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 The end comments from both participants and speakers was that this was the best business conference of the year and that its positive effects will be with us for quite some time.

Yesterday morning GRTU President Paul Abela gave the opening address opened GRTU's national business conference entitled- Facing Today's Economic Realities: Bringing Home the European Reality to Small Businesses. Mr Abela explained that this timing for the conference was chosen because we felt that the current economic situation needed to be addressed most urgently. This mostly to ensure that what needs to be said and what action needs to be taken is taken at the correct timing. GRTU believes that our worries and that of our members are not unfounded and not simply a question of lack of confidence, our worries will soon become reality and will take some time to be solved.

 

The President further explained that GRTU believes Government must help, with public money, SMEs that create real growth and families that through their spending and deposit in the banks keep the economy going. He further emphasised that Malta needs real investment and not investment for prestige. Investment that increases work and not those put on paper.

Mr Abela explained that with this conference GRTU opened its 60th Anniversary celebrations from its founding. He then passed on the word to the Chair Ms Sylvia Gauci, Vice president of the employers group within the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). Ms Gauci is not only the representative of Maltese employers in Brussels but is also GRTU's representative in Brussels. Ms Gauci introduced Mr Henri Malosse, the President of the Employers Group within the EESC.

Mr Malosse focused on the importance of consultation and that stakeholders are consulted correctly. He also stressed on the Think Small First Principle where Small and Medium should be the rule while Big the exception. As the person in charge of the Small Business Act he explained that from their perspective the Act focuses bringing the business reality to the EU. Mr Malosse continued by saying that the reduction of administrative burdens will help SMEs make better use of the institutions and have an increased role at the European Level.

Next up was the keynote speaker of the first session Dr Gordon Cordina, Head of the Economics Department at the University of Malta. Dr Cordina started by saying that people have now realised that timed have change and therefore, accordingly, their attitudes have changed. Another fact was that changes in the economic situation effect small economies most. This recession can either hit us and hit us heavily or not hit us at all. This depends on how well we can restructure and start catering for the economic sectors that will not be effected by the recession.

Gordon Cordina explained that Malta's GDP grew by 1.9% compared to the EU 15's 2% however Malta needs to have a higher growth rate but for various reasons Malta has not been able to achieve this. If one notices the fluctuations, Malta in fact moves in line with those of the EU 15 but Malta is impacted 3 times as much.

Mr Cordina warned that the worst we can do is to succumb to fear. He said it is very difficult to predict the future and he will therefore not be doing so. He also explained the certain impact specific changes can make in our economic situation such as the fact that with every USS 10 increase in the price per barrel will consume approximately 1% of the country's GDP.

Malta's current strength is in the relatively large foreign direct investment and the ICT The end comments from both participants and speakers was that this was the best business conference of the year and that its positive effects will be with us for quite some time.

Yesterday morning GRTU President Paul Abela gave the opening address opened GRTU's national business conference entitled- Facing Today's Economic Realities: Bringing Home the European Reality to Small Businesses. Mr Abela explained that this timing for the conference was chosen because we felt that the current economic situation needed to be addressed most urgently. This mostly to ensure that what needs to be said and what action needs to be taken is taken at the correct timing. GRTU believes that our worries and that of our members are not unfounded and not simply a question of lack of confidence, our worries will soon become reality and will take some time to be solved.

The President further explained that GRTU believes Government must help, with public money, SMEs that create real growth and families that through their spending and deposit in the banks keep the economy going. He further emphasised that Malta needs real investment and not investment for prestige. Investment that increases work and not those put on paper.

Mr Abela explained that with this conference GRTU opened its 60th Anniversary celebrations from its founding. He then passed on the word to the Chair Ms Sylvia Gauci, Vice president of the employers group within the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). Ms Gauci is not only the representative of Maltese employers in Brussels but is also GRTU's representative in Brussels. Ms Gauci introduced Mr Henri Malosse, the President of the Employers Group within the EESC.

