The Goals that Malta want to achieve - Ends

Joseph M. Sammut

In September 2000, Malta became a signatory to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and promised to contribute towards eradicating world poverty. In 2005, after entering the European Union (EU), Malta became part of the European Consensus on Development common objectives and underlying principles and the European Union’s common vision on development, setting poverty eradication as ‘the primary and overarching objective of EU development cooperation’. Like all EU New Member States (NMS), Malta promised to reach a level of official development assistance (ODA) amounting to 0.17% of its gross national income (GNI) by 2010 and to increase its ODA/GNI ratio to 0.33% by 2015. The question arises: Is Malta keeping its promises towards eradicating world poverty?

Policy towards poverty eradication

In October 2007 the Government launched its first Overseas Development Policy document. It is based on the values that underpin Malta’s Foreign Policy: solidarity, respect for the international rule of law – including humanitarian law – and the furtherance of democracy, human rights and good governance.

The policy also endorses the important role played by non-state actors – the private sector, social and economic partners and civil society in general – who have become major players in international development cooperation. It aims to provides the basis for a healthy dialogue between Government and civil society and offers the latter opportunity to put into effect its valuable knowledge, experience and expertise. Like other NGOs worldwide, many of those in Malta have years of experience and fieldwork and run more development projects and programmes than those funded by official aid agencies. NGOs are invited to submit small grant proposals for “on the ground” projects in the Majority World.

The Overseas Development Policy acknowledges that development, especially economic development, cannot come about unless there is a secure and stable political climate in the countries receiving development assistance. It also recognizes that the lack of good governance, development and security are factors that contribute to migration as well as a brain drain in the developing world, especially if economic problems such as a high rate of inflation and unemployment prevail. Thus, the Policy provides a framework for humanitarian assistance in which Malta recognizes the continuum between emergency relief, rehabilitation and development. Post-emergency rehabilitation a

Malta Overseas Development Policy creates a basic framework for development aid and emphasizing all important aspects of development cooperation.

Not all aid is development aid

The first ODA statistics available for Malta are of 2004 and 2005, showing a figure of EUR 7.8 and 7.0 million, equivalent to 0.18% of its GNI, respectively. This registered Malta as the highest donor country among the ten NMS which joined the EU in May 2004. ODA statistics in 2006 are EUR 6.8 million and 7.5 million for 2007. This registered a decrease from the previous two years, from 0.18% to 0.15% of GNI.

Although the statistics shows that Malta is reaching the targets articulated in its promises, it was highly criticized in consecutive reports published by Concord, the European Confederation for Relief and Development NGOs, of inflating aid figures and of not being transparent in its donations. Concord brings 24 national associations, working together through what is known as the AidWatch Initiative, of which Kopin is an active member writing the Maltese reports.

Concord’s AidWatch Report (2006), criticises the Maltese Government for not being transparent in how ODA funds are being allocated and which organisations and initiatives are benefiting from it. AidWatch state that Malta is inflating the amount by including spending on refugees inside the country. More specifically, it is of great concern for CSOs in Malta that the Maltese Government seemingly invests a great amount of ODA funds in the detention of irregular migrants. Many of these are asylum seekers, and most of these in fact receive acknowledgement of their vulnerability by means of refugee status or other forms of protection. This in effect means that detention is a prophylaxis, which NGOs consider as a violation of human rights and international migration law.

The Maltese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), in the budgetary estimates for 2007, shows how EUR 175, 618 of ODA were allocated between 11 different development organisations . Only two out of 11 grants focused on Africa and some aid money was spent on conferences and a cemetery which in actual fact does not qualify as money to help poor people to develop. The bulk of the funds were spent on bilateral aid, scholarships to foreign students in Malta and towards refugees in their first year in Malta or for their repatriation.

The 2006 AidWatch Report states that genuine ODA is understood to be money allocated as development aid to improve the welfare of the poor in developing countries and not money spent on refugees or foreign students attending school in the donor country. In addition, Malta wrote off EUR 6.5 million in debt owed by Iraq in 2004, and this was included as part of its ODA for 2003–2005. The MFA refuses to issue a clear and transparent breakdown of the declarations it made to the EC on its ODA.

In 2008 the Maltese Government managed to overcome the promised amount of 0.17% of GNI towards eradicating world poverty.   There was some improvement in transparency in ODA. The MFA statistics show the amount of ODA given as multilateral aid to UN and EU development programmes as well as the funds distributed among Maltese organisations working on development projects.

