Fitch Ratings Affirms Malta's 'A' Credit Rating with Stable Outlook

March 30 00:00 2023 by The Editor Print This Article

Leading international rating agency, Fitch Ratings, has once again given Malta a vote of confidence by affirming its 'A' credit rating. The agency's assessment also maintains a stable outlook for the island nation. 

The decision to affirm Malta's credit rating is based on a multitude of factors. Malta's diversified and open economy, which has shown resilience during global economic downturns, plays a significant role in this assessment. Despite global challenges, the country's GDP growth has outperformed the median of 'A' rated peers. 

Additionally, the country's public finances are in a robust state. Fitch anticipates that Malta's government debt-to-GDP ratio will decline to around 41% by the end of 2023, down from a peak of 55% in 2020. This decrease is attributed to a primary surplus and nominal GDP growth. The general government's balance is also expected to reach a surplus by 2023. 

However, it's not all rosy. Some concerns persist, including Malta's high dependence on foreign financing, which makes it susceptible to global financing conditions. Moreover, there's a degree of concentration in the country's economic sectors, notably the gaming, real estate, and tourism sectors. Any downturn in these areas can have a significant impact on the nation's economic health. 

Another critical aspect of Fitch's assessment relates to Malta's governance and the rule of law. Recent reforms have been initiated to address concerns about governance standards, and efforts are ongoing to enhance the effectiveness of the country's institutions. These measures aim to strengthen the rule of law, enhance governance, and combat corruption, making Malta more attractive for foreign investments and collaborations. 

The country's banking sector remains sound, characterized by high capitalization and profitability. Nonetheless, Fitch has raised concerns about the increasing property prices and their potential impact on the banking sector. The agency believes that a sharp correction in property prices could pose a risk to the stability of Malta's banks, given their significant exposure to the real estate sector. 

On the external front, Malta continues to maintain a current account surplus, supported by the robust performance of its export-oriented services sector. The nation's net external debt remains lower than many of its 'A' rated peers, showcasing its strong external finances. 

Furthermore, Malta's labour market remains dynamic and flexible. Unemployment rates are low, and there's a consistent influx of foreign workers, which has helped support the country's economic growth. 

In conclusion, while Malta faces some challenges, its economic fundamentals remain strong. The affirmation of its 'A' credit rating by Fitch Ratings is a testament to the country's resilience and its ability to navigate global economic challenges. The stable outlook suggests that the rating agency believes Malta will maintain this trajectory in the near term. However, it's essential for the nation to continue its efforts in strengthening governance, diversifying its economy, and ensuring the stability of its banking sector to sustain this positive momentum.