Republic of Malta
Area: 316 sq. km. (122 sq. mi.); about one-tenth
the size of Rhode Island.
Major cities: Valletta (capital), Sliema.
Terrain: Low hills.
Climate: Subtropical summer; other seasons
temperate. Mediterranean: hot dry summers, cool
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Maltese.
Population (2003): 399,867.
Annual growth rate (2003 est.): 0.65%.
Ethnic divisions: Mixture of Arab, Sicilian,
Norman, Spanish, Italian, English.
Religion (2003): Roman Catholic, 98%.
Languages: Maltese, English.
Education (2003): Years compulsory--until
age 16. Attendance--96%. Literacy--93%.
Health (2003): Infant mortality rate (per 1,000
live births)--5.9. Life expectancy at
birth--Males 76.4, Females 80.4.
Labor force (1st quarter 2004):
160,183; Public sector 27.1%; Services 43.3%;
Manufacturing 19.4%; Construction & Quarrying
7.5%; Agriculture and fisheries 2.7%.
Independence: September 1964.
Constitution: 1964; revised 1974; revised 1987.
Branches: Executive--president (chief of
state), prime minister (head of government),
cabinet. Legislative--unicameral House of
Administrative subdivisions: 13 electoral
Political parties: Nationalist Party, Malta
Labor Party, Alternattiva Demokratika (Green
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
GDP (2003): $4.85 billion.
Annual growth rate (2003): 1.6%.
Per capita income: $12,173.
National resources: Limestone, salt.
GDP composition by sector, 2002: Services (74.6%
of GDP). Industry (22.9% of GDP); Types--clothing,
semiconductors, shipbuilding and repair,
furniture, leather, rubber and plastic products,
footwear, spectacle frames, toys, jewelry, food,
beverages, tobacco products. Agriculture (2.5%
GDP); Products--fodder crops, potatoes,
onions, Mediterranean fruits and vegetables.
Trade (2003): Exports--$2.63 billion.
Types--Machinery and transport equipment,
semi-conductors, clothing, furniture, leather,
rubber and plastic products, footwear, bunker
fuel. Major markets--U.S., Germany,
France, U.K., Italy. Imports--$3.62
billion: finished and semi-finished goods, food
and beverages, industrial supplies, petroleum
and related products. Major suppliers--Italy,
France, U.S., U.K., Germany.
Trade balance (2003): $990 million.
Budget (2003): revenues $2.47 billion;
expenditures $2.42 billion, including capital
expenditures of $224.3 million.
Average exchange rate (2003): $1 = Lm 0.434
Malta is one of the most densely populated
countries in the world, with about 1,160
inhabitants per square kilometer (3,000 per sq.
mi.). This compares with about 21 per square
kilometer (55 per sq. mi.) for the United
States. Inhabited since prehistoric times, Malta
was first colonized by the Phoenicians.
Subsequently, Romans, Arabs, Normans, the
Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem,
and the British have influenced Maltese life and
culture to varying degrees. Most of the foreign
community in Malta, predominantly active or
retired British nationals and their dependents,
centers around Sliema and surrounding modern
suburbs. There is also a growing North African
Muslim community of about 3,000 (2003), many of
whom are married to Maltese nationals. There
have also been a number of Maltese nationals
converting to Islam. Roman Catholicism is
established by law as the religion of Malta;
however, full liberty of conscience and freedom
of worship is guaranteed, and a number of faiths
have places of worship on the island. Malta has
two official languages--Maltese (a Semitic-based
language) and English. The literacy rate has
reached 93%, compared to 63% in 1946. Schooling
is compulsory until age 16.
Malta was an important cultic center for
earth-mother worship in the 4th millennium B.C.
Recent archeological work shows a developed
religious center there long before those of
Sumer and Egypt. Malta's written history began
well before the Christian era. Originally the
Phoenicians, and later the Carthaginians,
established ports and trading settlements on the
island. During the second Punic War (218 B.C.),
Malta became part of the Roman Empire. During
Roman rule, in A.D. 60, Saint Paul was
shipwrecked on Malta at a place now called St.
In 533 A.D. Malta became part of the
Byzantine Empire and in 870 came under Arab
control. Arab occupation and rule left a strong
imprint on Maltese life, customs, and language.
The Arabs were driven out in 1090 by a band of
Norman adventurers under Count Roger of
Normandy, who had established a
kingdom in southern Italy and Sicily. Malta thus
became an appendage of Sicily for 440 years.
During this period, Malta was sold and resold to
various feudal lords and barons and was
dominated successively by the rulers of Swabia,
Aquitaine, Aragon, Castile, and Spain.
In 1522 Suleiman II drove the Knights of St.
John out of Rhodes. They dispersed to their
commanderies in Europe and after repeated
requests for territory to Charles V, in 1530 the
Knights were given sovereignty of Malta under
the suzerainty of the Kings of Sicily. In 1523,
a key date in Maltese history, the islands were
ceded by Charles V of Spain to the Order of the
Knights of St. John of Jerusalem. For the next
275 years, these famous "Knights of Malta" made
the island their domain. They built towns,
palaces, churches, gardens, and fortifications
and embellished the island with numerous works
of art and enhanced cultural heritage. In 1565
Suleiman the Magnificent laid siege to Malta.
