this week: Working the docks has never been so lucrative
Restructuring is long
The recent announcement that some manufacturing lines
of ST Malta are to be transferred to Morocco is not a good sign. Maltas
competitiveness is being eroded by cheaper costs in other countries,
and promises for improvement have remained just that.
At a recent press conference Finance Minister John Dalli spoke in no
uncertain terms about restructuring and improving competitiveness.
Talk about restructuring is cheap, but over the past years action has
been very limited. Malta undoubtedly has a manufacturing base that has
a future. Maltese workers can produce high quality products and come
with acceptable qualifications, educational backgrounds and expertise.
But while some industries have good prospects others are on the wane.
Malta was aware of the prospects many years ago and should have geared
itself for further expertise and more available employees to service
the high tech manufacturing, banking, IT and other service industries.
In several former communist states and China the past decade has witnessed
giant steps ahead in restructuring, with large sectors of the population
geared up for new challenges. In Malta, restructuring seem to be more
a fashionable word we talk about.
The recent dismissal of 250 workers in the denim industry was all but
For our businesses to be sustainable we need to remove wastage and excessive
costs. The exorbitant port charges were one of John Dallis targets
at the press conference, but changes are long overdue.
A businessmen visiting these offices this morning grumbled about how
bringing his products from Valletta to Qormi is more expensive than
bringing the same products from the north of Italy to the grand harbour.
According to one study, port charges in Grand Harbour and the Malta
Freeport are 20 per cent more expensive than Marseilles, 49 per cent
more expensive than La Spezia and 66 per cent more expensive than Southampton.
Considering that our wages are substantially lower than those in other
countries, the Maltese rates are hard to defend.
Everybody wants to make a living, but the port and carriage charges
in Malta are going to put us all out of business.
Minister Dalli must take the proverbial bull by the horns and establish
a timeframe for restructuring what does on at the port.
According to the same study, a full third of all port charges cannot
be accounted for.
The Maltese port workers are eroding Maltas competitiveness and
causing prices to increase. The high port and transport costs have been
brought to the ministers attention several times over the years and
it is hoped further reminding will not be necessary.
For some weeks now government has been coming under fire for its apparent
lack of diligence. It is understandable at this stage that, with EU
membership looming Maltas ministers and parliamentary secretaries
have much planning and preparing to do. EU membership was never going
to be plain sailing for Malta and proper preparation is necessary. Where
the government is failing however is in communicating its planning and
At the beginning of any new administration one would expect that each
minister and parliamentary secretary would prepare and announce their
business plan with targets and timeframes. If much is being achieved
by government then the public is not being kept informed. If the problem
is a marketing one, the situation is not so desperate, but the government
needs to send clear signals that it is planning and achieving, otherwise
the public will rightly continue to criticise.