporate governance that benefits both stakeholders and shareholders, the issue of PURPOSE, as noble as it sounds, could still be somewhat blurred in the eyes of some organisations. For others, however, the notion is pretty clear...

Farsons’ CEO Norman Aquilina pointed out how Farsons’ mission statement outlines the organization’s strong sense of purpose which goes beyond CSR, ESG or corporate branding.

“This revolves around three areas, namely, roles and responsibilities, respecting relationships with all stakeholders and delivering a rewarding return to our shareholders. In fact, we seek to conduct business responsibly, beyond financial interests and in line with ethical, social, cultural, and environmental considerations,” said Mr Aquilina.

“I believe in a balance between a responsible business approach and optimizing shareholder value while remaining sensitive towards stakeholders’ interests, something which I specifically outlined in my latest annual financial report earlier this year when I stated that as a Group, while we should remain determined to push forward for further profitable growth, we have to balance profit with purpose.”

“Obviously, a clear and meaningful corporate purpose will always help organizations deliver the desired results. But whilst financial interests and a robust commercial strategy remain crucial, businesses also need to recognize themselves as an integral part of society and cannot simply gauge their performance on financial merit. There is a need to sensitize and humanize business. Personally, I see added value when we focus

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on being responsible corporate citizens, with an emphasis on ‘citizenship’,” he added.

Nikhil Patil, Chief Executive Officer of GO describes the company’s purpose was launched two years ago as a commitment ‘to drive a digital Malta where no one is left behind’ and that today, this purpose shapes all decision-making at GO.

“I believe that a strong purpose, backed by empowered people drives long-term performance. Ours goes beyond the provision of products, services, or the roll-out of digital infrastructure, but is defined by the digital transformation taking place across societies, focused on the impact it wants to have on societies in Malta and beyond.” “Becoming a purpose-driven organisation, allows us to foster a culture that empowers employees to experience deep learning, try new things, take risks, collaborate, and become energised by the growth of their professional lives, whilst creating greater value for our people, customers and shareholders in a more sustainable manner,” he added.

Liz Barbaro Sant, Director of Alberta Group, provides an interesting angle to the topic. “I no longer see a difference between profit and purpose. The two have to go hand in hand.”

Ms Barbaro Sant explained how today, Alberta, a family-run business, is also driven by sustainability and that it is her conviction that businesses need to start being honest about what could be wrong and taking the right measures to fix those issues.

“Our mission as a company has always been that of enabling people and businesses with the right equipment and technology to know that they are protected from all that could go wrong. Indeed, to us, protecting people and businesses and preventing any form of disaster is not just a value or a commercial service but it is who we are – it is in our DNA. But now, our purpose is to keep delivering this mission in a sustainable manner.”

“There exists a misconception amongst the business community, that sustainability and care for society is only the responsibility of the larger companies. What I believe is that whilst larger companies are better positioned to lead by example, it should be every business’ commitment to aspiring to a higher purpose. So, beyond the sustainability discourse, every company should look beyond its own mission and aspire to a more authentic purpose,” she added.

“I find it interesting how certain organisations might find it hard to define their purpose,” says Mark Aquilina who founded NOUV as a boutique management and financial consulting firm in 2008.

“My idea of purpose seems quite simple. We want to help people sleep better nights and improve their lives by helping their business because I know that for many business

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owners, their business is their life.” “At NOUV, we look at any business as a journey, with an infinite mindset, accompanying the leaders throughout the way because we believe every entrepreneur needs a shoulder to lean on. I founded NOUV with this notion because I want to help people the only way I know how. To a certain degree, this is also my purpose,” he added.

According to economist Lawrence Zammit, founder and managing director of misco, “whilst a company sets out its vision and mission with commercial objectives in mind, that company also needs to appreciate that it operates in a society which is enabling the shareholders to make a profit. So what the company needs to give back to society must be its purpose.”

Describing misco’s purpose as being that of contributing to the enhancement of knowledge in Maltese society, Mr Zammit outlined that every company needs to seek a balance between the requirements and expectations of four key elements namely, society, the customers, the employees, and the shareholders.

“Only if the company keeps in its focus the common good that this balance can be

struck,” he added, pointing out the fact that if companies are being forced to adopt ESG principles through an EU Directive, this is indicative of companies not keeping in focus the common good.

“For those that have kept the common good in focus, ESG is nothing new,” added Mr Zammit.

Marcel Cassar, APS Bank’s CEO noted that on paper, the bank’s purpose has been defined as ‘to make the banking experience simpler and more personal, inspired by a commitment to social, economic and environmental progress while providing all stakeholders with opportunities to grow.’

“This mission statement is not a recently crafted platitude but rooted in the very origins of the bank. Founded in 1910 in Valletta by a Jesuit priest and a group of professionals and merchants as a project to help the destitute and disadvantaged, the ethos, culture and market interests of APS Bank remain very community-centred to this day. For us, ESG is not one of the latest buzzwords, but it embodies our statement of purpose 360 degrees.

“Today, as an established commercial bank,

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PHOTO CREDIT ALAN CARVILLE

we continue to imbue our philosophy and set of values by supporting not only individuals and families but also the business community.

Our contribution to national development of recent years, particularly during and after the pandemic, has been testimony to that,” said Mr Cassar.

CONCLUSION

Ultimately, a company’s ‘purpose’, whether in the form of a manifesto, a mission statement or a single sentence, should simply be a clear definition of the reason that company exists. Today, more than ever, beyond simply making a profit, a company’s products or services should seek to leave a positive impact on people’s lives.

A look at some of the world’s leading brands’ purpose statements.

Nike - Our mission is to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world. [*If you have a body, you are an athlete.] This mission drives us to do everything possible to expand human potential.

Adidas - To be the best sports brand in the world and live our purpose whereby through sport, we have the power to change lives.

Microsoft - To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

Coca-Cola – To refresh the world...To inspire moments of optimism and happiness...To create value and make a difference.

Ralph Lauren - Our purpose at Ralph Lauren is to inspire the dream of a better life through authenticity and timeless style.

McDonald’s – To feed and foster communities by respecting human rights wherever we do business.

VF Corporation - We power movements of sustainable and active lifestyles for the betterment of people and our planet.

Lego - Our ultimate purpose is to inspire and develop children to think creatively, reason systematically and release their potential to shape their future - experiencing the endless human possibility.

