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Economic Overview

For the latest updates on the key economic responses from governments to address the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the IMF's policy tracking platform Policy Responses to COVID-19.

Malta is considered a high-income country and an innovation-driven economy. Thanks to its sound financial foundations, large infrastructure projects and buoyant domestic demand, the country emerged from the euro area crisis better than most EU Member States, registering one of the highest real GDP growth rates in recent years. Nevertheless, Malta’s economy relies heavily on the tourism sector and international trade, thus it was severely affected by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions that followed. After rebounding strongly in 2021, the country’s economy showed strong growth in both private and public consumption, as well as in the tourism sector, reaching an estimated overall growth rate of 6.6% in 2022. Due to the weaker performance expected by Malta’s trading partners, GDP growth is set to decelerate to 3.3% in 2023 before slightly increasing to 3.6% the following year (IMF).

Malta’s public finances have been significantly consolidated in recent years, with the government budget turning positive. However, in the last few years, national authorities had to deploy a series of measures to mitigate the effects of the pandemic and high energy and food prices (including raises in the weekly cost of living adjustment and pensions and child allowances, one-off payments to the most vulnerable, and tax refund cheques). Fitch Ratings estimates energy and food subsidies to amount to EUR 396 million by the end-2022 (2.4% of GDP) and EUR 605 million (3.5% of GDP) in 2023, partially offset by stronger-than-expected revenue growth, contributing to budget deficits of 6% and 4.9% of GDP, respectively (IMF). After decreasing from above 70% to around 50% in five years, the debt-to-GDP ratio increased to 57% in 2022 and is expected to follow an upward trend over the forecast horizon (58.2% and 58.4% in 2023 and 2024, respectively). Inflation reached 5.9% in 2022, despite energy prices being kept at the 2020 level by government intervention, and is set to remain elevated this year (at 4.6%) due to continuing pressures in food, transport, and imported goods prices.

Unemployment in Malta continues to be among the lowest in the EU, with a continuous decrease in unemployment for all age groups and categories in recent years. In 2022, unemployment stood at 3.2% (from 3.5% one year earlier), with projections for a marginal increase over the forecast horizon (to around 3.4% by 2024). Increasingly, EU and non-EU European migrants are relocating to Malta for employment, though wages have remained low compared to other European countries. Nevertheless, 20.3% of the Maltese population was at risk of poverty and social exclusion in 2021, according to the latest data by Eurostat. Overall, the country's GDP per capita (PPP) was estimated at USD 34.127 in 2022 by the IMF, below the EU average estimated by the World Bank at USD 54.248 for the same year.

 
Main Indicators 20222023 (E)2024 (E)2025 (E)2026 (E)
GDP (billions USD) 18.1420.3121.6822.9624.26
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) 6.93.83.33.53.5
GDP per Capita (USD) 34,81938,71541,12443,33245,560
General Government Balance (in % of GDP) -6.5-5.6-3.9-3.5-2.9
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 52.354.155.256.156.3
Inflation Rate (%) n/a5.83.12.22.0
Unemployment Rate (% of the Labour Force) 2.93.13.23.33.3
Current Account (billions USD) -1.03-0.60-0.63-0.55-0.42
Current Account (in % of GDP) -5.7-3.0-2.9-2.4-1.7

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database , October 2021

Country Risk

See the country risk analysis provided by La Coface.

 

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Main Sectors of Industry

Malta, the smallest economy in the Euro-zone, has one of the most skilled and less expensive, flexible and multilingual labour forces in Europe. Its economy is highly industrialised and service-based, while the agricultural sector only represents 0.4% of the GDP and employs around 1% of the workforce (World Bank, latest data available). According to the latest Census of Agriculture, in the period 2010-2020, the number of agricultural holdings decreased by 14.8%, to 10,449 (of which 41.4% produce solely for their own consumption). Malta produces less than a quarter of its food needs and has limited freshwater supplies and scarce energy sources; the main crops being potatoes, green peppers, grapes, cauliflower, tomatoes, wheat, barley, and citrus. According to the latest figures from Eurostat, the agricultural sector output at constant prices registered an estimated year-on-year contraction of 2.3% in 2022.

The industrial sector employs 19% of the workforce and represents 12.8% of the GDP. Malta does not have any mineral or energy reserves and is thus completely dependent on imports in this field. Its economy is primarily based on manufacturing, especially microchips and pharmaceutical products. The World Bank estimates that the manufacturing sector accounts for more than 7% of GDP.

Malta has put a lot of hard work into promoting its services and succeeded to become one of the main service centres in the Mediterranean region. Nowadays, the tertiary sector represents 77.7% of the GDP and employs 80% of the workforce. The financial sector is the most important, managing assets equivalent to more than 500% of GDP and contributing about 15% of public revenues. Malta was the first EU state to regulate the online gaming industry and has become a significant iGaming hub in the region: the sector generated an estimated EUR 1 billion of gross value added in 2021 (EY). The tourism sector is the economic engine of the country, and its direct contribution to GDP (around 15%) is among the highest in the EU. The sector was strongly affected by the COVID-19 crisis but has been recovering in 2022 when the total tourism expenditure reached almost EUR 2.3 billion (2.3 times higher than the previous year, although still 17% below the 2019 level – data NSO). The national banking system comprises 24 banks, only three of which are Maltese majority-owned; as such, around 62% of the banking sector’s total assets of around EUR 40.4 billion are foreign-owned. There are six core domestic banks, whose assets (just below EUR 26 billion) represent 200.6% of Malta’s GDP (data EBF).

