[WATCH] New citizenship scheme will keep Malta on the ‘globalisation treadmill’, Muscat tells party faithful

The Prime Minister said the government had a mandate to renew the scheme that could give it a fall back position if EU funding dried up

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has said that a new Individual Investor Programme (IIP) would allow Malta to have a fall back option if it could no longer obtain as much EU funding as it currently does.

Muscat was speaking during a political activity in Mosta, where he said that the government had been given a mandate to update and improve the controversial scheme.

He stressed that those saying that the country’s surplus driven mainly by the programme, were “statistically illiterate”, given that only 30% of the profits it generated were currently being used by the government.

Malta, he said, needed to aspire to being one of the best performers in the EU and to be in a situation that it does not need help to grow.

“We will continue working to get investment from the EU but we will have our fall back position,” said Muscat, adding that the IIP would allow the government to continue investing in the country.

He said he could not understand the Opposition’s position when it came to the IIP. “They told us they would keep it but they keep criticising it everyday.”

He said that within his lifetime, Malta would become as wealthy as the best-performing European countries, insisting that the government was realising former Prime Minister Dom Mintoff’s dream of creating a country where foreigners come to work, rather than one where they must leave to find employment.

Economic growth must continue

Muscat said he had heard many argue that the government should stop looking for investment, since it was “overflowing with work”, with “not enough factories to house the investment being brought to the country”.

“Globalisation is like a treadmill, you can’t say you are tired because the second you stop, you will fall off,” said Muscat.

“Once in the race, we must not simply be there to take part, but we are there to win.”

This week, said Muscat, Malta became the first country in the EU, “and probably the world”, to create a legislative framework for crypto-currencies. 

He said that this had already led to companies choosing to invest in Malta, because they appreciated that it was willing to take the risk, and invest in a new sector.

Like the gaming sector, Muscat said he was convinced that in ten years-time, youngsters would be telling their parents they found a job at a crypto-currency company.

Turning to the controversy surrounding an extension to the Bulebel industrial estate, into agricultural land, Muscat said he said he understood farmers who did not want the land to be taken from them.

“But when are we going to put these factories,” he asked.

“We are here to take decisions, some will be liked and other’s won’t.”

He insisted that a site already earmarked for that purpose made more sense than placing factories in village centres, or in a nature reserve.

On the Nationalist Party’s criticism of the slow rate at which works in certain localities was proceeding, Muscat said he agreed that this was a problem and that this was the reason such works would soon be transferred to a new agency.

“These are the changes others never had the courage to implement,” said Muscat. “The country finally has a plan.”

Moreover, he said it was unacceptable for contractors to apply for more works than they could handle, at the expense of having projects completed on time.

He said that these were the issues that people were interested in.

€80 million hospital buyback good business sense

Muscat also touched up the Vitals Global Healthcare saga, and the recent revelation that the government would have to pa €80 million to have the hospitals returned to it once the 30-year concession was over.

He explained that the investment required to bring the three hospitals in the concession, up to standard, was far greater than the country could afford in the short-term.

“We would have had to wait at least 15 years,” he said. “Instead we are saying that with their money they will complete these three hospitals at once and the Maltese nation will not be paying a cent in capital expenditure.”

This was, he argued, the country would be getting an estimated €600 million in investment for €80 million.

Medicinal cannabis

Muscat said the country was now close to have two new laws that would allow medicines made from the cannabis plant, to be prescribed, imported, as well as manufactured in Malta.

“This will lead the country to be the first in Europe to open up to this sector,” he said. 

He added that there was already “strong interest” from international companies that wanted to import medicinal cannabis, but which also wanted to set up export operations in Malta.