Atlas donates €6,600 to Adam’s Memory Fund

Atlas Insurance has donated €6,600 to Adam’s Memory Fund, which was set up by staff member Angele Cocks Zammit Mckeon (Manager, Personal Insurance) and her husband Clive Cocks, following the unfortunate passing away of their baby, Adam. TeamAtlas collected €3,300 as part of their annual Christmas donation, and that amount was doubled by Atlas to €6,600.

In total, Adam’s Memory Fund collected €10,500 during this period. Founder Angele explained that the money collected was donated to different organizations which provide care to vulnerable children and their families.

She said: “This was quite an emotional experience, but it has given us so much back. Knowing that we put a smile on a child’s face during the Christmas period has given us some of the love we are so longing for following the demise of our young child.”

“I want to thank all who showed us support through their donations, and to TeamAtlas, who I am a proud member of, for once again stepping up and showing support to us,” Angele said.

Adam’s Memory Fund donated €5,000 to the Maltese Ursuline Sisters of St. Angela Merici, which runs nine homes around Malta and cares for poor and abandoned babies and young children.

Puttinu Cares, a well-known charity that provides care and accommodation to the families of children seeking cancer treatments abroad, received a €3,000 donation from the funds that were raised.

Angele and her husband Clive also spent €1,400 on toys which were donated to the Rainbow Ward play area at Mater Dei. Another €1,100 were given to The Remembering Fran Foundation, a voluntary organization which works to provide sick children with medication and equipment they need, as recommended by consultants at Mater Dei Hospital. NGO Smiling with Jerome, which was set up in memory of cancer victim Jerome Frendo, also received a €600 donation from Adam’s Memory Fund.

Energy and Water Financing Opportunities for Manufacturers

As part of the WE MAKE Project, the Malta Business Bureau, The Malta Chamber and Energy and Water Agency launched a set of workshops aimed at improving energy efficiency in manufacturing SMEs. The workshops will be held every two months over 2022 and focus on three topics: B2B best practice sharing, financing for energy efficiency projects, and innovation in energy and water efficiency.

The first workshop focused on financial measures supporting energy efficiency, with overviews of several grants available to the Maltese business community, including the EWA energy audit grant, and three Malta Enterprise grants: Smart and Sustainable, Change to Grow, and Investment Aid in Energy Efficiency. This was moderated by Ing. Patrick Spiteri Staines, Chairperson of The Malta Chamber’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Committee.

The EWA energy audit grant offers financial support for small to medium businesses to carry out energy audits. On the other hand, the Malta Enterprise Smart and Sustainable measure supports business investments that lead to more sustainable and digitalised processes, leading to the enhancement of competitiveness through resource efficiency. The Malta Enterprise Investment Aid in Energy Efficiency measure supports businesses in implementing energy efficiency projects.

The workshop has already generated interest in the business community, with several businesses expressing interest in an energy audit grant, and innovative project concepts being discussed.
Addressing the first workshop, WE MAKE project partner EWA CEO Manuel Sapiano, said “In recent weeks the Agency concluded sessions with certified Energy Auditors listed with the Regulator for Energy and Water Services portraying information on the array of financing tools available so they can also act as promoters to these national opportunities for enterprises. We need to move from audits which just see an expert identifying issues, to exercises which additionally guide the commercial sector to support schemes which can help address these issues.”

The workshops form part of a wider outreach towards manufacturing SMEs through the WE MAKE Project, which includes B2B networking, best practice dissemination, promoting innovation through projects, mentoring, and matching businesses to energy and water efficiency financing.

Addressing attendees, Dr Marthese Portelli, The Malta Chamber CEO, said “The Malta Chamber believes in supporting businesses in a tangible way to embrace sustainability and become more energy efficient. Through the WE MAKE project we help businesses identify what can be improved and how, as well as direct them to funding schemes supporting the upgrading, changing and renovation of equipment, installations and illumination systems.”

MBB CEO Joe Tanti stated “Through this, we aim to help manufacturing SMEs identify energy efficiency projects and the financing for those projects. Our end goal is to help businesses implement projects that result in higher energy efficiency, thus reducing costs. We believe the opportunities are present in many businesses, and that the support being provided can help them achieve this potential.”

Further workshops will be held in April, June, August, October, and December. Interested businesses are encouraged to contact the project partnership to receive further information on available support schemes and to register their interest in these workshops.

The Water and Energy Management and Knowledge Transfer in Manufacturing Enterprises (We Make) project, is a collaboration between the Energy and Water Agency (EWA), Malta Business Bureau and the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, sponsored by the EWA, to give manufacturing industry businesses guidance on how to consume energy and water efficiently.

