Empowering Manufacturing in Malta

Addressing an online dialogue session organised by The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, Mr Joe Pace, Chair of the Manufacturing and Other Industries Economic Group executive committee said that the Manufacturing sector was a crucial mainstay of the Maltese economy, and all parties needed to make sure to do all possible to guarantee its permanence.

The event was open exclusively for members of The Malta Chamber from the Manufacturing sector. The online dialogue session brought together, Hon. Silvio Schembri, Hon. Miriam Dalli and Mr Kurt Farrugia, as attendees had an opportunity to ask questions related to their sector.
Mr Pace said that “even at a time of crisis, the Manufacturing sector provided an anchor for the Maltese economy as for many months it was the only sector which continued to provide stability, and employment for thousands.”

The Manufacturing group chair said that understandably, Government had focused its assistance during the Covid crisis to other sectors which were harder hit. “While we understand that sectors such as hospitality, retail and catering needed the immediate assistance of Government as they were forced to close their doors as soon as the pandemic started to spread, Manufacturing now needs attention as forecasts for the industry are of concern unless the right decisions are taken”.

“The costs related to pay roll and energy in the manufacturing industry are at an uninterrupted increase, which threaten to put the country’s competitiveness in serious trouble” Joe Pace said. The Malta Chamber on behalf of its members operating in this field has proposed a series of measures intended to help Manufacturing, among which, a reduction of utility rates for industry, a more efficient rapid testing for employees who cannot work from home as well as a revision of the quarantine assistance scheme.

“Support towards the manufacturing sector should be prioritised to not only deal with the issues that Covid-19 has created, but to emerge stronger than ever after the pandemic” he concluded.

When addressing the Q&A session, Minister for the Economy and Industry, Silvio Schembri, remarked that besides labour, the biggest challenge for the industry was the lack of infrastructure and the scarcity of industrial facilities and space. ‘This is why we launched the biggest industrial infrastructural investment programme in our nation’s history, which shall give a competitive edge to our firms and lower operating costs considerably, which will also push for the adoption of the greenest technologies possible, as well as it shall showcase the transformation of our economy,’ said Minister Schembri. Minister Schembri added that now that the inclusion of the Lands’ Authority within this Ministry will accelerate the implementation of the €470 million industrial infrastructure investment program. Minister Schembri added that education and training are key for both current workforce and future generations. ‘Businesses must think digitally. With the inclusion of the digital economy sector within this Ministry, we shall now delve into the opportunities this sector holds, as well as enhance the economic area in high value-added manufacturing industry,’ said Minister Schembri. ‘In order to strengthen Malta’s competitiveness we must first ensure that on the ground we have adequate space and skills for businesses to flourish,’ said Minister Schembri.

Minister Miriam Dalli said “The setting up of the new Ministry for Energy, Enterprise and Sustainable Development is a clear indication of the government’s vision in taking our country forward. The Chamber has been a strong voice in advocating for smart thinking and ensuring sustainable solutions. I am convinced that together we can come up with innovative responses to address today’s challenges. By finding the best responses to the challenges brought about by the pandemic, we will also be able to prepare our businesses for a more sustainable future that supports the industry, provides good quality jobs and a better quality of life for our citizens.”

Addressing the event, Malta Enterprise CEO Kurt Farrugia said “All throughout the pandemic Malta Enterprise kept direct contact with each and every manufacturing company to understand the changing realities of this vital niche of our economy. We are committed to deepen this dialogue in the next months to face the challenges that are still around the corner. We are also ready to provide further assistance through support measures for our manufacturing industry to future proof their operations and make them more sustainable.”

The event offered the exclusive opportunity to Malta Chamber members to ask questions, and get answers directly from the country’s highest authorities in their respective field. Attendants were also addressed by the President of The Malta Chamber Perit David Xuereb, CEO Ing. Edward Chetcuti and Head of Policy Andre Fenech.

‘Research and innovation are crucial for economic renewal’

In Malta, the political decision has been taken to establish a new ministry which is exclusively dedicated to research and innovation and the coordination of the post-COVID strategy.

