Freedom of Information

The Freedom of Information Act
 
The Freedom of Information Act (Cap.496) aims to establish a right to information held by public  authorities  in   order  to   further   promote  accountability  and   transparency  in Government.
In terms of Article 17(1) of the Freedom of Information Act, every relevant public authority shall publish information describing the authority’s structure, functions and responsibilities together with a general description of the categories of documents held and a description of all  manuals and  similar types of  documents which contain policies, principles, rules  or guidelines in accordance with which decisions or recommendations are made in respect of members of the public, as well as a statement of information that needs to be available to members of the public who wish to obtain access to official documents from the public authority.
 
The Freedom of Information Act came into force on 1st September 2012.
 
Eligible persons are entitled to submit Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to all established Public Authorities, including the Economic Policy Department, within the Ministry for Finance. The requests have to be in written format on prescribed forms and have to be delivered to an office of the Public Authority, either electronically - by email or through the portal www.foi.gov.mt - or manually (by hand or by post).
 
 
Directorate General – Economic Policy Department
 
The Economic Policy Department provides Government with expert advice and assistance in  the  formulation  of  economic  policy,  the  management  of  economic  activity  and international trade  policy  with  the  aim  of  attaining  Government’s overall  objectives  of economic growth and development, high employment and low inflation and competitiveness on international markets. Within this context, attention is devoted towards the achievement of a stable macroeconomic framework through attaining an appropriate fiscal and economic policy. The Department is responsible for a wide remit of economic policies ranging from structural  reforms,  pensions,  fiscal  policy,  macroeconomic forecasting, and  international trade relations. The Department coordinates discussions and reviews of various aspects of the Maltese economy with international bodies and organisations. Regular meetings are carried out within the European Council and with the European Commission, mostly on trade, structural and fiscal policy issues. The Department actively participates in meetings with representatives from credit rating agencies such as Standard and Poor’s, as well as Moody’s  and  Fitch.  The  Department is  also  an  important  focal  point  in  the  extensive discussions held with representatives from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) who visit Malta for the Article IV consultation. The Department is also involved in work related to the OECD’s European Union (EU) Economy Review and the Economic Review of the Euro Area, which are carried out by the OECD’s Economic and Development Review Committee.
 
The Economic Policy Department is engaged in the preparation of briefings for the ECOFIN, Eurogroup and the EU Trade Policy Committee meetings as well as for meetings of other Council formations and for the European Council meetings, as requested, according to their division of responsibilities.
 
The Economic Policy Department carries out research work on various economic, fiscal, trade and financial topics, as requested by the Ministry for Finance or in conjunction with other Ministries, as required. The professional staff of the Department undertakes a number of other research initiatives and in 2014 the Department has launched the Economic Policy Department Working Paper Series. In addition, the Department is also publishing on its website a number of research Articles of interest to economic operators and policy makers. These publications are aimed at disseminating knowledge on the Maltese economy, encourage objective discussions of main economic policy issues and provide a platform for the professional staff of the Department to publish their research.
 
Furthermore, as part of the annual budgetary process, the Department drafts the Economic Survey that is presented annually in Parliament on Budget Day. Information is presented on the domestic and international economic situation as well as on the macroeconomic outlook. In addition, the Department coordinates also the preparation of the Draft Budgetary Plan which is submitted, on an annual basis, to the European authorities by the 15 of October. Furthermore, the Economic Policy Department provides input in the preparation of the Pre- Budget Document.
 
The Economic Policy Department is represented in the Malta Council for Economic and  Social Development.
 
The Economic Policy Department consists of the following four directorates:
 
The Macro Economic Policy Analysis Directorate provides Government with expert advice and assistance in the formulation of economic policy particularly in relation to macroeconomic conditions, forecasting, public finances, industrial strategy and the  EU’s multi annual financial framework. As part of its work programme, the Directorate is responsible to maintain its short-term forecasting model and produce bi-annual economic forecasts. The macroeconomic forecasts provide the basis for economically-sensitive fiscal projections which are submitted to the Budget Affairs Division in preparation for the bi- annual budgetary forecasts. The  Directorate participates in  the  Economic and  Financial Committee Alternates meetings primarily dealing with fiscal policy making at EU and Eurogroup level in the context of the Stability and Growth Pact. The Directorate also provides inputs to multilateral organisations and agencies such as the European Commission, the IMF and various rating agencies. It also acts as the main interface between the Ministry for Finance and the Malta Fiscal Advisory Council.
 
