Economy of Malta

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The strengths of the Economy of Malta are its limestone, a favourable geographic location, and a productive labour force. Malta produces only about 20% of its food needs, has limited freshwater supplies, and has no domestic energy sources. The economy is dependent on foreign trade, manufacturing (especially electronics), tourism and financial services. In 2003, over 1.2 million tourists visited the island[2]. Per capita GDP of $23,200 places Malta just above the middle of the list of European Union (EU) countries in terms of affluence. The island has joined the EU in 2004 despite having been divided politically over the question earlier. A sizeable budget deficit was a key concern, but recent initiatives by government have changed the situation dramatically enough for the country to be admitted into the eurozone as of 1 January 2008.

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Economic history

Prior to 1800 the majority of Maltese were engaged in agriculture or fishing, although there was significant trade. Until then, Malta had very few industries except the cotton, tobacco, and shipyards industry. The dockyard was later used by the British for military purposes. At times of war, Malta's economy prospered due to its strategic location.

During the Napoleonic Wars (1800–1815), Malta's economy prospered and became the focal point of a major trading system. In 1808, two-thirds of the cargo consigned from Malta went to Levant and Egypt. Later, one-half of the cargo was usually destined for Trieste. Cargo consisted of largely British and colonial-manufactured goods. Malta's economy became prosperous from this trade and many artisans, such as weavers, found new jobs in the port industry.

In 1820, during the Battle of Navarino, which took place in Greece, the British fleet was based in Malta. In 1839, the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company and East India Companies used Malta as a calling port on their Egypt and Levant runs.

In 1869, the opening of the Suez Canal benefited Malta's economy greatly as there was a massive increase in the shipping which entered in the port. The economy had entered a special phase. The Mediterranean Sea became the "world highway of trade" and a number of ships called at Malta for coal and various supplies on their way to the Indian Ocean and the Far East.

From 1871 to 1881, about 8,000 workers found jobs in the Malta docks and a number of banks opened in Malta. By 1882, Malta reached the height of its prosperity.

However, the boom did not last long. By the end of the 19th century, the economy began declining and by the 1940s, Malta's economy was in serious crisis. This was primarily due to the invention of large ships which had become oil-fired and therefore had no need to stop in the Grand Harbour of Malta to refuel. The British Government had to extend the dockyard.

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