Frank V. Farrugia

Frank V. Farrugia is the President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry.

The Time To Act Is Now

Tuesday 30th October 2018

Heraclitus the 500BC philosopher said that change is the only constant.  This morsel of wisdom couldn’t be more relevant than it is today, when we consider just how fast change is taking place around us in business and in all aspects of our lives. Addressing the EY Malta’s Annual Attractiveness Conference which was themed ‘How can you keep pace with the transformative age?’, I commented on how keeping up with such rapid transformations has in fact become a challenge, albeit one, that as a nation we have grown accustomed to welcome with open arms, rather than resist.

We often used to joke about trends and technology being well past their expiry date by the time they reached our shores. But this is no longer the case. Our adoption of the rapid advances in technology have allowed us to overcome our geographic insularity, so much so that we are now the global pioneers in areas that look to be the present and future drivers of more and more transformation.

I refer of course to developments such as Malta’s pioneering legislation in the field of Distributed Ledger Technology, known as blockchain, the establishment of the Malta Digital Innovation Authority as well as potential plans to design a legislative framework in the field of Artificial Intelligence. These are just a few of the opportunities presented by the transformative age and seized by Malta.

As the world experiences the most rapid transformative age driven mainly by the advent of new technologies, here in Malta we are also experiencing notable transformations to our country. If asked, most people may not immediately attribute the huge changes in our society and infrastructure to advances in technology, but of course, technology remains the major driving force behind the rapid transformation we are experiencing.

The business community understands that change is inevitable as Malta strives to maintain an attractive climate that fosters further economy activity, investment and growth. However, the necessary transformations must occur in a manner that is respectful of society’s present and future well-being in all its aspects.

For Malta to maintain its transformative momentum in a respectful manner, the Malta Chamber has persistently advocated the urgent need for holistic strategies and targeted investments that sensibly navigate the numerous economic, social and environmental issues made worse by our rapid expansion in recent years.

In fact, during this year’s budget consultation process, the Chamber acknowledged the fact that although Malta is currently experiencing rapid transformation characterised by a buoyant economy scoring unprecedented growth rates, consecutive fiscal surpluses, relative price stability, and full employment, it is actually high-time to capitalise on the present economic resilience by investing in further development, and growth that is both sustainable and beneficial to the country.

The Chamber is proud of Malta’s achievements so far.  Indeed, these have been achieved through clever planning and hard work of our entrepreneurs, our workers and our political leaders.  But we must not take this success for granted.

Success was achieved because we provided the right conditions for it to materialise.  Going forward we must continuously question if our conditions are still right, if our competitors are providing better conditions and if we are still heading in the right direction.  In the present scenario, it may be relevant to ask whether the current rates of growth are sustainable with the same output and level of skills emerging from our educational institutions; the constant rise in the overall cost of labour; the prevailing rates of rent inflation; the rising operating costs; the continued rate of construction activity taking place; the current infrastructural network; the present internal transport and logistics structure; and the prevailing perceptions about Malta abroad.

The findings that were presented at the EY conference on Wednesday provide ample food for thought for both entrepreneur and decision maker alike.  My appeal for us all, is to take heed of these results and take action when it is still time.  Some areas, especially the ones I have mentioned above, require the country’s most urgent attention.  Let’s take action now, in order to continue reaping the opportunities of the times and guarantee a propserous future for Malta’s economy.