This mission statement is not a recently crafted platitude but rooted in the very origins of the bank. Founded in 1910 in Valletta by a Jesuit priest and a group of professionals and merchants as a project to help the destitute and disadvantaged, the ethos, culture and market interests of APS Bank remain very community-centred to this day.

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A Calendar To Celebrate A Company’s Purpose

Express Trailers’ Orange Fleet Reimagined in 13 Illustrations of Recognizable Landmarks Around Malta and Gozo for the 2023 Calendar

Express Trailers’ eclectic fleet of orange trucks and trailers have been reimagined in a series of thirteen illustrations which portray the orange vehicles owned by the logistics company over the years, set amongst some of the most recognisable landmarks around Malta and Gozo.

STAKEHOLDER OUTLOOK
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The illustrations, commissioned to established illustration artist Nadine Theuma, will now feature in the company’s official 2023 desk and wall calendars.

“This year saw us all, gradually out of a global pandemic, a crisis which saw Express Trailers operating in very unprecedented circumstances. This challenging time affirmed our company’s role as a critical conduit in the delivery of essentials to Malta, by ensuring that our clients’ businesses kept operating and that people kept finding their life’s essentials on the shelves,” explains David Fleri Soler, Chief Commercial Officer at Express Trailers.

“Therefore, to usher in the new year, we want this calendar to be a celebration of what Express Trailers is to Malta and the Maltese: a company committed to fulfilling the country’s transport and logistics requirements. This calendar, therefore, celebrates Express Trailers’ purpose,” added David Fleri Soler.

The chosen locations include the Tritons’ fountain at Valletta’s entrance, Portes des Bombes in Floriana, the Red Tower in Mellieħa, Mnajdra’s and Ġgantija’s temples, Ta’ Pinu, Mosta’s Rotunda, Mdina, Ramla l-Ħamra, Marsaxlokk, Birgu and St Sebastian’s church in Qormi, the hometown of the Vella Brothers, owners of Express Trailers. A thirteenth illustration portrays the company’s yard, the heart of its operations.

Nadine Theuma, a designer and illustrator for over twenty years, explained how the eclectic collection of old and new vehicles made the project very interesting.

“I was impressed by the size and design of the trucks. They are beautiful objects. The old trucks had so much attention to detail. The vehicles, so different from each other, reflect different eras and different craftsmanship and embedding them into the Maltese landscape was challenging but rewarding. Working on this project made me realise how much work goes into making sure things keep being delivered,” said Nadine Theuma.

I was impressed by the size and design of the trucks. They are beautiful objects. The old trucks had so much attention to detail. The vehicles, so different from each other, reflect different eras and different craftsmanship and embedding them into the Maltese landscape was challenging but rewarding. Working on this project made me realise how much work goes into making sure things keep being delivered

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Malta Insights

TOURISM AND EXPORTS LIFT MALTESE ECONOMY IN 2022, BUT CHALLENGES ABOUND

A resurgence of tourism numbers and growth in domestic demand and services export have helped to lift the Maltese economy after the troublesome Covid-years, with expectations of a healthy growth by the end of the year.

Given Malta’s modest direct trade exposure to Russia and Ukraine, the war’s impact on the country’s economic development has been relatively

contained. Real GDP growth is anticipated by the European Commission to reach 5.7% this year on the heels of a solid economic showing in the first half of 2022, supported by strong domestic demand and a significant boost from net exports. The latest NSO data has shown that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the third quarter of 2022 amounted to €4,402.2 million, registering an increase of €456.1 million, or 11.6 per cent when compared to the same quarter of 2021. In volume terms, GDP rose by 5.2 per cent.

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During the third quarter of 2022, Gross Value Added (GVA) rose by 14.4 per cent in nominal terms and 7.8 per cent in volume terms, when compared to the corresponding quarter of 2021. The drivers behind this 7.8 per cent growth was the services sector, which was mainly driven by the following sectors: accommodation and food service activities (40.6 per cent), administrative and support services activities (22.7 per cent), wholesale and retail trade; (9.2 per cent), Transportation and storage (15.0 per cent) and Information and Communication (8.0 per cent).

During the Summer season, which in travel terms is considered from April to October, 4.32 million passengers travelled through Malta International Airport. During this period, Malta International Airport was connected to 103 destinations, translating to a recovery of 82 per cent of its prepandemic summer connectivity. The seat load factor in October reached 86 per cent, marking an increase of 3.7 percentage points over pre-pandemic levels. Monthly seat load factors have been on the rise, compared to the pre-pandemic reference year, since May 2022.

Despite high levels of inflation, authorities have earmarked substantial funds to limit inflation by controlling the rise of electricity, gas, fuel and certain basic food prices. Energy and food subsidies are estimated to amount to EUR396 million by the end of 2022 (2.4% of GDP) and EUR605 million (3.5% of GDP) in 2023. This forecast is also backed by the Fitch credit rating agency, which late in November confirmed Malta’s A+ rating with a stable outcome, based on high per-capita income, a large net external creditor position and a pre-pandemic record of strong growth and sizeable debt reduction. Despite the intervention to keep energy prices stable, inflation in 2022 is expected to rise to 6.1%. Inflation is particularly high in imported goods, particularly food, transport, hospitality and housing services. These factors will continue to drive price increases in 2023, with inflation expected at 4.0%. At the same time, wage growth is expected to remain moderate.

Fitch did, however, note a recent deterioration in public finances with large fiscal deficits, which have

led to a sharp increase in the moderate public debt burden. This could indeed be a risk to the economy in the months to come. The EC’s latest report sees the government debt-to-GDP ratio set to increase to 57.4% in 2022 and gradually reach 60.6% in 2024 as the primary balance remains negative and nominal GDP growth becomes less dynamic. By the end of October 2022, the Government’s Consolidated Fund reported a deficit of €613.4 million while Central Government debt stood at €8,738.0 million, an increase of €771.4 million from 2021.

In 2022, deficit levels are expected to reach 6%, decrease marginally to 5.7% of GDP in 2023 and more markedly to 4.4% in 2024.

