VOICE OF THE
WORKERS ISSUE 24 JUNE 2014
THE RIGHT FOR OPPORTUNITY GOZO CAN EASILY BE DESCRIBED AS MALTA’S JEWEL IN THE CROWN. ITS NATURAL BEAUTY, TRANQUIL SURROUNDINGS AND THE AUTHENTIC FEEL, MAKE GOZO A DESIRED DESTINATION FOR LOCALS AND TOURISTS ALIKE. HOWEVER, BEHIND THE PEACEFUL FACADE LIES AN ARRAY OF ISSUES THAT STRIKE AT THE HEART IF THE GOZITAN COMMUNITY, AND ULTIMATELY, AT MALTA IN GENERAL. The issue of double insularity has its economic as well as social ramifications. It is becoming more difficult to find work in Gozo, and more and more persons, especially qualified ones, are choosing to move to Malta or elsewhere. This is not just resulting in a brain drain, but it is also having a negative effect on the Gozitan social fabric. The increasing mobility of the younger generation is creating a situation of decreasing population as well as an elderly one.
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Gozitans cannot be penalised for being Gozitan. Moreover, we cannot risk making Gozo a museum, missing out on its vital component of young people, children and families. We need to act, and together discuss and implement ways to make Gozo more accessible for work, workers and investment.
Contents Making the Vital Connections
From Insularity to Proactivity
Gozo as a Sector of the Economy
Addressing the Unique Challenges for Gozo
EDITOR’S NOTE JOSEF VELLA
There are a host of issues that need to be addressed in parallel. These include aspects of access, education and training, core competences and creativity.
Access – Gozo needs to become more accessible, both physically as well as on an investment level. We need to make this aspect a matter of priority, as we risk being overtaken by events. Education and training – we need to provide much more than the traditional subjects and skills. We need to embark on a skills audit, and identify what is needed to bridge skills with opportunities for work, both present and future.
Core competences – what is Gozo doing in terms of economic activity, how can it upscale it, and what can it do in the medium and long term? What can be done to adjust Gozo’s capabilities and infrastructure to make this possible? Creativity – Challenges need to me met with creative solutions. We need to think outside the box, transform what we already offer into sustainable spin-offs, and develop innovative activities that
can make Gozo better suited to offer more work to Gozitans and increase the value of work. Work in Gozo needs to increase not just in the number of available jobs, but also in the diversity of jobs that can provide space for diverse people to participate. Opportunities exist for Gozo to increase its spread of work and economic activity for the benefit of all. The key issue is sustainability. It’s not just Gozo that will benefit. It will be the whole of Malta.
Making the vital connections Many see Gozo’s insularity and ‘disconnection’ as insurmountable. However, opportunities exist for making the right connections for Gozo. These include physical, techonological and skills connections. Lack of employment opportunities are having a negative impact on Gozo and its people, and thus, on the whole of Malta. We need to become creative and proactive in finding the right and vital connections for Gozo. In this sense, Gozo may become more of a connected Gozo than an insular one.
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From Insularity to Proactivity Interview with MR MICHAEL GRECH
President of the Gozo Business Chamber and Chairman of the Gozo Regional Committee
1. What, in your opinion, are the main challenges for employment in Gozo? For a small island like Gozo, which suffers from a double insularity status, the solution for sustainable employment on the Island can be split up in three parts. The first is that of having a master plan which clearly identifies where Gozo wants to be in the next 20 years and then identify those niches that Gozo can excel in. Although tourism remains one of the main pillars of the Gozitan economy we cannot continue to think of the normal tourists just coming to the island for sightseeing, enjoying the beaches and our heritage and staying in our hotels and eating VOICE OF THE
in our restaurants. Don’t forget, Gozo is now producing a lot of University graduates where most of them cannot fit into the “normal” tourism industry and unless you create the high value added jobs which these youngsters are seeking than the brain drain of Gozo will continue. For example, medical tourism is one of those niches. The possibility of having a medical school in Gozo is slowly becoming a reality. The provision of high specialised medical services and rehabilitation facilities ancillary to these services will definitely do the trick. Within this type of high value added tourism one can offer job possibilities to all sectors of our youth, starting from those with the lowest level of education to the ones holding a Masters or a PHD.
