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BUDGET 2022:

The Government has budged


You won’t end up in the JOINT with a few grams


MENT+ initiative under the lens






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Civitavecchia Naples Bari Salerno Porto Brindisi Torres Olbia Cagliari Gioia Tauro Palermo Catania Tunis


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Limassol Beirut &Tripoli


Tangier Misurata



Bengazi Alexandria





Connecting MALTA to the world


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Budget aftermath

A series of articles on the outcome of the Budget 2022: Businesses, The Malta Chamber President and citizens speak out on the Budget measures.

Photo by: Jonathan Borg

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Gearing Up for 2022 Keith Demicoli on preparedness for 2022.



Successful Businesses

Emerging Trends

Synonymous with the Playmobil brand, Helga Ellul is interviewed on her entrepreneurial successes.

A growing trend among locals is the hair transplant procedure to get that feel-good factor and confidence back!

16 Employment An official from the Finance and Employment Ministry explains what the Malta Employment Policy entails, while opposition member Jason Azzopardi shares his opinion. page


22 Minding the gap Prof. Christopher Bezzina on key skills for the 21st century.

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Payroll systems and the Budget effect

Weed Times!

An opportunity to grow!

David Seisun speaks about the impact each and every Budget leaves on the payroll system as many changes which are time-consuming need to be implemented in the system as a result of new measures.

Dr Andrew Agius from the Pain Clinic shares his expertise on medical cannabis.

Members of the Young Chamber Network (YCN) discuss the the opportunities The Chamber has brought about for them.




Zak Farrugia, International Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) athlete and Head Coach at the new body conditioning gym UN1T, speaks on how to train smart and also suggests some fitness and workout programmes for our readers.

Minister Miriam Dalli and the Malta Chamber speak about the MENT+ initiative aimed at supporting entrepreneurs who have or are going through rough times.

Malta-GermanY relations The German Embassy, the founder and director of Attard and Co. and the President of the Republic give their take on the 'sound' and 'strong' relations between Malta and Germany.


60 Adopting to Covid-19's Legacy

44 Malta Chamber News Learn about what's been happening in the last two months at The Malta Chamber and its ongoing work.

Maypole's Mario Debono speaks about the tsunami of challenges faced during the peak of the pandemic and how the franchise managed to overcome such obstacles.


82 'tis the season to be stressed Julianne Grima, psychotherapist, speaks to professionals from various industries on Christmastime in a new Commercial Courier column called 'Up Close & Personal'.




Duncan Barry

BECOME A MEMBER of The Malta Chamber.

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'Tis the season.

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The publisher, authors and contributors reserve their rights with regards to copyright. No part of this magazine may be reproduced or copied by any means without the written consent of the publisher. Editorial features and opinions expressed in Commercial Courier do not necessarily reflect the views of The Malta Chamber, the publisher, or the editorial team. Both The Malta Chamber and the Publisher do not accept responsibility for commercial and advertising content. Although the authors and publisher have made every effort to ensure that the information in this magazine was correct before going to print, the author and publisher do not assume and hereby disclaim any liability to any party for any loss, damage, or disruption caused by errors or omissions, whether such errors or omissions result from negligence, accident, or any other cause. Special thanks to The Mala Chamber, partners, contibutors and Adobe Stock for the provision of photographic material. Printed in Malta by Gutenberg Press Ltd. All magazine rights are reserved by The Malta Chamber and TBWA\ANG.




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National Budget: The Government has budged If you look up the word budge, it’s normally used negatively in the sense that someone who doesn’t budge simply means he or she won’t move IN the slightest. I have used the word budge positively here. I am writing this editorial as Finance Minister Clyde Caruana delivers the national Budget speech. Every year, many of us eagerly await the Government measures and incentives to find out what’s in store.

Duncan Barry

COVID apart, it is a fact that there are many low-income earners living among us. Most of us should thank our lucky stars that we emerged unscathed in this long-standing pandemic which won’t go away some time soon. We must learn to live with it. However, there were many who have been struggling pre-COVID and the pandemic exacerbated the situation. CHRISTMAS IS APPROACHING: OUR WISH LIST! Don’t we all have a wish list? From social partners who represent society at large to business owners who have felt the pinch of COVID, and the man in the street. The pain as a result of COVID was alleviated to a certain extent by Government and EU measures to support businesses and employees, such as the ongoing COVID wage supplement and the tapered measures that followed.



This Budget catered a lot for those with low wages and vulnerable people. This is a good step in the right direction. Prior to the Budget, the Finance Minister also announced a new mechanism which will also benefit low-income earners. SOCIAL DIALOGUE PLAYS VITAL ROLE DURING PANDEMIC COVID thought us that social dialogue is a strong pillar to get us out of an emergency situation as social partners were brought under one roof to discuss and look at the way forward as the situation in relation to COVID unfolded. The Malta Council for Economic and Social Development (MCESD) played a vital role during the pandemic in terms of social dialogue and is preparing for any eventuality that may arise in future and which can be addressed as from next year’s Budget. TRAFFIC PROBLEM IS NOT GIVING WAY Politics apart, we can safely say that this Budget reached out to a lot of people and businesses and introduced a super measure, free bus transport for all – the second country in the EU to introduce such a measure. This is the only way forward up to now to tackle

But first and foremost, for this scheme to work, we need to change our mentality when it comes to commuting. Will we wait in the scorching heat and rain for a bus? Will we walk to the next bus stop? In other capital cities commuters do. So there requires a change in culture and change in our mind set. As for the property market, where the foundations of the market were shaken as a result of COVID, real estate agents and prospective property buyers welcomed the new measures. Some of the new measures are aimed at decreasing new developments and attracting buyers to invest in old houses in Urban Conservation Areas (UCAs). But to the dismay of many, the reduction of the rate of stamp duty to 1.5% on the first €400,000 of the transfer value will not be renewed and therefore will expire in June 2022. The Promise of Sale (konvenju) must be done by December 2021. A good measure is the reduced tax rate for part-time workers which will also be reduced from 15% to 10%, and which is set to impact some 23,000 workers. A tax incentive when passing on a family business to a relative will only pay 1.5% in stamp duty on the transfer, rather than 5% is another step in the right direction.

talks?’ and features a number of industry leaders who share their thoughts on the incentives while we also gathered some town and village talk on the Budget and what could have been included. ’TIS THE SEASON TO BE STRESSED?! So, apart from the Budget, we have featured a new section: ‘Up Close and Personal’. In this edition, we tackle the stress synonymous with Christmastime. MALTA-GERMANY TIES The President of the Republic George Vella speaks about the strong Malta-German ties along with Walter HAßMANN, the German Ambassador to Malta, and Hugh Arrigo, Founder and Director of Attard and Co. Industrial and also board member of the Chamber of Commerce. ‘BABY’ STEPS TO SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURSHIP We also carry an article on the Young Chamber Network that has helped many youth in their ‘baby’ steps to successful entrepreneurship. UP IN SMOKE! Dr Andrew Agius of the Pain Clinic speaks about the benefits of medical cannabis as a number of businesses are granted medical cannabis licencing. Unfortunately, we couldn’t run a ‘joint’ interview with licence holders to give their take on the subject as efforts to reach them went up in smoke!

The Commercial Courier has compiled an article themed the ‘Budget Aftermath: Budget talk, Money

Blajna l'Metro...

. . Haqallanqas zammewha s-sigra....


Happiness is a gift under the tree. . .



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the traffic-related issue. Despite widening most of our roads and building a central link project, the traffic problem doesn’t seem to be giving way.


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WORDS Keith demicoli

Preparing for 2022 While 2020 was the year that almost everyone wished they could forget, 2021 has possibly been the most challenging as we continued to change, adapt, and realign our lives and business operations. As many of us prepare for rebirth and regrowth in 2022, The Malta Chamber has been very active in ensuring that Malta is indeed ready for another transformative year and even more for the future. The Budget 2022 proposals document included 200 recommendations impacting all business sectors. The Malta Chamber was delighted to observe that several of the measures it proposed were taken on board by the Government and Opposition. The most notable measures taken up by the authorities were:

Keith Demicoli

• Schemes to incentivise productive work and shift works as well as reduced tax rates for part-time and overtime work; • Zero tax on pensionable income for those in employment beyond retirement age; • Zero tax on the reinvestment of profits for business operators; • A strong emphasis on green investments in terms of mobility and construction as well as in favour of heritage buildings and UCA properties; • Better planning through the introduction of an aesthetics policy and comprehensive development; • Assistance for companies to offer training to their employees; • More funding support to help commercialise technological products; • Incentives for businesses investing in innovation. Furthermore, the recently launched 'National Employment Policy' also

included many of the 56 tangible recommendations The Malta Chamber put forward. These include: • Tax incentives aimed at those wishing to work after retirement as well as the equivalent treatment of overtime and part-time employment; • The setting up of a National Skills governing body to develop a skills strategy that can address the gaps and map out the skills needed in the future supported with adequate guidance; • The strengthening of work-based learning programmes and promoting life-long learning coupled with the need for continuous up-skilling and reskilling of employees. Both the Budget and the new Employment Policy tally with the Malta Chamber's strong belief that Malta needs to continue taking difficult decisions to address the shortfalls in competitiveness, reputation and talent. The overarching aim of The Malta Chamber is to strengthen its position as a true thought-leader and remain a force for good in our society. The Chamber will continue to offer its support throughout next year in a bid to make the country more reputable and competitive, whilst building a peoplecentred economy which promotes further sustainability.

Keith Demicoli is a multi-award winning broadcaster and communicator. Until recently he was well known for his regular broadcasts of TVM News. He regularly moderates and presents high-profile events. He’s a locally based contributor for BBC, France24, and Euronews. He trained at the BBC Academy, London, and is an alumni of the 'US International Programme for Journalists'. He holds a Masters Degree in European Law, Economics, and Politics from the University of Malta.



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Duncan Barry


BUDGET TALK, MONEY TALKS?! Has the Government budged to the needs of industry? Has it answered to calls from the various sectors hit by the pandemic? Is the Budget a short-term exercise or a medium to long-term one? And isn't it good that low-income earners have been given priority? DUNCAN BARRY finds out more as he speaks to various industry leaders and to the man in the street! The Malta 2022 Budget included a number of attractive measures aimed at sustaining economic growth for Malta in a post-pandemic environment. It also introduces various environmental and sustainable measures and incentives that cater to the property industry as COVID shook the market's foundations throughout the pandemic. However, past incentives for property buyers helped bring back the market on its feet to a certain extent. And some incentives have been extended. The COVID Wage supplement also helped many to stay afloat during rough times.

style also qualify. When acquiring these types of properties, no capital gains tax and no stamp duty will be paid on the first €750,000. This scheme shall also apply to those on a promise of sale and have not yet entered the final deed.

As for the property market a new incentive is being introduced for individuals who buy a property that has been built for more than 20 years and has been vacant for over seven years; properties that are found in UCA zones, as well as new properties that are built in typical Maltese

The talk in the street is that the Budget was a super budget however lacked long-term goals and moved with the fluid situation, therefore being more of a short-term based Budget.

The stamp duty exemptions for first-time buyers and secondtime buyers and purchases of properties in Gozo have been extended until the end of 2022.

We have spoken to industry leaders on their take on the Budget. MICHAEL BONELLO CEO, ALLIANCE REAL ESTATE PEOPLE In its Budget for 2022, Malta's Government is tackling various environmental challenges. It allocates substantial investment to address climate change and promote the green economy while encouraging more sustainable development, particularly in our village cores. page


Over and above that, the introduction of a VAT refund of up to €54,000 on the first €300,000 spent on the renovation of these properties, can be expected to begin to make a real difference in our towns and villages. Additionally, the extension into next year of schemes for first-time and second-time buyers, and those buying properties in Gozo, are also welcome, as these directly affect affordability and have already proven a very positive impact on the market. Another measure which directly improves housing affordability is the extension of the Equity Sharing Scheme from over 40s to now also reach the over 30s. Making homeownership more affordable for more people while improving the quality of life in our urban towns and villages are just two aspects of the very positive Budget 2022. SEE WHAT THE MAN IN THE STREET HAS TO SAY ON BUDGET MEASURES: • Enforce discipline on the streets especially rampant cell phone use when driving • Make roads safer and cleaner to encourage the use of two-wheelers • Create software that allows Local Councils to issue permits according to road closures to prevent major detours

• Reduce costs for on-demand services like twowheelers such as scooters and bikes, chauffeur and taxi companies • Remove registration tax for small vehicles like Smart and IQ cars • Some also expressed concern over the free transport service. The question they posed was: Why should I, as a taxpayer, pay for a free service I never use? But then again, isn't this incentive aimed at encouraging the use of public transport? • Need for a plan to tackle greylisting • Low-income earners have been targeted positively and rightly so while those working unsociable hours have also been incentivised • The extension of property tax deductions is welcomed among many prospective buyers and the industry itself • The Government issues grants for those renovating houses of Maltese character. But do the grants cover the demand of those carrying such restoration works? • The increase in subsidies for those investing in electric vehicles was the only way forward to reduce pollution on our streets and reduce noise levels • Is the Government doing enough to combat heavy polluting cars? Is the VRT system actually working? • Why are zebra crossings placed in blind corners? Is something being done by the transport regulator to see that zebra crossings are placed in the right places to avoid accidents? • Restaurants have been given a free hand to extend their tables and chairs onto streets and pavements blocking ramps, making it harder for persons with a disability to manoeuvre.

OTTAVIO SUDA RESTAURATEUR, PEPE NERO SHELL SHACK & GRILL "As the restaurant sector received a boost due to the Government vouchers for all citizens and other budgetary aid, the COVID impact was much greater," Mr Suda says. The following are his comments on the COVID situation where he compares the October 2021 period with last year. This was a challenging period for the catering & hospitality industry in coping with a lack of revenue and high expenses. Some stakeholders cooperated, whilst others did not so much. Government’s aid and incentives did help the industry, in my opinion but the COVID impact was much more significant. It seems that at present, the situation is much better when compared to October 2020. Budget 2022 didn’t cater directly to the restaurant industry. page


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Primarily, the removal of capital gains and stamp duty on transfers of derelict buildings in urban conservation areas, and the introduction of direct grants for first-time buyers of such properties, can be expected to motivate more investment in rehabilitating old eyesores in our village cores.

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measure to encourage investment in UCA’s and redevelopment of an older property.

Ian Casolani forms part of The Malta Chamber Board of Members.

IAN CASOLANI MANAGING DIRECTOR, BELAIR PROPERTY As the property scheme whereby the reduction on stamp duty will expire in December for a Promise of Sale and in June for the final contract, Mr Casolani feels that this will trigger panic buying. The below are his comments on the property related Budget measures. Regarding the exemption from income tax on capital gains and stamp duty on the first €750,000 of the price of properties, which applies to properties built in an UCA, which are built more than 20 years ago and have been vacant for more than seven years; or which are new properties and are built in a typical and ‘traditional Maltese style’ and architecture. I believe this is a medium to long-term strategy. It encourages both vendors and purchases to look into renovating old derelict properties. If this measure takes off, it will help reduce the need for new buildings and revive certain UCA’s. Persons who will own or who already own qualifying properties as above may also benefit from a VAT Refund of up to €54,000 on the first €300,000 expenses incurred for the restoration of such properties. Here is another

First-time buyers purchasing qualifying properties will receive a grant of €15,000. This is increased to €30,000 for properties situated in Gozo. In addition, stamp duty exemption for first-time buyers up to the first €200,000, and purchase of property in Gozo having a stamp duty rate of 2% will be extended. It is crucial that our youngsters can afford to get onto the property ladder. €15K is not a large sum. However, coupled with the tax exemptions and VAT refunds, it will hopefully encourage youngsters to make this move COVID measures: The reduction of the rate of stamp duty to 1.5% on the first €400,000, and the reduction of income tax on capital gains to 5% on the first €400,000 will not be renewed and therefore will expire in June 2022. POS must be signed before 31st December 2021. This helped stimulate the economy during COVID. Obviously not sustainable for the Government to continue this, so we might see some panic buying since this scheme will expire in Dec 2021. Eligible age for the Equity Sharing Plus scheme is to be lowered from over 40 to over 30 years of age. Again another measure intended to help buyers get onto the property ladder. This is tricky as there is still uncertainty as to whether one will be able to afford the exit after 20 years.

CHAMBER OPINION: A pre-election budget but not exceptionally generous Marisa Xuereb, Malta Chamber President

Marisa Xuereb

This National Budget for 2022 has a number of narratives. Clearly, it is getting very tight, and no matter how optimistic our forecasts for a quick recovery can be, there will still be a significant deficit in 2022 and even in 2023. Costs are rising, and pensioners and people on lower incomes will need to be helped to maintain their purchasing power. Increases in energy costs may also need to be met by hefty subsidisation. Importantly, we need to use our human resources to their full potential: this is imperative for recovery, and a number of targeted incentives have been announced in this regard. Additionally, businesses will be supported to invest, particularly in green technology. The electrification of vehicles and greater use of public transport rank high on the wishlist and will be allocated considerable funding, even though significant shifts within the next calendar year are unlikely. Finally, there is still some hope that what's left of our UCAs can be saved. While this is a pre-election budget, it is not exceptionally generous. It is a budget that acknowledges the present realities but still appears to be over-optimistic on outcomes. While the pandemic has abated, the economic challenges associated with recovery bottlenecks in the short-term and international decarbonisation and tax harmonisation commitments in the medium-term to longterm will test our resilience and adaptability in unprecedented ways.