The Taxation and Benefits Policy Analysis Directorate: The main purpose of the Taxation and  Benefits Policy Analysis Directorate is  to  provide leadership in  matters concerning structural economic matters, both locally and in European fora, with an enhanced focus on tax  and benefit  policy as well as  the  estimation of  the  economic and fiscal impact of proposed budget measures.
 
The main objective of  this Directorate is to  monitor and examine the  tax  system, and propose changes to meet Government policy objectives in the areas of direct and indirect taxation.  In  addition,  the  Directorate  monitors  and  examines  public  expenditure,  and proposes  changes  to  meet  Government policy  objectives  through  the  development of appropriate benchmarks with a view to measure performance. The Directorate also estimates the financial impact of specific budget measures promoting reforms in the period leading to the Budget. The Taxation and Benefits Policy Analysis Directorate also contributes to the Ministerial coordination effort involved in drafting the National Reform Programme (NRP) and monitors such elements of the Country Specific Recommendations under the responsibility of the Ministry for Finance. The Directorate applies quantitative techniques to estimate the impact of specific policy measures e.g. the QUEST model for the purposes of the NRP. In addition, EUROMOD, a tax-benefit model, is used to simulate the distributional impact of budget measures.
 
Another main objective of this Directorate is to provide input in modelling exercises underpinning the state of the pension system in Malta, in particular through the use of the PROST model. Also, it contributes to drawing Malta's position on structural economic issues in priority areas in technical working groups under the Economic Policy Committee as well as technical working groups in issues of economic relevance reported to other Ministries, in particular with respect to the reform of social security and labour market developments. The Directorate  monitors  also,  and  examines  the  state  of  competitiveness  of  the  Maltese economy.
 
The  Financial  Policy  Analysis  Directorate’s main  purpose is  to  provide leadership in matters concerning financial affairs especially policy and legislative initiatives related to the financial sector and the monitoring of financial conditions, whilst contributing to the maintenance of financial and economic stability, identification and management of related potential risks as well as assessment of implications to Government and public finances stemming from the financial sector.
 
One of the main objectives of the Directorate is to oversee policy and legislation on the regulation of the financial sector, particularly those stemming from initiatives within the scope of the EU Financial Union and which also comprise proposals under the Banking Union and the Capital Markets Union.
 
The Directorate also has the objective of monitoring the financial conditions in the economy from a macro-prudential perspective in support of the other national agencies involved. The Financial Policy Analysis Directorate represents Government, and where applicable assist its representatives, with/on inter-agency initiatives on matters relating to banking and financial sector supervision, assessment, risk and stress-testing, including the overview and, where appropriate, the design of indicators based dashboard/s as well as in the development of domestic frameworks for financial stability, crisis management and the use of stabilisation tools.
 
The Financial Policy Analysis Directorate represents Malta’s interests at EU level in relation to financial services issues  while  promoting measures at  an  EU  and  international level  to encourage growth and employment, including through the development of EU policy and legislation on banking and financial sector issues. The Directorate also has the objective of monitoring  access  to  finance  for  enterprises,  assisting  the  Government  to  facilitate enterprises’ access to finance and also to monitor and examine the state of the financial industry in Malta.
 
The International Economic Policy Directorate: The objective of the Directorate is to ensure that the EU trade policy reflects Malta’s economic and social interests.  It analysis the developments and  proposals presented within the  Trade Policy Committee in  order to ensure that the interests and views of Malta are taken into account in the formulation of the EU’s common commercial policy. In particular, it advises, consults and coordinates Malta’s position on  matters concerning the  EU’s  Common Commercial  Policy,  including all  the negotiations of the EU international trade and investment agreements, including the multilateral trade relations under the aegis of the World Trade Organization, plurilateral agreements and bilateral/regional Free Trade Agreements/other trade-related agreements that  are  negotiated  with  third  countries.  Furthermore,  it  also  coordinates  the  Maltese position in other economic/trade and investment issues pertaining to other international institutions (such as UNCTAD and UNCITRAL).
 
The Directorate provides Malta’s position on international trade and investment policy within the various configurations of the Trade Policy Committee (Full Members, Deputies, Services and Investment and Steel, Textiles and Other Industrial Sectors), the Working Party for Trade Questions, the Trade Defence Committee and the Generalised System of Preference Committee outlining Malta’s interests, objectives and priorities in the context of the formulation and implementation of the Common Commercial Policy. The Directorate has the responsibility for the analysis and coordination of the Maltese position on legislative dossiers that have a direct impact on international trade proposed by the Commission. Furthermore, the directorate is also responsible for analysing the proposals by the Commission to implement trade defence measures against dumping and subsidies by third countries together with safeguards against other unfair trading practices by third countries.
 
