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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Growing up in Malta

Martin Scicluna, chairman of Deloitte, one of Britain’s biggest accountancy firms, has just been cleared of wrongdoing for not reporting the misconduct of a subordinate. Margareta Pagano reports in the UK's Sunday Times on the case dismissed by the tribunal and takes a close look at Scicluna's Maltese background:

Martin Scicluna is a happy man. The chairman of Deloitte, one of Britain’s biggest accountancy firms, has just found out that the cloud hanging over him has proved to be a mirage. Last week, Scicluna was told that the complaints brought against him and Deloitte by the Joint Disciplinary Scheme have been dismissed by the tribunal that heard the case..

What is touching about talking to Scicluna is the way his children appear in his conversation in a way that rarely happens with businessmen. Any spare time he has is devoted to them — football, jazz, opera, forcing them to trudge for hours around Rome to take in the culture, or cooking breakfast for his son as part of a lost bet. He has looked after them since his divorce six years ago. All that culture seems to have made an impression on the eldest, Mark, who is studying the history of art at Bristol University..

Scicluna grew up with four sisters in a close Catholic family in Malta and this may account for some of this warmth. His father was director of Malta’s ports, so he was raised in a lively, cosmopolitan atmosphere. “There was often a new ship to visit in the harbour and a Russian or Chinese captain to dinner. Malta is at the crossroads but it’s very small; everyone has to leave to see more of the world,” he said, even though the Maltese have just rated themselves the happiest people in the world.

Scicluna left the country at 15 when he won a British Council scholarship. He came to Britain to study at Berkhamsted School, instantly falling in love with the school and the country. Today he has a grand country home not far from the school in Hertfordshire. The engaging Scicluna does have one weakness: he has been an Arsenal supporter since he came to north London from Leeds 30 years ago, and rarely misses a home game...
Scicluna worried for reputation

Monday, February 27, 2006

The Quest for Malta

Sacha Molitorisz writes about a documentary that demonstrates why Malta was known by 1942 as 'the most-bombed place on earth'. From The Sydney Morning Herald:

With the frightening might of the Axis of Evil (Mk I) bearing down upon it during World War II, Malta mustered its entire air force. That air force amounted to just three aircraft: a trio of World War I biplanes with holes patched with newspapers. Like Switzerland, Malta would have preferred to bypass the war altogether.

Unfortunately, the British colony had strategic significance. Near Sicily, the island was the key to the battles raging in Europe and Africa. If the Allies controlled Malta, they could launch effective raids on the supply ships feeding Rommel's troops in North Africa via the stretch of the Mediterranean known as Suicide Alley; meanwhile, they could pester Hitler and Mussolini on the Continent. Italy and Germany knew this, with the result that by 1942 Malta was known as the most-bombed place on earth.

This is an eye-opening and well-compiled documentary about a lesser-known theatre of World War II, blending original footage with computer animation and the testimony of German, Italian and Maltese survivors. As one says, it's a classic tale of David versus Goliath.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Rosamunde Pilcher's Malta

Claire Abela in Rome writes to the editor of the Sunday Times about Malta based novels by Rosamunde Pilcher, a British writer who is especially popular in Germany:

A few months ago I bought some old books from a stall in Rome. Two, Coming Home and The Day of the Storm, were written by Rosamunde Pilcher. It happened that in these two bestsellers the author speaks about Malta. I was really surprised but as the author comes from a family of former Navy personnel, it seems that she is familiar with the island. May I suggest that this author and other who show some kind of importance to Malta be rewarded. Bestsellers are always translated in various languages: the books I bought were in Italian. All publicity is important for such a small country.
Rosamunde Pilcher's Books; More on Rosamunde Pilcher: Barnes & Noble, Wikipedia, The Stories of RP; The World of RP; Interview on BookReporter

More cosmopolitan

Pressmethod.com reports that according to local travel guide Yourmalta.com, the airline negotiations for low cost flights to Malta, have been tempered with the need for the island's government to see that the national carrier, Air Malta, isn't damaged as it is one of Malta's major employers. UK company director Roger Munns discusses the increasing cosmopolitan nature of Malta:

..The arrival of low cost flights to Malta though could reignite British interest as three and four day breaks a few times a year becomes financially viable. If the airlines fly to destinations in Europe too the number of buyers for Malta property could rise in the immediate and medium term' explains Tribune's Managing Director, Roger Munns. For Malta's tourist industry three and four day visitors in increased numbers will be a welcome boost.

There is discussion on the island about extending club's opening hours beyond the current 4am. Clubbers in the UK are used to 6am closing, and might be deterred from making a weekend trip with a three hour flight only to find shorter hours available for partying. There are new opportunities for Malta, and it's for the island to decide whether to embrace them and gain a new generation of visitors or ignore them and lose an asset for the economy'.

'Malta has a lot to offer the visitor apart from being a Mediterranean holiday island. Malta has a rich culture and history, and can easily appeal to all generations from toddlers to pensioners. More Italians and other nationalities are discovering Malta as a destination. Malta will become more cosmopolitan. And while some of the older more conservative residents are likely to be against a younger and more diverse mix of visitors from what they have been used to and see change as something to be afraid of, we believe the island will embrace the more cosmopolitan feel, while retaining the features that make Malta a unique visit among her Mediterranean island neighbours.'
Press Mitteilung; A cover story on TMIS quotes a MaltaMedia report on RyanAir flights to Malta.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Lowest gender pay gap

Malta has the lowest pay gap between women and men, writes Rosanne Sammut for MaltaMedia:

Malta was reported to have the lowest pay gap between women and men amongst EU member states, followed by Italy, Portugal, Slovenia, Greece and Poland. The highest pay gaps were registered in Cyprus, Slovakia, Estonia, Germany, the UK and Finland. Additionally, the Report on equality between women and men 2006 revealed that the gap between women's and men's employment rates remained high at more than 20 per cent in Malta, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Italy, Spain and Greece.