Successful businesses

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BUILDING BLOCKS Former Playmobil Malta Ltd CEO and Malta Chamber president Helga Ellul speaks candidly about her career milestones. She celebrates the fact that more women in Malta are holding executive roles. Family, however, was always very important for her and she reveals that her biggest life achievement was, in fact, building both a successful career and a family. When Helga Ellul landed in Malta in 1974, soon after the German family business she worked for, Brandstätter Group, launched Playmobil, little did she expect she would become such a successful business leader or that the island would become her home. She was meant to stay only one year until she set up the administration of Brandstätter in Malta but as the company grew year after year and she met her future husband, she decided to stay on.

Ronald Cassar

She first held the executive roles of Chief Commercial Officer and Chief Operations Officer before becoming CEO of Playmobil Malta in 1982 – a role she held for 30 years, until her retirement in 2012. Helga realises that being a female CEO of a manufacturing company in those days was “very unusual”, not only in Malta, but in the whole business world. It was a very male-dominated environment, but she is glad to say that her gender did not affect her role in any significant way. “I did not have many issues, really, maybe because I was a foreigner. You know how it is in Malta, foreigners are very looked up to! The Germans, especially, were highly respected. I think they still are but, at the time, being a German made my role a bit easier to a certain extent,” she says. She, however, knew from the very start that in order to be successful, she needed to get to know the business culture of the country, so she joined the Malta



Federation of Industry, which she describes as having been “quite a powerful institution” at the time. “I was the only female, but then again, you listen to your male counterparts, how they do business. And you know, if you are professional and you know what you’re talking about − and you make sense − and you contribute in a positive way, you earn your respect, both if you are male or female,” she notes. “I often put forward some ideas of how we did things in Germany, how we work, and there was quite an openness to listen, to learn how other countries are doing it and to adapt to a certain extent. You know, it was still the beginning of industrialisation in Malta at the time.” Helga yet believes that the secret to her success is the fact that she likes to work in teams. “I always like to work in teams, to listen and to learn from others and to try giving my

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positive input. So I am not a person to run on my own but rather I try to get the best out of the situation and contribute to it.” Her management style certainly paid off, and she also held important roles in the US and Spain. As regards her achievements in Malta, she highlights two important milestones. “The buying of a new factory in Ħal Far led to a change in our operations. As we had grown so fast, we ended up with different plants in Malta. At one time, we had five different locations, which meant having some 100 trailers per day going back and forth to the different plants – that’s a lot of non-value-adding costs, such as drivers, storage.... So when we moved under one roof, the company became much more efficient,” she points out. “We also adopted a just-in-time production system, a first for a Playmobil plant, where we delivered just-in-time what the customer wanted. Our clients did not want to plan far ahead but they wanted to have whatever they wanted as fast as possible, so we developed that.” Another key moment for Playmobil Malta was the introduction of automation. “When we started production in Malta, all the Playmobil figures were hand-assembled. There was a lot of assembly work to be done. Don’t forget, and we’re speaking of about 100 million figures a year. “After two years of research and innovation with German, Swiss and my Maltese engineers, we finally managed to automate this process in 2004. Of course, there are still some parts that need to be assembled by hand, but most are now assembled by machines. It was a very important milestone and a big achievement,” Ellul says proudly. A few years later, she became the first female president of the Malta Chamber when the latter institution merged with the Malta Federation of Industry. Through an agreement between the two organisations, the Federation chose Ellul as Chamber president. “It was an important first for the Chamber as well to have a female president,” Ellul remarks. The year was 2008, when the global financial crisis had just started as a result of the collapse of the US housing market. page


“It was quite a tough time, but we closely discussed how to prevent Malta from suffering much due to the crisis and we coordinated a lot with the government,” she says, while noting that many employees were saved from redundancy as a result. “It was a challenging but very rewarding time.” Coming from the manufacturing industry, her appointment at the Chamber also gave her the opportunity to learn about other economic sectors, such as financial services, trading and importing. “So I got a much wider view of the economy. It was quite a learning curve for me,” she says. Another achievement, and one which she admittedly “really enjoyed”, was that she managed to merge the capabilities of the people of the Malta Chamber and the Malta Federation of Industry to become one, more effective organisation. “The Federation was very different to the Chamber. The Chamber was an old, established institution and a bit conservative, maybe. The Federation was a newer institution and perhaps a bit more dynamic, very straightforward. We got together into a fabulous team, pulling the strings of the two different teams together. For me, it was a very exciting time and a very rewarding one.” Once her two-year tenure as president was over, she continued to follow the work of the Chamber “very, very closely”. She explains that

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all ex-Chamber presidents form part of a small committee that carries an advisory role. “I think all of us ex-presidents have the Chamber at heart. You can’t really let go. We, in fact, work closely with the current president, Marisa Xuereb. I think she’s doing a brilliant job,” Ellul says. She adds that the Chamber has changed a lot over the years and has grown in size, expertise and prestige and that times have changed as well. “Today, you have to be very professional. A lot of effort is being put into making sure that the processes everywhere are clearly outlined and transparent, especially in view of Malta being greylisted by the FATF. I think it’s a very important role.” When Helga retired from Playmobil, she opened a small consultancy firm, Advise Ltd, and got more involved with other family businesses. She is also involved in philanthropic work: she forms part of the Young Enterprise Award committee, she’s on the board of the Joseph Calleja Foundation and is the president of Core Platform Malta, an NGO that promotes and raises awareness on corporate citizenship and corporate social responsibility (CSR) among businesses and civil society in Malta. “These issues are very close to my heart and something which we practised at Playmobil. Before, it was something sort of nice to work on those principles and values, but now it’s a must to adopt them.” Helga, therefore, does not really seem she is planning to retire any time soon, although she admits she would like to have more time to spend with her grandchildren. Because, after all, Helga is also a family woman: a wife, a mother of two and a grandmother of four. “It was always important for me to have a family. Work has been a tremendous experience, but family always came first. My biggest achievement is that I managed both,” she says. “Thank God, in my husband, I found the right partner, who was ready to work with me in a partnership. So he took his part in raising our family." “We were very much always a team. My husband

had his company, I had my work. We had a family together and shared all the responsibilities and enjoyed it together.” Helga loves to read, paint, listen to classical music, and play golf in her free time. She likes to spend some quiet time at her small farmhouse in Gozo and enjoys small dinner parties. But she mostly loves being with her family, especially her grandchildren. “They’re the biggest joy I have in my life,” she says. Helga is happily witnessing the fact that more women in Malta are being given executive jobs. Besides Marisa Xuereb at the head of the Chamber, she mentions Joanne Bondin, president of the Malta Employers’ Association, and Abigail Mamo, CEO of the Malta Chamber of SMEs. “We see a lot of women actually in quite important roles nowadays. Companies also want to have diversity on their boards. But women have to be ready for such a role and really want to do it,” she stresses. “There has to be certain training as well, such as on what it means to be on a board, what it means to be a director… There should actually be an institute of directors, and there has to be more training… not only for females but also for men.” Her advice to women who want to succeed is to be passionate about what they do ultimately. However, she urges them to be cautious if they want to have a family as well. “If you are passionate about your company, your work or the profession you’re doing, then go for it. But it’s also very important that if you want to juggle work and raise a family, make it very clear, talk about it with your partner and make sure it’s what both of you want. “You should not go into a family commitment with children if you are not ready for it. Ideally, you can manage both,” she says. Her last word of advice to women aiming to climb the corporate ladder: “Even when you are a businesswoman, remain a woman. Don’t become a man. They have their good aspects but also their problems. We women are different, and we should be proud of that. And we can project our difference in a positive way in the business world.” page



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Stephanie Mintoff Communications Officer at Ministry for Finance and Employment



WORDS Stephanie Mintoff


Work as we know it is changing. Call it the fourth industrial revolution, the digital revolution, or with the world on fire, more urgently, the green revolution. Business models will have to change fast to stay viable, and workers will have to change with them. AI, algorithms, and the internet of things will create new solutions we cannot fathom for the future. No one can predict the future exactly, but we know two things - it’s going to be different, and it must be rooted in today’s world. Looking back at the first industrial revolution and the transformation that followed, a classic anecdote from the book The Future of Work by Darrel M. West, cuts right down to the challenge of a changing workforce. Back in 1954, a union boss was visiting a Ford Motors Factory that had installed automatic robotic machines on the factory lines. A fellow factory worker asked him how soon he could sign the robots up to the union. The union boss answers, “How soon are you going to get them to buy cars?” Raising productivity is any businesses’ goal, and automation can mean there are fewer employees, but they are making less money and are most probably not able to buy the same products. So the threat of inequality increases is real. This is not to incite mobs in the streets with chants of robots taking over our jobs –that view is overly pessimistic.

Yes, some jobs that are currently available can be replaced by automated services at some point. But tech will mostly work alongside us, and studies show that they will be limited to a particular set of jobs. The OECD estimates that one in ten jobs could be automated, while another 25% could undergo significant change because of automation. A new set of jobs will rise to take their place in their place, as has been the trend in the past ten years, with four out of the ten jobs created being in digitalintensive sectors. Rather the greater use of technology, as the industrial revolution before it, means greater productivity, greater economic growth, making everyone better off in the long run. For example preindustrial revolution, most countries’, as was Malta’s, biggest industry was agriculture and as technology took over and economies diversified, new jobs were created, and so have our opportunities, capabilities and quality of life. However more streamlining with tech will mean that some workers will be displaced, especially ones with low skills whose jobs would be easily automated. Research by the McKinsey Global Institute (June 2021) claims the need for manual and physical skills, as well as basic cognitive ones, will decline, but demand for

It is a point of concern for Malta having a persistently high representation of unskilled workers – 42.1% of all employed persons according to JobsPlus data in 2016. According to Eurostat, Malta has one of the highest rates of workers with a low level of education in the EU. Malta also ranks in third place from the last concerning the expected number of school years, culminating in a high degree of early school leavers with low skill levels. So, in the immediate future, how well we fare is not only down to how we regulate technologies but also how we prepare our workers. The National Employment Policy (NEP) that The Ministry of Finance and Employment boldly put forward is a vision for the next nine years that develops and protects its workers in this new revolution. The NEP endeavours to imagine, create and implement the social and political reforms to make our workers, businesses and society ready for forthcoming technologies and risks, and the country more peaceful and prosperous in the process. It fundamentally aims to nudge society to recognise education as a lifelong endeavour. The adaptation plan proposed by the NEP has 40 recommendations that can be summed up under three main pillars with their own goals. Equipping and safeguarding workers’ employability is done by investing in their capabilities, enabling them to acquire skills, reskill and upskill. It is also about supporting them through the various transitions they will face over their life course by championing inclusivity, equality, and mobility.

The National Employment Policy recognises that Malta’s people are its greatest asset, and they form the backbone of the island’s workforce and economy. A well-skilled, adaptable and innovative workforce can underpin improved living standards and the well-being of all over the longer term. Cedefop estimates that the share of adults in Malta with potential for upskilling and reskilling ranges between 65.6% and 71.5% of the total adult population i.e. 154,000 to 168,000 adults. That is a lot of potential. For a better idea of where the country stands, the Budget for 2022 allocated €2 million for the first of its kind national skills census that will capture details on Malta’s human capital and employment skills and shed light on skill gaps targeted through policy development. Next year’s Budget emphasised the importance of economic development rather than mere economic growth and incorporated a number of the 40 recommendations from the NEP to invest in human capital. These include the establishment of a €2 million Skills Fund to encourage lifelong learning and upskilling and measures to foster participation in apprenticeship and traineeship programmes. Keeping students in school will be facilitated by their stipends increasing by 10%, even for students juggling a part-time job and working up to 25 hours a week. Over the next year, we will be seeing the entry into force of the new law governing and further strengthening the status of the profession of educators. This should lead to giving more professional status to all educators, including KGEs and LSEs, regardless of the level of education they teach, with more courses available to each educator so they may continue professional training throughout their careers. The Budget also introduced a package of instruments for businesses to be more flexible and innovative. Inherently, development of any kind doesn’t come easy.

Enabling employers and businesses to continue being important drivers of economic growth and employment, by supporting their development and by ensuring the sustainability and resilience of their enterprises. By harnessing transformative technologies, demographic opportunities and the green economy, investments by businesses can be powerful drivers of equity and sustainability for the present and future generations.

Change and taking risks are uncomfortable and Covid induced changes have exhausted this whole generation. But when we think about the future, we hope for a lot of progress. Keeping things the same would mean we would progress horizontally, but the digital revolution is gearing us up for intensive vertical progress, which means doing new things whether we like it or not.

By supporting and building responsive institutions of work to ensure decent and sustainable work and by streamlining administrative burdens for employees and employers alike.

Overall there are many reasons to be optimistic about the AI economy; with the NEP vision in tow and its associated measures, our future vertical progress seems less risky, and our future is safeguarded. page


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technological, social, emotional, and higher cognitive skills will grow. In demand will be what McKinsey identifies as ‘foundational skills,’ that cut horizontally across all occupations and sectors as ones that add value beyond what can be done by automated systems and intelligent machines and continually adapt to new ways of working and new occupations.

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Dr Jason Azzopardi Shadow Minister for Employment, Competitiveness and Industry

AN OPPOSING OPINION Dr Jason Azzopardi MP, OPPOSITION Shadow Minister for Employment, Competitiveness and Industry shares HIS thoughts and proposals on the strategy. Consultation process leading to the National Employment Strategy. We waited for government to be true to its word and invite us for meaningful consultation on such a nationally important subject. Government and the Finance Minister did zilch. They completely ignored the Opposition. Typical of an administration where hubris and arrogance are deeply embedded within its vaults and veins. Deteriorating Working Conditions and Strain on Infrastructure. Following the 2013 election, the Labour administration adopted a policy that favoured the inward migration of labour. In April 2014, the present Finance Minister, then at the helm of the employment agency, went on record stating that the economy needs foreign workers to keep growing. In January of this year, Minister Caruana changed tack, saying that importing foreign workers brought about challenges for which the country



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was not prepared. The unplanned increase in foreign workers caused stress on roads, hospitals and schools. It also brought about a serious deterioration, even gross abuse, in workers’ rights.

5. Government should consider giving a tax break for the first five years when highly qualified Maltese individuals working abroad return to Malta;

The deterioration in workers’ conditions resulted in less favourable conditions also for Maltese workers who were faced with a situation of either accepting less favourable conditions or losing their job to foreign workers.

6. Introduce a National Skills Development Programme that aims to provide businesses and individuals with choices to maximise their skills continuously, regardless of their existing knowledge base or starting points;

A third option became available with government dishing out public sector jobs to Maltese nationals.

7. The work permit should be renewable every three years, following the first successful year of a TCN;

Between 2013 and 2020, the government employed no less than 20,000 persons.

8. Workers subcontracted by government to work with third parties are to be entitled to the same wage and same increments, progressions, automatic promotions and allowances for that work as stipulated in the relative collective agreement;

Now onto some of the Opposition’s main proposals, till now, for better wages, better employment opportunities and for a better quality of life: 1. Fine-tune the tax regimes to incentivise part-time work for those who have a full-time job, work by pensioners and employment of highly skilled employees or employees whose skills the Maltese economy is seeking to attract and needs; 2. Expanding the 25% tax bracket to encourage people to become more tax compliant by feeling that they are retaining more of their earned income and encouraging them to spend more into the economy; 3. Expanding the bracket of who starts paying VAT from €30,000 to €60,000 to reduce bureaucracy and encourage compliance; 4. In order to further incentivise the female worker participation rate, government should introduce adjustments in the tax-benefit system by overhauling the married tax rate category, which, in its current structure, disincentivises the second spouse (traditionally female) from gainful employment;

9. Fathers who welcome a new baby into their families to be entitled to 3 weeks of paid paternity leave; 10. Two of the four months of parental leave that parents are entitled to take before the time a child turns eight years old should be paid in full by government; 11. The setting up of a Fund that will allow selfemployed parents to take maternity, paternity and parental leave under the same conditions offered to employed parents, without impacting their takehome pay; 12. Introduction of parental bereavement leave for parents who lose a child, allowing them to claim up to two weeks of paid leave. With this and much more to come, the Opposition is showing a forward-looking, positive mentality with which we want to imbue our Malta for a more humane and socially just country. page


Emerging Trends

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Keep your hair on! THE COMMERCIAL COURIER analyses the ever-growing hair regrowth trend as locals opt to go local and undergo hair transplant surgery here in Malta or fly out to Turkey or other countries renowned for hair transplant procedures. As opposed to the past, where not much could have been done to regrow lost hair, the issue has now been straightened out as many success stories of locals who have taken the plunge of regrowing their hair emerge. You get many reactions from different people when asked whether they would regrow their hair. While some say I’d rather spare the pain and live without it, a good majority of people are eager to listen in on what the procedure entails. According to hair transplant surgeon in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the former founding president of the American Board of Hair Restoration Surgery, hair is a key part of the male psyche. To men, their hair represents their virility, and, like women, when they experience conditions that cause hair loss, a bald spot, or thinning hair, they believe they aren’t as manly or attractive anymore. Hair is also associated with power and has been since Biblical times. Samson, a Herculean figure, tells Delilah he will lose his strength when he loses his hair. page


In the past, many turned to treatments, but most treatments just thickened the hair aesthetically for a while others had no effect whatsoever. Is it painful is the first reaction? What’s the price? For most of those who have been effected by hair loss psychologically, price is the least they consider. However, same as in other industries, hair transplant clinics are competing between each other in terms of the cost for a hair transplant. When one compares the prices of local clinics to foreign ones, like Turkey up to pre-COVID,

It became a common sight to come across Maltese nationals with a bandage around their head following hair regrowth procedures in Turkey. Turning to Malta’s hair transplant industry, the cost of undergoing such a procedure is much cheaper now, and local clinics compete with foreign markets. Turkey feels the pinch as more locals turn to Malta’s hair clinics Turkey was among the first in the hair transplant industry and was a step ahead. But Turkey is now feeling the pinch as less Maltese flock to Istanbul for the procedure due to the pandemic. One pays up to €2,000 at most in Turkey for a hair procedure and that includes the three-day stay at a hotel, the procedure for replacing hair follicles extracted from donor areas, treatments, airport transfers and a

guarantee. The flight to Turkey and back is paid separately by the patient. As for Malta the cost for a transplant has been significantly shaved from the exorbitant price of €10,000 pre-pandemic to some €3,200. “I have had calls from at least two clinics in Turkey asking on the situation of COVID in Malta and that they were experiencing a lack of bookings by Maltese nationals due to this; locals were renowned to visit such clinics in Turkey,” a representative of Hair Transplants Istanbul – Malta Agent, told the Commercial Courier. But what has deterred Maltese patients from crossing to other countries these days? Is it the fact that we have witnessed a drastic haircut in such procedures here in Malta, or is it because locals were not comfortable flying out due to the pandemic? “It’s a bit of both, however, Turkey is now also offering other forms of procedures and one needn’t shave all his hair off before undergoing the procedure,” the Malta agent for Istanbul Hair Transplants highlighted. The Commercial Courier tried to reach representatives of various local hair transplant clinics for comment but to no avail.

