As far as the economy is concerned, 2018 promises to be a good year that is expected to continue in the same streak of growth. Nevertheless there is no doubt that these expectations will be dampened by recent events if these are not dealt with in a timely and effective manner.
Basing one’s projections on the recently published EY attractiveness survey, Malta is bound to remain an attractive country for investment, although this attractiveness in certain aspects is diminishing.
The economy is also expected to grow as more businesses are seeking to capitalise on numerous opportunities in a variety of sectors. The Chamber recently conducted a survey to assess headline business indicators for 2018. According to this survey, sales, exports, employment and investment appear to be on an upward trajectory as businesses are optimistic about their future. Another recently conducted survey by the Malta Chamber carried out amongst its members, concluded that businesses were ready to create around 3,000 jobs in the next three years.
Within this context, the country has in the past years struggled to generate the necessary labour force to keep up with this accelerated rate of growth. Skills gaps across virtually the whole economic spectrum and employment categories are becoming more and more evident as labour costs are on the rise. This is expected to remain the No 1 challenge for businesses in 2018.
Besides, we need to keep our eyes on the ball and safeguard all aspects of our country’s competitiveness. Systematic attacks on Malta’s reputation and its fiscal regulatory framework need to be dealt with too. This framework is open and transparent as it is EU compliant and it is our duty to defend it.
2018 will also be the year when the EU’s state aid regulations will be up for renewal. This is a process which the Malta Chamber has followed closely and is in the process of actively influencing to the benefit of the manufacturing industry.
In 2018 the country should also tackle the dire situation traffic has degenerated into. The piece-meal approach of upgrading certain strategic junctions, though commendable in their particular, will not serve to solve the larger picture. The country needs to come up with an integrated, long-term solution that will ultimately reduce the use of private cars on the roads by providing an efficient and cost-effective public transport system. The Chamber believes that The National Development and Social Fund established through the Individual Investor Programme (IIP) would be put to the best possible use if it were to finance the crucially important and well-overdue strategy to shift towards a sustainable and effective multimodal transportation system. Unless tackled holistically, the traffic jam will only be relocated up the road.
Ultimately, 2018 promises to be another exciting year. Like the European Presidency this year, 2018 will see Valletta hosting the title of European Capital of Culture for the first time – a title the Chamber has proudly supported as it housed the Valletta 2018 Foundation from the very start. This will undoubtedly bring with it a host of opportunities, not only to Valletta but also to the entire country.
A version of this interview appeared in the latest edition of Business Agenda