HSBC Malta Foundation renews support for school’s gardens

The HSBC Malta Foundation has renewed its support for the vertical gardens and green wall project set up at St. Clare College Primary School in Gźira. The Foundation has been supporting this project, which helps children to learn about growing plants and living a more sustainable life, for three years.

Thanks to the support provided by the HSBC Malta Foundation and the ongoing work and commitment of staff and pupils at the school, the main vertical garden within the yard has continued to thrive and attract wildlife. In addition to the main yard, smaller green walls are continuously maintained in the school’s classrooms, helping children to learn about herbs, plants and the growing of food.

Glenn Buġeja, Corporate Sustainability Manager at HSBC Bank Malta said: “Bringing nature closer to students can empower them with useful skills for life. They can become the protagonists in steering our world towards a greener, more sustainable future. HSBC Malta has long been committed towards making positive change in our environment and continues to support projects like this across the country.”

Jonathan Attard, Head College Network at St Clare College, said, “Green spaces have a clear and obvious positive impact on schools and, more importantly on the wellbeing of our students. I greatly appreciate the work of all the staff and children as well as the support given by the HSBC Malta Foundation to make this project a reality. I look forward to similar collaborations at other schools within the college network.”

Level playing field at EU level is needed – The Malta Chamber

Malta’s competitiveness is heavily impacted by the small size of its market, its insularity and peripherality. These were the main issues tackled head on and with a united front called for by various speakers emphasised during a debate organised by the European Parliament Office in Malta and the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry this morning.

The debate started with a reflection on Ukraine, with the Malta Chamber President Marisa Xuereb noting that Europe is now ‘at war with Russia, our biggest energy supplier’. The Malta Chamber President underlined that ‘for Maltese manufacturing companies, the issue of competitiveness is permanently. It stems from the inherent characteristics of Malta as a manufacturing location. Yet if we want to have a diversified economy that reflects European aspirations, manufacturing needs to remain viable. She said that Malta is acknowledged as a remote region under Article 7 of the General Block Exemption Regulations. However this has not so far translated into tangible support for local importers and exporters to mitigate the disadvantages arising from Malta’s peripheral geographical position coupled with its small and insular market. A level playing field with competing European operators and equal access to the Single Market necessitate serious consideration of the logistical challenges of Maltese businesses’.

The Head of the European Parliament Office in Malta Mario Sammut noted that it is one of the duties of the Office to create opportunities where our representatives in the European Parliament listen and discuss with stakeholders with a view to influencing legislation, and this was already the case in the particular case of a debate the Office organised last year with counterparts in France and Spain, with an EP intergroup now working on the proposals raised by the participants there.”

The Malta Chamber of Commerce CEO Dr Marthese Portelli spoke about the challenges that the industry is facing. She said that, ‘locally there should be more digitalisation investment support to help our businesses upscale their operations to be able to address their logistical challenges more efficiently; financial support structures which support businesses in this new reality; and review of customs operations’. Dr Portelli also looked at what needs to be done at EU level, ‘a level playing field with our EU counterparts; addressing the disadvantages that are hindering the growth ambitions of our businesses; addressing the obstacles that are hindering our businesses from scaling up; and removing the barriers that hinder our businesses’ internationalization goals’.

During the same event, the issues of, supply chain disruptions, rising freight costs, labelling requirements, added burdens brought about by Brexit, as well as covid restrictions and the pandemic’s impact on the availability of materials leading to disruptions in manufacturing. All this together with supply and instability of prices are leading to companies stockpiling for just-in-case scenarios. All this is having an impact which at the end is felt by the consumer.

MEPs Josianne Cutajar and Cyrus Engerer (S&D, MT), discussed and listened to various business entrepreneurs, in a debate that ranged well-beyond the impact of insularity and peripherality on Malta’s competitiveness. For this event all Maltese MEPs were invited to participate.

New and existing EU legislation and state aid rules were flagged as being in need of updating, with MEP Cutajar stating that, ‘EU relaxation of state aid rules needs to be discussed beyond the pandemic’. For MEP Cutajar ‘as an islander, coming from Gozo, I know first-hand the permanent geographic and economic disadvantages that Maltese and Gozitan business – especially SMEs – face. As we strive to recover from the pandemic, as well as to achieve the ambitious environmental targets being put forward, it is high time that the EU reaches a pact with its islands, providing islands, especially the small ones at the periphery like ours, with enough flexibility – including when it comes to state aid rules – for them to effectively compete with the European mainland’.