After several months the strength of the Knights
and the Maltese population prevailed and the
Turks were defeated. Over the years, the power
of the Knights declined, however, and their rule
of Malta ended with their peaceful surrender to
Napoleon in 1798.
The people of Malta rose against French rule,
which lasted two years, and with the help of the
British evicted them in 1800. In 1814, Malta
voluntarily became part of the British Empire.
Under the United Kingdom, the island became a
military and naval fortress, the headquarters of
the British Mediterranean fleet. During World
War II, Malta survived relentless raids from
German and Italian military forces (1940-43). In
recognition, King George VI in 1942 awarded the
George Cross "to the island fortress of
Malta--its people and defenders." President
Franklin Roosevelt, describing the wartime
period, called Malta "one tiny bright flame in
the darkness." Malta obtained independence on
September 21, 1964, became a Republic on
December 13, 1974, and a member of the European
Union on May 1, 2004. The last British forces
left in March 1979.
Under its 1964 constitution, Malta became a
parliamentary democracy within the Commonwealth.
Queen Elizabeth II was sovereign of Malta, and a
governor general exercised executive authority
on her behalf, while the actual direction and
control of the government and the nation's
affairs were in the hands of the cabinet under
the leadership of a Maltese prime minister.
On December 13, 1974, the constitution was
revised, and Malta became a republic within the
Commonwealth, with executive authority vested in
a Maltese president. The president is appointed
by parliament. In turn, he appoints as prime
minister the leader of the party with a majority
of seats in the unicameral House of
The president also nominally appoints, upon
recommendation of the prime minister, the
individual ministers to head each of the
government departments. The cabinet is selected
from among the members of the House of
Representatives, which consists of between 65
and 69 members elected on the basis of
proportional representation. Elections must be
held at least every five years. Candidates for
any vacancies are determined by the majority of
votes obtained by a candidate during the
Malta's judiciary is independent. The chief
justice and sixteen judges are appointed by the
president on the advice of the prime minister.
Their mandatory retirement age is 65. There is a
civil court, a commercial court, a family court,
and a criminal court. In the latter, the
presiding judge sits with a jury of nine. The
court of appeal hears appeals from decisions of
the civil court and of the commercial court. The
court of criminal appeal hears appeals from
judgments of conviction by the criminal court.
The highest court, the Constitutional Court,
hears appeals in cases involving violations of
human rights, interpretation of the
constitution, and invalidity of laws. It also
has jurisdiction in cases concerning disputed
parliamentary elections and electoral corrupt
practices. There also are inferior courts
presided over by a magistrate.
The Local Councils Act, 1993 (Act XV of 1993)
was published on 30 June 1993 subdividing Malta
into 54 local councils and 14 in the small
island of Gozo. Councils are elected every three
years by inhabitants who are registered as
voters in the Electoral Register. Elections are
held by means of the system of proportional
representation using the single transferable
vote. The Mayor is the head of the Local Council
and the representative of the Council for all
effects under the Act. The Executive Secretary,
who is appointed by the Council, is the
executive, administrative, and financial head of
the Council. All decisions are taken
collectively with the other members of the
Council. Local Councils are responsible for the
general upkeep and embellishment of the
locality, local wardens, and refuse collection;
they carry out general administrative duties for
the Central Government, such as collection of
Government rents and funds and answering
Government-related public inquiries.
Principal Government Officials
President--Eddie Fenech Adami
Prime Minister--Lawrence Gonzi
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Michael Frendo
Ambassador to the United States--John Lowell
Ambassador to the United Nations--Victor
Malta maintains an
embassy in the United States at 2017
Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
Two parties dominate Malta's polarized and
evenly divided politics--the Nationalist Party,
led by Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, and the
Malta Labor Party, led by Alfred Sant. Elections
invariably generate a widespread voter turnout
exceeding 96%. The margin between the two
parties is so narrow that a 52% share of the
votes can still be considered a "landslide" for
the winning party. Alternattiva Demokratika
(Green Party) is the smallest political party.
It has not managed to secure a parliamentary
seat since its inception in 1989.
A 2003 referendum resulted in a 54% majority
popular vote in favor of membership in the
European Union. The Prime Minister called an
early election in April 2003 for a definite
mandate from the electorate. The Nationalists
returned to power with 51.8% and 35 seats for a
second term, and EU membership was confirmed.
The Labor party earned 47.5% and 30 seats,
Alternattiva Demokratika had 0.7%, and
independent candidates were negligible. Voter
turnout was 97%.
On February 10, 2004, the prime minister and
long-time leader of the Nationalist Party, Eddie
Fenech Adami, resigned. Following his election
as Nationalist Party leader, Lawrence Gonzi
officially became the Prime Minister of Malta on
March 22, 2004. Eddie Fenech Adami assumed the
Presidency of Malta on April 4, 2004. The next
general elections must take place before October
2008 at the latest. The first elections of
European Parliament MPs were held on June 12,
2004 and resulted in the election of two
candidates from the governing Nationalist Party
and three from the Opposition Malta Labor Party.
