There is no better occasion at which a nation is reminded of the state of things in the real world than when an international credit agency, free and expertly advised, offers an opinion on its prevailing economic situation. Why? Because it is, after all, the economy that provides the platform for social progress and political stability.

That an international agency such as Fitch Ratings comes out, as it did earlier this month, to not only confirm Malta’s credit rating at A+ Stable, but also to forecast a seven per cent growth at the end of last year when it had predicted a four per cent growth, was tantamount to an economic leap the like of which has never been experienced before by Malta and the Maltese.

Add to this the fact Fitch is now forecasting a 5.9 per cent growth for this year when in its previous report it had estimated a growth of 3.7 per cent.  The forecast is based on scientific calculations that, according to Fitch, envisage that “domestic demand will remain strong with declining unemployment and increase in wages pushing up private consumption”, while exportation is also expected to increase.

This reality check further predicts a surplus in public finances, with Fitch going as far as to forecast that “the fiscal surplus  in 2017 is likely to outperform the government’s initial target of 0.6 per cent of GDP” and is now estiimated at two per cent of GDP. The agency is also forecasting a 1.5 per cent surplus this year, compared to a 1.8 per cent deficit for other countries.

This highly positive outlook for Malta’s burgeoning economy is, of course, not restricted to Fitch. Other international credit agencies have upgraded their predictions for the Maltese economy under Joseph Muscat’s Labour Government – a picture that is reflected on the social front in major infrastructural projects, top-performing financial and gaming services, and social reforms backed by strong foreign investments, including the highly successful, EU-approved Individual Investor Programme (IIP).

In this upbeat scenario, there is no looking back for Malta. Gone are the days when petty local politics were left to cast a shadow on economic performance. As one of the best-performing economies within not only the Eurozone, but also the whole world, Malta can now build on what has been achieved in a mere five years and go on to build on it as a nation with top European credentials and an industrious people who now share their opportunities with thousands of job-seekers from all over the globe. A complete contrast to what had always been the opposite trend for centuries in the history of these Islands when whole Maltese communities had to seek a better future in places like Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the US.

Nothing of this has been achieved by magic or pure luck. It is a success story based on sheer hard work, on political stability, on innovation and creativity, and on the premise that one needs to help oneself before others move in to help, as we are currently witnessing with developments at Air Malta. More so in our case, an island bereft of any resources other than human, and hitherto stuck to time-honoured ways of attracting foreign markets and job creation. We are exploiting, in a good sense, the talents of our only precious asset – human capital.

It is why Malta cannot and does not afford to look back. Of course there will be those from within who will do their utmost to upset the groovy applecart as is so obvious on the part of a minority of narrow-minded political cells going by different names and titles which continue to harrass public opinion. It’s a free country and they rightly get the space they demand, but the general public is highly aware of the tactics and the bravado as well as the audacity attached to their gimmicks.

In their vast majority, the Maltese are fully, albeit silently, conscious of their achievements in the past five years at both national and European levels, and they are only interested in looking ahead. This general feeling of self-belief is unique for the Maltese nation, for far too long left depending on the scraps of history and inevitable economic disillusionment. The second decade of the 21st Century has brought with it an absolutely new reality – a self-dependence rooted in a determination to succeed, to be pro-active, and to confront social, economic and political challenges that inevitably occur from time to time.

Malta’s high-rating certificates, obtained in the last few years, go a long way towards confirming this exciting new trend and promises more in the future. Moody’s thinks so, Fitch says so, and S&P, among others, feels so. It has never been like this and long may it last.

The Malta Independent 22.02.18

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