Hair Transplants Istanbul – Malta Agent advises on the best hair transplant clinics in Malta and Turkey to undergo the procedure with proven results.

JULIANNE GRIMA – PSYCHOTHERAPIST Hair loss can be stress or trauma-related, but hair loss in itself can also trigger huge stress. Alopecia is the condition that affects hair loss, but there could also be many other reasons for hair loss like genetic predispositions, stress, biological reasons (so this would be one symptom contributing to a larger diagnosis), reaction to a medication, among other factors. If someone is experiencing what might be construed as unnatural hair loss (therefore prematurely, in patches, uncharacteristic for family history or sudden), I would first

recommend visiting a GP to assess for further symptoms, if it does not have a biological base, then it could be psychological or emotional and therefore ideally a spat of therapy to understand the root of the problem (pun intended) would help. I think that hair loss in women is potentially more traumatic than in men, possibly because baldness is a socially acceptable look for males. Our eyes have grown accustomed to shaved or bald male heads, but a bald woman is more likely to be associated with disease or treatment. That said, hair loss for anyone can be experienced initially as a trigger for shame, and the process of mourning loss can be long or short depending on the support and resilience the person can rely on.



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the price was cheaper in Turkey’s clinics. Malta’s clinics were charging the earth for a hair job. Although some patients were unfortunate to end up with a botched hair job in certain clinics found overseas – many were fully satisfied with the result.


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Key skills for the 21st century The question of how well our school system is preparing young people for the world of work has never been more important. That means making sure that our students from all backgrounds have access to an education that prepares them well for the next stage of their life, be that of further or higher education, entering employment or setting up their own business. Whilst acknowledging that two critical pillars in a person’s life are education and work, various for a note the lack of a strong link between the two, with the latter often highlighting that students are not adequately prepared to handle the challenges of the 21stcentury labour market. The world we are living in shows us that the labour market is becoming more complex and the decisions young people make while in education are becoming ever more important for the type of future they will live. We need to think of those decisions as investment decisions, allowing an individual to build a profile that will ultimately optimise chances of a good education to work transitions. This article focuses around the key skills that are needed for the 21st century and beyond. It is meant to add to the current debate, to encourage



the bringing together of minds from the world of work and education. Our future requires people from different backgrounds to develop policies and strategies that cut across disciplines. This is a cultural challenge as the silo mentality still predominates in a number of contexts and professions in our country. We need to harness a critical new ingredient in our discourse – that of cognitive diversity. I believe in the power of bringing people who think differently from one another. Cognitive diversity implies bringing together differences in perspectives, insights, experiences and thinking styles. This focus on diversity allows us to move away from intellectual conformity to collective intelligence (CI). This CI emerges whenever ideas, information is dispersed among different minds. Like-minded people can only come up with similar ideas. We need a different form of intelligence, one that emerges not just from the knowledge of individuals but also from the differences between them - no easy task given the isolationist, know-it-all attitude that dominates our mindset. But what are the skills future generations will need? Have they found their way yet into teaching and learning in schools? How are we making sure that schools can teach and transmit them? Does this

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We need to harness a critical new ingredient in our discourse that of cognitive diversity.

imply that the gaps between students will increase? Are we exploring new avenues for learning that sees a stronger partnership between schools and the world out there? What are the key skills? From a holistic point of view, education institutions are there to help equip young people with the tools they need to become engaged thinkers, resilient, authentic and resourceful learners, creative problem solvers and active members of the communities they form part of. The term ‘key skills’ is used here to refer to the skills identified in current thinking that is important for students to acquire in their schooling if they are to be successful. This success is not only in school but, more importantly, beyond school – in building their careers, living fulfilling lives, and participating effectively as citizens in their communities. This definition allows for a broad conception of skills, where acquiring a skill is synonymous with developing a form of expertise cognitively, behaviourally or emotionally. Meta-analysis of key skills shows that the following nine skills are the most commonly cited: critical thinking, Ccreativity, metacognition, problem-

solving, collaboration and cooperation, motivation, self-efficacy and locus of control, conscientiousness, grit and perseverance. This is where education and work need to come together in the way they look at learning and the way they create learning opportunities for others – be it, students in our schools and workers in our companies. The notion of having ‘oven ready’ candidates for the place of work is an impossible request and should not even be contemplated. We need to ensure that the environments we work in are invitational in nature that empower staff to give of their best. In such environments values such as commitment, collegiality, and trust are nurtured. It is here that educational institutions and workplace come together to foster engagements in civic responsibility, a love for life, and a sense of purpose. I sincerely hope that this article will lead towards the setting up of think tanks that can develop strategies that are inclusive and lead towards a culture that encourages new ideas, foster networking across areas and disciplines with the clear intent to adopt a more holistic approach to learning that permeates all stages of our life.

Christopher is a Professor of educational leadership at the University of Malta. In addition, he is vice-chair of the Education Committee within The Malta Chamber, visiting professor in various universities and, more recently, a visiting professor at the Bologna Business School. page



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GROSS CHANGES Every year, the Budget introduces new fiscal measures, which inevitably affect the payroll system, even when no new taxes are introduced. David Seisun, founder and CEO of Buddy Ltd, developer of a Cloud Payroll Software, says that once the Budget speech is over, challenges start. Companies are increasingly outsourcing payroll responsibilities in a bid to free up resources and valuable human capital. Such specialist services also help their clients keep up to date with changes in regulations and improve compliance. One major headache companies are surely relieved from when using such services are the changes to the payroll that are brought about by the Budget. The Budget annually introduces a plethora of measures, including new fiscal measures. This inevitably affects the payroll, even when no new taxes are introduced, says David Seisun, founder and CEO of Buddy Ltd. “This is due to the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) and a change in the tax brackets resulting from this,” he explains. Seisun adds that some newly introduced fiscal measures are not always clear on page


their implementation. Besides, legal notices may sometimes take months to get issued, leaving many businesses and employees “in a difficult position”. The Budget speech is thus always followed by a “period of guessing”. “For example, when the first overtime tax was first introduced, we had to deal with the first 100 hours for employees earning more than €20,000. Many had assumed that this referred to a €20,000 gross income. However, when the Legal Notice came out, months later, this actually referred to a basic income of €19,500 + a government bonus of €512,” Seisun notes. “Anyone who had hired, in between, or employees who thought they may have benefited were impacted by the delay in implementation. This resulted in many not benefitting from the proposed deduction as contracts could not be made with the right knowledge!”

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T R I D E N T T R U S T. C O M

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CHALLENGES In the run-up to this year’s Budget, the team at Buddy Ltd started building assumptions and planning how to change their payroll software while asking for clarifications with the relevant departments. “Unfortunately, the Budget is always a political sales pitch and is short on details. Meaning that our software developers have little to no guidance on how to implement the relevant statements made within the Budget,” Seisun says. For example, he mentions the extra day of vacation leave introduced in the 2020 Budget speech to compensate for public holidays falling on a weekend. It turned out that, in 2020, only three public holidays fell on a weekend, the same amount as in 2019. “Hence, no extra day of vacation leave was due, causing havoc with employees and employers as they all thought this implied an extra day when it did not!” Seisun remarks. “This is to show that a Budget speech is to be taken as a political narrative of what potentially the national Budget should result in when implemented, yet for us, it is the first source of truth to what we should expect in the coming year, with no guarantee of the actual outcome.” Other than the annual Budget update limbo, Seisun says that the biggest challenge is that there are no clear guidelines from any department on the tax calculations. “Starting out, we had to do a lot of guesswork. As Buddy, we’ve been working on internationalising, and other jurisdictions really go out of their way to ensure that payroll is done correctly. From these countries, we get lists of test inputs and outputs and complete documents that go into extreme detail even into how rounding (payroll hours) works!. “It would be nice if some day, expectations and interpretations can be cleared up. Day-to-day our challenges also resolve around this lack of clarity.” Seisun highlights that payroll is not taught in business or accounting lessons, so very few people really understand it, meaning payroll companies are usually asked to clarify why certain calculations are done in a specific way. He also points out that contracts are sometimes made with little regard to the law and work regulation orders. And with the departments page


issuing exemptions from some general regulations, the system had to be made flexible enough to work with varying configurations. “Equally, getting clarifications are sometimes tricky, with answers from the various departments sometimes being inconsistent, and incompatible with the law. Worst is, when we get questions from clients with an e-mail backing-up an ‘legally incompatible’ claim,” he says. BUDGET 2022 As regards how Budget 2022 will affect his company, Seisun is certain that they will have to update their software for the new tax changes. “From our initial review, taxation seems to be the major update this year. The COLA update has already been set up, so clients will have a button ready to apply the increase to all their staff as of January. “The trickiest change we have will be that relating to social security contributions for someone’s secondary job, as up to a total of 40 hours per week can have contributions paid.” Besides the technical team, who will be updating the software, the support team at Buddy Ltd will also need to be on their toes as the number of queries tends to spike in January as people ask for clarifications. “Hopefully, the relevant clarifications for this year’s budget come out well before January 1, allowing businesses and use payroll software providers to make the necessary updates,” Seisun concludes. ABOUT BUDDY LTD Buddy is a cloud payroll software, which helps business owners, HR managers and accountants in their payroll journey: from when they engage employees to managing timesheets and vacation leave, doing the actual payroll calculations and all the necessary reporting. Buddy was developed by a team of developers in Malta and was first made available in 2018. It catered for micro-businesses with straightforward payroll operations but eventually evolved to cater to larger businesses that use punch clocks and timesheets. Among its clients, Buddy Ltd boasts one of Malta’s largest fast-food chains.

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From The Shop Floor to the Top Floor In the pursuit of excellence – a successful succession experiment Succession planning is a process many local companies need to consider, and one such company that is mid-way through the transition from father to daughter is Arete Limited.

Monique Chambers



Having left university with a degree in Industrial Chemistry and after 16 years of experience in another company in the field, Francis Micallef started his own company in 2011. Ten years in, he is mid-way through handing over the baton to eldest daughter, Emma. “I didn’t want to pressure any of my children to take over the business, Emma was coming in during school and university holidays and working her way around. After graduating in Business Studies and working for a relatively large finance company, she chose to take on the company and we started the process in 2018.”

breaking down across the globe, it was hard to satisfy certain requirements. We would have delays of weeks when we usually deliver within days. Our business is time critical - lab supplies are required by clients to be able to satisfy their time frames and so this aspect was quite stressful. However, with the pandemic also came a need from a new audience that Emma has since created a new stream from. We are used to selling PPE and equipment to students, but this grew to being a need for the general public. We were able to satisfy the demand and will soon have an online store and delivery service so customers no longer need to come to our location.”

The company sells all manner of quality materials and chemicals to labs across Malta and they count schools, university, manufacturing, life sciences and pharma companies as clients.

The period also gave the company time to reflect on how they managed certain processes and how these could be, and would need to be, improved so that they could carry on through any similar situation.

“The pandemic was challenging for all industries; we rely heavily on imports and with supply chains

Emma states “One of my favourite aspects of the business is the warehouse; when you see the stock arriving and changing, you really

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Emma Micallef

Francis Micallef

appreciate what we, a small business, are achieving. So many companies rely on us on a day-to-day basis. The clientele dealt with are heavily regulated, there are reams of documentation to manage. The company has always prided itself in its systems and Emma’s business background enabled her to quickly see what lines were profitable and which were less so, which sold and which were less necessary to keep in stock; she found working in invoicing particularly interesting. “The data analysis aspect for me was something I didn’t really want to let go of!” As part of the plan, Emma has worked in every department in the company and today, still steps in to cover when someone is off. “It keeps me grounded, reminds me of what’s involved, and shows the team and our clients that I really understand the business and I’m not being ‘given’ the company, but am working really hard to carry on my dad’s legacy.” Customer service and a good reputation is really important to us, we have an open structure, and all are able to question and criticize but

we all know we are doing so of the action and not the person so we can continuously grow and improve. The company has its own acronym – QUIVER; Quality, Integrity, Value Added, Efficiency & Reliability. These values have taken them through the last 10 years and has enabled them to grow and change the customer base, evolve their stockholding and add to product lines with existing and new suppliers, fill niche gaps in the market and stay on top of all the record keeping and compliance requirements the industry demands. The company is celebrating its 10 years in business with a new look and feel. They have created a new logo which reflects the new energy and an even more progressive outlook. The new identity sets them apart; its bold, its strong, its fresh and this is evident in the availability of a new and improved website which now includes a Web Shop which facilitates client demands better and more efficiently. In particular, it caters for their rising market of students. New systems have also been put in place across the organisation, which Emma has recognised as being able to streamline their operation so that repetitive tasks can be automated and a more efficient service delivered. “It’s not about having hundreds of lines or hundreds of customers for us; it’s about having quality lines and happy customers. If I can run the company offering the same level of service, I’m happy. Of course, I will do some things differently to my dad, but I have a lot to learn from him still, and a lot to be grateful for in his years of setting up Arete. I enjoy coming to work every day and a massive sense of pride that I can keep it going and clients can keep relying on us.” page



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WORDS Dayna Camilleri Clarke

NAVIGATING THE RENTAL "CARPOCALYPSE." For Gordon Farrugia, car leasing and rentals are nothing new. It runs in his blood and a sector he's been expertly navigating his way through for the last 18 years. But, despite evident longevity in an ever-changing cut-throat industry, nobody could have predicted the airport closing and business grinding to a halt last year. Speaking to Dayna Camilleri Clarke, Managing Director at Go Hire, Farrugia opens up about the challenges of the pandemic scenario and charting the way forward from here. "Go Hire Ltd started operations back in 2017 as a local franchise for a South African company, looking to diversify operations. Since then, we have grown from a fleet of 70 rental cars to over 300," begins Farrugia. Based at the airport, the predominant market for Go Hire is the incoming tourist sector and local company leasing. "Things were just picking up the pace for us, 2019 was a great year, and in 2020 things were looking even better. Then the pandemic hit. With the closure of the airport overnight, we lost close to 1400 bookings instantly. Hundreds of our cars were parked alongside one another in the lot. It was incredibly surreal to see them all together."



With a considerable effort required to reimburse customers and map the next steps for the company in a great period of uncertainty, Farrugia remains upbeat about how his team handled the challenge. "From the get-go we grouped, it helped many of our processes were already automated. I saw the need to invest further in technology before the pandemic, which proved to carry us through. It goes without saying I have an excellent team of talented individuals around me, and I am proud of the way in which they coped." "Yes, 2020 was full of surprises, but one of those surprises was how well we coped with all the changes, including the shift to working from home in a matter of days. Under the circumstances, such a move would have taken months of discussions and Board meetings, but it all got done very quickly and seamlessly on this occasion. With our core business relying mostly on tourism, in a time when nobody knew when it would resume, it was incredibly unnerving, to say the least."

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Gordon Farrugia

"Of course, a lot of decisions had to be taken, but what I believe is fundamental to success is focusing on building a great report and developing quality relationships with those around you, from customers to internal staff, importers and suppliers", continued Farrugia. "Despite the pandemic, we won a prestigious customer favourite award from, the arm for ." Indeed, Farrugia managed to navigate Go Hire through perpetually stormy seas successfully and acquire two new brands in the process, MoveMee and autoUnion. Move Mee is to the car rental industry what Uber is to taxis. One simple app allows you to undertake a one-time registration and validate your details to hire a car. autoUnion is a fast growing rental car company, which focuses on quality and top customer experience. Besides a strong focus on developing human relationships, Farrugia believes investment in advancing technology is the key. "The future is undoubtedly in technology. The world has changed, and more than ever, people seek automated contactless experiences enabling them to go straight to the car. The pandemic has accelerated this shift. I believe if we don't move

with it, as car rental operators, we will get left behind. It's a whole new era for mobility." What about the introduction to electric vehicles, I ask? "Naturally, we will make the shift over to an electric fleet, but that again is not without its challenges. Before, a turn over a vehicle would be around 45 minutes, cleaning and refuelling. Now, electric vehicles require a considerable amount of time to charge fully, up to 8 hours in some cases. Locally the infrastructure isn't there yet. We need charging points in key tourist destinations and across the islands. Hopefully, the government will incentivise such a transition for all. After all, on many occasions, we know the time people first experience a new car is through a rental car experience." Over the pandemic, Farrugia explains he had to downsize his rental fleet to cover ongoing business expenses when nobody wished to invest in the sector. "Now, I can say things are picking back up, we have endured a scaled-down summer season this year, and we are focussing on growing and rebuilding our fleet. There is light at the end of the tunnel, and I believe the future is looking bright for Go Hire and the local tourism industry." page



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CLOSER IN BUSINESS THAN IN DISTANCE Diplomatically, the relationship between Malta and Germany goes way back to 1964, right after the independence of Malta, with the Embassy being founded around the same time. Nowadays, this relationship has been taken to the next level with significant financial commitments between the two. HUGH ARRIGO, Founder and Director of Attard and Co. Industrial and board member of the Chamber of Commerce, together with WALTER HAßMANN, the German Ambassador to Malta, provide their insights to DINAH DELCEPPO into why business ties between Malta and Germany play a major role for both countries.