In 1987, the Maltese constitution was amended to
ensure that the party that obtained more than
50% of the popular vote would have a majority of
seats in parliament and would thereby form the
government. Other amendments made at that time
stipulate Malta's neutrality status and policy
of nonalignment and prohibit foreign
interference in Malta's elections.
Possessing few indigenous raw materials and
a very small domestic market, Malta has based
its economic development on the promotion of
tourism, accounting for roughly 30% of GDP, and
exports of manufactured goods, mainly
semi-conductors, which account for some 75% of
total Maltese exports. Since the beginning of
the 1990s, expansion in these activities has
been the principal engine for strong growth in
the Maltese economy.
Tourist arrivals and foreign exchange
earnings derived from tourism have steadily
increased since the late 1970s. Following the
September 11 attacks, the tourist industry has
suffered some setbacks worldwide. Maltese
tourist arrivals fell by a cumulative 7% during
2001 and 2002. At the same time, the bursting of
the high tech bubble dampened exports and
Despite these adverse developments, the
relatively flexible labor markets kept
unemployment fairly steady at 7.2% (Labor Force
Survey Jan - March 2004). Following a decline in
GDP in 2001, a modest recovery began in 2002,
with some improvements in the tourist sector in
the second half of the year. Employment growth,
however, remained weak.
The recent low economic growth coupled with
corporate bond preference by the private sector
has contributed to a weak demand for bank loans.
Combined with the strong growth in deposits in
the past couple of years, this has led to a
rapid buildup of liquidity in the banking system
and pressures to reduce interest rates that are
fully liberalized. The banking system remains
highly concentrated with two of the four local
banks accounting for about 90% of total loans
The Maltese Government has pursued a policy
of gradual economic liberalization, taking some
steps to shift the emphasis in trade and
financial policies from reliance on direct
government intervention and control to policy
regimes that allow a greater role for market
mechanisms. Malta’s accession into the EU will
mark the total dismantling of protective import
levies on industrial products, increasing the
outward orientation of the economy. Malta
maintains a long-standing exchange rate peg to a
basket of currencies--currently composed of the
euro, pound sterling and dollar. The peg has
delivered low inflation and served Malta well,
especially during the period of liberalization.
The fiscal situation remains difficult
despite some progress in consolidating public
finances. The budget deficit was brought down
from 10.7% of GDP in 1998 to 9.7% of GDP in 2003
(still high by EU standards), mainly through
increases in tax rates and improved collection
of taxes due. Current expenditures were reduced
in the late 1990s but have crawled back up. The
public sector wage bill and subsidies to public
enterprises were mainly responsible for this
increase. Substantial privatization proceeds
have limited the increase in public debt, which
grew from 24% of GDP in 1990 to almost 72.01% in
The Maltese Government is expected to shortly
announce reforms to the pension and welfare
system and reduce the public sector involvement
in the economy as part of the medium- term
fiscal consolidation plan. According to the
Maltese government plans, the fiscal deficit is
expected to go down to 3.5% of GDP by the end of
2005. Economic growth was 1.6% in 2003.
Malta’s diplomatic and consular representation
includes accreditation to 88 foreign countries
and international organizations. Malta is host
to 18 resident diplomatic missions, and 89
countries have non-resident diplomatic
With its central location in the
Mediterranean, Malta has long portrayed itself
as a bridge between Europe and North Africa,
particularly Libya, with whom it has enjoyed
positive diplomatic and commercial ties. Malta
now constitutes the southernmost flank of the
European Union. Malta continues to be an active
participant in the United Nations, the
Commonwealth (in 2005 Malta will host the
Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting), the
Council of Europe, OSCE, the Non-Aligned
Movement, and various other international
organizations. In these fora, Malta has
frequently expressed its concern for the peace
and economic development of the Mediterranean
region. The Nationalist Party government is
continuing a policy of neutrality and
nonalignment but in a Western context. The
government desires close relations with the
United States, with an emphasis on increased
trade and private investment. U.S. Navy ships
resumed liberty calls in 1992 and currently
visit on a regular basis.
Malta and the United States established full
diplomatic relations upon Malta's independence
in 1964; overall relations are currently active
and cordial. The United States has been
sympathetic to Malta's campaign to attract
private investment, and some firms operating in
Malta have U.S. ownership or investment. These
include major hotels, manufacturing and repair
facilities, and some offices servicing local and
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--William Grant
Consul General--Michael Troje
Public Affairs Officer/Director, The American
Political Counselor--Matthew Kurlinski
Economic Counselor--Timothy Briscoe
Information Management Officer--Christian Jones
Management Officer--Jonathan Schools
Regional Security Officer--Richard Ober
General Services Officer--Isobel Miller
Defense Attache--Philip Munaco
Community Liaison Officer--Cindy Belnomi
Customs Officer--Leonard Freedman
embassy in Malta is located in Development
House, St. Anne Street, Floriana; tel: (356) 21
235-960; fax: (356) 21 243-229; web page: