16 - 22 May, 2001
Much is said about the impact of globalisation on Maltese enterprise. KURT SANSONE speaks to JOSEPH WOODS about the challenges and the opportunities that may arise from the phenomenon. Mr Woods explains his vision of promoting Malta as a Mediterranean hub thus giving Maltese enterprise the opportunity to expand beyond our shores.
It seems that the concept of hubbing the Mediterranean is gaining new momentum. What is the relevance of this in the face of globalisation?
Globalisation is bringing in various challenges not just to multi-national corporations but also to small countries and island economies such as ours. The strategy is to make your organisation, company or country relevant in a global dimension.
By developing Malta into the hub of the Mediterranean it can make itself relevant in a market of 220 million people and a very relevant region in the emerging global scenario.
What can hubbing do to the current economic situation?
One of the many factors which has brought about the current economic situation is the over development we have undergone during the last 20 years. Business has expanded but very few have worked in trying to expand business overseas into new areas and new space. Hubbing, if strategically managed can provide enormous space for to expand throughout the Mediterranean region. The development of new business space will bring in a new challenge to our education and re-renewed social mobility.
Is hubbing relevant when Malta is pursuing accession into the European Union?
In fact, it is more than relevant. Malta can act as a hub both in the European Union and outside the Union, if we are to be part of the Euro-Mediterranean Free Trade Area. The hub concept offers a win-win situation for Malta and provides a common space that all Maltese can work towards.
The hub concept is a unique space for consensus building. The PN and MLP both have contributed towards the development of this concept during the last 25 years so there is no conflict there. The GWU has mentioned it in its motion of 8 February and declared that this is the way forward for Malta. The EU has also confirmed this role for Malta.
Recently Pope John Paul II stated that we have a unique vocation to build bridges around the Mediterranean because of our central position. I guess that since World War II there has not been a single unifying concept in Malta that could bring this nation to work together and move forward.
Is government using this concept in the negotiation process with the EU?
We can go to the EU with a full package that can benefit both us and them, as well as our neighbours.
Unfortunately, we are seeing nothing of the sort and most of the discussion has centred on what Malta can take from the EU. As much as we can take, we can offer in terms of the hubbing concept. We need to approach the EU with a mission.
Our geo-strategic position and the different cultural influences we have had over the years, make Malta an ideal interlocutor between Europe and the African continent.
Why Malta and not any other Mediterranean EU country?
Historically we have played host to numerous cultures, being a seafaring nation. This enables us to understand both the European mentality and the immediate North African culture.
We also have a good infrastructure set up with advanced telecommunications and more than adequate air and maritime distribution.
Malta is also a safe haven for workers and their families and is generally cheaper than most European cities. These are aspects that give Malta a unique characteristic.
What are the opportunities for Maltese enterprise?
I have identified about six business sectors that have developed hubbing initiatives. There are opportunities in tourism, financial services, education, aviation, maritime and information and communication technologies.
To mention some specific examples Bank of Valletta, Globe Financial Services, Malta Freeport Corporation and Maltacom training centre are a few organisations who are pursuing hubbing strategies.
These are large organisations, what about SMEs?
I do not know of any specific examples but the opportunities are there too for this crucial sector of the economy.
In view of the sizes of these businesses in Malta we could promote clustering through which small companies can come together and endeavour to developing some regional initiatives.
What, in your opinion, needs to be done to enhance this development process?
First we need to organise a public-private sector community team that will direct and manage the on-going processes and provide direction. A similar initiative was undertaken in Malaysia called 20/20 which co-ordinated the hubbing concept for the country.
Secondly we need to develop a national awareness campaign so that we can engage more individuals, students, teachers, organisations and companies to participate and develop hubbing strategies.
Thirdly we need to start marketing Malta as the hub of the Mediterranean at a regional and global level.
You seem very optimistic about it?
I am. During the nine years I have been working and discussing this concept I have not yet come across anybody who says that it cannot be done.
Not only that but when I look around me I see a great new enterprise forming which fills me with hope and confirms my excitement and enthusiasm for the subject.
On May 29, I will be facilitating a breakfast meeting organised by the Malta Institute of Management, which will discuss the hubbing concept. The idea behind it is to get key decision makers and market players to discuss the importance of expanding businesses beyond our shores. We should focus our efforts to ensure a lesser dependence on restricted local markets.