Government to assist local businesses to 'think global' - Cardona

Labour government to ensure national economic growth by improving competitiveness.

Economy and Investment Minister Chris Cardona
Economy and Investment Minister Chris Cardona

Economy and Investment Minister Chris Cardona said that the new Labour government plans to ensure national economic growth by improving the competitiveness of the Maltese economy through the internationalization of local businesses.

He said that to this end, the administration would be, for the coming years, focusing especially on "encouraging local businesses to think global, and to internationalize their businesses through the development of joint ventures and strategic alliances with international partners."

Cardona was speaking during HSBC's launch of the 'Trade For Growth' initiative, at the Malta Maritime Museum, which was attended by Cardona, the bank's CEO Mark Watkison, and Head of Commercial Banking Michel Cordina, and also Nationalist MP and former Finance Minister Tonio Fenech.

In his address, Cardona stressed that there is much that Malta stands to gain as a country in terms of competitiveness if local business start breaking into the international market.

Cardona said that this can be achieved through the development of innovative products and services which can address niche demands in international markets.

He however warned that certain factors "crucial" for this success are currently lacking,  pointing to trade and equity financing.

"There is currently no formal system in Malta whey entrepreneurs or businesses which have innovative proposals might obtain access to equity financing for formal development of their proposals, " he noted.

He pledged that his ministry would be launching services aimed at "facilitating the processes for Maltese firms to become private-equity-ready."

Cardona added that the Finance Ministry would also be working hand in hand with Malta's Foreign Affairs Ministry and its diplomatic corps so that a fully fledged network is devised that can serve as a platform for local businesses to tap into international markets.

"Our role over coming years is to further transform and position Malta as a hub for international business," Cardona said.

Speaking at the launch, bank CEO Mark Watkinson said that the Maritime Museum was a "great place" to launch the initiative, pointing out that international trade is a critical competent not only of Malta's history, but also of its current economy and its future prosperity.

He said that research shows that global trade is expected to grow by as much as 86% by the year 2026, and noted that Malta has the third largest port in the Mediterranean and the tenth largest port in the European Union.

He argued that Malta's location affords it a unique natural competitive edge in this sector, particularly is position as a "bride between Europe and North Africa."

Adding that Malta is also located "on the doorstep" of one of the most popular international trade routes of the region, he insisted that Malta is perfectly positioned to "build a significant competitive edge based on international trade."

Also speaking during the event, HSBC's Commercial Banking Head Michel Cordina said that HSBC is instrumental in helping local businesses grow, and said that HSBC "is proud that we have a solid baking model with a capacity to provide for local operators."

He added that HSBC is committed to "working closely" with Malta Enterprise to develop ways to bring further foreign investment to Malta. "We want to put Malta firmly on the business opportunities map," he said.

Through 'Malta Trade for Growth,' HSBC is offering a number of incentives such as the waiving of the fee related to the first documentary letter of credit for those customers that are new to HSBC' Malta's Trade Finance.

In addition, a 20% discount will be provided on the opening and advising fees on documentary letters of credit to or from emerging markets.

Other incentives relate to the waiving of the administrative fee for finance against trade export or import facilities for trade with emerging markets, as well as discounts on Receivable Finance and preferential rates on Foreign Exchange.