Christopher Fearne

Christopher Fearne

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health

Politics / Malta

“Malta has a lot of shared interests with the UAE”

At the top of the EU growth chart, Malta’s economy has doubled in size in the last seven years. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health Christopher Fearne tells us how this has happened and how the extra budget is put at use.

What is the recipe behind Malta’s success?

Over the last few years, the Maltese economy has increased at a fast, but controlled pace. This well planned increase in the economy is a sustainable increase because it increases structurally, and we aim to sustain the level of growth for the next decade. Ranging between 5 and 6 percent, our growth rate in the past several years is three times the average European rate.

The reasons behind this success are threefold. Firstly, Malta has a hardworking, well trained and well educated workforce. The majority of Maltese have a high level of education; a high percentage of our young people are university graduates, and many of them continue pursuing MA and PhD degrees. In the last few years we are facing full employment. In fact, we are a net immigration country, so workers come to work in Malta to sustain the economic growth. Furthermore, lead by a pro-business oriented government, Malta has created the ambiance and the structure to welcome FDI by offering favorable incentives for private companies which want to invest here. Over the last few years, we have had success with FDI in a vast area of sectors, which brings me to the third pillar of our success, our diverse economy. Malta has a strong tourism industry, bolstered by the sea, the sun and the cultural richness. However, tourism is not our only source of revenue. In fact, we have a very strong and vibrant financial sector. We have also witnessed an increase in high value manufacturing. As always, we are at the forefront of innovation, and we are diversifying into a number of other sectors, including blockchain, AI, iGaming, among others.

What does Malta offer as a FDI destination for a UAE company?

When it comes to collaboration with GCC countries, there are various reasons why Malta is an ideal place. Firstly, Malta offers a gateway into the European Union market. Investing in Malta brings access to the whole of the EU, but also to a wider region due to our country’s strategic location. We are close to the African continent, the MENA region and, by extension, to the Gulf via the shipping routes. Our advantageous geographical position is complemented by our English speaking population, well-educated workforce, FDI incentives, solid regulatory framework, and excellent quality of life.

Malta has a lot of shared interests with the UAE. We understand the challenges faced by small countries and we also share many cultural similarities. Additionally, both countries support public-private partnerships. Malta’s Government is very willing to cooperate not just with the UAE Government, but also with private enterprises and, vice versa, Maltese private enterprises are open to collaboration with the UAE and the businesses from the Gulf region. There are already a number of companies from the Gulf region which have chosen to invest in Malta.

The budget for Malta’s health sector has doubled since 2012. What are the projects in the pipeline?

In the last seven years, the Maltese entire economy has doubled, going from €7 billion to €14 billion. For a small country, it is quite an impressive in such short period, especially compared to most of the other EU countries where budgets either remained static or actually decreased. This has allowed us to increase investments in improving our services and our infrastructure.

Malta is experiencing a vibrant expansion in the health industry. We are continuously investing in building new hospitals and clinics, as well as new technologies. The number of MRI machines has doubled over the last three years and we are bringing in a lot of new technologies to our hospitals and pharmacies, including robotics and AI. In 2020, we will be launching a nationwide remote patient monitoring program driven by artificial intelligence, which will be the first in the world to be offered on a national level.

Malta’s health sector was ranked among the world’s top 10 in 2018, how did you achieve it?

Malta has a tradition of offering superb healthcare services. Our vision is to promote Malta as a center of medical excellence in the Mediterranean. In addition to being ranked among the top 10 in the world, another survey recently ranked Malta among the top three in Europe, of which we are very proud. This success is due, first of all, to the fact that our healthcare services are free of charge for patients. Secondly, we have highly skilled medical staff, as a result of the high quality medical education that our doctors and nurses receive. Thirdly, we have excellent facilities in which we invest continuously. Malta is also swiftly becoming a hub for the pharmaceutical industry, offering a solid regulatory framework and excellent base for R&D, as well as access to the EU market and beyond, as mentioned previously.

What are your expectations ahead of the Expo Dubai 2020?

The Expo 2020 Dubai is an excellent opportunity for Maltese and European business. Our vision for the Expo is to promote Malta as a country that is open for business. We are striving to make life as easy as possible for investors and also for migrant workers who come to offer their services to the Maltese economy. To conclude, we want Malta to be perceived as a hardworking country with a well-educated workforce, diversified economy, and open for foreign direct investment.