The European Commission will submit the report to the European leaders at the Spring European Council on 23rd and 24th March. Meanwhile, the Commission will present on March 3 a 'Roadmap for equality between men and women' Communication, which will set out concrete actions designed to help bridge the gender gap. The launch of the roadmap will lead up to this year’s International women's day on March 8.
Click here and here for more information

Friday, February 24, 2006

Jodie and Marie

Entirelyme discusses the Jodie and Mary case study for an ethics class. It is a Gozo story that gripped the world media close to six years ago:

In August 2000, a young woman from Gozo, an island near Malta, discovered that she was carrying conjoined twins. Knowing that health-care on Gozo were inadequate to deal with the complications of such a birth, she and her husband came to St. Mary's Hospital in Manchester, England to have the babies delivered. The infants, known as Mary and Jodie, were joined at the lower abdomen. Their spines wer fused, and they had one heart and one set of lungs between them. Jodie, the stronger, was providing blood for her sister..

The parents, who are devout Catholics, refused permission for the operation on the grounds taht it would hasten Mary's death. " We believe taht nature should take its course, " said the parents. " If it's God's will that both our children should not survive then so be it." The hospital, believing it was obliged to do what it could to save at least one of the infants, asked the courts for permission to separeate them despite the parents' wishes. The courts granted permissiosn, and on Novenver 6 the operation was performed. As expected, Jodie lived and Mary died..

At the height of the controversy over this case, when the newspapers were full of stories about Jodie and Mary, the ladies Home Journal commissioned a poll to discover what Americans thought.The poll showed that 78% approved of the operation. People were obviously persuaded byt the idea taht we should save as manay as we can. Jodie and Mary's parents, however, believed there is an even stronger argument on the other side...
Jodie and Mary: The medical facts

Thursday, February 23, 2006

National debt could block Malta's Euro bid

Reporting on official EU budget forecasts published yesterday by the European Commission, BusinessWeek Online quotes AP business writer Aoife White who states that 'would-be Euro members Lithuania and Malta have to tackle high inflation and public debt before they can adopt the Euro'. The report suggests that the government's gross debt could yet block Malta 's bid to join the Euro:

Would-be euro members Lithuania and Malta will have to tackle high inflation and public debt before they can adopt the euro, according to EU budget forecasts published Wednesday that gave a more positive forecast for another euro candidate, Cyprus...Almunia said he would wait for a final yearly inflation figure for 2005 from the EU statistical agency Eurostat before making any decision on Lithuania's plans to join the euro..

High inflation poses a similar problem for the Mediterranean island of Malta although it does not plan to adopt the euro until 2008. By then, it expects to bring inflation down to 1.9 percent. It is forecast to rise to 3.1 percent this year. EU nations can only join the euro if their annual deficit is limited to 3 percent of their gross domestic product, their inflation does not exceed 2.4 percent and total public debt is not more than 60 percent of GDP.

Malta's government gross debt could yet block the country from joining the euro. Last year's debt to GDP ratio of 76.7 percent will fall by 2008 -- but at 67.3 percent that will not be enough to admit it into the euro club. The EU did praise Malta on its budget deficit, saying it seemed on track to cut its deficit to under 3 percent by 2006, provided it stuck closely to its budget and weathered "less positive" budget outcomes.

Cyprus received a more glowing report. The EU said Cyprus seemed to have brought its budget deficit under 3 percent and would have a good safety margin in place from 2008. Cyprus predicts it will get its government gross debt -- which hit 70.5 percent last year -- to 56.9 percent by 2008...
Correcting Malta's excessive deficit

Folk tales and language

Gilbert Calleja meets Gorg Mifsud Chircop to talk about folk tales, language and Maltese heritage:

..Gorg Mifsud Chircop is a no-nonsense academic, author, lecturer and an authority on Maltese culture and folklore but through his half-closed eyes and big frame, a little boy’s enthusiasm betrays his composure the minute I mention storytelling, especially Narraturi 21 and Poezijaplus, which will be organising a joint event.

‘Nirrakkuntaw mal-Gahan Taghna’ will be held on February 27. Sergio Grech and other members of PoezijaPlus came up with the idea to team up and organise a night of storytelling with Maltese ‘ghannejja’ (folk singers). PoezijaPlus are, to my knowledge, the only consistent active literary group in Malta. They are consistent in their output and I only have praise for their monthly activities. Nirrakkuntaw will be focused on ‘oral’ narrative. Narraturi 21 have already organised a similar event on the eve of the Mnarja Buskett Festival at the Upper Barrakka Gardens...

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Kinnie in the Gulf

Middle Eastern AMEInfo reports on how Simonds Farsons Cisk plc, Malta's largest beverage producers and exporters "have set their eyes on the Gulf". Director Stephen Sultana discusses how they will aggressively promote brands like Kinnie during the next 18 months starting with the United Arab Emirates:

..Farsons is a mid-sized brewery and the beers we produce are typically aimed at the higher end of the market rather than the largely price driven mass market. Clearly, in the UAE we do not aim to attain the same volumes we export to our main European export markets like Italy, but this suits us just fine.'

