19 January 2005

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Malta Enterprise and the small and medium enterprises

Last week’s editorial about Malta Enterprise led to no reaction or feedback from institution. Such is the state of affairs at Malta Enterprise.
But despite the lack of reaction from officialdom, there was feedback through our website from companies involved in setting up shop in Malta and what was relayed to us amounted to horror stories with Malta Enterprise as protagonists.
One particular angle that warrants and indeed begs investigation is the incubation centre at Kordin, a sordid-looking place, which houses a mere 15 or so companies.
The complex houses small and medium sized companies offering them reasonable rents. But most companies are attracted to the complex thanks to the fiscal measures on offer, if one is accepted for residency by Malta Enterprise.
A number of individuals who have taken advantage of this offer and have been accepted have noted the following hurdles:
Namely’ the services on offer by Malta Enterprise at the complex are restricted and limited. The normal reception and office facilities are linked to the whims of government employees. After 4 p.m. the door is shut, the reception is closed and the office facilities are no more. One must recall that Malta Enterprise applies government working hours, pays its 100 or so staff private sector wages and drives an administration with the impetus of the civil service.
The incubation centre is hosted by Malta Enterprise and is organised by officials who perform in a purely hierarchical organisation, leaving little room for flexibility. They demand complex business plans from the applicants, effectively creating red tape instead of reducing it.
Applicants have spoken to The Malta Financial & Business Times of unbelievable discord between the local banks and Malta Enterprise, which traditionally guarantees 50% or more of the business loan and the banks the rest. Local banks, in fact, are not responsive and do not appear to be in acceptance when Malta Enterprise issues letters of intent for applicants who have passed their scrutiny.
The situation is further aggravated by the disclosed philosophy that investors and creators must provide collateral for their ideas.
This situation is further aggravated by the idea that investment which is worthy and notable should bring with it opportunities for new employment – jobs, that is.
But unfortunately the new economy does not provide for mass employment.
Little have the politicians understood this, that this is the new economy and not the old economy.

The new economy is about ideas and venture capital. Not tomato cans and jeans.
For our sins, economic revival is in the hands of Malta Enterprise, it lacks not only leadership but also the ability to develop programmes that encourage entrepreneurs and innovative business ideas.
In the coming weeks, we intend to reveal the names of those companies that have attempted to set base in Malta and have instead opted for other countries due to the difficulties they discovered in Malta.
It is a sad story, and one that calls for urgent attention from Malta Enterprise, which administers the policy, and Austin Gatt, the Minister responsible for captaining the drive to increase investment.

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
The Malta Financial & Business Times, Newsworks Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann
Tel: (356) 21382741-3, 21382745-6 | Fax: (356) 21385075 | E-mail