This is a clear message: that economic renewal has an intimate link with robust R&I investments, the newly appointed Minister for Research, Innovation and Coordination of Post-Covid-19 Strategy Owen Bonnici said while speaking during a virtual meeting with Research Ministers in the European Union.

During his intervention, Minister Bonnici said that there is great value in a target-based approach to raise R&I levels in the European Research Area.

“However, the R&I investment targets should look at the broader economic circumstances of each Member State and seek to explore tailored solutions to their specific challenges. Therefore, we call for flexibility and sensitivity in the approach used,” Minister Bonnici said.

Minister Bonnici said that significant discrepancies in R&I levels continue to exist, with Member States with less developed capabilities only participating in 5.6% of the activities and instruments of Horizon 2020.

This shows that the Framework Programme is not designed to enhance the R&D performance of those Member States, he said. “The onset of the economic challenges induced by the COVID pandemic can only accentuate this reality,” Minister Bonnici explained.

He said that despite these challenges, enhanced R&D investments lie at the core of the public policy response to the COVID recovery. The twin transition towards a digital and green renewal cannot be achieved without an R&D-driven future-proofing of our economy, Minister Bonnici explained.

He said that Malta would like to see support from the European Commission that is tailor-made and curated to our specific R&I conditions, and our particular national ecosystem.

In the future, all of us will be increasingly required to step up our creative processes

Perit Xuereb said that it was the Chamber’s responsibility to look ahead and propose long-term policies for Malta’s economic future. “This means that the skills and talent of the human capital of the future are of central importance to The Chamber” Perit Xuereb said.

The Malta Chamber President noted how Artificial Intelligence was already present in many aspects of people’s lives, and was expected to continue characterising many decision-making processes which were typically of a mechanical or repetitive nature.

“With this paradigm shift, humans will be increasingly required to step up their creative skills to address new needs and development of processes”, Xuereb explained.

Perit Xuereb also mentioned the development of the ‘gig-economy’ mindset, whereby the labour market is increasingly wishing to be flexible and connected. “In today’s world, employment is becoming increasingly characterised by short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs. Industries should take note of this prevailing form of employment as new generation employees and upcoming generations, are valuing the opportunities of technology and flexibility to align with expected quality of life standards as part of their employment relationships,” noted Xuereb. “Such changes will influence the resourcing of business and their operations and logistics. The faster we recognize this, the better prepared we will all be in a business re-engineering period of our economy”

Framing his comments within the Economic Vision ‘A Smart Sustainable Island’, which the Malta Chamber published earlier this year, the Chamber President said that creativity and the respect and support for talent were fundamental elements within this vision.

“We must lead and support our educators with the right mindset, sensitivity and resources, for them to be best placed to prepare talented and well-prepared human capital, equipped with the skills expected of the citizens of tomorrow” Perit Xuereb concluded.

The event was also addressed by Ms Fiona Captur, CEO for JAYE Malta Foundation and Ms Caroline Buhagiar Klass, Head of Human Resources and Corporate Sustainability for HSBC Malta.

HSBC Group’s first ever MySkills Festival was a week-long series of virtual events, interactive workshops and online resources, featuring insight from global business leaders and experts. The festival is also part of HSBC Group’s Future Skills initiative, which aims to connect people and assist them in boosting their professional development. The Group has, in fact, allocated US$80 million in funding to help one million people, including in Malta, by developing employment-related skills.

'The business community has a great role to play in ensuring leadership driven by strong moral values'

During a special meeting of the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development (MCESD) with the Archbishop of Malta Mons. Charles J. Scicluna, Perit Xuereb spoke about the importance of moral leadership in the country.

“Today more than ever, we require moral leaders who inspire strong values to our nation, centred on honesty, integrity, good governance and respect for each other and our environment,” the President of The Malta Chamber said.

Speaking during the special meeting organised by MCESD, which was held at the Curia in Floriana, Perit Xuereb noted that the national ambition for such values cannot remain a well-intended wish list or merely an expression on paper, but it needed to be delivered tangibly. The business community had an important and responsible part to play in this objective too.

