Smart, Sustainable Island: Setting the Pathway for Malta’s Future Economic Growth and Social Wealth

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David Xuereb, President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Enterprise

Smart, Sustainable Island: Setting the Pathway for Malta’s Future Economic Growth and Social Wealth

Malta’s central position in the Mediterranean basin, has historically placed a small country just a few kilometres across, at the centre of the most affluent region of the globe and at the centre of its most important economic, political and social developments.  Malta’s fate is intrinsically linked with that of the entire region. It has historically played a pivotal role of cross-communication in every sense, including trade, between Europe and North Africa – a role we are still proud to play today.

It is no surprise that we strongly believe that when the Mediterranean does well, Malta does well, and when Malta does well, so does the Mediterranean.

At this point in time, the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry recognises 2020 as a pivotal year for Malta’s economy. The right choices will enable our country to evolve in a fast-changing world increasingly driven by disruptive innovation, technology, and growing concerns about sustainability and the impacts of climate change. Malta in 2020 is at a crossroads where decisions taken today will shape Malta’s medium to long-term future.

Our Chamber, which this year is celebrating its 172 years since its establishment, has always taken it upon itself to be a responsible, ethical, proactive and forward-looking organisation. Proudly boasting among its ranks, Malta’s foremost powerhouses of industry, the Chamber has always ably and strongly represented the true and authentic opinions of the country’s economic operators. Thus, through its business-leader members, the Malta Chamber is proactively being a force for change as it has once again proposed an economic blue-print to Government to sustain and assure a sustainable and competitiveness-based economy for the future.

Here, I am referring to the document we have recently published, for a new Economic Vision for Malta for the years 2020-2025. This document was the result of a long process of research, foresight and vision and through this publication, we have decided to adopt a revolutionary approach in considering proposals beyond the traditional boundaries expected of a Chamber of Commerce.

The document is two-pronged – on the one hand, it aims to achieve smart economic growth whilst, on the other, securing sustainable economic development. Both elements of the Vision are underpinned by a number of strategic principles. The document lists 59 recommendations and was drafted in consultation with 26 leading entrepreneurs, CEOs and chairperson from Malta.

The previous 2014-2020 Vision was drawn up at a time when global and European economies were grappling with the aftershocks of the worst financial and economic crisis since the Great Depression. European Union member states, such as Portugal, Ireland, and Italy, implemented austerity programmes to bring Government debt under control. Furthermore, Greece was enmeshed in a sovereign debt crisis, and southern Mediterranean economies experienced high youth unemployment.

This 2020–2025 Economic Vision, however, has been drawn up within a different global, European and national context than its previous edition. On an international level, the world is grappling with a United States of America-China trade war and a revival of protectionist trade policies, which create the potential for short-term and medium to long-term threats to the global economic system. Europe, together with all the Mediterranean economies it encompasses, is unlikely to emerge unharmed.

Following the BREXIT situation, with the UK being the world’s fifth-largest and Europe’s second-largest economy, economic uncertainty is expected to prevail amongst every European state, especially once the transition period has elapsed. This could be a direct consequence of the fact that there is no roadmap to follow or analogy to invoke as a guide or a pattern for how BREXIT will reverberate over the coming months and years.

Furthermore, the EU has also seen a rise in populist parties – an increase resulting from a failure to resolve the whiplashes of the 2008 crisis, such as high youth unemployment, austerity, social malaise, and disagreement about fundamental nationalistic responses to immigration and multiculturalism.

Despite this state of play, Malta continues to prosper. Yet we do not take the successes of recent years for granted and we know that success tomorrow is not guaranteed.

We are all too aware of challenges, as identified by the European Commission 2019 Country Report, which said that while Malta’s economy continues to grow strongly, the main challenge is ensuring that its development is sustainable in the long term. The EC singles out the fact that while the banking sector remains sound, shortcomings in anti-money laundering enforcement have resulted in reputational risks. The report also delved into national issues on skills development, innovation, infrastructure, natural resource management and the outcomes of poor education creating further pressures and burdens on infrastructure and sustainability.

In light of such circumstances, the Chamber saw fit to propose recommendations which reflect the Chamber’s view of the fast moving global, regional and local challenges, coupled with rapid changing landscape of technological developments.

It is The Malta Chamber’s ambition to direct and ambitiously lead Malta towards a ‘Smart, Sustainable Island: Setting the Pathway for Malta’s Future Economic Growth and Social Wealth’.  The Malta Chamber of Commerce remains a key player in this scenario, and continues to be a proactive force that takes action and proposes a sustainable way forward for the country.