THE JOB MARKET REMAINS STRONG

On the positive side, the employment market remained very strong. The seasonally adjusted monthly unemployment rate for October 2022 stood at 3.1 per cent. The unemployment rate during October 2022 for persons aged 15 to 24 years (youth unemployment rate) was 8.1 per cent while the rate for those between 25 and 74 years stood at 2.5 per cent. This situation is creating bottlenecks for many firms across the diverse economic sectors which continue to struggle to recruit the necessary resources for their operations. In a recent survey, 53% of respondents claimed that this situation was resulting in a “heavy impact on their business including serious disruption on their operations and stretched out resources”. A further 12% responded that the impact on their business was “severe” to the extent that business continuity was severely at risk. As job-seekers push new priorities in favour of flexible work arrangements, particularly postpandemic further exacerbate the challenge ahead for employers.

Malta’s unemployment rate is forecast to decline to 3.2% in 2022 and to further decrease to all-time lows in 2023 and 2024.

THE YEAR AHEAD

Looking forward to the next year, although forecasts do not share the doom and gloom envisaged for the wider European economy, a more challenging year ahead appears inevitable as the prolonged war takes

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Inflation is expected to create further social challenges. According to the EU-SILC survey, which collects and produces statistics on Income and Living Conditions, in 2021 the at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion rate was estimated at 20.3 per cent of the population living in private households in Malta.

it all on European economies. Indeed, higher prices, only ‘moderate’ wage growth and a challenging time for exporters await Malta in 2023.

Inflation is expected to create further social challenges. According to the EU-SILC survey, which collects and produces statistics on Income and Living Conditions, in 2021 the at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion rate was estimated at 20.3 per cent of the population living in private households in Malta.

Growth is forecast to moderate to 2.8% in 2023, as the supporting growth momentum of services exports fades and the impact of higher prices reduces household purchasing power and reaches 3.7% in 2024. Possibly in view of these expectations, the European Commission’s confidence surveys show that Malta’s economic sentiment edged down further in October when compared with a month earlier, and stood below its long-term average, which is estimated since November 2002. When compared with September, sentiment deteriorated across all sectors bar the retail sector, where it rose significantly, albeit from a low level.

Overall, export growth in 2023 is expected to weaken, as the general slowdown in economic performance among Malta’s trading partners starts to have a greater negative impact on the Maltese economy.

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European Insights

EU FACES WINTER RECESSION AS WAR, AND INFLATION HIT ECONOMIES HARD

As Russian missiles continue to strike Ukrainian infrastructure plunging millions of citizens into darkness, unprecedented levels of inflation around the continent push consumers into cutting back from non-essential purchases, drastically impacting consumption and denting business confidence.

In addition to the ongoing pain and devastation in Ukraine, the war has had far-reaching economic effects. A global economy that is still dealing with the financial fallout from the pandemic crisis is being hammered hard by the sudden spike in inflation brought on by the strain of rising electricity, fuel, food, and other commodity costs. Due to its proximity to the conflict and considerable - albeit

rapidly declining - reliance on fossil fuel imports, the EU is one of the most vulnerable economies.

Despite the challenges, the first half of the year’s real GDP growth exceeded forecasts. As soon as social restrictions were reduced, consumers restarted travelling abroad and enjoying themselves in hotels and restaurants while spending their accumulated savings. Despite the increasing impact of soaring energy bills and across the board rise in the cost of living, even the third quarter saw the EU and eurozone registering an economic expansion, despite this being at a slower rate. Amidst high production costs, ongoing supply constraints, tighter financing conditions, and increased uncertainty, confidence in the business sector also fell.

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Despite this availability, energy inflation is predicted to continue rising until the end of the year as the summer spike in wholesale energy prices works its way through the retail markets. High energy prices also represent a major supply shock for firms, especially those that consume significant amounts of energy.

As a result, it is even more likely that the eurozone and most EU countries will head to an economic recession in the last quarter of 2022 and the first quarter of 2023. According to the latest Autumn Economic Forecast published by the European Commission, the momentum from 2021 and strong growth in the first half of the year are set to lift real GDP growth in 2022 to 3.3% in the EU. This rate is significantly above the 2.7% projection of the Summer interim forecast. Accelerating price pressures in the first ten months of the year have increased the yearly inflation rate projection to 9.3% in the EU and 8.5% in the euro area, about one percentage point higher than what was expected in Summer. Late in November, ECB President Christine Lagarde insisted that the inflationary peak had not been reached yet.

Despite this reality, economists are not all doom and gloom on upcoming prospects. Concerns of a cold winter have dwindled as gas storage levels in the EU are approaching the winter season at historically high levels, even exceeding the targets originally set by the EU executive. Efforts aimed towards increasing reserves evidently produced another spike in gas prices over the summer amid fresh restrictions to Russian supplies. Despite this, rising prices allowed the EU to draw a larger proportion of LNG supply and create a strong buffer for the upcoming winter. Reduced pressure on wholesale energy prices in recent weeks due to high storage and the benefit of milder late-Autumn temperatures across Europe should however guarantee that Europe manages the next winter without gas supply interruptions. Despite this availability, energy inflation is predicted to continue rising until the end of the year as the summer spike in wholesale energy prices works its way through the retail markets. High energy prices also represent a major supply shock for firms, especially those that consume significant amounts of energy. Many European firms have already curtailed or plan to cut production in sectors such as fertilizers, glass, steel, and aluminum manufacturing, which will likely result in additional price increases across value chains. Inflation in the EU is forecast to increase by 9.3% this year (euro area: 8.5%). It is

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expected to decline in 2023, but remain high at 7.0% (6.1% in the euro area).

On the positive economic side, despite these turbulences, the employment market has remained a strong one, particularly from a job seeker perspective. Employment and participation rates are at historic highs, and unemployment rates are at record lows. Additionally, while beginning to decline, reported job shortages and vacancy rates continue to be quite high. Although with a lag, job demand is projected to respond to the slowdown in economic activity, but before employment decreases, vacancy rates and labour shortages are anticipated to decline considerably. Thus, it is anticipated that the unemployment rate would only slightly rise from a historically low annual average of 6.2% in 2022 to 6.5% in 2023 and then again to 6.4% in 2024. In 2022, wage growth climbed above normal rates according to EU data. Despite additional steps implemented to lessen the effect of rising energy prices on consumers and businesses, strong nominal growth in the first three quarters of the year and the phase-out of pandemic-related support are driving a further reduction of government deficits in 2022.

