Published on The Malta Independent¸ issue 3rd July 2011
One of the latest laws passed in Parliament is the Small Business Act (SBA) aimed at improving competitiveness and help nurture business grassroots. These issues will be discussed at a forthcoming event “Regenerating Entrepreneurship” at the Westin Dragonara Hotel next Wednesday¸ 6 July between 8:30am and 2pm. Parliamentary Secretaries Chris Said and Jason Azzopardi will address delegates together with many other high profile speakers from both sides of the political spectrum¸ the Malta Employer’s Association¸ GRTU¸ UHM¸ Employers Association and other unions¸ together with FHRD¸ Bank of Valletta¸ legal experts and a consultant who assisted the government in the drafting of the Small Business Act (SBA)¸ among others.
Why the fuss about SBA when the entire nation has been focused for months on the divisive political issue of divorce legislation. This national issue was subject to an expensive referendum and although such issues are important somebody has to remain focused on the straight and narrow and while other EU countries are cutting public sector jobs and tightening their belts to cut debt we cannot ignore our economic destiny. It took Parliament almost three years to transpose the SBA law but now¸ thanks to the boundless energy of Dr Azzopardi (himself a young parliamentary secretary)¸ the task is finished. Can we continue to ignore the plight of 85 per cent of our business community that brings home the bacon: not unless we act foolishly. Sadly¸ the “think small first” motto¸ which is the hallmark of SBA¸ is anathema to our domestic political psyche. Not so in Brussels¸ which reasons that assisting SMEs can act as a very potent cure to solve present and future job losses.
Adopted by Brussels in June 2008¸ the Small Business Act for Europe reflects the Commission’s political will to recognise the central role of SMEs in the EU’s economy and¸ for the first time¸ puts into place a comprehensive policy framework for the EU and its member States. The policy aims to improve the overall approach to entrepreneurship¸ and permanently anchor the principle to assist emerging small business starting from lightening regulation to educating public service attitudes in a constant drive to promote SMEs’ growth. Being fragile¸ they need all possible help to tackle the remaining problems that hamper their development. Does this sound a bit of déjà vu… yes we have heard the mantra repeated in each budget speech for decades. Too much talk and very little walk. Still¸ one admires the tenacity of Brussels which recognises the importance of independent companies employing under 250 employees: it is no exaggeration to admit the awesome statistic that SMEs account for 99 per cent of all European businesses.
They provide sustenance for 90 million workers. It is a pity that it took three full years for Malta to launch its own version… but never mind SBA is ready now so it is expedient to focus on how the government can make a successful implementation. To be fair¸ our SBA has gone the extra mile to introduce new concepts such as the College of Regulators and the Industry Consultative Council. These are new challenges for Dr Azzopardi to establish the collaboration of fellow ministries in Cabinet¸ to