Mr J.F.X Zahra's article on Newsbook.
There is always a long way and a short way to arrive at your destination, even if our destination is economic stability that translates into social wellbeing and development. One way is short-termism, when results are expected to be achieved within the shortest of time, take the Individual Investors’ Programme. An ingenious way of filling the gap. The issue with short-termism is that looks at immediate results and not at wider outcomes, such as the impact it has on national identity, our relations with the European Union, the double standards when treating other immigrants reaching our shores. On economic grounds it works on the principle of the “end justifies the means”, where the multiplier or accelerator effect of the consumption or investment of new wealthy citizens will be reinvested in education, health and infrastructure. There are underlying ethical principles that should dictate economic policy. I was always unhappy with the proliferation of the i-gaming sector in Malta for the same reason.
It was the long way that was taken by various administrations since the 1960s with the establishment of the Malta Development Corporation in 1968, The Malta Tourism Board in 1967 and the Malta International Business Authority in 1988. These with their successive evolutions were throughout the years the catalysts in the development of a sustainable and diversified economy which was so vital in protecting the country from the onslaught of global financial and economic crises. The long way to economic stability is based on the building of a physical, educational and social systems infrastructure that creates the necessary foundation for economic growth. This of course needs to reflect the aspirations of all sectors of society in the reality of the world of today. The continuous investment in telecommunications and eco-friendly energy moves in parallel with investments in education, health and social systems. We have seen since Malta’s independence the growth of a sustainable manufacturing sector, quality tourist accommodation, information and technology, finance and investment, shipping and transportation.
The long economic way requires however that we do not stop in sending the right signals to what is truly sustainable and achievable through values such as that of hard work. Some examples: higher investment in all sectors of education particularly in primary and tertiary level. Primary education needs a thorough overhaul with more emphasis on life skills, particularly on values such as creativity, achievement, self- confidence and self-esteem. This can be done with the institution of residential teacher educational programmes which work simultaneously on values and relationship building. On the tertiary education level we need stronger competition ideally from quality international universities or specialised colleges. I will never stop clamouring for a prestigious business school that runs regular executive training programmes in Malta. The standard of senior executives, particularly of those who have not been exposed to the sharp-end of business life abroad, is still low when benchmarked on a global level.
The long way is based on the development of entrepreneurship and the value of setting up new businesses and new initiatives. This works jointly with higher investment in research and development in all sectors of the economy. This has to take foremost priority – upmost on the list of initiatives with creativity and design villages, research and development centres in sciences, arts and humanities. Creativity needs to spin off new designs in handicrafts, performance art, furniture and artefacts, and in architecture. An outward looking view needs to be encouraged in our professional services sector with law, accountancy, architectural, engineering, business advisory firms venturing overseas, and looking at markets in Africa and the Middle East.
It is a long way in which persons evolve and mature in innovative and adventurous ways to reach their personal ambitions. This means however that we must have our ambitions and self-respect in the first place. Malta needs to work much more on this.