The Farsons Group is also keen to form partnerships with Gulf beverage producers and distributors to bottle and market their unique, award winning, non-alcoholic drink known as 'Kinnie' in the UAE in order to better cater for the requirements of the market and to tap into the regional export possibilities that a direct presence in the UAE would give them. 'Kinnie' is a rather special, all natural, bitter-sweet sparkling non-alcoholic soft drink made from a secret blend of Mediterranean oranges and aromatic herbs that goes back well over 50 years. 'There's nothing quite like it on the market. It's in a class of its own, since it is neither a cola, nor a lemonade, nor is it an orange drink but something refreshingly different. One taste of 'Kinnie' and you're hooked' says Stephen Sultana 'but then again, I have to say that since its my favourite drink as well!'...

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Jeannie Johnson

Outside my Window is a Malaysian blog with writer Susan Abraham's personal perspective on books and writing. For this post, she interviews British novelist Jeannie Johnson who has a base in Malta. She spoke to Susan about the joys of life as a writer of the romantic period saga:

"Bristol is the city grew up in and although I no longer live there, it is part of my past, testament to the fact that we take some of the places we know with us throughout life. My parents also grew up here. It was from my mother I inherited the gift of storytelling. From my father I inherited a love of reading and the opera..

As an author with a view to dreaming visionary ambitions, I see myself earning enough so that my husband can retire. My aim and my husband's are for us to retire on our yacht in the Mediterranean. In July, we're sailing from our berth in Malta to the Greek islands. We'll be there a month. Not sure what books I'll be taking for my summer reads though. But I'll probably be writing one that someone will be sure to spring a deadline on..

At the moment, I'm just attending to the final edits of the latest Jeannie Johnson before submitting to my literary agent. Where the Boys Are starts off in a home for unmarried mothers and ends up in the seige of Malta in 1942 - it was the most bombed place on earth and I know it very well...

Monday, February 20, 2006

Not Serbian, Not Maltese

The Sun is just Right. My hole isn't underground is a blog by a self-critical Serbian living in Malta studying English and Communications at University. "Not Serbian, not Maltese either, I have no culture of my own" and the net is a portable home with an interest in literature, films, comics and visual storytelling. From Filter me deadly:

The information age makes us all filters at best. We're bombarded with so much stuff that we're forced to either be selective about what we read/hear/see or just be apathetic. And it's so easy to slip into the latter. I want to get plugged into the zeitgeist but I never feel 'qualified' enough - strange, considering how one of the main tenents of the 'net is that everyone can speak. Maybe because it moves too fast, you get left behind, there's always something you've missed. Chaos is what needs to be dealt with, primarily though, I think.

I mean I can tell myself it's because I live in Malta (as opposed to, say, San Fran, NY or London), because I didn't read enough Ballard or William Gibson novels, because I have no cash for gadgets, because I have a Mac. But obvious, glaring common denominator is that there seems to be nothing to latch onto. Commitment? Yes, maybe I want commitment/stability/predictability. But I dunno, I always took pride in being stateless and free, but it looks like I'm not channeling things properly.
I start drawing my strips but then get voices telling me 'pen and ink is SOOO ten years ago..'...

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Camden Lady returns

After her recent visit to Malta, Camden Lady returns for an extended day trip. From Camden Lady:

Trying to do a day trip to Malta is a bit of a drag. It’s too far, and the flights don’t help, so I had to stay over for two nights, which is hardly a problem given the lovely people I get to work with there, and the excellent restaurants. I flew with British Jet this time, rather than BA. I’d never heard of it either, but it’s a Maltese low-cost airline, running a couple of MD90s, with good service for the cost and a worthwhile alternative to BA or Air Malta..

On Friday night I went with my colleague and her husband to Del Borgo, in St John St, Birgu. Birgu is also known as Vittoriosa, and is one of the ‘three cities’, and another of the tiny medieval cities which are a feature of the island. This place is extremely popular, and booking a week or two in advance is highly recommended...The wines were Maltese, from the Medina vineyard. We started with a lighter shiraz, and then moved on to a cabernet sauvignon, which was fuller and more oaky. By that time though, I was suffering from the 2am arrival the night before, and feeling a little cold. If I’ve one suggestion for the management, it’s to buy some heaters!
Camden Kiwi goes to Malta

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Miscellaneous blogs (8)

Toni Sant jintervista lill-Charles Arrigo

Chalee's Soapbox

Calibanos

Brock Gill & Maltese Paparazzi

Kristin

Il-Gagga

L-istordut Kroniku is back

Out loud and proud

Frederick's blog (of Dripht fame)

Frommers Malta

Friday, February 17, 2006

Out of Africa, and in limbo

Unlike Australia, Malta has abandoned indefinite detention for asylum seekers but tensions remain, writes James Button for The Sydney Morning Herald:

..In 2000, Malta received just 24 such migrants. Since 2002 nearly 4000 have come. Last summer a boat landed nearly every night - mostly from Libya, 300 kilometres to the south. The immigrants do not want to go to Malta, they see nearby Italy as a door to Europe, but are picked up when their often-unseaworthy boats enter Malta's rescue zone. On arrival they are fingerprinted. If they slip away to another European Union country and are caught, under EU policy they are sent back to Malta.

The numbers don't sound large, but they represent nearly 1 per cent of the population of 400,000. If the same proportion had come to Australia, it would have faced an influx of up to 200,000 asylum seekers. But Malta's approach differs from Australia's in a key respect. Since 2003 it has abandoned indefinite detention, and now imprisons people for a maximum of 18 months. The policy is still the toughest in Europe, with 1500 people detained in grim barracks and even tents. The EU wants the country's maximum detention time reduced to six months.

Why the human wave has reached Malta is unclear. It may be because Italy and Spain have tightened their controls or that more people are leaving from Libya, which is said to contain 1.5 million transient, sub-Saharan Africans. Whatever the reason, Katrini Camilleri, of Malta's Jesuit Refugee Service, says "millions of people [in Africa] are on the move. You can divert the flow but you can't stop it"...

