Malta Business Review Issue 77

Page 1





PROVIDING A FRAMEWORK ON INVESTMENT SCREENING Interview with Bethany Magro, Cheif Operations Officer, Malta FDI Screening Office p.06

GENERATING A POSITIVE IMPACT Interview with CEO Javier Moreno on the occasion of MAPFRE Middlesea’s 40th anniversary p.16

HELPING, CREATING & PROVIDING Interview with Mark Molnar, CEO & Founder of Let by Mark, winners of the Best Letting Agent of the Year Award 2021 p.18

HOW COVID-19 HAS CHANGED LEADERSHIP FOREVER Tiger Tyagarajan, CEO of Genpact, provides an insightful piece on leadership p.24

ISSUE 77 | 2021

Newspaper Post

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Together we thrive


Malta Business Review


ew systems enabling clients establish up to three levels of N payment authorisation.


Interview with Diana Kinnert, German activist and author.


How data, technology and collaboration are reshaping risk.



e find out latest developments about the financial industry W and insurers are constantly faced with the complicated task of finding viable assets.



I nterview with Bethany Magro, Chief Operations Officer, Malta FDI Screening Office


I nterview with CEO Javier Moreno on the occasion of MAPFRE Middlesea’s 40th anniversary.






Interview with Mark Molnar, CEO & Founder of Let Buy Mark, winners of the Best Letting Agent of the Year Award 2021.


T he automotive world is undergoing a revolution, where electrification, new mobility trends and environmental awareness are driving cars into a whole new era.


T iger Tyagarajan, CEO of Genpact, provides an insightful piece on leadership.


itcoin becomes recognised as an official currency, growing by B leaps and bounds.



espite COVID-19 disruptions, Africa’s malaria programs have D kept up lifesaving malaria control and treatment efforts.



I n our climate change series, we provide information about how ecosystem effects on oceans’ top predators, such as pelagic sharks and tunas.

Malta Business Review

E D I TO R I A L I decided to share my September MBR editorial with my friends and colleagues who follow me on Facebook.... Where did all this hate speech and malicious remarks come from? I was on Facebook reading some comments made by local Maltese Facebook users and my jaw dropped wide open upon reading rude, offensive, and hateful remarks and statements, which clearly indicates there is a huge section of Maltese people who are either uneducated, who are being misinformed, and fed up lies and deceitful, malicious propaganda.


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George Carol; Paul Dallison; Stephen Collinson; Caitlin Hu; Diana Kinnert; Abigail Mamo; Profs David Sims; Tiger Tyagarajanto; Martin Vella; David Walsh


DOI; European Parliament Information Office in Malta; European Parliament, Directorate- General for Communication/Press Office; Euronews Living; European Court of Auditors; FIMBank; GOPAcom/ ESP/EC; HSBC; LinkedIn; Malta Employers; POLITICO SPRL; Politico Playbook; PTV Group; Single Resolution Board


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Do such individuals have the right to propagate their odious ideology via the internet? Legal issues in the virtual world - Who is responsible for online hate speech and what legislation exists that can be applied to react, counter or punish forms of hate speech online? Free speech is a vital human right, it is the cornerstone of any democracy. So any kind of restrictions on free speech must remain an exception. On the other hand, hate speech can have dreadful consequences that violate the rights of other people, in some cases leading up to hateful and violent action. The question of how to balance freedom of expression with the need to prohibit hate speech is especially important and difficult in the virtual world of the Internet, where all information spreads as quickly and easily as never before. The meaning behind hate speech is not as self-evident as it may seem. Posting malicious online comments that insult a person or a group of people might seem hateful, but it is not the function of hate speech regulations to protect against hurt feelings. Even the European Court of Human Rights has recognized the right of individuals to “offend, shock or disturb” others. So most offensive speech is actually protected by the right to freedom of expression. On the other hand, the Court has also noted in its case law that “it may be considered necessary in certain democratic societies to sanction or even prevent all forms of expression which spread, incite, promote or justify hatred based on intolerance...”. Therefore there has to be a line drawn somewhere between where the “right to offend” other people ends and illegal hate speech starts. After examining all these different legislation and case laws, I have arrived at the position that online hate speech cannot be covered by the protective blanket of freedom of expression, but must be considered a crime. For tackling this criminal behaviour, we do not need more legislative norms, since the necessary framework already exists. The unification of the legislation would be useful, but it is too unlikely to be set as a goal since the roots of the differences go back to the culture and the constitutional law of the countries. INHOPE is the International Association of Internet Hotlines. Internet hotlines provide a mechanism for receiving complaints from the public about alleged illegal content on the Internet. Hotlines must have effective transparent procedures for dealing with complaints and need the support of government, industry, law enforcement, and Internet users in the countries of operation. INHOPE coordinates a network of Internet Hotlines all over the world, supporting them in responding to reports of illegal content. The International Network Against Cyber Hate (INACH) works to ‘counter and address all forms of online discrimination’ through a network of 18 organizations from different parts of the globe’. They have done significant work in collecting information from different countries, facilitating meetings and encouraging sharing of information as well as offering their own expertise on the issue of cyberhate What we need is a stronger commitment to implementing existing laws and a better understanding of the tools we have now. Given the global nature of the Internet, combating online extremism presents enormous difficulties, and it cannot be done only within the borders of individual countries. Therefore, international cooperation is essential, and the work of different international associations and networks should be encouraged. Attention should also be paid to educating people about the existing legislation and mechanisms for combating online hate speech so that each Internet user would be aware of the power they have to make a difference.

Martin Vella, Editor-in-Chief Malta Business Review’s editorial opinions are decided by its Editor, and besides reflecting the Editor’s opinion, are written to represent a fair and impartial representation of facts, events and provide a correct analysis of local and international news.


Malta Business Review



Investment Screening By George Carol

Interview with Bethany Magro, Chief Operations Officer, Malta FDI Screening Office 6


Malta Business Review

MBR: Will you highlight your role, the main function of the NFDIS, and key areas of focus?

MBR: How critical are the cases where notification is required and can you provide some statistics for our readers?

NFDIS: The Office is a regulatory office set up by government to implement Chapter 620 of the Laws of Malta. The Law came into force in October last year and stems from European Regulation 2019/452, establishing a framework for the screening of foreign direct investments in Member States.

NFDIS: Since the Office commenced the screening process in April 2020, it has only come across a handful of projects that could affect security and good order. So far, the Office has received over 1000 notifications for approval. Only 14 projects out of this total have undergone the screening process. Under the EU Screening mechanism, the Office analysed over 300 projects submitted by other Member States. In some cases, the Office provided comments and suggested appropriate measures to mitigate risks caused by certain foreign investments.

The Office analyses projects undertaken in Malta, carries out screening procedures and imposes mitigating measures and conditions as part of a screening decision in line with Board considerations and direction. Moreover, the Office acts as the contact point for direct cooperation and exchange of information with Member States and the European Commission, in particular DG Trade, which coordinates intra-European communication, and forms part of the Investment Screening Expert Group during which discussions on investment trends and best practices are exchanged. At the same time, the Office analyses projects submitted by other Member States for screening and provides comments on investments that would impact Malta’s security or public order. MBR: Can you provide an overview of the organisation’s structure, scope and strategy? NFDIS: The Office falls under the jurisdiction of Hon. Silvio Schembri, Minister for the Economy and Industry, and is governed by a Board made up of a Chairman, Mr Mario Galea and directors Mr Alfred Camilleri, Ms Nancy Caruana and Mr Joseph Farrugia. The scope and remit of the Office is to evaluate and screen foreign direct investments, originating from third countries, on grounds of security and public order. The purpose of the screening process is to protect European Union security and order in a wide sense including intelligence, knowledge, and technology. In fact, the Office plays an important role in cases where third-country investors seek to acquire control of European companies whose activities involve critical technologies, infrastructure, or access to sensitive information, therefore putting security or public order at risk. MBR: Will you discuss the screening process and its importance? NFDIS: Foreign investments that would affect any of the sensitive sectors listed in the Schedule to the Act, shall undergo the screening process. This process involves providing the Office information on the investment such as the value, detailed description of the activity in Malta and any operations undertaken in the EU, information on the investor, financials, and other information deemed necessary for a proper evaluation of the project. Due diligence on the companies or persons involved is carried out. Those projects undergoing screening are placed on the EU screening mechanism platform via a secure and encrypted system, to enable the authorities of other Member States to provide comments on such investments. Following considerations from the EU Screening mechanism, Malta would then take the final decision on investments. When certain investments are already regulated by other authorities in Malta, the opinion of such institutions is sought. This framework is important as it enables us to safeguard the security and public order of Malta by identifying and addressing security risks that may affect our country. MBR: What is the scope of the EU Screening Mechanism? NFDIS: The EU screening mechanism is a channel of exchange of information between Member States and the European Commission on anything concerning the investment screening framework, from investment trends, sharing of best practices to also raising specific concerns on foreign direct investment which may affect security or public order in more than one country and to suggest appropriate steps to address such concerns.

MBR: How do you define your relations with the EU, how do the regulations apply and current EU framework? NFDIS: The Office works closely with the European Commission and Member States. Prior to the Regulation, there was no similar framework on investment screening, therefore with this mechanism the Office has the opportunity to share and exchange information on foreign direct investments impacting security, exchange best practices and provide comments on specific cases to address any potential threats to Malta resulting from such projects. The legislation stems from the EU Regulation, so the Office applies the Regulation on foreign direct investments falling in any sector listed in the Schedule to the Act or in Article 4 of the Regulation. This list is an indicative list of factors that we take into account when assessing whether a foreign investment is likely to affect security or public order. The Office along with the list of factors considers the potential affects and circumstances of the foreign direct investment in Malta.

The Office has received over 1000 notifications for approval. Only 14 projects out of this total have undergone the screening process.

