Malta excels in SME policies
The ministry for which I am responsible was busy organising two parallel events in joint collaboration with the European Commission and the Malta Business Bureau. They were two significant events that took place concurrently and in the same venue in order to allow networking between the two.
On the one hand, upon my invitation, the Directorate General for Enterprise and Industry within the European Commission, held the first meeting outside Brussels of the Network of SME Envoys.
SME envoys are representatives of small- and medium-sized enterprises from each of the 27 member states of the European Union. On a general level, the role of the SME envoys emanates from the need felt at EU level to better implement the Small Business Act in each of the respective countries. Malta was the first country to enact the Small Business Act and, here, our country was already considered best practice.
On the more specific level, the SME envoys are the interface between the European Commission and the SMEs in each of their respective countries. They are in a better position to represent the particular needs of their businesses while promoting the concept of Think Small First at a national level and gathering experience and knowledge from other countries on entrepreneurship and SME policy.
The majority of these SME envoys are either ministers or junior ministers and so it humbled me to hear the other SME envoys commending profusely Malta on its achievements in this sector, on our policy for small and medium enterprises, especially that relating to access to finance and reduction of bureaucracy. Most of them wished to obtain more information on the schemes and initiatives which this government developed over the past four years, especially MicroInvest, MicroCredit, Business First, and our judicious use of EU regional development funds, among others.
This success is not to be taken for granted and it is thanks to the unstinting efforts of this government that results are being achieved. It is not by chance that Malta has registered higher employment rates than the EU average. Neither it is by chance that Malta has continued to reduce unemployment rates, placing the fifth best within the EU, in particular due to the growth of SMEs over the last four years.
This goes to show that the government is implementing the right measures and the right policy to develop a fertile economic climate. The Maltese government, especially through the Ministry of Finance, the Economy and Investment, is doing a sterling job to create an attractive economic climate that encourages investment and business growth. Indeed, I salute and commend publicly the wise economic policy my good friend and colleague Tonio Fenech is nurturing and implementing. It is precisely this economic policy that is generating the ideal investment climate, both local and foreign.
These signals are real and truly encouraging and it is not surprising that the European Commission’s vice president, Antonio Tajani, repeatedly referred to Malta’s policy on small and medium enterprises as “best practice”, hence an example which other member states are encouraged to follow or emulate. In other words, Mr Tajani told other countries to look at what the Maltese government is doing for this sector. Incidentally, a minister of a northern European country told me that we are a “role model” in SME policy.
Concurrently, the Ministry for Small Business, together with the Malta Business Bureau, co-organised for the first time a business seminar featuring enterprise experts and officials from Libya, Tunisia and Egypt to discuss the business opportunities in each of these three countries following the Arab-Spring. This was a golden opportunity for Maltese businesses to establish contacts and business ventures.
In addition, there existed also a possibility for exchange of knowledge between the two events, for Malta to act as a bridge between the North African region and the countries of the EU.
These two events, both first timers on different levels, were received positively and comments on both were very encouraging, providing us with the energy to develop similar events in the future.
Malta has huge potential on the international level even in the small business sector. With a steady pace we continue to serve our self employed and small businesses.
Dr Azzopardi is Minister for Fair Competition, Small Business and Consumers.