Whenever Malta is compared to other jurisdictions with regards to financial services and competitiveness in general, one issue holds Malta back.
This is the endemic delays in almost every aspect of life in Malta. One immediately thinks of the delays encountered on badly structured and under-funded roads, but that is just a very small part of the issue.
We need not list here all the delays one encounters in business, but here is an inadequate attempt.
Mostly, one encounters delays whenever one needs something from the government, from a permit, to a signature, to a commitment. It is true that in recent years successive governments have introduced electronic services but even here the growth has been sporadic at best and the systems in place leave much to be desired. For this or maybe also because of natural indolence, the services have not taken on and one still needs to go to the office in person and deal with the people there.
Then of course, it comes to depend on who you know or whether you know anyone, which is why at the end politicians still emerge as the best facilitators in the sector: they know everyone, they know the ropes, they can put pressure, even from the Opposition.
And so the system perpetuates itself and seems invincible and time-less.
Actually, it is time-consuming, but, just like we do with the traffic on our roads, we have got used to it and take it for granted.
One encounters delays in Court and whatever has been done to hasten up the proceedings, how many additional members of the judiciary have been appointed, how many additional staff taken on, etc, the system is still sclerotic. It is also redolent of the past, as any visit to the corridors of the Court of Justice can attest, with people milling around, names shouted amid the hubbub, and still with too many, far too many, people called to attend at one and the same time, instead of a rational system of timed appointments. You can even get this at your doctor or clinic but apparently the Law Courts are impervious to such logic.
One encounters delays also in the private sector, both in the delivery of goods and services, to a proper after-sales service, with great implications as to the quality of the goods/services offered. At the other end of the scale, as we report in today's issue, there are still considerable delays in getting paid for goods/services offered.
One would have thought that in such a small country as ours any delay would be either non-existent or just impossible. On the contrary, however, the actual smallness of the country juxtaposes delays over delays. One can once again use traffic as an example: one would have thought that the small size of Malta would make all kinds of travel easy and quick but on the contrary the very small size makes Malta one big traffic jam.
It is the same with all the other delays we encounter on a daily basis: given Malta's small size there should be no delays - after all in many cases we can just shout from the rooftops and get the message across - but one gets delays mounting upon delays.
Is there a solution for all this? We have been around enough to know that so many hopes were raised and every one dashed and broken. How do other countries do it? Maybe our politicians instead of promising us heaven on earth can get down to brass tacks and solve, but really solve, in a quantifiable manner, problem after problem, kink after kink. That would be a very important service done to the community.