MBR: What exactly are the approvals and mitigating factors involved in your screening processes? NFDIS: Screening entails assessing an investment for approval, prohibition or otherwise unwinding of such investment if already carried out. The Board may also impose conditions as part of a screening decision to monitor the investment. In cases where concerns are present and mitigation of risks is not possible, investments are blocked or prohibited. MBR: How do you define the NFDIS culture and how critical is maintaining culture to the continued success of the organisation? NFDIS: The Office is for the time being a small team. We have so far adopted a culture of collaboration and empowerment. MBR: What are your key priorities and plans for the NFIDS as you look to the future? NFDIS: We look forward to strengthening further our relationship with all stakeholders concerned including our excellent relationship with the European Commission and EU counterparts. We also intend to continue working closely with local entities to ensure that while having an open investment environment, Malta’s reputation is protected and safeguarded. MBR


Malta Business Review


Michael Spavor, top right, and Michael Kovrig, right, were arrested after Meng Wanzhou, left


Meng Wanzhou: Huawei boss flies home to China as two Canadians are freed


Stephen Collinson and Caitlin Hu

hina wasn’t even pretending! The swift release of two Canadians after a diplomatic deal ended a standoff over Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, who faced extradition from Canada to the US, is a troubling sign of a new era of superpower confrontation. The Canadians were arrested on espionage charges in China shortly after Meng was detained in Vancouver in December 2018. She was hit with fraud charges on an American warrant in a case over alleged violations of US sanctions against Iran. As part of a complex deal with US authorities to defer prosecution – in which Meng pleaded not guilty but confirmed that she misrepresented Huawei's relationship with an Iranian subsidiary – Meng was released from house arrest and returned to China to a hero’s welcome. As she flew across the ocean, the two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, sped in the opposite direction. The apparent reciprocation ends the saga that strained relations between Canada and China, and Washington and Beijing. The denouement of the crisis did nothing to dispel the notion that the Canadians were arrested so they could be used as bargaining chips by China, despite Beijing’s repeated denials that the cases were related. (Chinese state media reports that they were both


released on bail for medical reasons after admitting to crimes in "handwritten confessions" -- but there has been no indication from the Canadian government that the men pleaded guilty.) And Meng’s welcome home — cloaked in nationalism and used as a propaganda tool to glorify President Xi Jinping -- underscored how his nationalistic government portrays disputes with other countries as an attempt by rivals to check China’s rightful rise to global power. To be fair, then-President Donald Trump didn’t help the situation while he was in office. Several times, he played into China’s claims that Meng’s arrest was a political move by implying he could use her as leverage as he sought a trade deal with Beijing. But Beijing’s message is clear. If Chinese firms fall foul of the Western legal system there will be consequences. That means governments must now balance the distasteful possibility of offering impunity to China’s vast business interests against the risk of exposing their own nationals to reprisals in China. It is a scenario that could chill business, cultural, media and personal exchanges between the US and China and deepen a dangerous Cold War mindset. MBR Courtesy: CNN’s Meanwhile in America



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... Leadership is now about putting people before profits. ... Leadership is now about being able to ask for help and saying "I don't know." ... Leadership is about helping other people become more successful than you. ... Leadership is about being in the arena with your team and getting away with murder under a system of impunity! ... Leadership is about having a vision for a better world and being able to build that vision with the people you work with for a less better world, yet greedier future! What kind of a leader are you and more importantly...what kind of a leader do you have the potential of becoming?


Leader By Martin Vella


hen I was much younger my late father worked assiduously in the Police Force, as a Senior Inspector, and then as an Assistant Commissioner, a vocation which he took extremely seriously, at times even sleeping in the local Police Station, until solving a murder or other serious crime, while my mother opted held firm to her strict Christian upbringing, toiling dearly at home. I remember so many instances of my Dad coming from work perturbed because of how he was treated by his "leaders" and never given the coveted position of Police Commissioner, he so deservedly worked for 44 years. It still makes me sick thinking about this. How could a person who is supposed to inspire, motivate, and engage you make you so upset and miserable that you come home worrying and concerned from work each day? How can such people possibly be in leadership roles...? Finally my mother said, "you should quit your job, no amount of money is worth this much unhappiness and stress." And so... he quit and went to on to manage an important leadership role as Head of Security in a renowned international factory, while coping with a depression and managing some family therapy. Later, he became one of the highest rated and most respected police officers in the 12

Corps and decorated with the highest honour in the land and awarded with the Gieh ir-Reppubblika medal. Although he never got what he really worked hard and honestly for!

Only 14% of organizations around the world have ready-now leaders who can step in to replace other leaders who retire or move on and a shocking 71% of organizations say their leaders are not ready to lead their organizations into the future (DDI). We need more future-ready leaders, people who are charismatic, inspire, lead, guide, enjoy trust, are credible, genuine leaders who do not lie or mislead, leaders who do not point the finger of blame and who are honest, sincere and committed to providing wealth and safeguarding democracy and freedom.

Leadership is not what it used to cannot be. It is no longer about making the most amount of money and commanding and controlling.

A true leader makes an effort to help develop their team's skills so they can reach their full potential. They lead by example and establish strong, trusting relationships to ensure success within the team and for the organization as a whole

… It's no longer about having all the answers.

5 Extremely Common Traits of True Leaders

... It's no longer about having the largest office with the nicest desk and the most number of ceiling tiles (this is how executives measured who had the larger office).

Leaders make difficult decisions decisively to share a clear vision.

Leaders are humble and recognize that they still have much to learn.

... It's no longer about sitting in your ivory tower and surrounding yourself with respectful, obedient, loyal and dedicated staff.

Leaders inspire trust and motivate others.

Leaders guide by example.

... It's no longer about hierarchy and enforcing the status quo.

Leaders present solutions and delegate responsibilities. MBR

A true leader serves. Serves people. Serves their best interests, and in doing so will not always be popular, may not always impress. But because true leaders are motivated by choosing concern over a desire for personal glory, they are willing to pay the price. – Eugene Habecker

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Malta Business Review


How to care for your hair and skin after summer


adly for some but thankful for others, the long hot summer days are coming to an end and we welcome some fresh breeze.

Sun, salt water and pool water can be tough on your hair and your skin, especially on your face and head. Many factors such as the high UV rays mixed with salt or pool water can quickly damage hair and it will feel straw like and brittle, while skin would have lost its moisture and looks dry. As always the best remedy is precaution is better than cure, but maybe you was too busy enjoying yourself and now it’s time to work on them, you can restore that shine in your hair and moisturize your skin to look your best once again and think of the winter elements, of which thankfully is short and not too hard on us !! Follow these simple tips for the most effective care.

Sun, salt water and pool water can be tough on your hair and your skin, especially on your face and head.


Our shampoo and conditioner can be used on a daily basis.

2. Take care of your skin on your face and your head:

Once again due to the UV rays, your skin loses its natural oils and the only way to help those natural oils is to apply our Beard Moisturiser which can be used all over the face and head. It can also be used on your arms and legs if needed and especially around your elbows. There are many moisturizing products out there for you to use, but our Beard Moisturiser (NOT BEARD OIL) has a manly scent which includes sandalwood (not a flower smell) and specifically made for our Maltese weather. How to apply: after you wash your skin apply a small amount (we do not want you to look like you are ready to go in a frying pan) and rub it on any area that is dry. This can also be used on a daily basis and mostly when the weather starts getting colder to protect your skin.

1. Take care of your cuticles:

The hair cuticle which is the outer layer of the hair shaft consists of overlapping cells. Its job is to protect the hair from environmental elements such as UV rays which will leave your hair looking brittle and dry. To strengthen that cuticle again, only one thing helps, use our shampoo to wash your hair (wash your hair once with the shampoo if you do not use any gels or waxes on your hair or twice with the shampoo if you do) after rinsing

the shampoo out completely use our conditioner and leave for 2 to 5 minutes or so before rinsing it out completely. You will immediately feel the difference in the texture of your hair no matter how long or short your hair is. This will also help with the dry skin and will avoid dandruff.

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Malta Business Review



Positive impact By Martin Vella

MBR: Mr Moreno, congratulations on MAPFRE Middlesea's 40th anniversary. It must have been one heck of a rollercoaster ride. Thanks for being willing to share some of the experiences and learnings. Did the first few months at the helm of the company meet your expectations? JM: I would have to say that my first few months as CEO at MAPFRE Middlesea definitely met my expectations – so far, it has been both challenging and exhilarating! The responsibilities are great, and the challenges being faced are even greater. Yet despite all of this, things have been going quite smoothly, thanks to the support of the Board of Directors and the 16

other Chief Officers whom I work alongside with. There is a true sense of teamwork amongst us, sharing the same values, all of which point to the same objective:always keeping the client at the centre of our focus. MBR: What started 40 years ago as the first local insurance company serving local corporation and finance, has now grown into a 2nd-generation, industry-leading organization serving clients all over Malta. Can you take us through a brief journey back in time and highlight the most significant milestones and accomplishments? JM: Middlesea Insurance p.l.c. was registered in 1981 as the first Maltese

insurance company transacting general business and in 1983 the company also started writing life business. In 1994, Middlesea was the first insurance company to be listed on the Malta Stock Exchange and founded Middlesea Valletta Life Assurance Co. Ltd (now MAPFRE MSV Life plc) in partnership with Bank of Valletta p.l.c., to focus solely on life business. In 2011,MAPFRE Internacional obtained a majority shareholding in Middlesea Insurance p.l.c., and as at that date the company became a member of the MAPFRE group. In 2015, Middlesea Insurance changed its name to MAPFRE Middlesea p.l.c. to be able to get the best


All MAPFRE Open Innovation initiatives operate under a single indicator: how many clients benefit from our innovations.

invaluable. It is because of our clients’ trust that we are considered to be the leader in our industry. Therefore, we owe it to them to continue working tirelessly in order to meet their expectations, and by doing so continue to be deserving of their trust. Moreover, and this goes without saying, I am grateful for having the opportunity to work with such a talented, dedicated and passionate group of employees. Without them, we would not be in the position we are in today. MBR: If you had to name just one thing during these forty years, what would you say is the key success factor so far? JM: I would say that it revolves around our ability, as a company, to retain our client base by continuously providing excellent services to them and adapting these services according to changing consumer trends. It always boils down to our clients. They have placed their trust in us, and we owe it to them to ensure that they remain happy, and above all else, protected. MBR: What is your main target segment and what was the transition you planned to focus on initially and gradually till the present?

Exclusive Interview with CEO Javier Moreno on the occasion of MAPFRE Middlesea’s 40th Anniversary.

from the MAPFRE global brand which is present in more than 40 countries, whilst retaining the local Middlesea brand. This is considered as being a natural transition from a local company into part of a global brand.

JM: MAPFRE has a long history of being an innovative company. Innovation is in its DNA and is one of its main drivers in boosting organic growth and pursuing its strategies. This permanently generates differential value propositions for clients, with a transversal and integral vision that means it can respond to business challenges. This has enabled MAPFRE to enjoy transformational leadership in markets as relevant as the Spanish market, which is extremely competitive and advanced in solutions and client services. We are a socially responsible business Group committed to our clients and to the environment. We believe that the development of our company must be accompanied by absolute respect for all the groups with which we interact. We aspire to contribute to the well-being of society, of which we are a part. MAPFRE is a company with a heart, whose pulse supports our social strength as an organization.

MBR: hat does the 40-year anniversary mean to you?

MBR: After 40 years, what would you say is the pillar behind the company’s growth and success?

JM: The 40-year anniversary means more to me than words can describe. 40 years is a long time… From an outsider’s perspective, it can be viewed as simply having been in business for 40 years. However, from our point of view, we see it as a period during which our customers continued placing their trust in us, which in itself is

JM: The pillar supporting our growth and success stems from our unfaltering determination to adhere to our values. This revolves around the company’s high degree of solvency, our integrity, our vocation for excellent service and innovation towards industry leadership, and our commitment to teamwork.

