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MALTATODAY 13 February 2022

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12 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 13 FEBRUARY 2022 NEWS MATTHEW VELLA COSTS for Maltese indus- try have continued to rise in December 2021, with lat- est data from the National Statistics Office confirming the trend of rising importa- tion costs in the post-pan- demic era. The latest data from De- cember shows the indus- trial producer price index again registering a steep increase of 7.15% over the same period in 2020. The trend continues as a series of month-on-month cost increases from August on- wards. Malta's industrial price index monitors the selling prices of leading products from a sample of 80 large enterprises: in August, industrial prices for inter- mediate goods, which are used to manufacture final consumer products, shot up by a massive 8% over the same month in 2020; then 9.6% in September and 9% in October. The highest increase in December now was due to intermediate goods (11.1%). Higher supply costs from shipping and supply prob- lems keeping costs high has been a global problem throughout the COVID-19 pandemic – the dislocation of supply could not keep up with the renewed demand as the pandemic subsided. The rise in costs for in- dustry is then mirrored by a decrease in industrial pro- duction: compared to De- cember 2020, working-day industrial production fell by 6.6%. The largest decrease was registered in the pro- duction of consumer goods (17.3%), followed by inter- mediate goods (11%). The production of energy and capital goods increased by 14.2% and 2% respectively. It is unclear whether the European Commission forecasts of the past week represent the calm before the storm: relative to the EU average, inflation in Malta has increased only moderately in 2021, reg- istering the lowest rate of inflation in the EU at 2.1%, half the European average of 3.9%. A factor in this is that the Maltese authorities are committed to limit energy prices growth in 2022 with a multi-million outlay to cushion any increases in electricity production costs from the rise in gas prices. Malta buys its gas from the Azerbaijani state-owned Socar Trading, which is a part-owner of the Electro- gas gas plant. But in the rest of Europe, as tensions with Russia rise, energy prices are now expected to remain elevated for longer. Brussels says the combi- nation of rising energy pric- es, and the supply-chain disruptions will keep up the inflationary pressure until summer. Doctors question low uptake of epidural in Malta JAMES DEBONO ONE in four women giving birth in Malta in 2019 (26%) received an epi- dural injection for pain relief, a Malta Medical Journal study on obstetric log- books reveals. The uptake of this effective pain relief method was considerably lower than rates reported in other countries – 31% in United Kingdom, 37.2% in France and 65.1-73.1% in the United States. The study was based on data from the obstetric anaesthesia logbook, a record in which anaesthetists lists all interven- tions carried out over 24 hours. An epidural is the most common form of pain relief given in labour and birth. It consists of a nerve block delivered through a small, flexible catheter that goes near the spine at the small of the back, and continues to deliver medica- tion throughout labour. The choice of whether to get an epi- dural in place of other anaesthesia or no anaesthesia at all is usually up to the pregnant mother. The study notes Malta's compara- tively low rate of epidural uptake and recommends an investigation of "wom- en's perception of epidural analgesia in Malta", especially to see "if there are any perceived barriers to access timely and safe epidural analgesia." According to the study, 2,350 of the 4,040 deliveries in 2019 required an anaesthetic intervention – 52% of all deliveries in that particular year. These included 1,194 lower segment Caesar- ean sections (LSCS). 91.4% of all LSCSs were done under a regional anaesthetic, by administering a spinal anaesthetic or topping up an epidural, a rate which compares well to the Royal College of Anaesthetists and Obstetric Anaesthe- sia Association (OAA) standard. The C-section rate in Malta for 2019 – 29.6% – was comparable to the average 30.7% observed in southern Europe. The study was authored by Glenn Abela, Benjamin Thornton, Petramay Attard Cortis and Paul Calleja from the Department of Anaesthesia and Inten- sive Care. It confirmed "the wide and consider- able role anaesthetics has in maternal services provided at Mater Dei Hos- pital" and called for the continued allocation of personnel, technical re- sources and regular training and audit programmes for the health profession- als involved. Annual variation of the industrial producer price indices TOTAL price index Non-Domestic 20 15 10 5 0 -5 Oct 17 Oct 18 Oct 19 Oct 20 Nov 20 Dec 20 Jan 21 Feb 21 Mar 21 Apr 21 May 21 Jun 21 Jul 21 Aug 21 Sep 21 Oct 21 Nov 21 Dec 21 9.37 7.06 4.33 2.66 2.79 3.37 2.85 3.08 8.01 3.02 9.59 2.32 4.37 8.55 5.26 4.60 9.51 5.28 4.98 11.16 5.59 6.32 Intermediate goods Capital goods Durable consumer goods Non-durable consumer goods All values are percentage increase over the same month from the previous year The industrial producer price index monitors the changes in selling prices of all leading products within a sample of around 80 large enterprises which account for over 80 per cent of the total industrial turnover. Industrial prices keep upward trend The rise in costs for industry is then mirrored by a decrease in industrial production: compared to December 2020, working-day industrial production fell by 6.6%. The largest decrease was registered in the production of consumer goods (17.3%), followed by intermediate goods (11%). The production of energy and capital goods increased by 14.2% and 2% respectively. The last five months of 2021 marked an unprecedented rise in industrial costs

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