Malta ODA Statistics



% of

Capita (EUR)

Aid to


Transparent ODA of the Bilateral Aid



% of






































11,095, 597



3, 732, 118

7, 363, 479





  9,832, 609



4, 403, 976

5, 428,633


299, 700 (5.52%)



10,418, 476



4, 075, 895

6, 342, 581


465, 328 (7.34%)



14,358, 297



4, 791, 672

9, 566, 625


928, 237 (9.70%)






5, 315 ,558

9, 142, 696


559, 505






4, 738, 353

9, 016, 790

90, 526**



Malta Foreign Affairs.
* Ministry of Education, Employment and the Family
** The Times of Malta Thursday, July 4, 2013 ‘Maltese overseas charitable projects receive aid’ Available at:

ODA % of GNI: Percentage ODA of the Gross National Income.

Multilaterally Aid: Aid donated to UN and European organisations working in development programmes in poor countries.

Bilaterally Aid: Aid given to Maltese organisations working on development projects abroad and aid spend on refugees during their first year in Malta.

ODA per capita: The total amount of ODA as per Maltese citizen (400,000)

The 2010 AidWatch Report acknowledges that official figures show that, in 2009, Malta maintained ODA levels at 0.19% of GNI. It adds, however, that there are no traces of the 43% ODA budget increase announced last year. According to the report, national NGDOs are concerned about potential aid inflation, mainly through reporting as ODA expenses related to irregular migration and students from developing countries. "Unfortunately, detailed information has not been made available and the real extent of the problem remains unclear.  A breakdown of aid figures has never been made available," claims AidWatch. AidWatch Report 2012   insists that Malta may have inflated its development aid to poorer countries by 28%, by factoring in money it spends on asylum seekers at home when these funds does not actually leave the country.

The year 2011 show that the government increased ODA to 0.25% of GNI which is a substantial increase over the previous years and also indicate that the Government is in fact aiming towards the 0.33% in 2015.  In 2012 and 2013 there was a decrease to 0.23% and 0.20% of the GNI.

When contacted, the Foreign Affairs Ministry   said Malta’s estimated ODA contribution was 0.25% and the government was “fully committed” to reaching the 0.33% target. A spokesman added that Malta complied with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DCA) regulations, even though it was not a member. This meant that the country fulfilled its international obligations of ODA reporting and allocation, the spokesman said. Negotiations to publish full details continue but for now there is no agreement among member states. According to MFA, Malta is prepared to disclose the full details once all member states reach an agreement.

The Government hence argues that Malta is not legally obliged to release detailed data on development-related spending. Yet, as has been observed by the AidWatch Working Group , transparency and the right of access to public information is a basic civil right, which cannot be ignored or shelved. The Government also insists it would continue to credit Malta's immigration expenditure to its ODA so long as this was in line with criteria of the OECD.

Significant improvements were noted between MFA and Maltese NGOs lately. The AidWatch 2012 Report  says that over the past two years the MFA and SKOP, the National Platform of Maltese NGDOs , Malta's broadest network of voluntary and non-governmental organisations working in international development cooperation and humanitarian aid, have engaged in structured dialogue that has contributed to improvements in terms of collaboration and exchange of opinions.  AidWatch 2013 quotes Ambassador S. Falzon, Head of Development Unit – MFA, “The Maltese Government believes that the Busan agreement is an improvement on both the Paris and the Accra agreements reflecting the need for fresh approaches to and developments in ODA for both donor and recipient countries.”  The Busan Agreement sets out principles, commitments and actions that offer a foundation for effective co-operation in support of international development.

SKOP and its members are now hoping for further structured collaboration and the development of an equal partnership for development between the government and civil society. Malta stands to benefit if it manages to coordinate its resources and expertise, for instance with regard to meeting the MDGs.

Breakthrough in Transparency

In 2012 we have a breakthrough in transparency with the Maltese Government disseminating the accounts for the expenditure ODA money (see table below) .