Malta Business Review

MBR: Insurers need to manage the feelings-side of financial services much better than they do today. Quite a few tend to forget that when they are going digital. Others are building hybrid solution of, for instance, chatbots and human experts. How do you secure the human side in a pure play such as MAPFRE Middlesea? JM: At MAPFRE, we have a strategic commitment to promote transformation focused on the client through alliances with different partners and the use of emerging technologies to develop disruptive solutions that generate a positive impact on our business and on society. All MAPFRE Open Innovation initiatives operate under a single indicator: how many clients benefit from our innovations. We place the client at the centre of everything we do. While we have embraced the digital era and do have a Chatbot of our own, we really just use it to address the more straight-forward queries that a client may have, such as questions about our opening hours or relevant contact details, for instance. As for scenarios which require a more sensitive and personal approach, our clients will always have the option to speak to a specialised agent upon request. These will always be more than happy to help our clients with whatever they require. MBR: Part of your initial business strategy was to identify what would remain important to your business—the nonnegotiables. Your core values, accuracy, consistency and exceptional customer service are non-negotiables MAPFRE Middlesea. How did you choose your core values and what impact have they made over the last 40 years? JM: These core values originate as part of the legacy of the company when it was a pioneer in the Maltese insurance industry. During this period the company formed a close bond with its consumer base, also involving an educational process of raising awareness of the importance of and benefits to be derived from being protected against what the future can bring. The company also developed a adre of very competent professionals and specialists who, through their interaction with the client, established an aura of trust. Over time, this legacy of the importance of ‘caring’ for the customer’s ultimate welfare and of professionalism – and therefore the reputation for being a trustworthy insurer - became ingrained in successive generations of employees, and established itself as a formal pillar of Middlesea’s value system. MBR


Malta Business Review


Helping, Creating & Providing By Martin Vella

Interview with Mark Molnar, CEO & Founder of Let Buy Mark, winners of the Best Letting Agent of the Year Award 2021 during Malta’s largest Real Estate and Property Development Awards organised by Dynamic Events Ltd.

Mark accepting the Award for Best Letting Agent of the Year from judge David Dingli

Mark Molnar Founder and CEO of Let Buy Mark Real Estate


Covid-19 is a digital accelerator and people are getting used to making quick decisions that directly influences success or failure.


Malta Business Review

MBR: How did you come up with the idea of launching Let Buy Mark? MM: From a business perspective I saw that there was more space for improvement within the industry, and from personal perspective, I wanted to help people reach their personal goals and become successful in their real estate career at Let Buy Mark. My aim was always to build a platform where people are able to reach their highest potential both on personal and a professional level. We started from 0 and we built a brand to today, all within four years, which shows that our concept works. Working in a team, gives you so much more possibilities and experience and it can create even better results. The greatest value when you work together, and with other talented people, is to create a team where everyone is strongly dedicated to share their values. They are all involved in building the next generation of Real Estate. MBR: What makes working with Let Buy Mark different and how does it benefit your letting agents? MM: We help our agents to reach their professional career growth, by developing their skills. We create a personalised financial and technical goal-oriented career plan. We offer ongoing support, guidance and training – the latter is bespoke to the team member.

Live link Q&A with Mark Molnar at the Malta Real Estate, Property Development & Architecture Awards held on the 6th of August 2021 at InterContinental Malta

We provide to all our company members a mental and physical balanced environment including yoga and meditation classes. The support and benefits we have provided to our agents has shown a significant improvement on our team meetings, solving problems and it also benefited them mentally, improved financial income, better client relationships, teamwork and thereby making their personal life be more positive. We have combined a joyful work environment with coaching. MBR: What do you see as the biggest challenge facing letting agents now, post Covid-19? MM: The Real Estate market is changing as everything else has changed in the last two years due to Covid-19. Our main challenge is how to digitalize the real estate market in the correct way and how to increase the quality of the services we offer. Covid-19 is a digital accelerator and people are getting used to making quick decisions that directly influences success or failure. This is why we are spending more time on digital analysis, improved quality of pur products, and more use of social media to interact and help our clients and investors. This focus helps us to create a multicriteria analysis on the current real estate market demand. MBR: Can you tell us about where the company is headed maybe over the next five to 10 years, and maybe some of the factors that are driving your growth strategy moving forward? MM: We are continuously working towards raising the standard of real estate and in doing so, to offer a 5-Star quality service. We are going to share more inhouse market analysis to assist people to get an even better and transparent overview of the market. In the coming years we are planning to expand the business with others who are sharing the same vision both in Malta and other international markets such as Dubai or/and Portugal. MBR: Your recently participated in Malta’s largest Real Estate and Property Development Awards 2021. What was you level of

involvement, and the experience of a live-link address, as well as what significance the success you achieved in these awards mean to you and your team? MM: The 6th of August was a very special day for our company for 3 reasons: • we had our 4th Year Anniversay, • the Grand Opening of our brand-new head quarter on Tower Road in Sliema • and Winning the Best Letting Agent of the Year Award 2021 at Malta’s largest Real Estate and Property Development Awards 2021 Show. Let Buy Mark was nominated in several categories among all other great companies, it was a surprise for us, however, we took this opportunity to present our company in front of the judges to represent what Let Buy Mark is all about with our achievements and we won! Thanks to the organizers, they made it possible for us to connect and follow the live event from our Headquarters. MBR: For you and your company right now, if you just had maybe one key takeaway that you'd want potential shareholders or current shareholders to know, what would that be? MM: I believe in quality and we are confident that what we are providing to the current Real Estate Market, is for our client’s future benefits, even if it is a big investment of time, knowledge and strategy. We believe in our vision, that how much you put into it, you receive back. What I would say to my potential Shareholders, is not to have fear in investing energy for what they believe in and if you do it with your heart, you will receive what you have cultivated. MBR


Malta Business Review


What's the future for personal cars?

The dashboard panel of Nissan's automated driving test vehicle shows the test vehicle detecting other car during a test drive in Tokyo, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015. – Copyright Eugene Hoshiko/AP


he dashboard panel of Nissan's automated driving test vehicle shows the test vehicle detecting other car during a test drive in Tokyo, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015.

automotive industry is increasingly moving away from conventional manufacturing to become high-tech players providing IT-based solutions.

The automotive world is undergoing a revolution, where electrification, new mobility trends and environmental awareness are driving cars into a whole new era.

But personal cars alone will not solve tomorrow's mobility challenges. They are part and parcel of multi-modal mobility strategies that include, in addition to public transport, disruptive modes such as bike and car-sharing or ride-hailing services.

Once seen as niche products, electric vehicles are now going mainstream, not least for their potential to curb oil use and greenhouse gas emissions. Europe leads the way in new electric vehicles sales with an annual growth rate of 60% from 2016 to 2020 and a total market share of 10%, according to Pew Research Center. Electrification will get a further boost in the context of the European Union's ambitious climate plans. The bloc's new climate package sets a target of reducing emissions from new cars by 55% by 2030, compared to 2021 levels. It also requires that all vehicles sold from 2035 be zero emissions. While alternatives exist, including renewable fuels, electric cars are currently the mainstream option aiming to fit the requirements. As demand for electric cars increases, the charging infrastructure in cities will require a drastic expansion. Even the Netherlands, which boasts the most charging points per cars in Europe, merely has an average of 109 cars per charger, according to the German Association of the Automotive Industry.

For young urbanites, private car ownership may no longer be seen as a necessity, nor as the status symbol it used to be for their parents. Yet while people living in big cities have a wide range of mobility options to choose from, those living in rural or peri-urban areas remain heavily dependent on their personal cars. Tailoring mobility policies to the needs of these different groups will be another key challenge of tomorrow. Will the car of the future really be greener and safer? How can we ensure that the drive for sustainable cars does not leave some people behind? What are the challenges of electrification in terms of infrastructure, legislation and technology? How can traditional car manufacturers compete in tomorrow's software-centered world? How can auto-makers differentiate themselves from their competitors as electrification goes mainstream? And what is the right place of personal cars in multi-modal mobility strategies?

The affordability of electric cars represents another challenge for many low and middle-income consumers. Data shows a new electric vehicle is typically 52% more expensive than an internal combustion-engined (ICE) car in the UK, and 54% more expensive in the Netherlands.

The panel:

Autonomous driving is emerging as another trend of the future. While many of today's cars are already equipped with sophisticated drivers' assistance systems, the vehicles of tomorrow will be able to operate without a driver. Autonomy requires greater connectivity, including the ability for cars to receive information on traffic or weather and communicate with other vehicles or infrastructure providers. As a result, the 20

Ian Howells, Senior Vice President of Honda

Sandro Mesquita, Chief Executive Officer at Geneva International Motor Show (GIMS)

Clothilde Delbos, Deputy CEO, CFO at Renault Group, CEO Mobilize Brand & Chairman of the Board of Directors of RCI Banque SA

Susana Solis Perez, Member of European Parliament (Spain, Renew Europe). MBR

Courtesy: Euronews

supply chain structures in the domestic and international trade space. Supporting clients in this challenging environment requires more than just the standard trade

sustainable business growth.










FIMBank p.l.c. is a licensed credit institution regulated by the Malta Financial Services Authority and is listed on the Malta Stock Exchange.

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On the question of who should be in charge of financial regulation, a majority of respondents (from 49 per cent in Hungary to 76 per cent in the Netherlands) felt it should be their national government’s responsibility, as opposed to the EU’s.

Crypto regulation in Europe

The idea of creating a national e-currency specifically in order to assert monetary independence from the EU drew a mixed reaction although a plurality of respondents were in favour to some degree.


A majority of Europeans want their own governments to regulate cryptocurrency while a growing number would also support the creation of national digital currencies in order to assert some monetary independence from the European Union, a landmark poll for Euronews has found. It also found that the majority of respondents in each country would rather their own government determine financial regulations, compared to roughly a quarter overall who favoured the EU to make these decisions. The large-scale poll carried out exclusively for Euronews by Redfield & Wilton Strategies is the most extensive of its kind conducted in Europe on the topic of cryptocurrency and financial regulation.

Shifting away from cash

The results come as the European Commission begins considering new legislation in September to create a new EU-wide regulatory framework for crypto assets.

Those in Italy (41 per cent), Greece (40 per cent), Estonia (39 per cent) and Spain (37 per cent) registered the highest support for the initiative, while the Netherlands was the only country where there were more opposed than in favour (37 per cent). In Germany, there was no agreement on the issue with 30 per cent indicating that they would support it while 30 per cent opposed it. Over a quarter of participants across the board would neither support nor oppose such a move. Moves to consider digital currencies - which unlike decentralised cryptocurrencies are backed by a central bank - are growing around the world with countries like China, the United States and Britain all investigating the possibility of creating a virtual version of their fiat (physical) currency. In Europe, the ECB announced in July that it was actively looking at launching a digital euro, or "e-euro", while in non-euro EU member state Sweden, a pilot for an e-krona is already underway. But for countries that use the euro, membership of the single currency could stop any plans for national e-currencies in their tracks, Lilkov said. “Eurozone countries who want to make use of a digital currency would be bound to a potential digital euro, run by the ECB in coordination with the eurozone banking system,” he said. For a country like Greece or the Netherlands to opt for a national digital currency different from the euro (a hypothetical e-drachma or e-Guilder), this would mean seceding from the Eurozone. This will not happen”.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been marked by increased EU focus on the financial health of the eurozone, including the approval of an unprecedented COVID-19 recovery fund totalling €750 billion in June.