DEFICITS DECLINING BUT FINANCIAL SUSTAINABILITY IS A CONCERN

The general government deficit in the EU is anticipated to decrease by more than one percentage point in 2022 after decreasing to 4.6% of GDP in 2021. The 2023 aggregate general government deficit for the EU is expected to rise once more, but only by about 0.2 percentage points to 3.6% of GDP, as economic activity weakens, interest spending rises, and governments expand or introduce new discretionary measures to mitigate the impact of high energy prices. The IMF has recently recommended keeping energyrelated support temporary to contain fiscal costs. The Fund has argued that compared with price interventions, a better option is to support lowand middle-income households through lumpsum rebates on their energy bills.

COORDINATION REQUIRED TO ADDRESS CHALLENGES

Europe welcomes 2023 facing a significant conundrum. While established economic and

monetary policy provides for the increasing interest rates solution to counter inflation, with the latter being caused by external sources, the traditional solution might not work out appropriately. Some have warned that increasing interest rates will threaten recovery. Private consumption will continue to be negatively impacted by high inflation, and investment expenditure will be constrained by higher borrowing rates. Europe will also be affected by slower growth in the US, where monetary policy is becoming tighter, and in China, where zero-covid policies are still in place.

These challenges, therefore, mean that the European economy will face significant challenges in 2023. As a result, policymakers have pushed for the steady implementation of reforms that enhance productivity, relieve supply constraints in energy and job markets, and expand economic capacity remains essential to raise growth and ease price pressures over the medium term. This includes accelerating the implementation of the Next Generation EU programme, a 700 billion euro economic recovery package.

In its 2023 European Semester cycle of economic policy coordination, the Commission has called for coordinated action to secure adequate and affordable energy supply, safeguard economic and financial stability, and protect vulnerable households and companies while preserving the sustainability of public finances. At the same time, rapid action is needed to boost potential growth and quality job creation and deliver on the green and digital transitions.

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MMXXII

Each year has its events that leave a mark for years to come and this year is no different though some will linger more than others and their consequences felt for years to come.

GEOPOLITICAL STORY
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2022 is a year that will give historians and people in general much to discuss with reverberations of what happened to be felt for a long time.

From the Russian invasion of Ukraine to the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Of the major political developments in the year, the political chaos that stood out the most was that in the UK.

The political turmoil saw the demise of various Prime Ministers in quick succession starting with Theresa May then Boris Johnson followed by Liz Truss and finally finding some stability with Rishi Sunak.

Italy on the other hand witnessed the election of Giorgia Meloni as the country’s first woman Prime Minister and also the first from a far-right party to reach the helm of government since the end of World War II. Meloni might have been the first woman to take the helm in Italy but not in Europe which witnessed various countries with women at the helm.

The prime ministers from Denmark, Finland and Iceland are all women.

Other countries where women hold high positions of power in Europe include Moldova, Estonia, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Kosovo, Lithuania, and Serbia.

The two most powerful positions in the European Union are in the hands of women too: Ursula Von Der Leyen at the helm of the European Commission and Roberta Metsola at the European Parliament with the latter being elected after the sudden death of David Sassoli.

2022 was also the year that saw the demise of the world’s most recognisable woman leader: Queen Elizabeth II. A death that consequently brought the succession to the British throne of King Charles. A succession that also saw the feud between Prince Harry and his wife Meghan aggravate namely through various interventions in the media with the Netflix documentary.

Every year would have its notable death but this year, that of the last Soviet leader had more of an impact than it would have had in normal circumstances due to the conflict in Ukraine.

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Also, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian terrorist who became the 2nd Emir of al-Qaeda after Osama bin Laden’s death in 2011, was killed in an airstrike in Kabul, Afghanistan conducted by the USA.

2022 marked many prominent deaths apart from that of Queen Elizabeth and Gorbachev. There were the deaths of world leaders Shinzo Abe, and Jiang Zemin, as well as entertainers Bob Saget, Sidney Poitier, Olivia NewtonJohn, Jean-Luc Godard, Angela Lansbury, and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Before Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral in September, thousands of people travelled to London to pay their respects and see Her Majesty’s coffin lying in state in Westminster Hall, so much so that ‘The Queue’ became a thing and at its peak, the wait time to see the Queen lie in the state was more than 24 hours, and the maximum length was ten miles.

This year is likely to be the second-highest year for mass shootings in the United States on record, according to data compiled by the Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit that tracks gun violence incidents across the United States.

There have been at least 607 mass shootings till November this year. That’s just short of the 638 mass shootings in the country at this point last year – the worst year on record since the group began tracking them in 2014. It was the year that also finally saw the coronavirus, with all its variations, finally be brought under control thanks to the global rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, which began at the end of 2020.

The ongoing repercussions of the global pandemic and its impact on the economy, the IT industry and the channel continued to be felt and we’re aggravated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

A series of severe heatwaves from July to August hit Europe, causing at least 53,000 deaths and additionally causing major wildfires, travel disruption, and record-high temperatures in many countries.

The UN COP27 summit held later in the year in Cairo Egypt was heavily criticized for lacking to come up with substantial measures to reign in climate change.

The year that has come to an end might have also set the pace for another political event whose ramifications will continue for the next year…the announcement that Donald Trump intends to contest the next American presidential election in 2024.

Trump announced his third straight presidential bid, in an extremely rare attempt by a former US leader to recapture the White House after losing an election. An announcement that came as no surprise to many but one that came as the squabbles about his defeat in 2020 still linger.

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Ukraine will emerge victorious but Europe needs to help more

Ukraine had Europe’s backing ever since the Russian invasion of its territory. For the European Union, Ukraine and Ukrainians are part of the wide European family. War in Ukraine is a threat to our collective security. Besides the strong condemnation of Russia’s activities, the European Union has been at the forefront to offer a constant flow of political, financial and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. It has also implemented a set of strong sanctions against Russia in an effort to thwart and repel the invasion.

FACTUAL STORY
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TheFactual.eu meets with MEP Riho Terras (EPP Group) who is a member of the Delegation to the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Association Committee and a former General and Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces from 2011 to 2018.

Since the onset of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, several European politicians have travelled to Ukraine to get first-hand insight into the developing situation in the region. But few MEPs know the region – and indeed the battlefield – better than MEP Riho Terras, who prior to his election served as a General and a Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces after an extensive experience in the military.

