As we sit down to chat about the Malta Chamber’s upcoming economic vision for 2020-2025, Chamber President David Xuereb begins by sharing stories about his recent visit to China as part of a Maltese trade delegation. “It was incredible,” he tells me. “A completely different world in a myriad of different ways. As a group we learnt a lot about the future of where the world is heading, and what Malta’s role in that could be. It was exciting, but overwhelming. We have a lot of work to do.”
Switching his attention to how that could pan out, Perit Xuereb stresses that it is part of the Chamber’s mission to shape Malta’s future. “And how better for us to do that than with a document like this?” he asks.
He explains that the Vision is being crafted following discussions and interviews with 28 top local CEOs, all of whom gave their input as to what they believe should be the focus of our economic future. “We are therefore not giving an economist’s view of the economy and how they think it should develop but have talked to business leaders who are on the ground and know exactly what the economy needs.”
After all, as the Chamber President explains, this is the only document of its type on the island – one that has no motive except the sustainable development of the country’s economy. “The people who contributed to this Vision have a very clear understanding of what is going on in Malta, as well as in the wider business sphere. They understand our competitiveness, and our place on the world stage. Thus the Vision is objective, strong, in-depth, and complete in its nature.”
Looking back on the success of the previous edition, and the fact that so many key parties – the Government, the Opposition, and the public at large – were not only interested in what the Chamber had to say, but eager to take proactive action and refer to the document time and time again, Perit Xuereb deems it to have been a very positive exercise. It was drafted until 2020, and he explains that the Chamber didn’t want there to be a gap between one and the other, so it opted to create the 2020 Vision in a timely fashion.
“Now, we believe there was no better time than the present to revisit the project and to work on it to shape the future to be as positive and successful as possible – both in light of the positive advancements of the last few years, and in light of our country’s current objectives.”
From an economic point of view, Perit Xuereb says he believes the Vision was very strong, while the country’s recent economic performance speaks for itself. “I think we are all proud of what we have managed to achieve,” he continues. “However, in this day and age, the objective of individuals – both in the Government and of the nation at large – should project beyond just the economic, and go that step further.
Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, Valletta
"It must focus on sustainability and respect for our resources, the environment, and quality of life for all. These words and thoughts weren’t considered as crucial six years ago as they are now, and they are maturing rapidly as we speak.”
Perit Xuereb is adamant that now is the time to reinvent ourselves with respect to the industries Malta wants to engage in. “Most have to do with technology,” he continues, “whether they are disruptive or not, FinTech, IT, or infrastructure; they will all enable us to be more connected than we are now.
“The Vision also highlights the need for a reengineering of our education systems and structure, to ensure the gap between what is being produced through the system and what is needed by industry is reduced. As a Chamber, we fear Malta may have let that side of things go a little bit, which has meant that the development of the education system – from primary right up to tertiary – has not evolved enough to match the requirements of the global economy.
"Unless our education system is going to evolve, then Malta could start to lose out. As a result, one of the consistent focuses of the 28 CEOs we spoke to was the need for qualitative education that is led and guided by business. The business community should influence the choices that are made and the opportunities that are offered.”
Next, Perit Xuereb believes there also needs to be a shift from quantity to quality – whether in tourism, construction, infrastructure or the services we provide in the environment we live in. “It even comes down to the air that we breathe,” he says. “Quality needs to become one of the key things that our country stands for. I think we are most capable of achieving it – more than capable – but there is going to be a process to get there.
“That is why this is a vision, and not an action that can be achieved instantly. We have to brand and engage society at large. I have a lot of faith in the younger generation, and believe they understand ethics and the environment; I hope that they, as future entrepreneurs, will live by sustainability. We have seen that people are able to make choices on account of value, and it is a question of attitude. The older generation must now take this seriously. As a Chamber, we are acting on this too, through our work with JAYE.”
With all of this in mind, Perit Xuereb also stresses that the Chamber has a CSR vision of its own that it will be launching in the years to come, while engaging with future entrepreneurs to help make it a reality. “We are counting on making Malta a smart and sustainable island,” he continues. “We believe disruptive technology – if used correctly – could really drive business in Malta.”
This is an extract of an interview which initially appeared in Economic Vision 2020