National post-pandemic Strategy: How do we sustain business and employment, drive a strong recovery


* Malta will facilitate business investment in Malta and Gozo, alongside government spending, to spur activities that drive competitiveness, quality, transformation and sustainable growth. We will foster a ‘can do’ business approach and support openness to international business and new niches.

* Malta will refocus and integrate education, labour and economic policy to underpin social and economic revival, transformation, innovation, wellbeing and sustainable growth.

* Malta will accelerate green economic transition and investment as a focal point in Malta’s plan towards carbon neutrality by 2050; progress the UN’s sustainable development goals; foster a circular economy; and implement the EU Green Deal in order to change mindsets and deliver new green jobs and innovation.

* Malta will channel government resources and mainstream policy to drive innovation and focus on outcomes. We will address critical blockers that hamper innovation and accelerate private enterprise in start-ups, as well as industry-driven R&D and knowledge clusters.

The National post-pandemic Strategy published last month seeks to answer three main questions by proposing 114 different and distinct initiatives.  Today, we will focus on the second question: How do we sustain business and employment and drive a strong recovery?

It is a fact that unprecedented levels of Government financial support kept many companies afloat and thousands of workers employed throughout the pandemic.   The timely action by the Government was praised by the social partners and the business community.  Now is the time to help businesses restart, restructure and transform operations to a more sustainable model, enabled by the adoption of digital and clean technologies.

The national post-pandemic strategy seeks to ensure that our country embraces this transition by developing programmes that guide and support businesses and workers to get future-ready.   This will happen by refocusing and integrating education, labour and economic policy, modernising educational curricula and driving reskilling and upskilling programmes to equip our current and future workforce with the 21st-century skills required to unlock higher-paid and value-adding jobs.

We must succeed in overcoming the challenges triggered by skill gaps and shortages: if we manage to conquer this confront, we can unleash a better Malta, a stronger economy and a future full of opportunities for our future generations.

Policy and investment must underpin an innovation agenda which prioritises solving concrete problems that matter to Maltese society and delivers clear outcomes utilizing a mission-based approach.

In the months I have been directly involved in the R&I sector I can vouch about the crucial role that innovation plays for a stronger economy.  The national post-pandemic strategy is clear and direct in its aims: to foster public-private collaboration and work closely with industry to develop specialist R&D and knowledge clusters and educational partnerships with key foreign direct investment (FDI) companies.   

Furthermore, Malta will facilitate business investment across all sectors of the economy and channel funding into start-ups that can rapidly scale and sell to the global market.   As the strategy itself explains, the appetite is certainly there: a 2020 study of Malta’s younger generations found that 60% of 16 to 24-year-olds (Gen-Z) would rather be entrepreneurs than employees, compared with just 39% of 25 to 39-year-olds (Millennials).

Innovation is that catalyst which, through talent and opportunities, creates solutions or services that cure maladies, bolster businesses and stimulate new jobs and wealth.

Creating a robust ecosystem of R&I, however important and crucial, is not enough.  A progressive economy can only be built upon an environmentally responsible foundation. The post-pandemic strategy is very clear and ambitious in so far as the “green revolution” that we as a country need to do is concerned.

In my view the post-pandemic strategy is a unique opportunity to embrace a national effort towards Malta’s green economic transition.  At the heart of this transition is the road towards achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 through a specialized Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS).

Of course, there is a long list of challenges which present themselves as obstacles in our noble efforts to reduce emissions.  Our size is what it is, we do not have carbon sink potential, we lack economies of scale and we pretty much rely on imported technology. However, we are confident that the efforts of individual sectors can contribute to the national carbon neutrality target by 2050, in line with Europe’s ambition to become the first continent to achieve this status.

The European Green Deal, which arguably is inspired by AOC-driven efforts on the other side of the Atlantic, presents the framework by which EU Member States, including Malta, can achieve the green transition and reach such goals. It focuses on green growth and the efficient use of resources by moving to a clean, circular economy, while simultaneously restoring biodiversity and curbing pollution.

As a matter of fact Malta ranks 32nd out of 166 countries in the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDG) index.  Following the transition to gas for power generation, areas for improvement include renewable energy generation, particularly from offshore, and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the transport and other sectors.

Further areas of environmental concern include sustainable land use, responsible production and consumption, and making our cities and communities sustainable. The area of affordable and clean energy is marked as achieved, thanks to the government’s initiatives to decarbonise the grid and invest in renewables; nevertheless, Malta is committing to further action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the share of renewable energy.

As we know a substantial chunk of the national program investments through the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility will support climate change objectives.  The national post-pandemic strategy points at transport, energy and buildings as the three areas that produce the largest share of greenhouse gases on the island. 

In this context, it is expected that significant levels of local private investment will be mobilized to achieve this aims and for sure, green finance, carbon tech (we have an opportunity to leverage our small size to pilot carbon tech solutions), bio-conservation and eco-tourism all fantastic opportunities to develop our innovation capabilities, improve wellbeing and create sustainable jobs.

I look forward to the day where, through the institution of a circular economy, resources are valued and waste reduced.

This is how Malta will sustain business and employment and drive a strong recovery.

 

 

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