Launch of The Malta Chamber’s Pre Budget Document 2024

Over 250 tangible proposals to address Malta’s most pressing issues

Budget 2024 gives us the opportunity to address a number of pressing issues that have been left ineffectively tackled over a number of years. It needs to focus on shifting our current economic model to one which translates into a well-being economy. Our bottom-line GDP will only continue to grow if there is a clear strategy that addresses what is increasingly meaning more to people and to sustainable business models. Otherwise, we will eventually be outpaced by our competitors on all fronts.

We need to incentivise a shift away from labour-intensive activities towards an economic model which is not dependent on increasing the population. The tendency to depend on utilising inexpensive labour needs to be curbed. The present economic model requiring the importation of an additional 20,000 workers annually is unsustainable and is pushing the country’s infrastructure to breaking point.  The country needs is a higher calibre of skilled workers coupled with increased investment in technology.

Our country’s productivity level merits analysis within the above context. To enhance our country’s productivity it is crucial to invest in the necessary training and upskilling of workers. Embracing technology for task automation can also significantly contribute to achieving this.

Bold, yet right decisions, need to be taken to address pressing issues such as the traffic situation, the utilities’ infrastructure, the shabbiness, the lack of proper waste management, planning policy abuse and over-construction, tragedies at workplaces, enforcement, proper governance, transparency and accountability. These factors contribute to an erosion in the quality of life of people and make the country unattractive for high quality investors and visitors alike.

We need measures to address these priority areas without further delay:

  1. Traffic Congestion: Tangible measures to reduce traffic congestion, such as attaching car license fees to usage, introducing parking fees in central urban areas with fees paid being transferred into an e-mobility wallet for use of sustainable means of transport, and restricting certain congesting activities during peak hours.
  2. Utilities: Necessary investment to ensure an adequate electricity supply and a stable distribution network, adequate water supply and sewage systems that meet the demand.
  3. Upkeep of Public Areas: Systematic, well-organised and regular proper maintenance and cleansing of public areas.
  4. Proper enforcement of laws and regulations: Proactive, co-ordinated and unselective enforcement at all levels.
  5. Low-income earners: Targeted assistance to be addressed to those that need it, rather than distributing handouts to those that do not.
  6. Subsidies: Subsidies to be directed to businesses that are economically viable and that are investing in energy efficient solutions.
  7. Employment – Incentives to shift away from labour-intensive activities to more value-added streams to increase the quality of our offering and put less stress on our infrastructure caused by unsustainable population levels.

This document should be read in the context of The Malta Chamber’s Pre-Budget Document 2023 published in August 2022 and The Malta Chamber pre-election document ‘Time to Step Up’ published in February 2022.

HSBC Transition Pathways: Real Estate

This week, HSBC launched the next chapter of their global Transition Pathways programme, which looks at business sentiment and insights from the Real Estate sector, surveying 300+ real estate developers and investors in 20 markets globally.

The programme aims to provide their clients and wider sector participants with industry insights, access to research, podcasts and case studies that show how businesses are implementing change towards the transition. HSBC’s ambition is to continue to raise their profile as a global trusted partner on transition and drive engagement to enhance client conversations and commercial outcomes within the relevant sectors. This follows the earlier releases on Energy and Transport & Logistics.

Why this is relevant?

  • Provides proprietary research into the sector across the full value chain
  • Provides a benchmark for your clients against their peers on their transition strategies and priorities
  • Highlights differences between developers and investors in the sector

The key role of digital skills


Digital technologies, the internet, and artificial intelligence, are transforming the world as we know it at an unprecedented rate. This transformation is having a profound impact on all aspects of our lives, from the way we work and learn to the way we interact with each other and with the world around us.

To reap the full benefits of the digital transition, having the right skills and education is essential, including the ability to use digital technologies effectively as well as apply critical thinking and problem-solving skills necessary to navigate the rapidly changing digital landscape. Digital skills are particularly relevant to the following areas: labour market challenges and business competitiveness, citizens’ integration in a digital society, and the green transition.

The digital skills supply deficit in the labour market today is having a substantial impact on the competitiveness of businesses. Employers are facing difficulties in recruiting both highly skilled workers for specialised jobs as well as workers required to use basic technologies at the workplace in economic sectors across the board. This is a direct consequence of too few adults upskilling or reskilling compared to the fast-paced digital transformation.

Today digital skills are no longer a peripheral issue, but a central component of education, lifelong learning and teaching. All stakeholders in education need to strategically reflect on how digital technologies can be further embedded into education and training. The digital transformation in education is being driven by advances in connectivity, the widespread use of devices and digital applications, the need for individual flexibility, and as mentioned earlier, the ever-increasing demand by employers for digital skills.

