The Malta Chamber warns of a worrying precedent for law-abiding taxpayers

The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry is vociferous in its call to represent ethical business across Malta and the recent media reports of ‘substantial tax reductions to tax offenders’ are setting a very worrying precedent. Malta is struggling to crack down on tax evasion and such ‘tax deals’ continue to weaken compliance with the rule of law and foster a culture of corruption.

Government and Contracting authorities must promote a level-playing field among all economic operators and reward those who comply with the law, not only because it is the right thing to do, but also to safeguard the competitiveness of operators who comply with the law as against those who disrespect the law. Any ‘deals’ to reduce unpaid taxes should be transparent and beneficiaries should be considered according to predetermined guidelines such as a result of economic constraints arising from the current pandemic. All taxpayers should be treated equally.

In its report on ‘Public Procurement Reform’ published earlier this year, the Malta Chamber calls on authorities, namely the Department of Contracts and the Inland Revenue Department to create systems of seamless integration which would automatically flag economic operators who have pending social security payments, tax arrears and if no settlement agreement is in place. This is critical in evaluating the financial soundness or otherwise of bidders.

The near absence of blacklisting in Malta and the inadequacy of the current mechanism has been repeatedly identified by the Malta Chamber as a matter of concern which should be addressed as a priority in public procurement and good governance.

The Malta Chamber intends to fiercely advocate for the implementation of the reforms proposed while maintaining an open and constructive dialogue with all relevant stakeholders.

Government & Opposition should act as enablers and let businesses drive economic growth

The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry has held a meeting with the Leader of the Opposition, Dr Bernard Grech during which it introduced the new Board of Management and put forward its priorities for the coming months.

The Malta Chamber insists on the importance of having the right environment which enables the private sector to drive economic growth. Government and the Opposition should only act as enablers, providing business and enterprise with the right framework that allows them to flourish in an equitable and fair manner.

Last year, The Malta Chamber published its Economic Vision 2025 identifying the 4 main pillars that should drive the national priorities – People, Technology, Sustainability, and Governance. The country should have the right enablers in place to cultivate a qualified and skilled workforce, have a resilient digital infrastructure, promote good governance and environmental sustainability. “If these four pillars are in place, the private sector is better placed, energised and more insightful to drive businesses towards prosperity and a better quality of life for all,” said President Marisa Xuereb.

The EU National Plan for Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRP) is giving the country an opportunity to harness sustainable growth. It is of utmost importance to ensure that the RRP adequately addresses the key issues that hit our competitiveness in a tangible manner.

While calling for political consensus on long-term challenges such as overdevelopment, The Malta Chamber discussed the Opposition’s position on the proposed European directive on minimum wages and sought clarification on the recent statements by the Opposition Leader on a ‘fairer taxation system for small businesses.’ The Chamber supports a reduction in tax if it does not discriminate between one business or another.

The meeting was led by President Marisa Xuereb and attended by Deputy President Mr Christopher Vassallo Cesareo, Vice-President Mr Nicholas Xuereb, Officer Mr Ian Casolani, and CEO Dr Marthese Portelli. Hon Claudio Grech, Hon Kristy Debono and Perit Giorgio Schembri accompanied the Leader of Opposition.

HSBC Malta opens 80 Mill Street, Qormi branch

H. E. The President of Malta has officially inaugurated HSBC Malta’s new flagship branch, 80 Mill Street in Qormi.

Built around customer insights and evolving customer needs, 80 Mill Street has been designed to offer customers convenience and flexibility.

The three-storey branch operates on extended opening hours from 8:30am to 7:00pm Monday to Friday, and from 08:30am to 12:30pm on Saturdays, with 20 on-site parking spaces, including two charging bays for electric vehicles. The eco-friendly credentials of the premises are further enhanced through energy-efficient lighting and heating-cooling systems. These credentials are aligned with HSBC Group’s Net Zero ambition, in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement to be Net Zero by 2050 or sooner.

HSBC Malta’s newest branch is among the first branches in the HSBC Group to have the Group’s new ‘look and feel’ customer experience and is HSBC Malta’s largest branch in the country.

Beyond the availability of traditional ATMs and deposit machines with assistance available from the HSBC team on the ground floor, the first floor features private meeting rooms where customers are welcome to discuss their requirements with specialist advisers for home and personal loans, financial planning, account opening and credit cards, as well as retail business banking. The second floor is dedicated to serving Premier customers.

Simon Vaughan Johnson, CEO at HSBC Malta said: “Our new branch at 80 Mill Street represents a new way of banking that embodies our drive to deliver a suite of world-class banking services to our customers as we strive to open up a world of opportunities for our customers. We aim to offer an enhanced customer experience that is underpinned by convenience and flexibility. We have listened to our customers and have extended our opening hours to 7:00 pm on weekdays to best meet the needs of our customers, many of whom lead very busy lives. In addition, we are offering our customers the convenience of over 20 onsite parking spaces, including two charging bays for electric vehicles.”

