Can you provide a brief introduction to Malta Enterprise and tell us about Malta’s FDI portfolio?
Foreign direct investment has always been important for Malta’s economic development, although the industries that we sought to attract have changed throughout the years. New sectors have emerged, while existing industries in Malta have reengineered their activities to maintain and enhance their competitive edge. Today, we have a very diverse client base and host companies from a wide range of established and growing sectors, such as electronics, precision and mechanical engineering, automotive and aviation, pharma, medical devices and life sciences. The productive sector accounts for about 32% of our economy and is the main export contributor. The core function of Malta Enterprise has always been to promote and facilitate international investment in order to create employment with economic and social benefits. One of our priorities is to ensure that Malta continues to be one of the most welcoming locations in the world, both for existing clients as well as for new companies considering doing business in Malta. We also want to stay ahead in the future, and are actively looking at the ‘industries of tomorrow’ – sectors that are still in their infancy today and can mature in five to ten years’ time. Malta wants to offer job opportunities at all levels of skills, competencies and qualifications.
There is a very positive perception of the operation of the bigger German companies in Malta. What has cemented the relationship throughout the last three to four decades?
German investment represents one of the largest communities of FDI in Malta, and trade of industrial goods and services between the two countries amounts to €800 million annually. German-owned firms in Malta employ almost 3,000 workers in direct production. The bond between Malta and German companies has stood the test of time, and many of the companies that set up here decades ago are still operating on the island. German industry has certainly left a hallmark on the work ethic of the Maltese, as well as on the level of professionalism and efficiency of Malta-based companies, something which has proven to be an important factor in attracting additional operators to the island.
More countries than ever are seeking to attract foreign investment. What is Malta’s competitive edge?
Malta offers a competitive base that enables companies to be profitable. It is as simple as that, and we are doing our utmost to ensure that this remains the case. Electricity tariffs for businesses have been reduced and administrative charges have been lowered, while our social costs are contained at 10%. Our cost base is very stable and predictable, which gives investors long-term certainty. Our educational system produces good people: qualified, flexible, multi-skilled, quick to learn and English-speaking. Measures have also been implemented to attract foreign professionals to work in Malta, and we are constantly in dialogue with industry to ensure that our training and education programmes reflect their needs. I am confident that every foreign investor will comment positively on the skills of the Maltese workforce, as well as their capability to learn and acquire new competences.
“The bond between Malta and German companies has stood the test of time, and many of the companies that set up here decades ago are still operating on the island.”
Robotics and logistics are playing an increasingly important role in business today. How is Malta positioning itself in this regard?
Historically, Malta has excelled in the field of logistics, helped in no small part by our geographical location. Furthermore, our Grand Harbour has always been crucial to our economic success. Malta’s small size means that we can move goods around easily and quickly within the country, as it only takes minutes to travel from the airport and seaports to the industrial zones and vice versa upon being cleared through the streamlined customs procedures. Offering excellent opportunities for customs warehousing as well as supply chain management, Malta is also an ideal location for companies wanting to ship varying quantities of products to many different countries, enabling suppliers and customers to work on a ‘just in time’ basis. Our geographical position also means that we are an ideal hub for non-EU companies keen to enter the EU market, as well as for EU companies seeking to tap markets in North Africa or the Middle East. When it comes to robotics, Malta is developing new knowledge and skills to add to our already strong technical base. In fact, the local advanced automotive components industry has already adopted robotic processes. I believe that more manufacturing sub-sectors will embrace robotics in their technology processes, and that Malta is well positioned as a place that could facilitate interesting synergies and partnerships between firms developing industrial robotics as well as companies exploring and introducing advanced automation.
What would you like Malta to be known for in a few years’ time?
I would like us to continue to be known for efficiency and quality – centres of excellence in target niches, the home of top class names in technology and in production. We want our productive sector to continue to give a solid contribution to our GDP, to our economy, to our society.