Malta is currently sustaining a positive economic performance. The main economic indicators all confirm this with good growth and low unemployment together with fast employment growth and sustainable public finances. Inflation is also low.
The latest GDP statistics show that Malta’s economy expanded, in nominal terms, by 6.5% and 4.4 % in real terms in the first quarter of the year when compared to a year earlier. The unemployment rate stood at 3% in April, compared to 8.5% in the euro area. All these are positive indicators, however, one cannot remain complacent in the face of such a positive run. The economy faces a number of challenges including, but not limited to, its current infrastructural stock and its human resources.
On a global level, we are living through an ongoing technological revolution. The disruption that is being caused by this new wave of advancements is actually being touted as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Whereas the Third looked at the forces of automation and computerisation, we are now looking at the integration of cyber physical systems, the fact that smart machines are talking to each other and through artificial intelligence and systems like blockchain we now have a new level of technology smartness that can radically change economic systems and structures.
As this wave continues to gather momentum, Malta needs to prepare for this new economic paradigm shift. Even more so, given that Malta is fast becoming a global hub for blockchain technologies. Although Malta is building on its legacy of using its jurisdictional innovation, authorities need to prepare its human capital stock for this new economic sector and transformation.
It is precisely for this reason that a mindset needs to shift away from protect jobs but towards protecting people. Many of the jobs we know today can change radically in the years to come. Blockchain, smart contracts and decentralised applications and autonomous organisations can transform traditional sectors and professions as we know them today.
For Malta to truly be at the forefront of such new industries and also to sustain its current economic performance, human capital must be ready for the challenges it faces in the years to come. A concerted effort must be made by all stakeholders to ensure that future generations are being prepared with the required skillsets. Educational institutions need to be much more responsive to not only industry’s requirements but to the future. It is therefore commendable that the University of Malta set up a Blockchain Research Group which is undertaking an outreach programme to not only work with industry but also with school children and the public at large.
It is also our duty as professionals and practitioners to see beyond the requirements of our respective organisations. Our success depends on the country’s success and we too have a role to play in directing policy and capacity building. It is therefore our duty to ensure that we engage with the authorities and carve out the skills that we will require in the coming years. Authorities too need to ensure that educational institutions are responsive at all levels and that today’s investments will result in tomorrow’s growth and economic performance.
For all of this to happen, our thinking must shift from protecting today’s jobs and instead protect our people, our children and our future workers by equipping them with the right skill-set to succeed in tomorrow’s world. Education is the way forward and the key to sustaining our current economic performance.
J. P. Fabri is the managing director of ARQ Economic & Business Intelligence, a specialised unit forming part of ARQ Group (www.arqgroup.com)