Social Policies in Malta

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The country case studies and thematic papers in this series examine social policy issues facing small states and the implications for economic development. They show how, despite their inherent vulnerability, some small states have been successful in improving their social indicators because of the complementary social and economic policies they have implemented.


Malta is a highincome developed small state, with an impressive level of economic growth and a multitude of social services, which have helped to provide free health and education to all its citizens and benefits to lowincome earners. However, various national and global factors are now threatening the sustainability of this extensive social security model. This paper examines the economic, political and social development of the island, particularly since independence, highlighting the successes and failures of the social development strategies adopted and suggesting how these lessons can inform future policy decisions.



Thematic Considerations in Malta's Development Strategies

The following four paragraphs analyse Malta’s development strategies in the context of the thematic papers by Bertram (forthcoming) on the welfare state and Jenson (2010) on social cohesion. Jurisdictional capacity has helped all governments take tough decisions, for example, when ‘strange’ allies were sought or price and wage controls were put into place or when the decision to apply for EU membership was taken. In the context of Malta, the analysis so far shows that this jurisdictional resourcefulness dates back a long way, as Malta has long counted on its strategic location on a major transport route, which has been exploited for centuries. As in many other small states, natural resources have been limited; in particular, Malta lacks a significant agricultural sector. However, the island has relied on a number of other strategies to foster development. Baldacchino (forthcoming) describes how Malta succeeded in moving on from its dependence on a British naval base by implementing policies that provided manufacturing incentives, such as tax holidays, subsidies and exemption from customs duties, as well as promoting the tourism industry and niche markets, for example in decorative glass. In addition, migration has been used as a strategy to alleviate the pressures of excess labour. Lastly, Malta has exploited its colonial ties with the UK, as well as diversifying international relationships to ensure sufficient financial support. Overall, Malta’s strategy has always been to utilise the resources made available by outsiders to compensate for its lack of domestic resources.


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