Mr Malosse focused on the importance of consultation and that stakeholders are consulted correctly. He also stressed on the Think Small First Principle where Small and Medium should be the rule while Big the exception. As the person in charge of the Small Business Act he explained that from their perspective the Act focuses bringing the business reality to the EU. Mr Malosse continued by saying that the reduction of administrative burdens will help SMEs make better use of the institutions and have an increased role at the European Level.

Next up was the keynote speaker of the first session Dr Gordon Cordina, Head of the Economics Department at the University of Malta. Dr Cordina started by saying that people have now realised that timed have change and therefore, accordingly, their attitudes have changed. Another fact was that changes in the economic situation effect small economies most. This recession can either hit us and hit us heavily or not hit us at all. This depends on how well we can restructure and start catering for the economic sectors that will not be effected by the recession.

Gordon Cordina explained that Malta's GDP grew by 1.9% compared to the EU 15's 2% however Malta needs to have a higher growth rate but for various reasons Malta has not been able to achieve this. If one notices the fluctuations, Malta in fact moves in line with those of the EU 15 but Malta is impacted 3 times as much.

Mr Cordina warned that the worst we can do is to succumb to fear. He said it is very difficult to predict the future and he will therefore not be doing so. He also explained the certain impact specific changes can make in our economic situation such as the fact that with every USS 10 increase in the price per barrel will consume approximately 1% of the country's GDP.

Malta's current strength is in the relatively large foreign direct investment and the ICT penetration. Malta's current weaknesses are however the SME's innovation performance and Education. He explained that as an economist he sees huge opportunities for international real estate/ construction market, for example. He explained that if we had to sum up the worth of the vacant property in Malta it would amount to €535m-worth 10% of the country's GDP. He concluded by saying that if the Budget promises are achieved we will make it through well.

Ms Birgit Fular, Head of Secretariat of the Employers Group within the EESC, took the floor strait afterwards and briefly explained what are the current topics the EESC is dealing with. She mentioned amongst others the current financial crises and the new economic reality. Ms Fular also mentioned innovation and education as important assets and outlined the importance some issues should be given such as Vocational Education and Training, the review of administrative and financial burdens and the handling of funds.

The Chair invited Hon Tonio Fenech, Minster of Finance, the Economy and Investment to take his place at the podium and deliver his speech. Hon Fenech said that the economic crises till now has left Malta intact compared to the bank crises that occurred in certain countries. He also explained that what helped us in this sphere was the introduction of the Euro currency and the fact that Malta has recently made some advancements.

Hon Fenech also explained that for the Maltese economy to be safeguarded our businesses have to look outside our shores. The most dangerous fear Malta can succumb to is fear itself. He explained that the 2 sectors most at risk are the tourism sector and the car sector. He added also that the financial crises has financially created more interest in our country.

After breaking up for coffee and biscuits Professor Edward Scicluna addressed the floor with his economic study. Mr Scicluna explained that current trend do not necessarily reflect the current economic situation. Consumption is a variable that is quickly corrected according to the current status but variables like employment reflect the situation of last year as people think twice before loosing their employees. He emphasised Mr Cordina's words when saying that He also could not give an outlook of what the future holds. He emphasised also that unfortunately because Malta has a deficit and has not like other countries had a surplus in the recent years the Central Bank has no room for manoeuvring which would put us on a more flexible position when handling the crises.

Prof Scicluna also said that Malta was unlucky and the recession has caught us in a very bad time when essential changes and expenses needed to be made. Part of the conference was also dedicated to the Survey conducted by GRTU with its members. The delivery of the presentation was done by Marcel Mizzi, Vice-President sections within GRTU. The presentation is as well the comments given by members as all other presentations are available on GRTU's website www.grtu.org.mt.

Mr Vincent Farrugia, Director General of the GRTU took over from Mr Mizzi. Mr Farrugia immediately expressed that GRTU feels Government does not sufficiently understand the problems of the commerce sector. Mr Farrugia admitted that the major problem is that the Maltese enterprise is not sufficiently innovative. He however explained that the reason for this was that they have a liquidity problem and this is where Government should focus on, on helping businesses with their liquidity problem and not aggravating it with late payments.