The digital transformation in education requires an enhanced and consistent dialogue, as well as stronger partnerships between educators, researchers, businesses, and public authorities, who jointly provide and have shared access to evidence-based data to monitor progress and forecast the challenges and opportunities of the digital transformation in education more accurately.

However, digital competence is essential not only for workers, but also for educators in general. This should be a core skill at all levels for educators and trainers in all academic fields. Educators need the confidence and skills to use technology effectively and creatively to engage and motivate learners. To this end, they should have access to the latest digital tools and provided ongoing opportunities for professional learning and development tailored to their needs and their academic discipline.

Digital literacy is also an essential requirement for citizens in general in a digitalized world. It is important to educate people of all ages about the impact of digital technology on personal well-being and on cybersecurity risks of technology systems. This shall enable people to use digital technologies in a healthy, safe, and meaningful way. Furthermore, basic digital skills should be part of the core transferable skills that every citizen should have. These skills are essential for personal development, civic engagement, accessing public services, and exercising basic rights.

Within the private sector, digital technologies offer SMEs a variety of opportunities to improve productivity, such as by helping them to innovate products, expand markets, improve business processes, service offering, and lower transaction costs.  Closing the digital skills gap is therefore essential for the digital transformation of SMEs. Information and communication technologies are at the core of the knowledge economy, but they cannot be leveraged without investment in human capital. SMEs already face excessive competition and higher costs to find and retain digital talent. Investing in their existing workforce to reskill and upskill in an affordable and effective manner is essential.

Meanwhile, digital skills are not only crucial for the competitiveness of businesses but also for achieving the European Green Deal objectives of reaching climate neutrality by 2050. Digital technologies are powerful enablers for the green economic transition, including for moving to a circular economy and decarbonizing energy, transport, construction, agriculture, and all other industries and sectors. In parallel, it is important to reduce the climate and environmental footprint of digital products, particularly their energy intensity, and facilitate a move towards more sustainable practices in both the development, use, and disposal of digital products.

Given the recognised importance of skills and education in the digital transition, the European Commission in its 2030 Digital Compass, sets out a plan to achieve digital transformation of the EU economy and society. This aims that by 2030, 80% of adults in the EU should have at least basic digital skills. The acquisition of basic digital skills should be a right for all EU citizens and lifelong learning should become a priority. Other aims include the securitisation of sustainable digital infrastructures, the facilitation of the digital transformation of businesses and the digitalisation of public services.

The digital transformation is undoubtedly a complex and challenging undertaking, but it is essential for the future of Malta and the EU. More investment in digital skills will empower citizens, create a more competitive economy, and build a more sustainable future.

Alison Mizzi is the President of the Malta Business Bureau (MBB). The MBB is the EU business advisory organisation of The Malta Chamber and the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association. It is also a partner of the Enterprise Europe Network.

This article was first published on the Sunday Times of Malta on 24th September 2023.

Digital Signatures will see Bank of Valletta go paperless

In a bid to simplify processes, improve the customer experience and enhance digital transformation, Bank of Valletta has recently introduced digital signature technology, which once fully rolled out to all services and processes across its operations, will see the Bank furthering its objective of going paperless.

Digital signatures will replace the need for customers, suppliers, and employees to physically sign documentation, whilst at the same time retaining the same means of authenticity. The transformation started off with selected customer-related services and internal processes and will gradually be rolled out to instances where documentation needs to be signed off by the Bank and its customers or suppliers. Digital signatures will be valid for authorising financial transactions, applying for new products or services and even the signing of employment contracts and procurement agreements.

BOV’s Chief Digital Officer, Theodoros Papadopoulos explained that “The Bank is working tirelessly to make significant advancement in the digital sphere, and the introduction of Digital Signatures is yet another step forward in the digital journey that Bank of Valletta has embarked upon. Digital platforms are important tools for enhancing the customer experience. Gathering feedback from customers through the Bank’s Voice of The Customer programme is essential for us to continue improving and innovating, and we shall soon be announcing further developments on our digital platforms.”

During the first phase of the Digital Signatures project, Wealth Management and Private Banking customers have started signing off documents digitally when executing Stockbroking instructions and other documentation. Customers applying for new Internet and Mobile Banking services through the Customer Service Centre’s Virtual Branch are also receiving the relative documentation electronically.

The next steps will see customers who will be applying for personal and corporate debit cards signing digitally on their application agreements. New employees joining the Bank are already doing away with signing physical documents, whilst suppliers doing business with the Bank are also already using digital signatures when signing procurement contracts. Further information on the Bank’s Digital Signature and a step-by-step guide on how to use the service, are available HERE.

