28 MAY 2003

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Malta’s competitiveness in the spotlight

By Matthew Vella
Today will see the close of the three-day national conference on "Maximising Malta's Competitiveness Potential" organised by the Economics Department and the Islands and Small States Institute of the University of Malta, in collaboration with the Government of Malta and the Commonwealth Secretariat.
A document on competitiveness drawn up by economists Lino Briguglio and Gordon Cordina is an advanced first draft of a proposed strategy that has been drawn up for presentation during the conference.
The aim of the document is to enhance the flow of information and dialogue between the social partners by drawing up a proposal for a national competitiveness strategy as well as a programme of follow-up mechanisms, relating to implementation, monitoring, assessment, and advocacy measures.
In today’s interview, Briguglio and Cordina tell The Malta Financial and Business Times that the need for a competitiveness strategy report for Malta had long been felt, but so far there has not been an overarching competitiveness strategy.

"Business enterprises’ performances are strongly influenced by economic conditions within their national boundaries, such as macroeconomic stability, skills and technology availability, efficiency of resource allocation and overall costs. It is essential for a country to be competitive in this respect, just as it is important for firms to maintain an edge against their competitors.
"The strategy developed in this document was based on the belief that competitiveness is a prerequisite for the improvement of living standards of the people of Malta. Malta is practically at the full employment stage, so that attraction of new more productive business will find it difficult to access idle resources, but will instead induce labour mobility and change. Such transformation requires flexibility in the attitudes of the social partners, including employee unions, and an efficient public administration, committed to uphold competitiveness."
The conference comprised of a series of sessions relating to the draft document, followed by discussions. Monday’s conference considered the views of NGOs, namely the FOI, Chamber of Commerce, Gozo Business Chamber, the GRTU, the MHRA, Farmers’ Association, the GWU, UHM, CMTU and Malta Employers’ Association.
Yesterday’s conference featured the ministries of finance and economic affairs, tourism, education, IT and investment, transport and communications, resources and infrastructure, as well as the Malta Council for Science and Technology, MCESD, Central Bank, MFSA, ETC, and the respective authorities on standards, tourism, maritime.
In today’s interview Lino Briguglio and Gordon Cordina explain how essential it is for Malta to build and sustain its competitiveness in order to achieve its long-term development aspirations.
The interview traces several of the "ten golden rules" outlined by the economists, namely: maintaining a stable and resilient macroeconomic environment; fostering of innovation and research and development; providing public administration services efficiently and transparently; and attracting investment from local and foreign sources.
Briguglio’s and Cordina’s report also presents a number of strategic measures related to competitiveness requisites, and proposals for the implementation of the strategy.
"On the threshold of joining the EU, the largest economic block in the world, Malta should be well positioned to take advantage of emerging challenges and opportunities to improve the well-being of its people. As argued throughout this document, competitiveness is the main priority for these objectives to be achieved."

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
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