HUGH ARRIGO Dinah Delceppo

HOW MUCH OF THIS POSITIVE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE COUNTRIES CAN BE CONTRIBUTED TO MALTA JOINING THE EU? Malta and Germany enjoy excellent commercial relations. Indeed, Malta’s European Union (EU) has served well to enhance same. However, it would be very unfair if one were not to acknowledge that Germany had already been providing support, assistance, and aid in training to Maltese companies for the past fifty five years - much prior to our



becoming a full EU member. Indeed, Germany may be recorded as having been Malta’s ‘spina dorsale’. Germany has without fail been our strongest commercial ally since we have been granted independence. There has been a consistent pattern where Germany has continued to invest and increase its investment in our islands over the years. German investment has helped generate skills, jobs and wealth. Our fathers were a product of Great Britain, and our present generation is now a product of Germany. It is imperative that both Governments continue to maintain and strengthen existing relations. It would also be beneficial if Chambers of Commerce from both countries were to collaborate together. One cannot depend on governments to bring about stronger ties.

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WHAT DOES MALTA HAVE TO OFFER WHICH MAKES IT A PREFERRED OPTION FROM A BUSINESS PERSPECTIVE? Despite Malta’s small size, opportunities do exist, thus making our island an interesting and unique destination. Malta has demonstrated again and again that it makes an excellent testbed. Our workforce has proven to be flexible, and this, I would say, is one of our key assets. Our strategic position in the middle of the Mediterranean, acting as a gateway to Africa and our command of the English language also serve well to make Malta attractive. Our stance of neutrality, our good relations with our neighbours in the Maghreb and in the Sub-Sahara help in no small way. WHAT VALUE DO GERMAN BUSINESS TIES ADD TO MALTA? ‘Think Excellence - Think Germany – Think Germany - Think Excellence’. WHAT MORE IS THERE FOR ONE TO ADD? The benefits for Maltese companies to engage with Germany and with German companies are numerous. Germany continues to hold the strongest economy within the EU, and following Brexit it is abundantly clear it will now continue to maintain pole position. Whenever and wherever Maltese companies have historically been linked and associated with

Germany and with German companies in one way or the other, export and servicing paths, have always been so very much easier for them to attain and follow. CAN WE GO ONE STEP FURTHER AND INTRODUCE MEASURES WITHIN SOME OF OUR UNIVERSITY AND TEACHING PROGRAMMES FOR THEM TO BE PARALLELED AND TWINNED WITH THOSE FROM GERMANY? If I recall well, there were attempts in the past to initiate an exercise with the Fraunhofer Institute. The earlier and the sooner our youth are encouraged to adopt some of the German niche systems the greater the interest and the appetite from German companies to engage with Malta. WHAT IF WE REVERSE THE ROLES – MALTESE BUSINESSES IN GERMANY - DO YOU BELIEVE THIS IS A POSSIBILITY IN THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE? In the past, I would have said the chances for Maltese companies to successfully set up operations in Germany would have been very remote. In today’s shifting and evolving world, especially in technology-driven lines, Maltese companies are placed on an equal footing, and there is not too a high a hurdle for Maltese start-ups involved in IT, AI or software development to partner or penetrate the German markets.

WALTER HAßMANN WHAT MAKES MALTA SO ATTRACTIVE FOR GERMAN BUSINESSES? Since the 1970s, German companies from very diverse sectors have set up shop in Malta. Over the years, some left, for example, in the textile industry. However, many stayed, and numerous new ones, which are technologically more sophisticated or are active in the services industry, came to Malta. Important factors are English as a business language, a highly skilled and flexible workforce,

very good support by authorities like Malta Enterprise and a favourable tax regime; sometimes, as I was told by some entrepreneurs, it is also a personal liking of the lifestyle and weather in Malta. HAS THERE BEEN EXCEEDED EXPECTATIONS FOR MALTA, OR IS THERE ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT TO ENHANCE THE MALTA-GERMANY RELATIONSHIP? The expectations and requirements vary between the particular sectors. However, given that there is nearly full employment in Malta, one common remark concerns the difficulty of finding staff, either locally or sometimes even abroad. HOW MANY GERMAN BUSINESSES DO YOU ESTIMATE TO BE CURRENTLY ESTABLISHED, OR IN THE PROCESSES OF BEING SO, IN MALTA? German companies do not have to register with the German Embassy. Therefore, we estimate that there are around 50-60 companies with page


Issue 98 Walter Haßmann

German investments. According to Deutsche Bundesbank, at the end of 2019, the stock of German investment was €22 billion. This is ranked 16 in the German statistics, before countries like, for example, Canada, Brasil, India and Singapore. These employ an estimated 4,000 people. HAVE YOU SEEN A CHANGE IN THESE BUSINESS TIES AS A RESULT OF THE PANDEMIC? WHAT IS THE SECRET FOR SUCH TIES TO SURVIVE DISRUPTIONS SUCH AS THIS? Naturally, the number of holidaymakers and cruise liner tourists dropped during the pandemic. However, the statistics of the first months after the

end of the lockdown are encouraging. Germans like to travel, also in the shoulder months and in winter, and so we are optimistic. Export and import of goods between Malta and Germany decreased in 2020 but less so than external trade of Malta in general. The factors for this are varied, like global supply chain challenges, and cannot be attributed to any problems in German – Maltese economic relations. I am often told that smaller countries have advantages: They can react quicker and are able to provide more tailor-made solutions. Maybe Malta is proof of that.

HUGH ARRIGO AND WALTER HAßMANN WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR THE ECONOMIC RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MALTA AND GERMANY? ARRIGO: The future of economic relations between the two countries in the long term is undoubtedly also bright, although Malta has page


recently been greylisted. Germany was one of the countries which determined this to be so. I will not go into the merits on whether Malta deserved to be greylisted or otherwise; I will, however, share with you some good news. We have recently learnt that it is planned that an interesting number of German start-up companies aim to initiate operations from Malta, starting as from next year. One German individual went on to tell me: ‘We will establish our operations in Malta now, for us to be fully FIMBank offers a wide range of trade finance solutions including the most complex FIMBank offers a wide range of trade finance solutions including the most complex supply chain structures in theofdomestic and international trade space. Supporting FIMBank offers a wide range trade finance including the most complex supply chain structures in the domestic and solutions international trade space. Supporting clients in this challenging environment requires more than just the standard trade supply in chain in environment the domesticrequires and international space. Supporting clients this structures challenging more thantrade just the standard trade finance offering. Through innovation and a strong commitment to successful clients in this challenging environment requires more than just the standard trade finance offering. Through innovation and a strong commitment to successful execution, FIMBank structures bespoke trade finance solutions designed to support finance offering. Through innovation and a strong commitment to successful execution, FIMBank structures bespoke trade finance solutions designed to support sustainable businessstructures growth. execution, FIMBank sustainable business growth. bespoke trade finance solutions designed to support 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. 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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prepared and geared when Malta is removed from the greylisting. ‘Forward thinking’ would indeed make an understatement. IT IS A WELL-KNOWN FACT THAT GERMANY HAS VERY STRONG CONTACTS IN BOTH ASIA AND IN AFRICA. COULD MALTA SERVE AS ONE OF THE PATHS OR GATEWAYS FOR ASIAN COMPANIES BROKERING BUSINESS WITH GERMAN COMPANIES IN AFRICA? ONE WOULD BE SURPRISED TO LEARN THERE EXIST SOME NICHE AREAS WHERE MALTA COULD ALSO CONTRIBUTE IN SOME SMALL WAYS, GIVEN THAT MALTA TOO HAS SOME VERY GOOD CONTACTS IN ASIA. COULD THE TWO COUNTRIES PURSUE THIS AVENUE? On a concluding note, I venture to add that our company has been in operation for the past one hundred years and indeed this year marks our centenary. We are proud to have initiated business with German companies way back in 1922. We look

forward to the coming years and hope to consolidate our very good relations with Germany. HAßMANN: The Maltese economy is picking up, so is the German one and the European internal market in general. I see a lot of potential for further business developments between our countries. For example, joint efforts in research and innovation, where Malta is a testbed for German technologies and solutions for islands, are developed. Innovative mobility and energy are other fields of interest where German and Maltese businesses can cooperate. Another sector is education. Germany has a highly successful vocational training system, and maybe it is worthwhile to explore how Maltese and German entities and companies can join forces to develop courses for persons with a diverse background or without previous formal education.


DUNCAN BARRY interviews the President of the Republic George Vella , about the commercial relations between Malta and Germany. During a visit to Germany recently, President of Malta George Vella met with the President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Asked about developments following his visit to Berlin, President Vella started by saying: “I am pleased to share my thoughts on relations between Malta and Germany, mainly as this contribution follows my recent successful meetings in Berlin. " “During this visit, I had the honour of meeting my German counterpart, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier to discuss issues of common bilateral and regional importance. “Our exchanges were all the more significant as they took place on the eve of elections in Germany and



right before the world leaders convened for the United National General Assembly High-Level Week.” President Vella’s discussions with President Steinmeier served in no small measure to further reinforce the excellent relations between our two countries. It also strengthened the several points of convergence in addressing challenges in our respective neighbourhoods and global issues such as multilateralism, disarmament, climate change, and migration. “Commercial relations between Malta and Germany are very much linked to the way the countries evolved and developed since the establishment of bilateral relations in 1965,

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only a few months after Malta achieved its independence. Along the decades that followed, Germany’s investment, particularly in the manufacturing sector, provided a solid basis for Malta to start building an economy that was to flourish into a modern and dynamic one.” Asked whether commercial ties between the two countries is strong enough, he replied: “Nowadays, we can speak of sound economic relations based on the successful operations of close to 60 Germanbased companies in Malta, joint technical projects and strong incoming tourism figures.

“This potential finds its strength in a consolidated juridical framework of agreements between the two countries, very well established resident embassies, an operational and active GermanMaltese Business Council as well as very good air links, which are fundamental for the growth of trade and business exchanges. “This combination of political will shared global views and a sound bilateral infrastructure augurs very well for the continued consolidation of the longstanding relations and friendship between Malta and Germany.”




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Corporate Architecture:

Architecture as a Marketing Asset

Keith Pillow

The outside of a building also plays an important part in affecting our emotions. How a building looks can have important psychological impacts, even at the most basic level. Architecture can be visually experienced everywhere and is usually very durable. This makes it a valuable instrument of selfexpression. That is why corporate brands have been using it in their branding strategy for decades. Companies express their success through architecture. Corporate architecture as we think of it today was invented by Mies van der Rohe in the 1920's in a series of charcoal drawings that depicted steel and glass skyscrapers (Friedrichstrasse, Berlin). He coined the term "International Style" which was a banner under which a lot of the Modernist architects of the day produced minimal steel and glass structures for everything, from houses to office buildings. page


FORM FOLLOWS BRAND SPIRIT: ARCHITECTURE AS AN IDENTIFICATION SYMBOL For many companies, corporate architecture is part of their corporate identity. It represents the business philosophy in the form of architectural structures. The architectural language, the plan, building materials, colour coding and the setting concept are crucial for this purpose. Corporate architecture achieves its goal when it combines these elements in the structure so that as a shape it reflects the spirit of an organization and its products. SIGNATURE BUILDINGS: ICONS OF ARCHITECTURE Buildings fulfil a purpose. The so-called "signature buildings," give their owners also visibility. These structures do not simply outshine the urban environment that houses them. They brighten the same environment with their brilliance. They inspire entire generations with robust advertising messages. BRANDED ARCHITECTURE: STAGED BRAND WORLDS Architecture and brands – this interplay leads to the construction of spectacular spatial structures. Various industry leaders are increasingly relying on architecture to stage their brands. Take BMW, Apple and Pedrali for example. All three have perfected corporate architecture in the sense of their corporate identity.

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When we’re inside a building, whether it’s a science lab, bank, or gaming office, it’s easy to see things solely in terms of its function. It can often seem like the interior of any construction’s four walls takes centre stage as the most important aspect of a design. After all, we’re always told; it’s what’s on the inside that counts. In practical terms, this may be true, but it’s important to remember that architecture is more than just function.

The vehicle manufacturers created a landmark with their headquarters in Munich, so did the tech leaders with the Apple Park in California, as well as the contract furniture manufacturer’s newly inaugurated warehouse Fili d’Erba designed by Cino Zucchi Architetti creating a visual backdrop that blended in with the different conditions of the agricultural landscape; all of which are examples of modern iconic signature architecture. On a smaller scale and closer to home, we can refer to this by studying the history of Simonds Farsons Cisk. Having had the opportunity to work close to the company on the restoration and regeneration of the Old Brewhouse and the Trident Building, we have learned the importance the company gives to this notion

of corporate architecture. From the early days, the company not only gave a lot of importance to the details and technical side of their buildings, which were needed to industrialise the brewing and bottling of their beverages, but also built buildings in a particular style and detail to reflect the soul of the company and be a testament of time. Through the years the company changed and so did their architecture. From the old Brewhouse and Trident Building, which are some of the finest examples of art deco buildings dating back to the early 20th century, to the most recent copper cladded modern Brewhouse which was designed by local practice AP, the Farsons experience is an architecture time capsule, speaking volumes about their corporate and social cultural presence in Malta. page



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BEYOND 4 WALLS: BUILDING A BUSINESS During his early working years, Kurt Abela knew his destiny was beyond the confines of working within a family-owned business. In 2006, he started Project Technik, offering turnkey project services.

Monique Chambers

Today, 15 years later, the business imports and distributes a wide range of products, from regular to specialised plasterboard and all other associated material. All this, whilst running large scale building sites as a developer and finishing contractor. Recently the company was involved with high-profile projects that include MCAST’s Resource Centre and the installation of raised flooring at the Trident Park in Central Business District. These projects add to an exhaustive list of ventures the company has dealt with since the start of the business operation. Indeed, Project Technik is now involved in 3 main streams of business. The most mature is the B2B side, which covers commercial contracts for offices and retail amongst others. This part of the business has also created a separate offering in the guise of their own flexible office space centres under the brand name Centris, with the second building having opened its doors, to the first tenants, in these last couple of months.



Importing the products needed for their own projects and the others which they were appointed to carry out by third parties, was the natural way forward. Project Technik is now considered to be one of the largest suppliers of plasterboard in Malta & Gozo. Such products come in various types, to address the most common issues, including humidity and weather but also thermal boards for insulation as well as acoustic boards which, once applied, reduce noise pollution and increase thermal comfort. These two additions, combined with double and triple glazed windows, provide protection to all properties from the heat and cold extremes. Such material also offers the benefit of noise reduction when these are added to the external envelope of the building. The range also includes fire-resistant and non-combustible boards. Fire prevention is an increased awareness within commercial and residential properties. Given the indoors environment we live in that includes soft furnishings, electrical goods and other flammable material, as well as the properties surrounding us that increase the risk of suffering fire damage by third parties, such products help in mitigating the damages should such occurrence happen and also act as a life saver. Soffits and raised flooring are also available together with skylights that provide an additional unique touch where installed. As Kurt proudly says, “Project Technik is above you, below you and all around you.” Addressing a relatively new customer, the DIYer, Project Technik has opened a retail arm selling directly to the public. Home renovation by individuals has seen a massive increase and

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the younger generations are taking pride in their homes and doing as much work as they can themselves, whether to save time, money or to have that unique connection. The natural next step was to add a digital strategy into the mix so soon, smaller contractors and individuals, can order online and have goods delivered without having to down their tools and lose momentum. Project Technik are also strengthening their marketing and their communication with clients and potential customers by increasing their presence through the main media channels. Whilst Kurt hadn’t quite anticipated the boom in construction that started in 2013, he is overall satisfied with how the company has evolved while maintaining their reputation for reliability and quality. He shudders at shoddy building practices and works only with suppliers of certified products. “Customers would rather spend a bit more to get a better-quality product from the very start,” Kurt states. The company differentiates itself on quality and reliability. They are not interested in buying cheap materials to be more price competitive. However, this is a battle of education to the trades and to the end customer too, to help them realise how important quality and reliability are in this sector. Price should not be the only consideration. Knowing that growth is better achieved with a good team at the helm, along the years Kurt built a line-up of professionals forming the management and operational backbone of the company. Today, the company has grown and has a full-time compliment of 30 staff members and a network of

installers that the company relies on for various projects. “Our mission is to offer a creative, bespoke and quality solution for our clients’ needs. We are focusing on delivering more added value, growing our team, reducing delivery times to a minimum whilst, of course, maintaining our high level of customer service.’’ Being open to innovation is a mindset that Kurt has had since starting work, always keeping his eyes and ears wide open to the changing demands of the customer base while being aware of the changes within the industry itself. He knows the issues and opportunities of both old and new properties and relishes the challenge to find the products that address these needs. “Spending more time at home, these past two years, has made people want to change things. We’ve seen families adapting their homes to make space for home office environments and even new hobbies. Since everyone has been spending much more time at home, people are making changes to accommodate their ‘newfound’ needs. As such we have increased our list of products to adapt to this new reality. In fact, we have some awesome new products like watertight prefabricated skylights, that add a unique touch where installed and various types of partitions such as glazed and movable partitions. Project Technik aims to keep the business growing and, at the same time, provide building solutions for our homes, offices, entertainment, and retail spaces for many years to come, with a wide range of accessible and quality materials. page



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WORDS Jo Caruana

PUT TING YOUR WELLBEING IN T H E S P O T L I G H T... AT T H E AT H E N A E U M S P A We all battle stress as we build our businesses and forge careers. But ‘you time’ is as critical for your creativity as it is for your health – and a spa can be the perfect place to find balance. Here, spa director Michelle Reynolds talks through the Athenaeum’s unique concept of ‘booking time’ and highlights the many benefits of making wellness a critical part of your journey to success.



