Malta University

The heat is on

Kalkara is having a feast. It is the kind of annual celebration most towns and villages in Malta have in turns. It is a joyful one, with music, fireworks, food, wine and laughter. Communities here are local, but welcome all to join in. With the view on the neighboring towns or villages, all feasts tend to be more grand each year. And with respect to increasing altitude fireworks reach, the airport adjusts along the year its operational mode to stay out of the way. These days Malta is struck by some heat waves, pushing the mercury up to 44 degree Celsius. After noon until four all outdoor life gets quiet. Only the ones preparing the fireworks, are working under the boiling sun. The construction sites become very quiet during this season. I tried myself and it is impossible to move more that a few bricks, before longing for some shade. People in Malta are hard working. The reputation of Mediterranean lax does not apply here. Actually, I think it applies really nowhere in the Mediterranean. Not even in Libya. This myth must have been invented by people just coming and watch without feeling the heat themselves. For those who think austerity and discipline are the path to prosperity, yes (!), but just come and try to make a move outdoors when the sun stands high. Sure, there are a lot of things which can improve, no doubt. But working harder, is not one of them.

At the Kalkara waterfront. The village feast is on, but all is quiet during the day.

At the Kalkara waterfront. The village feast is on, but all is quiet during the day.

The construction site of Cospicua's Dock number one, which will become one of the campuses of the American University of Malta.

The construction site of Cospicua's Dock number one, which will become one of the campuses of the American University of Malta.

Fire works, after the show.

Fire works, after the show.

Village entrance to Kalkara.

Village entrance to Kalkara.

No brain to drain in Malta

Human Resources is not my field of expertise. But I thought somebody who is researching in this area might be able to make good use of some data collected in February 2017. We conducted a discussion on the undersupplied talent situation in Malta among and with industry representatives of the island state. This was in the context of a Business Forum hosted by the Faculty of Economics, Business, and Accounting of the University of Malta (FEMA). To have a starting point for the conversation, I polled opinions and assessments among 58 forum members. They represent indigenous Maltese commercial activities which are hiring University graduates. Main customers of these companies are Maltese end customer (46 %), foreign end customers (28 %), followed by Maltese B-B (11 %) and international B-B (9 %). 6 % are the supplier of an international mother company. Above 60 % of companies generate more than 50 % of their revenue in Malta. The results were confirming the views that there is a shortage of talent and that graduates are ill-equipped with the skills, capabilities, and characteristics required when they come to the job market. For those who are interested in this field, please feel free to download and use the summary presentation, the original data (sanitized from participant identities) , and the survey. Perhaps it is useful to compliment own research, or as a point of reference. In this context, there is also an interesting paper which shows that the situation is not new in Malta, but becomes more obviously a bottleneck now, during a sustained strong economic growth period. It is by Andrew Triganza Scott and Vincent Cassar (2005): The voyage from M.C.A.S.T. to industry. A perceived gap analysis of the critical competencies' evaluative dimensions in the manufacturing technical sector. Journal of Maltese Education Research. Vol. 3, Nr. 1, 43-60. I opened the comment function to this blog post. If you have any questions, please get in touch. 

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Malta habitat

Last night we had an information session for our EMBA Programme at the old University of Malta Campus in Valletta. Together with the National Library, these are my favorite academic "hang outs" in Malta. After that, a few went to The Bridge Jazz Bar down to the Grand Harbour, and enjoyed, over a drink, the lively atmosphere of an early summer Friday evening in Valletta. My habitat in Malta became the Grand Harbour area, the Three Cities and Valletta. The only transportation needed here is the Ferry from Cospicua to the Valletta Waterside. Of course, beside this, life in Malta is directed to the sea. 

Your jobs are too boring for the robots

A recent topic to whine about for undergraduate business students is, that robots could take their jobs in the near future. But let's think about it. Robots fly into space and land on Mars. They dive into the deep ocean and explore places on earth where no human has ever been. They repair leakages in nuclear power plants when no human can go there. Robots are adventurous and perhaps even "want" to make the world a better place. Why should a robot sit in a cubical, be a financial controller, a banker, a salesman or accountant? That's very boring for a robot. I guess, they have higher aspirations. So, you are perfectly safe. No contest. No worries.

Selfie of "Curiosity" at the  Gale Crater , Sol 85, Mars (2012), (Photo in public domain under  NASA image policy )

Selfie of "Curiosity" at the Gale Crater, Sol 85, Mars (2012), (Photo in public domain under NASA image policy)

How to maximize health care provision in small island states

Recently Sandra Buttigieg, Frank Bezzina and I have been starting to analyse the Economics of the Maltese health care system, and asking the question how it can maximize health care provision for its citizens. The task was to find out, how to combine the value chains of the public health care system (namely the health centres and the Mater Dei Hospital in Msida, modelled after the UK's NHS) and those of private clinics, in a way that the overall output and quality of care is at its best and accessible to everybody. As of the different shareholder and stakeholder interests, classical private-public partnerships might not be the best solution. But we found more and more that there are other ways of potential collaboration between the systems. So, we are looking into the promotion of medical tourism to boost up case numbers, increase specialization and make investments into laboratory support and infrastructure feasible. There is also other evidence that the kind of contracts doctors are operating on (private practice allowed or not) have an impact on the failure rates of medical procedures. Lastly, every patient who decides for private sector treatment, saves the public sector provision of capacity. The question is whether this potential public saving could translate into a financial incentive for citizens to pick up private health insurances. 

I am happy that the results of the initial work we did together, have been published in the Health Economics Section of the Frontiers in Public Health. Thanks to Sandra's restless editorial work for the Frontiers, it is free to download here. We will continue on this path, and hope not just to make a contribution to Malta, but also to learn from this model for other small states. If you like to join the discussion, you are very welcome.

Bajja Ta' Fomm-ir-Rih

During all the past weeks we have been spoiled with a bright blue sky, and today on the third of Advent, the rain set in. Every drop counts to replenish the groundwater table of the arid islands, and we enjoyed the rainy day as much as the sunny times. The flora immediately stretches out for the water and the smell of fennel and thyme raises into the air. In the morning we joined friends for a walk to the beautiful North-Western coast of Malta and went down to Il-Bajja Ta' Fomm-ir-Rih. It is a very picturesque trail along a geological terrace where porous limestone formations are moving backward on harder Miocene Greensands which form the cliff. You literally walk on that edge. By public transport you can reach quite close by taking Line 109 to Il-Bahrija.

Malta neighborhoods

During my first week at Malta University, I received to kind invitation and honor to join the Congregation for the Conferment of Degrees in the Jesuit Church in Valletta, just beside the old University campus and opposite the Maltese headquarter of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem Knights of Malta. The whole place was breathing history and to my surprise I was told that the odd height of the steps to the library were because in the past the knights used to go up there with their horses. The congregation itself was a very graceful event and paid honor to the graduate's achievements, not just by the marvelous setting, but also the well chosen words - out of which some were in Latin.

Marsaxlook fishing village

Marsaxlook fishing village

On Saturday we explored the South of Malta, and returned to the fishing village Marsaxlook, this time not for the Sunday fish market but to explore the neighborhood. On Sunday we were shown around some North-Eastern villages of Malta  by my University host and friend. It is easy to fall in love with Malta like this. The morning started with picking up the catch of the day of Lampuki (Maltese Dorade or Mahi-Mahi) at the vendor beside our residence. And we kept enjoying the wonderful day, strolling though the villages and having the island's best octopus.

Catch of the day. Half of that  is our dinner.

Catch of the day. Half of that  is our dinner.