Policy Performance


Economic Policies

Showing significant gains in recent years, Malta falls into the upper-middle ranks (rank 18) with regard to economic policies. Its overall score in this area has improved by 0.6 points relative to 2014.

Growth rates have been strong, and unemployment rates have fallen significantly to very low levels. However, employment rates are also low. Policies such as free child-care centers, wage subsidies for over-40 women and a new pilot program subsidizing care workers for the elderly are aimed at increasing low labor-force participation rates among women.

The large informal economy shifts the tax burden to formal wage-earners, with tax-evasion controls ineffective. Corporate taxes remain high, but targeted tax incentives often reduce the load substantially. Income-tax incentives for high-skilled migrants and other categories are also available.

Budget deficits have fallen to sustainable levels. However, public-sector and state-owned-enterprise concerns pose risks to future deficit targets.

Social Policies

With a number of reform needs evident despite improvements, Malta scores relatively poorly (rank 31) with respect to social policies. Its score for this measure has improved by 0.2 points relative to 2014.

School-leaving rates are worrisomely high. Tertiary-level attainment levels are low, but education access generally is quite equitable.

Poverty risk among the unemployed and elderly is high, and poverty rates have risen in recent years. Employment rates are very low among women. Workplace policies including free child care and financial incentives for mothers returning to work seek to address this issue.

Pension spending is high as a share of GDP, but retirement-age reforms are needed to secure sustainability. The free basic health care system is largely of high quality, but many advanced treatments require payment. The country is only beginning to develop an integration strategy, and naturalization is very difficult.

Environmental Policies

With challenges defined by its island geography, Malta falls into the bottom ranks internationally (rank 37) in the area of environmental policies. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.3 points relative to 2014.

The renewable-energy share is marginal. The country depends strongly on imported oil for its energy supply, but solar-power projects, an electrical interconnection line with Sicily and a planned gas-fired power station may ease this dependence in the future.

The country suffers from scarce water resources, but a flood-relief plan aimed at collecting more water has helped systematize a previously spotty strategy. Additional strategic plans are being developed.

Protections for marine and land areas have been improved in some areas, but a new environmental plan may loosen restrictions on development. Both independently and as an EU member, the country is active in global environmental-protection efforts, but is not a key player.



Quality of Democracy

Despite effective and impartial electoral laws, Malta falls into the bottom ranks internationally (rank 37) with regard to the quality of democracy. Its score in this area has improved by 0.2 points relative to 2014.

A new law governs political-party financing, but creates an electoral commission regulated by the parties. The state-owned media are susceptible to state influence. Political parties own broadcast and print media. Strict libel laws constrain journalists’ reporting.

Civil rights and political liberties are generally respected. The government has sought to address concerns regarding asylum-seeker detention centers and human trafficking. Same-sex civil unions have been legally recognized. Discrimination on the basis of political affiliation remains common, and women are underrepresented in many social areas.

Though anti-corruption measures have been strengthened, the issue remains salient. Judges are appointed by the government, hampering independence, and courts are inefficient.



Executive Capacity

Despite growing core-government steering capabilities, Malta scores relatively poorly (rank 32) with regard to executive capacity. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.5 points relative to 2014.

Though each ministry has an independent strategic-planning unit, the PMO remains the central strategy office. The PMO has created several offices to assess sectoral policy, and its monitoring of ministries and agencies has been substantially improved, but coordination efforts remain a challenge.

The RIA process is evolving, with assessment quality varying. The government has sought to bypass sustainability checks in some challenging policy areas. Consultation with civil society has steadily improved since EU accession, but does not contribute significantly to policy development.

Government efficiency has improved over the past two years. The country has played a disproportionate international role on refugee and migration issues, as well as North African good-governance issues.

Executive Accountability

Reflecting several notable weaknesses, Malta’s overall score for executive accountability falls into the middle ranks internationally (rank 23). Its score on this measure has improved by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

Parliamentarians have few resources, and comparatively weak executive-oversight powers. The audit office is independent, and has seen its workload increase substantially in recent years. The ombudsman is highly esteemed but has limited powers.

While media competition has improved public access to information, citizen opinions are strongly influenced by the party-controlled media. Infotainment programing remains widespread.

Political-party decision-making is performed by elected delegates, but civil society is being more regularly consulted. Economic-interest groups are capable of formulating relevant policies, though employers’ groups commission more independent research than do unions. EU funds have helped other interest groups grow.
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