Conference on Maltese economy at University of Paris Dauphine
Last month the University of Paris Dauphine was the venue of a
conference on the present state of the Maltese economy.
At the joint initiative of the Maltese Embassy in Paris and Le
Cercle Vassalli, Professor Lino Briguglio, head of the Department
of Economics and Management at the University of Malta, and Peter
Paul Meli, head of Foreign Investments at Malta Enterprise,
travelled to Paris to present the state of the Maltese economy
before an audience of academics, students and representatives of
Also present were Ambassador Gazzo, head of the European
Commission's diplomatic representation in Paris, Professor Bernard
Guillochon, director of the University of Paris Dauphine's
Department of Economics and Management, and Professor Jean-Marc
Siroën, director of the University of Paris Dauphine's
International Development Department.
The conference, chaired by Patrice Sanguy, opened with ritual
addresses from the inviting parties, namely the Presidency of the
University and the Maltese Ambassador to Paris.
Professor Bernard de Montmorillon, president of the University of
Paris Dauphine, was due to inaugurate a new school of management
which Dauphine had helped set up in Vietnam, and was represented
for the occasion by Professor Martine Bellec, vice-president of the
Professor Bellec expressed the president's interest and regrets.
She also recalled that Professor Salvino Busuttil, former
Ambassador of Malta to Paris, had first visited Dauphine back in
An amusing anecdote which nobody had forgotten was that when he
entered the hall, where the present conference was being held, to
deliver a talk about Malta's candidacy to the European Union, he
recognised it as the one where he had received an award from NATO
several decades ago as a young economist.
Ever since, Professor Busuttil and his successor, Dr Vicki-Ann
Cremona, have been frequent visitors to the university; it could be
said that Malta was at home at Dauphine. To conclude, Professor
Bellec renewed the president's hope that such excellent personal
contacts would some day, and hopefully soon, lead to the conclusion
of a co-operation and exchange agreement between the two
In her reply, Ambassador Cremona thanked the vice-president and the
university for their hospitality. The Ambassador was also pleased
to acknowledge the role played by the CICLaS, the Research Centre
for Foreign Countries, Languages and Cultures headed by Professor
Martine Piquet, and for the help given by Le Cercle Vassalli, the
Franco-Maltese society headed by Mr Sanguy.
"The existence of Le Cercle Vassalli," she said, "attested to the
presence in France of a large and well-integrated community of the
descendants of Maltese immigrants to this country and to the former
French colonies and protectorates in North Africa.
She added that there was hardly a Cabinet of Ministers in France
without a minister of Maltese descent. Malta, she said, was very
proud of such achievements which did honour to the quality of
Maltese emigration. However, nowadays, it was no longer necessary
for the Maltese to leave their country for economic reasons as had
been the case before independence. Those who were at the time
sceptical of the country's chances to survive economically after
independence, were proved wrong.
In 1964 Malta was considered a developing country and four decades
later it had become a fully-fledged member of the EU. She concluded
with an anecdote about joining the EU: "People thought Malta might
be like a 'fly in a soup' which... might drown ... and two years
later the 'fly'was coping well."
Professor Lino Briguglio entitled his talk "A Panorama of the
Maltese Economy" He started with the structure and performance of
the Maltese economy, waste management problems, the worrying
inflation factors, and Malta's heavy dependence on market services
He added that Malta was becoming a nation of services (consulting,
tourism) and that since it had joined the EU, it had become a donor
country. The current economic trend showed that Malta's economy
would continue to grow.
Professor Briguglio ended his speech with the pros and cons of the
Maltese economy, which was, on the one hand, very small and, on the
other, very open. This was a great help in attracting foreign
Among the negative points, Professor Briguglio mentioned the
smallness of the island, and the risks small states had to face.
The fact that nowadays the economy was an open one made it very
difficult to compete with other companies operating in the heavy
He added that Malta had stable institutions - considered as
democratic assets - which were not cheap to maintain (e.g. the
Central Bank). Professor Briguglio was convinced that Malta's
future was a good one, especially as an IT centre, among others,
and that success came along with hard work and the Maltese were
Being small was a disadvantage and he told those present that he
disagreed with the old view or myth that 'small states had small
problems'. He also brought in the notion of "The Singapore
The next speaker was Professor Bernard Guillochon, who gave a very
stimulating presentation. He spoke about "Regional Integration: The
Conditions for Success" and referred to 'trade creation' and 'trade
diversion' and put the stress on Franco-Maltese issues within the
He emphasised the fact that trade creation was more important in
Malta and had had a positive impact on the openness of the island.