The second point is to create the necessary incentives, over and above those already being given in Malta, both for Foreign Direct Investors as well as for the local investors. If you look at the example of the mid to late sixties, for those opening up factories in Gozo, the government of the day gave a 10 year tax holiday. I am not saying that it has to be a tax holiday like in the past. We can be very creative when it comes to incentives. Give the incentives to investors and they will come and invest in Gozo. The third important point is the famous POLITICAL WILL. If this is there than everything is possible and achievable. Once you are certain that it exists all one has to do is to ask for time frames of when the necessary projects will be started and completed. 3
2. Do you think that Gozo can really offer enough work for Gozitans? Can Gozo beat its size and island constraints? I have no doubt that the Gozo can beat its size and constraints, especially those of insularity, and create enough work for the Gozitans. The important thing is that one is well focused and makes good use of our educational system to make sure that this system is directing our youngsters to the opportunities that we would be planning ahead in the coming years. I believe that there is a need to create an entrepreneurial spirit in our youngsters starting even at kindergarten level. We must convince our youngsters that they themselves are capable of creating work and not waiting for someone else to create it and they become just employees. 3. What are the areas that we need to work on to achieve better employment levels in Gozo? As I said before one has to look at niches. I mentioned medical
tourism and rehab; something which has not yet been given due consideration and attention in Malta. The other area which provides value added is that of ITC and Finance. For both these industry you have to make sure that you have sufficient connectivity especially with broad band. One must not forget the other forms of connectivity which is by air, sea and land (a fixed link). 4. What is the role of the Gozo Business Chamber in bolstering economic activity and employment in Gozo? The GBC in all of this plays a dual role. The first is that of acting as a promoter and creator of ideas and strategies which eventually are forwarded to the Government. We would define these as being part of the bigger picture. It is the role of Government to create the necessary infrastructure and legislation to help push these ideas to become a reality. Consequently the Chamber will continue to keep the government
THE IMPORTANT THING IS THAT ONE IS WELL FOCUSED AND MAKES GOOD USE OF OUR EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM TO MAKE SURE THAT THIS SYSTEM IS DIRECTING OUR YOUNGSTERS TO THE OPPORTUNITIES THAT WE WOULD BE PLANNING AHEAD IN THE COMING YEARS. and its ministers accountable on what they promise to do. Secondly the GBC will continue to use its influence both locally and in the international arena to keep promoting the island and its potential and to act as a go-between foreign and local investors in order to see that trade and sustainable projects keep on increasing. We do not need any more speculation. 5. What do you think are the major and most viable accessibility options for Gozo to improve its economic performance? Without any shadow of doubt the creation of a permanent link between the two islands is the most viable and effective. The GBC favours a subsea tunnel which should prove to be well within reach financially and also taking into consideration other aspects like the environment and the social impact. If you look at the Faroe Islands, an archipelago of 18 islands with a population of around fifty thousand inhabitants, you will see that they have already done two such tunnels over ten years ago and others are in the pipeline. With such an infrastructure trade and the economy will grow substantially and this will not just be of benefit for Gozo but also for the island of Malta. Mr Grech was interviewed by John Mallia
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Gozo as a Sector of the Economy The island of Gozo has a number of characteristics namely its double insularity and limited resources which result in limited opportunities for the island. Gozo is losing its population to Malta consequently the population of Gozo is an ageing one. Gozo is an important factor in social and civil dialogue and in fact the Gozo Regional Committee within MCESD discusses economic and social issues relevant to the island of Gozo.
