Fabian Demicoli

Where do we want the next generation of funds to go?


Government has this week
launched a wide public consultation process on the next generation of funds,
those covering the period 2014 – 2020. These funds are very important for the
Malta's national development from an economic, social and environmental
perspective in order to ameliorate the standard of living of citizens.
Therefore it is very important that we plan well how these significant amount
of funds should be spent in order to achieve long lasting positive results.

There are two very
important factors to consider.

1.  The
amount of money is substantial, €1.1bn, but compared to the endless shopping
list Malta has these are not sufficient.

2.  We
cannot just choose anything and expect to get funding for it.

The European Commission
has identified challenges and gaps that need to be addressed and these are the
priorities where the funds will be focused. 
The priorities outlined are the following:

1.  Innovation-friendly business environment

o   infrastructure
to develop R&I excellence and promoting centres of competence in particular
those of European interest (such as a Centre of Excellence on Adaptation to
Climate Change or Energy Efficiency and Green Technologies). Malta should
finalise its National Strategic Plan for Research and Innovation 2011-2020 in
all its aspects and bring it in line with the requirements for a 'research and
innovation strategy for Smart Specialisation'.

o   Increasing
indigenous private sector research and development activity. Sectors that have
already been identified include health and biotechnology, energy, climate and
environmental technologies, ICT and high value-added manufacturing, aviation,
businesses based on intangible assets such as cultural and creative industries
as well as the maritime and aquaculture sectors.

o   Promoting
entrepreneurship and competitiveness of SMEs, including businesses in
agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture by establishing a clearer link with
research and innovation capacities (business-academia link).                                           

o   Incentivising
investment in higher value-added sectors: Important areas which show potential
for cluster formation and internationalisations are the health and
biotechnology sectors, energy and environmental technologies, ICT, high
value-added manufacturing, the aviation sector, as well as the maritime and
aquaculture sectors.

2.  Environment-friendly and resource-efficient
economy

o   Large-scale
investments in low-carbon and environment-friendly production: potential for
the generation, supply and use of wind and solar power, as well as
cost-effective clean ocean energy shall be explored.

o   The
promotion of energy efficiency in SMEs, agricultural businesses, public
infrastructure and the housing sector.

o   Reducing
landfilling and increasing the share of recycling and recovery of waste, in
line with the waste hierarchy and the polluter pays principle. High priority
should be given to activities promoting water quality, efficient water reuse
and water recovery through both the use of innovative solutions and the completion
of basic infrastructure. In particular, investments improving the energy
efficiency of the desalination process shall be supported.

o   Long
term strategies are essential for soil conservation and to increase soil
organic matter which will render the land more able to cope with future
climatic changes.

o   The
sustainable use of marine resources, including prevention of overfishing is
important for the further development of the country's blue economy.

o   Support
should be given to measures against the pollution of the marine environment,
selective fishing gear and innovations reducing the impact of fisheries on the
environment.

o   Sustainable
urban transport investments and the implementation of an intermodal shift from
land to sea shall help to reduce road congestion and curb high transport
emissions. Further investments will be needed to upgrade TEN-T road and port
infrastructure in line with the requirements for TEN-T core network.

3.  Increasing labour market participation through
improved employment, social inclusion and education policies

o   Investments
in the field of employment and social inclusion should focus on the integration
of the most vulnerable groups on the labour market: older persons, women, youth
and people at risk of social exclusion.

o   Malta
should allocate adequate funds to support active and healthy ageing measures
aimed at increasing employment rates of older workers and enhancing their
employability (e.g. life-long learning and entrepreneurship). To be effective
over time, these measures need to be accompanied by reforms in the health
sector to improve the health of the workforce and respond to the needs of an
ageing society, as well as promote innovative and elderly friendly forms of
work organisation to maintain older people longer in employment.

o   Special
attention should be placed on incentivizing older women to enter the labour
market. Increasing the participation of women on the labour market and
promoting equality between men and women and reconciliation between work and
private life should become an important priority.

o   Concentrate
on improving quality and access to affordable early childcare, out-of-school
care and pre-school education through investment in public infrastructure and
provision of qualified staff. This should aim to reducing the effects of
parenthood on female employment. Investments should focus also on adapting the
labour market to the needs of women.

o   Prioritising
the integration of young people not in employment, education or training into
the labour market. This in turn calls for investments in more individualised
active labour market measures and, increased access to quality apprenticeships
and traineeships, including non-formal learning approaches.

o   Entrepreneurship
and self-employment should also be specifically targeted, as these could offer
a solution to the problems mentioned above. Funds should be dedicated to
increasing the access to the possibilities of self-employment as an alternative
to unemployment or inactivity, especially in the case of youths, women and
older people, while providing the necessary training and institutional setting
to better prepare individuals to set up their own business.

o   Due
priority should be given to the disabled and other persons facing particular
risks, including single parent families, children, and older people in the
context of reinforcing measures to help people at risk to return to employment
or to receive further training.

4.  Improving the level of education

o   Improving
the quality of education and addressing skill mismatches, reducing the number
of early school leavers, and enhancing access to lifelong learning. Malta still
has one of the lowest levels of tertiary educational attainment in the EU.

o   Provision
of flexible learning opportunities, while at the same time increasing the
variety of courses on offer. Malta should invest in more innovative higher
education, namely through more interactive learning environment, and fostering
strategic cooperation between higher education institutions and enterprise.

o   Reduction
of early school leavers: Development of a system to identify and address the
main reasons leading to the high incidence of early school leaving, and the
implementation of comprehensive strategies to reduce this phenomenon.

o   Investments
should focus on better adapting workers, enterprises and entrepreneurs to the
restructuring of the economy, including by further modernizing the vocational
and education training (VET) system. Particular attention should be given to
buoyant sectors of the economy such as green, white, ICT and personal services
sectors.

GRTU will be consulting
members on this very important topic to ensure the priorities of all our
sectors are included. Further details will be made available shortly.

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