LATEST ARTICLES

Communications on beneficial owners: increasingly severe sanctions for offenders

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For almost three years, Maltese law has obliged companies to keep and transmit adequate, accurate and up-to-date information on their beneficial owners. Since its entry into force, this duty has become so established and entrenched that company owners (direct or indirect, foreign or local) or their officials who do not comply with these measures risk incurring heavy penalties, aggravated by factors such as intentionality and premeditated deception. In the most serious cases, the penalty may even be imprisonment.

Unless all shareholders of a company are natural persons acting in their own name and appearing on the Malta Companies Register (MBR) lists, or the Maltese company itself is listed on a regulated market as described in the law, compliance with the Beneficiaries Act is a must.

But let’s see what the latest news in this regard. Since June 2020, companies are also required to pay an annual fee to contribute to the collection of data and supervisory operations by the public body.

The maximum penalties provided for by law for non-compliance, moreover, after having been contained in an initial phase, have gradually increased, now reaching completely relevant thresholds. The maximum daily penalty for each day of delay, until the non-compliance is remedied, has risen from 10 to 100 euros. While an unintentional delay in filing a form for a fortnight could cost the company up to 6,300 euros.

There is also the sanction that could be imposed by the Malta Registrar of Companies if it finds a discrepancy between the records on beneficiaries transmitted by a company and those kept internally by the company itself. In this case the factor of voluntariness emerges, and the maximum threshold set for this sanction has increased from 10,000 to 100,000 euros.

Companies that existed before the entry into force of these rules (before 2018), which did not comply with the new rules when the initial moratorium expired, and which are still in default, are subject to a daily penalty of up to €500, plus a maximum of €10,000.

Finally, the maximum lump sum penalty for late filing and failure to keep documents has increased from 1,000 to 5,000 euros.

It is hoped that these penalties will discourage those who want to deceive or mislead the public administration on this front. And that they can enhance Malta’s image of legality in the eyes of the world after difficult years.

But there is also the problem of excessive sanctions compared to what could be mere oversight. For this reason it is advisable not to take these obligations under advisement and, in case of doubts or difficulties, to rely on the advice of a professional. The Malta Business Agency staff is also at your complete disposal on this matter.

The 2021 Renewable Energy System Scheme

As promised on the occasion of the presentation of the 2021 Budget, the Maltese Government has launched the Renewable Energy System (RES) Scheme, which is administered by the Regulator for Energy and Water Services to further encourage the better use of the renewable energy being generated by the country.

This scheme is funded through national funds and applies to private individuals (natural persons) for use on their residential properties, and for organisations that are not carrying out an economic activity, provided that photovoltaic installation should have no active feed-in tariff allocation. If the photovoltaic installation was allocated a feed-in tariff, the guaranteed period should be expired.

This scheme was launched by means of Government Notice 298 of 2021.

The 2021 RES scheme is slightly different form past PV schemes as it will be incorporating different technologies under one scheme. Basically, the scheme will be split into the following options:

Option A – PV system with standard solar inverter.
Option B – PV system with hybrid inverter.
Option C – Hybrid/battery inverter and battery.
Option D – Battery storage only.

Applicants can only apply for one option with the exception of Option B whereby an applicant may also apply for Option D.

For option C only (Inverter plus battery), the inverter must be rated for the size of total kWp of the existing photovoltaic modules. As such systems where the ratio of inverter nominal ac power at standard testing conditions (STC) is lower than 0.8 times the array nominal power shall not be eligible for the grant.

For options A and B, the minimum system size is 1kWp and for Options C and D the minimum storage size is 2kWh.

In addition to the above, a standard minimum of 10 years warranty will be requested on all options.

As you may be aware, prior to submission of applications, all equipment has to be registered with REWS. In this regard, please note that Government Notice 52 of 2010 was amended to cater for the registration of Energy Storage Systems and now REWS is accepting applications for registration of equipment that meets the following standards:

– Lead Acid Batteries shall be certified to EN 61056-1-2, BS EN 60896-11, 21 and 22 as applicable or an equivalent thereof when so considered by the Standards and Metrology Institute within the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority;

– The lithium-ion shall be certified to IEC 62619 as applicable or an equivalent thereof when so considered by the Standards and Metrology Institute within the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority;

– Flow batteries shall be certified to BS EN 62932-1-2 as applicable, or an equivalent thereof when so considered by the Standards and Metrology Institute within the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority;

Applications for registration of technology can be accepted prior to the launch of the scheme. To access the funds ask the Malta Business Agency team for support by filling in the following contact form.

Malta wants to further improve bilateral relationship with Brazil

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Malta wants to further improve its bilateral relationship with Brazil. That’s why we chose to open our first embassy in Latin America, in this country.” This was the message of Minister for Foreign and European Affairs and Trade Ian Borg during several official meetings he had with various Ministers of Brazil.

Minister Borg had the opportunity to meet with the Minister of Economy Paulo Guedes, the Minister of Tourism Carlos Brito and the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Paulino Franco De Carvalho Neto.

During his official visit to Brazil, Minister Ian Borg explained that this strategic decision is a very important one and that it should continue to build on the cooperation that exists in many areas, including trade.

During the meeting with the Minister of Economy, Minister Borg said how Malta is open to host international companies that want to roam in their business even in view of the geographical situation that our country has as a bridge between Europe and Africa. The discussion also looked at the possibility of signing a number of agreements in the near future that will benefit both peoples.

From his end, the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs of Brazil said that it is a privilege and an honour that Malta has chosen Brazil as the first country to have its representation in Latin America. He went on to say that Malta is looking forward to becoming an important strategic partner in the Mediterranean.

Foreign Minister Ian Borg said that if our country is entrusted to serve on the United Nations Security Council next week, it will be an honour for our country to be able to serve this important forum with Brazil during 2023 and thus will also be able to cooperate on important issues when it comes to international peace and security.

During the discussion with the Minister of Tourism, it was agreed that in the coming days an important agreement will be signed through which the existing cooperation in the fields of tourism will be further strengthened, particularly in view of the fact that many Brazilian students choose our country to study the English language.

During his visit to Brazil, Minister Ian Borg is being accompanied by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs and Trade, Mr Christopher Cutajar.

Self-employment in Malta: what you need to know

Any individual who works in his or her own name, and not in someone else’s employ, falls into the category of self-employed. This entails some tax benefits compared to, for example, companies, since the tax rate to be paid annually on profits is not fixed, but can vary from 0 to a maximum of 35 percent. However, there are also several burdens: self-employment does not provide for any limited liability that Ltds enjoy, and those who carry it out must take charge of opening a VAT number, as well as the management of tax and social security practices.

An individual then chooses to continue as a self-employed person when providing services with direct responsibility. But once the business grows to a certain level, of course, it always pays to transform the activity into a company.

Starting the business

Any type of self-employment activity, which can be either full-time or part-time, will need to be registered with Jobplus (the employment agency). This will allow the individual to begin receiving the appropriate tax return form.

A self-employed person can also hire employees. In order to do this, he must receive an EP (social security) number.

Income Tax

The self-employed person must register for a “tax number” with the Office of the Commissioner of Revenue, unless he or she is Maltese or has already worked in Malta, and therefore already has one.

On an annual basis, from the first year of economic activity, the individual will have to file a tax return and pay taxes on profits. The deadline for filing the tax return and paying any taxes (filing is still required if no profits are made) is six months after the end of the calendar year.

The net profit from the self-employment activity is considered the taxable income. This net income should be taxed at individual tax rates.

The annual income statement and associated tax must be reported and paid by the end of June of the following year via the income tax form. Tax rates range from a minimum of 0% for incomes up to €. 9,100 to a maximum of 35% for incomes over €. 60,001.

If the individual is self-employed on a part-time basis, he or she may pay tax at a flat rate of 15% on earnings up to €12,000, provided that he or she files the declaration form and pays the tax by the end of April of the following year. If this is done on a regular basis, the individual will not have to file a tax return at the end of June unless the profits from the part-time self-employment exceed €12,000 for the year. In order for this to apply, the individual must be registered as part-time self-employed with JobsPlus, must not employ more than two people, and must have another full-time salaried job, or be a retiree, or a full-time student.

Social Security

Just as with the tax number, the self-employed individual must register for a social security number with the Department of Social Security, unless he or she is Maltese or has already worked in Malta, and therefore already has one.

Once registered, the individual is required to make three annual payments by the end of April, August, and December. The required payments are calculated based on the annual net income for the year prior to the year in which the contributions are paid. If the individual is part-time self-employed and has another primary source of income (such as from a full-time job), Social Security contributions are paid only on this primary source of income and no additional payments will be required on part-time self-employment income.

