Author: Joseph Borg
Malta is a beautiful archipelago situated right in the middle of the Mediterranean sea with a population of almost half a million. In 2012, it welcomed over 1.5 Million tourists and in order to cater for this influx the Island of Malta is very well connected to most major cities in Europe and beyond.
Liz Ayling from the International Living magazine, said that Malta was historically a melting pot, but never more so than now. She states that “Expats will inevitably bump into expats given Malta’s size—roughly twice the size of Washington D.C. It’s easy to socialize with your countrymen. “Crime hardly exists, the locals are hospitable and the health care is excellent.” In 2011, the International Living magazine rated Malta as one of the top three countries in its Quality of Life Index, a scientific survey based on elements such as the economy, health, freedom and climate.
Living in Malta
Unlike many other jurisdictions that attract financial services industry players, Malta is a country, which offers everything you would expect from a major metropolitan city in Europe, albeit on a much smaller scale. To start with, it is a wonderful country where you can raise your kids. Not just for the safety and climate, but also for the fact that it is blessed with a very good education system. One can find an array of sports clubs where kids and adults alike can engage in their favourite sports activity, from scuba diving to rugby, from competitive swimming to golf.
Entertainment activities for adults can range from cultural activities to state of the beach clubs and discotheques, to amazing restaurants where one can enjoy a great meal with friends or a top end romantic dinner with one’s better half. The cultural element of the Maltese Islands is not to be disregarded in that the islands boast of some sites and locations that put some of the major cultural attractions in Europe to shame. It is enough to mention the Neolithic Temples which can be found across the Islands of which seven are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, built during three distinct time periods between 5000BC and 700BC.
When you think that all of this is spread on just 312km2, it gets even more fascinating. You could literally drive from one side of the Island of Malta to the other in less than 45 minutes. To visit Gozo, its sister Island, one simply needs to take a twenty-minute ferry ride.
The size is a luxury in itself. It is very common for expats living in Malta and Maltese alike to go for a swim, in one of the beautiful beaches, after work. Usually, the closest beach is only ten minutes away from the office or your home. Alternatively, yachting fanatics, usually berth their yacht in a marina close to their office or home and go for a short trip around the islands in order to find the most pristine waters and enjoy a bar-b-que in the middle of the Mediterranean just a few minutes after closing their laptops at the end of a stressful and hectic day.
Although, the fact that Malta enjoys the sun for over 300 days a year and that it has a negligible crime-rate are major attractions, it would be negligent to attribute Malta’s success solely to climate and safety. Malta’s economic success is mainly due to its forward-looking business friendly policies and legislation.
Malta offers a range of business incentives for those who wish to invest in Malta which coupled to arguably the best corporate and personal taxation system available in Europe, places the country as one of the most attractive jurisdictions across the continent. A non-resident shareholder may be entitled to obtain refunds amounting 6/7ths of the corporate tax paid in Malta by their company. This coupled with the vast range of double taxation treatise signed between Malta and other countries makes this system extremely attractive for foreign investors. On the other hand, highly qualified professionals wishing to relocate to Malta, may be eligible to a new scheme that was launched earlier this year, and which allows them to pay a flat rate of 15%.
In Malta one can also find highly competent and experienced service providers, which can offer foreign investors extremely professional legal, financial and human resources advice. The real estate sector is also very evolved and allows expats to find their dream sea-view apartments and luxurious office space at affordable prices.
Malta banks on its reputation to attract new investors. Whilst retaining a high level of seriousness and strictness, institutions also try to facilitate the life of business and try to be as flexible as possible to maintain the jurisdiction’s attractiveness. The new Government has also vouched to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy and reduce the bureaucratic burden on businesses by at least 15% within the next 5 years.
Furthermore, the Islands’ membership in the European Union and the Eurozone has already made it easier and more efficient for foreign businesses to relocate into Malta.
Malta as a Gaming hub
In 2004, Malta decided to lead the way in regulating online gaming. It succeeded by being the first European Union Member State to regulate remote gaming, by issuing avant guard and technology neutral regulations, as well as by having a regulatory approach which favours innovation and business development while ensuring that player protection is at the centre of the regulatory framework.
The constant improvements made to the licensing procedure confirm that notwithstanding the regulatory turmoil, which the European Gaming industry is facing at the moment, Malta is still the leading jurisdiction in the regulation of remote gaming. In fact, the number of operators that choose operators chose Malta as their ideal base to offer their gaming services across Europe and neighbouring countries, is constantly on the increase.
Being a European Union Member State gives Malta a voice in Europe. The Government of Malta with the invaluable assistance of the Lotteries and Gaming Authority (LGA) has been very active in various international fora, especially in the last 3-4 years, with its main objective being to protect the online gaming industry from the measures being proposed and in some cases implemented by other member states throughout the European Union. In particular, over the past years, Malta issued a number of ‘reasoned opinions’ on various laws proposed by other member states, thus requiring such member states to revise their proposed legislation to bring it in line with the principles of the EU Treaty. It also intervened in a number of Cases involving Malta licensed online gaming operators, in front of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
The fact that Malta can be the voice of the industry where it matters most was in itself a factor, which has drastically contributed to attract new business towards the Islands.