Facing up to challenges affecting Malta’s competitiveness
Two issues back, we reported on the EY Malta attractiveness survey as outlined at a conference held in the previous days.
We reported that Malta’s level of attractiveness for foreign investors remains strong despite dipping some nine percentage points when compared with the previous year (87% in 2016 to 78% in 2017).
The three most attractive features of Malta, according to the companies surveyed, is corporate taxation at first place at 88%, down three percentage points from 2016, stability of social climate which came in second at 82%, down six percentage points from 2016 while telecommunications infrastructure came in third place at 73%, up four percentage points from 2016.
Concern about the “stability and transparency of the political, legal and regulatory environment” which had dropped 15% from 2015 to 2016, has dropped a further 12% between 2016 and 2017, down to seventh place.
Among the weaknesses that were identified, the labour market was pointed out as one of the main challenges Malta is facing and will be facing in the coming years.
Forty-one percent of those interviewed in the survey identified talent shortage as the most serious threat that could impact their plans to invest in Malta.
Helga Ellul, noted entrepreneur, said there are just not enough people to fill the needs of industries. Nor do the right skills exist.
Clyde Caruana, head of JobsPlus, warned the economy needs 12,500 new workers next year. From the 11,000 jobs created last year, only 2,500 were filled by Maltese.
Ronald Attard, managing partner at EY, pointed out that Malta could look forward to the future with confidence as long as it had the courage, the foresight and the political will to move along in a changing world.
Shall Malta end up like some of the Gulf states where economic growth is dependent on imported labour?
The whole country welcomed the agreement that was reached between the government and MUT in the past days, not just because the threat of a strike to have taken place yesterday was averted but also because the teachers have finally been given a substantial increase in wages which has eluded them for many long years.
We hope this agreement is complemented by a serious and credible push to furnish the country with school leavers with the skills needed by Malta’s present and future economy. Every school leaver who leaves school with inadequate skills will become a drain on the country’s social service and a missed chance to take part in an economy that is growing apace.
The workplace is rapidly changing and the skills that were adequate up till yesterday are now more or less useless in this world of computer skills and automation. Thankfully, our children are now familiar with ICT through an early familiarization with computers and tablets. But they must be helped to upgrade their skills from playing around to using ICT productively.
At the other end of the scale, the remuneration being given, mostly to foreign labour, must be upgraded if Maltese nationals are to be attracted to the jobs now being mostly held by foreigners, especially in the catering industry.
As to the foreigners already here, they must be helped to integrate more in Malta and to upgrade their skills as well. Otherwise, we risk having a sub-proletariat which will always be downtrodden.
The government must come up with a credible and rational plan with regards to future skills needed and to implement this across the board.
It is imperative that all sectors in the country address the uncertainty expressed by investors as well as the uncertainty being felt by Maltese who are feeling left out in an economy where foreigners get the jobs and the prices of rented property escalate.