As a self-employed person, the individual will have to handle social security contribution payments directly, unlike an employee, whose income and social security contributions are normally deducted by the employer from his or her salary. These social security contributions are 15% of the previous year’s annual income. If this is your first year in business, you must also apply the minimum contribution rate according to current law.

V.A.T.

Provided that the income is not generated by an activity defined as “exempt without credit”, i.e. an exempt activity among those listed in the Maltese VAT Act, the individual is required to register the VAT number within 30 days from the start of the economic activity with the Office of the Commissioner of Revenue.

In Malta there is no exemption from VAT registration for income below a certain annual income threshold.

Failure to register within the prescribed time limits will result in heavy administrative penalties.

There are three types of registration:

  • Registration under Article 10 – Any individual may choose to register under this article, regardless of income levels. Registration requires the individual to charge VAT on his or her supplies of goods or services, and he or she may request a refund of VAT incurred in the course of his or her taxable activities through the submission of the mandatory quarterly VAT return.
  • Registration under Article 11 – An individual who will generate annual revenues of less than 30,000 euros (in the case of services) and 35,000 euros (in the case of goods) may elect to be registered under this article. In this case, the individual will not charge VAT on his supplies of goods or services. However, he will also not be able to claim a refund of VAT incurred in the course of his taxable activities. Self-employed persons in this category are required to file an annual VAT return.
  • Registration under Article 12 – An individual not registered under Article 10 who receives goods or services from EU suppliers may be required to register under Article 12. Individuals who make intra-EU purchases of goods with a value of more than €10,000 (in a calendar year) or who receive intra-EU services (of any value) must register under this article to pay VAT on these transactions. These persons will have to submit VAT payment notices every time they receive goods/services from the EU, and on an annual basis they will have to file a return.

In general, depending on the activity, the VAT rate to be applied varies from 18%, 7% or 5%. VAT paid on expenses related to the business activity can be deducted on the quarterly return.

Interim Taxes

After the second full year of activity as a self-employed person, the individual will begin to receive a provisional tab from the Department of Revenue inbound. Through this mode, self-employed individuals will begin paying a provisional income tax and social security contributions. This provisional tax is based on reported income and taxes in effect two years prior to the current year. Social Security payments will be finalized and final, while any income tax paid more or less than the actual income tax due to that year’s net income will need to be refunded or resolved through the income tax return due by the end of June, respectively, as mentioned above.

Do you want to open a freelance business in Malta? Ask for Malta Business Agency‘s advice by filling in the following form.

DBRS Morningstar confirms Malta at A (high), stable trend

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DBRS Ratings GmbH (DBRS Morningstar) confirmed the Republic of Malta’s Long-Term Foreign and Local Currency – Issuer Ratings at A (high). At the same time, DBRS Morningstar confirmed the Republic of Malta’s Short-Term Foreign and Local Currency – Issuer Ratings at R-1 (middle). The trend on all ratings is Stable.

KEY RATING CONSIDERATIONS

The Stable trend reflects DBRS Morningstar’s view that risks to the ratings remain balanced. The Maltese economy has recovered faster than previously anticipated from the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic shock, despite a partial revival in foreign tourism in 2021. DBRS Morningstar expects Malta’s economic outlook to remain solid, benefitting from a fuller return of foreign tourism, a healthy private-sector balance sheet, sustained fiscal support, and European funds.

However, the potential economic impact from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and, to a lesser extent, the evolution of the coronavirus cloud Malta’s economic outlook. While the country has limited trade and energy links with Russia and Ukraine, Malta remains vulnerable to the impact of the conflict through weaker external demand, higher inflation, and tighter monetary policy conditions. On the other hand, DBRS Morningstar takes the view that the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) initial determination that Malta has substantially completed its action plan mitigates the risks associated with Malta’s inclusion in its list of jurisdictions under enhanced monitoring, the so-called grey-list.

Malta’s strong fiscal performance and debt-ratio reduction efforts before the pandemic created valuable headroom to support the economy. While the economic recovery is helping to rebalance fiscal metrics after the severe deterioration in 2020, the measures to deal with the effects of COVID-19 and to mitigate the impact from inflation continue to weigh on public finances. Nevertheless, Malta’s cost of funding remains favourable and DBRS Morningstar expects a gradual return to a healthier fiscal position, supported by the growth outlook and the expected phaseout of temporary measures.

Malta’s euro area membership, a moderate level of public debt, a solid external position, and households’ strong financial position support the country’s A (high) rating. On the other hand, Malta’s small and open economy remains exposed to external demand or confidence shocks. In this sense, the tourism sector—an important source of income, employment, and investment in Malta—presents a potential vulnerability if the pandemic situation were to worsen.

Similarly, Malta’s attractiveness to foreign investment could suffer if measures to address financial integrity risks and institutional governance weaknesses noted by international bodies persist. Despite Malta’s sound public finances, medium- to long-term challenges could stem from its contingent liabilities, changes in international taxation affecting its attractive tax system to foreign companies, or increasing age-related spending.

RATING DRIVERS

DBRS Morningstar could upgrade Malta’s ratings if a combination of the following occur: (1) a sustained material reduction in the public debt ratio, driven by sound fiscal management and economic performance; (2) effective implementation of reforms to enhance Malta’s governance framework, including the financial and judicial sector; or (3) further evidence of increased economic and fiscal resiliency to external shocks. DBRS Morningstar could downgrade Malta’s ratings if one or a combination of the following occur: (1) a sustained deviation from a prudent fiscal approach, materially deteriorating the fiscal and public debt outlooks; (2) a material deterioration in Malta’s medium-term growth; or (3) a substantial weakening of investors’ confidence due to insufficient progress on improving the effectiveness of its Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism framework.

RATING RATIONALE

Maltese Economic Outlook Remains Sound, But Clouded By Geopolitical and Pandemic Risks

Malta’s economic performance prior to the pandemic was remarkable. Annual GDP growth averaged 7.0% from 2013 to 2019 with strong job creation and a shrinking GDP per capita gap with the European Union (EU). The pandemic had a massive impact on the Maltese economy, with GDP contracting by 8.3% in 2020 due to the collapse in tourism-related activities and private consumption. Despite a partial rebound in foreign tourism, the recovery was faster than anticipated last year. GDP grew by 10.4% in 2021, mostly driven by the strong rebound in domestic demand. The continued fiscal support, accumulated savings, and greater confidence created the conditions for a solid comeback in private consumption and investments as the economy reopened in 2021. DBRS Morningstar considers that the strong performance of the financial and gaming sectors thus far mitigate concerns over the impact of FATF’s grey-listing on activity. Also, the labour market remained stable throughout the pandemic, benefitting from government support measures, especially the wage compensation scheme. The unemployment rate stood at 3.2% in Q4 2021, below Q4 2019 levels, and employment continued to increase during the pandemic.

As a small and open economy, Malta is vulnerable to the effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine principally because of its impact on European demand and higher inflationary pressures. The government’s efforts to lessen the impact of inflation on the private sector, mainly through fuel and energy subsidies, have helped to keep inflation below euro area levels, albeit still high. Malta’s HICP inflation stood at 5.4% YoY in April 2022, compared with 7.4% YoY at the euro-area level. Malta’s direct exposure to both Russia and Ukraine is limited, ranking last in the EU in terms of vulnerability to the conflict according to the European Commission (EC) Member States’ vulnerability matrix. Trade links with Russia and Ukraine are very small, with the combined exposure accounting for less than 1% of total exports and imports. In addition, Malta does not import oil and gas from Russia. However, Malta is indirectly exposed via its electricity imports from Italy, which relies heavily on Russian gas.

DBRS Morningstar takes the view that Malta’s economic growth will remain robust in coming years, despite the intensified risks and dampening effect from the conflict in Ukraine. The government revised its growth projections downward to 4.4% for 2022 and 3.9% for 2023 in its latest Stability Programme compared with 6.5% for 2022 and 4.7% for 2023 projected last Autumn. These projections have been endorsed by Malta’s fiscal council and are broadly in line with the EC’s “Spring 2022 Economic Forecast”. Households’ relatively strong balance sheet and a tight labour market mitigate the negative effects of inflation on consumption. Public investment will remain supportive, boosted by the European funds, and foreign tourism should recover strongly even under conservative assumptions. At the moment, the main downside is linked to a further deterioration in external conditions and inflationary pressures. Higher or more persistent inflation in Europe, and in Malta, could further dampen growth and lead to tighter monetary policy. On the other hand, a faster-than-expected recovery in foreign tourism could lead to a significantly faster overall economic recovery, given the importance of the industry for Malta.

