MALTA //There are grave concerns in Malta surrounding its strong economic ties with Libya, but the Mediterranean island nation could bene¿t as companies look to move their operations to a nearby haven, the country's ¿nance minister said yesterday.
Malta played a crucial role in evacuations from Libya as workers and visitors fled the country.
The UAE has significant interests in Malta, with Dubai Holding developing a business park there through Tecom, which developed Internet City and Media City in Dubai. Tecom has a 60 per cent stake in the Maltese telecommunications company Go. Mubadala Development, a strategic investment company owned by the Abu Dhabi Government, also has interests through SR Technics, which has an aircraft maintenance facility at Malta International Airport.
"Clearly the Libyan situation is of concern for us on a number of fronts," said Tonio Fenech, Malta's minister of finance, economy and investment. "Yes, there are Maltese investments there, and therefore we are concerned in terms of the economic [impact] that that could have on the investments themselves.
"The instability itself doesn't help. Many people think that we are right at the doorstep of Libya and therefore would say is Malta safe? The reality is we are some 200 kilometres away. There is a problem of perception, which also therefore tends to slow decisions.
"But it has also created opportunities, because in the evacuation a lot of international companies passed through Malta and they set up their evacuation operations in Malta."
He said he had held discussions with companies that were considering setting up of¿ces in Malta.
"One of them is a Brazilian company," said Mr Fenech. "They were contracted to build the airport in Libya and they have a signi¿cant operation here and we are in discussions with them. I always say your perception of Malta changes radically when you come."
Malta has millions of euros of investment in Libya in construction, hospitality and retail.