They’re always the first things to go, aren’t they? Wellness… wellbeing… relaxation. The thing is, anyone in business can relate: there’s always something that feels more important, more pressing. There’s always a proposal to be sent or a deadline to be met. In the battle between your health and the health of your business, often, it’s the business that comes out on top.

relaxation, exercise and mindfulness could actually spell the difference between winning the race and succumbing to burnout.

But the truth is there can be nothing higher on your to-do list than your health – and nor should there be. Carving time into your week for rest,

“The Atheneum reopened last year after a multimillion investment, and the results are truly exceptional,” she says. “I believe it to be one of the most relaxing and tranquil spaces in Malta, with state-of-the-art treatment rooms, a luxurious

“We all know how high on our agenda wellness should be, but how many of us actually make it a priority?” asks Athenaeum Spa director Michelle Reynolds, who joined Corinthia Palace Hotel in 2020 and brought with her a wealth of global spa experience from properties including the Marsa Malaz Kempinski in Doha and The Berkeley in London.

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indoor swimming pool, a Jacuzzi, an outdoor sun deck, and the Spa’s celebrated Vitality Suite. There’s nowhere quite like it.” Ms Reynolds leads the team that has curated the exceptional Athenaeum experience, ensuring it slots neatly into its guests’ busy schedules to provide genuine relief and relaxation. “Everyone has such limited time today, so it’s important that their time with us is exactly what they need it to be,” she continues. In fact, it was with this in mind that the Atheneum created its concept of ‘booking time’ in 30-, 60-, and 90-minute portions, rather than always selling ready-set treatment packages. This is unlike other spas where you must decide in advance what sort of treatment you want and largely stick to it. On the contrary, at the Athenaeum, you simply decide how much time you want to dedicate to your wellbeing, inform the team how you’re feeling on the day, and watch as the Spa’s expert therapists craft a medley of treatments to match. “We’ve found this approach to be incredibly beneficial,” continues Ms Reynolds. “It takes the pressure off when you are booking because you don’t need to think ahead to what you might like to do on the day." “Instead, you can focus on how you are feeling in that moment. We can then respond with a range of tailored options to match – such as an ESPA Hot Stone Massage, an ESPA Back, Neck and Shoulder massage, or a session of reflexology. Depending

on your requirements at that time, each of those treatments could be the perfect fit and completely transform how you feel going forward – whether you’re then off for an afternoon board meeting, some much-needed family time, or an evening with friends. Time at the Athenaeum gives you the opportunity to take a moment out of your day, regroup, recentre, and get ready to face the rest of it with purpose and feeling well-rested.” Of course, it isn’t just a focus on wellbeing that makes the Athenaeum so special, but the sense of fun and luxury too. “If your goal is wellbeing, then there’s no doubt this is the place to come to find it,” continues Ms Reynolds. “However, many of our guests also come here to enjoy a special occasion. For instance, they reserve the Vitality Suite for an exclusive hen or stag celebration with champagne and afternoon tea served in the private garden, or they bring a friend to our Nail Bar for a cocktail, a catch-up and a manicure. Alternatively, some guests simply want a swim in the indoor pool and the space to relax with a drink afterwards as the ideal break in their busy day. Either way, the Atheneum is available to them and can be tailored accordingly.” Now, with the seasons changing and the nights drawing in, Ms Reynolds underlines how a regular visit to the spa could help stave off the usual trappings of winter. “From helping to boost your immune system to keeping your stress levels in check, a regular spa visit is one of the answers to keeping your wellbeing in focus over the coming months. My team and I look forward to helping you achieve the much-needed balance, focus, and relaxation you need to thrive,” she concludes.

For more information or to book your time at the Athenaeum, please visit page


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01. THE MALTA CHAMBER LAUNCHES ITS RECOMMENDATIONS ON THE NATIONAL WORKFORCE STRATEGY "The immediate human capital challenges for the country's business community are the staff shortages and difficulties in bringing in and retaining foreign workers, as well as the increase in public sector employment figures. This has resulted in increased competition for employees in a very tight labour market" says Ms Marisa Xuereb, President of The Malta Chamber. The Malta Chamber, in collaboration with RSM Malta, presented its recommendations on the National Workforce Strategy during a press conference which was attended by the Honourable Minister Clyde Caruana and Opposition Spokesperson Hon. Dr Jason Azzopardi, among others. The central theme of the recommendations is to nurture, attract, retain and upskill talent to boost productivity and increase the added value provided by the workforce.

02. NEW SERVICE FOR ENTERPRISES THAT COMBINES MENTAL HEALTH AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP In a 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, The Malta Chamber and the Chamber of Small and Medium Enterprises, and the Richmond Foundation, in the presence of Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Sustainable Development Miriam Dalli. 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 further address the individual's needs.

03. A NATIONAL DEBATE ON THE FUTURE OF EDUCATION The Malta Chamber launched its policy recommendations on a National Workforce Strategy

0 1 in response to the ongoing national consultation process on a Labour Market Reform, drafted following an internal consultation with RSM, which leads the Chamber's HR Committee. During a press launch, the Malta Chamber explained that the additional two years should not be spent in secondary education but in postsecondary training, as successful employees of the future need to have a solid basis on which to develop their careers. Leaving the education system at 16 is too early, and Malta is often singled out internationally for having a high rate of early school leavers, with almost 1 out of every 6 students leaving school aged 16. And the majority without having achieved any qualifications at Level 3 (Ordinary level) or higher. Among the objections raised against the proposal is the argument that there are not enough teachers to cope with the increased demand it would entail. This indicates that teachers' representatives are assuming that the additional two years need to be spent in secondary schools rather than in post-secondary schools that are constantly trying to attract more students. But even if the lack of teachers is the main limiting factor, we need to address that as we are doing in other sectors by recruiting the required resources from other countries. We cannot

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0 6 possibly constrain the educational attainment of future generations by the availability of teachers locally.

04. WE MAKE: A NEW PROJECT FOR BUSINESSES TO IMPLEMENT SUSTAINABLE INVESTMENTS In a collaboration among the Energy and Water Agency (EWA), the Malta Business Bureau and the Malta Chamber of Commerce, businesses within the manufacturing industry will be given more guidance on how to consume energy and water efficiently. The agreement was signed by the EWA, the Malta Business Bureau and the Malta Chamber, in the presence of Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Sustainable Development Miriam Dalli. With the WE MAKE project (Water and Energy Management and Knowledge Transfer in Manufacturing Enterprises), the manufacturing sector will benefit from energy audits, offered by the EWA, so that businesses are guided on enhancing their energy consumption and operating efficiently. This project will offer information on possible financial investments, where a forum will be created so that businesses can discuss and present best practices in the sector. This will lead businesses to have more guidance on how to operate sustainably.

05. KEY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE VIABILITY OF GOZO BASED ON ITS UNIQUENESS The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry and the Gozo Business Chamber held a joint Council meeting in Gozo. They discussed issues of common concern page


and proposals for the sustainable economic development of Gozo. Both Chambers have identified key issues affecting Gozo's viability in business growth, employment, and other issues that need to be addressed without delay. Both Chambers reiterate their firm belief that Gozo's uniqueness can contribute directly to its economic development and growth, leading to enhanced national competitiveness. This potential win-win for Malta and Gozo intrinsically relies on our thoughtful and judicious use of the Gozitan landscape, respecting the island's culture and authenticity.

06. GOVERNMENT AND OPPOSITION SHOULD JOIN FORCES AND ADVOCATE AN ‘EU STRATEGIC FRAMEWORK FOR ISLANDS’ The Malta Chamber has been actively working on island peripherality economic implications for close to a decade, with facts in hand evidencing how being removed from the 'hub' of activity of the central European market, as a micro island state, is equivalent to extra costs and loss of competitiveness. The Chamber was reacting to the Opposition's proposal announcing a fund to mitigate added costs impacting our potential to trade internationally, welcoming the recommendation, together with other proposals rendering the Customs Department easier to do business. The Malta Chamber, therefore, calls for Government and Opposition to come together to effectively advocate an EU Strategic Framework for Islands.

07. A REPUTABLE COMPETITIVE ISLAND-STATE "Next month's budget needs to determine the country's foreseeable future by addressing immediate challenges the

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country is currently facing", the President of the Chamber, Ms Marisa Xuereb said in her introduction. Ms Xuereb also stated, "The Chamber once again calls on government not to embark on a populist agenda, a so-called electoral budget, but one who directs the economy towards recovery with difficult decisions expected to be made in 2022". The discussion also included a presentation by the Chamber's CEO Dr Marthese Portelli about key proposals pushed by The Malta Chamber, based on six themes, namely economic growth and recovery, good governance, human capital and education, digitalisation, sustainability, and internationalisation. Dr Portelli further commented that "the recognition of Malta's island state revamped status within the ambit of EU Competition Policy will provide fiscal manoeuvrability on investment aid and assistance addressing cross-country logistics and transportation. Therefore, a national case must be presented to the European Union reflecting Malta's insularity, peripherality, and small market size".

08. HSBC MALTA RENEWS GOLD PARTNERSHIP WITH THE MALTA CHAMBER HSBC Bank Malta has renewed its long-standing Gold Partnership Agreement with The Malta Chamber to further enhance its joint efforts in support of the Maltese business community. The agreement was signed by HSBC Malta's Head of Commercial Banking Joyce Grech and Malta Chamber President Marisa Xuereb, and Deputy President Chris Vassallo Cesareo.

0 9 By virtue of the Gold Partnership, HSBC will continue to support the Chamber's ongoing operations while at the same time creating unique joint events through which the bank makes its global expertise available to members. This co-operation has been enhanced during the Covid-19 pandemic through the organisation of numerous virtual seminars to help companies navigate this challenging period.

09. BI-PARTISAN APPROACH ON CRUCIAL ISSUES IS ESSENTIAL! "We believe that in the current economic climate, the Opposition has to instill a more constructive national dialogue about the country's future." These were the words of Ms Marisa Xuereb, President of the Malta Chamber, during the presentation of the organisation's pre-budget recommendations to an Opposition delegation led by PN leader Dr Bernard Grech. Addressing the meeting, Ms Xuereb noted how the process undertaken by The Malta Chamber aimed at proposing solid policy recommendations to the decision makers of the country for a better and more resilient Malta. page


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0 9 It was noted how the Chamber was once again taking a proactive approach and has made concrete suggestions totalling almost 200 between sectoral and horizontal proposals which impact all sectors.

10. PRIVATE SECTOR EXPERIENCING DRASTIC EMPLOYEE DRAIN TO PUBLIC SECTOR EMPLOYMENT During a meeting between the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry and the Gozo Business Chamber, both organisations noted that several of their members keep reporting that they are losing their employees to public sector jobs, even when the latter often carry less pay. Both Chambers believe that whilst it is understandable that the public sector needs staffing at certain levels, it is also evident that there is overstaffing across various strata and in various Government departments and



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entities. Furthermore, it runs contrary to business competitiveness to have a situation where Government is indirectly soliciting human capital from the private sector. Both organisations appeal to Government to curtail this practice as it will have longterm repercussions not only on the public sector wage bill, but also on the ability of the private sector to operate due to lack of human resources. This situation is already being experienced in many sectors.

11. CONSULTATION ON PHARMACY OPENING HOURS IS LACKING Following reports in the press that health authorities are in advanced discussions with stakeholders for pharmacies to introduce a roster system to start opening on Sunday afternoons, the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry wishes to clarify that it has not been approached the matter in recent months. The last correspondence that the Chamber has had on the matter dates back to February 2020 and consists of a proposal made jointly with other stakeholders that provide for the enforcement of a roster for pharmacies to open on Sundays and

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1 2 Public Holidays, and for the service to be extended to a full day. No further communication on this proposal has been received since. On behalf of its Lead Professional Pharmacists Business Section, the Chamber urges the relevant authorities to consult with the relevant stakeholders before proceeding with implementation to ensure that the public is better served and that there is a level playing field between all pharmacies.

12. THE MALTA CHAMBER AND SEED SIGN BRONZE PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry signed a Bronze Partnership agreement with Seed, aiming to enhance The Chamber's policy influence regarding sustainable tourism. To this end, Seed will be paired with the 'Tourism Operators Business Section' within The Malta Chamber's Policy framework. "It is a great privilege for Seed to be associated with and sponsor The Malta Chamber. As a research-driven international advisory firm, Seed is very aligned to The Chamber's mission, values and drive to be a transforming force. To this end, we will be supporting the Tourism Business Sub-Committee to transform such an important pillar to Malta's economy, which suffered the brunt of the global pandemic.

"Earlier this month, we signed a Strategic Alliance Collaboration with STM Malta with the aim of raising awareness and tackling the issues related to the sustainability of the state pension while promoting Malta beyond our borders as a leading base for international cross-border pension provision," explained Dr Portelli. Deborah Schembri, Managing Director & CEO of STM Malta Pension Services Limited, stated that the key purpose of pension systems is to protect older people from poverty and to allow them to enjoy decent living standards and economic independence when ageing. The event was attended by Minister Clyde Caruana, Minister Michael Farrugia and Hon David Agius.

With the recovery insight, together with The Chamber, Seed will be actively supporting the development of a vision for a revitalised and sustainable tourism sector," said Mr JP Fabri, Director at Seed Business Advisory Ltd.

13. THE VITAL ROLE OF SUSTAINABLE, SUFFICIENT AND ADEQUATE PENSIONS "The Malta Chamber is a firm believer in the positive impact that sustainable and adequate pensions can have in addressing the issues related to enhancing sound and proper governance protocols for both a short term and a long term recovery," said Dr Marthese Portelli, The Malta Chamber CEO, during a luncheon organised by STM Malta.

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1 5 14. HOLISTIC PLANNING WITH A CLEAR VISION CREATES JOBS AND IMPROVES QUALITY OF LIFE The Maltese economy is highly diversified, with many industries contributing positively and having sustainable growth potential, including construction, if we focus on quality. The Malta Chamber reiterates its stand that development and the construction industry must improve and evolve with full respect to Malta and Gozo's heritage, history, culture, natural environment and well-being. The country urgently needs a holistic Master Plan and revised local plans supported with clear policies which do not leave room for abusive exploitation in their interpretation and application. The ad hoc planning approach adopted over the years has uglified Malta, created uncertainty, excessive speculation and a non-level playing field between industry players as well as the general public.

15. SUSTAINABILITY IS INGRAINED IN OUR POLICY FRAMEWORK "We need to ensure that all schemes and incentives being proposed are attractive enough for effective take-up. There are a number of good schemes and incentives, but like in everything else, there is always room for improvement. I believe that it is time to revisit the model, the frame of mind, certain thinking and page


certain practices opted for to date," said The Malta Chamber CEO, Dr Marthese Portelli, during the Enterprises for a Sustainable Maltese Economy conference. Key Recommendations for More Effective Sustainability Funding Schemes & Incentives include: 1. A simplified application process 2. Eliminate unnecessary paperwork 3. Move away from one size fits all schemes to schemes that are more sector-specific 4. Implement a faster disbursement process is implemented 5. Introduce pro-rata disbursements tied to clear milestones and/or deliverables 6. Appoint a reference/contact person who is well versed and easily accessible 7. More cash grants as opposed to tax credits where possible 8. Increase in % support, particularly on initial capital outlay Dr Portelli concluded by congratulating all those businesses that took a proactive approach and invested in sustainable efforts, particularly those that invested during peak Covid times.

16. A NATIONAL EMPLOYMENT POLICY WHICH IDENTIFIES THE KEY CHALLENGES OF OUR LABOUR MARKET The Malta Chamber welcomes the recommendations proposed in The National Employment Policy launched yesterday by Minister Clyde Caruana, identifying the key challenges in our labour market. This Policy takes on board several proposals for a National Workforce strategy published by the Malta Chamber's HR and Talent

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1 7 committee in August, outlining 56 tangible recommendations, paired with 48 quantifiable success measures. "The Government's new Employment policy is aligned to the Malta Chamber's belief that our workforce needs to be elevated further through continuous upskilling and enhanced productivity", the President of the Malta Chamber, Ms Marisa Xuereb, said. The Malta Chamber will now be reviewing the Government's policy in greater detail and offers its assistance to make the country more competitive whilst building a people-centred economy that promotes further sustainability.