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Feeling of home

Ulla Littgren from Stockholm in Sweden has been to Malta over 25 times. In this article she explains why she feels at 'home' in Malta:

Why is it - that everytime the plane approaches this little spot in the Mediterranean sea, I get such a warm feeling all over - like I'm finally coming home again! And this is not at all "home" for me - it is really faraway from home - about 4000 kilometers, I think!...How come Malta feels so much "home"?

The people are very, very friendly and their hospitality is enormous! You never get the feeling that you are some kind of intruder - that you often can feel travelling for instance to Mallorca or Costa del Sol or so! It is also easy to communicate - since it seems all maltese speak english - at least the younger generation! But I would really like to learn how to speak maltese too !

I think perhaps that the colours of Malta also give a reflexion of pease and quietness! The light yellow-brown stone of Malta and all the houses in the same stone - makes everything so beautiful! And the blue sea that surrounds the islands - Malta, Gozo, Comino, Cominetto and Filfla. The flowers in springtime makes the island look like some heavenly pasture - I suppose this is what heaven looks like!...

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

What solidarity?

Pietru Caxaru is a new blog that aims to be a platform for liberal views on Malta related events and ideas. In this post, the author rethinks the advantages of EU membership in view of the EU's reluctant response to the Denmark cartoon contoversy. Meanwhile the violence against Danish interests worldwide has reached Malta with an attack last night on the 'Danish Village' holiday complex in Mellieha. From Pietru Caxaru:

..The failure of the EU to show any solidarity whatsoever with Denmark, during a difficult time has convinced me that I might have been wrong to expect the EU to enhance our external security in any significant way. It is quite apparent that an EU member state may be bullied by a number of third countries without receiving any support whatsoever from the EU or the other member states. This should be kept in mind by our policy-makers.

In the meantime, some well-meaning representative of the European Movement in Malta took the time to warn us in yesterday's Sunday Times that when people exercise the right to free speech they do so 'at their peril' if they happen to annoy someone else by what they say...
Michelle Malkin on why the forbidden cartoons matter; Roland Flamini writes that the Danes feel abandoned by their European allies; Donald Sensing writes that 'you mustn’t draw a cartoon of Mohammed, but you can put Christ on a coin in Malta'.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Malta, Libya football clash

Malta and Libya will clash on the football field later this month in a tournament that will be played at the Ta' Qali national stadium. From UEFA.com:

Malta will welcome the national teams of Georgia, Moldova and Libya as they host the International Football Tournament between 25 February and 1 March. There will be six matches over six days with Malta scheduled to appear in the second game on each of the three matchdays..

Meanwhile, Malta's new coach Dusan Fitzel said that the foreign-based players who figured regularly in predecessor Horst Heese's squads over the last two years will be invited to take part. These include Michael Mifsud (Lillestrøm SK, Norway), Justin Haber (US Quevilly, France) and Luke Dimech (Chester City FC, England). Malta last won the tournament in 2002, with the most recent edition being dominated by Belarus in 2004.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Death of Charles Arrigo

The much loved broadcaster Charles Arrigo died this afternoon while doing what he loved best. He dedicated his life to professional broadcasting and was the first person to ever appear on Maltese television. In one of his last interviews, he discussed his rich broadcasting heritage with Ramona Depares and shared his views on the Maltese political media:

..“I’ve been in broadcasting since 1947, many people call me the ‘dean’ of broadcasting,” Charles chuckled. “When I look back on my career it pleases me to know that I was present at the most important happenings, whether as radio or TV commentator. The declaration of independence, Malta being made a republic… These are both events that stand out in my memory and it still thrills me to think: I was there.”

The broadcaster is right. Just look at the postage stamp commemorating the day Malta gained the status of a republic: you will find the president of the day standing on the palace balcony and in the background, Charles stands with all his broadcasting paraphernalia. Like the moment, Charles stands frozen in the memory of time..

“It’s not that I believe that political media has no place. What is a concern is that people who support a particular party often limit themselves to following to that party’s radio or TV station and never get a chance to listen to the other party’s point of view. There should not just be liberalisation of broadcasting, but also of ideas,” he explained, passionate about the subject. Then, of course, there is also the issue of the political media twisting news stories to its own ends...
More on Charles Arrigo by Toni Sant, Gerald Fenech, Joe Grima and The Times; Gruber on Maltese media; Maltese pluralism lagging behind

The end of the Malta Jazz Festival as we know it

Musician Sandro Zerafa laments the news of the end of Charles 'City' Gatt's association with the Malta Jazz Festival:

Il-jazz festival kien ifisser ħafna għalija. Ma tliftx jazz festival wieħed dawn l-aħħar ħmistax il-sena. Bdiet bħala sempliċi kurżita' fil-bidu. Ma kontx naf x'inhu jazz dak iż-żmien. Kienet kreatura stramba li kont qed nipprova nsib tarf tagħha. U bdejt ninteressa ruħi. Bdejt nixtri d-diski. Bdejt nistudjaha din il-mużika. Billi ġewwa Malta l-unika opportunita' li nisimgħu jazz tajjeb kienet dak it-tielet weekend ta' Lulju f'Ta' Liesse, il-jazz festival kien sar importanti ħafna għalija. Fil-bidu ta' Frar kont immur inħabbat fl-uffiċju ta' l-organizzatur biex inkun naf min hu ġej Lulju li ġej.