The Malta Chamber and ARC sign MOU to promote inclusivity and diversity at the workplace

The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, and Allied Rainbow Communities (ARC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to work together to promote inclusivity while safeguarding the rights of the LGBTIQ+ community within the business environment. The MOU represents the commitment of both parties to create a more inclusive and accepting business environment.

Ahead of the signing, Chris Vassallo Cesareo, The Malta Chamber President, said that The Malta Chamber is honoured form part of this important celebration. “Being out at work is not merely advantageous for the LGBTIQ+ community, but it is also beneficial for organisations and the society as a whole. Let us work diligently to create workplaces in which every individual feels secure and empowered to be their authentic selves,” he noted.

CEO Dr Marthese Portelli emphasised that The Malta Chamber will continue to raise awareness on any form of discrimination at the workplace, including sexual orientation and gender identity. “To this end, ARC will be participant in The Malta Chamber’s Human Resources Thematic Committee to share their expertise in related matters,” she said.

Maria Azzopardi, ARC President, highlighted that in today’s ever-evolving world, the workplace is not just a location where we earn our livelihood, it is a vital part of our lives in which we seek validation, respect and the freedom to be who we are. “Hence, this signing is not merely a symbolic gesture. It signifies a profound commitment to creating workplaces where everyone can be their authentic selves,” she explained.

The MOU was signed by Chris Vassallo Cesareo and Dr Marthese Portelli, President and CEO of The Malta Chamber respectively, and Maria Azzopardi, President of ARC.

The MOU was signed during OUT@WORK, an official EuroPride Valletta 2023 event which aimed at engaging experts and the LGBTIQ+ community to foster inclusivity and celebrate diversity within the professional realm. The event was also addressed by Hon. Rebecca Buttigieg, Parliamentary Secretary for Reforms and Equality. “Inclusive Human Rights policies should give peace of mind to all employees, who know that they can enjoy the same benefits as their colleagues. Gender diversity with opportunity for equal representation is crucial in workplaces as it brings in various viewpoints. Consequently, the benefits of inclusivity will be felt not only by employees but also by their employers,” she said.

FinanceMalta hosts its 16th Annual Conference

With over 400 registered participants in attendance, FinanceMalta successfully held its 16th annual conference on 13 September at the Hilton Conference Centre. Themed ‘Leading Change Through Innovation’, the conference resonated deeply with the audience, which comprised a broad representation of stakeholders in the local financial services sector and international professionals, including C-level and other executives, European Union policymakers, Maltese Government representatives, officials of global standard-setting organisations, investors, innovators, as well as renowned academics and researchers.

Minister for Finance and Employment Hon. Clyde Caruana and more than 40 leading local and international experts addressed the conference, discussing the most topical themes in a series panel sessions and fireside chats throughout the day. The event was chaired by talent advisory specialist and FM Search founder Francina Moisa and was opened by FinanceMalta’s Chairman George Vella.

As he welcomed the delegates attending the conference, Mr Vella focussed on sustainability, digitalisation and internationalisation as the three main pillars for a successful strategy that takes the financial sector forward, underlining the commitment of FinanceMalta to support the industry in these areas.

Minister Caruana said that the financial services sector can bring about the significant leap forward that is needed in Malta. He emphasised the government’s intent to see through the implementation of the National Strategy for Financial Services that was launched by the Malta Financial Services Advisory Council (MFSAC) in March 2023 and said that specific deliverables in this regard will be mentioned in the upcoming budget.

The conference kicked off with a discussion on the crucial role played by the financial services industry to help the rechannelling of capital flows towards green projects in order to facilitate the attainment of ESG goals and Net Zero targets. The discussion brought into perspective the progress being registered at local level as a result of the concerted effort of both private enterprises and regulators. This was followed by the sharing of insights into the market for green bonds and the first green bond that started trading on the Malta Stock Exchange. The green agenda in financial services was further explored in a discussion on the blue economy which also presents Maltese investors with opportunities for international cooperation.

The conference also discussed the pivotal role of FinTech as a main driver of innovation. In this regard, the delegates were briefed about the study being conducted by Mastercard in collaboration with FinanceMalta. The study is aimed at achieving a deeper understanding of the Maltese Fintech ecosystem and the potential way forward. The significant and multifaceted role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in financial services, transforming how the industry operates and serves its customers, was the subject of a panel session that followed.

