PRESS RELEASE BY THE MINISTRY FOR THE ECONOMY, INVESTMENT AND SMALL BUSINESS: Speech by Minister for the Economy, Investment and Small Business Dr Chris Cardona at the “Boost your Business” event hosted by Facebook

Good morning everyone,

On behalf of the Maltese Government, I am very pleased to welcome you to what I hope, is the first of many events we shall be organizing together with Facebook.

I’d like to formally take this opportunity to thank the Facebook team for visiting our island for their efforts and collaboration . . . this event has been months in the making.

It’s great to have you all here.

And it’s great to have so many participants. Your interest in boosting your businesses is heartening. You, the participants in this room, are the movers and shakers of our economy.

It is down to these resilient SMEs that Malta managed to overcome the economic crisis of 2008 and go from strength to strength to what we have today; a climate where we have the highest employment growth rate in the EU and the leading economic growth rate, equal to triple the average growth rate of the Eurozone.

These results are in no small part down to our high quality, dynamic and innovative private sector.

And this Government will continue supporting, and working hand-in hand with the private sector to create the right climate for growth and innovation to flourish.

In four years in office we have carried out serious reforms, introduced a cut in electricity tariffs for businesses this year, which has improved the bottom line of all companies, reforms in tax and benefits that make work more attractive and welfare dependency less of an option, reduced bureaucracy, introduced universal free childcare and increased our range of schemes that cater for businesses, with particular assistance to start-ups.

We know there is so much more we can do. However, so can you.

Even though we are gaining great results, our businesses have so much untapped potential.

And that’s partly why I know our country has peaked Facebook’s interest.

Malta is a leader in how we use the internet.

We are a European leader in fast broadband coverage and in the quality of eGoverment services. Just last week we launched 20 new mobile apps that make Government services and information available 24/7.

Thanks to concerted efforts from the Malta Communications Authority, by the end of the year we are set to be the first wifi state in the world.

The Maltese are also leaders in their online activities.

We are the leading country in how much we share content online. 72% of Maltese use social networks to share once a week, 55% of us use a social media everyday to share pictures, articles, videos and movies. This is an impressive figure when compared to the EU average of 37%.

Social media, in particular Facebook, translates well to the Maltese culture and eco-system on an unprecedented level. Our communal frame of mind lends itself well to making connections online.

On the flipside, there are numerous studies showing that there is huge room for improvement among Maltese businesses on how they take full advantage of digital tools to organize and promote their company and to gain access to new markets.

The findings speak for themselves, but they don’t have to, we are all online consumers and we know that our businesses do not scratch up.

Maltese business online presence is poor. Websites are not updated, with only 27% featuring prices and a mere 3% listing stock availability.

Maltese SMEs are missing out on a local population that uses the internet every day to buy stuff that is four points higher than the EU average.

The discrepancy between Maltese social media activity and businesses online presence is an untapped opportunity.

I know, at least I hope, I’m not the only one where I remember a time not so long ago when the internet wasn’t a standard fixture in every house.

The internet is the biggest cultural shift we have experienced since the industrial revolution. The way we communicate, travel, consume, pick out our restaurants has changed radically.

And this in just twenty years.

Our country is not the same it was four years ago and more so for our economy.I hope your business model is not either.

Businesses cannot still be operating the same way they were five years ago, let alone ten years ago.

So even though resistance is abundant, adopting to digital and social media is essential for business survival.

And Maltese businesses can adapt so quickly. Our size is our strength in that we can adapt quickly to trends in the market, we know our clientele personally and we can see trends taking over.

The key to any business is relevance.

You cannot choose to opt out. Facebook’s influence and growth is unmatched, with Instagram a close second. And today you will find out why.

They have consistently reworked and made the most out of their platform. From automatic video clip streaming, to live coverage, Facebook sets the trend and we follow.

Facebook helping your business is not a vague myth, it is a clearly documented reality.

Statistics and global trends show that we will increasingly keep on giving our attention and time to our mobile phones.

With so much information available, attention is fleeting, and worldwide trends in the publication and television industry show that consumer attention is now directed at our phones and on demand.

For this digital engagement there must be a business strategy encompassing both the Facebook and Instagram platforms.

Whether big or small, businesses have to adapt to the reality we are in today.

This may be our businesses’ biggest problem, but it is also our biggest opportunity.

We cannot underestimate the cultural shift in communication.

Innovation will not wait up for me and you, or for our country. It’s a force we have to embrace.

This Government will continue to take an offence rather than a defense approach and continue to strive for us to be leaders in this field.

We will continue to implement the national digital strategy and as part of the Maltese Presidency of the EU Council, Valletta will be hosting the Digital Assembly in June, which is an opportunity for stakeholders to debate, take stock and look ahead at how Europe and how its partners around the world are preparing for this digital transformation.

I urge all interested parties to take part.

We will continue to create opportunities for better ICT skills and organizing events like today.

The Government is not fighting this fight alone in creating awareness on this issue.

This was the grounds on which we decided to collaborate on this event with our very valuable partner – the Chamber of Commerce.

I would like to take this opportunity to formally thank the next speaker, the President of the Chamber for his work in this regard, especially considering today will be his last day as President.

Thanks Anton you have been a great collaborator.

Before I conclude, I would like to reinstate how the Government’s goals are not only of social justice and prosperity, but the empowering of our businesses to be leaders and reach beyond our shores. Despite our size, our country has never shied away of pushing beyond its weight, and our business shouldn’t either.

So once again, I thank you for being here. I am sure you will have very stimulating and fruitful discussions at the workshops.

I look forward to seeing how you will employ these tips in your business models.

Thank you.

Source: Government of Malta