Paste your Google Webmaster Tools verification code here
By Nitin Bardia
My sojourn to Malta commenced on 14th May 2018 with a warm welcome sunshine; a country with an abundance of bright sunshine that engulfs the entire landscape; a country which always welcomes tourists and foreign nationals with warmth and happiness. A southern European island in the Mediterranean Sea with a population of approximately 4,50,000 people, Malta boasts of a rich history which dates back to 5900 BC. It is now known to be as one of the most densely populated countries. Origin of the term “Malta” is a bit uncertain, but the most common etymology is that it is derived from a Greek word which means “Honey” primarily due to Malta’s famous honey production. The sweetness of honey resonates in the behavioural pattern of its people and in the air of Malta which truly represent a rich old Maltese History, Culture and More…
The island is believed to be inhabited around 5900 BC. Since then it has seen the rule of various dynasties, empires and foreign influences which have left an indelible mark on the country’s ancient culture. Malta has witnessed the rule of the likes of Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, Knights of St. John, Turkish, French and the British on its soil. In recent ancient history, one of the major breakthroughs was in 1530 when Charles I of Spain gave the Maltese Island to the Order of Knights, during which time the Great Siege of Malta took place. Knights then took a strong hold on Malta for approx 268 years where after French under Napoleon took hold of Malta in 1798, which did not remain for long, and by 1814, Malta became a British colony. Malta served as a critical midway station for anchoring ships as well as the headquarters for the British Mediterranean Fleet. Post that Malta played an important role in the Allied war during First and Second World War, for which it was awarded the George Cross for its bravery which continues to appear on Malta’s national flag. Malta gained its independence on 21 September 1964 from the British and on 13 December 1974 Malta became a Republic nation. At present Malta is a member of Commonwealth Nation, United Nations, the joined the European Union in 2004 and part of EuroZone since 2008. The official religion is Catholicism, but the constitution states that the people in Malta shall have full freedom to exercise their religious mode of worship. Malta has a strong and stable political and Unitary Parliamentary Republic system. Malta as always remain historic; in 1980 Malta adopted a policy of neutrality and in 1989 Malta hosted the summit between US President George H.W. Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev which eventually was the start of the end of cold war.
Modern-day Malta has more than 65 hamlets and the three large islands – Malta, Gozo and Comino all three are inhabited. The national capital is the historical city of “Valletta” where all the major Government office e, parliament and PMO is situated. Valletta is a historic city built during the order of St John and is recognized as World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Spread across Malta the houses and streets bear a beautiful architecture with different hues of colour. This is primarily due to Malta having been under various foreign influences which have left an impression on the country’s ancient architecture. Many of the houses here have a wine yard in the backyard. The rental prices of houses have seen a steep rise recently due to growth in tourism and business. The Old capital city of Malta is “Mdina” which traces itself back to the 8th century; this city is situated inside the walls – yes entire city protected inside the walls. There is no comparison between the modern capital “Valletta” and ancient capital “Mdina” but few things are in common – rich architecture, thoughtful layouts and astute town planning which is adequate to be a modern-day tourist attraction. A looking at these sites gets one to think as to how the massive structures where built which not only protected the city from invaders but in present times it maintains its unmatched architecture while keeping the environment-friendly. Governments in the modern era have shown intent and concern towards improving the environment, a step towards this is that most of the electricity on this island is generated on gas and there is an encouragement in adopting alternate source of energy in form of solar panels on top of the roof. The government has also constructed and is also constructing water softening plants to convert sea water to drinkable water, along with encouraging water harvesting and rainwater storage.
Two more things which one finds a high priority on this island are Education/skill development and Healthcare. Education is largely free till higher secondary school and from college, the government pays some stipend on selected criteria per students. Primary schooling has been compulsory since 1946. The University of Malta provides Tertiary education at diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The adult literacy rate is more than 95% with the main focus on skill development. The main aim of the National Skill Council is to minimize the skill gaps that exist in some of the demanding and rewarding sectors such as the digital, technical and financial sectors. When it comes to healthcare it is publicly funded and has an excellent health service supported by a regional network of health centres. There are both public and private hospitals in the Country; the first hospital recorded in the country was already functioning by 1372. The Mater Dei Hospital is the largest medical building in Europe.