Economic Recovery Helps Fiscal Rebalancing, But Support Measures Still Weigh On Public Finances

Malta’s fiscal performance improved significantly in the years before the pandemic hit. Malta recorded fiscal surpluses averaging 1.8% of GDP between 2016 and 2019 thanks to a buoyant economy, improved spending efficiency, lower interest payments, and proceeds from the Individual Investor Programme since its introduction in 2014. The collapse in activity in 2020 triggered by the pandemic and the government’s response severely weakened the fiscal result to a deficit of 9.5% of GDP in 2020 from a surplus of 0.6% of GDP in 2019. The extension of coronavirus-related support and the introduction of measures to shield the private sector from higher energy costs kept the fiscal deficit elevated at 8.0% of GDP in 2021, although significantly below the government’s projection of 11.1% of GDP in Autumn 2021 thanks to higher-than-expected fiscal revenues. According to the Central Bank of Malta’s calculations, the fiscal cost of the coronavirus support measures amounted to 5.0% of GDP in 2020 and to 4.2% of GDP in 2021, with the wage supplement scheme accounting for more than half of it. Other measures affecting the deficit included higher healthcare spending, a temporary reduction in the property transaction tax, and a voucher scheme, which were complemented by tax deferrals and a state guarantee scheme with no immediate fiscal cost.

The government plans to reduce the fiscal deficit to 5.4% of GDP in 2022, driven by higher taxation revenues benefitting from an ongoing recovery and the phaseout of coronavirus expenditures. The phaseout of coronavirus support in 2022, shrinking to 1.6% of GDP from 4.8% of GDP, is expected to more than compensate for the 1.4% of GDP support aimed at shielding the private sector from higher global energy and food prices in 2022. The government remains committed to bringing the fiscal deficit below 3.0% of GDP by 2024 through a combination of higher activity, gradual withdrawal of extraordinary support, and structural adjustment measures.

DBRS Morningstar views the government’s fiscal plan as credible given Malta’s track record of fiscal reduction before the pandemic, but significant uncertainties persist. The macroeconomic risks remain a source of uncertainty, given the lingering pandemic and geopolitical risks to activity and inflation. Persistently high inflation will put additional pressures on public expenditures, through the cost-of-living adjustment, and could lead the government to introduce or extend measures to protect the private sector. Similarly, additional support to state-owned enterprises, including the national airline Air Malta, and potential calls on the Malta Development Bank-administered loan guarantee scheme could also widen the deficit in coming years. On the other hand, stronger economic performance could lead to a faster rebalancing path.

Over the medium to long term, revenues from Malta’s citizenship by investment scheme and corporate taxation could come under pressure and require Malta to introduce compensatory measures to fill the gap. This accounts for DBRS Morningstar’s negative qualitative adjustment of the Fiscal Management and Policy building block. In relation to the citizenship by investment programme, which the EC is currently challenging, DBRS Morningstar considers the authorities’ prudent management of the revenue windfalls from the scheme and conservative revenue assumptions in its fiscal plan as mitigants against the risks. An overhaul of the global corporate tax system could reduce Malta’s tax regime attractiveness to investors and erode its corporate tax base. The ultimate impact on future corporate revenues will depend on final details and could be offset, at least partially, by new fiscal measures.

Deterioration in Public Debt Ratio Has Stabilised And Remains Manageable

Prior to the onset of the pandemic, Malta’s public debt-to-GDP ratio stood at 40.7% following a period of steep reductions. This provided the government with valuable room to respond to the coronavirus shock without materially jeopardising debt sustainability. The public debt ratio deteriorated sharply in 2020 to 53.4% of GDP due to the higher financing needs and nominal GDP losses triggered by the pandemic, but still remained well below the 90.0% of GDP for the EU. A better-than-expected economic and fiscal performance resulted in a lower-than-anticipated debt ratio of 57.0% of GDP in 2021 compared with 61.3% of GDP as the government previously projected. Authorities project the public debt ratio to peak around 59.4% of GDP in 2023 and to start to decline afterwards. Similar to other euro-area economies, the yield on Malta’s 10-year government bond rose to 2.0% in May 2022 from 0.7% in December 2021, pressured by higher inflation and the prospect of tighter monetary policy. DBRS Morningstar notes, however, that overall funding costs remain favourable and the nominal GDP growth-interest rate differential remains conducive to debt reduction.

Potential risks to the public debt ratio could stem from a sharp deterioration in Malta’s growth outlook or the materialisation of contingent liabilities. In an adverse scenario, the government might decide to financially support its state-owned enterprises outside the general government. Also, there could be calls on guarantees covering loans granted by the Malta Development Bank. Over the long term, further measures might be necessary to contain the costs of age-related spending on the healthcare and pension systems. Measures already implemented include lengthening the working age and contribution periods as well as strengthening the pension system.

Financial System Remains Sound And Grey-listing Impact Contained

Malta’s role as a small financial hub resulted in the development of a large banking system relative to its domestic economy. Core domestic banks mostly follow a traditional business model based on retail deposits for funding. Core banks’ main exposure is to the real estate market, which has remained relatively resilient in the face of the pandemic thus far on the back of a robust labour market and government support measures. The international banks and domestic noncore banks have limited or no linkages to the domestic economy.

The Maltese core domestic banks’ positions of strong capital, with a Tier 1 capital ratio of 19.2% in Q4 2021, and ample liquidity levels provide adequate buffers on aggregate to absorb substantial losses or liquidity stresses. In addition to a strong policy response, this has helped core domestic banks to withstand the pandemic-related shock. Core banks’ profitability levels (as measured by return on equity) improved during 2021, in part benefitting from lower loan-loss provisioning. The impact of the pandemic on asset quality has remained limited thanks to the government’s support measures, with core banks’ nonperforming loans as a share of total loans increasing slightly to 3.4% in Q4 2021 from 3.2% in Q4 2019. Some deterioration in asset quality could occur in the future as the government withdraws coronavirus-related support and European growth faces headwinds posed by higher energy prices and tighter financial conditions. Malta’s healthy labour market outcomes and household savings mitigate these risks. In addition, DBRS Morningstar views positively Malta’s macroprudential framework, including its borrower-based measures, which should help to prevent financial vulnerabilities from building up.

The risks associated with FATF’s grey-listing have moderated in light of FATF’s initial determination in February 2022 that Malta has substantially completed its action plan. This reflects Malta’s progress in terms of ensuring the accuracy of beneficial ownership information, increasing the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit’s focus on the analysis of criminal tax and related money laundering cases, and the use of this intelligence to support law enforcement authorities in pursuing these cases. Malta could be removed from the grey-list as soon as this June if the FATF plenary confirms that sufficient progress has been made in implementing the reforms and that political commitment to continue and improve them remains in place. DBRS Morningstar takes the view that continuing to address anti-money laundering effectiveness concerns will remain key in containing the potential reputational damage to the banking system to avoid further de-risking and straining Maltese banks’ correspondent banking relationships. DBRS Morningstar makes a negative qualitative adjustment to the Monetary Policy and Financial Stability building block to reflect the concerns associated with Malta’s grey-listing, although this risk has somewhat diminished.

Partial Recovery In Tourism Continues To Weigh on Current Account, But Malta’s External Position Remains Solid

DBRS Morningstar considers that the improvement in Malta’s external position since the global financial crisis, driven in part by the strong performance of its service exports, mitigates the risks associated with the deterioration in its current account balances generated by the pandemic shock and, more recently, higher energy prices. The current account surplus averaged 4.2% of GDP during 2014 to 2019, with net exports of services including travel, financial, professional, and gaming, more than offsetting the large deficit in goods and sizable primary income net outflows. From a stock perspective, Malta’s net international investment asset position stood at 52.4% of GDP in Q4 2021. Gross external indebtedness was very high at 641.1% of GDP in Q4 2021, but DBRS Morningstar considers the risks to the domestic economy as limited because this mainly reflects Malta’s role as an international financial centre and stable flows of intercompany lending.

After a prolonged period of growth in inbound tourism to Malta, the pandemic caused a collapse of tourist arrivals to the country. Tourist arrivals represented only 23.7% in 2020 and 34.9% in 2021 compared with 2019 levels, which was reflected in a substantial decline in the travel balance surplus to 1.8% of GDP in 2020 and 3.1% of GDP in 2021 from 8.7% of GDP in 2019. The deterioration in the travel balance in both years as well as higher imports associated with the recovery and one-off investment in the aviation sector in 2021 were behind the shift in the current account to a deficit of 2.9% of GDP in 2020 and 5.8% of GDP in 2021 from a surplus of 5.0% of GDP in 2019. While the terms of trade shock, exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, could weigh on the goods trade balance, the expected recovery in the tourism sector should help Malta rebalance its external accounts over time.

Stable Policy Environment, But Further Scope to Strengthen Governance

Obtaining 55.1% of total votes in the March 2022 general election, the Labour Party won a third consecutive term in office, paving the way for incumbent Prime Minister Robert Abela to remain in office for the 2022–27 period. This reinforces DBRS Morningstar’s expectation for broad policy continuity and continued political commitment to improve the country’s institutional and governance overall framework in the coming years.