Gozo has distinct characteristics and one needs to build and develop on these unique factors to attract investment and to ensure that the island is a valuable contributor to the economy of the Maltese islands as a whole. The workforce available on the island is limited and therefore this might prove to be a hindrance in attracting investment to the island. There
MCESD 280/3, Republic Street, Valletta, VLT1112 Tel: (+356) 2200 3300 www.mcesd.org.mt
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are sources of income which can generate jobs in Gozo including in the financial services and enhancement of the tourism sector and development of niche markets. The Gozitan economy needs to be diversified and not mainly focused on tourism primarily because times are changing and the economic situation in Gozo needs to adapt accordingly. The Gozo Regional Committee within MCESD last year put forward a set of proposals to Government in relation to improving Gozoâ€™s economic situation. The main proposals centred on improved accessibility and fiscal incentives for companies wanting to invest in Gozo. Any initiatives taken to improve the current situation on the sister island need to have a holistic approach as well as ensure value added for the Maltese Islands. Any initiatives which are just replicas to ones in Malta might not be effective. Incentives such as the expression of interest of cruise terminal and yachting facilities is an example of how initiatives can be promoted as upgrading of national facility and not of the Gozo Island in isolation. Even though there are various challenges that Gozo has to face, the potential of it becoming a much more valuable contributor to the Maltese economy is immense .
Unique Challenges for Gozo THAT GOZO IS AN IMPORTANT SECTOR OF THE MALTESE ECONOMY GOES WITHOUT SAYING. HOWEVER, EQUATING GOZO’S ECONOMY WITH THAT OF MALTA IS MISTAKEN. WITH ITS DISTINCT CHARACTERISTICS, UNIQUE POTENTIAL AND SPECIFIC CHALLENGES, GOZO HAS TO BE TREATED ON A DIFFERENT AND DISTINCT LEVEL WHEN IT COMES TO STRENGTHENING ITS ECONOMIC POTENTIAL. Within this context, the EU’s LEADER Programme funds projects and initiatives that help surmount these challenges and protect distinct identities. The LEADER approach is based on the work of Local Action Groups such as the Gozo Action Group Foundation which is made up of representatives of local administration and the private sector, and is in charge of designing and implementing the local development strategy. The Foundation has successfully implemented EU-funded projects such as landscaping and enhancement of rural areas that make Gozo a unique destination. Other projects included traditional festivals which help strengthen Gozo’s tourism product in the lean months, thus spreading the influx of visitors over the whole year and making it easier for Gozo’s infrastructure to cope. Gozo’s particular challenges are also recognised in central Government policy in relation to EU funds. This was recently confirmed by Parliamentary Secretary for the EU Presidency 2017 and EU Funds, Dr Ian Borg, who said that 10% of the European funds from the budget allocated for Malta have been committed to Gozo. This will increase Gozo’s allocation to €16 million, and the funds will be used to finance new equipment at the Gozo General Hospital, improve the Xewkija Industrial Estate, build a new block at the Gozo sixth form, and provide assistance to employers. These funds will not only improve the quality of life on the Island of Gozo, but also improve the health and education sectors while also creating the right breeding ground to increase the potential of the labour market on the Island, and strengthen its infrastructure and resources. In turn, these measures will also strengthen Gozo’s contribution towards the Maltese economy. Mr Grech was interviewed by John Mallia
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EcoGozo is a vision for an island to become even more beautiful, inspiring, welcoming, thriving, inclusive and successful. A healthy and successful place to live in, in equilibrium with the environment. Additional information on plans and activities foreseen to be implemented in the economic, environmental, and societal/cultural sector are available here: www.eco-gozo.com/index. php?lang=en
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MALTA ENTERPRISE LAUNCHES TWO NEW PROGRAMMES FOR EXPORT Malta Enterprise has today launched two new programmes for export. These programmes will yield â‚Ź485,000 of assistance to industry to export locally manufactured products. The programmes cater for industries that are new to export as well as to those that wish to expand their current export market. http://tinyurl.com/lpo6asw
ECOGOZO.COM Gozo will become an eco-island by 2020, supported by a keen and committed sustainable community. In order to further improve Gozo quality of life and economy, through education, economic development and social progress, Gozo will strive to reduce its carbon and water footprints.
GRANTS TO BOOST JOBS In Malta, 170 employers receive ESF employment-support grants to help provide jobs for disabled and unemployed people http://tinyurl.com/nb35t92 Contact authority can be found at this link: http://tinyurl.com/p79ce2d
Gozoâ€™s opportunities as an eco-island, as a hub for enterprise and development and of employment, are also the subject of inmitiatives at EU level. This information is being presented by the Brussels office of the Confederazione Italiana Agricoltori.
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