Given his political and military background, we ask Mr Terras whether he was surprised when Russia invaded Ukraine despite having previously rejected such claims. The Estonian MEP replied with a decisive “Not at all”, insisting that war has been coming for eight years since the invasion of Crimea. While the rest of Europe was looking the other way, Baltic countries, particularly Estonia, were very much aware of what was going on close to their borders and had already escalated preparation on their territories and support to Ukraine, he notes.

“I was there, in Donetsk, on 20th February 2022. I could look into the eyes of the Russians, less than 500 metres away. It was clear that a war was coming”, the MEP explains, adding that he made sure that he used his presence on Ukrainian territory to provide first-hand

Since the onset of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, several European politicians have travelled to Ukraine to get firsthand insight into the developing situation in the region. But few MEPs know the region – and indeed the battlefield – better than MEP Riho Terras, who prior to his election served as a General and a Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces after an extensive experience in the military.

information to his colleagues in the European Parliament.

Europe was caught unawares, the MEP says, adding that it was not listening carefully to what the Baltics had to say. European leaders were perhaps too comfortable with the status quo, purchasing energy from Russia, and maintaining diplomatic relations with Vladimir Putin.

“It was clear to me that the Russians weren’t only after Donestk and Luhansk. They wanted Kiev. They wanted a change in the country’s government. Such a strategic objective was not achievable merely by taking the Donbass”, adds Mr Terras, who had made such an assertion already in January, weeks before the first shots were fired.

Evidence of Russia’s imperialistic desires is visible wherever you look since Putin came to power, with Terras suggesting that all the warring efforts undertaken by the Russian President, in Grozny, Sevastopol, Aleppo or Mariupol were all parts of the same pattern, of one wide strategy.

Our engaging discussion moves on to the war itself, as we seek Mr Terras’ views on the resilience shown by the Ukrainians defending their lends. As a General with military experience, the Ukrainian response was to be expected: “In 2014 (when Russia invaded Crimea) the Ukrainian army was not ready, but in eight years it moved ahead significantly. With the support of its allies, it was able to train its soldiers and invest in modern technology while sending its top brass to study abroad. In eight years, Ukraine’s colonels became generals at US institutions”.

Mr Terras shares some key military insight, telling us that to win a war, three factors are needed. The first is the will to fight, and in this sense, he lauds President Zelensky for his ability to rally the nation behind the idea of an independent Ukraine. The second is the

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support of a nation’s allies – not solely financial and military, which are both fundamental –but more importantly in their attitude. Here again, he feels that the Ukrainians achieved the respect of the international community by resisting the temptation to attack the Russian troops before the invasion. The third element is having an excellent logistics operation in place – and in this sense, Terras believes the Ukrainians are ages ahead of the invaders.

Our discussion revolves once again around the EU’s role, and although the MEP had previously expressed disappointment towards the pre-war approach towards Russia, he lauds European efforts since the war started. “Granting EU-candidate status to Ukraine was a very important step forward showing the complete support of the EU towards the country”, he adds, while

expressing hope that Ukraine’s request for consideration as a NATO candidate country is also green-lighted at the earliest.

“The European Union, including the European Parliament, have already done a lot – but we can still do more. We have to keep supporting Ukraine and sanctioning Russia”, Terras suggests. The MEP, who ironically is himself sanctioned by Russia for his proUkrainian efforts calls for the sanctioning of other Russian entities including banks and nuclear energy providers. “Some countries can do more – Estonia has provided the same defence equipment as France, a much larger country. We need to increase this support. It is surgical, training and intelligence support which changes the course of war”.

Although the war in Ukraine is the focus of European efforts a number of MEPs have

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begun to look forward beyond the end of the fighting. Terras is, in line with the centre-right EPP Group, one of the MEPs pushing for a strong European defence policy, backed up by a Commissioner for defence. “But more importantly we need to invest more in defence. There is a major, old-fashioned war in our backyard and still many EU countries are hesitant to increase their military budget”. He also calls on for consolidation and cooperation in the European defence industry: “Currently three different conglomerates are working on the design of new, modern warn tanks. Europe is too small in a military context to have such fragmentation”, he argues.

A cursory look at Estonian politicians engaging Twitter feeds one could not miss his concern at the news that thousands of Russian military-aged men are escaping the country. While the Western general media has generally portrayed such scenes as a demonstration of anti-Putin sentiment, Terras disagrees. “These men are not running away because they are anti-war. They are running away because they don’t want to die. If they are truly against the war, they should be showing that in Moscow or St Petersburg”.

Terras has expressed concern about the potential impact of many young Russian men in Europe, and he has an added reason for this: “Putin could have simply closed off the borders. But he didn’t. That in itself, says a lot” he adds, calling on European leaders to stop this massive influx of Russians into the continent.

Concluding the exchange, we ask Terras whether an end is in sight for this longdrawn war. Terras, who calls Putin’s bluff on using tactical nuclear weapons at least at this stage – believes the Ukrainians will eventually emerge victorious. “Putin will eventually call for a cease-fire”, he claims, adding that Ukraine’s tenacity will propel the nation to reconquer the land it had prior to the 24th of February”.

Expecting his prediction to end there, Terras leaves us with a shocker: “Both sides will be ready to go again, come next February”, in a clear suggestion that war will be part of our daily vocabulary for a long time ahead.

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EU.Review

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

EP recognises Russia as state sponsor of terrorism

The European Parliament has adopted a resolution recognising Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. MEPs highlighted that the deliberate attacks and atrocities committed by Russian forces and their proxies against civilians in Ukraine, the destruction of civilian infrastructure and other serious violations of international and humanitarian law amount to acts of terror and constitute war crimes. In light of this, they recognise Russia as a state sponsor

of terrorism and as a state that “uses means of terrorism”.

As the EU currently cannot officially designate states as sponsors of terrorism, Parliament further called on the EU and its member states to put in place the proper legal framework and consider adding Russia to such a list. This would trigger a number of significant restrictive measures against Moscow and have profound restrictive implications for EU relations with Russia.

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In parallel, the European Parliament also called on Council to include the Russian paramilitary organisation ‘the Wagner Group’, the 141st Special Motorized Regiment, also known as the “Kadyrovites”, and other Russian-funded armed groups, militias and proxies, on the EU’s terrorist list.