Malta benefits from a strong national and overarching European policy framework, which has underpinned the country’s economic and public finance improvement since joining the EU. The World Bank’s governance indicators for Malta are relatively strong and broadly in line with those of the EU average, with the exception of Control of Corruption where the country exhibits a weak performance. DBRS Morningstar views positively the significant progress that Maltese authorities have made to improve the governance and institutional framework in recent years, including the reforms in the judicial appointments, the split of the Attorney-General’s prosecution and advocacy roles, and the reforms to the police force. However, DBRS Morningstar makes a negative qualitative adjustment to the Political Environment building block to reflect its view that there is scope for further progress in Malta’s effort to strengthen the independence of the judiciary and to ensure effective criminal prosecution, which still separates Malta from other sovereigns with very strong assessments in this particular building block.

ENVIRONMENTAL, SOCIAL, GOVERNANCE CONSIDERATIONS

Social (S) Factors
The Human Capital and Human Rights factor affects the rating. DBRS Morningstar considered this factor within the Economic Structure and Performance building block. Despite Malta’s progress in narrowing the income gap with the EU average, the country’s GDP per capita stood at USD 33,329 in 2021, still below the levels of the highest income economies in the EU.

Governance (G) Factors
The Institutional Strength, Governance and Transparency factor affects the rating. DBRS Morningstar considered this factor within the Monetary Policy and Financial Stability and the Political Environment building blocks. Malta’s World Bank governance indicators are generally good, with the exemption of a relatively weak Control of Corruption score. While the EC commended Malta for its progress on reforms, the EC also noted that there is scope for further progress in the government’s efforts to strengthen the independence of the judiciary and ensure effective criminal prosecution. In addition, the FATF’s decision to grey-list Malta in June 2021 underscores significant deficiencies in the effectiveness of its AML/CFT framework that authorities are committed to address.

The great success of the CETA Business Forum: kicking off the EU-Canada network

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More than 500 participants (60% Europeans and 40% from Canada), 50 speakers and more than 30 official partners from the European Union and Canada: these are the numbers that certified the success of the first edition of the CETA Business Forum, the online matching event organized by Malta Business Events with the support of main sponsor Air Canada, and dedicated to the development of relations and exchanges between companies, associations and institutions in the CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) free trade area.

A large virtual reception hall welcomed visitors and exhibitors for two days of lectures, educational sessions, which are already available to all registered members in replay mode, as well as exhibitions and B2B meetings, which will continue from today until June 30, 2022. 

The event was opened by Arif Virani, Parliamentary Secretary at the Canadian Ministry of International Trade, Export, Small Business and Economic Development, who emphasized the extraordinary opportunities that can arise from CETA for the European and Canadian economies, including with a view to revitalizing them after the difficult years of the global pandemic and the uncertainties of the present linked in particular to international geopolitical dynamics directly involving the Western world.

This was followed by conferences that touched on strategic sectoral issues for the business world, in the present and in the future, with a privileged look at the opportunities offered by the CETA trade agreement between the EU and Canada.

Among the topics discussed, ample space was reserved for innovation, sustainable development, women and youth. In particular, several specific and in-depth discussion panels (CETA Talk) were dedicated to Green Economy, Food and Agriculture, Artificial Intelligence and ICT, Blockchain, Creativity and Fashion, Automotive and Manufacturing, Women Entrepreneurs and Women in International Trade, Startups and Young Entrepreneurs, Training and Job Opportunities.

Meanwhile, participants also attended with great interest educational sessions to learn first-hand about the dynamics of trade between Europe and Canada and government procurement in both geographies, particularly for the construction sector, touching on the legal and economic aspects that shaped the CETA agreement and the concrete possibilities for growth that flow from it. Specific focuses were also reserved for business in Italy, Malta and Canada.

Between lectures, participants visited the exhibition area getting to know companies and event partners at their respective virtual booths, organized B2B meetings to plan new business relationships and strategic partnerships, and exchanged views and reflections in the exclusive “Networking Lounge” area.

Thus, an intense two days of meetings and insights was brought to a close, but the CETA Business Forum does not end here: the epositives and B2B area will remain active in the virtual platform until next June 30, 2022. In addition, participants will become part of the CETA Business Network, a permanent exchange platform to keep alive the relations between European and Canadian economic actors, who will be able to meet, finally also live, in the next edition of the CETA Business Forum.

FATF welcomes Malta’s progress in improving its AML/CTF regime

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As anticipated in a previous article, Malta has officially been removed from the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) grey list. The global anti-money-laundering body has encouraged Malta to ‘strongly focus’ on continuing to strengthen its systems and measures to tackle money laundering and terrorist financing.

In its decision, the FATF said: “The FATF welcomes Malta’s significant progress in improving its AML/CFT regime. Malta has strengthened the effectiveness of its AML/CFT regime to meet the commitments in its action plan regarding the strategic deficiencies that the FATF identified in June 2021, related to the detection of inaccurate company ownership information and sanctions on gatekeepers who fail to obtain accurate beneficial ownership information, as well as the pursuit of tax-based money laundering cases utilising financial intelligence. Malta is therefore no longer subject to the FATF’s increased monitoring process. Malta should continue to work with MONEYVAL to sustain its improvements in its AML/CFT system.

In a press conference, outgoing FATF President Marcus Pleyer said that “the Maltese government in June 2021 agreed to an action plan which it has now completed. As a result, it is now better placed to tackle money laundering and terrorist financing. An FATF team held a successful on-site visit in April and the FATF congratulates Malta for being removed from list. That doesn’t mean there isn’t more work to do. Going forward, the FATF encourages Malta to strongly focus on continuing to strengthen its systems and measures to tackle money laundering and terrorist financing. Since its greylisting, Malta has taken dozens of enforcement actions related to beneficial ownership failings. Many of which were among gatekeepers. This compares to zero fines on gatekeepers before the greylisting. This clearly proves that this was technically the right way to go forward. The FATF is a technical body and decided this on purely technical grounds. Looking into the future, it is very clear that it doesn’t mean the work stops here for Malta. Malta must take advantage of this momentum to continue making improvements to its Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) system. This means it still needs to continue to improve the implementation of its laws, particularly in relation to the laundering of illegal proceeds from tax evasion and foreign proceeds of crime.

The Prime Minister Robert Abela welcomed the news, stating that the country has proven it is a serious and reputable jurisdiction. He vowed the government will keep up the fight against high-level criminality and organised crime.

The Malta Bankers’ Association meanwhile noted this was a moment to acknowledge the “significant efforts and hard work” by the authorities and the financial services industry: “A noteworthy example of public-private collaboration, leading to overall progress in the island’s remediation journey“. 

Also the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprises and Industry welcomes the FATF’s decision to remove Malta from ist greylist: “The past year has been challenging for many businesses exposed to international payments as a result of the grey listing and has seen AML compliance costs rise significantly for operators in the financial services sector. We have also seen intensive efforts by regulatory authorities such as the FIAU and the MBR to address the concerns flagged a year ago in the shortest time possible. The target of being removed from the list has been achieved, but this is only the first step. The next objectives need to be achieving a sustainable regulatory environment whereby AML obligations will be more risk-based, proportionate to the size of the business, and effective at rebuilding our reputation as a reliable and competitive jurisdiction. Striking this balance going forward will be key to restoring our position as a leading financial services provider and developing those segments of the industry where we can have a competitive edge. The experience of the past couple of years has built competences within the financial services industry that will not only help us be more selective as a jurisdiction about the type of business that we service, but also provide expertise in the field of regulatory compliance that will broaden the offering of our financial services industry. It is imperative that both Government and regulatory authorities, and the private sector, collectively ensure that we do not let standards slip. We should turn this unpleasant experience into a springboard for a proactive renewal of the financial services industry in Malta“.

 

CETA Business Forum: the second day of meetings

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The first edition of the CETA Business Forum got off to a flying start. The online matching event dedicated to developing trade and opportunities between the European Union and Canada was opened by Arif Virani, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade, Export, Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development in Canada.

Following the success of yesterday’s event, the CETA Business Forum is now in its second and final day.

The event will restart today at 5:00 pm (CET) with the following CETA Talks.

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Also scheduled is a final round of Training Pills, the educational meetings to learn more about CETA and opportunities between the EU and Canada:

  • EU-CANADA: UNDERSTANDING CETA’S RULES OF ORIGIN (Training Room – 5.30 pm)
  • HOW TO PROMOTE YOUR BUSINESS IN CANADA WEST AND IN BRITISH COLUMBIA (Training Room – 6.00 pm).

Meanwhile, the exhibition area and B2B area will be active, which will remain open until June 30, 2022.