Delving further into the path forward in the financial services sector, the conference explored the role of the World Alliance of International Financial Centers (WAIFC), of which FinanceMalta became a full member in October 2022, in promoting financial centres through the continuous collaboration and sharing of knowledge at international level. FinanceMalta is actively contributing to this dialogue, continuing to increase Malta’s exposure internationally and reaffirm the country as an innovator in financial services.

Attention was also directed to the tax component in financial services during a discussion on the modernisation of Malta’s taxation system, to ensure that taxation fits in with the profile of the jurisdiction while boosting its reputation and enhancing its efficiency. The productive discussion on the sector’s future prospects was later facilitated through an overview of the common elements in the strategic trajectory of Malta’s thriving aviation, maritime and financial services industries.

The Malta Financial Services Advisory Council (MFSAC) chairman Joseph Zammit Tabona shared with the conference a detailed account of the progress resistered in the implementation of The National Strategy for Financial Services since its launch in March. He explained that intensive efforts are being undertaken by a number of working groups that have increased from nine to fourteen. A draft master plan is currently being drawn up to identify the initiatives that would be implemented by December 2024.  He also spoke about the important contribution of Malta’s regulators who have taken the strategy on board. The session on the National Strategy for Financial Services also included contributions from Kenneth Farrugia, CEO of the Malta Financial Services Authority, and Geraldine Spiteri Lucas, CEO of the Malta Business Registry.

The event was supported by 20 sponsors, including Moneybase (Diamond Sponsor), Mastercard, Bank of Valletta, the Malta Stock Exchange and Systemic. The Expo Hall hosted 14 local and international exhibitors thatwhich showcased their products during the event.

The annual conference featured distinguished international speakers including, amongst others, Senior European Investment Bank (EIB) Official to the Union for the Mediterranean (UFM) for Sustainable Finance and Investments Andrea Tinagli; World Alliance of International Financial Centers (WAIFC) Managing Director Jochen Biedermann; AI governance, fintech, and digital transformation expert, and bestselling author, Clara Durodié; and Mastercard Advisors Cluster Lead for Greece, Cyprus and Malta, Akis Tsekouras.

BOV – Julian’s Pathfinder Collaboration explores the power of Artificial Intelligence

Several AI concepts presented in the Julian’s Tech Start-Up Challenge 2023

As part of the Julian’s Pathfinder Foundation’s mission, 24 high ability 13- to 15-year-old students from various secondary schools in Malta and Gozo participated in the Julian’s Tech Start-up Challenge 2023, which was organised between the 4th and the 7th of September at the Mount Saint Joseph Retreat House.

The Camp, held in collaboration with the University of Malta, consisted of a 4-day residential event with activities focused on the central theme of Artificial Intelligence. The AI theme brings together various concepts, covering exciting cutting-edge sci-fi concepts, as well as the practical applications and ethical issues around these innovations. This Camp also had the objective of instilling an entrepreneurial mindset, giving the applicants a structured approach for developing innovative ideas.

In a fun, safe and respectful environment, participants followed a series of workshops, Q&As, and mentoring sessions led by experts in their respective areas, which enabled them to acquire essential transferable life-skills. Participants were divided into groups and developed their own AI application and presented their plans to an expert panel at the end of the programme. The panel was made up of Simon Grech (Heads BOVs Commercial Arm), Michael Azzopardi (Director, EY), Amanda Holmes (Board Member, Melita Foundation), Anthony David Gatt (Chief Marketing Officer, Malta Enterprise), Prof Leonie Baldacchino (Entrepreneurship, Creativity & Innovation, University of Malta) and Matthew Caruana (CEO, JA Malta Foundation).

Speaking after the presentations, Mr Grech expressed his satisfaction at the level of innovation of the proposals presented. ‘Such events provide a unique showcase for intellectual abilities, as well as high-level innovative ideas on how present and future generations can put into practice their respective intellectual abilities to make the world a better place through brainstorming and the creation of innovative product concepts’. Mr Grech also shared his admiration for the fact that in presenting their projects almost all groups were seeking to satisfy environmental and social responsibilities whilst still bringing together a commercially viable proposal. He compared such an approach to BOV’s mission to be at the forefront on ESG in the years to come. Mr. Kenneth Farrugia, BOV’s Chief Executive Officer, also attended the session.

The scope of Julian’s Pathfinder Foundation, set up in memory of Julian Spiteri, is to support gifted children in reaching their full potential and find their paths in life where they excel and make a positive contribution to society. The Foundation aims to inspire young people to follow their dreams and think big about future technologies that will help make the world a better place.

