The freshly-elected President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, David Xuereb, is already bringing something new to the table. The Chief Executive Officer of QP Management, an architect by profession, has clear priorities for his term as President, one of them being a regeneration strategy for the future priorities of this long-standing institution.
“The business environment we are living in today is agile, ever-changing and developing on a day-to-day basis. The Chamber is cognisant of this, and needs to ensure that its structures, systems, vision and missions adapt to this reality,” says the President. “The regeneration strategy is about upgrading the structure of the Chamber, to ensure that it remains vigilant and as relevant as possible for the business needs of today and tomorrow, but also attracting the ever-increasing number of young entrepreneurs in this country. That the Chamber appeals to non-members is important, but that it appeals to young entrepreneurs – its future members and presidents – is an absolute priority.”
Moreover, Perit Xuereb says the aim isn’t merely to attract, reach out to and connect with this cohort of the business community, but also for the existing business community to learn and be energised and motivated by younger generations, upping its act in the process.
“I always see this relationship between the mature and young business person as one akin to a relationship between a coach and an apprentice. In reality, however, although it appears as if the coach is supporting the apprentice in this situation, the apprentice is actually motivating, challenging and energising the coach and his or her respective environment. It’s a two-way street,” says Perit Xuereb. “Frankly, this is what all businesses do, and it is a positive stance for the Chamber to take, for the manner in which it renders its services to the business community in Malta, and which will certainly add value, relevance and focus to the Chamber.”
Turning our focus towards the current state of play of business in Malta and its prospects for 2019, Perit Xuereb says that his thoughts are very much aligned with what most people already know, that is, that the measure of confidence of the consumer, of the employer and projections for growth all look relatively positive. “We are also realising, which is positive too, that the rate of growth we have experienced in the last few years needs to stabilise. Consistent growth is good, but unregulated acceleration and momentum can only create havoc. In my own layman terms, I would describe it as generating wealth today from the resources of the future,” says Perit Xuereb. “We would much rather benefit from the wealth and value of today by what we do today, rather than over-accelerate and expect more by using the resources of the future. It’s important that what we do as a nation is profitable, and therefore has a positive contribution to the wealth of the country.”
Looking ahead towards opportunities for Malta and business, Perit Xuereb believes, and hopes, that the next great opportunity for Malta lies in the development of intellectual property. “Malta has a strong entrepreneurial mind-set, that’s the reason why we are where we are today, and our youngsters share that too. Our ambition and work ethic are ideal for people to develop new ideas. What we are missing is the incubator for intellectual drive, creativity, research and development to thrive.”
Perit Xuereb says the country would benefit from working with other countries in this space, namely the UK, which boasts mature and well-established intellectual property incubators, such as universities, to establish an industry in Malta. “This would allow young entrepreneurs to develop their thoughts and ideas in Malta, develop IPs in our territory and therefore grow the manufacturing, retail and also services sectors outside of Malta because the IPs are developed here. The majority of the work we do, in all sectors, be it retail, importation and manufacturing, has thrived on R&D and ideas that were developed elsewhere to our country.”
He maintains that, as seems to be currently the case, Government should continue to create new opportunities for Malta to develop a strong regulatory framework for intellectual property in order to enable all economic sectors to make their next steps. “Distributing economic activity from traditional sectors such as tourism and the building industry to aviation, financial services and other sectors was a positive development which both the business community and the Chamber agree with. But what we want to ensure is that the highest possible added value is retained in Malta, and that our education system can sync up with that objective. The development of the education system is slower than the development of ideas, so we need to be agile enough to connect the dots – this will be our challenge.”
The President emphasises that the more connected business is with the country’s education system, the higher the chances of success in spreading new business development opportunities. To this effect, the Chamber is working on proposing a strategic plan for 2020 and beyond, and has brought together a number of top CEOs in Malta to put forward ideas for a so-called Economic Vision for Malta that looks towards successful, strong, and sustainable business growth moving forward.
“The business community doesn’t want jumps and starts, but rather growth that can be sustained for the long term, which can make us the best economy in the region and beyond. But we need the preparedness of our resources, primarily in the form of graduates but also the training of our existing workforce, in preparation for these changes,” says Perit Xuereb. “This Economic Vision will hopefully motivate the business industry, but also our policy-makers and Government to adopt some of these ideas into the country’s business plan.”
The notion of sustainable growth is central to the President, who has frequently advocated that economic growth and sustainable development should not be mutually exclusive. “The moment we believe that they are is when we begin burying ourselves into a hole. I would like to believe that in anything we do, we are looking at the long-term impact of our activities. The short term sounds great – most of the time it is easier to embrace, but it will not find appreciation and success with future generations.”
As a professional hailing from the building sector, Perit Xuereb’s position has evolved since his early years in the industry to align with development that works in tandem with environmental harmony, and he is working and lobbying for this in practical terms. “Any development takes away from the environment, because development is disturbance, so I look forward to development which gives back to the environment – this is not a hypothesis nor dream – it is ambition and vision,” he explains.
“There are various ways to measure how development can give back to the environment, and compensate for the resources that such developments depleted. Numerous buildings around the world have been constructed in adherence with sustainability measures, which tangibly exhibit their respect for the environment. I look forward to a Malta where the construction industry embraces these opportunities, to improve its practices and be among the best in the world.”
Together with the Chamber, Perit Xuereb is working in the areas of sustainable certification as well as the Considerate Contractor Scheme, which aims to regulate development and construction with respect to the environment. “These ethical codes are known, understood, and are realistic, and there is nothing that should be stopping our country from embracing these opportunities. In a way, I feel that I am championing some of this change, and I look forward to at least some of it being implemented in the short term.”
This interview originally appeared in the Commercial Courier