GENDER ISSUES

EC announces harmonized number for victims of violence against women

The European Commission has announced an EUwide harmonised number for helplines for victims of violence against women – 116 016. Women who are victims of violence will be able to call the same number across the EU to get advice and support. So far, 15 Member States have committed to connecting their existing helpline for victims of violence against women to this number. The deadline for Member States to reserve the common EU number to connect to national helplines is the end of April 2023. Earlier this year, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a directive to combat violence against women and domestic violence. The proposal aims to ensure that the most serious forms of violence against women are criminalised across the EU, such as rape, female genital mutilation and gender-based cyber violence, including cyberstalking and nonconsensual sharing of intimate images.

HEALTH

New EU Global Health Strategy launched

The European Commission has adopted a new EU Global Health Strategy to improve global health security and deliver better health for all in a changing world. With the Strategy, the EU deepens its leadership and reasserts its responsibility for tackling key global challenges and health inequalities headon: the unfinished agenda in global health and combatting health threats in the age of pandemics. The Strategy positions global health as an essential pillar of EU external policy, a critical sector geopolitically and central to EU strategic autonomy. It promotes sustainable, meaningful partnerships of equals drawing on the Global Gateway. As the external dimension of the European Health Union, the strategy is designed to guide EU action for ensuring better preparedness and response to health threats in a seamless way.

The Strategy puts forward three key interrelated priorities in dealing with global health challenges: to deliver better health and well-being of people across the life course; to strengthen health systems and advance universal health coverage and to prevent and combat health threats, including pandemics, applying a One Health approach.

INTERNAL AFFAIRS Council and EP agree on a directive to improve information exchange between law enforcement authorities

The Council Presidency and the European Parliament have reached a provisional agreement on an information exchange directive. The agreed text is subject to approval by the Council and the European Parliament before undergoing the formal adoption procedure.

This text will regulate the organisational and procedural aspects of information exchange between law enforcement authorities, contributing to making it more efficient. It will ensure law enforcement authorities have equal access to information available in other member states and avoid the proliferation of communication channels used to exchange information.

Member states will have a single point of contact (SPOC), which will be operational 24/7, for information exchange with other EU countries. In urgent cases, the requested information should be made available within eight hours if it is contained in a database that is directly accessible to the SPOC or law enforcement authorities, and within three days if the SPOC or law enforcement authorities can obtain it from other public authorities or private parties. For all other requests, the information should be made available within seven days.

In addition, member states should assess on a case-by-case basis whether they should also send a copy of the information to Europol. The Secure Information Exchange Network Application (SIENA), managed by Europol, will become the default channel of communication.

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Over a Coffee with Abigail Barbara

After years of therapy and research, ABIGAIL BARBARA’s path to selfgrowth and awareness led her to understand that the more she knew herself, the freer she felt to accept herself authentically. “I realised that being authentic, at work, in relationships, and with myself, helped me experience peace and clarity. Now I help others become better versions of themselves.”

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Tell us a bit about your journey so far. What led you to become a life coach?

As a child, I dreamt of becoming a journalist. I pursued my studies in Communications and Psychology but over time, I got to know myself more and realised that I am more inclined towards observing and studying human behaviour. After I graduated, I took a job in sales which gave me some financial independence whilst I continued aspiring for a role in journalism. My job, however, was helping me overcome my introverted nature which eventually helped me thrive and moved up in my sales career. I still felt a need to explore who I was and adjust the way I managed situations to continue growing in my career. I learned about building strong boundaries, being assertive and recognising excessive people-pleasing. I started to do therapy and coaching both personally and for work. I read a lot of self-help books, and articles to research human behaviour deeper. When I moved to management positions, I would spend hours studying and researching the best ways to manage my teams, the best sales training I could give them and learning effective leadership.

A year and a half ago, I followed a life coaching course. At the same time, I chose a sales career move and moved to Dubai. However, the fast-paced life I was living there turned out to be a wake-up call because there, I lost the balance I had worked so hard to find. I stopped to assess my life only to find out that my life was not aligned with who I wanted to be. I needed purpose. So, I moved back to Malta, finished my life coach certification, and started my practice. What I had been doing with my sales teams, with close friends and family became my full-time job.

How do you like describing yourself?

I like to describe myself as an extroverted introvert! Whilst I seek peace, quiet and alone time, I am also sociable especially if I am around the right people and in the right

setting. I love travelling both with company and alone, but I have to admit that some of my best trips were solo travels. I love long walks with my dogs, listening to podcasts and reading. I always seek to learn more, and I constantly challenge myself to spend more time with my thoughts. I love routine especially in the morning as I always start my day with meditation, followed by a coffee and a walk with my dogs. I go to the gym daily because

I believe that the connection between mind and body needs to be nurtured. Keeping fit and healthy helps me to learn to better listen to my body.

You describe yourself as “a life coach with a passion for empowering people to navigate through the journey of life.” What was the biggest challenge you faced when you first started?

My biggest challenge was letting go of the ‘salesperson’ in me and creating my life coach identity. My biggest challenge was fear of failure. The years I spent working in sales gave me security and confidence in my success. Identifying as a life coach meant that I had to restart from scratch and face again all the initial fear and insecurity. I had to relearn to accept myself authentically again. Today, growth continues to be my primary driving force and I face my fears by talking to myself to let these fears go. This helps me accept to stay in the present.

Who are the people who typically seek your guidance and support and what is mostly making people seek support lately?

I mostly collaborate with women aged between 25 – 50; women who feel the need for a push in their lives to make better decisions or who need to understand why they repeat a specific behaviour. I help them get ‘unstuck’ so that they can feel more empowered to achieve the success they are after. I focus on career success, relationships, self-love, and health & fitness mainly because these fields

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are close to home for me. I worked so much on myself that now, I am in for helping other women who are struggling with similar battles.

Can you recall some of the most challenging situations that you have had to support your clients with? How did you assist them?

It is particularly challenging whenever I assist someone going through suffering when positivity seems close to impossible, when every answer is negative, and a solution seems unreachable. For someone like me who by nature is a problem solver, this can be quite challenging. More often than not, it is a matter of taking a few steps back, breathing and staying present with the problem at hand. Sometimes it is not about finding the solution, but about embracing the problem and looking at it from a perspective of surrender. I help clients accept the pain, embrace it, find ways to move forward and slowly let go of what would be causing that pain.