He concluded by saying that Malta's EU membership (including that
of the nine new members) had been a very big success both for Malta
Ambassador Gazzo reminded the audience that the success of the
enlargement rested on political will and determination, both on the
part of the Union and on the part of the countries that had decided
to join it.
After the coffee break, Mr Meli was given the floor to talk about
"Malta Enterprise and Foreign Investment in Malta". His
presentation was centred on Malta as being "an ideal investment
location". Success was strongly linked to Malta's island mentality,
its flexibility and its will to survive. He also insisted on three
a) Malta's strategic position was of great importance. Investors
discovered a 'can do' business environment, social stability and
that industrial unrest was practically non-existent, especially in
the private sector.
b) In terms of human resources, knowledge of English was a main
advantage and a major selling point. Although Malta naturally had
its national language which the Maltese were proud of, the island
was now considered an English-speaking country, where IT was
beginning to dominate, even though, he added, the cost of labour
was not the cheapest.
c) Malta had a very competitive fiscal environment which attracted
a huge number of companies.
Mr Meli ended by saying that Malta Enterprise, a government agency,
was a trade promotion agency which assisted companies wishing to
set up in Malta adding that after the UK, Germany and Italy, more
and more French companies were showing interest in the
The last speaker was Professor Jean-Marc Siroën who made a very
interesting and theoretical presentation on "Small Countries in an
Enlarged Europe". Malta, he said, was a micro state, and that small
economies like Malta's were more vulnerable to outside risks
(storms, drought, etc...).
One other handicap was that the fiscal burden was higher, as in
small countries the cost of maintaining a state was bound to be
heavier to the taxpayer. However, he said, one should stress the
fact that in Malta's case there were three favourable
• the use of English on the island;
• its successful economy based on the British model;
• its EU membership.
Among the unfavourable elements, he mentioned that Malta was a
peripheral country, with few neighbours around it, and added that
transport costs were higher than in mainland Europe.
One paradox he referred to was that small countries had, in
general, good economic performances but that all small countries
were not as developed as Malta. There could be no performance in a
closed economy, which was not Malta's case.
Mr Sanguy launched a lively debate by asking the participants
whether it was possible to draw a comparison between Malta, which
had a sound and prosperous economy, and the French West Indies,
which, although benefiting from considerable transfers from
mainland France, and had a high standard of living and
state-of-the-art public services, were nevertheless suffering from
a dramatic lack of competitiveness, unemployment and
Professor Briguglio, as a specialist of the question and one who
sits on various international agencies specialised in insularity
and small states, answered that the comparison was indeed relevant
as, for example, the sound economy of St Lucia showed.
He also added that St Lucia had produced two Nobel Prize-winners.
The constraints enumerated by his French colleague were no doubt
real, serious and were even lethal liabilities for small island
countries but mostly when combined with political dependence. Once
they had gained independence, they often coped quite well, as
Singapore had amply proved. However, one must grant that
globalisation had, no doubt, introduced new challenges.
Ambassador Cremona concurred with that view and as a historian she
could not but agree with what Ambassador Gazzo had said earlier,
that at some point in time, what made the difference was the
In the late colonial days after World War II, the Malta dockyard
had been converted from a military to a commercial activity with
relatively limited success, and the British Colonial Office had not
invested in the economic and tourist infrastructure while
encouraging the Maltese to emigrate. Thus, Malta had to start from
scratch after independence in 1964, and, Dr Cremona concluded, one
of the island's best choices had been diversification.
The conference ended with a reception in the president's
dining-room, sponsored by Le Cercle Vassalli. It provided a
friendly Franco-Maltese atmosphere, during which guests could help
themselves to Maltese wine and French cheese, as well as other
Throughout the conference, Séverine Durmaz, in charge of the Paris
delegation of the Malta Tourism Authority, provided the audience
with brochures and information. She answered all the innumerable
questions from the University of Paris Dauphine students about the
language schools on the island and possibilities of studies, with
her usual charm and competence.
The University of Paris-Dauphine was created in 1968 and is
currently France's leading university in economics and
Mr Sanguy is senior lecturer in English at the University of Paris
Dauphine. He is also the president of Le Cercle Vassalli, the
Franco-Maltese society in Paris and the head of a research team on
"Anglophone Countries in Europe", part of Professor Martine
Piquet's CICLaS Research Centre, which naturally includes
Dr Michael Riccioli is senior lecturer in English at the University
of Paris Dauphine and a visiting lecturer at the University of
London Institute in Paris (ULIP)
The Sunday Times of Malta - 19th November