MEP Cyrus Engerer emphasised the need for a shift in perspective: from reacting to EU legislative proposals ‘as if these are external to us, to an ingrained realisation that we are part of the collective decision-making process from the very beginning. We need to pre-empt the law-making process in the EU to influence it effectively, and we need to do this by working together on both political levels and with stakeholders from the start’. He touched on a number of issues affecting consumers, noting in particular the ongoing work for medicinals’ derogations for Malta, Ireland and Cyprus, all heavily impacted by Brexit on this level; the revision of the Emissions’ Trading System where Maltese MEPs are working to pre-empt a bigger burden on the national airline, and aiming to mitigate the environmental transition through the new Social and Climate Fund on which Maltese MEP Casa is lead rapporteur, and to whom all Maltese MEPs are lending their support.

During the Q&A session, AirMalta General Manager for International Affairs Dr Nadia Giordamaina said that, ‘Air Malta’s biggest challenge was identified as the environmental one, with proposed EU legislation aiming to introduce taxation on intra-EU flights only, creating a disproportionate burden on a mainly intra-EU based airline. Added burdens and added emphasis on rail travel and freight in the EU ‘raises the question from 11 million people living on islands: is the EU really concerned for us?’

Farsons’ Group CEO and a member of the Malta Chamber Board of Management Norman Aquilina, said that, ‘competitiveness is not just about costs but also about capabilities. As much as we require recognition from the EU to address pressing realities, we should acknowledge that there are local fees which are part of our making and we need to address’.

The Chairperson of The Malta Chamber MEG committee Brian Muscat highlighted the four main issues that were hindering business, namely: transport costs, energy tariffs, state aid and shortage of labour force. Mr Matthew Wismayer, Director, Pet Nutrition, talked about the difficulties and costs of scaling up when logistics were heavily dependent on maritime transportation, as well as the fact that most important commodities derive from outside the EU, observing how wheat and cereal importation is set to be impacted following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Malcolm Camilleri, Deputy CEO, PG, noted how in competing with international giants, pricing is what made one competitive, in a context where, apart from Brexit, businesses are still feeling the Covid effect exacerbated by the fact that local authorities announce changes ‘what feels like every week’. Malta Motorways of the Sea Senior Manager Manuel Portelli, described how despite the obstacles mentioned earlier, connectivity has improved, with a drastic increase in trailers coming to Malta and a shift from container to roll on/roll off business.

Opposition candidate for the PN Jason Azzopardi, speaking from the floor, noted that EU treaties and legislation already allow for a cogent argument to be made for Malta to be considered with a special island status under EU law – in response to earlier speakers noting that Malta being a member state and not a region in the EU means it is not fully benefitting from remedies to ease the specific obstacles it faces, particularly in transport costs. He called for ‘across-the-board support’ for this at EU level.

MEP PN candidate Peter Agius noted that Malta is little represented in Brussels, with a sole permanent representation, compared to over sixty representations for each of the German regions. Nevertheless, he said, ‘there are ways to know ahead what is brewing in Brussels as the European Commission publishes its work plan at least a year ahead of taking action’.

This event was moderated by The Malta Chamber Communication Strategist Rachel Attard and Economic Policy Analyst Nathan Chatland. During this event an online survey was launched.

Global Shapers Community opens a hub in Valletta

Global Shapers Community has officially launched a Hub in the city of Valletta, Malta. The Valletta Hub was founded by Marisa Xuereb, President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry.

In the spirit of the Global Shapers Community and the World Economic Forum, the Valletta Hub is non-political, neutral, not-for-profit and multistakeholder. Founding members of the Hub Shapers are diverse in expertise, education, income and race, but are united by their desire to bring about change.

The Head of the Global Shapers Community, Mr Wadia Ait Hamza said, “Youth are not only the hope of the future, but they are the hope of today. 50% of the world population is less than 27 years old and are therefore critical to defining the future of their societies as a whole. The Global Shapers Community supports young leaders who are exceptional in their potential, their achievements, and their drive to contribute to their communities by shaping local, national, and regional agendas”. Marisa Xuereb said: “I am very honoured to be selected by the World Economic Forum and the Global Shapers Community to launch the Valletta Hub. This is a milestone and we are looking forward to working together to improve the future of our country”.

As part of the activities leading up to the launch, representatives of the Valletta Hub are being supported by The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, who expressed its satisfaction and support for the group of dynamic young leaders coming together to have a positive impact on the country.

The Valletta Hub is inviting young people between 18 and 27 years old to apply to join. The recruitment campaign is officially open.

