Tony Abela calls for micro level competitiveness
At yesterdays national conference "Maximising
Maltas Competitiveness Potential" Economic Services Parliamentary
Secretary Tony Abela stressed the essentiality of competitiveness and
the importance for "the individual company at the micro level to
be competitive in order to enhance national competitiveness."
Abela, however, said the public sector had an important role to play
in this regard, not least of which by taking a lead in placing competitive
on top of the policy agenda, and taking the lead in removing bottlenecks
when these occur.
Abela expressed his ministrys support to the conference organised
by Professor Lino Briguglio and Gordon Cordina, saying this augured
well for the future involvement of the academic community in such issues:
"The need to focus on Maltas competitiveness has long been
felt. When Malta became independent in 1964, competitiveness in international
trade was considered as a primary requisite for economic development
of the country. It has featured prominently in government policy during
the past four decades, and given centre stage since 1990, when the Nationalist
government applied to join the European Union.
"In spite of the importance assigned to competitiveness over the
years, there has not been a real coherent approach in dealing with competitiveness.
I note with pleasure that this conference is an important step towards
Abela said the co-relation and synergy of competition and competitiveness
required were so interconnected that one cannot exist without the other:
"In Malta, the Consumer and Competition Division within the Ministry
for Finance and Economic Affairs, caters for competition policy in Malta
and is responsible for the enforcement of the Competition Act, which
is modelled on EU legislation.
"This Division is charged with monitoring the market and looking
out for any possible restrictive practice taking place or infringements
of any of the provisions of the various consumer laws and market surveillance
under the Product Safety Act so as to ensure that only safe products
are put on the market. The Division carries out investigations including
searches where necessary leading to submission of reports to the Commission
for Fair Trading or to the Courts.
"I wish to take the opportunity to emphasise the point that the
ability of a country to withstand international competition cannot be
attained unless there is an efficient competition regime within the
country. The institutional setup in Malta, which I briefly described,
is an important underlying requisite for international competitiveness."
Abela said the introduction of competition law in Malta strengthened
the awareness that "success in business should be based on efficiency."
Prior to the enactment of the Competition Act, business in Malta was
characterised by restrictive practices and collusion, which to a large
extent sheltered actors from competition: "This mentality also
somewhat worked against international competitiveness, and led many
businesses to clamour for protection and financial support from public
"Secondly, competition legislation tends to develop the culture
that good quality products and quality standards matter enormously in
business. Previously it was taken for granted by consumers that they
were to accept inferior quality products. With the adoption of the EU
acquis high quality production is becoming a reality.
"Thirdly, competition legislation ushers in a culture of fair trading,
where the business community is encouraged to compete on a level playing
field, and where the players, including consumers, are given proper
right of redress and those who infringe are adequately censored."
Emphasising competitiveness as a prerequisite for the improvement of
living standards, Abela said Malta had reached a level of high employment,
so that the attraction of new more productive business will find it
increasingly difficult to access idle resources:
"We need therefore to also induce labour mobility and change. Such
transformation requires flexibility in the attitudes of the social partners
and an efficient public administration, committed to uphold competitiveness."