Mr Farrugia emphasised that all the Think Small First Principle means is that Small enterprises are aided first. He turned for instance on the Utility tariffs issue and that many of our members have not yet understood that these tariffs might mean that they will pass from a profit to a loss situation. This concern was further emphasised by the public when they were given an opportunity to pose their questions and concerns. Mr Farrugia also mentioned the current issue where Banks are not passing the whole reduction as outlined by the Central Bank. Both Hon Fenech and the Chairman of Malta Enterprise Mr Alan Camilleri emphasised that they expect the banks to live up to their obligation and pass on the full reduction to their clients. This, Mr Farrugia emphasised, again would aid liquidity problems.

Dr Gavin Gulia, replacing Hon Joseph Muscat, was the next speaker to take the floor. Dr Gulia expressed his concerns on the current trends with for example export falling by 10%. He also joined GRTU's complaint that the Labour Party is not happy with the Utility Tariffs and that the labour party believes that the increases are the result of the inefficiencies of Enemalta and that the party wants MEPA's audited accounts published.

Dr Gulia also explained that the labour party has a good amount of proposals and is working on various project to help enterprises through this rough time. He mentioned that they are working on a proposal where due to the fact that many enterprises suffer from Government late payments, these could be offset with payment these enterprises have to make to Government itself.

Gavin Gulia also stated that to the Malta Labour Party the Malta Enterprise has not lived up to its expectations. He also evoked the need that a Government body representing and surveillance the needs of SMEs is created. He emphasised also that this should be run by social partners as they are the ones who know the sector. Dr Gulia also explained that the labour party is also presently exploring the possibility of introducing import/export schemes for businesses.

The final speaker was Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi. Dr Gonzi stated that the reality is that we need to innovate and we need to change mentalities. He also said that the reality is that there is another side of the coin, that good things are also happening as well. He mentioned the expansions of Halman, De La Rue and the new shopping complex in Gozo.  He also added that smart city is also up and running. He said that our small scale has the advantage of proximity.

Hon Gonzi assured us that Government planned this year's Budget on the direction the European Union is taking, however, at the same time having Malta's specificities. Ha admitted that Government will have to postpone its deficit target by one year, till 2011. Government he explained has introduced many concrete measures such as the widening of the tax bands, which consists of around €40m, for women to work, for child care centres and employment.

The Prime Minister also explained that Government is putting pressure on MEPA to issue pending permits for the positive projects that will help our economy to start. He said also that he does not share the opposition's view on Malta Enterprise and stated that the Small Business Act will be launched shortly, as will the General Accounting Principles for SMEs. He continued that Government has a project for the Cordina business incubation centre and that we are moving towards the privatisation of the yacht marina.

Dr Gonzi explained the Utility Tariffs as the only way of stopping subsidies for losses, but he stated that Government is on the other hand ready to subside renewable energy. The Prime Minister also explained that a positive aspect for enterprise is that Government is removing the capping system. What is of concern presently to the Prime Minister is that OPEC has this week decided to reduce oil production to be once again able to increase prices. He explained that Government is still to see what effect this will have on us.

Mr Alan Camilliri, Chairman of Malta Enterprise, acted as moderator during the panel discussion. Mr Camilleri gave his introduction and amongst other things explained that Malta Enterprise has issued a number of schemes which the business can achieve important benefits from. He explained that these will be presented also with the help of GRTU. The end comments from both participants and speakers was that this was the best business conference of the year and that its positive effects will be with us for quite some time.

Yesterday morning GRTU President Paul Abela gave the opening address opened GRTU's national business conference entitled- Facing Today's Economic Realities: Bringing Home the European Reality to Small Businesses. Mr Abela explained that this timing for the conference was chosen because we felt that the current economic situation needed to be addressed most urgently. This mostly to ensure that what needs to be said and what action needs to be taken is taken at the correct timing. GRTU believes that our worries and that of our members are not unfounded and not simply a question of lack of confidence, our worries will soon become reality and will take some time to be solved.