Limited knowledge of crypto

It has also seen a significant shift away from cash to digital options, a trend banking institutions, like the European Central Bank (ECB), are closely monitoring. There was significant disagreement, however, over how much influence the ECB should have in member states’ economies.

The minority of people who own cryptocurrency do so for the prospect of high returns and reasons of personal interest. Bitcoin is also by far the best-known cryptocurrency, according to the poll.

A significant proportion of citizens in Greece (61 per cent), Germany (34 per cent) and Latvia (31 per cent) believed the EU and ECB intervened too much in their country’s economy. “The lengthy hangover from the euro crisis a decade ago can still be felt in countries like Greece and Italy,” Dimitar Lilkov, a Research officer at the Wilfried Martens Centre for European studies in Brussels, told Euronews Next. “A large chunk of the population is still convinced that the crisis came about because of bad decisions on the EU level and not because of severe deficiencies in their national banking sector, soaring public debt and unreformed labour markets”. Respondents in Lithuania (41 per cent), Spain (39 per cent), Portugal (36 per cent) and Estonia (36 per cent) said the ECB intervened "the right amount". 22

The poll also shows most Europeans have only heard “a little bit”about cryptocurrencies. A lack of knowledge is cited as the main reason why they avoid purchasing them.

As with financial regulation, when it comes to regulating cryptocurrencies, a majority or plurality of citizens in Greece (51 per cent), Italy (47 per cent), Estonia (46 per cent), the Netherlands (41 per cent), Germany (40 per cent), Latvia (39 per cent) and France (37 per cent) said they would prefer if their own government regulating cryptocurrencies. While the use of cryptos remains low across the EU, according to the poll, their rising popularity raises the question of regulation, how it is done and by whom. In an analysis of the poll for Euronews Next published on Wednesday, Louisa Idel, Head of European Insights at Redfield & Wilton Strategies, believes these questions will prove contentious. MBR Creditline: Euronews

Malta Business Review

As per emails alone during 2020 this stood at 63,421, in-bound phone calls were at 68,526 complimented by 13,831 walk-ins. The management team at ME and B1ST is proud of all our officials for going above and beyond and for offering help and support to all entrepreneurs, especially self-employed, family businesses and SMEs" said B1ST CEO Marika Tonna.

European Commission survey hands 4.9/5 approval rating for Business First


usiness First (B1st), Malta Enterprise's front-facing division, has received an almost perfect scoring for its standard of service offered to the business community over the course of the pandemic.

The report forming part of the European Commissions' Single Digital Gateway shows that queries from all sectors of industry were answered in a timely and satisfactory manner; an overall approval rating of 4.9/5.0 has been achieved. "The last year and a half have been very challenging for all our staff given the sheer volume of e-mails, calls and enquires we received.

It was in 2017 that B1st set itself up as Malta's one-stop-shop for business in a joint endeavour between Malta Enterprise and the Chamber of SMEs. A hallmark of B1ST success is an ever-expanding list of Government entities that are providing their services out of B1ST central office in Mrieħel. More recently, B1st teamed up with DIER to provide workers with one-on-one customer care services. Under this guidance, entrepreneurs and start-ups can increase their respect and duty toward their workers, observing their rights, and fulfilling necessary obligations. "Business First is to be commended for its indefatigable efforts in strengthening Malta's entrepreneurial spirit. Buoyed by confirmation of their examplary work by 3rd parties we look forward to charting and supporting their future success. I join Marika in extending a special congratulatory thanks to all clientfacing officials at ME and B1st who have been a point of reference for many during these difficult months", concluded ME CEO Kurt Farrugia. MBR Thanks: EU/Malta

ANCHOVY catapults another retailer into the digital future


NCHOVY. PLC, in collaboration with NIU & ONEST Data was recently commissioned to rebuild the e-commerce website for Crosscraft, one of Malta's leading retailers for household appliances.

Faced with changing consumer demands and increasing competition from companies and start-ups, the white goods distributor felt the time had come to change its approach. It decided to adopt a "digital-first" strategy, involving the rollout of connected appliances that will generate valuable data and open up opportunities to sell consumers ancillary products and services. The overarching objective was to boost the top line by providing products and services across the full consumer journey. Understanding the customer's requirements was paramount, so the website design exercise was preceded by a market research and intelligence gathering project led by Onest. This was done to provide intelligence allowing Crosscraft to solidify their position as a market leader while highlighting the needs, wants, and frustrations of both their existing customer base and their internal staff. This gave the digital experts the opportunity to strategically reposition their brand and digital presence in a way that provides maximum benefit to both their customer base and internal operation. With intelligence in hand, the goal was to design an online shopping experience beyond anything currently available on the

Maltese market. One of the main considerations was to ensure that the website caters for the wide variety of ages and skill sets that make up Crosscraft's customer base, allowing everyone to easily identify and purchase the perfect product for their needs while putting the spotlight on the superior customer service offered by Crosscraft. Crosscraft director Robert Farrugia Vella confirmed that "the business is already clearly seeing the benefit of the new digital experience, with more revenue than ever before originating through digital channels. Customer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, encouraging us to continue our journey with ANCHOVY. by continuously improving every aspect of our digital presence" Benji Borg, ANCHOVY founder added, "By adopting data-driven and consumer-centric business models, Crosscraft has transformed its offering and enhanced its portfolio with digital features." ANCHOVY is made up of a group of digital natives from across the globe. ANCHOVY provides services across the full business landscape. Focused on the digital connection of your business ANCHOVY can research and identify new opportunities throughout your customer journey and help you define, design and develop brand initiatives so they are market ready. MBR


Malta Business Review



iger Tyagarajan is CEO of Genpact, a global professional services firm with 100,000 employees. Prior to Genpact, Tiger worked for several well-known companies including Unilever, Citibank, and GE. He pioneered a new global business model and transformed a division of GE into Genpact in 2005. Right now, the way we work looks a lot different than it did even just six months ago. The question is, once we get past the Covid-19 pandemic, what will work look like? Will it be changed forever, or will some things go back to normal? Tiger says that assuming that 50% or more of the work going forward will be done from home is too simple. Some roles make more sense to do from home. For example, some Genpact employees at certain times of the year have to work for five days straight without a break and through the night. For that type of work, it makes sense to be in the comfort of your own home. But there are a lot of roles where it doesn’t make sense to work from home long term. There are a lot of people who are just itching to go back into the office. Some people thrive on in-person interaction and collaboration, which is missing right now.

Tiger Tyagarajan, CEO of Genpact

How Covid-19 Has Changed Leadership Forever A lot of people are speculating that the office will be a thing of the past and that everyone will continue working from home. Tiger doesn’t agree. While he agrees that some things will bever go back to what they were before, he believes that offices will come back, at least in some form. 24

Tiger believes that post-Covid there will be more flexibility in the way we work. At certain times of the year or certain days of the week, people will be able to work from home, but there will be times when it’s necessary to be in the office. He also suggests the idea of companies possibly acquiring more office space than they have now. Instead of having one office building with 10,000 people, it might make more sense to have 10 offices with 1,000 people in each one. This could bring offices closer to people, bring down commute times, and potentially cut down on air pollution. The current situation is also impacting the speed at which organizations go through digital transformation. Some companies who have talked about digital transformation for years have been forced to act on it quickly. Companies who were resisting change in the past can no longer wait, even if they wanted to. Could problems like climate change be solved if we put our own constraints on it and forced ourselves to solve the problem? Tiger thinks it’s possible, but just like Covid is affecting everyone in the world, solving climate change would require everyone coming together. It couldn’t just be a small group of people. MBR


Malta Business Review



Here at the House Of Barbers, we believe that a barbershop is not simply a place, just to get a haircut. It’s a dependable and trusted neighbourhood establishment, which brings the men of the community together, to engage in conversation, crack a few jokes and enjoy quality time with the guys. We bring some serious game to the barbering world and we welcome you to be a part of it! Once we have you all freshened up. You will be ready to face the world again, looking sharper than ever!

Book your appointment at


of Malta’s Most Innovative Barber of the Year Award 2020


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Afghanistan Our World RESISTING IS OUR DUTY

Commander Massoud, in 1983 in the Panjshir valley Ahmad Massoud, in 2019


The panjshir valley, the only and last stronghold of resistance against the new forces in power in Afghanistan, has been under bombardment from foreign armies for two days. Ahmad Massoud has tried everything, alone, to resist the obscurantism that will invite itself in the world, beyond the borders of Afghanistan. On August 31, I sent a letter to the President of the French Republic. Today, more than ever, there is an urgent need for each of you, of us, to call on the government to give our full support to the Afghan resistance against cynicism and obscurantism in the name of fundamental freedoms REZA



Malta Business Review

HSBCnet designed for clients’ banking needs Clients can establish up to three levels of payment authorisation, depending on their company’s needs and requirements, giving them added protection against errors and internal fraud.


eeping up with changes in technology, regulation, and the economic environment can be demanding. That’s why HSBCnet brings clients powerful, intuitive online tools that help them manage even their most complex banking needs. HSBCnet is flexible and customisable. By giving clients access to HSBC’s global banking solutions, they are able to: Choose the specific tools and functionality for their business and market respectively; Stay up to date with real-time market information, activity alerts and also notifications; Set up their own customised, scheduled reports in order to deliver the information they need straight to their inbox; Control their team’s access to data and payment capabilities; Clients can establish up to three levels of payment authorisation, depending on their company’s needs and requirements, giving them added protection against errors and internal fraud; They can also assign limits to specific users and extend their business day by assigning authorisers that work in different time zones. The HSBCnet Mobile app is available on all iPhone and Android smartphones through the App Store and also the Google Play Store. With the help of the downloaded app, clients can see their account information, authorise and track payments and receive My Alerts respectively. To register or log on the HSBCnet platform, please visit hsbcnet. com. For more information on HSBCnet, please call HSBC Bank Malta’s Contact Centre on 2380 8000, visit this should read or connect with the HSBC representatives via Live Chat by logging on HSBCnet. MBR


Malta Business Review




iana Kinnert doesn’t fit the typical member profile of Germany’s main governing party, the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU).


“I am female. I am homosexual. I am young. I live in the urban area. I am a digital native,” Kinnert, who is 30, told POLITICO’s Sarah Wheaton. Based in Berlin, Kinnert has been a member of the CDU for over a decade, serving as a parliamentary aide and working on a number of projects through the years to modernize the party.

Interview with Diana Kinnert, German activist and author

One of her projects has focused on loneliness, a topic that she says spans generational divides and has a profound impact on public health and beyond. Kinnert says she was surprised to discover years ago that politicians were getting involved in the issue after being invited by Theresa May’s government in the U.K. to advise on the world’s first ministry of loneliness.