Meta ddeċidejt li nsir mużiċist, kien minħabba l-jazz festival. Għadni niftakar l-enerġija li kien ikolli wara dak il-weekend. Dik is-sensazzjoni għadni nfittixha sa llum. Meta daqqejt l-ewwel darba quddiem ħafna nies kelli tmintax il-sena. Kont eċitat ħafna għax kien il-palk tal-jazz festival. U dak iż-żmien kont għadni qed niskopri l-jazz. Kont intimidat ħafna li ħa ndoqq qabel Joe Lovano. Meta ddeċidejt li nitlaq minn Malta, kien ukoll konsekwenza tal-jazz festival. Xtaqt li nkun f'post fejn stajt nitħallat ma' dawk il-mużiċisti li kont nara fuq il-palk f'Ta' Liesse. U jekk illum ninsab kuntent b'dak li għamilt dawn l-aħħar tmien snin ġewwa Franza, ma nistghax ma nirringrazzjax lill-jazz festival u lil Charles Gatt..

..U meta kont smajt bl-aħbar daqs xahrejn ilu fil-bidu kont kważi ħadtha biċ-ċajt. Imma meta saret uffiċjali, u meta rajt l-aħħar kumment li ħallewli fil-blog ta' qabel, qabadni ħafna dwejjaq...
In Memoriam - Malta Jazz Festival by d; Malta Jazz Festival

Il-Korrida Ghall-Ewropa

New blogger Sandro Vella discusses Il-Korrida Ghall-Ewropa:

..Wara ħafna snin ta' leħen sabiħ u stqarrijiet li d-daqs ta' Chiara qatt ma affettwa l-karriera, il-kantanta ftaħret li għamlet id-dieta mill-'billboards' għar-realta' u li rnexxielha bħal ma rnexxielu Gorg Pullicino jogħlob li l-komiku tat-taxi (l-uniku ħallieq uman li semma lil Grace Borg), 'qas biss induna bih waqt li għaddej minn ħdejh. Probabbli it-tnejn spiċċalhom il-gass.

Wara d-dominanza tat-tliet Bs (Bush, Bin Laden u Borg Grace), spikka Bondi Lou' idoqq lil Beatles stil DJ Banana. Issa li Faniello jissejjaħ attur (l-arti ta' Becky mhux imsemmija fil-biografija tiegħu), u wara l-kritika ħarxa li hawn miktuba hawn fuq, bix-xieraq inkun jien il-preżentatur tal-festival tas-sena d-dieħla. Dan huwa l-għan tiegħi...

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The World's Innovator

Writing for ContractorUK, Graham Taylor states that Malta's contracting potential may still be in its infancy, but it is one to watch. From ContractorUK:

..And property is cheap - a scan by CUK of Maltese property rental websites suggested a studio apartment in a pleasant area can be rented for little over £100 a month, or bought for less than £20,000. Unfortunately, that doesn't necessarily mean a lucrative market for contracting. CUK's survey of recruiters did not suggest a flourishing market for contractors in Malta. Hudson IT told us they had no clients in Malta, while David Houston of tax specialists Global K told CUK he had "never even had one single enquiry from any contractor wishing to go to Malta". This suggests one of two things: a vast untapped market, or, er, a market as dry as Maltese sandstone.

The idea of working in Malta appeals to veteran contractor Aaron Jumani, who has in the past contracted in various parts of mainland Europe, including France and Spain. For him, there are only two considerations. "Firstly, salary. Second, the tax status and benefits," he says. "It sounds greedy, but that's what contracting's all about." Malta's contracting potential may still be in its infancy, but it is one to watch. If its high-tech growth continues, by this time next year it could be the hottest contracting destination in Europe - in more ways than one.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Malta records highest tax increase

Malta has recorded the highest tax increase as a percentage of GDP amongst EU countries, The Irish Examiner reports

Irelands’S tax take as a percentage of GDP recorded the second highest increase in the EU last year but remains one of the lowest for overall tax take, according to new figures. The increase bucks the trend in the EU overall, where the tax take fell from an average of 40.9% in 2003 to 40.7% last year. The trend in the eurozone was similar.

The highest increases in tax-to-GDP ratio were Malta (from 34.5% in 2003 to 36.7% in 2004) and Ireland (from 30.4% to 31.7%). But Ireland still has one of the lowest overall tax takes in the EU at 31.7%, only trailing Slovakia, Latvia and the lowest, Lithuania, at 28%. Tax revenue was as high as 51% in Sweden, taking into account the three main categories of tax; production and imports such as VAT and excise; income and wealth; and social contributions.

Friday, February 10, 2006

No exchange is an island

This weekend's Economist magazine features Malta's Stock Exchange and discusses the "remarkable returns for a tiny bourse on Europe's southern fringe". From The Economist:

A former military chapel overlooking Valletta's harbour may seem an unlikely home for a stock exchange. But this is Malta, a tiny Mediterranean island where military might and religion have long been defining influences: the Romans, Turks, Spanish, Crusaders, French and British, not to mention pirates, have all left their mark.

Now Malta has grand hopes for its financial-services industry, which is drawing increased attention from abroad...But Malta is a tiny place. The MSE lists only 13 stocks. Mr Guillaumier says there is too much money chasing too few investments in Malta, which has a population of just 392,000. Many locals have parked their money abroad. One of his goals is to drum up more listings by local companies, not easy given the number of family-owned firms. In an era of consolidation, the independence of the MSE (owned by the government) is far from guaranteed...
From the same edition, The blog in the Corporate Machine

Maltese twist for Valentine's

A trip to Malta is one of the theme trips suggested by BusinessWeek for this year's Valentine's day. From BusinessWeek:

Valentine's Day is fast approaching. Here's the dilemma: Even if you're one of those people who thinks Feb. 14 is just another grossly commercial holiday that has lost any true meaning, there's a chance your significant other doesn't feel that way... For gifts that are a little different, take a look at these suggestions from BusinessWeek editors. Sure, we like candy and flowers -- but how about chocolate-covered marshmallows, salted caramels, and "lobster claw" blooms? There's also a wine refrigerator to keep the bubbly at the perfect temperature, and a Rais wood stove to keep the home fires burning..