“Across all touchpoints, whether it is in branches, on the phone, or through our digital services, HSBC is committed to delivering the best possible customer experience. The significant investments we have made across all these channels are designed to help customers in Malta stay in control of their finances wherever they are and whatever their needs may be”, concluded Vaughan Johnson.

H.E The President of Malta said: “I am pleased to be able to address you on this very important occasion for HSBC Malta, in this impressive setting. After what we have been through because of the pandemic, we are presently going through a renewed sense of hope. New beginnings, such as this one, give us a strong sense of motivation. This has been a year like no other, and I note with pleasure that the severe difficulties and complications brought about by the COVID 19 Pandemic did not dampen your determination to proceed with this ambitious project. The work carried out on these premises is a result of a clear vision and months of detailed planning.”

Liz Barbaro Sant appointed new Chairperson of TradeMalta

Liz Barbaro Sant, Vice President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry has been appointed as the new chairperson of TradeMalta, replacing Stephen Sultana who held the position for the past two years.

Following the Annual General Meeting of TradeMalta held in a hybrid format, Liz Barbaro Sant said that internationalisation has become increasingly important for the competitiveness of enterprises of all sizes. “In today’s environment, it grants a true independence from the local market business cycles,” said Ms Barbaro Sant.

The new Chairperson of the public-private partnership between the government and the Malta Chamber of Commerce said that “sometimes it might become complicated for small and medium size companies to understand the tendencies of the world’s economy when trying to explore new commercial opportunities, and this is where Trade Malta comes in to support and assist any size company.”

The outgoing Chairperson, Stephen Sultana said that during the past two years TradeMalta has continued to diversify, expand and refine the range of services to industry while assisting a growing number of Malta based companies to enter into new and emerging markets in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. “Key elements responsible for TradeMalta’s success include the backing it enjoys at the enterprise level, the committed support it continues to receive from both of its key shareholders and the customer-focused mentality of its staff and board members,” said Mr Sultana.

Anton Buttigieg, CEO of TradeMalta presented the administrative report to all shareholders and echoed his confidence that during the next three years, TradeMalta will rise to the ever-changing challenges of internationalization facing Maltese companies in a post-pandemic international business environment.

Minister for Economy and Industry, Silvio Schembri said that he looks forward to further strengthening the already existent excellent collaboration between the Government, Trade Malta and the The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry.

Whilst thanking the outgoing Chairperson, Mr Stephen Sultana for his commitment and work, Minister Schembri remarked the achievements attained by TradeMalta in developing rewarding opportunities worldwide for local business to export local products and Brand Malta, across the globe. Minister Schembri said that Maltese businesses should be proud of their reputable standing internationally for efficiency, quality and skilled human resources.

“Thus even during such challenging times, they should still perceive trade as a window of opportunity for diversification and growth,” said Minister Schembri while he augured well Ms Barbaro Sant in her new role that shall foresee the enhancement of Trade Malta’s strong foundations and new opportunities for businesses.

The Malta Chamber Employment Agencies Committee stresses the importance of enforcement of unlicensed operators

The newly launched Employment Agencies Business Section within the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry strongly condemns levying fees from candidates looking for employment. Section 8e of the law clearly states that the Director of Labour may refuse an application for a licence or revoke a licence if an agency charged any fees or demanded any payment from applicants for employment.

The Chairperson of the section, Mr Lawrence Zammit, said that law enforcement in the area of private employment services is sorely lacking and The Malta Chamber’s objective is to ensure a level playing field in the market and an upgrade in the quality of service delivered to employers and job seekers.

Recent reports in the media have reported cases of candidates being charged fees to secure employment, a practice which is abusive and dilutes the good work carried out by numerous law-abiding operators.

The Malta Chamber’s business section calls on the relevant authorities to better resource the Department of Industrial and Employment Relations to enable it to step up enforcement, to investigate such alleged abusive practices, to issue an updated list of licensed agencies and to ensure public transparency with the most up-to-date information.

The ‘Great Reset’: How can the EU drive a post COVID Recovery?

“The commitment to working together on tackling climate change is driven by the challenges and experienced we’ve endured over the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Marisa Xuereb, President of The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry during a webinar organised by CORE Platform entitled ‘How can the EU drive a post COVID Recovery?’

Marisa Xuereb noted that this ‘great reset’ brought along a much-needed shift in mindset both locally and internationally. “Although the EU is setting out plans to tackle climate change issues unless funds are allocated towards measurable objectives, an end goal might not be reached,” said Ms Xuereb.

The President of the Malta Chamber said that as with COVID, the EU is as successful as its weakest link and assistance must be provided on a case-by-case basis to ensure that the common goal is reached successfully.

