MaltaToday survey | Malta says yes to Budget, no to sale of citizenship

Only 26% agree with award of citizenship to foreigners paying €650,000 – 53% disagree • 53% say budget has affected them positively, only 3.5% say it is “negative”

James Debono
11 November 2013, 12:00am
Joseph Muscat: Budget good, IIP bad...
Joseph Muscat: Budget good, IIP bad...

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A majority of Maltese think the Budget is positive, and an equal number have expressed their opposition to the IIP citizenship scheme proposed by the government through which non-EU citizens will be able to buy Maltese citizenship by offering a €650,000 donation.

The award of citizenship through the controversial scheme is expected to yield €30 million for the public coffers, half of which will go directly in the Budget presented on Monday and the remaining €15 million invested in a national development fund - an injection that will enable the government to limit the extent of indirect taxation in the budget but exposed the government to criticism of devaluing Maltese citizenship.

The MaltaToday survey shows that with the exception of a slight majority of Labour voters, there is widespread opposition to the new citizenship scheme among all sectors of society.

Significantly 29% of Labour voters are against the scheme while a further 17% insist that the €650,000 donation should be accompanied by a significant investment in the country. This is ironically the position advocated by the Nationalist Opposition in parliament during the past days.

Moreover a staggering 71% of respondents and 72% of Labour voters favour the publication of anyone granted citizenship through this scheme. The government has already made it clear that the names of these persons will not be published.

But despite widespread opposition to the citizenship scheme, 53% of respondents expressed a positive judgement on the budget. Less than 4% said that the budget would affect them negatively. Even among PN voters in the last election only 6% said that the budget would affect negatively.

53% against sale of citizenship

The survey shows that an absolute majority are in principle against the sale of Maltese citizenship to foreigners. While 53% are against the sale of citizenship to foreigners willing to pay €650,000 as proposed by the government, 10% would only grant citizenship to those who make a significant investment in the country over and above the €650,000 donation.

This suggests that nearly two-thirds of the Maltese are against the citizenship scheme proposed by the government, which offers citizenship against a €650,000 donation.

Interestingly 87% of Nationalist voters pronounced themselves against any sale of citizenship and only 5% supported granting citizenship to those making a substantial investment in the country - a position advocated by the PN in parliament during the past days.

On the other hand Labour voters are split in three categories, with a relative majority of 46% agreeing with the government's proposal, 17% insisting that the scheme should only be offered to people who accompany the donation with a significant investment and 29% opposing the concept of selling citizenship.

This suggests that despite the attempt of the government to project the scheme as a way to attract investment to the country, 46% of Labour voters are either opposed to the scheme in principle or prefer the model proposed by the opposition through which only investors would be eligible to citizenship.

Respondents who voted PN in 2008 and switched to Labour in 2013 are also lukewarm on the new citizenship scheme. 50% of switchers oppose the scheme in principle while 17% would bind citizenship to substantial investment.

Significantly, agreement with this scheme is highest among younger respondents. Among those aged under 35, agreement with the scheme rises to 32%. But even among this category, 55% oppose the scheme on principle. Agreement with the scheme is lowest among those aged between 35 and 54. Among this category agreement drops to just 22%. Over 55-year-olds are more likely to limit the award of citizenship to investors.

Curiously while opposition to the citizenship scheme is highest among university-educated respondents, 61% of which oppose the scheme in principle, agreement with the scheme is highest among those with a post-secondary level of education (33%). A vast majority of secondary-educated respondents (56%) are also opposed to the scheme. In a clear indication that PN voters have moved away from the party's laissez-faire reputation, only 6% of PN voters support the new scheme.

71% want names of new citizens published

The survey also shows that nearly three in every four respondents want the list of new of citizenship published. This contrasts with the government's decision not to publish the names of persons who acquire citizenship through this scheme.

Presently the names of people granted citizenship through naturalisation are published in the government gazette. But the same rules will not apply to this new category of 'golden passport citizens'.

Significantly 72% of Labour voters openly disagree with the government's decision to keep these names secret. Moreover 95% of university-educated respondents insist that these names should be published.

Surprisingly younger voters are the least keen on transparency. Among fewer than 35-year-olds 17% agree with the government's non-disclosure policy. Middle-aged respondents are the most likely to favour a full disclosure policy.

Majority favour citizenship for migrant's children

In a survey held in September, a relative majority of 48% had favoured the automatic granting of citizenship to children of foreigners who were brought up and attended school in Malta.

While Labour voters who are more likely to support the new citizenship scheme were largely opposed to extending citizenship to children of migrants brought up in Malta, Nationalist voters who oppose the sale of Maltese citizenship to richer people were more inclined to support the award of citizenship to this category.

This suggests that the majority of the Maltese, especially Nationalist-leaning respondents, are not averse to relax citizenship rules but are averse to the idea of selling citizenship to a select category of rich people.

This represents an ideological reversal of roles, with Nationalist voters exhibiting a more left-leaning attitude to citizenship issues.

Presently Malta presently practices a very restrictive policy on granting citizenship to people who have worked and lived in Malta for years. Naturalisation is the only avenue to citizenship for foreign residents without Maltese ancestry.

Only 2,401 persons have acquired citizenship through naturalisation since 1991. A report by the European Union Democracy Observatory (EUDO) citizenship observatory states that the acquisition of citizenship by naturalisation in Malta is overshadowed by the "singular non-reviewable discretion" which the home affairs minister enjoys in decisions on each case.

Majority positive on Budget

Nearly 53% of respondents have positively endorsed the Budget, claiming that this will have a positive impact on their life. Only 3.5% of respondents think that the budget has had a negative impact on them. But a significant one-fifth of respondents including 11% of Labour voters and 25% of switchers, were lukewarm expressing a "so and so" judgement while another 21% replied don't know.

The high number of 'don't knows' could reflect the fact that a sizeable number of respondents had not yet assessed the Budget by the time they were contacted.

In a clear indication that the Budget has been welcomed positively, only 6% of PN voters expressed a negative judgement on the budget while a fifth of PN voters claimed that it had affected them positively. This reflects the largely positive reaction of constituted bodies to the Budget, which includes the reduction of utility bills, free child car and fiscal measures benefiting part timers and high earners.

Although the Budget retained the tax cuts for high-income earners proposed by the previous government, it was respondents with the lowest level of educational attainment who were most positive about the budget while university educated were the least positive.

But even among university-educated respondents, 48% expressed a positive judgement on the budget.


A total of 450 respondents were contacted in this survey. Respondents were contacted between Monday and Thursday. The question on the budget was asked to respondents contacted between Tuesday and Thursday. Respondents were randomly chosen from telephone directories and the results were weighed to reflect the age/gender balance of the population. The survey has a margin of error of +/-4.6%.
James Debono is MaltaToday's chief reporter on environment, planning and land use issues, ...