The political changes in Libya will also bring a new way of doing business, with more transparency and hopefully no corruption, according to the secretary general of the Maltese-Arab Chamber of Commerce.
“The era of bribery in closed rooms is finished. There will also be more competition because it will not simply be a question of whom you know or what mood they are in,” Mehemmed Izziddin Bek Derna told The Times, referring to comments by members of the National Transitional Council who have appealed for any corruption to be exposed.
“If we do not start a new way of doing business, the orchestra will change but the music will stay the same,” he warned.
The chamber is planning on bringing Maltese businesses together to create a structured approach to renewing their investments in Libya.
He believes business delegations should begin making new contacts in Libya and refreshing old ones, but this should be done in an efficient manner – with the necessary “follow-ups” – and should not stop at “propaganda” visits by politicians.
The chamber intends to call a forum for Maltese businesses to meet and explore the best opportunities by assessing the needs of the Libyan economy and the skills of Maltese business people.
“As a small country Malta can offer services, such as English language learning, IT education, logistics and so on,” he says.
Malta can also help in the construction industry, but contractors might have to establish consortiums since there will be many large projects around the country.
The forum would then come up with several papers and supplement their studies with regular visits to Libya to get more information from the ground.
Mr Bek Derna’s comments come in the wake of a visit by NTC chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil, who said Malta would play a “distinguished” role in the reconstruction of Libya. Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi also recently said he would be visiting Libya with a high-profile delegation, including business people.
The chamber can also assist with such contacts in other Arab countries since its efforts are not restricted to Libya. But Malta has a special connection with Libya, and this, the chamber secretary general feels, should be capitalised on.
“Malta has several advantages. The Maltese are well-known in Libya. It’s easy to make friends. Malta has a good location and the language is not a barrier,” he says, adding that there are also historical ties.
But the Maltese business community cannot take the Libyan market for granted. He said while things were done erratically in the past, the new government would now conduct matters in a more planned way, meaning companies who over-promised and under-delivered would no longer be tolerated.
The Maltese government would do well to organise trips to Libya with business delegations but businesses should be informed well in advance, to give them time to prepare. It should also be assured the businesses taking part in such delegations enjoyed a good business record.
Mr Bek Derna thanked the Maltese government and people for their “outstanding” humanitarian assistance provided to the Libyan people in their struggle to attain freedom and democracy.
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