The development of the former Marsa Shipbuilding site into a state-of-the-art Maritime Hub should be viewed as part of a holistic Government’s strategy to activate the Maltese economy. Moreover, specifically this project is part of a strategic roadmap that the Prime Minister, together with his Ministers, has developed.
This point is important because major Government projects cannot be viewed in isolation. Project corporate success may only be achieved if a particular project supports the holistic strategic direction of Government. Hence, the first element to project success is a coordinated plan on a national level. It is this coordinated plan that has guided the launching of the casino concessions for Malta and Gozo; the land reclamation project; the cruise liner terminal and marina project for Gozo; the simplification of procedures (better known as business process reengineering); and many other projects that are currently in pipeline and which have not been made public as yet.
A Government’s strategy or roadmap is not a fantasy (it is not built on air). A government does not decide that it wants a Maritime Hub and so be it. A strategy must be based and formulated on a realistic foundation. Hence, the issue is: What is a realistic foundation based upon?
A realistic foundation, simply put, is based on Malta’s strengths. Hence, the first step is to identify and define Malta’s strengths. Once these attributes or elements that make Malta strong are determined and evaluated, they can be developed and taken full advantage of. On the other hand, potential investors will be asking themselves: Why should I invest in Malta?
Therefore, determining one’s strengths is not a one-sided affair; potential investors are conducting a similar exercise. It is for this precise reason that a strategy must be based on a realistic foundation.
EXPLOITING MALTA’S STRENGTHS
The issue now becomes: What are Malta’s strengths in the context of a maritime hub? This is a relatively easy issue to resolve. According to a detailed assessment, the following are some of the key strengths that are considered directly applicable to the maritime hub project:
- Geographical location of Malta (middle of the Mediterranean Sea)
- The land area for the Maritime Hub (175,000 sq meters of prime real estate surrounded by a protected harbour)
- Malta’s climate. Malta’s work force is fully productive, there are virtually no working days lost due to climatic conditions
- Tourism is already an established industry
- Government stability based on a truly democratic system
- Financial stability with a very strong banking sector
- EU membership offers investment security against nationalisation
- State-of-the-art communication facilities that link local businesses instantaneously with the rest of the world, providing a level playing field with major competitors
- Malta is a safe country in comparison with many developed countries
- Malta enjoys a high level of industrial peace (virtually no strikes with responsible and highly co-operative trade unions)
- Malta has a number of attractive incentives available from Malta Enterprise that are inline with EU directives
- Malta’s current tax regimes are very competitive with other EU countries
- High level of education at all levels (tertiary and vocational training through MCAST)
- High level of health care facilities that are comparable to major developed countries.
These and other strengths have evolved through the hard work of the Maltese people, the business sector, institutions, and successive Governments. However, it is important that we recognise them, exploit them and develop them further. Unfortunately, this has not always been the case. Projects, such as the Maritime Hub, should not be viewed in isolation but should be seen as part of a holistic governmental strategy that is built around our strengths.
MARITIME HUB PROJECT
First of all, Malta is already in a way a Maritime Hub. We have the Freeport, bunkering facilities, maritime school and other assorted maritime facilities. However, as stated previously, the maritime industry and related projects have developed in isolation, and not part of a wider national strategy. For instance, unlike Singapore, Malta’s current maritime facilities are dispersed (from Gzira to Birzebbugia). Furthermore, if the past and current maritime facilities were developed as part of a national strategy, their development would have been accelerated and extensively developed.
WHAT IS GOVERNMENT’S VISION FOR THE CURRENT MARITIME HUB PROJECT?
Firstly, the Maritime Hub project will be completely based on private sector investment. The project is intended to inject private sector capital investment into the Maltese economy, with no capital required from the Government. This objective is fully aligned with Government’s pro-business policy.
Secondly, investors will accept the responsibility to develop the facility to be run profitably (safeguarding created jobs) and in a way that ensures that government and those using the facilities are fully satisfied with the quality level of the services provided (thus ensuring repeat business). Thirdly, the services provided will be up to acceptable local regulatory and international standards and are aimed at assisting the development of the Maltese economy (hence fostering high quality services).
Fourthly, the project is to maximize the maritime industry value chain by making the maritime industry more competitive. Finally, the Government will be insisting with investors that the Maritime Hub is to abide by ‘green’ construction concepts. This means that buildings will consume less energy and generate less waste (ensuring a better environment for the community).
Government’s overall vision is to see that the Maritime Hub develops into a centre of excellence (high quality). Government would like to attract new value-added services, such as:
- Marina facilities: The development and maintenance of a marina including quays, berth, piers and necessary amenities and supporting services;
- Maritime vessels facilities: These include chandelling, modification, conversion and maintenance of yachts, super yachts, sea craft and other maritime vessels, amongst others;
- Ancillary facilities: These are non traditional facilities that offer high employment potential, for example:
o Ship management and agency;
o Ship broking;
o Ship financing;
o Maritime and mutual insurance; and
o Maritime legal and arbitration services.
- Innovation facilities: These are intended to foster:
o Research and development inmaritime and marine studies;
o Marine engineering;
o Maritime information technology; and
o Other ancillary academic maritime related sciences.
These are just a few ideas that Government is suggesting. However, it will be the maritime industry participants that will eventually make detailed submissions to Government based on their entrepreneurial vision for developing the maritime industry.
The points made during this article have highlighted the fact that the Government has a road map and the Maritime Hub project is just one part of this strategy. Hence, the Government has a realistic strategy in place for developing and expanding the Maltese Economy.
With few natural resources, Malta must capitalise on its strategic location; its sophisticated port facilities and deep ports;
and most importantly, its human capital. Combined with its other strengths, Malta can be further developed into a strategic centre for maritime business.
Finally, strong and suitable leadership is essential in initiating projects such as the Maritime Hub. The Ministry for the Economy, Investment and Small Business is lead by a young and dynamic Minister and an equally young and dynamic Parliamentary Secretary. This type of leadership ensures that a vibrant and rapid pace is maintained in the implementation of the Maritime Hub project and other projects undertaken by the Ministry.
WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS OF GOVERNMENT’S OVERALL VISION FOR THE MARITIME HUB PROJECT?
- Attracting private sector investment from local and overseas sources as an aid to economic development and expansion;
- Generating meaningful and fruitful employment for all levels of society. This project has the potential to generate high levels of jobs for blue and white collar workers. It also has the potential to generate high level jobs for technology workers;
- In support of the employment opportunities, there will be a growth in education, training and human capital development. One needs to emphasise that Malta’s biggest resource is its people;
- Generally, it will also mean the diversification of the Maltese economic basis for the benefit of current and future generations.
Dr. Emanuel Camilleri occupies the post of Director General (Strategy and Operations Support), Ministry of Finance. Emanuel has extensive local and overseas experience in information management applications, and holds academic qualifications in information management, accountancy, engineering and business management.