CETA Business Forum: the agenda of the first day

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The wait is over. It begins today, the first edition of the CETA Business Forum, the first major online matching event dedicated to developing new relations between the European Union and Canada.

The event will start at 5:00 pm (CET) with the opening conference and the following CETA Talks.

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Also scheduled are the following Training Pills, educational meetings to learn more about CETA and opportunities between the EU and Canada.

HOW TO IMPORT AND EXPORT AGRI AND FOOD PRODUCTS, EU-CANADA (Training Room – 5:30 pm)

ACCELERATING CIRCULAR CONSTRUCTION WITH PUBLIC PROCUREMENT OF INNOVATION (Training Room – 6.00 pm).

ITALY: LANDING THERE SOFTLY. EVERYTHING A FINTECH COMPANY WILLING TO DO BUSINESS IN ITALY SHOULD KNOW (Training Room – ore 6.30 pm).

Meanwhile, the exhibition area and B2B area will be active, which will remain open until June 30, 2022.

CETA Business Forum: registration still open

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Registration is still open for the CETA BUSINESS FORUM, the first major online matching event aimed at companies and professionals who want to strengthen the internationalization activity and their network between Europe and Canada.

The virtual event will open on June 22, 2022 with two days of educational and informative panels, called CETA TALKS. In the meantime, participants will be able to meet in a large exhibition area dedicated to B2B meetings, which will remain active until June 30, 2022.

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This is an opportunity not to be missed to promote oneself and gain international visibility by establishing contacts and creating new opportunities for exchange and growth, both at present and in the future, to become part of a network that will remain active on a permanent basis through the CETA BUSINESS NETWORK.

The conference will take place through a digital platform able to reproduce an exhibition event at 360°, with the presence of virtual spaces for videoconferences, stands and services for the interaction between the participants.

Companies and professionals can register as visitors or join as exhibitors to take advantage of a series of services designed specifically to promote their reality. All visitors will be able to attend the CETA Talks and enter the virtual stands.

The agenda of the CETA TALKS foresees the start of the works on Thursday, June 22 at 5.00 pm, followed by a series of sectoral meetings hosted in two virtual halls dedicated to Europe and Canada.

This is the full schedule of events:

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 22

  • Green Economy and Sustainability: Conference Room Europe – 6.00 pm – 6.50 pm

  • Food and Agriculture: Conference Room Europe – 7.00 pm – 8.00 pm

  • Start-ups and Young Entrepreneurs: Conference Room Canada – 6.00 pm – 6.50 pm

  • Training and Job Opportunities: Conference Room Canada – 7.00 pm – 8.00 pm

THURSDAY, JUNE 23rd

  • Public Procurement and Services: Conference room Canada – 5.00 pm – 6.00 pm

  • Women Entrepreneurs: Conference room Canada – 6.00 pm – 7.00 pm

  • Artificial Intelligence and ICT: Conference room Canada – 7.00 pm – 8.00 pm

  • Creativity and Fashion: Conference room Europe – 5.00 pm – 6.00 pm

  • Automotive and Industrial Machines: Conference room Europe – 6.00 pm – 7.00 pm

  • Fintech: Conference room Europe – 7.00 pm – 8.00 pm

This program is complemented by “Training Pills,” technical and educational sessions designed specifically to provide a thorough understanding of CETA’s implementation.

Through this rich program of talks and B2B meetings, CETA BUSINESS FORUM represents a unique opportunity to create business synergies and networking between countries and companies of the two geographical areas, to provide a platform for the exchange of experiences on the main economic trends of CETA, to know the development opportunities offered by the FTA in key economic sectors, to promote investments and to present development plans or innovative projects.

Don’t wait: reserve your place at the CETA Business Forum!

Malta removed from FATF grey list

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On Wednesday, June 15, Malta was removed from the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) gray list, a year after it was first labeled an untrustworthy financial jurisdiction by the global watchdog. Premiering the news is the Times of Malta.

However, the FATF vote is still secret, and the formal announcement of the decision is not expected until the end of the plenary session on Friday afternoon.

The decision to remove Malta from the list comes four months after the FATF publicly announced that it had found that the government had substantially completed the necessary reforms and appeared to have addressed the shortcomings identified.

Malta had been asked to implement a long list of reforms on how to combat tax evasion, collecting information on beneficial owners of companies, and sharing information with local and international authorities.

These issues were the focus of an action plan outlined by the FATF, which Malta was required to implement before receiving a clean bill of health from the global anti-money laundering body.

When questioned by the Times of Malta, Prime Minister Robert Abela said he would comply with the FATF’s confidentiality requirements, reserving comment until after the conclusion of the plenary meeting scheduled for Friday. However, he stressed that Malta remains committed to the reforms discussed with the supervisory body so that the country continues to strengthen itself as a serious and credible financial jurisdiction.

Why participate in the CETA Business Forum

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On 22-23 June comes the first edition of CETA Business Forum, the great international event dedicated to the development of a network of relationships between companies, professionals, associations and institutions belonging to the Member States of the European Union and Canada.

For a business event, this is a unique focus, which takes its inspiration from the entry into force of the free trade agreement CETA (Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement), which has lowered a number of barriers between the European and Canadian markets, making trade fly by lowering duties.

But CETA does not only mean exports: it means widening the horizon of opportunities offered by public procurement, collaborating in research and innovation activities, developing new training proposals, creating partnerships and collaborations of various kinds in key sectors that represent the future of our economy: such as the Green Economy, Artificial Intelligence, agribusiness, women’s business, and much more.

CETA Business Forum for its first edition is presented in an entirely virtual version, thanks to a platform that will faithfully reproduce the spaces of an international fair, with the presence of an entrance hall, two conference rooms and exhibition spaces to present their activities and organize B2B meetings.

Participating in this event means becoming part of a network that will remain permanent, and that in the following years will be renewed also in presence.

So all you have to do is connect to the website www.cetabusinessforum.com, find the participation package that best suits your business or professional experience (simple visitor, exhibitor, partner, media parter, sponsor) and register to become part of this great international network.

Malta Enterprise will be partner of the CETA Business Forum

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Ceta Business Forum is pleased to announce among its partners Malta Enterprise, the maltese economic development agency, tasked with attracting new foreign direct investment as well as facilitating the growth of existing operations.

In operation since the 1950s, the Corporation has a great deal of accumulated experience in the field. It acts as an adviser to government on economic policy due to its close and constant interaction with the main economic players in the country. Malta Enterprise is also the national contact point for the Enterprise Europe Network which helps companies in Malta to develop links with counterparts in over 60 other countries.

The skills and backgrounds found within the organization, facilitates interaction with various investors.

The long term presence of an investor in the country is a priority for Malta Enterprise. It works with its clients to find solutions and help them adapt to changing circumstances, resulting in symbiotic relationships being maintained for decades.

The CETA Business Forum, with the support and presence of Malta Enterprise, will offer an important space for discussion, comparison and development of new relations between the European Union and Canada in key sectors of the economy of our future, including through a large B2B area set up to allow participants to develop and consolidate their network in the CETA area.

The first edition of the CETA Business Forum is scheduled for June 22-23, 2022 and will take place entirely online, through a digital platform capable of reproducing a 360° trade fair event, with the presence of classrooms, stands and services for interaction between participants, all in 3D format. The B2B area will be open from June 22 to 30, 24 hours a day, and will allow participants to arrange face-to-face meetings to get to know each other and develop new relationships.

For more information and registration go to the official page of the event.

New Brand Identity launched for Incentives and Meetings

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Incentives and Meetings, part of Visit Malta, is the new brand being launched last month to focus on continuing the development of the substantial MICE business opportunities that Malta has enjoyed over the years. Having undertaken considerable research within the international market during the past two years, Visit Malta has emerged and proven to be a powerful brand which led to this month’s rebrand of Conventions Malta as Visit Malta Incentives and Meetings. The rebranding came as part of a strategy of the Malta Tourism Authority to have one brand.

The extensive research has resulted in a new creative campaign which will reflect the aims and the unique selling points for the MICE product in the Maltese Islands.

The creative was designed by the global agency for the Malta Tourism Authority, Oliver Ireland, which has resulted in an extensive and diverse image gallery, and video content, reflecting the core offerings and values that Malta has for MICE business. This new imagery was created during an 11 day shoot in Malta in March, 2022.

Corporate typeface tag lines such as, “Corporate Culture Like No Other,” “The Meeting Point of the Mediterranean,” “Fresh Air, Clean Thinking, and A Break from Convention,” all linked with the MTA line #MoreToExplore, and amazing vibrant imagery, make for a stunning and compelling campaign to launch Visit Malta Incentives and Meetings.

Each reflect the reasons why a business would choose Malta as its destination of choice for its Incentives or Meetings such as: 300 days of sunshine, European Mediterranean destination, great connectivity, professional DMCs & suppliers, varied programme options, diverse meeting facilities, added value destination and of course, stunning outdoor venues.

Speaking about the new corporate identity for Visit Malta Incentives and Meetings, Christophe Berger, Director, said, “We have invested considerable research time looking at the positioning of our brand and believe that aligning with the Visit Malta brand and its coherent core values, was the most sensible move to make. Malta has an amazing offering for Incentives and Meetings and we look forward to continue actively promoting Malta in the international market. Malta International Airport’s connectivity is back to 85% of what it was in 2019 (and growing) and the Islands have just been included in the Forbes Star Award programme. Malta’s gastronomy offering has been developing at a fast pace and can now boast five restaurants with Michelin stars. We are excited for the future outlook, especially seeing important organizations bring their meetings and conferences to our Islands during the coming months.

The Incentives and Meetings segment is a very important component of Malta’s tourism industry. It is known to generate a higher than average spend per tourist and important tourism traffic to the Maltese Islands. Moreover, the segment generates significant traffic in the shoulder seasons that is in line with the strategy to improve the seasonality spread of tourism and a more sustainable industry. This niche fits perfectly as our tourism industry continues to walk the road of recovery to achieve long term sustainability,” highlighted Minister for Tourism Clayton Bartolo.

Carlo Micallef appointed as CEO of the Malta Tourism Authority

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Carlo Micallef has been appointed as Chief Executive Officer of the Malta Tourism Authority. He carries with him a long-standing career of 25 years in various important roles within the Malta Tourism Authority and the Institute for Tourism Studies.

The Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) has approved the appointment of Carlo Micallef as Chief Executive Officer of MTA. Carlo brings a wealth of experience in the industry to this top position, and on behalf of the Board of Directors I augur him success in his new task. I am very confident he will lead the industry successfully during the recovery period and beyond. On another note I take the opportunity to thank former CEO Johann Buttigieg for his tireless efforts and contribution to positively and successfully lead MTA throughout the pandemic which was pivotal and crucial for all stakeholders and operators who now have a vibrant tourism industry to return to,” said Dr. Gavin Gulia, MTA Chairman.

During this period, he served as Director of the same Authority in its Amsterdam office where he was responsible for the promotion of the Maltese Islands in the Netherlands, Belgium and the Nordic countries. After this experience abroad, he returned to Malta and was entrusted with the expansion of our country’s promotion in new markets and niches of the tourism world.

In 2014, Carlo Micallef was appointed as Chief Marketing Officer and in 2017 he was appointed as Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the same authority.

In 2013, he started serving on the Board of Governors of the Institute for Tourism Studies and in 2017 he was appointed chairman of the same educational institution.

Minister for Tourism Clayton Bartolo outlined that the choice of Carlo Micallef is a natural step forward for the Malta Tourism Authority to be a proactive driver through which the Maltese tourism sector’s foundations are based on the principles of quality and sustainability.

CETA Business Forum: a rich agenda for all key sectors

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CETA Business Forum, the first major online business event entirely dedicated to the relationship between the European Union and Canada, is coming soon: the appointment is on June 22-23, 2022.

The two days of meetings will be opened by a general conference scheduled on Thursday, June 22 at 5.00 pm, and will be hosted in an innovative platform, with two virtual rooms dedicated to Europe and Canada, and a rich program of sectoral meetings, articulated as follows:

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 22
Green Economy and Sustainability: Conference Room Europe – 6.00 pm – 6.50 pm
Food and Agriculture: Conference Room Europe – 7.00 pm – 8.00 pm
Start-ups and Young Entrepreneurs: Conference Room Canada – 6.00 pm – 6.50 pm
Training and Job Opportunities: Conference Room Canada – 7.00 pm – 8.00 pm

THURSDAY, JUNE 23RD
Public Procurement and Services: Conference room Canada – 5.00 pm – 6.00 pm
Women Entrepreneurs: Conference room Canada – 6.00 pm – 7.00 pm
Artificial Intelligence and ICT: Conference room Canada – 7.00 pm – 8.00 pm
Creativity and Fashion: Conference room Europe – 5.00 pm – 6.00 pm
Automotive and Industrial Machines: Conference room Europe – 6.00 pm – 7.00 pm
Fintech: Conference room Europe – 7.00 pm – 8.00 pm

Through this rich program of talks and B2B meetings, the CETA Business Forum represents a unique opportunity to create business synergies and networking between countries and companies of the two geographical areas, provide a platform for the exchange of experiences on the main economic trends of the CETA agreement, learn about the development opportunities offered by CETA in key economic sectors, promote investments and present development plans or innovative projects.

The conference is open to entrepreneurs, professionals, associations, institutions, media and simple visitors. To participate just book your entrance through the site www.cetabusinessforum.com

EU approves maxi reduction in VAT rates

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Maltese businesses are calling for a reduction in VAT. To mitigate the effects of inflation, the Malta Chamber of SME’s has called for a reduction in the tax from 18 percent to 15.5 percent. The Chamber’s chairman believes this tax measure will maintain the current level of tax revenue, as the increase in prices of some goods will offset the reduction in the VAT rate.

This proposal comes after the European Union (EU) gave the final approval last month to update the EU Value Added Tax (VAT) Directive, expanding the list of goods and services to which two reduced VAT rates can be applied and allowing for the first time a reduced VAT rate below 5 percent.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU intended to harmonize VAT rates and phase out reduced and super-reduced rates. Now, the EU has changed course in favor of additional reduced VAT rates. It believes that in order to cope with future exceptional circumstances such as pandemics, humanitarian crises or natural disasters, reduced rates on basic necessities “would benefit low-income households and, as such, address the regressivity of the VAT system.” However, recent research shows that reduced rates and exemptions are not an effective way to support low-income households and may even increase the regressivity of the system if overall VAT rates are increased to meet revenue targets.

In 2020, only countries such as Austria and Germany cut VAT rates on some goods and services to reduce the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in the second half of 2021 and especially in the first half of 2022, more EU countries began to apply a range of reduced VAT rates on certain goods and services to counter high energy, fuel and gas prices, first, and soaring inflation, second. The recent amendment of the EU VAT Directive has opened the door for all EU countries to implement more exclusions and, as a result, increase the complexity of their VAT tax systems.

Wizz Air set to launch a new airline in Malta

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Wizz Air, Europe’s fastest growing ultra-low-cost airline and one of the most sustainable, announces that based on the ‘Arrangement on Reallocation of Responsibility’ document signed between the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (“EASA”) and the Malta Civil Aviation Directorate (“CAD”), it intends to file an application for its Maltese subsidiary to be granted an Air Operator’s Certificate (“AOC”) with EASA and an Operating Licence (“OL”) with CAD.

Subject to confirmation of its AOC and OL from the EASA and CAD, Wizz Air Malta may begin operations in October 2022 with Malta-registered aircraft. 

Wizz Air Chief Executive Officer, József Váradi said: “We are pleased to announce our intention to establish a new airline subsidiary in Malta. Wizz Air is constantly evaluating the structure of its business and exploring options to establish new AOC’s and bases in Europe and beyond. The successful establishment of Wizz Air Malta later this year will help to reinforce our strong position and support our expansion plans in Europe. We look forward to working with EASA and the Maltese CAA to take this application forward.”

Patrick Ky, Executive Director of EASA, said: “This will be a new step in the already well-established cooperation between the Agency, the Maltese Civil Aviation Directorate and Wizz Air. This new set-up, where one group will operate multiple AOCs based in different Member States, but overseen by the same Competent Authority, demonstrates the possibilities available through the transfer of responsibilities to EASA. We are looking forward to working together on the issuance of this brand-new AOC and the subsequent oversight activities.”

Capt. Charles Pace, Director General of the Civil Aviation Directorate Malta, stated: “It is an honour to have Wizz Air as one of the Airlines selecting Malta as one of their Principal Places of Business. The team effort and approach of CAD has once again been proven to be a winning formula. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the CEO and Board of Wizz Air for their trust, and I look forward to working with EASA and Wizz Air in issuing the AOC and AOL.”

The new airline will be called ‘Wizz Air Malta’, and is set to be launched in October. It will fly Maltese-registered aircraft, following in the footsteps of Wizz’s other subsidiaries in Abu Dhabi and the UK.

CETA boosts EU and Canada trade

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Trade between the EU and Canada increased by 30 percent in 2021 compared to before CETA’s entry into force. The trade agreement is also helping to strengthen economic resilience and support the post-Covid-19 recovery, as well as strengthening strategic industrial ties and providing a solid pillar for international supply chains in a context of high geopolitical instability.

These are the main outcomes that emerged from the third meeting of the EU-Canada Joint Ministerial Committee, convened recently in Brussels and chaired by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell and Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly.

This meeting represents an annual opportunity to revive cooperation activities between the two areas, linked a historic partnership based on shared values and extensive historical, cultural, political and economic ties.

The EU and Canada reaffirmed their commitment to promoting a rules-based international economic order. The Joint Committee reiterated that the nearly five years of provisional application of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement have brought tangible benefits to European and Canadian citizens and businesses by creating more opportunities, promoting inclusive growth, and setting high environmental and labor standards.

In this regard, the EU and Canada are committed to ensuring the full and effective implementation of CETA and to continuing joint work, including on outreach, to increase the use of the agreement.

The EU and Canada will also intensify efforts to promote trade and investment in green goods and services, and will use CETA as a facilitator of both economies’ green and digital transition.

Canada is one of the European Union’s closest and most reliable partners. As we mark the fifth anniversary of the provisional application of the EU-Canada Strategic Partnership Agreement, we are working together more closely than ever to promote a rules-based international order based on common values and international law. This is reflected in our united response to Russia’s unjustified invasion of Ukraine and our unwavering support for the Ukrainian people. The EU and Canada are also working together to address the global consequences of the war, in areas such as energy and food insecurity, as well as refugee support and reception. Thanks to a strong institutional framework-the Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) and the Comprehensive Economic Agreement (CETA)-cooperation between the EU and Canada is robust and brings tangible benefits to the citizens of both countries,” said EU High Representative Josep Borrel.

Today, not only do Canada and the EU share a common history and strong cultural and trade ties, but we are closer than we have been in decades. And it is through strong partnerships, like ours, that we will be able to decisively address the complexities of the modern world in which we live” is Mélanie Joly’s comment.

After the institutional summit, another important moment of discussion and sharing on the ties between the European Union and Canada will come next June 22-23, with the first online edition of the CETA Business Forum. Direct protagonists on this occasion will be businesses, professionals, associations, educational institutions and institutions from EU member states and Canadian provinces, who will meet in a virtual platform to attend a series of thematic meetings, called CETA TALKS, and meet in a large exhibition area dedicated to B2B meetings, which will remain active until June 30, 2022.

Organized by Malta Business, the CETA Business Forum is supported by numerous institutional and associational partners from the various EU member states and major Canadian provinces.

Registration for the CETA Business Forum is open, via this link: https://www.cetabusinessforum.com/register-now

Digital finance: provisional agreement reached on DORA

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Given the ever-increasing risks of cyber attacks, the EU is strengthening the IT security of financial entities such as banks, insurance companies and investment firms. The Council presidency and the European Parliament reached a provisional agreement on the Digital Operational Resilience Act (DORA), which will make sure the financial sector in Europe is able to maintain resilient operations through a severe operational disruption.

DORA sets uniform requirements for the security of network and information systems of companies and organisations operating in the financial sector as well as critical third parties which provide ICT (Information Communication Technologies)-related services to them, such as cloud platforms or data analytics services. DORA creates a regulatory framework on digital operational resilience whereby all firms need to make sure they can withstand, respond to and recover from all types of ICT-related disruptions and threats. These requirements are homogenous across all EU member states. The core aim is to prevent and mitigate cyber threats.

Under the provisional agreement, the new rules will constitute a very robust framework that boosts the IT security of the financial sector. The efforts asked from financial entities will be proportional to the potential risks.

Almost all financial entities will be subject to the new rules. Under the provisional agreement, auditors will not be subject to DORA but will be part of a future review of the regulation, where a possible revision of the rules may be explored.

Critical third-country ICT service providers to financial entities in the EU will be required to establish a subsidiary within the EU so that oversight can be properly implemented.

As regards the oversight framework, the co-legislators agreed to opt for an additional joint oversight network which will strengthen the coordination between the European supervisory authorities on this cross-sectoral topic.

Under the provisional agreement, penetration tests shall be carried out in functioning mode, and it will be possible to include several member states’ authorities in the test procedures. The use of internal auditors will be possible only in a number of strictly limited circumstances, subject to safeguard conditions.

As regards the interaction of DORA with the Network and Information Security (NIS) directive, under the provisional agreement financial entities will have full clarity on the different rules on digital operational resilience they need to comply with, in particular for those financial entities holding several authorisations and operating in different markets within the EU. The NIS directive continues to apply. DORA builds on the NIS directive and addresses possible overlaps via a lex specialis exemption.

The provisional agreement reached yesterday evening is subject to approval by the Council and the European Parliament before going through the formal adoption procedure.

Once the DORA proposal is formally adopted, it will be passed into law by each EU member state. The relevant European Supervisory Authorities (ESAs), such as the European Banking Authority (EBA), the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) and the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA), will then develop technical standards for all financial services institutions to abide by, from banking to insurance to asset management. The respective national competent authorities will take the role of compliance oversight and enforce the regulation as necessary.

Background 

The Commission came forward with the DORA proposal on 24 September 2020. It is part of the larger digital finance package, which aims to develop a European approach that fosters technological development and ensures financial stability and consumer protection. In addition to the DORA proposal, the package contains a digital finance strategy, a proposal on markets in crypto-assets (MiCA) and a proposal on distributed ledger technology (DLT).

This package bridges a gap in existing EU legislation by ensuring that the current legal framework does not pose obstacles to the use of new digital financial instruments and, at the same time, ensures that such new technologies and products fall within the scope of financial regulation and operational risk management arrangements of firms active in the EU. Thus, the package aims to support innovation and the uptake of new financial technologies while providing for an appropriate level of consumer and investor protection.

Tech.mt among the official partners of the CETA Business Forum

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Ceta Business Forum is pleased to announce among its partners Tech.mt, the maltese public-private partnership established in 2018 by the Government of Malta and the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, to promote Malta as a tech centre for innovative technologies.

Created on the key priority fields of technology and innovation, Tech.mt not only aims to elevate Malta’s status as a quality Tech provider on both a local and international platform but also strives to act as the interlinking force between Government, Industry and Academia.

To realise Malta’s vision to become a tech centre for innovative technologies, Tech.mt builds its strategy onto four main pillars – those of Promotion, Innovation, Talent and Assistance.

Through the combined relevance of all four pillars, Tech.mt aims to provide the means through which established local tech organisations may export their technology overseas and by which foreign investors may equally set up new technological ventures in Malta.

As part of its strategy, Tech.mt also focuses on providing tech students with the opportunity to present and enhance their research, attract tech talent towards our country and finally to also provide the assistance and support required to local and international tech start-ups.

The CETA Business Forum, with the support and presence of Tech.mt, will offer an important space for discussion, comparison and development of new relations between the European Union and Canada in key sectors of the economy of our future, including through a large B2B area set up to allow participants to develop and consolidate their network in the CETA area.

In the discussion panels of the virtual conference (CETA Talks) there will be many topics related to innovation and new technologies, in particular concerning Artificial Intelligence, ICT, fintech, next generation startups and young entrepreneurs.

The first edition of the CETA Business Forum is scheduled for June 22-23, 2022 and will take place entirely online, through a digital platform capable of reproducing a 360° trade fair event, with the presence of classrooms, stands and services for interaction between participants, all in 3D format. The B2B area, on the other hand, will be open from June 22 to 30, 24 hours a day, and will allow participants to arrange face-to-face meetings to get to know each other and develop new relationships.

For more information and registration go to the official website of the event: www.cetabusinessforum.com

Fitch affirms Malta at A+, outlook stable

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Fitch Ratings has affirmed Malta’s Long-Term Foreign-Currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) at ‘A+’ with a Stable Outlook.

A full list of rating actions is at the end of this rating action commentary.

KEY RATING DRIVERS

Ratings Strengths and Weaknesses: Malta’s rating is supported by high per-capita income levels, a large net external creditor position and a pre-pandemic record of strong growth and sizeable debt reduction. These strengths are balanced against its large banking sector, the small size of its economy, which is highly vulnerable to external developments, and a recent deterioration in public finances with large fiscal deficits, which have led to a sharp increase in the moderate public debt burden.

Strong Economic Recovery but Outlook Weakens: The Maltese economy rebounded strongly in 2021, following a severe contraction in 2020. Real GDP rose by 9.4% in 2021, significantly exceeding our November forecast of 5.7%. Fitch has lowered its growth forecast to 4.2% from 6.1% for 2022 due to the stronger-than-expected 2021 recovery and (mostly) indirect effects from the invasion of Ukraine and imposed sanctions on Russia. Malta’s direct economic and energy ties to Ukraine, Russia and Belarus are limited but, as a small and open economy, Malta is highly exposed to the weaker economic outlook in key tourism markets in the EU and the UK. However, we expect Malta’s tourism sector to further recover this year as tourist arrivals remained 65% below their 2019 level in 2021. Private consumption and services exports are projected to further increase in 2022/23, albeit more moderately compared with our previous forecast.