If you're serious about the pursuit of passion, explore our theme trips. Take up tango in Buenos Aires, hear opera in Mozart's hometown, cook up a storm on the Italian Riviera, prowl flea markets in Paris, or go on an archeological dig in Malta. When you're doing something you love, who even cares if you have a Valentine?...

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Tribute to Mario

Frans Ghirxi, the editor of the popular daily L-Orizzont, pays tribute to Mario Azzoppardi - a UnionPrint employee for the last 26 years who has died aged 45. In the past, Mario was editor of Antenna magazine and a Hamrun local councillor. From L-Orizzont:

Bhal kull haddiem iehor fil-qasam tal-pubblikazzjonijiet tal-Union Press, partikolarment dawk konnessi b’mod dirett mal-gurnal l-orizzont, kont ili ninnota li Mario kien sejjer lura fejn jirrigwarda sahhtu. Il-bidla fih ta’ dawn l-ahhar gimghat, fejn minn bniedem li jara x’se jivvinta x’jaghmel ghal wahda fejn kemm kemm ilahhaq ma’ dak ferm inqas min-“normal” tieghu, kienet bhal xemgha li ftit ftit kienet waslet lejn tmiemha. Madankollu, minkejja l-istennija ta’ l-ahbar, aktar u aktar wara li l-gurnata ta’ qabel kont informat minn huh Raymond li Mario kien jinsab fl-ITU u li “ma nahsibx li jsebbah”, xorta wahda l-bierah inhsadt x’hin ghal habta tas-7.30 ta’ fil-ghodu gejt informat li Mario miet.

Ma tistax ma tinhasadx, ghax xorta tibqa’ tittama li siehbek se jirnexxielu jehlisha b’wicc il-gid, anke jekk tkun taf kemm dan kien difficli. Daqstant iehor se jkun difficli ghalina mil-lum ’il quddiem li naccettaw li Mario m’ghadux maghna, li Mario mhux gej ghax-xoghol, li ma’ Mario mhux se niccajtaw aktar fuq baned, marci, futbol u mitt hag’ohra...
L-ahhar tislima lil Mario - minn Owen Galea

Xmas in Malta

Writing on the There's a World To See blog, the author writes about a Xmas vacation in "stunning" Malta:

Well, I guess this is the first official ‘travel’ blog. Malta is a beautiful country, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in history, quiet rural areas, beautiful scenery, friendly people, or small Mediterranean islands. We did a lot in the 10 days we had in Malta, and it’s hard to believe there is so much more that we weren’t able to see, given how small the country is..

The view can hardly be described – during the day we were looking out over a lush green valley right down into Ramla Bay, a nice sandy beach right on the wide expanse of Sea. At night the lights from Sicily were visible. You can imagine how perfect a setting this would be – at least in the summer. You see, the problem with Malta is that it’s hot almost all the time, except for about two months in the winter – the time when we were there. And since it’s always hot, there’s no need for heating, right? The houses are all made entirely of stone and tile, and there’s absolutely no insulation, and so at night (and during the day, really), it’s freezing inside!..

We spent most of the time on Gozo exploring the rich history and beautiful scenes. One day we hired bikes and rode along the coast for a while, discovering a stunning seascape and caves carved into cliffs. We walked through the Ggantija temples which are the oldest freestanding man-made structures in the world, built around 3600-2500BC. In Victoria, the largest city, we explored the citadel, ate pizza in tiny cafes, and perused small side-street markets...and saw saltpans, a lighthouse, a helicopter from the Italian air force trying to land yards from where we stood, churches and town squares, secluded inlets, watch towers, and resort towns..

On Christmas Eve we followed a procession from the local football club through the town square to the church, and it was a cross between the Santa Claus parade and the Christmas Pagents we did at church, complete with wisemen and sheep and Mary and Joseph and most importantly the crib. I missed my own little tradition of spending the day with my church family, and remembering and celebrating the real reason for Christmas. Most of the time I forgot that it was Christmas, though, even despite the Christmas music being blared through every town square, seemingly all tapped into the same endless playlist of Boney M and Bing Crosby and last Christmas I gave you my heart, but the very next day you gave it away...
Sharon Buttrey's Malta Photos

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Time Out Malta

Time Out Group will soon be adding Malta to a list of over 50 countries covered by Time Out guides and magazines for visitors. Time Out Malta will be launched in May initially as an annual publication. From The Times:

The Time Out brand has been a significant and reliable information source for the past 37 years and has expanded to become the world's first truly international information and listings resource, the publishers said. Over 50 destinations are covered by Time Out Group including London, New York, Paris, Chicago, Beijing, Cape Town, Cyprus, Dubai, Athens and Moscow..

Time Out Group has appointed Content House Ltd, a company specialising in publications, media consultancy and public relations, as its local licensee in Malta.
The managing director of the London-based Time Out Group, Mike Hardwick, said he was delighted to be including Malta among the many popular destinations covered by Time Out magazines. "With its rich and brave history, wonderful seaside and sunshine, the island of Malta has been a long time favourite tourist destination for the British and now as a member of the EU to a much wider European audience too.

"We were delighted that Content House was appointed as our licensee to publish Time Out in Malta. We are sure it will be a success and become an iconic tool to all visitors and maybe residents too."...Mr Hardwick added: "Most Time Out readers are intelligent and have money to spend. Our magazines cover the historical sites and beauty spots as do others but we also give a great deal of space to accurately cover hotels, bars and restaurants and concentrate on nightlife"...

