DBRS ratings agency has confirmed Malta’s rating at ‘A’, with a stable trend, in a press release issued on 31st January.
On the results, Financial Minister Edward Scicluna said: “I am pleased to note the credit rating agency DBRS acknowledging that Malta’s current public finance position and debt dynamics provide the government valuable room to support the economy in the event of a negative shock.
“Reducing the debt burden and creating a fiscal buffer in case of need has been and will remain the government’s fiscal priority.”
The report can be considered as the second positive credit rating report at the beginning of this year, following that of Fitch.
DRBS noted that Malta’s economy has grown on average by seven per cent between 2013 and 2019, allowing it to reduce the GDP per capita gap with the EU.
The ratings agency remarked that “this has attracted both foreign labour and capital to Malta, complementing its favourable tax environment and reinforcing the positive economic dynamic. On the back of a buoyant economy and fiscal prudence, Malta´s public finances have improved.”
On the other hand, it also pointed towards the country’s small size “and the openness of the Maltese economy, with sectors such as tourism, gaming and financial services highly reliant on external demand and foreign capital, Malta remains exposed to external demand or confidence shocks.”
It gave an overview of both upwards and downwards ratings that contributed to the overall score.
DBRS noted positively a “sustained material reduction in the public debt ratio to low levels driven by sound fiscal management and economic performance,” “effective implementation of reforms to enhance Malta’s governance framework, including the financial and judicial sector” and “further evidence of increased economic and fiscal resiliency to external shocks, including changes to the international tax of regulatory environment”.
DBRS Morningstar’s baseline factors in a relatively positive economic and fiscal outlook, however, “a deterioration in the trajectory for public debt in the medium term could exert downward pressure on Malta’s ratings”.
It said that this could derive from: a deterioration in growth prospects; a sustained worsening of fiscal and debt indicators; or the materialisation of contingent liabilities.
DBRS commented that Malta’s fiscal position remains sound and acknowledged that Malta has been updating its Anti-Money Laundering (AML) procedures, in accordance with EU directives as well as recommendations made in the MONEYVAL report.
It cautioned core banks’ “high exposure to the real estate market and rapid house price growth since 2014,” adding that it is “a source of risk”.