As president of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry it is my pleasure to welcome the law providing for the regulation and administration of free zones in Malta, which was pioneered by the Chamber and passed through Parliament recently.

It is with satisfaction and pride that I note how the Chamber, through its ambitious members, has worked tirelessly towards this goal, with a view to fostering economic development in logistics and the relevant generation of employment in Malta, which we have witnessed growing by leaps and bounds over the last years.

Our Chamber has believed in the logistics sector for a number of years. 

In fact, back in August 2016, it set up a specific committee tasked with dedicating its attention to this growing sector and which is still attracting steady interest.

The logistics business section quickly became a proactive force that represented the sector as it provided a unified voice to propose ideas and solutions for structured growth. The free zones law is one such idea, which has found fertile ground with the authorities and swiftly gained traction.

The law provides for the regulation and administration of free zones with a view to open a new market that has been missing in the Maltese economic landscape so far. 

We are proud to say that we have been there, hand in hand with our businesses and the authorities, in creating this brand-new market, from the very start.

The Chamber’s logistics business section has been extremely active in lobbying with the government for the creation of a logistics hub since its inception. 

This capitalises on Malta’s ability to supply both Europe and North African markets with goods being sourced from the east and west at a much faster pace than neighbouring ports. This would, ultimately, have unrivalled turnaround times for adding value to goods and then re-exporting to other regions.

With the expertise of its members at its disposal, and the collaboration of HSBC Bank Malta, our Chamber explored the prospects of Malta becoming a hub for logistics.

Presenting a detailed study to the government, we underlined the immense potential for such a sector. 

Our research showed that our logistics sector could contribute directly up to €770 million to Malta’s GDP. A successful logistics park could create another 9,000 jobs and attract up to 150 companies to our shores. 

The indirect contribution generated by such a venture could, in turn, add up to 120 per cent of the direct contribution.

Malta currently ranks 56th in the World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index. 

Our studies have shown that the country has the capability of achieving a much higher ranking.

Research shows that the logistics sector could contribute directly up to €770 million to Malta’s GDP

Our arguments were well received and the government took on the Chamber’s vision for the sector as its own.

This venture will create new synergies between the free zone operator and the Malta Freeport and generate an increase in cargo traffic. The same with Valletta Harbour for roll on-roll off cargo and Malta International Airport for airfreight, which will all benefit from this new niche.

At this juncture, I cannot but express my genuine gratitude to all who worked on this project starting with my predecessor, Frank Farrugia who lobbied the government to see the value of such a proposition. 

My gratitude also goes to our logistics business section, expertly led by Robert Aquilina and his team on the committee, who were a driving force behind our achievement today.

I also wish to thank our political class, both the government and the Opposition, which rose above the political fog and pulled on the same rope to pass this legislation through Parliament. 

I cannot but mention the excellent work done by Malta Enterprise, which worked together with the Ministry of the Economy and the Chamber throughout this process.

Last but certainly not least, a special mention to Customs, which will play an important role in the success of the Free zones Act. 

Customs will be responsible for monitoring warehouses and ascertain that all goods within them are all destined for re-export. Indeed, their support is most appreciated.

Now that we have the legal framework in place, I think I speak for all our members involved in this sector that we cannot wait to start getting our hands dirty in this new and exciting niche of business development.

As a Chamber, I assure the government that our logistics business section will continue to provide its expertise and well-intended opinions in the area to make another roaring success of this great opportunity for Malta’s economy and society at large.

David Xuereb is president of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry.

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

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