By Cristina Gonzalez, Andrew Gray and Paul Dallison

“I thought it was only like a sentiment, a very private feeling, that has nothing to do with politics,” Kinnert said. “But then I found out that many effects on social relations and on the matter of loneliness do effect people’s health. So it’s a public health matter.” She’s since gone on to write a book on the topic, translated from German as The New Lonely. Rather than focusing solely on the oftendiscussed alienation experienced by older people, the book explores a “modern” loneliness plaguing younger generations. “I found out that especially young people are feeling lonely — and the young generation is a generation that is the most connected one,” Kinnert said. “Maybe loneliness is something that could have to do with the quality of social relationships and not only with the quantity.” Topics like mental health are not exactly top of the political agenda as Germany gears up for a crucial federal election on September 26. But Kinnert argues her party has to tackle the issue and others not traditionally associated with the party, such as climate change and digitization. (The CDU has slipped in recent polls behind the centerleft Social Democrats.) “All these matters should be more integrated in the CDU,” she said, adding that” if we are not doing it, then there is a very diverse left movement” that will make such issues its own. MBR Creditline: POLITICO SRL 28


How data, technology and collaboration are reshaping risk

Malta Business Review

Phil Cotter

By Phil Cotter, Group Head, Customer & Third Party Risk Solutions, Data & Analytics, Refinitiv1


to rebuilding fractured supply chains. In this environment, it is perhaps not surprising that organisations have found it harder to focus on third-party risks, resulting in more opportunities for criminals to defraud consumers and companies.

The use of technology appears not only to improve current processes but accelerate future adoption: 91% of respondents who use technology in KYC/compliance are looking to improve financial crime detection and mitigation over the next 12 months, versus 71% of those who do not currently use any technology to detect financial crime. The focus on the future is also reflected in our survey finding that 38% of those using tech said they are likely to fund industry pilots that drive change. But this figure dropped to 21% for those not using tech to fight financial crime

Our survey reflects companies’ difficulties, with 65% of respondents agreeing that the pandemic has forced them to take shortcuts with know your customer (KYC) and due diligence checks. Although Covid-19 has been extremely disruptive, compliance gaps had been a persistent problem long before the pandemic. Our 2019 risk survey found that 49% of third-party relationships had been subject to due diligence checks, compared to 44% in 2021. On a more positive note, our current survey shows a growing awareness of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors and green crime, suggesting that the pandemic may have created a turning point.

ur survey reveals how the Covid-19 pandemic has significantly raised customer and third-party risks, but also highlights the potential of Technology to reshape them and exposing risks, the pandemic is also helping organisations to address them. The way to do this is explained clearly in this report.

Nearly half (45%) of those who don’t use technology to fight financial crime said they saw no instances of it over the last 12 months, but the figure falls to 21% for those using tech. In other words, what you don’t use tech to look for, you may not see. Our survey highlights the opportunity that companies have to reduce risk and help to build a safer future Each year Refinitiv conducts independent surveys looking at different aspects of customer and third-party risk. We have revealed the true cost of financial crime through its impact on companies, society and the environment. More recently we examined how innovation in data and technology can help to identify and disrupt criminal activity. Last year we focused on the hidden risks in supplier, distributor and partner relationships and this year, inevitably, we look at the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the different subjects, we are all too often telling essentially the same story: even with stronger regulation, more powerful enforcement actions and greater investment by companies, we still find that many organisations are not carrying out all the processes needed to identify and mitigate risks.

Changing the story

Although the risk picture has once again worsened, with the proportion of organisations carrying out due diligence on third parties falling from 49% in 2019 to 44% in 2021, the situation is different. The pandemic has raised risk levels, but it has also accelerated technology adoption, increased collaboration and intensified the focus on addressing longstanding problems: 86% of respondents agreed that innovative digital technologies have helped identify financial crime and 57% are investing in automation and digitisation during 2021. In 2021, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the world forever. For businesses and their employees, it continues to create severe day-to-day pressures, from keeping vital operations running

Taking shortcuts

Technology and data show us the way by heightening and exposing risks, the pandemic is also helping organisations to address them. The best way to do so is clearly highlighted by our survey: technology, data and automation are not only enablers, they can also act as transformers. Organisations which use innovative technologies are not just better protected from customer and third-party risk, they are more aware of them and crucially are more likely to continue investing in further prevention and mitigation. Collaboration is key Another key trend seen during the pandemic has been greater collaboration – whether it’s between businesses, people or institutions – for the common good. Here, we find that those already using technology to combat financial crime are 60% more likely to collaborate with enforcement agencies than those not using such technology. This gives us renewed hope that the collaborative approach which we have long championed at Refinitiv – between enforcement agencies, innovators and non-governmental organisations, to name but a few – can be strengthened by recent events and enable us to forge a safer future, together.

Working together

Therefore, we conclude our 2021 report by highlighting that, having encountered heightened risks as a result of the global pandemic, organisations can and must seize the opportunities offered by technology to address them. As a leading provider of data and compliance technology, we have a key role to play in helping organisations rise to this challenge, supporting digital transformation in risk management and satisfying the growing need for trusted data. We embrace that challenge and look forward to working with our customers, regulators and industries across the world to reshape risk and build a safer future. MBR Thanks to: GLOBAL RISK AND COMPLIANCE REPORT 2021


Malta Business Review



The Malta Chamber of SMEs will assist a number of retail outlets in the food and beverage sector to help them become more energy and water efficient


he Malta Chamber of SMEs and the Energy & Water Agency signed a memorandum of understanding for a new pilot project “MERCA” (Managing Essential Resources in Retail through Consumption Analysis).

are the ones that have the pulse of the enterprises and facilitate reach out to these targeted groups,” remarked Manuel Sapiano.

The Malta Chamber of SMEs will assist a number of retail outlets in the food and beverage sector to help them become more energy and water efficient, whilst gathering best practices and identify replicable areas of recommendations.

In collaboration between government entities, business representatives and the Richmond Foundation, a mental health assistance service is to be made available. MENT + is an initiative launched after several businesses recognised the impact of the pandemic on mental health. The agreement was signed between Malta Enterprise, Business First, Malta Chamber of SME’s, the Chamber of Commerce and the Richmond Foundation, in the presence of Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Sustainable Development Miriam Dalli.

The project, will spread over two years and will identify shops within NACE G which have a mix of space heating/cooling equipment, refrigeration, lighting and process water. It is expected that the project can engage with a significant number of enterprises and certain findings can be applicable and relevant to other retail groups. The MERCA pilot project will, amongst other actions carry out a number of energy audits within the identified establishments to characterise the energy and water usage in these sub-groups, whilst assisting these outlets with the available opportunities to implement audit recommendations. The Agency will also gather information on the consumption patterns and savings achieved. In this way, enterprises will be able to assess their performance and potentially, similar enterprises can identify the opportunity cost of changing their approach. This pilot project will cost €50,000 and will be implemented over two years. During these two years, data will be gathered, where practices and processes will be identified to make the necessary recommendations. Presiding over this collaboration, Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Sustainable Development Miriam Dalli said that this project will be sustaining two important resources, that of energy and water. “Various enterprises wish to make sustainable changes in their operations, and this pilot project will be assisting these enterprises to make this change, towards cleaner energy operations,” said Minister Dalli. Chamber of SMEs CEO, Abigail Mamo said that the SME Chamber is happy to be part of this data collection exercise and thanked EWA for their trust. Ms Mamo said that this important data which will be gathered from Maltese retailers is truly essential for the future of our country and we are honoured to contribute to this project. During the press conference, Energy and Water Agency CEO Manuel Sapiano highlighted the Agency’s role to raise awareness and provide support in achieving more sustainable work practices. “In line with this, the Agency has often collaborated with stakeholder representative such as the Chamber of SMEs, as they 30

Malta Chamber of SMEs encourages business owners to safeguard their mental health

The MENT+ service will be provided in two ways: firstly, through the website, where training will be provided in the form of short clips tackling topics such as how one can adapt to change, mental health and resilience, amongst others. Secondly, for those who would like further assistance, the Richmond Foundation will be providing more aid through one-toone sessions to address further the needs of the individual. Minister Miriam Dalli explained that during the past months, Business First was instrumental in supporting enterprises, working together with Malta Enterprise. “The pandemic has not only impacted our economy but also the mental health of many people, employers and businesses. Therefore, with this agreement, we will provide the MENT+ service, to assist enterprises in an effective and realistic way”, said Minister Dalli. Chief Executive of Business First, Ms Marika Tonna, said that, “Business First has direct experience with businesses and enterprises. During the pandemic, Business First assisted more than 146,000 clients. Apart from the financial assistance provided by the government – such as the wage supplement and other schemes – businesses needed guidance on how to cope with mental health and how to address the changes that were brought about by the pandemic, which impacted employees, clients and businesses”. “One’s wellbeing is not complete if one is not taking care of their mental health, as this will affect productivity and innovation. Therefore, it is crucial to integrate mental health with business. This service will meet the needs of employers and directors in various businesses”, stated Richmond Foundation Chief Executive Ms Stephania Dimech Sant. MBR Source: Malta Chamber of SMEs

Malta's RELATIONSHIP WITH GAMBLING Brought to you by Discover Media


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by one of the smallest countries in the world? For established organisations, the benefits that the license offers far outweigh the inconvenience and cost of applying. Operators that want to establish themselves as serious contenders in the world of online gambling often apply for a Malta Gaming License. In fact, many UK online casino operators make the most of Malta’s excellent reputation in this field.

The benefits of operating out of Malta

Operators with a Malta Gaming License are in a better position to open bank accounts, enter into agreements with thirds parties under Maltese jurisdiction and foster working relationships with international clients. The stringency of the application process also infers a degree of prestige to businesses that hold a license as it demonstrates an understanding of and a willingness to work within EU rules and regulations. The Malta Gaming Authority also conducts a number of safety and security checks on all applicants, so other businesses can be confident that any organisation that holds a Malta Gaming License has been thoroughly vetted and found to be operating in accordance with all relevant legislation. This makes an operator much more appealing when it comes to forming business partnerships and working together on high-value contracts.


he Malta Gaming Authority acts in a similar way as any other national gambling regulator, by overseeing the activity of licensed casinos and gambling websites since 2001. Its stated goal is to ensure that gamblers are able to access safe and regulated playing options while protecting vulnerable members of society and preventing the financial crimes that are often associated with bookmaking. Malta may be a small country, but it has led the way when it comes to regulating online gambling, leaving many other, bigger countries trailing behind. Gambling laws are already an area where legislation varies significantly between countries, with some countries and states attempting to ban all forms of gambling completely and others embracing the opportunity to support a thriving industry. Since 2001, when the Malta Gaming Authority was launched, the gambling industry in Malta has experienced significant growth, in part due to the reputation they have established throughout the world for their gaming laws. The last 20 years have been a successful period for the Maltese government as they have carved out a niche for themselves as a world leader in the gambling sector.

A Malta Gaming License – the golden ticket

Throughout the world, gaming and gambling operators recognise the business opportunities and other benefits that are available to those who operate under a Malta Gaming License. Online operations are clamouring to get themselves a license that will mark them out as leaders in their field and provide them with a range of perks to aid their success. The process of obtaining a Malta Gaming License is hugely complex, requires a lot of paperwork and can be expensive. Applicants may have to wait months to hear from the Malta Gaming Authority and may even be called to meet with them in person before their application is processed. So why are there queues of companies waiting to put themselves through this gruelling process simply to have a license issued

Malta is one of the few jurisdictions that has embraced the advent of online gaming wholeheartedly, making it a very appealing place for iGaming providers to launch. Malta has a multicultural and multilingual workforce that can offer support in a range of online gaming sectors such as affiliate marketing, data management, online advertising, and software and hardware providers. A site that displays the logo of the Malta Gaming License will also enjoy player confidence and trust. This is vital, particularly when trying to attract new customers, as players want to be sure that their stakes are safe and their payouts guaranteed.

