The Malta Independent 26 September 2021, Sunday

‘Government will listen to all stakeholders to choose right options for Malta's future’ – Schembri

Jake Aquilina Thursday, 15 July 2021, 13:39 Last update: about 3 months ago

In the presentation of the strategy ‘A Future Proof Malta’, Minister for Economy and Industry, Silvio Schembri, said that the Government is willing to listen to all stakeholders to ensure a sustainable economy for Malta, but given its size, the country needs to be selective in order to choose the best projects possible.

The strategy is based on five pillars which provide the outline for Malta’s economic vision, which are Sustainable Economic Growth, Infrastructure and Investment, Education and Employment, Environment, and Governance and Rule of Law.

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Schembri was speaking during a panel discussion moderated by The Malta Independent editor-in-chief Neil Camilleri.

“We need to build an economic vision in order to have a sustainable future. We are seeing that we involve the primary ministries in all of the vision we have announced. Never until today could we appreciate the economic synergy of all stakeholders due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” the Minister said.

The Minister remarked that the country finds itself in a good position to discuss the future of Malta. “Today, we have one of the highest percentage of people vaccinated in the world, so we know we can look forward now.”

One of the things the Ministry is looking at is improving infrastructure, which the minister remarked that it does not necessarily entail road infrastructure, but infrastructure on a much larger scale.

“Apart from the physical infrastructure, we have another infrastructure. For example, Malta will be one of the few people which has 5G coverage throughout the whole country,” he said.

Furthermore, the Minister noted that the investment in infrastructure would not necessitate the lack of care towards the environment either. “The investment in infrastructure would also mean investment in the environment. For example, the investment in electric car infrastructure would help the environment even more,” he observed.

The minister remarked that in terms of economic stability, Malta stood in 77th place a few years ago in the World Economic Forum, but it now stands in first place.

Another issue which the minister addressed was the corporate tax system, which he noted that in Malta it remains robust. However, he noted that the country should remain vigilant of new corporate tax systems which would bolster the country’s likability.

“The corporate tax system is very strong, but if we don’t recognise that there are new corporate tax systems which are being introduced and are attracting a lot, we are going to suffer,” he said. 

He noted that the Government wants to help start-ups prevail and bloom in the country. “We have the infrastructure; it is the ideal land for a start-up to perform a scale up. Israel has a system for start-ups which is very good, but when it comes to scale up it would be very difficult. This is something we can look at in order to attract more start-ups not only to start, but also to scale-up,” he said.

When it comes to the private sector, the Minister encouraged them to continue being creative and sharing their ideas with the Government. “The best ideas don’t come from the government, but from the private sector. The government needs to see that it is an enabler in this,” he said

He also noted that the Government, companies and people should keep their eyes peeled on new technologies which are emerging, as the pandemic has accelerated the technological shift and a lot of new technologies which were once unimaginable are here with us now.

“The pandemic accelerated the technology shift. There are new technologies which are closer to the mainstream than we think. We need to see the constructive criticism so we can improve, increase the proposals, and be at the forefront. The important thing is that we have a government that listens,” he said.

In his final remarks, the Minister said that the Government is actually asking for constructive criticism in order to improve the country’s prospects. “The more we listen to all stakeholders involved, the more we can progress,” the Minister remarked. 

“We want to gather the ideas of everyone. This is a small country; we can’t waste our energy on small things. We have the resources and talent to continue moving forward. We need to be selective in terms of which investments we choose, but we want to consult and hear,” he remarked.

 

The Minister was also joined by four other speakers from the Government: Minister for Senior Citizens and Active Ageing, Michael Farrugia, Minister within the Office of the Prime Minister, Carmelo Abela, Parliamentary Secretary for European Funds, Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi, and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects, Joseph Caruana. 

Michael Farrugia

Minister Farrugia said that “one of the first steps to ensure the welfare state of our country was economic strength”.

“We need to think of intergenerational people. Not only do we need to increase the services, but also increase the quality of the services we give, while also auditing these services. We need to see these social deficits and we want to increase wellbeing regarding them,” he said.

The Minister noted that he is aware that there are a number of people in our society who need help, “and in the silence of their homes call for it”.

He observed that this is why projects such as LEAP were introduced. Furthermore, next week, the Government will be launching new standards from what it had in the past, “so that we increase services in the homes of the elderly”.

Another pilot project will also be observed when it comes to senior citizens who feel lonely but are able to take care of themselves on their own. “We are envisaging a project for independent living, and this pilot project will have different structures. These people would be taking care of their own space but in an environment where they would be with other people.”

The minister also remarked that the country needs to also aim for the sustainability of pensions. 

Carmelo Abela

Asked about the reaction of Malta Council for Economic and Social Development (MCESD), the Minister said that it was very positive. He remarked, however, that it is not possible with the government alone to have a strong vision for the country.

“We are discussing how much we are ready to have great ambitions – this cannot happen with the government alone only. We need to discuss together,” he said. “I believe in social dialogue, and even we see the story of the country, whenever we discussed together, we did better.”

The Minister also noted that two other factors that Malta needs to keep an eye out for are the conditions of workers and discussions abroad.

On the former point, the minister said that “we cannot aspire to have better economic outcomes if we don’t recognise the need to improve the conditions of employment.” 

Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi

Azzopardi acknowledged that Malta is now in the phase where the country has submitted its economic recovery to the EU.

The Parliamentary Secretary echoed Schembri’s words in saying that infrastructure is not simply roads, “but also relates to issues such as energy, water, digitisation,” and so forth. “If one looks at the priorities, you notice that green economy and digitisation are at the forefront and that we will be making a lot of investment so that we reach the environmental aims,” he said.

He also noted that the government is looking at the second interconnector as a solution to energy capacity and alternative. Furthermore, he highlighted that the educational infrastructure is something which is also very important for the Government and need to address, such as early school leavers. 

Joseph Caruana

From his part, Caruana noted that infrastructure is interwoven with the economic development of the country.  He noted that in 3 years only, more than 500 roads were constructed. “The Government’s plan is to continue changing the quality of life of people for the better”, he said.

More open spaces for residents would also be considered, while the regeneration of public spaces is something which is also crucial in the country at this day and age.


Photos: Giuseppe Attard

 

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