28 January 2004

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Business opportunities in Malta

Finance and Economic Affairs Minister John Dalli addresses last Friday’s D.K.F. European Members’ Meeting. With the meeting’s subject of ‘Business opportunities in Malta’ Minister Dalli speaks about the balance of the Maltese economy between tourism and manufacturing, and makes particular reference to the hi-tech sector of industry

Malta has managed to build up over the years a stock of very high quality tourist accommodation and recreation facilities as hotels, health spas, casinos, cinemas and restaurants. Our property market is also concentrating on upmarket accommodation facilities situated on our coast and harbour area, with stunning views some of which you will be able to experience this afternoon during your harbour cruise.
Land sports available in Malta include rock climbing, trekking, golf and horse riding. Malta also offers very good facilities for water sports as sailing, jet skiing, water skiing and windsurfing. The Islands’ natural harbours, bays, sheltered creeks, cliffs, reefs and wrecks offer excellent sport for both beginners and experienced open water and cave divers.
For the less adventurous Malta also offers a large range of open air and indoor museums for every era from prehistory to World War II. Malta’s strategic location meant that various civilisations who ruled the Mediterranean region needed to occupy the Maltese Islands in order to maintain their power. Thus Malta has traces of all these cultures. A tour of Malta can acquaint the visitor with the complex history of the Mediterranean. This mix of culture, relaxation and sports attractions helped reach tourist arrivals per capita in Malta which is higher than those in other islands as Seychelles, Maldives, Cyprus and Barbados. We are currently working to further upgrade the tourist experience of our Prehistoric monuments.
Malta offers a very good quality of life to its inhabitants. Life expectancy is close to that of developed countries, we have an ever increasing number of students completing their tertiary education in Malta itself, an unemployment rate which is one of the lowest amongst EU acceding states and very close to the EU average, lower income inequality than the average for EU member states, a lower proportion of persons at risk of poverty than the average for EU member states, a lower amount of criminality than countries as the UK and Sweden and we enjoy some 300 days of sunshine. We are currently working to improve our environment and road infrastructure through funds tied to Malta’s EU membership in order to further enhance our quality of life in the future. We also aim at further improving the skills of our labour force as well as the innovative capability of our economic base.
However, Malta is more than just a tourist destination. About 72 per cent of Malta’s manufactured exports are of high technology products compared with 63 per cent in Singapore, 48 per cent in Ireland, 34 per cent in the US and 32 per cent in the UK. Over 200 foreign companies in the engineering, electronic components and assembly, telecommunications, software, rubber & plastics, pharmaceuticals and medical products are operating in Malta. Some world-renowned names such as ST Microelectronics, Dowty Automotive, Baxter, Methode Electronics, Lufthansa, Playmobil and De La Rue Currency and Security Print have found Malta a very good base for their operations. Malta’s attractiveness to manufacturing investment stems from the flexibility and dedication of our workforce as well as our political ability to react quickly to the opportunities open to us.
The quality of our human resources is also a determinant factor in the attractiveness of Malta as an investment location for financial services. However, Malta also offers a serious regulatory framework, which is up to EU standard, competitive cost and a good communications infrastructure for this sector.
Malta has a number of mobile subscriptions and fixed telephone lines per 100 population which is higher than most EU acceding states and some EU member states. VOIP minutes consumed have more than doubled between March and September 2003. Market liberalisation has allowed the consumers to benefit from lower prices as well as the ability to choose among a wider spread of telecommunications services. We intend to continue increasing competition in this sector so as to further decrease the costs of telecommunications to local consumers.
Malta has daily flight connections with major European cities. Malta can be reached from most European capitals within a few hours by air. The national airline, Airmalta, operates flights to and from major airports not only in Europe but also those in North Africa and the Middle East.
Malta also has a Freeport, which is a leading transhipment hub in the Mediterranean. In terms of the overall tonnage of cargo loaded and unloaded, Malta’s growth has outpaced that of all other Mediterranean ports with a growth rate of 35 per cent between 1998 and 2002 while the average growth for all the Mediterranean was only 13 per cent.
Malta aims to take full economic advantage of all the economic activity taking place within the Mediterranean countries. The setting up of our Freeport was part of this strategy. Our shipyards are also tying to be part of this vision through concentrating on the maintenance of vessels sailing in the Mediterranean as super yachts and yachts.
This vision is also applicable to the provision of financial services and the distribution of goods from the European Union member states to the developing North African region. Malta’s cultural and physical proximity to both the North African and European region makes us an ideal facilitator for trade between these two economic regions.
Malta’s EU membership will undoubtedly help Malta in the materialisation of this vision as we well as in opening up further opportunities for our manufacturing base throughout the European Union and beyond. EU membership is a guarantee to investors that Malta’s legal and economic infrastructure is up to the highest standards.
Through EU membership Malta is preparing itself to enter into a new era which will permit the full exploitation of our capabilities and therefore lead to increased prosperity as we will now have the supporting infrastructure of fully developed nations. Malta is looking for strategic partners capable of helping us in the full realisation of Malta’s vision for mutual benefit.

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
The Malta Financial & Business Times, Newsworks Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann
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