BOV Renews Gold Partnership with The Malta Chamber

Bank of Valletta has renewed its Gold Partnership agreement with The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry. The agreement, aimed at providing additional benefits to the Maltese Business Community was signed by Albert Frendo, Chief Business Banking Officer and Kenneth Farrugia, Chief Retail Banking Officer on behalf of Bank of Valletta and Ms Marisa Xuereb, President and Mr Christopher Vassallo Cesareo, Deputy President of The Malta Chamber.

‘This long-term collaboration between Bank of Valletta and The Malta Chamber gives the Bank insight on the operations, ambitions and requirements of the Chamber’s members, which in turn helps us to design new products and tweak current ones for the benefit of both parties,’ said Mr Frendo. ‘The Malta Chamber sits at the heart of a unique network of businesses and we strongly believe that this collective relationship leads us to achieve goals beyond those that can be achieved individually.’

‘This agreement will also focus on the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) considerations of the Bank and the Chamber’s members,’ said Mr Farrugia. ‘ESG is continuously evolving and for many companies, BOV included, these issues are increasing in importance. This partnership is a critical platform for communication between businesses, and also their investors to better understand important climate issues and act on these issues while increasing the amount of information disclosed on these efforts.’

The Malta Chamber President Ms Marisa Xuereb said that, “the challenges that lie ahead for businesses require further strengthening of the relationship between businesses and their bankers. Regulatory changes necessitate collaboration and cooperation, and the changing fintech and lending landscapes require banks to develop deeper insight into the commercial and investment activities of the various business sectors represented at The Malta Chamber, to be able to provide better financial support to viable business ventures, irrespective of their size, operating both locally and internationally.”

The Malta Chamber and Bank of Valletta are currently planning numerous activities, seminars, webinars and information sessions for the Chamber’s members to share knowledge and explore opportunities for Malta’s business sector.

Reshaping the Economic Ecosystem

A key date in the economic and business calendar for 2021 was COP26, the aftermath of which left many stakeholders feeling underwhelmed ready by outcomes that are, or will be, inadequate in the fight against climate change and its unfavorable effects on businesses and economic sustainability. One of the most crunching pain points currently being experienced by global businesses, their supply chains and their consumers is the worldwide inflationary pressures being felt aggressively in the shipping and logistics industry.

Freight costs have been on a sustained aggressive growth path over the last few months. Initial issues related to the supply-side damage arising from the pandemic such as decreased container ship flow, less efficient port side operations and labour shortages have merged with issues relating to supply chains being unable to cope with the recent surge in consumer and industry demand.

Particularly problematic has been the skyrocketing cost of the containers themselves, mainly owing to them moving less freely and frequently from one port to another. This has manifested in drastic and sustained increases in shipping and freight costs. The cost of shipping a 40-foot-equivalent unit from China to the US has risen fourfold to a cost approximating $10,000.

Europe is also currently being rocked by an energy crisis which has been a key driver in pushing Eurozone inflation past 4.1%. This news brings with it the added worry of the European Central Bank having underestimated the strength and inertia of current inflationary dynamics.

In the beginning of Q4 2021 European average energy inflation grew to levels of 23.5%, with the European Commission not expecting this level to fall prior to the middle of Q2 2022. Energy inflation for each country is determined by their specific energy mix and needs. Considering this, countries such as Malta and Portugal stand as outliers as a mix of successful long term hedging contracts and local generation has allowed inflation to be tamed below the 2% mark.

Another factor is the increasing cost and shortage of supply for semiconductors and other elements that are crucial in European manufacturing. Such shortages and supply chain bottlenecks have caused almost a quarter of European manufacturers to experience a contraction in output. Narrowing the view specifically to Malta, the island microstate produces only around 20% of its food necessities, has limited access to fresh water and lacks energy sources. It depends on the importation of mineral fuels and oil, non-electrical machinery, aircraft, transport equipment, plastic and other semi-manufactured goods.

Malta must be more vigilant and forward thinking than ever to protect its economy from its weak links, while proactively working to strengthen and protect the country’s supply chains and avenues of revenue and growth, whilst also preserving the country’s competitiveness vis-à-vis its peers and partners.

This article was first published in The Malta Chamber Economic Vision 2022.

Delivering on expectations of young entrepreneurs

If I had to single out one prominent requirement persistently asked for by entrepreneurs since I was elected Deputy President of The Malta Chamber in March, it would have to be the wish for an enabling environment that encourages and incentivises business and trade.

