After the Baltic nations, it is Malta’s turn to project itself as the “gateway to Europe” and woo Indian investment. Even as it tries to catch up with its richer counterparts in the European Union, the island nation, however, appears a bit choosy about the investment that comes its way.
Though Malta Enterprise, a government agency to promote investments, claims anybody can come to Malta and set up a business, its chief officer, Trade, Investment and Enterprise Support, Joe Schembri says they are not too keen on foreign retail chains that may hit the domestic market. “Businesses that will find the country conducive for growth and help Malta too grow in the process,” that is what they are looking for. Malta’s wishlist for Indian investors include pharmaceuticals, software development, manufacturing of electrical equipment as well as aircraft and superyacht registration. And it is offering fiscal incentives in the form of 30-50 per cent rebate on the capital costs, no import duty and easy taxation.
Listing its geographical and demographic advantages, Schembri says that unlike several other EU nations Malta is an English speaking country, thanks to its shared colonial history with India. Besides, it has good air and sea connectivity, sound legislation and political stability due to a two-party system that seems to have a single voice on most economic policies. Malta charges a 35 per cent corporate tax, but also has a system of up to 30 per cent refunds — tax paid by the company is credited to the shareholder upon a distribution of dividends. Besides a no-profit-no-tax policy, Malta has a double taxation avoidance agreement with 65 countries, including India.
Indian drug major Aurobindo Pharma set shop in Malta in 2008 to cater to the European market. The facility now dispatches close to 4,000 batches of medicines a year, which it plans to increase to 6,000 by 2015, says Federick Schembri, MD of Aurobindo Pharma (Malta) Ltd, and Jonathan Farrugia, Qualified Person for Batch Release (Europe). Since Vijay Mallya’s superyacht, Indian Empress , is registered under the Malta Flag, the country hopes other high-net-worth individuals from India would follow suit while looking at yacht registration. In fact, Transport Malta offers a 24/7 registration service with expert guidance, one of the reasons why the country has “one of the world’s biggest ship registers”. Inviting Indians to also register their aircraft with it, Transport Malta offers services ranging from