17. STRENGTHENING COLLABORATION BETWEEN ACADEMIA AND INDUSTRY Through an agreement that came into force on the 8th of October 2021, the Ministry for Equality, Research and Innovation, the University of Malta and the Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry committed to strengthening and incentivising research at the university Post-Doctoral level in collaboration with different economic operators. The schemes aim to valorise the same basic research in sectors such as science and engineering whilst promoting quality research in the country's main economic sectors. The agreement will lead towards more substantial research and innovation

sector and came into force after a number of meetings with the entities concerned, where existing problems and shortcomings were discussed, and suggestions on how to best address them were welcomed.

18. A BUDGET WHICH ACKNOWLEDGES PRESENT REALITIES The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry welcome this year's Budget. The Chamber recognises the challenging fiscal position in which the Minister of Finance formulated the Budget. The Chamber notes that in the prevailing economic climate in which operational costs are increasing fast for all business operators, the Government decided not to place further financial burdens or fees on the private sector. The Malta Chamber takes note that Government has taken up several of its key proposals. These notably included measures that paved the way in terms of economic recovery. Nonetheless, the Malta Chamber feels that this year's Budget did not effectively address measures to recover the worst-hit sectors, such as tourism-related segments. It also notes the rather vague references to digitalisation incentives for the private sector. The Malta Chamber fully supports the Government's renewed commitment towards fiscal morality. page


Business Licences

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WORDS Ronald Cassar

WEED TIMES DR ANDREW AGIUS, medical director at the Pain Clinic, explains to RONALD CASSAR about the benefits of medical cannabis. We asked for his comments in light of medical cannabis licensing in Malta. Ronald Cassar

Recently, a cannabis reform bill was presented in Parliament. The new rules were drawn up after a public consultation period tied to a White Paper published in March 2021. Following the Bill, cannabis users will be able to grow plants at home within the remit of the legislation or buy the substance from specifically set up associations. Adults will also be able to possess up to 7g of cannabis without risking being arrested or confiscating the cannabis. Dr Agius believes there is a fine line between recreational and medical use of cannabis. However, he believes all regular cannabis users are using it medically.



“Recreational use of cannabis refers to the consumption of high doses of THC without CBD to obtain a feeling of euphoria. A significant number of ‘recreational’ cannabis users consume daily because it helps them with anxiety, pain, mood, sleep, or some other symptoms. “In such cases, although the cannabis used is not prescribed, this can be classified as medical use. If cannabis is legalised for recreational use, this will allow easier access to a wide range of products which will make life easier for many medical cannabis users who now only have a choice of four products and can only access them with permission from the Superintendent of Public Health,” he says.

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Dr Andrew Agius

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Giving details about the Bill, Equality Minister Owen Bonnici last week said the Malta Police Force will be enforcing the new rules. There needs to be a strong educational campaign based on scientific facts and real-world evidence for legalisation to work. Cannabis users need to be educated on the risks and benefits and advised on how to use cannabis responsibly and safely. Dr Agius argues that medical cannabis refers to the use of cannabis derivatives to treat a medical condition. There is strong scientific evidence that cannabis is effective in relieving chronic pain, spasticity in multiple sclerosis and chemotherapy side effects. There is also real-world evidence that it can help in a wide range of other medical conditions. “Cannabis interacts with our body through the endocannabinoid system (ECS), an extensive network of receptors which are present throughout the whole body especially in the brain and gut.” The ECS was discovered in the early 1990s, and it was never included in the doctors’ medical curriculum until recently. “The ECS is responsible for homeostasis in the body, and we are now acknowledging that many illnesses for which there was previously no explanation are caused by disruption of this homeostatic mechanism. “One classic example is fibromyalgia, where dysfunction in the ECS causes a wide range of symptoms including chronic pain, fatigue, anxiety, depression, insomnia and sensory hypersensitivity. “By targeting the ECS, we can now help these patients manage their symptoms effectively with little or no side effects whereas before these patients would be dismissed because their symptoms were poorly understood and they were told there is nothing much that can be done,” says Dr Agius. In Malta, medical cannabis can be prescribed as an alternative for any chronic medical page


condition where medication was not effective or caused side effects. In fact, 95% of patients with chronic pain respond positively to medical cannabis. These patients claim that cannabis helps reduce their pain levels by at least 50% and significantly improves their quality of life without the side effect of the strong medications they were previously using. Patients who have been prescribed medical cannabis for other conditions also find that it helps them in various ways. Although it may sometimes not have a direct impact on their symptoms, it often helps them cope better and most report an improvement in their quality of life. Unlike most other medications, side effects experienced from medical cannabis are usually positive, and this can be explained by the medicine’s effect on restoring balance in the ECS, thus improving mood, anxiety, appetite, sleep, allergies, blood pressure and blood sugar control amongst others. “As more doctors are witnessing significant improvements in their patients using medical cannabis, many are slowly changing their opinion about its therapeutic value. “Despite this, here is still a huge stigma, and most doctors are more comfortable prescribing morphine than medical cannabis. In addition, patients suffering from chronic pain symptoms often ask their healthcare provider about trying cannabis as a medicine, yet most are still advised against it. “As patients witness others who have obtained significant relief from their symptoms, many are starting to do their research and seeking help despite the contrary advice they are being given,” concludes Dr Agius. Efforts to get the views from suppliers who are licensed to produce medical cannabis proved futile.

The MPO performing at the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai Photo: Evgeny Evtyukhov


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BACK WITH A BANG! Following a pandemic-induced hiatus from international live performances, the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) has recently returned from the InClassica International Music Festival in Dubai. MPO CEO SIGMUND MIFSUD gives us the details. Although COVID-19 left a devastating impact on the creative industries, the MPO managed to reinvent itself by understanding its new role as a catalyst for the arts and culture. Indeed, the orchestra kick-started a digital transformation that reached over 16 million people through the MPO Online Programme, but during that time it also released multiple recordings with Grammy-nominated PARMA Recordings, started tapping the film industry, produced an eight-week-long festival, and created educational projects like the L-Investigaturi tal-Mużika TV series. Yet there was one thing that had been missing since March 2020: the MPO hadn’t been able to perform abroad due to the international restrictions. “Every orchestra that’s alive and well should be touring,” Sigmund Mifsud says. “It’s the only way an orchestra can give its musicians and conductors new experiences that will help them grow and, in turn, help us grow. We’re even more adamant about that now we’re back from our first international performance in 19 months.” With a team of 65 musicians, the MPO was at the 10th edition of the InClassica International Music Festival, one of the biggest showcases of classical music anywhere. While there, Malta’s foremost musical institution performed on three occasions: once during the Concerto Extravaganza with renowned pianist Severin von Eckardstein and cellist Gary Hoffman;

another in From Malta With Love, which featured Joseph Calleja; and a third time in Tchaikovsky – Melodious Inventor, which included star cellist Mischa Maisky. All three concerts took place at the CocaCola Arena, and each of them featured at least one work by a Maltese composer, namely pieces by Charles Camilleri, Alex Vella Gregory, and Albert Garzia. “Playing at such festivals is important for everyone involved, as well as for Malta, as this allows the country to showcase its talent,” Sigmund continues. “Indeed, the audiences for this aren’t just those at the venue, but millions more as these concerts were filmed and streamed live on Euronews.” Of course, the concerts were also slightly bittersweet, as before its move to Dubai, the Festival had been scheduled to take place in Malta. This would have seen dozens of concerts, piano competitions, and recitals take place on the Islands over a month and a half, but the current restrictions didn’t permit for it to happen. “We have many local concerts and recitals scheduled in the lead-up to the festive season but we are still struggling to find venues where a full orchestra can play while observing restrictions. Even so, we’re working on reaching an agreement with the Ministry for Health and the Ministry for Culture so we can continue to provide local audiences with classical and contemporary music concerts,” Mifsud concludes.

For more information on the MPO or for its programme of events, please visit page




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WORDS Zak Farrugia Zak Farrugia, Head Coach at UN1T and Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) athlete.

THE ART OF TRAINING SMART Most people believe that you need to feel absolutely drained after a workout for it to be a good workout, waking up the next day with your body still aching from the previous day's workout to see results in the long-term. And by looking at the way training and workouts are promoted, with quotes like 'Go hard or go home' you can hardly blame people for perceiving training in this way. The reality, however, is very different. You do not need to kill yourself daily in training in order to see results. In fact, a large percentage of training, 80% to be precise, needs to be at an easy to moderate effort, with only 20% of training being at a moderately hard to very hard effort. STRIKING THE RIGHT BALANCE By training in this way, we give our body enough time to recover and fully take in the benefits of our training. Training hard on a daily basis also leads to burnout, leaving individuals unmotivated and unwilling to train, which negatively affects our long-term goals. The risk of injury is also much higher when overtraining; getting an injury is highly likely to stop most of us in our tracks and pushes us back to where we initially started. Therefore, it is imperative to find the right balance of hard and easy sessions to reach our goals, be it to lose weight, gain muscle, or for athletes seeking success in sport. Having the right fitness programme well-structured with the correct ratio of hard to easy sessions makes it easier



for us to know when we need to push and when we need to take our foot off the gas a little to focus on other aspects of training. Lower intensity sessions are just as important as the more challenging sessions; these sessions are usually more focused on technique, lifting/running efficiency or building a strong endurance base for long-distance runners. CONSISTENCY IS KEY Rather than putting our focus on training hard, we need to focus on consistency. Consistency is by far the most important component when working to accomplish goals. During exercise, many biological reactions occur within our bodies. Over time, these biological reactions change our bodies to become stronger and more efficient in the way we move, which in turn leads to a change in the way we look and feel. However, only by being consistent in terms of training will these body adaptations be reached, ultimately leading us to our objectives. Once again, having a well-structured programme makes it much easier to stay on track because you won't have to plan your

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A LOOK AT AN OCR ATHLETE'S WEEKLY TRAINING Monday AM: Full BodyStrength session PM: Active Rest Bike ride Tuesday: Speed Interval (High intensity) Wednesday: AM: Full Body Strength session (Low intensity) PM: Easy run and Obstacle technique Thursday: Active Rest Bike Ride Friday: Tempo Trail Run (Moderate to High Intensity) Saturday: REST day/Mobility Sunday: Long Run (Main focus to build aerobic endurance)

workout daily; but rather, it is written out, and you need to follow it. WELL-PLANNED TRAINING PROGRAMMES: THE KEY TO SUCCESS A well-planned training programme needs to be specific for each individual or individual group depending on the goal. Every training session within the programme should have a core target which is the main focus of that session. For athletes, this could be training a specific movement or lift to improve efficiency or to increase

running speed by performing speed intervals. Whereas for people looking to lose weight, the focus could vary from sessions focused on burning more calories(cardio-focused) to sessions focused on building lean muscle. The main takeaway here is that a training programme should be well planned and in line with each person's goals while also varying the type and intensity of the sessions. This, coupled with consistency, will lead to individuals reaching their goals and also staying motivated and ready to set new goals. page



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WORDS Mario Debono

ADAPTING TO COVID-19'S LEGACY When the coronavirus first raised its ugly head in late 2019, little were we to know what lay ahead. The Wuhan province was literally on the other side of the world, and we approached the end of 2019 and its festivities, with little or no idea how our world was going to change, forever. The first three months of 2020 soon brought us face to face with the harsh realities of the COVID international pandemic. No corner of the world was spared the consequences, including Malta and Gozo. Impacting on all aspects of people’s lives, it was only natural that the public’s purchasing trends would change, including those of whom we have come to consider as our loyal clientele. We at Maypole were faced with a tsunami of challenges and changing situations, all of which needed immediate and drastic action. Restrictions on entry into our retail outlets meant that popping in to one of our retail outlets open till late, something that had, for the absolute majority of Maltese people, always been a normal easy experience, became an ordeal. Limited numbers of people in the shop, facemasks, hand sanitisers and social distancing while waiting outside complicated what had previously been so simple. We needed to adapt, and fast. Both our customers, who depend on us for supplying many of their everyday needs, and our employees, who depend on us for their livelihood, expected no less. Besides our shops, there was also a severe impact on our factory floor. Our production is heavily dependent on a



labour-intensive operation, with our employees being in constant proximity to each other. We immediately embarked on increased health and safety training specifically designed to target the changed circumstances due to the COVID pandemic. Our shifts were totally overhauled and re-organised to create small staff bubbles for traceability in the case of an employee testing positive. We did this to ensure the continued smooth operations of the factory as a whole, as we wanted to minimise as much as possible the risk of any disruption to our clients. These measures were successful since fresh bread was delivered to our customers daily, through our outlets, without missing one day. The solution lay in modern technology, and what it has to offer in the form of synergy with other operators. We needed to re-establish a supply chain of the same simplicity as walking into the shop, picking items off the shelf, and checking them out at the counter. So, we went online and, taking note of the growing demand for food take-out delivery services offered by partner companies, we took it a step further. We put our retail outlets on the online platforms of our strategic partners in the area of food-delivery, thus going from

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the availability of Maypole outlets from ‘just a few metres away’, to ‘just a few clicks away’. Now, anybody can access the Maypole outlet closest to their home, and carry out their shopping from the comfort of their home. Naturally enough we are aware that there are those who prefer the in-shop experience, but the online service has taken a lot of pressure on the shopping channels that had been significantly narrowed by anti-Covid measures. Everybody wins. Another consequence of the pandemic was its impact on the restaurant trade. Maypole had just launched the second venue for its flagship restaurant, Nenu the Artisan Baker, when the restrictions hit. Even when the restrictions were gradually eased, our constant monitoring of trends indicated clearly that the pleasure of eating out had taken a hit from the apprehension of possible contagion in a crowd situation. This has meant that a significant number of people

are now preferring to have ‘at home’ events, with the new phenomenon of individual households offering their homes as a venue in turns, and then pooling in with their circle of friends to order party menus for a night out, while staying in. Since we had already been established as one of the leading party caterers on the island, offering good quality for better prices, we adapted immediately to this new trend, and made it possible for set, or mix and match, party menus to be ordered online. All in all, while accepting that the COVID pandemic has been a great challenge, we can state that we have managed to weather the storm, and done our best to turn the challenges we faced into opportunities, in which we were helped in no small way by the support provided by the Government. It is no mean feat that, notwithstanding the huge negative impact the virus has had in the past two years across the board, we have not needed to resort to layoffs or shorter working times. For this, we thank our loyal clients who, with their custom, continued to support our business throughout. Here we must also acknowledge the vital role that the government's measures, especially wage supplements for employees at our restaurants, played in this period. With our efforts and adaptation, and with State support, we not only managed to keep the business going without lowering our standards of service, but more importantly, we managed to sustain our employees, thus sustaining their livelihood, and that of their families. The Maypole COVID experience has confirmed one fact. Just like the Maltese bread is at the heart of the Maltese family, so is Maypole at the heart of Maltese society, inextricably tied in to the mesh of our communities for the mutual benefit of all. page


business spot

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MAPFRE MIDDLESEA GOES GREEN WITH ELECTRIC VEHICLE INSURANCE The introduction of EV insurance forms part of MAPFRE’s sustainability initiatives to promote a greener environment and fight against climate change It’s become clear to many that the costs associated with electric vehicles are rapidly lowering all whilst offering a variety of benefits for drivers deciding to take the plunge by making the switch. Whether it be for the impact it will have towards your savings on fuel, the environmental benefits or the lower maintenance costs, it’s safe to say that the future of driving is electric. The main benefits of owning an electric vehicle can be described as convenient, pleasantly easy driving, cost effective, less noise pollution, and zero emissions. It is more and more evident that driving an electric vehicle comes with many benefits, especially thanks to the impressive new technologies being developed, which even promise to cut the battery charging duration down to a mere matter of minutes! If there’s ever been a time to make the switch, it’s now. MAPFRE believes it’s time for a change. The EV insurance product launch reinforces their commitment to the future of mobility and to be at the forefront in the transformation of the mobility landscape. The company is committed to environmental sustainability, and work is underway for MAPFRE to become a carbon neutral company on a global level by 2030, forming part of the Group’s Sustainable Development Goals. To find out more information about the MAPFRE Middlesea Electric Vehicle insurance, please visit




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Young Entrepreneurs

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OPPORTUNITY TO GROW The Young Chamber Network (YCN) was set up in 2019 by the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry to provide a space for young entrepreneurs to come together, connect, and collaborate. Members Rebecca Bonnici, Keith Attard Portughes and Justin Camilleri share their experiences on the much-needed support they found from YCN as they forged ahead in the business world during the pandemic. REBECCA BONNICI is a 40-year-old wife and mother of two young girls, with a penchant for teaching English as a foreign language to the world. She started out in the industry teaching EFL as a summer job while reading for her degree at the University of Malta. “It was in the ELT classroom that I met my true passion, and after completing my degree, I went on to pursue a Level 7

Diploma in Teaching English as a Second Language. I have not looked back since, dipping my toes in and out of continued professional development at every available opportunity,” says Bonnici, CEO of BELS Ltd, which runs two boutique-sized English language schools. Her father had founded the first BELS school in Gozo in 1997. Years later, she joined him and worked her way up the ranks until she took over the reins on her father’s retirement. After that, in synchrony with her marriage and the birth of one of her daughters, she also opened a second school in St Paul’s Bay. Bonnici describes her business as a “small set-up, run by a passionate, dedicate team”. “We’re all young at heart and with the same vision and goal; to provide each of our clients with a quality learning experience, both inside and outside the classroom. We teach English to clients from all corners of the globe and love to hear about their aspirations and tailor our courses to their needs,” she says. When the going gets tough, she refers to her colleagues at YCN for support. “The network is a perfect blend of openness and camaraderie; for someone in my position, alone at the top. My colleagues at YCN can give me a more detached outlook on my reality and some professional, constructive and objective reality checks,” Bonnici notes. Speaking of tough times, the pandemic brought with it quite a number of challenges for her industry. Language schools were closed down for



“It had been hard enough to bring my business back onto its feet the first two times we were closed down. When it happened a third time, I thought I was done for. It is, in part, through the support of the Chamber that I found the strength to soldier on for my team, to save our company,” she admits. Despite such challenges, however, she recommends that others who would like to set up their own business not be discouraged by any adverse circumstance or possible consequences and take the plunge. “Do it, however, don’t be afraid of failure. If you fail – be sure to understand why, learn from it and then pick up the pieces and start again,” she suggests. KEITH ATTARD PORTUGHES started a career in banking and accountancy before setting up ICI Limited, which was initially a small turnkey company offering construction and finishing services. “At the age of 22, I was given the opportunity to manage the finishing works of a block of apartments. This was the start of my turnkey projects, however, I was sub-contracted the works with a low-profit margin. So, at the age of 25, I decided to set up my

own company, engaging my employees to do the finishing works,” Attard Portughes says.