With well-regulated gambling, everybody wins

Many offline operators have launched their own websites over the last few years and customers have responded favourably to familiar brands. But with so many new games being developed every day, it’s important that players can see at a glance whether a site is reputable or not. The UK’s gambling industry is proof that customer confidence is high, as the number of players is increasing. The online gaming sector accounted for more than 52% of the income generated by gambling in 2020 alone. Online casino games make up the majority of that total, suggesting that players are confident that casino sites are safe and secure. By contrast, non-remote betting was only the third largest sector in terms of the income generated. As in Malta, where iGaming contributes nearly 15% of the country’s economy, the appeal of online gambling has been so strong that traditional casinos are taking a back seat. With reports suggesting that the online gambling market is going to continue to grow over the next few years, Malta’s early adoption of stringent regulation appears to have been an incredibly wise move. It has boosted their economy and provided online gaming providers with a strong and clear framework in which to expand. The high standards put in place by Malta’s Gaming Authority don’t just offer benefits to the operators that acquire a license. Players around the world benefit from the rigorous security measures in place, law enforcement agencies benefit from their anti-moneylaundering measures and governments benefit from the tax revenue generated by the gambling sector. MBR


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2021 marks the 20 year anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history which occurred as four large passenger jets were hijacked then crashed, killing nearly 3,000 people.


American professional baseball player Cal Ripken, Jr., played in his 2,131st consecutive game, surpassing Lou Gehrig's record, which had stood for more than 56 years.


Zimbabwean politician Robert Mugabe—who was the longtime dictatorial ruler of Zimbabwe, first as prime minister (1980–87), then as president (1987–2017)—died at age 95.


The Soviet Union recognized the independence of the Baltic states— Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.


Italian operatic lyric tenor Luciano Pavarotti, who was considered one of the finest bel canto opera singers of the 20th century, died at age 71.


South African Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd, who rigorously developed and applied the policy of apartheid, was stabbed to death by a temporary parliamentary messenger.


About a week after her death in a car accident, a funeral was held for Princess Diana, and an estimated 2.5 billion watched the televised ceremony, which included a performance by Elton John.


The Beatles start their first recording session at EMI’s Abbey Road Studios, London







Germany fired the first long-range V-2 missile at an Allied target during World War II.

American social reformer and pacifist Jane Addams, cowinner (with Nicholas Murray Butler) of the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1931, was born.


The end of the Siege of Malta, as Napoleon’s forces surrender to the British following a two year long naval blockade.


Britain and France declare war on Germany.

Chewing gum is produced commercially for the first time.


The Great Fire of London begins in Pudding Lane and rages for 5 days, but kills only 9 people.


French and British forces launched an offensive against advancing Germans in the First Battle of the Marne during World War I.


Misguided British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain says, after meeting Hitler in Munich, ‘I believe it is peace for our time‘.


Birth of Queen Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.


Republican William McKinley, the 25th president of the United States (1897–1901), was shot by Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist, at the PanAmerican Exposition in Buffalo, New York, and died eight days later.


First transfusion of human blood is performed at Guy’s Hospital, London.


In 1191 the Muslim army of Saladin attacked the Crusaders of Richard I (the Lion-Heart) at the Battle of Arsūf, and, though Richard successfully counterattacked in the evening, his march to Jerusalem was delayed.


MAPFRE joins the #WeSupportTheSDGs Campaign as part of its commitment to the 2030 Agenda


ith the aim of contributing toward and promoting the activation of society during the Decade of Action, MAPFRE has joined the Spanish United Nations Global Compact campaign, which works to promote the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. With less than 10 years to go until 2030, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, has called on all sectors of society to mobilize for a "Decade of Action" to achieve the 2030 Agenda and 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). MAPFRE joined the UN Global Compact, the world's largest sustainability initiative, in 2004. MAPFRE is currently working toward seven priority Sustainable Development Goals: No poverty (SDG 1), Good Health and WellBeing (SDG 3), Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG 8), Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG 11); Climate Action (SDG 13); Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions (SDG 16) and Partnerships for the Goals (SDG 17). Furthermore, MAPFRE is implementing a number of strategies in order to achieve carbon neutrality. One of the company’s

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The aim of the #WeSupportTheSDGs campaign is to act as a loudspeaker to create a multiplying effect, as well as spread knowledge of the 2030 Agenda and encourage work towards its Goals.

commitments is to become carbon neutral in Spain and Portugal before the end of 2021, and for all other countries where MAPFRE operates by 2030. In addition, MAPFRE is working towards incorporating the recommendations of the Task Force on ClimateRelated Financial Disclosures (TCFD), which will enable the company to report to its investors on how risks related to climate change are being managed. The aim of the #WeSupportTheSDGs campaign is to act as a loudspeaker to create a multiplying effect, as well as spread knowledge of the 2030 Agenda and encourage work towards its Goals. Six years have passed since the 193 member states unanimously approved the 2030 Agenda with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in the United Nations General Assembly. "Leaving no one behind" is the pledge of the agreement The SDGs aim to end poverty and hunger, reduce inequality, address urgent challenges such as climate change and cultivate new partnerships and relationships in order to achieve these goals. MBR


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MAPFRE’s commitment to alternative assets


ithin the financial industry, insurers are constantly faced with the complicated task of finding viable assets which generate returns in an increasingly complex environment. Since 2014, the price of money in the Eurozone has been at near zero levels, which in turn has directly impacted the accounts of financial institutions, including insurers. In fact, recent reports prepared by MAPFRE Economics indicate that large insurance groups, recognised as some of the main institutional investors in public debt at a global level, invest more than 75% of their balance sheets in high quality debt, both sovereign and corporate. In this context, it is very difficult to maintain investment returns while aligning the duration of assets and liabilities, given that there are still some long-standing portfolios with high guaranteed rates. It is for this reason that MAPFRE, much like many other companies in the insurance sector, is immersed in the search of alternative, more profitable assets. However, MAPFRE retains a cautious position with regards to such investments. Real estate assets: MAPFRE made its debut in the real estate industry in 2018 by entering a deal with a 50% stake and a total of €100 million pledged. Through this alliance, which formed to invest up to €300 million, has acquired high-quality buildings in locations such as Luxembourg, London, and Hamburg. In mid2019, the Group reached an agreement with Swiss Life for the creation of an investment vehicle in the real estate market, which resulted in expanding its investment to prime offices in Paris as well. This alliance was further enhanced by a Joint Venture last April, with an initial volume of assets valued at €400 million. Infrastructures: MAPFRE and Abante, as part of their strategic alliance initiated two years ago, launched an infrastructure fund of up to €300 million. To this end, MAPFRE pledged an initial 34

capital contribution of €50 million in line with sustainability, social and governance (ESG) criteria, although this figure has now been increased to €100 million. This fund offers an opportunity for investors to access an asset class that allows portfolios to be diversified in a low rate environment. Private equity: Together with Abante and Altamar, MAPFRE launched a fund in which the insurance group committed more than €200 million in assets. The former brings together the private equity investments already made by the group’s entities, as well as current and future investments, and has a conservative stance. This type of investment meets the needs of insurance companies and other institutional investors who, by the nature of their business, have to invest in very long-term assets. Moreover, unlike a traditional private equity fund, whose average life is around ten or twelve years, this instrument has an unlimited term. Sustainable investments: MAPFRE reached an agreement with Iberdrola to jointly invest in renewable energies in Spain. This project, in which MAPFRE will have an 80% stake, represents the creation of a pioneering co-investment vehicle between an energy company and an insurance company. The Joint Venture will leverage up to 230 MW of green projects —both wind and photovoltaic— from the energy company’s portfolio of assets. This alliance provides third party stakeholders with the opportunity to co-invest in clean energy, in which around €800 million will be jointly invested. All these investments bring MAPFRE’s total commitment to alternative assets to more than €850 million. The Group’s commitment to these types of assets is a major factor to be borne in mind and, despite its smaller weight in the product portfolio, the promotion of new projects will allow MAPFRE to have a greater exposure to this area and will allow the company to explore new investment opportunities in the future. MBR


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Diageo Opens Landmark Global Johnnie Walker Visitor Experience Flag raised to the future of Scotch whisky tourism to mark launch of pioneering attraction.


iageo's Johnnie Walker Princes Street, the eight-floor new visitor experience for the world's best-selling Scotch whisky, has today been launched in the heart of Scotland's capital city.

Johnnie Walker Princes Street, the eight-floor new visitor experience for the world’s best-selling Scotch whisky, has today been launched in the heart of Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh. Four and a half years in the making, Johnnie Walker Princes Street is the centrepiece of Diageo's £185million pound investment in Scotch whisky tourism in Scotland – the largest single investment programme of its kind ever seen in Scotch whisky tourism. To mark the opening a Johnnie Walker flag was raised above the landmark building by Ivan Menezes, Chief Executive, Diageo, and Barbara Smith, Managing Director of Johnnie Walker Princes Street, against the backdrop of Edinburgh's iconic skyline, including the world-famous Edinburgh Castle. Ivan Menezes, Chief Executive, Diageo said: "This is a proud day for everyone. Last year Johnnie Walker celebrated 200 years since founder John Walker opened the doors to his small grocery store and today represents the next chapter of the incredible story. Johnnie Walker Princes Street is a landmark investment in Scotch whisky and into Scotland and it sets a new standard for immersive visitor attractions. It celebrates Scotland's remarkable heritage, our incredible skilled whisky-makers, and looks to the future by engaging new generations of consumers from around the world in the magic of Scotch whisky." Facts about Johnnie Walker Princes Street visitor experience: •

Set over 71,500 sq ft, it takes the concept of personalisation to a scale never before seen in a global drinks visitor experience.

Visitors on the Johnnie Walker Journey of Flavour tour will have their personal flavour preferences mapped with drinks tailored to their palate.

With more than 800 flavour combinations available in the innovative dispensation systems, one person could visit Johnnie Walker Princes Street every day for more than two years and not have the same experience twice.

Over 150 diverse and talented new employees, speaking 23 languages between them, will bring to life the 200-year story.

The cellar has become a true whisky treasury with some of the most unique whisky casks in the world gently maturing and waiting to be sampled by guests.

The building – formerly a traditional department store for almost 100 years – will contain a state-of-the-art experiential

retail space where shoppers can select from rare and exclusive whiskies, fill their own bottles and have them personalised. •

Johnnie Walker Princes Street opens its doors with a Green Tourism Gold Award – the highest sustainability accolade for a visitor attraction. The building includes roof terrace planters to provide herbs for garnishes and infusions for drinks, a sedum roof covering and bird boxes to encourage biodiversity.