BOV, in line with its ESG commitment, continues to contribute towards inclusive and equitable quality education as it continues to reinforce its strong belief that investing in today’s education will give the Maltese society a much better return in the future. Bank of Valletta’s collaboration with The Foundation forms part of the Bank’s CSR programme that aims to give back to society and support the various local communities in which it operates.

EU SME Relief Package addresses shortcomings but leaves more to be desired

This week the European Commission presented its long-awaited SME relief package. The Malta Business Bureau (MBB) welcomes the proposals in the new SME Relief Package aimed at helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Europe become more resilient and competitive but believes that more clarity is required on how commitments will be implemented to truly help SMEs overcome the challenges currently faced and to thrive in the years to come. The package includes measures to reduce the regulatory burden, boost SMEs’ long-term competitiveness, and strengthen fairness in the business environment. It is a good step forward in making it easier for SMEs to do business but needs more ambition to help them to grow and thrive.

In the past years, SMEs have faced several challenges, including the global pandemic, high inflation, supply chain disruption, skills shortages, and increasing regulatory burden.

Through the SME Relief Package, the European Commission introduces a Regulation on combating Late Payments. This regulation revises a current Directive setting binding maximum payment terms at 30 days for public authorities and business-to-business transactions. It will also make the payment of compensatory fees and interest legally automatic in case of late payment. The Commission believes this will help SMEs improve their cash flow.

Commenting on the new regulation concerning the Late Payments Regulation, MBB CEO Joe Tanti stated that; ‘’a culture of on time payment is essential, and shorter payment terms in business-to-business transactions helps the liquidity of SMEs. However, the law should also preserve freedom of contract and provide the flexibility for businesses to agree on bilateral terms according to their own circumstances.”

The European Commission in its package also plans to create an enabling business environment by reducing the regulatory burden for SMEs and simplifying administrative procedures, together with reporting requirements. It also proposes to strengthen the SME test, to appoint an EU SME Envoy, and improve access to finance for SMEs by increasing the financing guarantee under the InvestEU programme. It will also provide specific tools to help SMEs develop sustainable competitiveness skills such as apprenticeships and training schemes.

“The SME Relief Package is a positive step in the right direction but more needs to be done to support SMEs. The EU needs to build on this package by ensuring that financial support reaches SMEs, avoids introducing new regulatory burdens, increase access to markets and invest in skills and training. By taking these steps, the EU can effectively help SMEs continue to recover from the current global economic challenges,” Mr. Tanti concluded.

TradeMalta augurs R.A. & Sons Manufacturing Ltd. on successfully securing a business deal in Ghana

R.A. & Sons Manufacturing Ltd and JL Properties Gh Ltd have announced the formalisation of a strategic partnership after months of hard work and meticulous preparation during a recent gathering in Malta. This collaboration brings together two businesses committed to driving innovation and delivering unparalleled value to operators in the construction industry.

It all started when Dr Lindsay, Chief Executive Chairman of JL Properties Gh Ltd, was seeking business opportunities to enhance his existing business, particularly his flagship construction projects and Real Estate interests. They were introduced to R.A. & Sons Manufacturing Ltd by H.E. Jean Claude Galea Mallia, Malta’s High Commissioner in Ghana.  In January 2023, the Gozitan company joined the trade delegation to Ghana organised by TradeMalta which continued to pave way for this collaboration.

Mr. Raymond Attard, Director of R.A. & Sons Manufacturing Ltd, announced that as a result of this agreement, R.A. & Sons Manufacturing Ltd will be assisting JL Properties Gh Ltd to set up their own manufacturing site in Ghana. They will be producing high quality construction materials concentrating on specialist products for dampness and humidity problems in the construction sector which is a major challenge in Ghana particularly in Accra which lies below sea level. 

Dr Lindsay, Chief Executive Chairman of JL Properties Gh Ltd, said that he was immensely happy to seal this agreement. He emphasised that these high-quality products are a game changer for the construction Industry in Ghana and that he is looking forward to further strengthen the collaboration between the two companies.

Mr Anton Buttigieg, CEO of TradeMalta, who presided over the signing ceremony said, “TradeMalta is committed to supporting Malta-based businesses in their export endeavors. Ghana offers huge business opportunities in various sectors including manufacturing, health, training, and the educational field.  I am happy to see this collaboration between the two companies and I hope that this will inspire other businesses to do the same. These prospects are the result of the growing relations between the two countries during the past five years when TradeMalta held its first trade mission to Ghana. I encourage more locally based businesses to take the plunge and look for opportunities abroad to grow and thrive.”

TradeMalta offers a range of export and internationalisation services and encourages Malta-based businesses to take their business across borders.