General description of the categories of documents and manuals held
 
The EPD hold documents falling under the following categories:
• Policy documents and related working documents on themes that fall within the portfolio of the EPD;
•    Studies and reports related to the EPD;
•    Multilateral and Bilateral International Agreements;
•   Manuals  of  procedures,  Applications  and  other  documentation  related  to  the financial management,     certification of expenditure;
•    Dossiers related to procurement (Request for Tender, Requests for Quotations and Request for Information);
•   Explanatory Memoranda, Briefing Notes and Speaking Notes for the Minister and other Government Officials     and Instruction Notes for the Permanent Representative and other Maltese representatives;
•    Council Documents;
•    Minutes of the meetings and other documents related to the workings of the Alternates Economic and Financial       Affairs Committe and Economic Policy Committee;
•    Draft EU Regulations and Directives;
•    Documents in connection with the Budgetary Process;
•    Power point presentations on various aspects of the Maltese economy;
•    Documents related to the selection process to fill vacant or new positions within EPD;
•    Forecasts and projections of economic variable and EU budget;
•    PSMC, related Manuals and Directives;
•    Working Papers;
•    Articles.
 
Submitting a Request / Complaint
 
Eligible Persons:
 
In order to be eligible to submit FOI requests, a person has to be a resident in Malta and to have been so for a period of at least five years. Such person has to be also either a citizen of Malta or a citizen of any other member state of the European Union (EU) or a citizen of any other state the citizens of which have a right, in virtue of any treaty between such state and the EU, to be treated in Malta in the same manner as citizens of member states of the European Union.
 
FOI Request Forms or Complaint Forms can be submitted via the e-ID on the FOI Portal (www.foi.gov.mt). An online request can also be done for both the FOI request and FOI complaint without the need for the applicants to register through e-ID.
 
Alternatively the  FOI  Request Form  or  Complaint Form  can  be  submitted by  email  to foi.epd@gov.mt or by post to the the Economic Policy Department, 30, Maison Demandols, South Street, Valletta VLT 1102.
 
Obtaining a copy of the Forms
 
Application Forms (and Complaints Forms) are available for download from this website or from the Freedom of Information website at http://www.foi.gov.mt.
 
 
Information to be Provided
 
When filling in the application form applicants will be required, apart from providing contact details, to give an indication of the document/information that they wish to obtain. They will also need to indicate the format in which they wish to receive such document/information, namely as a hard copy/print-out, as an electronic copy, in the form of a summary/excerpt of contents or by on-site inspection of the document / information in question. Copies of the ID  card  or  passport  and/or additional  documentation,  as  deemed  necessary  may  be requested  by  the  Public  Authority,  in  the  case  of  requests  relating  specifically  to  the individual, individual's assets/interests/right of access.
 
Types of Requests
 
In essence, one may ask for any article that is held by a public authority and on which information has been recorded in whatever form, including electronic data, images, scale models  and  other  visual  representations, and  audio  or  video  recordings, regardless of whether the information can be read, seen, heard or retrieved with or without the aid of any other article or device. One may also ask for documentation which contains policies, principles, rules or guidelines in accordance with which decisions or recommendations are made in respect of members of the public (including bodies corporate and employees of the public authority in their personal capacity). Furthermore, eligible persons have the right to request information (in the form of a written statement) on a decision or recommendation made in their respect or in respect of a body corporate which they represent.
 
Acknowledgements
 
FOI requests will be duly acknowledged by the Public Authorities. The acknowledgement forms will include a unique reference number and an indication of the date by when the response will be given. The forms shall also include specific information related to the Public Authority, such as its address, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, opening hours and also details of its internal complaints procedure.
 
Checks to be carried out by the Public Authority
 
On receipt of the application form, the Public Authority will verify whether the request qualifies as an FOI request and will inform the applicant accordingly if this is not the case. If it transpires  that   additional  information/documentation  is   required,  applicants  will  be contacted by the Public Authority to whom the request has been submitted and they will be provided with all possible assistance in order to ensure that such request complies with the provisions of the Act. This notwithstanding, when submitting an FOI request, applicants are not required to provide any justifications for requesting any particular documentation / information.
 