EuroMedGrid

Agenzia Giornalistica Italia reports on EuroMedGrid, an E-SCIENCE Mediterranean project starting in Malta:

The "Eumedgrid" project officially starts in Malta, to promote E-Science in the Mediterranean. In the next 2 years an international group of highly-motivated experts will contribute to develop Grid infrastructures for the E-Science throughout the Mediterranean: an occasion to mitigate the Digital Divide and to promote collaboration between Europe and its neighbours. The main purpose of the EU-funded initiative is to support the adoption and use of infrastructures based on computational grids which encourage the use of E-Science applications...

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

To Catania in style

BYM News, a leading boating & marine news service, reports on a new luxury ferry service for passengers travelling from Malta to Italy:

Mediterranean ferry passengers on the Malta-Italy route are soon to enjoy a stylish new delivery with the introduction of “Maria Dolores”, an Austal Auto Express 68 metre vehicle-passenger ferry for Virtu Ferries. Set to replace the existing 52 metre ferry, “Maria Dolores” will have additional capacity to carry 600 passengers and 65 cars or 95 lane metres of trucks plus 35 cars on a vehicle deck with an impressive clear height of 4.6 metres..

This new vessel will operate on routes from Malta to Italy; Valetta to Catania in 3 hours, to Pozzallo in 90 minutes and Reggio Calabria (mainland Italy) in 4 hours. Designed specifically for these routes, with aft and side ramps for rapid turnaround and a Moulded Depth of 6.3 metres (approximately 20% higher than comparable size Austal ferries), the ferry will greatly expand the service to mainland Italy and meet growing demand.

Virtu Ferries Managing Director, Francis Portelli spoke of the improved service the new ferry will bring to the Maltese business and tourism communities.“..We believe by introducing this fast ferry, not only will we be able to reduce the costs of imports and exports and provide a year round scheduled service for Maltese industry, but also offer the coach and camper tourism sector a previously unavailable high quality connection from mainland Europe.”...

Monday, February 06, 2006

Winter landing

For the first time in months, a group of 182 illegal immigrants from North Africa were brought to Malta late on Sunday after their boat was intercepted 20 miles off the Maltese coast. Reuters reports:

..Migrants normally arrive in Malta by accident, with the migrants actually aiming for Sicily or mainland Italy. This was the first landing of illegal migrants in several months, with attempts to cross the Mediterranean rare during winter weather. Malta held some 1,500 migrants in detention camps during the summer, but several hundred have since been repatriated. The island enforces a controversial detention policy where migrants are held for a maximum of 18 months in detention until they are repatriated or granted humanitarian protection. It insists such a policy is needed because of the island's small size and population density

Exit Indians, Enter Maltese

The British employment market for immigrants is fast changing - employers now prefer hiring citizens from the 10 new EU member states to those from India or the Commonwealth countries, reports the Times of India:

..In the latest tracking of employment trends by the authoritative Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the 10 countries - for the first time - have emerged as "a more popular source of migrant labour" than the old EU, Commonwealth or the "rest of world". The 10 countries that joined the EU on May 1, 2004, - better known as the 'accession states' - are the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. The trend has been revealed in the latest edition of CIPD's 'Labour Market Outlook'. The CIPD is the professional body for those involved in the management and development of people in Britain.

Luxury cars

Company chairman Alan Lubinsky discusses the business development of AC Cars, the British maker of 'one of the world's most muscular and mythical sports cars'. From the New York Times:

..As production unraveled in England, and finally ceased last year, Mr. Lubinsky began pursuing plans to move some of AC's operations to Malta, in the Mediterranean. The move, as well as the plans to come to Connecticut, follows two decades in which Mr. Lubinsky has led or been involved with dozens of corporate identities on at least three continents, from car leasing to magnesium research..

Mr. Lubinsky, 48, disputes some complaints, including those of Mr. Price, saying that he is trying to take over his company. "Everybody's entitled to be skeptical," he said, speaking in a phone interview from Malta on Friday. "It comes through jealousy. We have our plans and we're going to go on with our plan. There are many experts in this industry and not many of them have ever built a car."..

With AC Cars bound by a creditors agreement in England, Mr. Lubinsky shifted some of his operations to Malta. Mr. Lubinsky said on Friday that he had "18 or 19" employees there and that the company would be building one car a week by "the next couple of weeks." John Owen, AC Cars' chief engineer in Malta, said that the Malta factory employs 14 people and that he expected to begin producing one car a week "as soon as some of these parts come in; we'll be up and running by May." The Malta factory has produced a total of six cars, four of which have been exported, Mr. Owen said.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Surviving Terrorist Hijacking

Charlot Zahra spoke to Malta hijack survivor Jackie Pflug who recently visited Malta to promote her book, 'Miles to Go Before I Sleep: A Survivor’s Story of Life After a Terrorist Hijacking', which tells the story of how she survived the EgyptAir terrorist ordeal in 1985. From TMIS:

Almost 21 years ago, she was lying in a hospital bed in St Luke’s Hospital fighting for her life after she was shot by a hijacker at Luqa Airport. On Saturday, 23 November 1985, Ms Pflug was flying to Cairo from Athens where she had attended a volleyball tournament with a group of students. At the time, she was a special education teacher at the Cairo American School. Ten minutes into EgyptAir Flight No MS 648, three men calling themselves “The Egypt Revolution,” hijacked the flight.