Malta’s official Development Assistance (ODA) expenditure for 2012 by Heading (MFA)

Bilateral Assistance




477, 539


Latin America

126, 364



145, 167


(Bilateral Assistance to developing countries)

(749, 070)


Bilateral Unallocated



Ministry of Education (MEE)

559, 505


Ministry for Home Affairs

7, 154, 052


Ministry of Health, the Elderly and Community

302, 379


(ODA spend on Migrants in Malta)

(8, 015, 936)


Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Maltese NGDOs)

377, 689


Total Bilateral

9, 142, 695


Multilateral Assistance



U.N. Organisations



EU Institutions

4, 390, 000


World Bank Group

490, 519


Other Agencies

229, 724


Total Multilateral

5, 315, 558


Total ODA

14, 458, 254






The data for 2012 give a clear picture of where Maltese ODA is being spent. Bilateral Assistance is being spent in, developing countries in 3 continents, Maltese NGOs and money spent by 3 Ministry for services in Malta.  Multilateral Assistance show how the money was distributed between different agencies.  Analysing the data how Bilateral Assistance is distributed, one has to note that money spend by the 3 different ministries are money spend on services concerning asylum seekers in Malta.  As quoted above by AidWatch Report 2006  genuine ODA is understood to be money allocated as development aid to improve the welfare of the poor in developing countries and not money spent on asylum seekers in the donor country.  The criticism by Maltese and International NGDOs has been proved right.  Funds promised for poverty eradication in poor countries must be given towards this aim. We like to remind the Maltese Government, as we noted in our previous Social Watch Report in 2010 that Malta was and still is being co-funded by the EU towards the upkeep of refugees rescue and sustainment in Malta.

Malta was criticized by the Commissioner for Justice, Jacques Barrot on a visit to Malta in 2009.  Barrot in 2009 stated, the island had been allocated over EUR 126 million in funds to spend from 2007 to 2013 in the field of asylum, immigration and border control. At that time Barrot observed critically that the country had only spent EUR 18 million. According to estimates published in the local press, Malta was allocated EUR 24.4 million in 2007, EUR 32.5 million in 2008 and EUR 18 million for each year until 2013, plus other entitlements and grants for situations that may have arisen. This aid should be fully utilized. ODA should not be inflated by adding the costs of housing refugees, especially not by financing prophylaxis detention. Instead, the Government should make full use of the aid offered by the EU for refugees and asylum seekers than Malta was allotted by the EU, whilst investing ODA funds in Majority World countries, also increasingly through CSO channels.


Malta must:

  • Use ODA money as development aid to improve the welfare of the poor in the least developing countries.            
  • Keep its promises to reach its ODA/GNI ratio to 0.33% by 2015 towards eradicating poverty in the least developed countries.                        
  • Continue to improve transparency and accountability in the coming years as shown in 2012 ODA budget.  MFA must be congratulated for transparency as this result in the respect of where tax payer’s money is going.   
  • Reframe from adding asylum seekers cost and expenditure as ODA but utilise the budget allocated from EU funds.
  • Devise a clear policy and strategy in choosing and donating aid targeted towards poverty eradication.
  • Special attention should be given towards cross-cutting issues, such as children’s rights and women’s empowerment.
  • Collaborate with the main stake holders to make the most efficient use of the money allotted.
  • NGDOs are encouraged to scale up their efforts in advocacy and in raising the awareness of the public in campaigns so that they could become more active citizens that pressurise their leaders to be accountable towards their promises in eradicating world poverty.
  • MFA should collaborate with the international community and be a leader and role model in transparency and in eradicate poverty.  The lack of transparency and accountability in ODA translate in a mere lack of good governance. Maltese politicians should change their attitudes and be transparent in their ODA money and become role models for other nations working toward eradicating poverty and bring peace and stability among the North and South.


Aid Watch 2006: EU aid: genuine leadership or misleading figures? Available at:

Vella M. ‘ Malta aid figures show little cash reaches world’s poorest’ . Available at:

Aid Watch 2006: EU aid: genuine leadership or misleading figures? Available at:

C. Calleja, “Blessed are the poor,” Times of Malta, 16 April 2006.




Sarah Carabott The Times  Saturday, June 30, 2012  ‘Island praised for its global aid assistance’


Sarah Carabott The Times  Saturday, June 30, 2012  ‘Island praised for its global aid assistance’


KOPIN is a member of SKOP

AidWatch Report 2013, ‘THE UNIQUE ROLE OF EUROPEAN.  Available at:

Busan Agreement: Available at: (cited 6th June)

No breakdown statistics have been given for 2013 till the writing of the report - 6th June 2014 

Aid Watch 2006: EU aid: genuine leadership or misleading figures? Available at:

Social Watch Report 2010. Available at:

“Only €18 million spent from €126m in EU migration funds,” Malta Today, 18 March 2009. Available at: <>.