“As leaders from the business community, we ascertain that the private sector has the responsibility to ensure that robust moral values underpin the social, economic and environmental development of the country in a truly sustainable manner. The quality of our lives, our environment and the respect for each other are better appreciated and this will lead to the alignment of energies from all walks of life that will drive the true and honest ambitions of our country. We consider ourselves an essential part of the leadership in this effort supported by strong legislative ambitions by our politicians. The Church remains a strong player, in assisting to ensure that our moral standards remain high and in-check at all times” David Xuereb said.

The President was accompanied by the Chamber’s CEO Ing. Edward Chetcuti. Minister Carmelo Abela and other social partners were also present for the meeting.

During the meeting, the Archbishop spoke about the stresses of the pandemic on the national economic and social spectrum and that employers and employees have an equally strong role to play to address shortcomings and appealed for everyone to work together towards the common good.

Let us be guided by our scientific experts

The Malta Chamber is heartened to note the positive strides being registered on the international stage in relation to the development and distribution of an effective vaccine against COVID-19. As hope seems to loom closer, everyone is encouraged to act responsibly, for the benefit of one and all.

With the daily count of new COVID-19 cases exceeding the 100 mark, and the daily death-toll expected to continue to climb over the next weeks, it is most imperative, now more than ever, to listen carefully to the directives issued by the Ministry of Health, and all Health Authorities, and follow all safety protocols diligently and responsibly.

The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry has insisted on this basic principle, from the first day of the pandemic. Our Public Health Superintendence and Health Authorities, enjoy The Malta Chamber’s complete trust on the matter.

Therefore, any attempt to discredit the work of the country’s scientific experts in this field, or to disseminate doubt about the necessary health and safety regimes is not only irresponsible, but very dangerous. The Malta Chamber condemns any such behaviour. We cannot afford to lose control of the situation, based on pseudo-science or misinformation. The Malta Chamber is aware of international moves that risk the pandemic being taken over by an infodemic driven by extreme non-scientific minorities. Malta should be strong and resilient against such attempts.

The resilience and sustainability of our business is intimately linked with a disciplined and science-based approach to the pandemic. The quicker we get to a solution, the quicker the business community can start to look beyond the recovery sustainably and into the re-investment phase.

‘More awareness needed if we are to minimise Gender Bias’

“Shortcomings related to the challenges of increasing female participation in the workforce and in business leadership, in a post-pandemic world will not change unless there is increased awareness on the subject” said Perit David Xuereb during an online event this week.

The Malta Chamber President was addressing a webinar which discussed the threat of many women not returning to the workforce after the pandemic.
“While several businesses make it a point to offer equal opportunities away from gender bias when identifying individuals to join their various ranks, there still remain circumstances that hinder women from achieving their full professional potential even in this day and age and we need to be very sensitive to this” Perit Xuereb said.

Social conditioning and culture remain central to this issue, for the Chamber President.

“We must work to erode social stereotypes that may be burdening our women with more than their fair share of work related to the family. We must also be aware of circumstances where men are not encouraged to lend a hand in family responsibilities that should ideally should be split equitably by the two parents”.

In agreement was the Chamber Deputy President Ms Marisa Xuereb who confirmed that often women were expected to care for their children, even while working from home.

“COVID may have actually grown the gender gap divide, as women may be expected to work from home, to be able to care for the children. This naturally is burdening women with a further weight that limits their full potential” Ms Xuereb said.

The event was organised by ‘Self Actualise – Reach your potential’ together with ‘UP – Performance Coaching’, and featured a keynote speech by Dr Mariheca Otto, which was followed by a panel discussion with the contribution of Nathan Farrugia and Mikela Fenech Pace.

Teleworking will go beyond COVID

During an interview on NETLIVE this week, Perit David Xuereb weighed in on the impacts of Covid-19 on employment from a teleworking point of view.

“Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the world had to resort to new work operations, and teleworking is one of such solutions that it is crucial to build on and explore further. It is vital to note that teleworking does not only provide a more flexible and dynamic approach to work but also has positive impacts on other areas such as the environment and transport” remarked Perit Xuereb.