Since my recent appointment as Chairperson of the non-profit foundation for young entrepreneurs ‘Junior Achievement Young Enterprise (JAYE)’ I have come across a number of innovation-minded youngsters who are working hard, focused on seeing their ideas and ventures take shape and thrive. Despite being the longest established social partner in Malta – having been founded in 1848 – The Malta Chamber has been constantly renewing itself over the years to transmit an entrepreneurial culture within its membership. Thanks to our Young Chamber Network (YCN), four out of every 10 members today at The Malta Chamber are under 45 years of age, double the amount we had until three years ago when the YCN was set up. We even scaled up our already ambitious expectations by decreasing the YCN age threshold to 40.

We also complemented our resolve by opening our doors for Kordin Business Incubation Centre (KBIC) tenants. Through these efforts, out-of-the-box ideas and thinking started trickling in more steadily, contributing significantly to our policy contributions and rendering our representation more valued by decision makers. We genuinely believe that staying constantly tuned with industry developments emerging from the rise of technology, platform economics and virtual communications is not just necessary and vital for our local industry and commerce, but it is equally valuable to foster a global market mindset amongst our commercial community.

Equally important is our attractiveness and the unique characteristics of our environment. Having English as our main business language, competitively-priced human resources, flight connectivity to major European destinations and a strong ICT infrastructure serve as important prerequisites in the quest to get a business off the ground, rendering us attractive for foreign entrepreneurs. Measures and investments geared towards making Malta an ideal jurisdiction for start-ups are, for The Malta Chamber, putting our money where our mouth is.

At times we still come across certain basic stumbling blocks that prevent further progress, such as, for example, something as basic as not having a reference point for a funding application, to be able to track it against agreed implementation timeframes, a tracking process that is in everyone’s interest.

Risk aversity is automatically more pronounced for novel industries. Lengthy timeframes to proceed from proof-of-concept to financial support often spell trouble for an inventor. As The Malta Chamber, we work closely with Malta Enterprise to improve accessibility to various schemes, which are certainly very useful as a source of encouragement to incentivise innovation and nurture business industries like drones, fintech, e-sports and digital gaming sectors.

Another concrete way how The Malta Chamber actively assists young entrepreneurs who are ready to spread their wings internationally is to actively engage with its wide array of partners within the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN). Since the pandemic struck, The Malta Chamber and its private-public partner ‘Trade Malta’ have increased participation on international B2B digital platforms jointly organised with EEN partners.

As Deputy President I am proud of where we are today, conscious and determined to forge further ahead in our quest for more innovation and value. I invite all interested parties to stay tuned to The Malta Chamber’s forthcoming initiatives and matchmaking opportunities targeted at our exciting young entrepreneurs and micro-sized to keep delivering on their expectations.

This article was first published in The Malta Chamber Economic Vision 2022.

HSBC Malta Foundation supports project to bring legendary World War II aircraft back to life

During the spring of 1940, with the eventuality of war quickly becoming more of a reality for Malta, a fighter flight was set up at RAF Ħal-Far. This flight was initially equipped with a handful of Gloster Sea Gladiator bi-planes. These aircraft bore the brunt of the initial onslaught from the Italian air force and despite being outclassed by the enemy fighters, they defiantly defended Malta at the opening stage of the Second World War. The Sea Gladiators, for the most part consisted of a flight of three machines, which became immortalised in the history books by the names ‘Faith’, ‘Hope’ and ‘Charity’. To commemorate these planes and their crews, the Malta Aviation Museum Foundation has launched a prestigious project to rebuild Sea Gladiator N5519 ‘Charity’ and make it airworthy again. The HSBC Malta Foundation is supporting this undertaking under the name of ‘The Malta Sea Gladiator Project’.

Simon Vaughan Johnson, CEO at HSBC Malta and Chair of the HSBC Malta Foundation, who presented the Foundation’s donation to this project during a visit to the Malta Aviation Museum, said: “The Gloster Sea Gladiator is a symbol of Malta’s resistance at the start of the second Siege of Malta in 1940. To have such an aircraft back in our skies would be a fitting tribute to all those who courageously defended Malta during this period in Malta’s history. The HSBC Malta Foundation remains committed to preserving Malta’s historical and cultural heritage and we look forward to seeing The Malta Sea Gladiator Project come to fruition, with “Charity” airworthy once again.”

Director General of the Malta Aviation Museum Foundation, Ray Polidano stated: “The Museum exists to preserve Malta’s aviation heritage and there is no aircraft more iconic to Malta than the Gloster Sea Gladiator. Apart from helping us to commemorate important historical events, rebuilding an airworthy aircraft of this calibre at our workshop, will most certainly attract more visitors to our museum. We would like to thank the HSBC Malta Foundation for their donation towards this exciting project.”