A gun battle ensued when the terrorists took control of the plane at an altitude of 35,000 feet. The plane, with 91 passengers and six crew members on board, was forced to land at Luqa Airport. The hijackers began to execute one passenger every 15 minutes until their demands for fuel were met. Like four passengers before her, Ms Pflug was shot at point blank range, thrown from the plane onto the tarmac and left for dead. For five hours, she drifted in and out of consciousness until an airport ground crew picked up her body to take to the morgue and discovered she was still alive. Fifty-nine passengers died in that terrible disaster...

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Eurovision irony

After watching excerpts from each of the songs taking part in today's Malta Song for Europe contest, Toni Sant lists his favourites to win the right to represent Malta at the Eurovision in Greece:

..My overall impression is that the festival has finally gone to the dogs. Then again, I always thought that the whole event was a dog's dinner party. Still, I would be very unfair to the talented singers and song-writers if I dismissed everything and everyone..

Yes, I know we can vote nine times in 10 mins, but I think that's just a fairly transparent scheme by some well-meaning commercial company to make lots of money on the gullible who think that televoting is the best thing since democracy was conceived in Athenian society. How deliciously ironic that the Eurovision Song Contest this year will take place in Greece...
Sanjay Jiandani reports on the Maltese finals

Friday, February 03, 2006

Oddly Enough

The decision by the national authorities to choose Mazzoli's Baptism of Christ as a Maltese Euro coin design, has made the Reuters 'Oddly Enough' section:

An image of Christ's immersion in water by John the Baptist will be shown on Maltese euro coins, reflecting the cultural heritage of the deeply religious Mediterranean island, officials said Thursday...The image of the baptism of Jesus Christ is a reproduction of a marble sculpture at Valletta's St John Cathedral. Images of Malta's coat of arms and Stone Age temples of Mnajdra will also be included on coins.

A priest had spearheaded an e-mail campaign to include the baptism scene, selected through a public vote. "This image, apart from its artistic merit, can also serve as a reminder to Europe which seems to want to forget its Christian heritage," Brandon Gatt said in his e-mail, a reference to the EU's decision not to refer to its Christian heritage in its draft constitution.

Malta puts Jesus on coin; No ACLU in Malta

Dar ix-xoghol

Pierre J. Mejlak reminisces on life inside the Qala PN Club before the 1987 general election:

..Il-każin kien dar kbira u antika b'żewġ bibien ħoxnin fuq barra. It-tnejn jinfdu fil-kamra tal-bar. Wieħed eżatt quddiemu u l-ieħor quddiem il-biljard. Wara l-bar kien hemm kamra kollha umdità u kaxxi tal-Lager, Hopleaf u Hi Spot. U f'nofsha kien hemm spiera fonda mgħottija b'injama.

Il-bar kien tal-formajka kannella. L-istess injam kien imwaħħal dawramejt man-nofs t'isfel tal-ħajt tal-kamra. Imbagħad kien hemm speċi ta' armarju ta' l-aluminju b'televixin fuqu u bil-kaxxi tal-boroż fin-naħa t'isfel. Kien hemm Twistees u xi ħaġa oħra - li ma nistax niftakar x'kien jisimha. Ma' wieħed mill-ħitan kien hemm l-arma tal-partit. Kbira. Fuq in-naħa l-oħra kien hemm żewġ posters kbar tal-folol fil-mass meetings, fosthom wieħed b'folla kbira f'Ta' Qali - meta kulħadd żamm xemgħa f'idu - u taħtha l-kliem kbar Il-Poplu Wara Eddie. Kont nitla' fuq banketta u noqgħod niċċassa lejn dawk in-nies biex nara nsibx x'imkien lil ommi jew lil nannti...
Dar ix-Xoghol 2; Dar ix-Xoghol 3

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Branding Malta

Malta Tourism Authority Executive Chairman Mr Romwald Lungaro-Mifsud stated that "we need to have 400,000 brand managers if we want to be truly ahead of our competitors". From Travel Daily News:

The Malta Brand Survey consisted of a detailed questionnaire which was sent out to 5,000 Maltese nationals as part of the ambitious project which the MTA embarked upon earlier last year, in order to brand the Maltese Islands on the international tourism market. The research carried out marks the second phase of the Internal Branding exercise which aims to ensure that the three core values of Malta’s brand platform, namely Heritage, Diversity and Hospitality, are adopted by each and every citizen of these islands. The survey was aimed at obtaining feedback from the Maltese population regarding aspects of the Maltese tourism experience which they feel offer the most potential to attract visitors...

Interreg

A number of projects worth over 5 million euros have been approved for funding by the cross-border Interreg IIIA Italia-Malta Programme. From MaltaMedia News:

..The selected projects aim to strengthen the socio-economic and cultural links between Malta and Sicily by encouraging cooperation between public, public-equivalent and non-governmental organisations. Each project has at least one Maltese partner. The majority of the projects focus on developing the cultural identity of both islands through the promotion of Malta and Sicily’s historical heritage and the protection of the natural environment. This will involve research, exchanges of experience, the drawing up of new tourist routes, the promotion of common traditions and the strengthening of cooperation in tourism to both Malta and Sicily...Five provinces in the South East of Sicily as well as Palermo and Catania are eligible to participate in projects with partner organisations from Malta and Gozo.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Mandraggar

University student Carl Farrugia has set up a promising new blog to discuss events and happenings in Malta and beyond. From his first post:

Merħba mill-mandraġġ!! Iva, mill-famuz mandraġġ.....dak kien jitqies bħala post maħmuġ. Fejn kienu joqgħodu familji kbar ġo kamra waħda. Fejn kienu jgħidu li ma jarawx xemx. Minn hemm ġej dan l-isem...'mandraġġ' ifisser 'ma jarawx raġġ'. Permezz ta' dan il-blog se nkun qed nitkellem dwar kulma qed jiġri ġo Malta u barra minn Malta fuq kollox...