A majority of Maltese businesses (54 per cent) have expressed uncertainty when asked about their upcoming investment decisions, a result that “underscores a climate of caution, potentially linked to concerns about the nation’s economic direction,” according to the Chamber of SMEs.

The association’s latest SME Barometer for the third quarter of 2023 reveals a significant downgrade in economic sentiment, with new responses related to corruption and unfair competition given considerable weight by respondents.

In fact, the level of corruption (37.4 per cent) and the lack of good governance (37.1 per cent) were the most important contributors to businesses’ concerns on the national situation, even eclipsing inflation (32.9 per cent).

Overpopulation (27.4 per cent) and concerns on the quality of life (14.89 per cent) also scored high.

Chamber of SMEs CEO Abigail Agius Mamo said that “overall sentiment continues to show that businesses are feeling uncomfortable with the direction they are seeing Malta heading towards” – with no fewer than 79.90 per cent indicating that the country is headed in the wrong direction.

“This shows that businesses in general are not happy with the direction the country is heading to and a need for change in direction is imminent,” said Ms Agius Mamo.

When looking at issues facing businesses, the most pressing issues across all business sizes were employee shortages (41.1 per cent), the increase in inflation (30.2 per cent) and unfair competition (21 per cent).

Businesses were also asked what the main contributors leading to inflation are, with employee wage and salary costs (56 per cent) emerging as the clearest cause. This includes the cost of recruitment, employee turnover and actual salaries.

Lawrence Zammit, director at misco, noted that employee wage and salary costs cannot be disregarded, and any foreseen increases need to be complemented with an increase in productivity to avoid wage inflation and ensure sustainability – signalling clear agreement with similar comments recently passed by Silvan Mifsud on behalf of The Malta Chamber.

Conducted by market research firm misco, the survey was carried out online between 11th and 20th October and had 423 respondents.

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