Johnnie Walker Princes Street is crowned by two world-class rooftop bars and a terrace with breath-taking views of the Edinburgh skyline, including the Explorers' Bothy whisky bar stocked with 150 different whiskies, and the 1820 cocktail bar where drinks are paired with a carefully curated menu sourced from, and representing in culinary form, the four corners of Scotland. Johnnie Walker Princes Street is also committed to contributing to the community by offering its award-winning hospitality training programme for unemployed people in its special Johnnie Walker Learning for Life academy. The building can also host events in its 200-capacity space. Barbara Smith, Managing Director of Johnnie Walker Princes Street, said: "We're thrilled to be opening the doors and helping to re-build the tourism and hospitality industry after a very difficult 18 months. The story of the world's best-selling whisky has been brought to life with flair and imagination and we have built a team which includes some of the most talented individuals in their fields. We are now ready to welcome visitors and begin telling the next chapter of how we are woven into the fabric of Scotland's history and communities." In 2019, the Scotch Whisky industry attracted a record 2.16 million visitors and Johnnie Walker Princes Street, and Diageo's £185m tourism investment programme aims to help rebuild Scotch whisky tourism for the future. The investment includes the transformation of distillery visitor experiences around Scotland, including Glenkinchie, Clynelish, Cardhu and Caol Ila – the Lowland, Highland, Speyside and Islay homes of Johnnie Walker, linked to Johnnie Walker Princes Street to form a world-class network of attractions the length and breadth of Scotland. Johnnie Walker Princes Street will open its doors to the public at 1 pm on Monday 6th September. Tickets for tours start from £25 per person, including a 90-minute tour and three personalised Scotch whisky samples (all samples are provided with carefully controlled measures and non-alcoholic alternatives available to all guests). To book and for more information visit www.johnniewalkerprincesstreet. com. For more information on Johnnie Walker please visit: www. MBR SOURCE Johnnie Walker/Diageo


Malta Business Review


BUILDING THE NEXT GENERATION AI SYSTEMS ERC grantee Martin Vechev, originally from Bulgaria, is a computer science professor at ETH Zurich and the leader of its research lab working in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). His ERC-funded project was the first to combine advanced programming languages with machine learning technics, aiming to fundamentally change how developers build software. Based on the results of his ERC project, he co-founded a start-up that was recently acquired by a leading cybersecurity company. In this interview, Vechev talks about his ERC-funded work, AI breakthroughs, and Europe’s future in the field of AI. MBR: Your ERC-funded BIGCODE project aimed to change the way developers build and reason about software. Could you tell us more about it? With the project nearly finished, did you achieve what you set out to do? MV: My team and I combine two rather different computer science worlds, advanced programming languages and machine learning, to develop new probabilistic models for learning-based systems. These are the systems able to automatically learn and improve from their experience. Our project built numerous such systems and was instrumental in shaping and creating a new sub-area of learning, triggering follow-up research in the process. Some of the systems we built during the project are already widely used. For example, JSNice for converting a complicated code into a simple form has hundreds of thousands of users. MBR: Based on the results of the BIGCODE project you cofounded a spin-off called DeepCode, which was recently acquired by a billion-dollar company in cybersecurity. What does DeepCode do? MV: The success of the big code systems we built in academia encouraged us to create an even more broadly applicable tool. One from which every developer and company in the world could benefit. We wanted to address the issue of programmers spending a lot of time on reviewing and fixing code, rather than creating new one. This is how DeepCode came to life in 2016. MBR: What makes your work frontier research? MV: I think our project successfully shows what ERC grants are all about. We developed fundamentally new techniques that helped expand a new area in science. Our project built widely used systems demonstrating the potential of the methods, and the international scientific community recognised our work and breakthroughs at the highest level. This project ultimately helped create a successful high-tech start-up, leading to more jobs and opportunities in Europe. We also received various awards for our frontier work. The one I am most proud of is the prestigious ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award given to my former PhD student Veselin Raychev. It was only the third time in the 40-year history of the award that a European PhD was recognised. 36

MBR: Your project's long-term goal is building a system that could write sophisticated code by itself, which would be a step towards general AI. How far are you from achieving this goal? MV: We are still decades away from achieving artificial general intelligence (AGI) capable of understanding and performing any task that a human can. By ‘we’, I mean any research label or a company, not just my lab. It is because the breakthroughs behind AI technology in the last few years were happening in closed world domains, where the AI models were trained and optimised for a specific task. For example, OpenAI Five won against the best human team in the Dota 2 (an online battle video game) in 2019. It was in a setting where the game was fixed and rules were known. The same applies to programming: so far, AI can only perform tasks where the programming language and the task are fixed a priori. While we can build AI models that solve specific tasks well, even better than humans do, this is typically possible because AI learns from massive datasets by finding useful patterns and shortcuts, not because it possesses cognitive abilities to generalise from its prior knowledge. MBR: Many AI experts claim that the development of GPT-3 – a language model that uses deep learning to produce human-like text – is last year's biggest AI breakthrough. Would you say that your current approach to general AI is still competitive? MV: Yes, not only is our approach competitive, it is significantly superior to what GPT-3 can achieve and will be able to achieve with its current approach. For example, models like GPT-3 completely fail when tasks require abstraction and reasoning. While this system might be able to provide statistically likely solutions, it cannot reason about them. In our work, we focus on building the next generation AI systems. We combine the strength of traditional symbolic search techniques that are an effective approach for developing AI system’s reasoning capabilities, and the more recent statistical methods that allow systems to learn from data. MBR: How do you see the impact of AI on labour markets? MV: AI could enable humans to focus on what they are good at – being creative – while letting machines do the repetitive work that can be automated. I also expect advancements in AI to create entirely new jobs. For example, those involving deeper interactions with AI agents to accomplish a task. MBR: What could be the biggest strength in the European AI industry's future, and what still needs to be improved? MV: Europe could establish itself as a leader in certain areas of AI where it is traditionally strong and which are becoming more and more important. These are, for example, safety, robustness and fairness of AI models. However, what could perhaps still be improved is the AI start-up ecosystem, where experimenting with new AI products is still more easily done in the U.S. I believe this is changing rapidly, with the ERC being a very important ingredient for closing the gap. MBR: How important was the ERC grant for the success of your research? MV: The ERC grant enabled us to focus on the core research questions over a longer period, contributing to a conceptual and fundamental level of our research, but also to our ability to build systems from beginning to end. MBR Thanks: Swiss Federal Institute Of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich)/ ERC


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Bitcoin Adoption Grows Amid “September Curse”

Bitcoin becomes recognised as an official currency, growing by leaps and bounds.


he first week of September was a rocky one for Bitcoin. Last month, the world’s first digital currency climbed steadily, crossing the $53,000 price mark before making a drastic U-turn, tumbling to $43,000 in value. Yet, analysts remain unperturbed and predict continued growth through the end of this year. September is renowned to be one of the most volatile months for the cryptocurrency. A look through 2017 to 2020 shows the same trend: crashes happening in the same time-frame. While the ‘September curse’ has always led to an estimated 17 per cent loss in value, these sharp drops tend to act as a springboard for the next rally. This year’s crash was different because it coincided with El Salvador’s implementation of Bitcoin as legal tender. The Latin American country became the first nation-state to use Bitcoin as an official currency, encouraging businesses and citizens to use it in everyday transactions. Now, food-chains like McDonalds, Starbucks, and Pizza Hut are accepting Bitcoin as payment, making this move a monumental step forward for crypto. Being viewed as a medium of exchange and being bought and held by large institutions have been drivers of the continued increase in Bitcoin over the last 12 to 24 months. In fact, El Salvador’s

endorsement of Bitcoin has sparked sparked on a global trend towards greater adoption and utilisation. Within a span of days, both Panama and Ukraine have moved towards broader acceptance of cryptocurrencies. The crypto-space has continued to mature and develop by leaps and bounds, especially when it comes to adoption. If you are interested in acquiring your own Bitcoin, it is important to do your research first and understand what you’re getting into. As an investment, Bitcoin is known for its volatility, but once you’ve accepted the risk and met your financial priorities, the next step to investing is to actually buying in. Bitcoin brokerages like Instacoins allow you to access Bitcoin to just a few clicks. Instacoins provides secure and instant access to the world’s first cryptocurrency through a simple online transfer. All you need is a verifiable email address, a digital wallet to store your Bitcoins and a valid Instacoins account. Once you have everything in order, you can turn your EUR, AUD, CAD, CHF, NOK, ZAR, USD or GBP to Bitcoin — exchange is instant. From there on, you can either opt to hold on to your bitcoin or else, you can trade for commodities and online services. Visit to learn more about how you can set-up your account and make your fiat-to-crypto exchanges. MBR


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How to fight malaria during a pandemic Despite COVID-19 disruptions, Africa’s malaria programs have kept up lifesaving malaria control and treatment efforts. By Bill Gates


t the start of the pandemic, many people feared that not only would COVID-19 itself be a disaster, but the lockdowns and other prevention methods would have an awful ripple effect: disrupting the fight against malaria in a catastrophic way. A modelling analysis from the World Health Organization, found that annual malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa could double, returning to death rates not seen in over 20 years. A year later, I am happy to be able to report that this worstcase scenario, at least for now, has been avoided. This is thanks to the leadership of African countries, which quickly adapted their malaria programs to meet the challenges of the pandemic. Practicing social distancing and other safety measures, malaria workers were able to carry out their duties, delivering long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets, controlling mosquito populations with indoor spraying, and providing preventive treatment for pregnant women and children. In Nigeria, which still suffers from 60 million cases of malaria each year, health workers managed to even increase their delivery of malaria control, protecting millions of children in one of their largest campaigns to date. At the same time, malaria resources have served double duty, tackling the mosquito-borne disease and helping to control the spread of COVID-19. In Zambia, the scientists and equipment in the National Malaria Elimination Program’s genomic surveillance laboratory used to monitor malaria drug resistance quickly pivoted to find COVID-19 variants in the country. In Mozambique, an app created for health workers to provide real-time reporting of malaria cases and fevers has supplied critical data to the national COVID response. Despite this progress, our work is not over. Malaria still kills more than 400,000 people each year. And pandemic lockdowns and movement restrictions have hampered some critical malaria activities, including access to diagnosis and treatment efforts in Africa. Still, I am optimistic that a world without malaria is within reach. And the COVID-19 pandemic reminds us why eradicating malaria is essential. Many of the building blocks we need to fight malaria and prevent the next pandemic are the same: accurate, real-time data; reliable supply chains to bring medicines and resources where they are needed most; and cross-country collaboration. Investments in malaria programs help build stronger health systems that will not only save lives and bring an end to malaria, but also protect us from the next pandemic. And that creates a healthier, safer world for all.


The good news is that many countries are finding ways to maintain key malaria programs even in the face of the pandemic. In Benin, a country in West Africa with one of the highest burdens of malaria in the world, the government teamed up with Catholic Relief Services and our foundation this year to develop a new, innovative way to distribute bed nets across the country. Using smartphones, real time data collection, and satellite mapping, Benin has helped ensure that all families, no matter where they live, will be protected by a bed net at night. And scientists haven not paused research efforts to find new ways to prevent malaria and control mosquito populations, like those underway at “Mosquito City” in Tanzania. What’s exciting to see is how some existing malaria programs are also helping to control COVID-19. For example, emergency operations centres that track outbreaks of malaria in Africa are now being used to monitor the spread of COVID-19. By tracking the shape and movement of the pandemic across countries and regions, health officials are also able to deepen their understanding of health conditions in communities that will, in turn, help improve their responses to malaria in those areas. The progress the world has made against malaria is one of the greatest global health success stories. The COVID-19 pandemic only reinforces why eradicating malaria is so essential. So long as malaria exists, it will continue to flare up and burden the most vulnerable communities. Ridding the world of preventable, treatable diseases like malaria will save millions of lives and lead to healthier, more prosperous communities. And that will make them better prepared to confront any new health challenges like COVID-19 in the future. MBR Thanks to: GatesNotes


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have for decades taken in the lion’s share of Afghan refugees.

European Council president Charles Michel (l), EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, and Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez tour a military base in Spain which has provided the hub for Afghans evacuated from Afghanistan (Photo: European Commission)

Von der Leyen offers funding for resettling Afghans By Silvia Carta and Helena Hahn, from the European Policy Centre (EPC)

Why resettlement is the EU's best option to deal with the Afghanistan crisis


ollowing the end of international evacuations from Afghanistan, a new "refugee crisis" appears to be looming on the horizon, at least in the eyes of several European member states. However, Afghan refugees, and the countries currently hosting them, should be able to count on the European Union's solidarity. And while solidarity can take on different forms, the priority now should be to open up safe and legal ways for the country’s people to find protection in Europe. Resettlement – transferring refugees to the EU from a third country to which they have already fled and giving them legal status – could and should be an important part of the EU’s approach. Unfortunately, European leaders’ immediate response has centred on the need to intervene "before Afghan refugees arrive at external borders" and avoid at all costs another breakdown of the bloc's asylum and migration policies. The outcome of this week's meeting of EU interior ministers is a testament to this preemptive approach, with considerable emphasis on "illegal migration" and little mention of protection needs. Legal pathways to Europe for Afghan refugees appear marginally in the Council statement, with only one reference to voluntary resettlement of vulnerable people.

The next few weeks will be decisive in determining whether the idea remains a viable option for member states, or whether they will further shift the responsibility for the protection of refugees to third countries. The international community has already once turned a blind eye to Afghanistan’s refugee crisis. Although the exact number of Afghans in protracted displacement is difficult to pin down, Pakistan and Iran host an estimated 1.4 million and 780,000 refugees from Afghanistan, respectively – nearly 90 per cent of all displaced Afghans worldwide, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). For its part, Turkey is host to approximately 120,000–500,000 Afghans. Refugees in these countries may be safe from the immediate threat of the Taliban regime but often are not granted any residence papers and face barriers in access to basic services, education and work opportunities. While a small share of Afghans at risk has been evacuated, many of those who are displaced within the country should equally benefit from safe passage and protection. Against this background, the European Union must open its doors to those in need in a safe, humane and orderly manner, not least to take the pressure off of states that

Just last week, Commission President von der Leyen announced that the bloc is ready to take the lead in coordinating member states’ resettlement efforts with the United States and Canada, as well as with the United Nations. Yet, these ambitions may quickly be watered down, even as the urgency increases. Despite its show of strength as a convening power, it remains to be seen whether the EU’s intent to lead international efforts will be matched by its own actions. So far, this does not seem to be the case. There are strong arguments as to why resettlement would be a viable policy option. First, it is an opportunity to show that the EU can respond in greater unanimity in the face of complex and unpredictable geopolitical challenges. While states can voluntarily decide to take part in resettlement efforts, this also means that individual governments cannot veto or prevent such efforts. Moreover, even though resettlement cannot be a substitute for granting asylum to those who reach the EU by other means, the fact that it offers more predictability and control over arrivals could convince even the most sceptical of member states – such as Austria or Slovenia – to receive at least a minimum quota of Afghan refugees. Finally, resettlement is a tool that the bloc can agree upon and put into action right now. Despite Covid-related setbacks, national governments have enough experience to plan and launch resettlement operations. Setting ambitious quotas would send a signal to host countries that EU countries can work together to protect people, not only their external borders. Resettlement is, of course, not the only option on the table to support Afghanistan and those whose lives are at risk after the Taliban’s takeover. The EU should address the problem from different angles. It is critical that all member states uphold their international legal obligations on the right to seek asylum. The bloc should also continue its diplomatic efforts, support host countries and provide humanitarian aid as well as conditional development aid. Looking ahead, there is certainly space to grow when it comes to what the EU can offer in terms of legal pathways to protection. Right now, it is imperative that resettlement is locked in soon to pave the way for the EU to live up to at least some of its promises. MBR Courtesy: Euronews.


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The Secret Life of Sharks IN A WARMING OCEAN


lthough it is widely known that global warming has a direct impact on our ecosystems, there is little information about its effects on oceans’ top predators, such as pelagic sharks and tunas. How does ocean deoxygenation brought about by climate change influence their habitat? And how do they adapt their behaviour to this changing environment? David Sims and his team at the Marine Biological Association Laboratory in the United Kingdom aim to reveal how climate change, oceans’ predators and fishing fleets interact. Throughout Earth's history, the level of oxygen in the oceans has always fluctuated, but over the last 50 years there has been a reduction of about two percent. Some of these losses are particularly acute in oxygen minimum zones, places in the world’s ocean where oxygen saturation in the water column is at its lowest. Scientists predict that climate change will further lower oxygen levels in the oceans, particularly in the oxygen minimum zones. This is likely to have a significant effect on the ecology and behaviour of a range of ocean species: both predators and prey. ERC grantee David Sims is exploring the effects of ocean deoxygenation on the behaviour and ecology of top predators. Interestingly, his preliminary work shows that predators tend to move into areas with oxygen minimum zones at depth, and some appear to stay there for a while. As part of his project, he will investigate what sharks are doing in these low-oxygen (hypoxic) areas, and why they spend time there.

Tracking sharks’ journeys

Twenty-five years ago, Sims started studying sharks in UK waters as part of his PhD. He got into satellite tracking by trying to achieve a better understanding of the basking shark’s feeding habits. Not long after, Sims and his team realised that not much literature was available on the topic of sharks in relation to their oceanic environment, so they founded the Global Shark Movement Project and started tracking sharks in the central Atlantic. They noticed that blue sharks moved from around the Azores Islands to West Africa, encountering an oxygen minimum zone 40

there. This prompted them to start tracking fishing vessels too, looking for a potential link between the two. Soon after, they discovered that oxygen minimum zones were areas of high catch of sharks and other fish, prompting them to investigate further the relationship between fisheries, predators and low oxygen levels.

Fish in a barrel

The fact that oxygen minimum zones are fishing hot spots is relatively easy to explain. In order to survive in these low-oxygen environments, sharks, tunas and other fish must stay relatively close to the surface most of the time, where oxygen levels are higher. Being compressed in a smaller volume makes them more vulnerable. ‘Essentially, it's the shooting fish in a barrel analogy,’ says Sims. ‘If you've got less water in a barrel it's easier to catch the fish.’ What remains a mystery, however, is why sharks spend so much time in these zones, where they are ending up on hooks of longline fishers in higher numbers. Throughout this project, Sims is hoping to find the answer.

Diving after squid and octopus

Interestingly, scientists know that not all shark species spend all their time near the surface of these zones, but can also dive deep into the areas of lower oxygen and stay there for some time. These are cold-bodied shark species such as blue sharks, which have a lower metabolic rate than warm-bodied sharks like shortfin makos, and therefore likely withstand hypoxia for short periods of time. As to what these sharks are doing in these dead zones, David Sims’ team hypothesizes that they are actively hunting hypoxia-tolerant cephalopods, such as deep-water squids and octopuses, as it represents a biomass of food that is less exploited. As part of their project, they will investigate to what extent different shark species hunt in the top layer where hypoxiaintolerant prey species are also compressed, and to what extent some of them may move into oxygen minimum zones to feed on hypoxia-tolerant prey, thus avoiding the surface-layer competition with other predators.


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With the knowledge that our project and others will gather, we will be in a better position to propose solutions for the management and conservation of these high seas environments.

Data collection

To test this and other hypotheses and get insights into the sharks’ behaviour, Sims and his team need to collect lots of data. Usually, researchers track sharks with one of two methods. The first one uses a satellite transmitter attached to the fin of the shark: whenever the animal comes to the surface, the device relays data via messages to polar orbiting satellites. The second one uses a more sophisticated tag that sharks tow along. At a pre-programmed time, the tag is released and floats to the surface to relay data. However, in this ERC project, Sims and his collaborators are even going a step further. They are developing new tags with oxygen sensors, which will allow them to get oxygen data directly from the sharks’ environment. The new tags are also equipped with accelerometers that sample sharks’ body movements as they twist and turn. One of them will also have a very small, integrated video camera that will enable Sims and his team to see what the sharks are seeing. ‘Essentially our sharks and tunas will act like animal oceanographers’, says Sims. ‘They'll be out there measuring oxygen at different depths. In addition to testing our hypothesis, we hope that this data will also be valuable to oceanographers to help them understand how climate change is influencing these oxygen minimum zones.’

The future of the ocean

If oxygen minimum zones are indeed expanding due to climate change, as some models predict, this could make fish – both predators and prey – more vulnerable to fishing. However, Sims remains optimistic about the future of oceans. ‘As someone who tracks wild animals in the open ocean with very expensive tags, and no promise of conclusive results, you need to always remain optimistic’, he says. In the last decade, an important amount of research has been done on the topic, and more scientists and policymakers have grasped its importance, he adds. Additionally, researchers around the world like himself are now able to generate data on oceans, fish and fisheries, and to come up with solutions.

‘With the knowledge that our project and others will gather, we will be in a better position to propose solutions for the management and conservation of these high seas environments’, he says. ‘This constitutes a power base from which we can hopefully spring forward.’

The benefits of winning an ERC grant

Sims notes that receiving an ERC grant gave a great amount of visibility to his research and attracted the interest of scientists from other disciplines. It will also enable him to support a team of 20 scientists, and to get up to 150 researchers worldwide involved in the project. As his project links several scientific disciplines, including ecology, physiology, animal behaviour, oceanography and engineering, this multidisciplinary aspect is also reflected in the composition of his team. ‘Throughout my career I have worked with scientists from various backgrounds and it has been some of the most productive research’, says Sims. ‘The ERC wants to promote research at the edges between different fields, and this is exactly what our project aims to do.’ MBR Professor David Sims is a British marine biologist. He gained a PhD in animal behaviour and was lecturer in the Zoology Department at the University of Aberdeen before becoming a Research Fellow at the Marine Biological Association (MBA) Laboratory in Plymouth in 2000. He is an MBA Senior Research Fellow and a Professor of Marine Ecology in the National Oceanography Centre Southampton, at the University of Southampton. During his career he has won several awards for his work in animal ecology and is the founder of the Global Shark Movement Project.




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