A country is only as good as its infrastructure, so prospective investors will be glad to know that Malta’s compares favourably to that of most developed nations, and is considerably better than some – a fact that might be surprising for those unfamiliar with the country.
Despite its tiny size, or perhaps because of it, Malta has invested heavily in its built, digital, and soft infrastructure, with constantly ongoing efforts to upgrade facilities and connections in order to equip businesses with the tools they need to operate efficiently and effectively.
Adequate capacity and stable distribution of power are crucial for business in today’s world. Energy in Malta is in the hands of the state-controlled Enemalta, the country’s sole energy provider, whose four generation plants running on LNG and gasoil have a combined capacity of 537.8 MW. Additional electricity is purchased from the European mainland via a 200 MW interconnector to Italy.
In line with the country’s growth projections, a second interconnector is currently under development, while significant investment in the distribution network is ongoing to ensure it is ready for the power demands of an increasingly energy-hungry economy. As in much of the rest of Europe, the standard voltage is 230V and the frequency is 50Hz.
Malta International Airport is the first and last destination for over 95 per cent of all visitors to Malta. As the only air terminal in the country, it is a key contributor to its economic development, a role which it has embraced by constantly investing in improvements to its facilities.
Two runways, 3.5km and 2.4km long, connect Malta to over 100 destinations including most regional capitals and major cities, many less than three hours’ away, through over 30 partner airlines. Meanwhile, the 72,000sqm terminal, inaugurated in 1992, hosts over 15 food and beverage outlets, 10 retail outlets, and a pharmacy. Business travellers can make use of two executive lounges, while a separate exclusive VIP terminal is typically used for diplomatic travel. The airport campus also includes 2,700 parking spaces, dedicated taxi and coach areas, and a state-of-the-art business centre, home to distinguished operations such as Microsoft and VistaJet.
Over 18,000 tonnes of cargo pass through the airport annually, it being the main base of Maltese operations for global companies like DHL and Servisair. It also hosts several maintenance facilities, including those operated by Lufthansa Technik, SR Technics, and most recently, Ryanair.
The millions of passengers passing through the doors of Malta International Airport can expect the quality of service for which it has won Airports Council International’s Best Airport in Europe title for four years running since 2018. Its efforts to place passenger safety as a top priority were also recognised through the Voice of the Customer certificate in 2021 and 2022.
However, in a demonstration of a national trait new arrivals to the islands will quickly come to know and love, the airport is not content to rest on its laurels, with further upgrades in the pipeline. Construction recently got underway for a second business centre and a tenth apron, including a new taxiway and staging area for ground handling operations. These projects, slated for completion in 2026, will prepare the airport for increasing traffic and commercial growth while reducing resource use through water collection and renewable energy production.
As an island nation with a strong maritime tradition, Malta has long recognised the importance of maintaining its port facilities’ competitive edge. The Port of Valletta, also known as the Grand Harbour, is the main entry point for people and goods arriving by sea. It extends for around 3.6km inland and is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and hosts a wide array of services including ship repair and building yards, ship chandlery, bunkering facilities, and specialised silos.
The main terminal can handle container, RoRo, and conventional cargo. The port also contains the Valletta Cruise Port and provides ferry links to Sicily and Gozo.
On the other side of Valletta, towards the cosmopolitan areas of Sliema and Gżira, one finds Marsamxett Harbour, which is largely dedicated to leisure-related activity and boasts several acclaimed yacht marinas.
At the south end of the main island there is the Malta Freeport, one of the Mediterranean’s largest transhipment ports. Operated by Yildirim Group, CMA-CGM and CMPort, its two terminals offer 2,462m of operational deep-water quays, 771,000sqm for container storage, a total of 15,297 container ground slots, and 1,840 reefer slots. The latest class of 24,000 TEU vessels can be accommodated at both terminals thanks to a water depth of 17m.
The freeport has received over 2,000 ship calls and handled over 3 million TEU in a single year, with its 20 quayside cranes, 60 gantry cranes, and highly skilled, dedicated personnel completing fast turnarounds for some of the largest shipping companies in the world.
Malta’s strategic position is fully exploited with over 120 global port connections, and the port continues to invest heavily in digitalisation, infrastructural development, productivity, and ongoing training for its workforce to stay ahead of the curve and surpass demanding clients’ high expectations.
Since Malta lacks a rail network, practically all internal transport is conducted by car. Hundreds of millions of national and European funds have in recent years been poured into the road network to address a long-standing traffic problem which was only accentuated with the sharp growth in the islands’ population.
Despite locals’ incessant complaints about the traffic, journey times of over one hour are exceedingly rare, and are typically the result of accidents at critical junctions. Like many other former British colonies, Malta drives on the left side of the road.
Most industrial space is spread across more than 15 industrial estates managed by a dedicated state agency, INDIS. Each industrial estate has a variety of property solutions which can often be tailored to tenants’ needs, with some estates equipped for particular sectors and industries, such as the Life Sciences Park, home to the most cutting-edge laboratories, and the Safi Aviation Park, although manufacturing of all kinds remains the most common use for such space. INDIS takes a proactive approach to facilitating the setting up of business operations in Malta, working hand in hand with investors to find the solution that best works for them.
As is the case with most of the country’s infrastructure, significant investments are being undertaken to increase and improve the stock of industrial space in order to prepare the country for the technological transition of the coming years. These investments include the redevelopment of Kordin Business Centre into a modern start-up facility, the extension of the Life Sciences Park, and the rehabilitation of a former dump to create 85,000 sq m of developable space. Investors interested in exploring the range of properties and potential partnerships on offer should contact INDIS or Malta Enterprise.
Malta’s unique history has left an indelible mark on its approach to health. The first recorded public hospital opened its doors as far back as 1372, and the Knights Hospitaller, true to their roots, built one of the largest and most progressive hospitals of their time, the Sacra Infermeria in Valletta (today a major event venue known as the Mediterranean Conference Centre), which was praised by visitors to the islands for the care and insight shown in treating the sick.
Under the British, Malta (and the then-still active Sacra Infermeria) twice served as a hub for the sick and wounded, in the Crimean War of the 1850s and the First World War, earning it the nickname of ‘The Nurse of the Mediterranean’.
This legacy holds strong today, with Malta boasting one of the best public healthcare systems in the world. Back in 2000, the World Health Organisation ranked it fifth globally, while more recently, in 2018, leading medical journal The Lancet placed it ninth.
Away from the scoreboard, suffice it to say that the country’s sometimes laid-back attitude dissipates at the threshold of its heath facilities. The country’s main hospital, Mater Dei, opened in 2007, is one of the largest medical buildings in Europe, serving as an acute, general, and teaching hospital, with a specialised oncology division situated nearby. The Life Sciences Park is also in the vicinity, allowing for the easy flow of the latest R&D into clinical practice.
Meanwhile, despite its low population and double insularity, healthcare provision in Gozo is just as good as in many European capitals, as attested to by Queen Mary University of London’s renowned Barts Medical School’s decision to open a Gozo campus next door to Gozo General Hospital.
A thriving ecosystem of private healthcare providers is similarly recognised for its excellence, and the country has in recent years been taking tentative steps to promote itself as a destination for medical tourism.
The public health service is free at the point of delivery for anyone working and paying social security. European Union citizens on temporary visits can use the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and receive free medical treatment from public hospitals and clinics, although it should be noted that this serves as a complement to healthcare insurance, not a substitute, as it does not cover travelling costs in case of serious conditions, injuries, and deaths. EU nationals staying for over three months should obtain an S1 (formerly E121) form to qualify for free healthcare.
Malta has bilateral agreements with the UK and Australia, allowing residents of these countries to qualify for free medical and hospital care for stays up to one month. Other non-EU nationals should obtain travel insurance covering medical costs overseas.
Regardless of one’s insurance cover or lack thereof, no one is turned away in case of an emergency, although proof of insurance will be requested once the condition is stabilised. As in the rest of the EU, the emergency freephone to call an ambulance is 112.
Malta has a well-regarded public school system with free education available to locals up to tertiary level. The Catholic Church operates a number of schools, while a relatively small number of private schools can be found, two of which, Verdala and QSI, are geared towards the expat community, offering the International Baccalaureate.
The University of Malta and the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology are the main state-funded post-secondary and tertiary institutions, offering a wide selection of degrees in practically all key subjects. Over the last two decades, a number of private institutions have also established themselves, with many partnering with international (mostly British) universities to offer internationally recognised qualifications, making Malta an attractive destination for those looking to obtain a world-class education under a clear blue sky.
Dialogue between higher education and industry is constant, with government-backed research funds acting as the catalyst for collaborative R&D projects that often make their way to market and have, at times, caught the eye of global players. Here, again, the authorities’ willingness to listen and intervene as and where needed plays a vital role in encouraging fruitful cooperation.
Thanks to the country’s investment in developing its educational systems, a necessity when considering that labour remains the only resource it has to offer, Maltese workers are known to be highly skilled, adaptable, and self-motivated, with a knack for innovative problem-solving.
Two of Malta’s most significant drivers of growth in the 21st century, together making up close to a fifth of GDP, are iGaming and financial services. That these two industries were able to develop and achieve the success they did, heavily dependent as they are on fast and stable network connections, is proof enough of the quality of the country’s communications infrastructure, which compares well with that of most major European cities.
In fact, Malta is the only EU member state with full coverage of ultrafast fixed internet, while the three mobile operators in the liberalised market provide coverage extending to every corner of the country. The European Commission’s Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) ranks Malta 5th out of all the EU member states, with the country performing above the EU average in all five dimensions of the index.
The success of Malta’s IT infrastructure in providing a solid foundation for sectors like software and game development, apart from the previously mentioned iGaming and financial services, among others, has spurred on further investment, with the country now positioning itself to venture into future tech like artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT).
Malta is connected to the internet by means of several cable links to Sicily, while Gozo, which has its own digital development agenda, is connected to the main island through two fibre optic cables, the second of which was opened in late 2020 in a bid to attract tech investment to the island.
Malta has a mixed European legal system with elements of both Common and Civil Law. The long period of British domination left an imprint in many areas, particularly with regard to company law and the regulation of certain economic sectors, although today, almost two decades after joining the European Union, the regulations and directives issued from Brussels have grafted another layer of legislative influence onto Malta’s hybrid system. For investors, this means that their interests are protected by the highest standards in a system with elements that are familiar to many, and fair for all.
The judicial system operates on two tiers, with a Court of First Instance and a Court of Appeal. The Constitutional Court handles matters relating to constitutional provisions, and the European Court of Human Rights acts as a forum of last resort when all local avenues for redress are exhausted.
Since 2018, Malta has been streamlining the process for the settlement of commercial disputes by setting up a commercial section within the Civil Court, dealing with applications related to matters regulated by the Companies Act, the Competition Act, and any regulations falling under the Consumer Affairs Act and the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority Act.
This has been deemed a success by the business community, which has benefitted from shorter case durations and subject-specific expertise. The competence of this section is currently being extended to maritime, trademarks, intellectual property, and patents, allowing those with commercial interests on the islands to have the peace of mind afforded by a specialised court dedicated to resolving disputes in a timely and effective manner.
This feature was first carried in the Malta Invest 2023 edition. Malta Invest is the first-ever comprehensive international investment guide focusing on Malta as a destination. It is produced by Content House Group.
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