14 June, 2024

‘Nothing can be taken for granted anymore’


DR MARTHESE PORTELLI – CEO – THE MALTA CHAMBER

The results of Malta’s election for European Parliament are “a reality check for everyone” that make it clear that “no one can take anything for granted anymore,” according to The Malta Chamber CEO Marthese Portelli.

The shock result saw the governing Labour Party lose over 23,000 votes, the rival Nationalist Party gain less than half that number, and third party and independent politicians win a substantial number of votes.

Speaking to BusinessNow.mt, Dr Portelli says the outcome “will hopefully trigger everyone to step up and act now.”

Over the last days, Prime Minister Robert Abela has stated that tough decisions cannot be postponed anymore: “We augur that this time round Government will walk the talk,” says Dr Portelli. “It needs to take the unpopular yet required decisions quickly, and implement them without any further procrastination.”

She identifies pain points in a wide range of sectors.

These include the traffic situation, which over €1 billion of roadworks failed to address, and the utilities infrastructure, with power cuts now a seemingly normal feature of summer.

Dr Portelli also points to other issues like the “shabbiness” of many areas and a lack of proper waste management.

Perhaps more seriously, there “continuing planning policy abuse and over-construction and abuse in the dispensation of public land”, as well as tragedies at workplaces.

None of this is helped with poor enforcement and a lack of proper governance, transparency and accountability, she says, exacerbated by structural problems in the labour market.

Dr Portelli points out that The Malta Chamber has been making “repeatedly” calling for these issues to be addressed since its Pre-National Election Manifesto of March 2022.

“Much of what was recommended there, restated in The Malta Chambers Pre-Budget Document for 2023, and again in the one for the current fiscal year, has not been addressed,” she says.

With respect to governance, The Malta Chamber has been “harping on it” since December 2019: “That is almost 5 years. During this period, we went through the pain of greylisting, plus we are still grappling with the reputational damage of the aftermath of several years of bad governance practices.

“This reputational damage impacts business negatively – it impacts local companies that are involved in international business and it renders us an unattractive country for high quality investment.”

While acknowledging that Malta’s GDP growth remains robust, Dr Portelli warns that this growth is increasingly dependent on sectors that are “less sensitive to reputation but have a lasting damaging impact on our environment and quality of life,” making it clear that: “This needs to change.”

Public procurement is another area The Malta Chamber has been proactive in suggesting solutions to, but “the progress we have been making on this front has been too slow to bring about the required change in mentality and tangible improvement in outcomes for the taxpayer.”

Meanwhile, “the same can be said of reforms in the construction sector.”

Dr Portelli concludes: “The speed of economic growth has not been matched by investment in resources for efficient regulation and enforcement, and in our infrastructure.

“A new direction that clearly mandates the implementation of necessary changes and reforms within the shortest time possible, is required.

“We hope that the result of this election will inspire everyone to take things more seriously.”

This article was first published on BUSINESSNOW on 13th June 2024.

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