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the third time during the COVID pandemic last month after a big cluster of students from different schools tested positive for the virus.

As time went by, the company started to take on larger projects and investing in large real estate developments. As a result, it now boasts of a vast portfolio consisting of residential apartment complexes, state-of-the-art luxury villas, and commercial buildings in prime sites across the island. As CEO of ICI Limited, Attard Portughes now leads a team of experienced and skilled employees – about a 100 from the initial 10 − and continuously strives to maintain exceptionally high standards in the quality of the developments. “Through my commitment to excellence and a dedication to professionalism, as the man behind ICI Ltd, I have continued to exceed industry standards by forming strong professional partnerships based on integrity, ingenuity and reliability,” he points out. Currently, he is a shareholder and director on numerous local companies that mainly relate to property development and investments and has been a member of the Malta Developers Association since its foundation. He joined the Youth Chamber Network to be able to meet new people within his sector. “It was quite helpful to exchange new ideas in our sector and discuss a better way forward for the industry,” he says. Attard Portughes claims that the main challenge today in his sector is human resources and admits that since the majority of the workforce is foreign, it is harder to retain “our local way of building and professionalism in soft stone”. However, like every other problem he faces, he considers it part of a learning curve. Attard Portughes says that the hardest part of every business is starting up, but he is adamant that once you have good foundations, “the rest will fall into place”. “Being professional, honest and willing to face tough times is the key to success. Business is not always plain sailing; if it was that easy, anyone could have made it. If a business does not go as planned, one has to pull himself together and learn from his own mistakes. Never give up; every problem is a learning curve,” he claims. page


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The business idea has been evolving for the past six years, during which several business models have been studied while developing and tweaking the services to be offered and the business strategy to reach the business targets. Paggi Corporate Services offers tailormade, comprehensive solutions to cover organisations’ needs, including business and management advisory, HR-related services, accounting, corporate training and also media services. Over the years, Camilleri appreciated the importance of being part of the Chamber, and he is now chair of the YCN steering committee. “With the formation of the Young Chamber Network, I was presented with the opportunity to meet like-minded individuals and a platform to discuss challenges, opportunities, ambitions and experiences, which gave me the confidence to take the plunge and launch my business,” Camilleri notes. JUSTIN JOHN CAMILLERI started his career in the manufacturing industry, occupying a lower-tier job position. However, he went on to gain experience and develop his skills to gradually climb the corporate ladder and eventually become a seasoned executive in the manufacturing and servicing industries. “I occupied top management positions in wellestablished companies operating in both local and international markets,” he says. Through these experiences, he started to notice gaps in companies’ policies, structures and strategies. He used to discuss and use these gaps as case studies with some of his peers, some of whom are today partners and collaborators in his business. “After years and months doing these exercises, the idea to start my own business had started to grow, and I went on to discuss my idea with other members in the Malta Chamber,” Camilleri notes. “We continued these exercises, and we have been gradually developing our approaches to support local and international companies.” The idea to run his own business had been building up for some years. Then at the age of 32, he decided to start gearing up to launch his business and submitted his brand’s Paggi trademark application with the target to launch the business in 12 months. “At the age of 33, the business was launched with a clear vision to develop into a company able to offer comprehensive tailormade corporate services,” Camilleri says proudly.



“I am pleased to be chairing the YCN steering committee, where along with my colleagues, we are working to support and nurture the YCN members’ growth by facilitating their journey within the Malta Chamber while being a catalyst to the Chamber’s continuous regeneration.” He adds that the Young Chamber Network offers many benefits, but mainly a sense of a community of like-minded individuals who can support each other to overcome challenges and grasp any opportunity. “The YCN helps me to grow and strengthen my network, leading to finding the right partners to collaborate with and introduced me to business opportunities. Being part of such a network, I, along with other members, can get business insights and voice our needs and concerns to the highest levels in the country while also being presented with the opportunity to give our inputs towards national policies,” he remarks. Camilleri firmly believes in the power of communication and discussion with peers. “Do not be afraid to speak about your business idea with other like-minded individuals; they can help you identify any gaps and point you in the right direction. And like any other project, set a timeline and a launch date,” he suggests. He also urges young entrepreneurs to support the Young Chamber Network and the Malta Chamber.

+356 2124 6262

MAPFRE Middlesea p.l.c. (C-5553) is authorised by the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) to carry on both Long Term and General Business under the Insurance Business Act, Cap 403 of the Laws of Malta. MAPFRE Middlesea p.l.c. is regulated by the MFSA.

Innovative Technology

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WORDS Dayna Camilleri Clarke

A HOTBED OF INNOVATION Imagine a place brimming with some of Europe’s leading data scientists, continuously working on the next big thing, paving the way with breakthroughs and solutions to global business and community problems - all resolved by a deep tech company. This isn't a dystopian dream in a far-flung destination or Silicon Valley perhaps, it's the reality of a group of professionals based right here in Smart City. This forward-thinking company has been leading development teams and designing technical architectures for customers around the world since 2015. InboundMuse is the brainchild of Tyron Lloyd Baron and Mark Mallia. The team brings together a tech talent pool having various specializations, from Digital Transformation and Business Modelling for software platforms to the deeply technical aspects of Data Science, Machine Learning, & Cloud Architecture.

Dayna Camilleri Clarke

We sat down with Tyron Lloyd Baron, founder and CEO of InboundMuse to get to know more about the company’s role within this industry. He is refreshingly candid, begins our chat with a big smile that is followed by a simple opening line “Ultimately, we are the biggest tech geeks you can find on these islands” and proceeds to explain the tech and culture that make InboundMuse the company it is. Whilst this tech talk may be an entirely alien language for us, we follow with ease. Baron’s enthusiasm is catchy, we learn about one of his other passions architecting processes to solve problems. Baron certainly knows a thing or two about getting an idea off the ground, having led organisations from Proofof-Concept to Production at the head



of multidisciplinary teams over the last 10 years. “As with most entrepreneurs, I had a vision, and getting it to scale was only ever a ‘when’ not an ‘if’” Consistent hard work has culminated in a range of InboundMuse products and prestigious awards, across Europe, for Innovations in ICT in areas of A.I. & Data Analytics, and Online Ad optimisation. When pressed about his achievements, Baron acknowledges that they were possible in no small part to his brilliant cofounder Mark Mallia, current CTO of InboundMuse, and the amazing 10 person team they lead." So, what exactly do InboundMuse do? "Have an idea that needs serious tech to implement it? That’s where InboundMuse come in. Designing, building, and scaling remain at the crux of what InboundMuse deliver." “We’re all about bringing our clients to the forefront of technology with our R&D Services, as well exporting our own Made-in-Malta Software-as-a-Service products to the rest of Europe. Some of our international clients, like wildly successful Irish scale-up Altada Technologies, have even expanded to Malta to be closer to us as a result of the high quality of skills & services we offer. When it comes to our

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products, most of these are white-label, meaning a buyer can entirely personalize and put their brand name on it, as if it were their own" explains Baron. We delve further into one of their notable products “Celery”, a fast expanding restaurant management platform with direct online-ordering & delivery. The company has created a fully integrated system for restaurants, offering features from Online Ordering, Web Shops, Mobile Apps, Cloud POS, Table Booking, Loyalty schemes and Marketing Tools. Baron adds “With the imminent closure of restaurants, many business leaders had to regroup, and food delivery services became a thing of the norm within the local context. While some did opt to go on shared platforms, many saw the advantages of having their own standalone application. And that's where we stepped in. Our researchers had spent months (and still do) inand-out of kitchens trying to identify areas which could be streamlined, and the result has been truly outstanding". So how do you stay ahead of the trends in an everchanging and competitive market and establish what's needed? Baron briefly explains the intricate stages the InboundMuse team work through. “It’s a process. Firstly, there's the research and design stage with

our in-house data scientists.” He goes on to mention solution architecture, design processes to formulate the best solutions, project depth, schedules, software, hardware integrations. All of this is done “to satisfy both project and business requirements harmoniously." There’s also an engineering phase, but it’s not necessarily the largest segment. “With a solid architecture in place, rapid iterations ensure a business is up and running from the getgo. Once baseline satisfaction is guaranteed, we then go into overdrive to make sure our systems are self-improving, scalable, and future-proof. Naturally, the most satisfying part of any project is launching a production-ready application into the wild (so to speak) for User adoption and growth. At this stage, we support our clients with everything from SaaS pricing, best-practices, to cloud-hosting load balancing. This ensures our client's success. Essentially it is a relentless process in pursuit of refinement, which suits me just fine”. It's rare to find such a group of, clearly intelligent, futuristic thinkers striving for tomorrow's solutions today, especially locally. InboundMuse want to use innovative and functional deep tech to help transform global finance, hospitality, healthcare, and environment. As they continuously cultivate know-how worldwide and use tech to solve headaches for Universities, local household names, and international groups - one thing is for sure, this won't be the last time you hear the name “InboundMuse". page



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Digital Tools As A Means To Improve Employees’ Mental Wellbeing issues due to their work, particularly anxiety and stress. More worrying was the fact that 72% of workers reported to never have disclosed their issues with their employers, which of course goes to show how important it is for the employers themselves to take the lead on the matter. Francesca Vella

Stress, anxiety, pressure, heavy workload, burnout - these are feelings that sound all too familiar to employees and employers alike, but do we ever stop and think how badly they might be affecting our mental wellness? Better still, how important is it for businesses to invest in their workers’ mental health, especially in the aftermath of the COVID pandemic and in a situation where several people are working remotely? IT PAYS TO PRIORITISE MENTAL HEALTH Numerous studies have shown that employees can be significantly more productive if they are happy. World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates, for instance, that the cost of depression and anxiety to the global economy is US$ 1 trillion per year in lost productivity. Additionally, for every US$ 1 put into scaled up treatment for common mental disorders, there is a return of US$ 4 in improved health and productivity. 72% OF WORKERS IN MALTA DO NOT DISCLOSE ISSUES WITH EMPLOYERS The numbers speak for themselves; in Malta, a survey conducted by MISCO in 2020 showed that 67% of workers reported to have experienced mental health page


DIGITAL SOLUTIONS TO THE RESCUE So where do you start and how can digital tools help? According to a report on the subject drawn up by American management consultancy McKinsey, “Digital solutions can offer therapeutic approaches or support positive behavioral change on a large scale… They are accessible at any time and from anywhere, providing help on-demand without the long waits often needed for in-person therapy. They are also convenient, easy to use, and anonymous.” Identifying issues that employees may be facing by using app-based surveys can be a first effective step for employers to show that they care about their workers’ mental health, that they (employees) need not worry about the consequences of speaking up about any concerns they may have, and that their employer would genuinely like to help to improve their wellbeing. The ever-increasing awareness about the importance of investing in employees’ mental health has also been coupled with the added strain brought about by the pandemic. And as businesses start looking into the various approaches they should adopt in this regard, it makes perfect sense for companies to analyse their target audience and goals in order to better understand the way forward. Some questions worth asking, for instance, are whether a particular workforce is tech-savvy, and whether they would like to keep themselves informed or reduce stress.


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WORDS ???????????


The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that work is good for mental health, but it adds that a negative working environment can lead to physical and mental health problems. Irrespective of whether employees might be facing mental health issues due to the work environment or otherwise due to other factors, it is amply clear that depression and anxiety have a significant economic impact.

EMPLOYEE-WELLNESS DIGITAL TOOLS Practical examples of digital tools that can be used by employers who would like to prioritise mental health include so-called wearables and digital biomarker apps, prevention and treatment products, as well as analytics tools. The first category essentially gives employees the possibility to collect data about their condition in real time. Prevention and treatment products work using chatbots or teletherapy, while analytics tools provide options to help reduce stress. At the same time, this also gives supervisors the possibility to monitor stress levels

among employees in order for them to then be able to take action accordingly. INVESTING IN MENTAL HEALTH GIVES YOU A COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE Whichever methods businesses choose to use, it is clear that those that invest in mental health stand to benefit the most, and not only in terms of lost productivity. It makes perfect business sense to put employees’ mental health at the centre of your business as it gives you a competitive advantage for highly sought-after talent. page


MENTAL Wellbeing

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MIND YOUR BUSINESS RONALD CASSAR spoke to DIANA MICELI, Policy Development Manager at The Malta Chamber, about an initiative launched to help combat the pandemic's mental health impact it had on entrepreneurs.

Ronald Cassar

Entrepreneurs create the majority of new jobs, help economies come out of recessions, introduce innovative work practices and create prosperity. However, it escapes us to understand the cognitive, affective, and behavioural strengths and vulnerabilities of entrepreneurs. Prior to COVID, little was known about the nature of their mental health characteristics or those of their families. In a recent study conducted by Forbes magazine, 72% of entrepreneurs worldwide go through mental health concerns. In addition, they were more likely to report a lifetime history of depression (30%), ADHD (29%),



substance use condition (12%) and bipolar diagnosis (11%). Mentrepreneurial (MENT+) is a programme initiated by the Richmond Foundation with the collaboration of Malta Enterprise and Business First to assist business leaders in building a more resilient mind to face the various challenges brought about by the pandemic. This initiative is also being supported by The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry and The Malta Chamber of SME's. "The pandemic has strongly hit businesses of all sorts locally, be it large, medium and small, and as The Malta Chamber, our role was to understand the needs to help keep them af loat until the impact of the pandemic and the imposed restrictions are diminished to enable business continuity," says Diane Miceli. The Malta Chamber set up a Helpline for its members, taking a minimum of 50 calls daily

"In this context, when discussing the issues internally, we recognised the impact of the pandemic on mental health, and The Malta Chamber President, Marisa Xuereb, suggested having a scheme that would support business owners in this difficult stage with wellbeing support. This proposal was presented to government following discussions with Richmond Foundation." This was another proposal by The Malta Chamber that was taken up by government and turned into a mental health assistance service made available for entrepreneurs. The service was launched in collaboration between government entities, business representatives, and the Richmond Foundation to encourage uptake. "The MENT+ service will be provided in two ways: firstly, through the website (https://, where training is 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 is providing more aid through one-to-one sessions to address further the needs of the individual," she says.

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among other initiatives to understand its members. This led to the understanding that several employers were facing some serious challenges, such as personnel going back to their countries, liquidity challenges and being unable to maintain their key personnel, business closures and possible bankruptcies as a result of the pandemic.

During the launch of MENT+, Miriam Dalli, Minister for Energy, Enterprise, and Sustainable Development, explained that the pandemic had impacted our economy and the mental health of many people, employers, and businesses during the past months. Therefore, this service will aim to assist enterprises effectively and realistically. Richmond Foundation Chief Executive Ms Stephania Dimech Sant highlighted how one's wellbeing is not complete if one is not taking care of their mental health, which will affect productivity and innovation. Therefore, it is crucial to integrate mental health with business, and this service will meet the needs of employers and directors in various businesses. "The Malta Chamber encourages business owners and entrepreneurs to safeguard their mental health and take up the service which has been designed specifically to safeguard confidentiality and anonymity. "The service includes online Training for mental wellbeing, one-to-one Therapy and 24/7+ support through a helpline 1770 and online chat at," continues Ms Miceli.

MINISTER MIRIAM DALLI ON THE MENT+ INITIATIVE Minister Miriam Dalli explained that Business First was instrumental in supporting enterprises during the past months, working together with Malta Enterprise.

employers and businesses. Therefore, with this agreement, we will provide the MENT+ service, to assist enterprises effectively and realistically," Minister Dalli added.

“The pandemic has impacted not only our economy but also the mental health of many people,

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. page



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WORDS commercial courier


LASTING RELATIONSHIPS During the past five years, BNF Bank has consistently achieved positive results with year-on-year growth in balance sheet and profitability from its core operations. Implementing a customer-centric strategy backed by the shareholders and driven by a dedicated workforce have been key to a sustainable and prudent growth trajectory. Fresh from the addition of a branch in London, these efforts and results have been recognised by international reputable institutions and last year The Banker, published by the renowned Financial Times, bestowed BNF Bank with the Bank of the Year accolade. Acknowledging that customer experience needs to be refreshed often and regularly, BNF Bank has long launched its strategy for digital transformation. In the midst of the global disruption caused by the pandemic, BNF Bank took the opportunity to accelerate this strategy that forms part of its Vision 2023 programme with the aim of achieving full digital transformation as part of its roadmap. BNF Bank page


has launched new or upgraded digital customer interfaces including contactless debit and credit cards, Express Deposit Machines, new Internet Baking platform and BNF Mobile App amongst other things. Together with these enhanced services, there was a significant investment behind the scenes in preparation for the next phases of development. The process was initiated for a complete change to the core banking system planned for the forthcoming 2 to 3 years, which will see BNF Bank partnering with Temenos to implement Temenos Transact, considered as one of the most successful and widely-used digital core banking solution in the world.