In view of the drastic increase in active cases in the past weeks, the Chamber President insisted that lessons shouldn’t be forgotten. “We must not forget the lessons learnt. As a Chamber of Commerce, we greatly recommend to all employers to actively consider teleworking in the fight to decrease the numbers of cases, and maintain productivity”

“In a recent press release, The Malta Chamber called on all employees to actively provide remote working solutions, where possible, to employees in order to avoid further economic restrictions thus aiding in prioritising national health resources to the most vulnerable,” remarked The Chamber President.

Perit Xuereb also pointed out the emergence of the ‘gig economy’, a free market system in which temporary positions are common and organizations hire independent workers for short-term commitments. Hence, the methods in which output is measured needs to be revisited. “Employers need to be aware of this new reality and that the element of ‘flexibility at work’ definitely needs to be addressed, especially in terms of the employee of the future” said Xuereb.

“The Malta Chamber is deeply concerned for industries which find it difficult to introduce teleworking due to the nature of their operations, such as manufacturing,” said the President. “Covid-19 has impacted greatly the workforce of such industries while manufacturing companies are facing new expenditures,” he said.

“Teleworking will go beyond Covid. We need to work together, as employees and employers alike, to re-align and adapt to such new realities” concluded Perit Xuereb.

Malta gains access to €120m under EU’s SURE Programme aimed at assisting companies to retain workers

Malta has gained access to €120 million under the European Commission’s SURE Programme aimed at helping companies to retain employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The announcement was made by European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on Monday evening in an interview released by Malta’s representation to the EU and TVM.

The SURE Programme, called the temporary Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency in full, is available to Member States that need to mobilise significant financial means to fight the negative economic and social consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak on their soil. The allocation for Malta is €244 million.

.@EU_Commission President @vonderleyen has great news for #Malta 🇲🇹🎉! As from tomorrow, Malta will have access to the first 120 million Euro under the #SURE Programme, to make sure companies retain their employees during these hard times!

Watch the interview w/ @demicolikeith pic.twitter.com/sDmaozG7a9

Loans provided to Member States under the SURE instrument are underpinned by a system of voluntary guarantees from Member States. Each Member State’s contribution to the overall amount of the guarantee corresponds to its relative share in the total gross national income (GNI) of the European Union, based on the 2020 EU budget.

The Malta Chamber and MEIA agree to support each other in the interest of the creative sector

The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry and the Malta Entertainment Industry and Arts Association (MEIA) have signed a collaboration agreement, at Teatru Manoel on Thursday, in a shared bid to co-operate actively in the interest of the arts, cultural and entertainment professionals in Malta.

Ahead of the signing, The Malta Chamber President Perit David Xuereb said that the creative sector had an important role to play in the economy of tomorrow.

“The arts, culture and entertainment, have an important place in our socio-economic landscape. Apart from contributing to the economy as an industry in its own right, creatives have an integral role to play, in the design of a new economy for a modern Malta” Perit Xuereb said.

The Chamber President noted that the re-engineering of business models which will need to take place in the near future to guarantee a sustainable and resilient economy require the talent of the creative sector to be at its core.

The President of the MEIA Mr Howard Keith Debono said “Chamber of Commerce were crucial for the set-up of MEIA. We’ve been given nothing but support. Beyond all that we share the same values and we’re looking forward to have the creative sector included in important discussions which could ultimately benefit our country’s future”.

The Malta Chamber and MEIA have agreed to co-operate on matters of common interest in national policy. The two representative organisations shall engage in dialogue and exchange notes with a view to endorse each other’s stands on key issues and issue joint positions or policy papers. As part of this ongoing dialogue, the Parties may promote joint positions at national and international fora where they are separately represented.

The agreement was signed by the President Perit David Xuereb and Deputy President Ms Marisa Xuereb for The Malta Chamber, and by the President Mr Howard Keith Debono and Treasurer Mr Pawlu Borg Bonaci on behalf of the MEIA.