The President further explained that GRTU believes Government must help, with public money, SMEs that create real growth and families that through their spending and deposit in the banks keep the economy going. He further emphasised that Malta needs real investment and not investment for prestige. Investment that increases work and not those put on paper.

Mr Abela explained that with this conference GRTU opened its 60th Anniversary celebrations from its founding. He then passed on the word to the Chair Ms Sylvia Gauci, Vice president of the employers group within the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). Ms Gauci is not only the representative of Maltese employers in Brussels but is also GRTU's representative in Brussels. Ms Gauci introduced Mr Henri Malosse, the President of the Employers Group within the EESC.

Mr Malosse focused on the importance of consultation and that stakeholders are consulted correctly. He also stressed on the Think Small First Principle where Small and Medium should be the rule while Big the exception. As the person in charge of the Small Business Act he explained that from their perspective the Act focuses bringing the business reality to the EU. Mr Malosse continued by saying that the reduction of administrative burdens will help SMEs make better use of the institutions and have an increased role at the European Level.

Next up was the keynote speaker of the first session Dr Gordon Cordina, Head of the Economics Department at the University of Malta. Dr Cordina started by saying that people have now realised that timed have change and therefore, accordingly, their attitudes have changed. Another fact was that changes in the economic situation effect small economies most. This recession can either hit us and hit us heavily or not hit us at all. This depends on how well we can restructure and start catering for the economic sectors that will not be effected by the recession.

Gordon Cordina explained that Malta's GDP grew by 1.9% compared to the EU 15's 2% however Malta needs to have a higher growth rate but for various reasons Malta has not been able to achieve this. If one notices the fluctuations, Malta in fact moves in line with those of the EU 15 but Malta is impacted 3 times as much.

Mr Cordina warned that the worst we can do is to succumb to fear. He said it is very difficult to predict the future and he will therefore not be doing so. He also explained the certain impact specific changes can make in our economic situation such as the fact that with every USS 10 increase in the price per barrel will consume approximately 1% of the country's GDP.

Malta's current strength is in the relatively large foreign direct investment and the ICT penetration. Malta's current weaknesses are however the SME's innovation performance and Education. He explained that as an economist he sees huge opportunities for international real estate/ construction market, for example. He explained that if we had to sum up the worth of the vacant property in Malta it would amount to €535m-worth 10% of the country's GDP. He concluded by saying that if the Budget promises are achieved we will make it through well.

Ms Birgit Fular, Head of Secretariat of the Employers Group within the EESC, took the floor strait afterwards and briefly explained what are the current topics the EESC is dealing with. She mentioned amongst others the current financial crises and the new economic reality. Ms Fular also mentioned innovation and education as important assets and outlined the importance some issues should be given such as Vocational Education and Training, the review of administrative and financial burdens and the handling of funds.

The Chair invited Hon Tonio Fenech, Minster of Finance, the Economy and Investment to take his place at the podium and deliver his speech. Hon Fenech said that the economic crises till now has left Malta intact compared to the bank crises that occurred in certain countries. He also explained that what helped us in this sphere was the introduction of the Euro currency and the fact that Malta has recently made some advancements.

Hon Fenech also explained that for the Maltese economy to be safeguarded our businesses have to look outside our shores. The most dangerous fear Malta can succumb to is fear itself. He explained that the 2 sectors most at risk are the tourism sector and the car sector. He added also that the financial crises has financially created more interest in our country.

After breaking up for coffee and biscuits Professor Edward Scicluna addressed the floor with his economic study. Mr Scicluna explained that current trend do not necessarily reflect the current economic situation. Consumption is a variable that is quickly corrected according to the current status but variables like employment reflect the situation of last year as people think twice before loosing their employees. He emphasised Mr Cordina's words when saying that He also could not give an outlook of what the future holds. He emphasised also that unfortunately because Malta has a deficit and has not like other countries had a surplus in the recent years the Central Bank has no room for manoeuvring which would put us on a more flexible position when handling the crises.