In her intervention, Marisa Xuereb noted that the four main pillars that can drive such change in the context of smart investment are quality of buildings, waste management, sources of energy and decarbonisation of mobility. “As Malta’s leading voice of business, we greatly encourage all businesses to strategise their investment plans and prioritise these elements to truly bring forward this much-needed change,” said Xuereb.

While referring to The Malta Chamber’s recommendations for a Smart and Sustainable Island, President Xuereb explained how The Chamber was always a firm believer in technology and innovation as drivers towards an enhanced future. “Digitalisation can now more than ever enable more effective procedures in an array of sectors. The wave of change that was brought forward due to COVID should be the primary motivator that allows us to re-think the way forward for the years ahead,” concluded Marisa Xuereb.

The panel of speakers included Ms Helga Ellul (President, CORE Platform), Ms Abigail Mamo (CEO, Malta Chamber of SMEs), Ms Doris Sammut Bonnici (Vice-President, Malta Employers’ Association), Ms Claudia Taylor East (Chairperson, SOS Malta) and Mr Joe Tanti (CEO, Malta Business Bureau).

Atlas Insurance supports future entrepreneurs through JAYE

Atlas Insurance was the sponsor of the Digital Marketing Innovation Award, which was awarded to Candid! during the JAYE (Junior Achievement Young Enterprise) Finals and Awards Night which was held on 9 May.

Candid! won the award for their exceptional performance in the field of digital marketing innovation, which today is considered a crucial element in any successful business’ strategy. This young enterprise group is made up of four students from St. Aloysius College, who sought to make a sustainable difference by introducing Malta’s first-ever biodegradable phone cover.

Atlas Insurance congratulates Candid! as well as all the winners at this year’s JAYE Finals and Awards Night.

Atlas Insurance has been supporting JAYE since 2013. Earlier this year David Cassar, Business Development & Marketing Manager at Atlas Insurance, provided specialised workshops to participating students about the importance of market research as well as the ever-growing, multi-faceted aspects of digital marketing.

David Cassar noted how Atlas Insurance made it a point to support youths achieve their full potential, in their personal journeys towards becoming successful and upstanding citizens tomorrow. He said that the sponsorship of one of JAYE’s awards is one of several youth support programmes Atlas has in place. He referred to a host of internships offered by Atlas Insurance which help bolster students’ professional and personal careers, as well as The Atlas Youth Athlete of the month which recognises the exceptional performances of young sportspersons.

The Digital Marketing Innovation Award was sponsored and awarded by Atlas Insurance PCC Limited. It formed part of the JAYE Finals & Awards Night which were the culmination of an 8-month entrepreneurial journey for students participating in the post-secondary Company Programme and tertiary level StartUp Programme.

Supporting young entrepreneurs through invaluable ‘The Malta Chamber’ Membership

“Awards nights such as these are imperative in celebrating talent, initiatives, ideas, resilience and teamwork among young people, the business leaders of tomorrow,” said Marisa Xuereb, President of The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry during the JAYE Malta Finals and Awards Night 2021.

While congratulating the winners, the President of the Malta Chamber outlined how inspirational these young achievers have been in showcasing tremendous perseverance. In this context, Ms. Xuereb announced that all the members of the winning teams will receive a complimentary one-year membership at The Malta Chamber.

“This will provide the teams behind Candid! and SILENTSAVE with a great opportunity to inspire and contribute to the future of The Malta Chamber,” said the President of Malta’s foremost voice of business.

Marisa Xuereb, former JAYE alumni and winner of the company of the year award in 1995, noted how the ideas presented during the event were a true showcase of entrepreneurship, especially during these challenging times.

Chris Vassallo Cesareo, Deputy President of The Malta Chamber and JAYE Malta Foundation Chairperson, observed the incredible determination that these up-and-coming entrepreneurs have shown. “During these unprecedented times, the JAYE experience has become even more invaluable in providing alumni with a platform on which they can develop their skills and reach their full potential,” he said.

NAO Report on SVPR Confirms the Critical Need for a Holistic Reform in Public Procurement

Noting the conclusions reached by the NAO report on the contract awarded to the JCL and MHC Consortium, The Malta Chamber insists on full transparency in public procurement and on the importance of observing good governance principles as well as providing an equal playing field for all at all times.

As public procurement accounts for a substantial portion of the taxpayers’ money, governments are expected to carry it out efficiently and with high standards of conduct to ensure high quality of service delivery and safeguard the public interest.

Earlier this year, The Malta Chamber published its Report on Public Procurement Reform listing 35 recommendations which ensure that the procurement process promotes ethical business and that the process is free from impropriety. These include:

1. the mandatory publication of a procurement outlook every 6 months in advance,
2. the implementation of a public Contract Register which would also minute all modifications post-award, as well as
3. the widening of the scope of PCRB’s competence to include scrutiny of all direct orders.

Public procurement represents an important and significant component of business opportunities. The Malta Chamber will continue advocating for the implementation of its Public Procurement Reform 2021 recommendations as it ensures a sound market based on ethical standards and fair competitivity.