Over 200 enterprise owners met this morning for the 2019 edition of GRTU Malta Chambers of SME’s successful event - The SME Conference: Year in Review, co-hosted by Business First.
Opening the conference, the Honorable Minister Chris Cardona said that “SMEs are our country’s biggest generator for jobs and prosperity. Listening to our businesses’ needs and outlooks is essential for us to create meaningful change and adopt accordingly. GRTU is helping us do that. Our collaboration has undoubtedly benefited our local business and economy greatly”.
This year’s conference focused on economic growth and the results of the GRTU study on the subject were published during the event.
GRTU President, Mr Paul Abela stated that “Our economy is doing very well and the figures are testament of this. When looking deeper however one finds that not all businesses are experiencing it in the same way. It is our duty and that of our policy makers to understand what is happening on the ground and make sure that the distribution of wealth is reaching all our economic sectors.”
The study shows mixed results in terms of which businesses are doing well with respondents split - half saying they are doing well and the other half saying they are not feeling the benefits of the strong economy. Out of those that are doing well 30% said that their turnover increased by 5%, 47% of respondents said by 10% and 16% said that the increase went up to 20%. To the contrary, the other half of the respondents mostly quoted too much competition and increased costs, which are offsetting the benefits of increased demand.
Human resources related issues are a major concern for businesses. When asked about wage levels 85% said that they have experienced wage increases in the last 3 years, out of which 19% said that the increase was of 5% overall, 42% said up to 10% and 21% said it was up to 20%. When asked if wage increases have resulted in increased productivity 42 % ranged between the disagreed and strongly disagreed and 28% agreed with this statement. The remaining respondents were uncertain. Many have also quoted labour shortages as the main reason why their business is not working to its potential.
In relation to their opinion on the overall wealth and economic growth, most businesses have stated that they attribute the economic growth to the gaming sector and the construction sector are the main players; followed by tourism and the influx of foreign workers.
When asked about the new developments of digital currencies and finance such as cryptocurrencies and blockchain, 42% said that they don't know much about them, 21% said they found them confusing and another 21% said that they find them intriguing. 16% said that they are untrusting and that they think it is a scam that will soon end.
GRTU closed the conference with four workshops that focused on labour shortages and its implications; Brexit; EU funding and lessons learnt and digital progress for business. Ms Marika Gonna, CEO of Business 1st delivered the conference's closing remarks.