By Karl Schembri
Malta’s abysmal record in meeting the economic targets set by the Lisbon Strategy is seriously worrying business and industry representatives, who say they see no concrete measures yet forthcoming from the government.
Industry representatives speaking to The Malta Financial and Business Times complained of “a complete lack of vision” from the government in creating competitiveness and developing human resources.
Malta placed last among EU member and candidate countries in its progress towards reaching the Lisbon Strategy targets, with the only positive points gained in the field of information technology.
Maltese enterprise is hindered by massive subsidies, female participation remains the lowest in Europe and young Maltese people are the least to develop their skills.
“If we’re unable to meet some of the Lisbon Strategy targets, as I’m sure we are, government should at least set its own targets and state how it intends to achieve them,” one industry source said.
The Malta Chamber of Small and Medium Enterprises spells out its stance, “The Maltese economy is not using all its potential and the inflation we have is the result of extra expenses imposed by the government. Malta was meant to take the measures needed to embark on an economic and social strategy that would place EU countries as the most developed in the world. These measures are in short supply in our country, and some of them are taking us in the opposite direction.”
Federation of Industry President Adrian Bajada insists that government will remain unable to meet these targets unless it restarts its negotiations to reach a new social pact.
The Malta Council for Economic and Social Development has just started discussing the Lisbon Strategy, although business representatives complain that there is nobody in the driving seat when it comes to reaching set economic targets.
They say the Competitiveness Cabinet Committee, chaired by Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, is yet to yield any tangible results, and criticise Employment Minister Louis Galea for failing to take the lead in stimulating human resources development.
Somehow confirming the Cabinet Committee’s inadequacy, Gonzi announced last month that he will be changing some committee members.
“My government is taking this strategy very seriously and in the coming weeks I will be proposing to the Cabinet that Malta’s progress and targets with regard to the Lisbon Strategy will be strictly monitored by the Competitiveness Cabinet Committee,” the prime minister said. “I will also be proposing changes to the composition of this committee.”
Asked how the Education and Employment Minister intended to reach some of the most important Lisbon Strategy targets that fall under his responsibility, a spokesman insisted that “much is being done in education”. Asked to be more specific, he told The Malta Financial and Business Times to send its questions on the issue, but failed to respond by the time this newspaper went to print last night.
Malta ranked at the bottom of Europe’s list as regards the improvement of skills in the number of citizens aged between 20 and 24.
Even Parliament has not yet discussed the Lisbon Strategy targets. European Commission President José Manuel Barroso is pushing all EU member states to set up parliamentary committees to monitor their governments‚ performance according to the Lisbon benchmarks.