3 OCTOBER 2001

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Disseminating information on banking and finance

Finance minister John Dalli, addressed a Workshop on Banking and Finance held at the Foundation for International Studies, organised by the Islands and Small States Institute, in collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, 1 October, 2001

This is the second time that I am inaugurating the Workshop on Banking and Finance in Small States, which the Islands and Small States organises in collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Last year I said that the topic is very timely indeed, since at the domestic level, Malta was passing through an important stage in its financial sector, involving liberalisation and the strengthening of the institutional framework, while at the international level, financial deregulation and financial integration were taking centre stage.

This year, the focus of attention is on the New York terrorist attack, which has had repercussions on all spheres of life throughout the world, with a major impact on financial and equity markets. Last year the issue of the OECD curbs on small offshore jurisdictions was the major issue discussed in this workshop. I presume this year the focus will be on the vulnerability of financial markets on factors not directly connected with banking and finance. We have all witnessed how a terrorist attack, has ushered in a chain of events following the immediate and devastating loss of human life, leaving a trail of disasters, including the adverse impact on aviation, tourism, and on the financial markets worldwide.

Professor Briguglio has informed me that many persons who had been accepted to join this workshop cancelled their flights, as a reaction to the New York incident. I am sure that those of you who have decided to travel by air just the same, did so with some trepidation. On behalf of the organisers, I thank you for joining us, and I hope your stay in Malta will be enjoyable and intellectually fruitful.

A cursory look at the programme of this workshop shows that it will cover a variety of themes ranging from International banking, Monetary Policy, Financial Regulation and Deregulation and Management Aspects of Banking and Finance. I note that most lecturers are Maltese. This shows the capacity of our country to generate such a high level of expertise – notwithstanding the fact that Malta is a very small state, with a small population pool from which to draw experts and specialists.

I am very aware of the special constraints faced by small countries – but I am at the same time also cognisant of the successes of many small states. It is well known that these states tend to perform rather well economically and that – as a group - they register a relatively high GDP per capita when compared to larger developing countries.

So the fact that a country is small should not lead policy makers and authorities of small states to assume that smallness means backwardness.

Malta has shown that economic development is possible in spite of small economic size. The Maltese islands face limitations due to a small domestic market, a very high degree of economic openness, high dependence on strategic imports, notable fuel, and constraints regarding effective domestic competition. Yet, the islands have succeeded in generating sufficient income to secure a decent standard of living for the inhabitants. With suitable legislative frameworks, and with the progressive liberalisation of the various sectors of the economy, including banking and finance, the Maltese Economy can continue to develop and permit even higher living standards.

In the past years, Malta has managed to develop the structure and the infrastructure of a financial sector that can operate at a high level. We have emphasised transparency, fair-play and high degree of supervision. We have also sustained a policy not to be overpowered by success by opening our centre to all and sundry, but maintained a fine filter through which all applications are processed.

I wish to thank the Commonwealth Secretariat for supporting this workshop – a very useful venture intended to disseminate knowledge on banking and finance. There are other training programmes under the auspices of the Malta Commonwealth Third Country Programme permitting many Commonwealth nationals to visit these islands and to train themselves in a number of areas, including insurance management, International relations, IT strategies, export trade and maritime affairs.

These initiatives are partially funded by the Maltese government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is one of the organising partners of this workshop. It is with great satisfaction that I note that Malta’s share in providing funds for the Commonwealth Secretariat, small as these funds may be, are being translated into such fruitful events.

The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07
Tel: (356) 382741-3, 382745-6 | Fax: (356) 385075 | e-mail: editorial@networkpublications.com.mt