Hands on the wheel, eyes on the roads
How does Transport and Communications Minister face up to the nations
woes on those dreaded potholes?
"Looking back at the start of 1998, the situation of the roads
remains one of the most important issues today as it was back then.
The advantage today is that the Transport Authority, which has now taken
over the Roads Department, has an action plan that is being implemented.
It also has the experience necessary to understand the defects within
the system, to which we have to find solutions."
Both in the question of resurfacing and rebuilding of arterial roads,
and village streets, there are around 500 streets to be upgraded, and
Galea says this will form the basis of the next five years to come.
"This wont mean that all the streets will be repaired. Development
would still have continued and new streets would have been created."
Despite that, there are still tens of roads that have not yet been improved
because of problems of ownership. While there is an authority resurfacing
the roads, there are a number of corporations uprooting them, rightly
or wrongly, for their own purposes, such as the water services and telephone
"The problem is that when they remove part of a road they usually
fail to repair it again. It has to be clarified that these corporations
have to mend the roads they uproot as soon as they are ready from their
And as usual there are the storms, which no matter what, always seem
to penetrate the hardened surface of our tarmac:
"I have to make a distinction between certain roads. The press
is always keen on reporting on the state of the roads following storms.
But if we look at the roads built in the last ten years, no holes actually
"This is partly because they are relatively new. However, in these
last five years, we have got contractors to pledge satisfactory standards
of road building. We have to assure not only high-level quality in the
new roads, but also improve patching to the extent that we will no longer
need re-patching week in week out on the same roads.
"We have to see a radical change in the techniques used for re-patching,
to ensure higher quality.
"One of my biggest criticisms has been the narrowing of traffic
lanes. In this regard, the main priority has been lessening the danger
apparent in wide high-speed roads. The other side of the story has it
that one-lane roads can only prevent ambulances from reaching accident
"However, one-lane roads do not usually attract accidents like
the wide roads where overtaking sees cars crashing head-on. In our countrys
circumstances, where we have pedestrians using their cars for a couple
of metres distance or jaywalking on the streets, we have to bring to
their attention the consequences of their actions.
"To reduce high-speed traffic, we reduced certain roads to one
lane and ever since this exercise, we have had no accidents. God willing
there will not be any for years to come."
liquidity and the right funds at the right time
Valletta Fund Managements Kenneth Farrugia speaks about VFMs
ongoing internationalisation process and the countrys equity and
fixed income markets.
Speaking about the companys change in strategic partner, Farrugia
explains the development has brought added value to VFMs operations
particularly in light of its internationalisation process and
the pensions market, which VFM is actively eyeing.
He explains, "The pensions problem is an issue that has been place
high on Maltas national agenda and having such an experienced
player with established IT systems and products for the field will be
"Insight also shares VFMs internationalisation vision and
as such they will be channelling regional internationalisation business
through VFM, very much in line with the same philosophy we had shared
"In this respect were on the same track as we were before.
Were still exploring the Maghreb region and after 12 months weve
established good contacts. We now have a presence in Tunisia, weve
gone to Egypt and were looking closely at Algeria, Morocco and
VFM is actively looking at the entire spectrum these emerging markets
have to offer and has appointed a large Egyptian brokerage firm with
very good contacts in the Gulf region, which VFM is also looking to
Of primary focus to VFM is selling its own funds across the region and,
quite literally, structuring new funds for the region, such as the Mediterranean
Rim Fund, which, Farrugia explains, has been an outstanding success
in terms of performance. In fact, the fund has gained 25 per cent since
But despite VFMs enthusiasm for the emerging markets offered by
the Mediterranean region, Maltas fund management pioneers are
still moving along with, and working in parallel to, the domestic market,
which, Farrugia explains, offers significant potential.
He explains, "There is the pensions issue at hand and the fact
that Malta is now joining the EU is also very positive. Malta as a base
for fund administration is an excellent proposition for third party
promoters and fits into our business model.
"On the one hand we provide fund administration for third parties
and on the other hand we provide retail funds for the market. Weve
built our retail arm very strongly and today VFMs assets under
management are in the region of USD465 million. More than that, if you
look at our fund range today, nearly half are third party funds. So
were carrying administration for our funds and at the same time
were providing fund administration for a growing number of third
"The Maltese market still holds a great deal of potential and we
will keep rolling out funds that we believe offer opportunities for
the market, which we have been doing successfully.
"But for the time being we are building our core competence in
the bond market and this has been done extremely well. Despite the obvious
difficulties of the equity market last year, our suite of products are
relatively stable for two reasons: in the bond market we have gone predominantly
for investment grade bonds and, secondly, they provide a reasonable
rate of return."
economy, BoV and beyond
Bank of Valletta Chairman Joseph F.X. Zahra speaks about the state
of the economy and BoVs recent successes in its drives for internationalisation
and Maltas potential as a financial services centre.
Zahra begins, "Lets start off with one very valid point -
never has Maltas openness as an economy been tested as it has
over these last years. We now have a situation in which there are no
longer any forms of protectionism in terms of trade although there are
still a few restrictions in terms of capital movement.
"What we have today is undoubtedly an open economy and this openness
is being tested within a very difficult environment where the international
economy is at a very low ebb and, for the first time after so many years,
we are hearing talk of deflation, even in Germany Europes
"Knowing that Malta is highly reliant on the international scene,
this type of international environment would definitely impact the Islands,
which it has done over the last two years.
"I believe, even within this challenging international context,
that the economy has been pretty resilient in terms of trade, where
we have seen slight improvements over these last months, and even in
tourism, which one would have expected to have been hit much harder
than it has been.
"As to how these ailments could be remedied, answering this question
would require an entire interview in its own right, but there are two
very valid points that must be mentioned.
"The first is that we need to think more and more of a strategic
orientation for this country. We have been working very hard in acceding
to Europe and with all its implications. Now, however, we need to have
a stronger, clearer strategic orientation as to what form the Maltese
economy will take in the coming five to ten years.
"This strategic orientation will also have to be based on a diversification
of sectors. We need to consider what the GDP contributions of sectors
such as financial services, tourism and manufacturing will be in the
"This diversification would definitely help in increasing our resilience
while we face these changing international scenarios. I think we have
to be more forthcoming in terms of whats being expected from the
various sectors and how these sectors would interrelate, ensuring that
none of these sectors have a negative impact on any other sector."
And on Maltas potential as a regional centre for financial services:"I
think that Maltas entry into the European Union has enhanced its
potential as a financial services centre. Any financial centres
success is based on its reputation, its credibility and to which international
forum it attaches its name.
"Maltas major advantage as a financial services centre, and
I want to emphasise this, would not be any fiscal incentives offered
but would instead come from the inherent advantages the country has.
One advantage is its strategic location on a geographical basis, but
there is also the Maltese human resources element. Were dealing
with people who have been living in an environment in which financial
services are already at an advanced stage. Going back in the past we
can cite the contribution Barclays gave when it had occupied a strong
position in Malta in the 50s and 60s. This had also created a cadre
of people who have inherited a strong tradition in the financial services
sector. "Of course there is also the language issue and I must
stress that we shouldnt simply be looking at the English language,
which is of course the business worlds lingua franca, but we have
to also ensure we improve our skills in other languages as well. Using
our fluency in the Italian language would particularly help to attract
the Italian market and fluency in French, German or Arabic would also
help in giving the Islands a competitive advantage as a financial services
"I must of course also mention the countrys information and
communications infrastructure. I think the large investments that have
been made by corporations, particularly by Maltacom, over the past years
in ensuring a state-of-the-art infrastructure is an important ingredient
that contributes largely to Maltas development in this respect."
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