Malta because of his history, culture, climate, architecture always remains a popular tourist destination. It has three UNESCO World Heritage sites namely Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, Valletta and seven megalithic temples, which are some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world. The best places to stay in Malta are in Mellieha Bay, Bugibba, St. Julian’s, Sliema, Qawra & Valletta. The island’s beautiful coastlines and architecture and an amazing variety of locations have a big impact on the celluloid world both on the big and small screens. Malta has been home to some of the big Hollywood blockbusters such as Gladiator, U-571, The Count of Monte Cristo, Troy and Munich. Episodes of Game of Thrones have been shot at Medina, as well as many prestigious dramas and documentaries have encapsulated parts of the Island in its frame. The annual festivals, which have a set calendar, and the world famous firework are must-do things which are also a huge tourist fan following.
When one visits a place which is as historic as Malta and has a standing for few thousand years one is bound to ponder with respect to a whole lot of questions such as the economic growth, business structures, development and future vision of government. In olden days Malta’s economy was majorly dependent on textile, cotton and tobacco and gradually, because of its geographical location being situated in the middle of Mediterranean Sea, it started developing as a major mid sea base and is still continue ing to be the same. Under British rule, Malta Dockyard developed as a major, r support for the Royal Navy and due to the formation of this military base a lot of jobs generated and hence the development of docks happened. After the opening of the Suez Canal, there was a big increase in a number of ships entering the Malta ports. The three natural harbours on it, s main island are of great importance:
The Grand Harbor, located at the eastern side of the capital city of Valletta, has been a harbour since Roman times. It has several extensive docks and wharves, as well as a cruise liner terminal. A terminal at the Grand Harbor serves ferries that connect Malta to Pozzallo & Catania in Sicily. Marsamxett Harbor, located on the western side of Valletta, accommodates a number of yacht marinas. Marsaxlokk Harbor at Birzebbuga on the southeastern side of Malta is the island’s main cargo terminal. Malta Freeport is the 11th busiest container port in the continent of Europe and 45th in the World. Besides these 3 natural harbours, there are 2 man-made harbours that serve a passenger and car ferry service that connects Cirkewwa Harbor on Malta and Mgarr Harbor on Gozo. The country has built Europe’s largest flag register and is making up as a top location for the yacht industry. For registration and transhipment, it ranks amongst the top in the world.
In modern-day Gaming Industry has done pretty well in Malta and comprises of approx 10% of GDP, likewise, the Financial Service Industry contributes approx 15% to GDP whereas tourism remains number one with an approx contribution of 25% to GDP. Aviation, Diving schools, MicroChips, the hotel industry is amongst other major contributors to the economy and job providers. Other than this the government has a major focus on skilled workers with the National Skill Council Malta having significantly contributed towards this over the period of time.
According to the latest survey the economy is growing at a pace of approx 4% average per year and the unemployment rate has fallen below 4% as of Feb 2018. Being a diversified economy, foreigners coming for work are absorbed in hospitality, construction, tourism and other service industry. Main indicators of futuristic growth will be an increased focus on innovation and the flexible legislative and regulatory system of Malta government. Main growth would come from fund administration, asset management, asset servicing, insurance and corporate banking. Malta in the current scenario is offering good opportunity in innovation and technology for which they are warmly welcoming “Block Chain Technology”. Maltese can foretell and foresee the prospects in the future what with the Main Crypto exchange’s moving to Malta.
Well, with a deep enrooted culture, centuries-long history, wonderful environment, hospitality and warmth it’s a place to be- with a bright summer afternoon in the sky, playing a round of Golf or romancing with Horse – Playing Polo, Horse Race, Horse Carts or Cricket with a pint of Maltese Wine, Malta surely packs a punch.
Malta as from the perspective of a Novice traveler….Nitin Bardia