Prime Minister Talks Up Medical Weed, Cryptocurrencies And Major Visa Reform
'Malta cannot grow dependant on economic niches like iGaming'
Spurred by concerns about the longevity of Malta’s iGaming industry, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat gave the public an insight into his vision for the economy today, with a special focus on medical marijuana, cryptocurrencies and visa reform.
Here’s a breakdown of those highlights from Muscat’s question and answer session in Marsaskala today.
1. Malta as a medical marijuana manufacturer
A lot can change in just a few months. Only six months ago, family doctor Andrew Agius seemed to be on a one-man mission to liberalise medical marijuana which, although technically legal in Malta, was so tightly regulated that it was practically impossible to access. Now a new law is set to pass that will not only ease access of medical marijuana to patients, but also allow industrial producers to produce the medicine in Malta.
As reported by MaltaToday, major Canadian medical cannabis firm Nuuvera is already looking to set up a laboratory facility on the island from where it will export cannabis-related products to other EU countries.
"This would assist in obtaining GMP (good manufacturing practice) certification of the local production facility according to European Union standards, establishing a certified laboratory to export cannabis products to other EU markets,” Nuuvera said.
Muscat today confirmed other cannabis firms are also looking to set up shop in Malta.
“Global market leaders will base their operations in Malta, and we will become the first EU country to export medical cannabis," he said.
2. Cryptocurrencies - the next frontier
Top economist Nouriel Roubini, the man credited with predicting the 2008 financial crisis, recently warned that Bitcoin is “the biggest bubble in human history” and destined for a crash. Yet Muscat has stuck firm to his belief that Malta must become a global trail-blazer in embracing Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
“I recently asked two major American investors whether they are concerned at the riskiness of cryptocurrency investments and they told me that while it is indeed risky, it would be more risky to not get involved at all,” he said. “Our responsibility as a government is to fully understand the concept of cryptocurrencies, manage the risks as best as possible, and create a brand new structure that other jurisdictions will eventually emulate.”
“People keep warning us not to grow dependant on traditional economic niches like iGaming, and this one of our plans. We must be on the forefront of these new developments because, after all, why would cryptocurrency investors set up shop here if a hundred other countries are also regulating it? I’m aware that everyone will want to take credit if this goes well and blame me if it all goes sour, but that’s just part and parcel of my job as Prime Minister.”
3. Visa reform to boost immigration to Malta
Muscat reiterated plans to allow people to apply online for visas to come to Malta, in an attempt to boost immigration to the island and therefore address labour shortages.
“Malta doesn’t have a diplomatic presence in every country, which means that citizens of some countries need to travel to foreign countries simply to apply for a Maltese visa,” Muscat said. “The travel and administration costs involved in the visa application process often end up exceeding the price of a ticket to Malta. This is one of the major challenges of our times and we are determined to solve it.”
Muscat warned the labour pool in Malta has dried up, meaning more foreigners need to brought over if the economy is to keep on growing.
“Businesses continuously complain to me that there aren’t enough people who they can employ,” he said. “What shall I tell them? To forget about investing in Malta? [Former Prime Minister] Dom Mintoff’s dream was for Malta to turn from a country that people emigrate from into a country that people immigrate to. We are now living Mintoff’s dream.”