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||2020||2021||2022 (E)||2023 (E)||2024 (E)|
|GDP (billions USD)||15.03||17.76||17.78||19.41||20.51|
|GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change)||-8.6||11.8||6.9||3.5||3.5|
|GDP per Capita (USD)||29,217||34,403||34,127||36,990||38,905|
|General Government Balance (in % of GDP)||-5.7||-6.5||-5.6||-5.0||-3.8|
|General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP)||52.9||55.1||55.8||56.9||57.1|
|Inflation Rate (%)||0.8||0.7||6.1||5.8||3.4|
|Unemployment Rate (% of the Labour Force)||4.4||3.4||2.9||3.1||3.2|
|Current Account (billions USD)||0.69||0.76||0.12||0.34||0.35|
|Current Account (in % of GDP)||4.6||4.3||0.7||1.8||1.7|
Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database , Latest available data
Note: (e) Estimated Data
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)||1.0||18.9||80.1|
|Value Added (in % of GDP)||0.4||12.8||77.7|
|Value Added (Annual % Change)||0.5||n/a||n/a|
Source: World Bank - Latest available data.
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|Euro (EUR) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 MUR||0.03||0.03||0.02||0.03||0.02|
Source: World Bank - Latest available data.
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The Economic freedom index measure ten components of economic freedom, grouped into four broad categories or pillars of economic freedom: Rule of Law (property rights, freedom from corruption); Limited Government (fiscal freedom, government spending); Regulatory Efficiency (business freedom, labour freedom, monetary freedom); and Open Markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom). Each of the freedoms within these four broad categories is individually scored on a scale of 0 to 100. A country’s overall economic freedom score is a simple average of its scores on the 10 individual freedoms.
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 Indicators||2017||2018||2019||2020||2021|
|Imports of Goods (million USD)||5,809||6,769||7,072||5,223||6,656|
|Exports of Goods (million USD)||2,516||3,192||3,007||2,680||3,111|
|Imports of Services (million USD)||9,694||12,335||12,794||13,207||14,680|
|Exports of Services (million USD)||13,698||16,370||16,847||15,816||18,095|
|Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change)||4.5||0.2||7.9||-0.2||8.0|
|Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change)||8.7||-0.4||7.0||-3.8||9.0|
|Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP)||136.1||127.8||129.2||139.3||136.9|
|Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP)||154.7||145.2||146.1||152.2||150.7|
|Trade Balance (million USD)||-1,661||-1,746||-1,852||-1,515||-2,819|
|Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD)||2,368||2,383||2,195||1,198||749|
|Foreign Trade (in % of GDP)||290.8||273.0||275.3||291.5||287.7|
Source: WTO – World Trade Organisation ; World Bank , Latest Available Data
(% of Exports)
|See More Countries||57.2%|
(% of Imports)
|See More Countries||51.0%|
Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data
|3.3 bn USD of products exported in 2022|
|Electronic integrated circuits; parts thereofElectronic integrated circuits; parts thereof||24.8%|
|Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed...Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses "incl. those in the form of transdermal administration" or in forms or packings for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006)||11.5%|
|Unused postage, revenue or similar stamps of...Unused postage, revenue or similar stamps of current or new issue in the country in which they have, or will have, a recognised face value; stamp-impressed paper; banknotes; cheque forms; stock, share or bond certificates and similar documents of title||8.1%|
|Fish fillets and other fish meat, whether or not...Fish fillets and other fish meat, whether or not minced, fresh, chilled or frozen||6.5%|
|Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals||4.9%|
|See More Products||44.2%|
|8.6 bn USD of products imported in 2022|
|Powered aircraft "e.g. helicopters and aeroplanes...Powered aircraft "e.g. helicopters and aeroplanes"; spacecraft, incl. satellites, and suborbital and spacecraft launch vehicles||15.4%|
|Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals||14.2%|
|Electronic integrated circuits; parts thereofElectronic integrated circuits; parts thereof||6.4%|
|Yachts and other vessels for pleasure or sports;...Yachts and other vessels for pleasure or sports; rowing boats and canoes||6.4%|
|Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed...Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses "incl. those in the form of transdermal administration" or in forms or packings for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006)||3.8%|
|See More Products||53.7%|
Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data
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|5.3 bn USD of services exported in 2020|
|Auxiliary servicesAuxiliary services||0.15%|
|Telecommunications servicesTelecommunications services||0.61%|
|4.8 bn USD of services imported in 2020|
|Franchises and similar rightsFranchises and similar rights||0.05%|
|Telecommunications servicesTelecommunications services||2.92%|
Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data
The world rankings, published annually, measures violations of press freedom worldwide. It reflects the degree of freedom enjoyed by journalists, the media and digital citizens of each country and the means used by states to respect and uphold this freedom. Finally, a note and a position are assigned to each country. To compile this index, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) prepared a questionnaire incorporating the main criteria (44 in total) to assess the situation of press freedom in a given country. This questionnaire was sent to partner organisations,150 RWB correspondents, journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists. It includes every kind of direct attacks against journalists and digital citizens (murders, imprisonment, assault, threats, etc.) or against the media (censorship, confiscation, searches and harassment etc.).
The Indicator of Political Freedom provides an annual evaluation of the state of freedom in a country as experienced by individuals. The survey measures freedom according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions (on Electoral Process, Political Pluralism and Participation, Functioning of Government) and 15 civil liberties questions (on Freedom of Expression, Belief, Associational and Organizational Rights, Rule of Law, Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights). Scores are awarded to each of these questions on a scale of 0 to 4, where a score of 0 represents the smallest degree and 4 the greatest degree of rights or liberties present. The total score awarded to the political rights and civil liberties checklist determines the political rights and civil liberties rating. Each rating of 1 through 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of freedom, corresponds to a range of total scores.
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Latest Update: September 2023