About Malta

About Malta

Geography

Malta is a group of islands located in the centre of the Mediterranean Sea, around 90Km off the southern coast of Sicily and around 290Km from the North African coastline. The archipelago consists of the principal island is Malta, which is also the seat of government, together with the smaller islands of Gozo and Comino. With an area of 316 square kilometres and a population of around 400,000, Malta is the smallest EU member state.

The island is rocky with low lying areas in the South and sheer cliffs to the North. Vegetation is sparse and characterised by a patchwork of meticulously terraced fields carved into the rock face to make the best use of the available arable land as well as to make the most of run off water.

Climate

The climate is mild with dry warm summers which tend to get rather hot particularly during August and short, damp winters with the coldest month usually being February. On average, Malta enjoys around 300 days of annual sunshine.

History

Malta’s prominent historical role far belies its natural size. Strategically located at the cross roads between Europe and Africa, Malta has endured occupation by the leading civilisations throughout over 7,000 years of recorded history. In fact the world’s oldest free standing buildings are to be found in Malta and Gozo with the ‘Ggantija’ temples estimated to be over 5,600 years old and predating the pyramids of Giza and Stonhenge.

Subsequently Malta passed into the hands of the Phoencians, who passed on many of the seafaring traditions, some of which are still alive and in evidence to this day. The Romans established a highly developed society in Malta and it was whilst under their rule that the Apostle Paul was shipwrecked in Malta and established the Catholic faith on the island. In 1530, the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V granted the Maltese islands to the Order of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem. Having lost their holdings in Outremer and Rhodes, the Order set about fortifying the island and the magnificent bastions, forts and ravelins, most of which are still intact to this day. With only a handful of knights and a militia made up of mainly untrained locals, the island held out against the might of the Ottoman empire, in what was to be one of the epic battles in history.

Following a brief occupation by the French, the island became a British colony in 1814 and was once again to play a crucial part in shaping modern history during the Second World War. Malta was described as ‘the unsinkable aircraft carrier’ and launched both air and naval attacks on the Axis supply lines from occupied Europe to North Africa. The German Luftwaffe together with the Italian Regia Aeronautica, launched an extensive bombing campaign against the island. The bombing raid were so intense that in the first 6 months of 1942 there is only one 24 hour period during which no air raids were recorded. Between 20 March and 28 April of the same year, over 6,500 tonnes of high explosive ordinance were dropped on the island in the course of over 11,800 sorties flown by the Axis forces. Close to starvation and enduring such terrible conditions with a fortitude and adaptability that the Maltese are known for, prompted King George VI to award the island with the George Cross to record for posterity ‘the heroism and devotion of its people’.

The island obtained independence from the Crown in 1964, becoming a Republic 10 years later. In 2004, Malta was accepted as a Member of the European Union and adopted the Euro in 2008.

Economy

As a Crown colony, the island relied heavily on the British to provide the economic growth of the island. This changed once the seeds of independence were sown and gradually the foundations for a sustainable economy were laid based primarily on tourism and industry. Over the years the island has continued to develop and refine its tourism product and arrivals exceed 1M annually. Industry has also developed well over the years with some significant names establishing factories and plants on the island. With no natural resources, the island must rely on its versatile, well educated and motivated work force in order to meet the challenges posed by emerging economies. Education standards are amongst the highest in the world and over 60% of college students take up further education at a tertiary level. State of the art training facilities have also been created, some of which are collaborative ventures between local government and local as well as foreign enterprises. Lufthansa Teknik are a prime example of this collaborative process where the Malta College for Arts, Science & Technology has introduced a number of training courses in the specialised field of aircraft maintenance. However, the jewel in the crown remains Malta’s Financial Services Industry. Earmarked to become the largest, single contributor to national GDP, the government has embarked on an extensive programme to update existing legislation and introduce new laws to cater for this dynamic and reputation driven industry. Maltese legislation is fully compliant with EU directives and the country has been on the OECD white list for a number of years. The island has concluded extensive double tax treaties with over 50 countries including America, Libya and Kuwait.

The Malta Financial Services Authority acts as the regulator for most financial services and adopts a flexible, ‘can do’ approach which has reaped dividends. Malta has reacted early to shifting economic trends and adjusted its legislation and in some cases, even introduced new laws to take advantage of such changes. Malta was in fact one of the very first nations to regulate remote gaming and enjoys a strong reputation in this field for its robust framework. ICT is also a key driver and Malta enjoys one of the highest internet usage rates in the world. The Maltese government has also entered into partnerships with leading companies such as Microsoft to make Malta one of the most highly automated public administrations.

Lifestyle

The Maltese make the best of the mild climate and spend a large proportion of their free time outdoors in a typical, cosmopolitan Mediterranean lifestyle. A strong ‘café culture’ exists and open air caffe’s are to be found in all the principal town centres. The island is considered to be safe and mostly free from violent crime. The Maltese also have a tradition and reputation for hospitality and for welcoming visitors and longer term residents.

Connections

The island enjoys excellent connections with the leading European capitals being from 1 to at most a 3 hour flight away. There are also direct links to the Middle East with scheduled flights departing almost daily and transiting via Dubai. The island also enjoys direct sea links primarily with Sicily and mainland Italy whilst luxury cruise liners use Malta as a hub from where you may visit most ports within the Western and Eastern Mediterranean basin.

Lying in the middle of a major sea route, Malta also enjoys excellent service by some of the major shipping lines operating in the region who utilise the extensive transhipment facilities available at the Malta Freeport.

Competitiveness

Malta remains competitive in most areas when compared to Europe, particularly with regard to cost of living, salaries and property. A high standard of living but a less chaotic lifestyle creates the right balance between work and quality downtime. Property is also of high quality and following a period where development was rampant, more onerous procedures are now in place which has resulted in a higher quality of residential and commercial developments being undertaken. There are a number of ‘life-style’ developments on the island some of which also include bespoke commercial centres whit offices or office space available for rent in various levels of finish.

Political

Malta is a Republic and a full Member State of the EU. It’s government is democratically elected with a 5 year mandate. There are two principal political movements on the island, the Centre Right Nationalist Party and the Centre Left, New Labour movement. The Greens are also represented but are not considered to be a major force. The country enjoys political stability and it is only on very rare occasions that a government has not run its full course. Malta is not aligned to any of the major powers and enjoys excellent relations with most countries included the Maghreb states. Malta has pioneered various processes to bring about more stability in the Euro Med region. Both major parties have affirmed their efforts to continue to develop and support the Maltese Financial Services Sector and to attract further investment in the island.