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“The Bank is on schedule to complete its digital transformation project in the coming years” said Michael Collis, BNF Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director. “Of course, this process is an ongoing journey that keeps up with the rapid technological advancements that permeate our daily lives.

The Bank will continue to invest in technology, in its branch network and in its people, while expanding its activities and client base, to remain the bank of choice in Malta.” Throughout the Bank’s development over the years to establish itself as a mature, core systemic Bank in Malta and a key player in the industry, BNF has always adopted a customer-first attitude in its approach, and this forms the basis of all its operations. The Bank’s team focuses on personal relationships with customers based on listening, trust, transparency and loyalty. These relationships make the most of open conversations through which the team strives to understand client aspirations and life plans. The Bank’s values of ambition, responsibility and empathy drive the team to take on challenges, look for solutions and achieve results, while delivering the quality service the Bank is distinguished for. BNF is renowned for its tailored service with products customised to different client needs and unique requirements, whether these are of a business or a personal nature. This is achieved by investing heavily in its dedicated workforce, putting personal development and training high on the agenda. “We thrive to be the bank of choice for personal and business clients while remaining close to the

community that we serve. Our digital transformation process is based on developing strategic nodes that are scalable and future proof with customer-focused designs,” said George Debono, BNF’s Chief Commercial Officer. “We are adding new capabilities to ultimately take our service offering to higher levels, while ensuring sustainability. Automation and personalisation have become key to the customer journey and our team remains focused on achieving and maintaining results that make a tangible difference to our clients.” “Our strength, however, lies in combining leading technology with the human element of our people, drawing from their insights, experience and expertise in order to craft the best possible solutions for our customers. Then, in the background, is the churning of data and analytics, that provides insights into patterns and trends, which in turn help us tweak our propositions into ever suitable and relevant products.” Driven by a team of dedicated professionals and a strong brand, BNF Bank offers market- leading home loan products and a suite of services that caters for the financial requirements of clients at all stage of life, from being a student to retirement. On the commercial front, the Bank provides top quality business services throughout the whole spectrum of the industry, from start-ups to large corporates. BNF’s award-winning specially designed SME programmes are crafted to help entrepreneurs in the early stages of their business venture, while the end objective is to continue to serve these clients over the long term as their businesses grow and prosper with the support of our dedicated relationship management team. page


digital tech

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HARNESSING TECHNOLOGY TO POWER BUSINESSES Dayna Camilleri Clarke caught up with Nick Tonna, Chief Customer Officer at BMIT Technologies, to discuss how the company has fared over the pandemic and what's next for this established digital tech provider.

Dayna Camilleri Clarke

BMIT Technologies vision is rooted in its ability to harness technology to power businesses from the get-go and help them transform tech into a business asset. This claim is not a superficial one though. As BMIT Technologies grew from its solid foundation to now becoming a recognized digital solutions provider, the publicly listed company consistently delivered strong results during this period of unprecedented turmoil. BMIT Technologies is a leading provider of technology solutions in Malta, offering complete integration of services in datacentre, cloud and managed IT to a wide range of businesses operating in Malta and across Europe. Having an exceptional background in the technology sector, Nick Tonna joined BMIT Technologies in 2012 from Microsoft Malta, leading the Enterprise & Partner Group segment. He was responsible for managing and developing the relationships with Microsoft's enterprise customers in Malta.



"Half of my 20 years experience in the ICT sector was in a commercialleadership role, with exposure to a broad spectrum of ICT services, including data centre services, infrastructure and software solutions, cloud and managed services," Tonna explains. Naturally, the pandemic hasn't been an easy ride for any business, yet BMIT Technologies has registered steady growth. Revenue for the first half of this year reached €12.8 million, an increase of 9.4% over the same period of the previous year. Group earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) grew to €5.7 million, a significant increase of 11% when compared to the same period of 2020. Profit before tax was at €4.4 million, an increase of 13%. The secret to such outstanding success? Tonna explains, "I believe it's all about putting relationships and people at the heart of what you do. We have evolved

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Nick joined BMIT Technologies in 2012 to lead the Commercial team through the company's ambitious transformation strategy. Under his leadership the team has helped the company attain strong year-on-year revenue growth and doubling its customer count. Prior to BMIT Technologies, Nick led Microsoft's Enterprise & Partner Group segment in Malta. Here he was responsible for managing and developing the relationships with Microsoft’s enterprise customers in Malta. Amongst various other achievements, Nick secured the first large-scale deployments of Cloud-based services within Microsoft's Central and Eastern European region and played a key role in Microsoft’s strategic partnership with the Government of Malta. He was recognised with the Worldwide Circle of Excellence Award for his contributions. Earlier in his career, Nick also managed a number of ICT transformation projects for a number of customers, primarily within the public sector and the financial services sector. Nick holds a Masters in Knowledge-Based Entrepreneurship and a Bachelors in ICT from the University of Malta, and specialised in Business Information Systems at Virginia Commonwealth University, USA. page


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from just an infrastructural company to a digital enabler for businesses. We are shifting from an infrastucture provider to advising and helping clients reach their business goals by deploying, enabling and supporting solutions, round the clock. With focus on providing customers with peace of mind, BMIT Technologies enables clients to focus on their business whilst abstracting the complexity involved in deploying, operating and managing complex IT solutions."

to address the main pain points of anyone wishing to offer remote work to employees but is constrained by systems or software. Based on Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365, BMIT Technologies' Remote Work Solution enables organisations to ensure that their IT systems and services are accessible to employees anytime and anywhere, securely and reliably. This solution has proven to be a vital lifeline for many businesses during the pandemic.

This approach is particularly relevant for regulated businesses, such as those operating in the financial services, FinTech and online gaming. “We are strengthening our capability to help customers in their compliance and security requirements, through investments in people and systems. By adopting a hybrid IT approach, we can deploy solutions that enable our customers to meet their regulatory requirements in a fully compliant manner. A particular solution, Hosting Compliance, allows clients to focus on optimising their operations, CX and marketing and spend less time and resources managing and operating their IT infrastructure, added BMIT Technologies’ Chief Customer Officer.

There seems to be no slowing the team down at BMIT Technologies as they are currently exploring AI solutions. An initial solution focuses on providing automated and intelligent customer support.

BMIT Technologies also offers a secure and quick-to-set-up remote work solution designed

BMIT Technologies plc is listed on the Malta Stock Exchange [MSE: BMIT].

Tonna concludes, "As we enter a post-pandemic phase, BMIT Technologies is committed to building on the performance of these last years. Our stated position is to look at ways of expanding our offering and progressing at a sustained rate, from the technologies we deploy, the solutions we provide to our customers and also our evaluation of options for further market expansion."

CHAMBER OPINION: digitisation The Malta Chamber continues to strengthen its collaboration with BMIT Technologies

Julia Aquilina Executive Policy Development

The Malta Chamber’s Economic Vision identified digitisation as one of its five pillars and this paved the way to further cement The Chamber’s relationship with BMIT Technologies when they became bronze sponsors of our Digital Transformation Committee. The Committee focuses on raising awareness and disseminating information to the business community in areas related to opportunities offered by modern and emerging technologies, cybersecurity and associated



digital skills within the sphere of digital transformation both at a national and at an EU level. “Partnering with BMIT Technologies saw us transition smoothly to an upgraded IT infrastructure setup which meets our demands. Essentially, they brought us up-to-date. A truly professional company who have taken time and effort to learn the requirements of our business and have tailored their services and solutions accordingly. All calls are answered immediately, with a timely, efficient resolution of our issues. It is reassuring knowing they are available when needed,” added Malta Chamber CEO, Dr Marthese Portelli.


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PUTTING YOU FIRST: MAKING WELLBEING A NATIONAL CONVERSATION Atlas Insurance is a household name in Malta, insuring a variety of risks including vehicles, health, homes, businesses, pets and boats as well as providing specialist covers overseas through its successful PCC operation. The Group has gone from strength to strength over the decades. One line of business which has seen extraordinary growth is its health insurance line. Dayna Camilleri Clarke caught up with Catherine Calleja, Atlas Healthcare MD. In addition to her role at Atlas Healthcare, Calleja is also Executive Director and Company Secretary of Atlas Insurance PCC Limited, Atlas Healthcare’s parent.

Dayna Camilleri Clarke

“Awareness of the importance of good health and, in particular, of that of mental health is something we have seen grow phenomenally recently, especially in terms of the employers’ increased consciousness of the link between wellness and business success,” Calleja says. “For us, wellness isn't just a buzzword. It's something we practice. It's an important component of our brand, both internally and externally. Of course, with a pandemic in the mix, it's a topic high on everyone's agenda.” Calleja is certainly no stranger to the world of insurance. A Chartered Insurer, she is a former President and Council Member of the Malta Insurance Association and a Council Member of The Malta Chamber. She is also a Visiting Lecturer at the Department of



Insurance and Risk Management at the University of Malta. She says that Atlas Healthcare is a market leader in terms of healthcare insurance in Malta, especially group health business and works closely with HR and people leaders of various organisations. They focus on being innovative, and in fact have been pioneers in offering a standalone dental product. As a group, Atlas has also invested in life insurance, through its shareholding in IVALIFE Insurance Limited. Atlas Healthcare Insurance Agency, earlier this year, was licensed by the MFSA to act as agents for IVALIFE. In the area of mental health, Atlas Healthcare has recently launched a global Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) for corporate customers. “Our

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successful ICAS EAP gives business leaders, employees and their families 24/7 access to experienced counsellors including local face to face counselling and legal and financial support.” “We know an EAP programme can reduce absenteeism, staff turnover and healthcare costs. Ultimately it increases staff productivity and engagement. It helps employees and their family members cope with both personal and work issues, resulting in a more resilient workforce,” adds Calleja. Atlas sponsors the Malta Chamber Health and Wellness Committee, and Catherine chairs the same committee. How did this collaboration with the Malta Chamber come into force? Calleja explains: “Throughout the pandemic, we saw more and more of a need for an understanding of the link between employee engagement, wellness and business success. Supporting the Chamber in this way also strengthens the Chamber’s very important voice in the national conversation.” The Committee is very active and includes members from diverse sectors and individuals with psychology and coaching backgrounds. Some of the themes addressed include workplace stress, coping mechanisms in the pandemic scenario, the importance of gender burden sharing and, more

recently, recommendations for improvements in the provision of mental health services as well as health and safety obligations of business leaders. “Employers used to focus mainly on health benefits when talking about employee wellbeing. Nowadays, we know that employee wellbeing is more than just the absence of illness. More progressive organisations are focusing on wellness because they appreciate that their most important resources are their people and increasing engagement and resilience makes sense.” “Potential employees, especially Gen Z ones, are beginning to really appreciate innovative employee benefits. People want to know how they will be cared for and employee engagement surveys show that benefits do make a difference,” she continues. For the third year running, Atlas has marked October as Mental Health Awareness month, holding free events including international webinars for staff and for clients and other stakeholders and raising awareness externally on social media. “Atlas devotes a great deal of time to the national conversation regarding health and wellbeing. It's our intention for this subject to remain a mainstay of our community involvement initiative within our ESG programme,” Calleja concludes. page


TIS’ THE SEASON TO BE STRESSED? A Professional parents' account on how to save emotional energy and deliver quality parenting, in what can be the most stressful month of the year.

Deirdre Farrugia

up close and personal

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WORDS julianne grima

Julianne Grima

DEIRDRE FARRUGIA OLYMPIAN & PERSONAL FITNESS TRAINER "I usually host Christmas Day lunch for the extended family, and this is probably the most stressful thing about Christmas for me. I'm not the best or most adventurous of cooks, so planning the menu, the shopping, decorations and buying gifts everyone will love, is always quite trying! Since I tend to coach women, mostly mothers, my work seems to coincide with their childrens holidays and travel plans, so I am usually lighter work-wise during the Christmas period. When my kids were younger, juggling work and family was harder, but now my daughters are older, so they are independent, though I run them here



and there to meet friends. When they were younger, it was more of a struggle! Over the years, I have needed to find ways to keep my cool, I like to think I've become more relaxed when it comes to entertaining, and if a family member offers to bring a dish for Christmas lunch, I graciously accept. Running and training daily (yes, even on Christmas morning) helps me mentally and physically. It's my sanity! Something I am still working at is being a total procrastinator. Every year I vow to start getting organized early. I'm the frantic one buying gifts on Christmas Eve. This year will be different… I shall not procrastinate! My New Year's resolutions for 2022 include trying to not sweat the small stuff, to learn how to swim like a pro"!

Roberta Lepre

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Vincent Rizzo

VINCENT RIZZO EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR INVESTMENT CONSULTANT AT RIZZO, FARRUGIA & CO. "December specifically isn't a particularly stressful month. Every month can in fact be as stressful or manageable as you make it. I believe it's all about organization and planning. My sector is one that never sleeps, really. There is no 'lighter' period. I'd say it is 'intense' all year round with different levels of 'intensity' depending on client deadlines and/or market behaviour. As a result of the demands of my job, I do not distinguish between December and any other month. My commitment to my kids and my work and the resultant balance that I need to achieve is something I work towards and plan for during each month of the year. One commitment I made to myself is to never let work completely take over a kid's time/needs. I keep my cool over the Christmas holidays by just letting everything flow and planning around all needs. Things fit into place and pan out exactly as they are meant to. One thing I seem to not keep up is the ability to think a bit more about myself perhaps but never with any lasting regret. When it comes to New Year's resolutions, I prefer not to raise my own expectations as I have invariably never stuck to any resolutions made. However, if there is one thing I'd love to do, it is to catch up on travel". NIGEL DUNKERLEY AVIATOR "December brings with it so many extra things, in general, to plan for. I think, all the hype around Christmas just naturally creates an added amount of stress. That said, I am never directly involved (as I am terrible) in present planning/buying.

I am blessed with a super wife, Sarah, a professional juggler for kids, work, and my regularly irregular flying schedule. Aviation, in general, picks up mid- to endDecember and carries on well into the early days of January, so I'd say one of the busiest winter months for sure. The hardest part for me is always making sure I can dedicate a certain amount of time equally to the children. The key is finding a balance, allocating sufficient time to attend to my work commitments and making time to enjoy this special month of the year. If I do get stressed, I quickly remind myself that there are families, children in the world far less fortunate than us and "the stress" that at that point I am going through is a blessing and not a deterrent. The one thing I never seem to retain perspective on is weight gain around the holidays, every year, I make a conscious decision to stay active and keep healthy, and every year I fail in a big way. My New Year's resolution for 2022 is to run my first full marathon! Hmmm, I'm already growing apprehensive as I make this statement. Joking apart, this year, I really want to focus on being "greener" minimise our household waste, recycle more and reduce my carbon footprint". DR. ROBERTA LEPRE LAWYER & MANAGING DIRECTOR AT WEAVE CONSULTING "December is a busy month - on the personal front, we celebrate two family birthdays besides Christmas. Needless to say, Christmas also brings along a lot of preparations - from shopping, to planning family gatherings, to various social events. On top of all the family and personal commitments, December is the end of the work year. Therefore, in December, I am

Nigel Dunkerley page


Dr Anton Grech

up close and personal

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usually tying up projects and getting ready to kick off new ones at the beginning of the new year. Work is busy all year round; however, I always try to 'break off' by the 13th of December - which is my birthday, to then be able to focus on children and family. Traditionally many lawyers also break off on the 17th, the day we celebrate the feast of St. Ivo. My children are now older, so they are relatively independent - however, when they were younger, I coped primarily with flexible working hours and the support of family. For me, however, the 'stress' around this time of year comes from wanting to make sure I see everyone happy - I am slowly learning to let go of expectations and go with the flow! One thing I have yet to come to terms with is the materialistic attitude surrounding Christmas. I make commitments with myself to shop less and invest more quality time instead – I have yet to master this shift. One of my resolutions for 2022 is to slow down and carve out more quality time for myself and my loved ones." DR. ANTON GRECH PSYCHIATRIST, CLINICAL CHAIRMAN WITHIN MINISTRY OF HEALTH, MALTA, CHAIRMAN OF 'FONDAZZJONI KENN GĦAL SAĦĦTEK', RESIDENT SENIOR LECTURER, UNIVERSITY OF MALTA, SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW, CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY, UK "December is synonymous with the festive season. This carries with it a lot of page


expectations and increased demands that while being challenging and fun for some people, others find very stressful. However, if we lower our expectations, I am sure it will be a jollier season for many more of us. I am a psychiatrist, and I have clinical, academic, and administrative roles. Clinical work is busier during December because the rate of depression, unfortunately, tends to increase during this time of the year. Therefore, on the clinical side, I am busier, that said, luckily, in counterbalance, academic work tends to slow down. Administrative work does not change a lot, but non-urgent meetings tend to be postponed. So overall, this is how, professionally, I manage to maintain balance and slow down my otherwise hectic pace. Throughout the year, including December, my kids have priority over everything including work. Juggling this is not easy, but 'where there is a will, there is a way'. As a result, I tend to improvise in new ways as different situations arise. Although December can be stressful, I focus on the positive aspects of this time. I catch up with relatives and friends that I have not seen for some time, and just hanging around with them energizes me. I enjoy a mix of loud parties and long quiet walks in my beautiful island home of Gozo. One thing I always wish I could do better around this time of the year is to eat less. It's a work in progress. One of my New Year's Resolutions for 2022 is to reflect more".




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