Witnessing a period of perennial economic growth within the last several years, Malta is now investing heavily in infrastructure projects aimed at structurally supporting the country’s ongoing economic boom. Dr. Ian Borg, who holds the helm of Malta’s Ministry for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects, discusses infrastructure projects, as well as competitive advantages and future plans within the sector.
European Times: What are the main responsibilities of the Ministry for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects?
Dr. Ian Borg: Our mission is to promote and develop the transport sector in Malta by means of proper regulation and by the promotion and development of related services, businesses, and other interests, both locally and internationally. Furthermore, we are focused on effective implementation of programmes and capital infrastructural projects which fall within the remit of the Ministry.
Malta has a phenomenal track record of economic performance within the past two decades, culminating with an impressive 6.6% growth in 2017. The country’s ranking in international reports, such as the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report, continues to improve, and our Ministry is committed to improving the country’s infrastructure as a key component for maintaining Malta’s progress. Throughout the years, Malta has positioned itself as a superb transport hub in the Mediterranean, and our current and upcoming infrastructure projects will further enhance the country’s strategic advantages.
European Times: Malta is investing heavily in improving its road network. What are the main projects in this regard?
Dr. Ian Borg: Upgrading the road network is a key component of our infrastructure plans for providing the safest, most effective and sustainable multimodal transportation system. In this regard, we have developed a robust portfolio of projects for the construction of new roads and the preservation of the existing road network in the amount of €700 million over a period of seven years. These projects, which will be implemented under the Roads and Infrastructure Agency, will ease the burden on local councils, but will also ensure that they retain an active role through continuous collaboration with their respective regions. Furthermore, among our many infrastructure projects, €70 million will be invested in the Marsa Junction project, a system of seven flyovers aimed at decreasing the congestion of the traffic passing through one of the busiest nodes on our island.
European Times: Throughout the years, Malta has traditionally upheld an excellent maritime industry. What are the country’s main competitive advantages in this regard?
Dr. Ian Borg: Malta’s strategic location at the heart of the Mediterranean has spurred the development of a strong maritime industry and has fortified the country’s position as a maritime hub in the Mediterranean and as an entre-port to the European Union.
The country has natural harbours and its main international ports are among the busiest in the world. The two main ports, Valletta Grand Harbour and the Port of Marsaxlokk (the location of the islands’ main cargo terminal Malta Freeport), provide a comprehensive package of maritime services including towage, salvage, pilotage, victualling and provisions of all kinds of stores and supplies. The Grand Harbour, which has been used as a harbour since Roman times, has several extensive docks and wharves, as well as a cruise liner terminal. Furthermore, the Malta Freeport, which is ranked as the third largest transhipment and logistics centre in the Mediterranean region and is equipped with state-of-the-art transhipment computerized systems, offers efficient, cost-effective and quality oil and gas storage facilities. We are committed to developing the full potential and maximal utilization of our ports through building new structures and improving existing capacities, while ensuring that the tourism environment is preserved.
Malta’s merchant shipping register remains the EU’s largest, with a combined gross tonnage of over 75 million. Furthermore, the competitive fiscal regime, complemented with numerous law firms and accounting offices catering specifically to the maritime industry, provide an impeccable service infrastructure for the sector. On top of that, our authorities are very flexible and provide individualized service which is unparalleled in the region.
European Times: How would you describe Malta’s air transport sector?
Dr. Ian Borg: Malta is looking to replicate the success of the maritime industry in the air transport sector as well. Currently there are 33 registered carriers, which operate flights to most major European and world metropoles. The national carrier Air Malta connects Malta with around 30 major cities across Europe, North Africa and the Mediterranean. Working together with partner airlines, the airline offers convenient connections to many more destinations.
Recently, our Malta International Airport was ranked as the second best airport in Europe by the Airport Service Quality 2017 awards, organized by Airport Council International, which ranked 343 airports worldwide. The airport has managed to obtain a place within the top five European airports for the past nine years. It is noteworthy to mention that Malta’s Planning Authority approved a new Master Plan for the overall development of the airport, through which it will be better placed to cater for the needs and uses related to airport operations and other indirect operations.
In addition, Malta is recognized as an excellent destination for aircraft maintenance; both large commercial airplanes and luxury private jets have found their way to Malta for their maintenance needs. Aiming to endorse Malta’s image as a competitive airport hub in the Mediterranean, we are focused on attracting more carriers to use our country as a hub or to get registered here. For example, among others, Qatar Airways recently announced that it will initiate direct flights to and from Malta this year.
European Times: What is your personal message?
Dr. Ian Borg: Infrastructure is crucial for the Maltese economy, both in terms of its citizens and when it comes to attracting tourists and investors. Our Ministry is working continuously towards its improvement and overcoming challenges in our infrastructure, especially the road network, with a primary aim to provide better and more efficient roads, with more safety measures leading to less accidents, less pollution and to journeys which take less time. Furthermore, with the National Transport Strategy 2050 and our Transport Master Plan 2025, the Curabitur remains focused on developing integrated transport policies and ensuring the development of an efficient and sustainable transport system. I would like to assure every potential investor that Malta is ready to welcome them with an excellent investor climate and continuously improving infrastructure.