Prof Scicluna also said that Malta was unlucky and the recession has caught us in a very bad time when essential changes and expenses needed to be made. Part of the conference was also dedicated to the Survey conducted by GRTU with its members. The delivery of the presentation was done by Marcel Mizzi, Vice-President sections within GRTU. The presentation is as well the comments given by members as all other presentations are available on GRTU's website www.grtu.org.mt.

Mr Vincent Farrugia, Director General of the GRTU took over from Mr Mizzi. Mr Farrugia immediately expressed that GRTU feels Government does not sufficiently understand the problems of the commerce sector. Mr Farrugia admitted that the major problem is that the Maltese enterprise is not sufficiently innovative. He however explained that the reason for this was that they have a liquidity problem and this is where Government should focus on, on helping businesses with their liquidity problem and not aggravating it with late payments.

Mr Farrugia emphasised that all the Think Small First Principle means is that Small enterprises are aided first. He turned for instance on the Utility tariffs issue and that many of our members have not yet understood that these tariffs might mean that they will pass from a profit to a loss situation. This concern was further emphasised by the public when they were given an opportunity to pose their questions and concerns. Mr Farrugia also mentioned the current issue where Banks are not passing the whole reduction as outlined by the Central Bank. Both Hon Fenech and the Chairman of Malta Enterprise Mr Alan Camilleri emphasised that they expect the banks to live up to their obligation and pass on the full reduction to their clients. This, Mr Farrugia emphasised, again would aid liquidity problems.

Dr Gavin Gulia, replacing Hon Joseph Muscat, was the next speaker to take the floor. Dr Gulia expressed his concerns on the current trends with for example export falling by 10%. He also joined GRTU's complaint that the Labour Party is not happy with the Utility Tariffs and that the labour party believes that the increases are the result of the inefficiencies of Enemalta and that the party wants MEPA's audited accounts published.

Dr Gulia also explained that the labour party has a good amount of proposals and is working on various project to help enterprises through this rough time. He mentioned that they are working on a proposal where due to the fact that many enterprises suffer from Government late payments, these could be offset with payment these enterprises have to make to Government itself.

Gavin Gulia also stated that to the Malta Labour Party the Malta Enterprise has not lived up to its expectations. He also evoked the need that a Government body representing and surveillance the needs of SMEs is created. He emphasised also that this should be run by social partners as they are the ones who know the sector. Dr Gulia also explained that the labour party is also presently exploring the possibility of introducing import/export schemes for businesses.

The final speaker was Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi. Dr Gonzi stated that the reality is that we need to innovate and we need to change mentalities. He also said that the reality is that there is another side of the coin, that good things are also happening as well. He mentioned the expansions of Halman, De La Rue and the new shopping complex in Gozo.  He also added that smart city is also up and running. He said that our small scale has the advantage of proximity.

Hon Gonzi assured us that Government planned this year's Budget on the direction the European Union is taking, however, at the same time having Malta's specificities. Ha admitted that Government will have to postpone its deficit target by one year, till 2011. Government he explained has introduced many concrete measures such as the widening of the tax bands, which consists of around €40m, for women to work, for child care centres and employment.

The Prime Minister also explained that Government is putting pressure on MEPA to issue pending permits for the positive projects that will help our economy to start. He said also that he does not share the opposition's view on Malta Enterprise and stated that the Small Business Act will be launched shortly, as will the General Accounting Principles for SMEs. He continued that Government has a project for the Cordina business incubation centre and that we are moving towards the privatisation of the yacht marina.

Dr Gonzi explained the Utility Tariffs as the only way of stopping subsidies for losses, but he stated that Government is on the other hand ready to subside renewable energy. The Prime Minister also explained that a positive aspect for enterprise is that Government is removing the capping system. What is of concern presently to the Prime Minister is that OPEC has this week decided to reduce oil production to be once again able to increase prices. He explained that Government is still to see what effect this will have on us.

Mr Alan Camilliri, Chairman of Malta Enterprise, acted as moderator during the panel discussion. Mr Camilleri gave his introduction and amongst other things explained that Malta Enterprise has issued a number of schemes which the business can achieve important benefits from. He explained that these will be presented also with the help of GRTU.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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