Fabian Demicoli

Delivering SME Policies in remote areas of the EU

 The European Economic and Social Committee and the GRTU have together organised a conference entitled Delivering SME Policies in remote areas of the EU: from good practice to more effective development models. The conference was supported by the Ministry for Gozo and the Parliamentary Secretary for Consumers, Fair Competition, Local Councils and Public Dialogue.

 

The conference succeeded in outlining Gozo as suffering form particular difficulties because of its relative remoteness. Focus was particularly placed on the problems SMEs in remote areas face in addition to the problems of normal SMEs. The conference results outlined the importance of targeting directly Gozo (as a case study for other remote areas) when drafting policies and the importance for policies to be tailor made and to reach Gozo not only the main island. 

This conference was unique in its nature because normally such conferences are held in the form of a meeting in Brussels but given the subject matter our European and Economic Social Committee (EESC) representative Ms Sylvia Gauci has lobbied hard to hold this Conference in Gozo. The location was accepted because Gozo is ideal given the Conference theme. Ms Gauci's idea was that Malta and Gozo would lead on this important topic hopefully attracting also future meetings and conferences backed by EESC in Malta.

The conference was attended by a fair number of foreign participants members of the EESC, Maltese EESC members, members of the Committee of the Regions, Local Councils in Gozo, the Gozo Business Chamber and members of the Gozo business Community.

The conference was moderated by Ms Sylvia Gauci, EESC member, and several distinguished guests also made valid interventions during the conference which included the Hon Chris Said, Dr Simon Busuttil, Prof Gordon Cordina and Hon Giovanna Debono.

GRTU President Paul Abela welcomed the guest to the conference saying "I am pleased to say that as an organisation representing businesses in the locality we have striven hard to cause the Maltese Government to introduce a number of schemes that aim to level the different economic drawbacks that face small owner managed enterprises in the more deprived economic localities of Malta…Gozo is an extremely important locality for us, as unlike the other localities we represent it is an island on its own with an extremely cumbersome "highway". In spite of the investment in ferry service the short sea distance to the island of Gozo creates difficulties that other localities in Malta do not even comprehend".

In his intervention GRTU Director General Vincent Farrugia explained that the MicroInvest scheme is a perfect example of a measure targeting SMEs and specifically targeting Gozo with the increased benefit. The GRTU always encourages such measures as SMEs in Gozo indeed have to carry a heavier burden. He also expressed that the GRTU believes there is a need for policies targeting businesses to be also sensitive to the size of the businesses as the impact on a large enterprise is very different from the impact on a micro enterprise. "Government at the moment is not taking into consideration this distinction. Government is promising a new world to the smaller enterprise but from the 56 budget measures targeting businesses only around 50% have been implemented so far. The most important measures for businesses are still promises and when we ask when the policies will be enacted a later deadline is repeatedly given. Government is terrified to commit itself on proposals concerning businesses". Mr Farrugia further explained that it seems policies targeting larger companies have a swifter implementation, are awarded more money, are less bureaucratic. When it comes to the SMEs however everything becomes very difficult.

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