As published on The Malta Independent on Sunday 12th January 2014
This year¸ PKF plans to organise an international oil and gas conference in Aberdeen¸ Scotland hosted jointly together with a reputable foreign organiser who is a specialist in the field.
It is planned to attract more than 250 investors and others in the international media who may be encouraged to invest sufficient resources in Malta’s nascent hydrocarbon sector. In a wider context¸ the conference is gearing up to sow the seeds which will see Malta grow into an offshore hub. It is pertinent to mention that under the previous administration¸ two road shows were organised in the continental oil division led by George Pullicino (one in Houston and in London).
It is no secret that there are a number of legal issues regarding some areas on offer that are being contested by neighboring countries¸ and it is common knowledge that the Minister for Foreign Affairs is in discussions in a bid to solve such disputes. Attempts are ongoing to try to persuade such countries to accept joint drilling on contested areas. Naturally it is in everybody’s interest that we start reaping dividends from oil / gas exploration that in the past have eluded the exchequer. It is no secret that the island has borrowed substantially over the years to build a solid infrastructure so as to sustain a stable economy and afford a decent standard of living for citizens notwithstanding its handicap due to its size and its geographical isolation¸ located on the periphery of Europe and lacking natural resources.
No prizes for guessing that the gradual transformation to a functional economy with exemplary unemployment levels has been an arduous task and the process of transition from a fortress economy to a fully fledged EU member came with a price-tag. The borrowings to sustain a welfare state¸ diversifying economic sectors and privatizing major industries now reaches 75% of annual GDP. All this effort can be a testament to hard working politicians who since Independence have succeeded to avoid reaching out for an EU bailout and forestalled suffering the indignation of failed banks and in so doing spared the nation from tough austerity measures that are plaguing other islands in the Med.
Naturally¸ turning the island in a mini Aberdeen where it can service other offshore operators in the Med using its maritime facilities will generate extra revenues. Allow me at this juncture to take a stroll down memory lane and those over 45 years of age will remember the various attempts which grudgingly failed to produce oil wells of any commercial value. Yes¸ those were difficult times but the ice with our neighbors seems to have slowly started to melt as a memorandum of understanding to explore joint drilling was signed last year. In another instance one recalls the national frustration drummed up over a dry well nicknamed ‘Madonna Taz-Zejt’ in an onshore drilling attempt in Gozo¸ on which the government had furled so much hype on the party faithful – only to be mercilessly dashed. Nobody can blame the man in th