Government Intervention Limits Price Increases: Fitch projects that inflation will reach 4.1% in 2022, largely reflecting partial adjustments in HICP weights and higher services and food prices. Maltese households have so far remained largely unaffected by a sharp increase in international wholesale gas and electricity prices due to fixed-price purchase agreements, protecting real disposable incomes and private consumption. The government remains committed to limit the increase in energy prices. Government measures to control them include sizeable subsidies to the public utility company to cover the loss from keeping electricity prices stable and a reduction in excise duties for petrol and diesel. The government is also intervening in the food market to cap the increase in wheat prices.

Sizeable Fiscal Deficits: Following a large fiscal deficit of 9.5% of GDP in 2020, Malta’s general government deficit narrowed marginally to 8% of GDP in 2021 (higher than the ‘A’ peer and eurozone current medians of 6.3% and 5.2% of GDP, respectively), despite a strong rebound in revenues. Fitch now expects a slower improvement in public finances, forecasting a fiscal deficit of 6.4% of GDP in 2022 and 5.5% in 2023, compared with our November forecast of 6.1% and 4.1%, respectively. Solid nominal GDP growth and a strong labour market will continue to support government revenues but government measures to mitigate the impact from inflation and support the economic recovery will lead to continued fiscal deficits in our baseline scenario. Pandemic-related measures will amount to EUR245 million (1.6% of GDP) in 2022 while another EUR210 million (1.4% of GDP) is budgeted to mitigate the impact from inflation on households and businesses.

Higher Public Debt: General government debt increased to 57% of GDP, in line with the ‘A’ median of 56.6%. Malta has seen one of the largest increases in public debt since 2019 among ‘A’ rated peers with debt increasing by 16.3pp over the past two years (compared with 9.2pp for ‘A’ rated sovereigns). We expect that total general government debt will further increase to above 61% in 2023. Continued fiscal deficits are partially offset by strong nominal GDP growth and negative stock-flow adjustments.

Economic Policy Continuity, Institutional Reforms: Following the re-election of Malta’s governing Labour party on 26 March, the centre-left party continues to govern alone under Malta’s two-party political system. As part of the Resilience and Recovery Plan, the government has committed to strengthening the institutional framework, including the judicial and anti-money-laundering framework, and partly address the European Commission’s concerns over the availability of aggressive tax planning practices. Malta’s World Governance Indicators (WGI) continue to outperform the ‘A’ median but perceived weaknesses in the quality of Malta’s institutions and governance framework led to a sharp deterioration in 2019/ 2020 and WGI scores only partially recovered in 2021.

FATF Greylisting: The Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) decision in June 2021 to place Malta on its so-called greylist has not yet materially affected the Maltese economy, as evidenced by the strong economic recovery and continued strong performance of the large financial sector. Following an FATF on-site visit in April this year, the FATF could vote on whether to take Malta off its greylist during its next plenary meeting in June.

Resilient Financial Sector: The Maltese household and banking sector should be relatively resilient to an increase in the ECB’s main policy rates. Fitch now expects the ECB to raise its main refinancing operations and deposit rate to 0.5% and 0%, respectively, before end-2022. Despite a prevalence of variable mortgage rate loans (93% of the total mortgage stock), Maltese households possess ample liquidity to relatively quickly pay off their debt burdens. Vulnerabilities to the financial sector are further mitigated by banks’ strong balance sheets, including solid capitalisation and low non-performing loans. The Central Bank of Malta introduced borrower-based measures to strengthen the resilience of lenders and borrowers against financial vulnerabilities back in 2019, including limits to the loan-to-value ratio and mandatory stress-testing of borrowers against an interest rate increase of 150bp.

ESG – Governance: Malta has an ESG Relevance Score (RS) of ‘5[+]’ for both Political Stability and Rights and for the Rule of Law, Institutional and Regulatory Quality and Control of Corruption. Theses scores reflect the high weight that the World Bank Governance Indicators (WBGI) have in our proprietary Sovereign Rating Model. Malta has a high WBGI ranking at 79.8, reflecting its long track record of stable and peaceful political transitions, well established rights for participation in the political process, strong institutional capacity, effective rule of law and a low level of corruption.

RATING SENSITIVITIES

Factors that could, individually or collectively, lead to negative rating action/downgrade:

– Public Finances: Continued upward trend in general government debt over the medium term, for example due to a more prolonged period of fiscal stimulus, weaker growth prospects or loss of key sources of revenues.

-Structural Features: Further deterioration in governance or banking supervision or concerns over wider financial sector transparency that could adversely impact Malta’s attractiveness as an investment destination.

-Macro: Weakening of the economic recovery, for example due to a setback in the revival of tourism

Factors that could, individually or collectively, lead to positive rating action/upgrade:

– Public Finances: General government debt/GDP returning to a firm downward path over the medium term, for example due to sustained economic growth and/or fiscal consolidation

– Macro: Confidence that Malta can return to sustainable high GDP growth in the medium term, supporting a convergence of GDP per capita with that of higher-rated sovereigns.

-Structural Features: Further progress in addressing key weaknesses in governance, banking supervision and the business environment.

SOVEREIGN RATING MODEL (SRM) AND QUALITATIVE OVERLAY (QO)

Fitch’s proprietary SRM assigns Malta a score equivalent to a rating of ‘A’ on the Long-Term Foreign-Currency (LT FC) IDR scale.

Fitch’s sovereign rating committee adjusted the output from the SRM to arrive at the final LT FC IDR by applying its QO, relative to SRM data and output, as follows:

– Macro: +1 notch reflecting macroeconomic performance, policies and prospects. The positive notch adjustment offsets the deterioration in the SRM output driven by volatility from the pandemic shock, including on GDP growth. The deterioration of the GDP growth and volatility variables reflects a very substantial and unprecedented exogenous shock that has hit the vast majority of sovereigns, and Fitch believes that Malta has the capacity to absorb it without lasting effects on its long-term macroeconomic stability.

Fitch’s SRM is the agency’s proprietary multiple regression rating model that employs 18 variables based on three-year centred averages, including one year of forecasts, to produce a score equivalent to a LT FC IDR. Fitch’s QO is a forward-looking qualitative framework designed to allow for adjustment to the SRM output to assign the final rating, reflecting factors within our criteria that are not fully quantifiable and/or not fully reflected in the SRM.

BEST/WORST CASE RATING SCENARIO

International scale credit ratings of Sovereigns, Public Finance and Infrastructure issuers have a best-case rating upgrade scenario (defined as the 99th percentile of rating transitions, measured in a positive direction) of three notches over a three-year rating horizon; and a worst-case rating downgrade scenario (defined as the 99th percentile of rating transitions, measured in a negative direction) of three notches over three years. The complete span of best- and worst-case scenario credit ratings for all rating categories ranges from ‘AAA’ to ‘D’. Best- and worst-case scenario credit ratings are based on historical performance. For more information about the methodology used to determine sector-specific best- and worst-case scenario credit ratings, visit https://www.fitchratings.com/site/re/10111579.

REFERENCES FOR SUBSTANTIALLY MATERIAL SOURCE CITED AS KEY DRIVER OF RATING

The principal sources of information used in the analysis are described in the Applicable Criteria.

ESG CONSIDERATIONS

Malta has an ESG Relevance Score of ‘5[+]’ for Political Stability and Rights as World Bank Governance Indicators have the highest weight in Fitch’s SRM and are therefore highly relevant to the rating and a key rating driver with a high weight. As Malta has a percentile rank above 50 for the respective Governance Indicator, this has a positive impact on the credit profile.

Malta has an ESG Relevance Score of ‘5[+]’ for Rule of Law, Institutional & Regulatory Quality and Control of Corruption as World Bank Governance Indicators have the highest weight in Fitch’s SRM and are therefore highly relevant to the rating and are a key rating driver with a high weight. As Malta has a percentile rank above 50 for the respective Governance Indicators, this has a positive impact on the credit profile.

Malta has an ESG Relevance Score of ‘4[+]’for Human Rights and Political Freedoms as the Voice and Accountability pillar of the World Bank Governance Indicators is relevant to the rating and a rating driver. As Malta has a percentile rank above 50 for the respective Governance Indicator, this has a positive impact on the credit profile.

Malta has an ESG Relevance Score of ‘4[+]’ for Creditor Rights as willingness to service and repay debt is relevant to the rating and is a rating driver for Malta, as for all sovereigns. As Malta has track record of 20+ years without a restructuring of public debt and captured in our SRM variable, this has a positive impact on the credit profile.

Except for the matters discussed above, the highest level of ESG credit relevance, if present, is a score of ‘3’. This means ESG issues are credit-neutral or have only a minimal credit impact on the entity, either due to their nature or to the way in which they are being managed by the entity. For more information on Fitch’s ESG Relevance Scores, visit www.fitchratings.com/esg.