The Malta Independent 22 October 2020, Thursday

Budget 2019: Strengthening public security through technology

Friday, 26 October 2018, 18:04 Last update: about 3 years ago

Minister for Home Affairs and National Security Michael Farrugia and Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation Silvio Schembri spoke about their respective budgetary measures on Friday.

Parliamentary Secretary Silvio Schembri explained the project Safe City. "Budget 2019 is a clear sign of how this government is looking into  the use of technology and its benefits to protect its citizens. The project is being discussed by the authorities, entities and stakeholders involved and it will be implemented in Marsa and Paceville. The Joint Innovation Centre was founded to develop the concept of Safe City according to Malta's needs", said Schembri. Schembri explained that during the past months work was being done where technology was being used on an experimental basis in a private data centre and that this was done in respect with all laws related to privacy to ensure the best international practices. "During the next year, and after a period of consultation, this technology will be eventually implemented in areas such Paceville and Marsa in order to strengthen public security", said Schembri. 

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Schembri added that this year witnessed the nascent stage of a new industry that will soon become a contributor to Malta's economic growth. "From The Blockchain Island to artificial intelligence", said Schembri while explaining that after the success of making Malta The Blockchain Island through the enactment of 3 Bills which will be put into effect as from 1st November, Budget 19 will pave the way for the exploration of new economies such as AI. "In the coming months, a national strategy will be launched  for this sector to explore the oppotunities it holds, attract new investment and incorporate it into our ecosystem", said Schembri, while adding that pilot projects related to IoT are underway and will b implemented in Luqa in the coming days. 

 "All this has to be promoted on an international level and this will fall under the responsibility of the newly established Tech.mt", said Schembri. 

With regard to the financial services sector, Schembri mentioned the restructuring that is underway within the financial services regulator, such as establishing a Fintech unit, and that the authority will be investing heavily in the latest technologies to combat challenges and global issues such as money laundering. Schembri explained that heavy investment will take place within the newly established Registry of Company Agency, which investment is focused on technology to move towards paperless activity. 

Schembri explained that the financial services regulator, the MFSA, is looking into investing in Regtech to keep up with international standards with the aim of strengthening Malta's jurisdiction. In view of this, a consultative body is going to be established to serve as a forum of discussion between practitioners in the financial industry, the regulator, and the government. The first task of this forum is to build up a strategy for the financial sector for the next 10 years.

Budget 2019 will pave the way for new economic niches. Schembri explained that the government will look into e-Sports as a new economic niche within the gaming industry, and in the coming weeks a national strategy will be launched.

Minister Michael Farrugia stated that the government kept its electoral promise to enhance investment in the security sector. Capital expenditure increased by 85% from last year, and the recurrent expenditure increased by more than 10%.

"The government is aware that officials of the disciplined forces are exposed to dangerous situations, and thus will create an insurance system that covers the officials in an event of a fatal accident or permanent disability suffered during their line of duty".

Referring to the Safe City project, the Minister said that the information technology sector in Malta will continue to be enhanced and strengthened to further fight digital crime. He continued that the Police are working to identify localities with high crime activities, and thus increase and strengthen target policing. A structure is being created where the Police and the community work together to fight crime.

Minister Farrugia said that plans are way underway for the building of a new forensic laboratory that helps them in this sector. He also made reference to the police sectoral agreement that was signed a few days ago, and said that police stations are currently being upgraded, whilst new equipment is also being bought.

The Minister maintained that the criminality rate in our country is decreasing, even though the population, tourism and its affluence have increased. 

 

Minister Farrugia stated that change is ongoing at the Corradino Correctional Facility. A project brief was designed which identifies whether there is the need to change the infrastructure or increase the capacity of the facility. He announced that a new law will be introduced against the abuse of synthetic drugs.

The Minister also said that fire stations will be rebuilt so as to be seismic proof, whilst the ongoing investment in replacing the current fleet will continue. He also said that the Armed Forces of Malta will continue to invest in increasing its human resources and assets to further strengthen security in the Mediterranean.

Minister Farrugia concluded by saying that the Maltese authorities will continue to fight and prevent crime to protect citizens.


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