The Public Authority will also verify whether the requested document / information is held at its end. If this is not the case such Public Authority will seek to identify the proper entity to whom the request should be submitted and will transfer such application accordingly (informing the applicant in the process). If no alternative entity is identified (meaning that the document/information cannot be traced at any Public Authority) the applicant will be informed accordingly.
 
Processing of request
 
Once it establishes that a request is an FOI request and can be addressed from its end, the Public Authority will determine whether it can provide the applicant with the document / information requested (in full or in part) or whether it will refuse the request. Prior to taking a decision in this regard, the Public Authority shall consider whether any of the exemptions listed in the FOI Act apply. The Public Authority will submit notification of whether the request will be accepted or not within 20 working days from its receipt. An additional 20 working days extension can be further applied, brining up the total to a maximum of 40 working days from the date of the receipt of the original request.
 
Payment of Fee
 
When submitting a response to the Applicant, the Public Authority shall indicate whether any fees apply. If applicable, such fees shall cover only the costs related to making a document available to the applicant, namely man-hours of processing, costs of photocopies/faxes and digital  media  and  costs  related  to  inspections.  Notwithstanding  the  above,  the  total applicable fee shall not exceed €40. No additional fees can be incurred for submitting applications or complaints.
 
The application of fees is regulated by L.N. 158 of 2010.
 
Remedial Action:
 
If the applicant is not satisfied with the response provided by the Public Authority vis-à-vis its request, the applicant is entitled to submit a complaint to the same Public Authority. If, subsequently, the applicant remains unsatisfied with the response received, he/she may lodge an appeal with the Information and Data Protection Commissioner (IDPC). If the applicant remains dissatisfied with the outcome of the appeal he/she may appeal to the Information and Data Protection Tribunal and, subsequently, to the Court of Appeal. Complaints may be submitted for the following reasons:
 
•    If the Request has not been deemed to be an FOI request
•    The Public Authority has applied an extension to the 20-working day deadline to notify the applicant                      whether access would be given to the document / information requested
•     The Public Authority has imposed a fee which is deemed to be excessive
•     The document is not being provided in the requested format
•     The request is being refused
 
One may also submit a complaint if the Public Authority does not respect the 20 working day deadline (or the deadline indicated in the notification of extension, if applicable) for submitting a response.
 
Receiving documentation / information
 
Whenever a Public Authority communicates a decision to an Applicant that access to a document / information will be granted, the applicant shall also be invited to effect payment of fees (if applicable). Within 10 working days following payment, the Public Authority will provide the document / information in the same format as the applicant had originally requested or, if this is not possible, in any other format deemed appropriate by the Public Authority. Applicants who submit requests through the FOI portal (www.foi.gov.mt) may be provided with the possibility of downloading the document / information directly from the site.
 
If no fee will be charged, the document / information will be provided within 10 working days following notification. The request shall be considered to have been abandoned by the applicant if payment is not effected within 20 working days following notification.
 
Internal Complaints Procedure
 
An applicant whose request for information is refused, or who is otherwise not satisfied with the information provided, its format or the extension of the deadline for the submission of the requested information, may address a complaint to the Department.
 
The  complaint will  be  addressed to  the  Department’s FOI  Officer,  who shall bring the complaint to the attention of the officer responsible, who shall be the Director General. The officer responsible shall reply to the applicant within 10 working days from the receipt of the complaint. The applicant shall also be informed that he or she may appeal the decision or otherwise address a complaint to the Information and Data Protection Commissioner in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act (Cap. 496 of the Laws of Malta).
 
The officer responsible shall inform the applicant of the decision taken with respect to his or her complaint, and in the event of confirmation of a decision not to release the pertinent information, shall explain the reasons thereof. Whenever the applicant’s complaint is related to  the  format of  the  information provided or to  an extension of  the  deadline for  the submission of  information by the Department, and the  original decision is upheld, the applicant shall be given an explanation as to why his or her complaint cannot be positively addressed.
 
An applicant may also make use of the Internal Complaints Procedure to report failure to meet deadlines or to send notifications. In those cases where the request for information can be  met,  but  has  not  been  met  within  the  deadlines  specified  by  the  Act  the  officer responsible shall waive any applicable fees for the submission of information.

 Freedom of Information Template


Economic Policy Working hours


1st July to 15th September       7.30am – 2.45pm
16th September to 30th June   7.30am - 4.15 pm

The Economic Policy Department is situated at 30, Maison Demandols, South Street, Valletta VLT 1102 and the Freedom of Information Officer and the alternate Freedom of Information Officer for this Department may be contacted on 25998654 or by email on  foi.epd@gov.mt.