 
Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 0.9 17.9 81.3
Value Added (in % of GDP) 1.0 12.3 78.8
Value Added (Annual % Change) 8.5 n/a n/a

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 
Monetary Indicators 20162017201820192020
Euro (EUR) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 USD 0.940.890.850.890.88

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 

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Foreign Trade

Centrally located in the Mediterranean, Malta has for a long time portrayed itself as a bridge between Europe and North Africa. Its economy relies heavily on foreign trade, principally with Europe. International trade represents 288% of the GDP (World Bank, latest data available), one of the highest ratios in the world. Malta mainly exports mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials (30.5%), machinery and transport equipment (27.4%), and chemical products (12.7%); importing mostly machinery and transport equipment (37.7%), mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials (27%), chemicals (9.8%), and food (8.6% - data NSO, 2022).

The country’s main trading partners are Germany (11.2%), France (5.2%), Italy and the UK (3.2 each%); whereas the main import origins are Italy (19.5%), France (5.7%), Spain (4.8%), the United Kingdom and Germany (4.4% each - data NSO, 2022). Overall, the EU accounts for 50.9% of total exports and 32.4% of imports.

Malta has a structural trade deficit in terms of merchandise: in 2021, the country exported USD 3.1 billion worth of goods, importing USD 6.6 billion. Malta, however, is a service hub and thus a net commercial services exporter: in 2021 the island exported USD 18.1 billion worth of services (+14.4% y-o-y), importing USD 14.7 billion (+11.1% - data WTO). In the same year, the overall trade balance for goods and services was estimated to be positive by the World Bank, at 13.8% of GDP (up from 12.8% one year earlier). According to the latest figures from the NSO, in 2022 total exports of goods stood at EUR 4.5 billion (+26.4% y-o-y), vis-à-vis USD 9.2 billion of imports (+38.7% y-o-y).

 
Foreign Trade Values 20182019202020212022
Imports of Goods (million USD) 6,7697,3885,7187,1338,519
Exports of Goods (million USD) 3,1923,1782,8373,0643,253
Imports of Services (million USD) 12,42112,86615,31617,09716,547
Exports of Services (million USD) 16,53616,91319,27621,94921,835

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO) ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Indicators 20182019202020212022
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 307.4316.0343.4323.0324.6
Trade Balance (million USD) -1,755-1,614-1,389-2,277-3,597
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) 2,2733,3902,5712,5751,534
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 12.211.22.03.89.7
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 10.810.1-1.66.36.4
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 144.6149.2165.0153.3156.6
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 162.8166.8178.3169.7168.0

Source: World Bank ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Forecasts 20232024 (e)2025 (e)2026 (e)2027 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change) -0.53.12.52.52.5
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) -3.13.11.91.71.7

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook ; Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

 
International Economic Cooperation
Malta is member of the European Union and Euro zone.
 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2022
Germany 16.8%
Japan 7.7%
France 7.6%
Italy 5.5%
Singapore 5.3%
See More Countries 57.2%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2022
Italy 22.3%
Canada 9.4%
France 6.6%
Spain 5.6%
Germany 5.1%
See More Countries 51.0%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data

 

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Political Outline

Current Political Leaders
President: George VELLA (since 4 April 2019)
Prime Minister: Robert ABELA (since 13 January 2020)
Next Election Dates
Presidential: April 2024
House of Representatives: 2027
Main Political Parties
Since World War II, the political culture in Malta has been chiefly dominated by a two-party system. These two political parties are:

- Malta Labour Party (MLP): centre-left, social democratic party
- Nationalist Party (PN): centre-right, Christian democratic party

Other parties that took part in the latest elections include the AD+PD, a centrist political party, formed by the merger of the two most prominent third parties, the green Democratic Alternative (AD) and the social liberal Democratic Party (PD); the Eurofederalist and progressive pan-European Volt Malta; the far-right, Christian political party ABBA; and the right-wing populist, conservative People's Party.
Executive Power
The President is the chief of state and is elected by the parliament for a five-year term. The Prime Minister is the head of the government and enjoys the executive powers which include the implementation of law and running the day-to-day affairs of the country. The leader of the majority party or majority coalition is appointed as Prime Minister by the President to serve a five-year term. The Cabinet is appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister.
Legislative Power
The legislature is unicameral. The parliament consists of the House of Representatives having a minimum of 65 seats (79 for the 2022-2027 legislature); its members are elected by popular vote on the basis of proportional representation to serve five-year terms. In case a political party wins an absolute majority of votes but does not have a majority of seats, then that party is given additional seats to ensure a parliamentary majority. President can dissolve the parliament on the advice of the Prime Minister or alternatively parliament can dismiss a government by passing a no-confidence motion.
 

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COVID-19 Country Response

Travel restrictions
Regularly updated travel information for all countries with regards to Covid-19 related entry regulations, flight bans, test and vaccines requirements is available on TravelDoc Infopage.
To find information about the current travel regulations, including health requirements, it is also advised to consult Travel Regulations Map provided and updated on a daily basis by IATA.
Import & export restrictions
A general overview of trade restrictions which were adopted by different countries during the COVID-19 pandemic is available on the International Trade Centre's COVID-19 Temporary Trade Measures webpage.
Economic recovery plan
The summary of the EU’s economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic is available on the website of the European Council.
For the general overview of the key economic policy responses to the COVID-19 outbreak (fiscal, monetary and macroeconomic) in Malta, please consult the country's dedicated section in the IMF’s Policy Tracker platform.
Support plan for businesses
For an evaluation of impact of the Covid pandemic on SMEs and an inventory of country responses to foster SME resilience, refer to the OECD's SME Covid-19 Policy Responses document.
You can also consult the World Bank's Map of SME-Support Measures in Response to COVID-19.

 

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