Report: Invest in Malta
Media: Lufthansa Inflight Magazine 2018
Publication Date: November, 2018
Smart Planning for a Smart Country
Malta’s urban planners want to make the sunshine country even more liveable by incorporating the latest technologies with historic architecture.
Malta plans to join the global movement towards smarter cities and invest heavily in new solutions in the coming years. The Mediterranean island nation believes it can function as a test bed for smart technologies, which could be implemented nation-wide. The country is currently developing a roadmap for a more integrated, connected and sustainable future, and the first projects are expected to kick off in 2019. Smart technologies could underpin many aspects of Malta’s infrastructure and services, ultimately improving living and working on the island.
The Need to Scale Up
Many in Malta believe that the country has no choice other than supporting innovative ideas to take its built environment to the next level. In recent years, Malta has seen an influx of foreign companies and professionals, attracted by economic opportunities in a host of sectors including tourism, financial services, iGaming and the creative industries. Limited supply combined with robust economic growth is pushing up demand and prices for affordable apartments, upmarket developments and office space. Malta has already edged out Hong Kong and become the country with the highest residential price gains, according to Knight Frank’s latest Global House Price. The island’s construction industry is currently going through an unprecedented period of growth and racing to meet the needs of modern Malta. The expectation is that the market, especially on the rental side, will stabilise in the coming two years, as many new units that are currently being build will come onto the market.
Finding a Smart Way
However, it is predicted that Malta’s population will surpass the half-a-million-mark in a few years’ time. While population growth will most likely increase the productive capacity of the economy, it will put further pressure on the housing market and the existing infrastructure, mainly in areas such as transport, waste and water. Malta’s urban planners are now looking at ways to achieve more with less, making infrastructure more efficient and buildings more sustainable. The Planning Authority (PA) is currently conceptualising Malta’s smart approach and is emphasising that its ambition is to take into consideration the entire country, not just a single city.
The island’s urban planners are back at the drawing board. Much like the Knights of St. John, who designed the island’s capital city Valletta from the ground up, which enabled them to adopt infrastructure that was revolutionary at the time, such as waste disposal and sewage systems, they are open to blue-sky thinking and technologies. The authority is encouraging experts and entrepreneurs to come forward with transformative ideas, and is keen to attract companies of international repute that are ready to go beyond the industry standard and apply the newest technologies, innovative techniques and the latest construction methods. Areas of collaboration could include smart building design as well as services such as intelligent safety, lightning, waste management, parking and traffic management.
Old and New
The challenge might be to respect Malta’s heritage and to retrofit digital technology to it, but there are also advantages to it. The island wants to maintain its Mediterranean identity and historic fabric, which makes it attractive for people to live and work in Malta, as well as for high-end buyers seeking to purchase property abroad. While smart cities are inevitably linked with technology, a smart city vision is about more than that. And Malta is not overlooking solutions that complement these such as charging stations for electrical cars.
Quality of Life
Crucial to Malta’s future will be the island’s ability to plan holistically. The country is looking at many different elements, as it needs more educational and healthcare facilities as well as other urban infrastructure, including sports complexes and recreational facilities, to support more people. Projects such as these will be given priority, and the Planning Authority is keen to see investors as well as private/public sector joint ventures help realise these projects. On the back of a bold agenda, Malta’s real estate and construction sector is poised for significant near-term growth. The island’s leaders will be required to make tough decisions about Malta’s built environment and infrastructure that will affect generations to come. Their choices will determine whether Malta can position itself as truly global hub for business as well as a very liveable place to work and raise a family.