Many people tend to seek guidance from the closest people in their life. How can a life coach do it better in your opinion?

Whereas it is important to surround ourselves with people who genuinely want the best for us and who can support us, their advice, most times, will be biased. As individuals, we need objective advice. By nature, people tend to project their fears onto others so even if they mean well, and even if their advice may come from a place of love and care, sometimes it will not be the best advice.

that I can clear my mind from anything that might be going on in my life and from other sessions done during the day. I do my best to listen without judgement and bias helping with kindness and compassion.

What do you think gives people ‘purpose’? What leads people to lose their purpose and how can they find it again?

As a life coach, you spend time becoming deeply aware of yourself and your fears and you learn to disassociate yourself from the client’s situation. Not being close to the client, enables me to pass an objective judgement based on the information fed by the client. All this requires clarity of mind and spirit. This is why I opt for breaks between sessions so

I believe that our purpose is to make sure we grow spiritually. I view personal purpose as the growth of the soul. We find purpose when we discover who we are at our core, and this can only be achieved when we shift our focus to the inside and build enough selflove and awareness so that everything we do aligns with who we truly are. That is our purpose.

Sometimes and inevitably, external factors such as a tragedy, a toxic relationship, sickness, and other negative circumstances,

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come into our lives and we start identifying through them. They influence and slow us in our personal growth, and we lose purpose because we create a false identity around them. The way forward is to embrace these circumstances, to hold that pain and recognize it, but ultimately to remember and hang on to who our soul is and what really defines it. This requires a lot of courage, vulnerability, and self-awareness.

And what about the support needs of the life coach? From where do you get guidance and support when you need it most?

I interact with a lot of coaching communities and there is an amazing online presence of coaches around the world with whom one can run sessions and talk to. But my biggest support is my personal therapy sessions. I advocate for the importance of constant therapy because anybody can benefit from it, without the need to be going through specific traumas. Therapy helps us become vulnerable in a safe space, to share moments and situations with someone who can guide us without bias. It

SOME QUICK-FIRE QUESTIONS

Date and place of birth: 26th November 1988, Pieta Malta

Where do you live? I currently live in Nadur Gozo

helps to understand who you are at the very core and build self-awareness and self-love.

Therapy keeps us grounded and in touch with ourselves. This is important because as life coaches, we tend to take in too much and certain life circumstances pull us down together with the weight and energy that we are taking in, or that we give to others. So, I make it a point to never skip my own therapy sessions!

How does it make you feel knowing that you could be inspiring others to lead a better and more fulfilling life?

I am proud to have found my purpose in life. As I got to know myself better, I realised that growth and contribution are two of my core needs. I experience fulfilment and inner peace every time I share with others the discoveries I would have made. So many people are afraid to show their real selves. So, seeing realisation tears or a massive smile on my clients’ faces and knowing that I am helping them discover their inner beauty is a source of great fulfilment. It drives me to keep doing what I do and helps me continue becoming the best version of myself.

Three passions in life are... Growth and continuous self-development, amazing food and travelling the world

What inspires you the most? How the universe works, when you put in the work and when you watch the magic happen

Which is the place that gives you the best sense of peace? When I am sat down at some random small coffee shop with my book and a nice coffee. If the sun is shining, even better!

If you could erase three global human traits, what would they be? Hate, Envy, Cruelty

Favourite destination? Spain

Favourite Food? Authentic carbonara

Favourite Music? Commercial music I sing along to on the radio; I also appreciate jazz and instrumental music

Favourite Colour? Emerald Green

Your next bucket list item to tick off is going to be... Explore South America

CULTURE AND ARTS
Attard With New Solo Exhibition Themed “Off-Kilter” “Art and Illustration Are Powerful Tools to Communicate Strong Messages” Corporate
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Illustration artist Marisa Attard is hosting a new solo exhibition of her inimitable characters at Gallery 23 in Balzan. The exhibition, themed Off-Kilter (Whacky, Weird and Wonderful), opened on the 25th of November and will remain open till the 11th of December.

Speaking about her work, Marisa explains how she applies collage in her art to imply the multi-layered meaning of her paintings.

“I prefer to invite the viewer to interpret them as they wish, to just enjoy the humorous side, or take it a notch deeper. No hard and fast rules. I sometimes refer to my paintings as fun art as opposed to fine art because I like to elicit smiles.”

“However, life is also messy and multi-layered, so I feel the need to express this through my art as well. I like to show the good, the bad

and the ugly and get people to question or think about what is going on around them. Art and illustration can be powerful tools to communicate strong messages,” adds Marisa.

Describing herself as an avid ‘peoplewatcher’, Marisa works through sketching and mental notes wherever she is.

“It could be on the beach, in a hospital or a doctor’s waiting room, whilst driving or at a social event like a wedding, I seek to highlight people in all their varied wonderfulness.”

“Off-kilter - the weird and whacky, the sad, the humorous, are people that inhabit my mind and it is truly a good thing that I can express myself and let them out onto paper or canvas through my art. My art is cathartic. It is my voice,” concluded Marisa.

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Liquigas delivers more than 8 million cylinders filled by Gasco Energy Ltd in past decade of operations

During the last ten years of operations, Gasco Energy Ltd, the operator of the leading LPG facility in Malta, has filled more than 8.5 million green cylinders owned and distributed by Liquigas.

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Gasco Energy Ltd started operating its €25 million facility in Bengħajsa ten years ago. This facility includes a marine importation terminal and a storage capacity of 4,800 metric tons of LPG, guaranteeing security of supply of cylinders and bulk to the domestic, commercial and industrial markets. The reliability of Gasco Energy’s capability revolves around the availability of two automatic cylinder filling plants capable of filling 2,000 cylinders per hour thus ensuring uninterrupted supply of cylinders even in the peak winter months. Each cylinder filling plant is equipped with state-of-the-art testing equipment to test each cylinder after filling to ensure their safe use by consumer, in full observance of the highest European and international standards.

In recent weeks, Gasco has recertified its primary storage tanks in line with international standards with an investment in excess of €600,000. These works were completed without any disruption to gas supply and will ensure the high-level safety of the tanks for the next decade of service.

Liquigas, today a household name of LPG gas cylinders, synonymous with the green gas cylinders, has in parallel to Gasco’s efforts invested in an efficient cylinder distribution network that meets with the demands of the modern consumer. These include Order on Line, direct delivery system and fixed points of sale with extended opening hours.

Gas cylinders are a safe and cost-effective solution to heating, which remain popular among Maltese families for use with stoves and ovens, water heaters as well as for industrial requirements. Moreover, the use of gas is considered, even by the European Commission, as the cleanest form of fossil fuel, earning the label of transitional fuel in the continent’s drive towards a carbon neutral economy.

Paul Agius Delicata, Chief Executive Officer, Gasco Energy Ltd said: “The unfortunate geopolitical developments around our continent have re-affirmed the importance of a steady and secure source of energy supply. Gasco Energy’s investment over the past ten years puts households and businesses’ minds at rest that the country can fulfill their energy needs, in a safe and secure manner. In parallel, Liquigas’ upholding of the highest standards in the market ensures that consumers are able to access a safe and cost-effective solution to their energy needs”.

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MDB launches two favourable financing schemes to facilitate €180 investment in economy

The Malta Development Bank (MDB) has launched two new schemes offering favourable financing to businesses which will facilitate investment of up to €180 million in the Maltese economy. The new schemes were announced by Prime Minister Dr Robert Abela during the inauguration of the new building of the Malta Development Bank on the occasion of the fifth anniversary from the establishment of the same Bank.

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Photo:
DOI
- Omar Camilleri

These schemes will offer advantageous financing rates to Maltese businesses, backing economic regeneration at a time of unprecedented challenges. These schemes will be operated through commercial banks with the support of the Pan-European Guarantee Fund (EGF) of the European Investment Fund.

TWO SCHEMES FOR THE DIFFERENT NEEDS OF MALTESE BUSINESS

The first scheme, the SME Guarantee Scheme (SGS) will facilitate SME access to bank loans so that these are able to continue to invest in their business. The companies will be able to secure loans of up to €750,000 with the MDB providing a guarantee reaching 80% of this financing. In total, the scheme carries a total of €80 million. Moreover, in collaboration with MCST through the Go-to-Market scheme, part of the SGS portfolio will be specifically allocated to start-ups willing to commercialise their technological and innovative ideas.

The second scheme is the Guaranteed CoLending Scheme (GCLS). In this scheme, the MDB will provide directly half of the requested loan, with the commercial banks covering the other half. At the same time, the MDB will cover 60% of the risk carried by the commercial bank. This scheme is targeted to support larger projects exceeding €750,000. This scheme carries a total allocation of €100 million, half by the MDB and the rest by the commercial banks. Dr Abela said that the objective of Government is to continuously support industry, businesses and jobs. He recalled how during the pandemic the MDB was instrumental in strengthening market confidence through guarantees issued by Government. “As a Government, we put entrepreneurs’ mind at rest that should liquidity be required to cover wages, bills and other expenses, the Malta Development Bank would be there to assist and facilitate”.

MDB Chairman Prof Josef Bonnici explained how the MDB introduced a new form of financial intermediation by addressing gaps in the credit market. “The main objective of this institution is to be of support to the economic and social development of the country by working hand in hand with commercial banks and with other strategic entities to address the main obstacles faced by SMEs when seeking to secure financing”.

He expressed his gratitude and appreciation towards all those persons who throughout the past five years worked to transform the idea of a development bank into a reality and to elevate the MDB as the highly-reputable institution it is today.

MDB CEO Paul V. Azzopardi said that in a relatively short period of five years, the MDB reached over 700 businesses which employ some 40,000 persons, and almost 400 students, providing guarantees exceeding €600 million.

Mr Azzopardi added how the financing supported by the MDB currently contributes to around 13% of all outstanding loans towards Maltese businesses. The most visible impact was during the pandemic where business loans increased by 9%, while the lack of MDB support would have resulted in loans to decrease by 2.5%.

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MEA proposes 13 solutions to address skill shortages after extensive stakeholder consultation

The Malta Employers Association has put forward thirteen concrete solutions to address the current skills shortages affecting Maltese industry.

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MEA President Joanne Bondin explained how “we are currently experiencing a lack of human resources across the board. It is a constant challenge for employers to find employees with the right skills and qualifications to the extent that it is raising concerns about business continuity and competitiveness. To overcome this serious predicament, we need to focus on becoming more efficient and innovative in our business models and operations whilst addressing the social and economic needs of our country”.

MEA Director-General Joseph Farrugia opened the Forum, arguing that “while lack of skills is a global challenge, there are specific issues for Malta, including a low birth rate and a high percentage of young people opting or willing to leave for good. We need to design incentives to retain labour, while at the same time having a clear economic direction for the country. We are here to channel our recommendations towards a sustained growth based on skills, innovation and economic transformation”.

In a recent survey conducted by the MEA, 53% of respondents claimed that the current situation was exerting a significant impact on their business including serious disruption on their operations and stretched out resources. A further 12% responded that the impact on their business was “severe” to the extent that business continuity was severely at risk. Workers’ new priorities in favour of flexible work arrangements, particularly post-pandemic further exacerbate the challenge ahead for employers.

The MEA’s 13 recommendations emerged from extensive research, focus groups and consultation with a wide array of economic stakeholders, including industry leaders, entrepreneurs and officials from government authorities and agencies. Today’s SME National Forum 2022 entitled Ensuring the Skills for Future Competitiveness, served to debate the recommendations with a view to strengthening the MEA’s call for action. These include a call for capitalising on digital skills, investing in training and mentorship, a better connection between academia and industry, the prioritisation of risk assessment and the strengthening of good governance among others.

Many stakeholders addressing the Forum highlighted the 13 recommendations put forward by the MEA and called on the authorities to implement the recommendations as soon as practically possible to ensure the smooth functioning of the labour market now and in the years to come. In view of this positive feedback, in closing the event, Ms Joanne Bondin called on all stakeholders towards a concerted national effort and use the MEA as a facilitator to take forward these recommendations.

The MEA will be producing a report featuring today’s event and the entire consultation process to be presented to the authorities in its efforts to ensure that its recommendations are translated into action.

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YOUR PURPOSE IS YOUR BIGGEST ASSET

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