Since 13 December 1974 Malta, formerly an independent state within the Commonwealth (21 September 1964), has been a parliamentary republic. Head of State is the President of the Republic, elected for 5 years by the House of Representatives, who holds the legislative power and is composed of 65 members elected for 5 years by universal suffrage. The government is made up of the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers, and exercises executive power. Since 1993 the archipelago, already divided into 6 regions, has been further subdivided into 68 localities, each of which is administered by a Council which forms the basis of local government. The judiciary, based in part on the common law Anglo-Saxon and partly on Roman law, provides for a Constitutional Court and a Court of Appeal, whose judges are appointed by the head of state on the advice of the prime minister. The death penalty was abolished in 2000. Defense is entrusted to the Maltese armed forces (AFM, Armed Forces of Malta), with the task of protecting the territorial integrity of the state, and guaranteeing military support to government bodies. The organization and structure of the school are affected by British models; the compulsory teaching languages are English and Maltese. Kindergartens are available free of charge for children aged three and over. Education is compulsory from age 5 to 16 (1974), and is divided into two cycles: primary education lasting five years and secondary education starting at eleven and ending at 16. This last cycle education is given in high schools, technical schools and vocational schools. Alongside the state school system, which is free of charge, there are numerous recognized private institutions (about 30% of the total school offer), for the most part belonging to the Catholic Church. Upon completion of secondary education, students can access other courses, from academic to technical. Illiteracy affects 7.6% of the population (2005).
The economy of the state, which for a long time has drawn significant income from the presence of the British military base definitively closed in 1979, is mainly based on activities related to the port of the capital (favored by the geographical position at the center of many trans-Mediterranean routes), on a flourishing tourism and on a fairly well diversified and continuously expanding industry. Thanks to its political orientation of non-alignment, the country has been able to enter into important agreements with various states, which have allowed it to significantly improve its production structures. The public finance situation is unsatisfactory and the trade balance shows a strong deficit, GDP in 2008 was US $ 8,338 million. Malta has joined the European Union on May 1st 2004, and even if the public debt situation prevents the entry into force of the euro, the country can benefit from structural funds and loans from the EU and Italy. The latter holds a privileged position in foreign trade, since it is the main source of imports and the largest market for exports, followed by Germany, France, the USA, Great Britain and Libya., from which much of the imported oil comes.
The role of agriculture is much smaller than in the past; arable land and arborescent crops occupy a large land area, although the number of workers in the sector is very low. Mainly cereals (wheat, barley), potatoes, vegetables (tomatoes, onions), grapes and flowers are produced which give rise to a certain export. A discreet role has the breeding of livestock (with a prevalence of cattle, pigs, poultry), an activity strictly connected to agriculture and generally family-run. Of little importance is fishing. Malta is severely disadvantaged by the lack of mineral and energy resources. The electricity produced, in fact, it is insufficient for internal needs (the explorations of the seabed surrounding the country in search of oil have not had positive results) and so is the water produced independently by the four seawater desalination units. Despite this, important sources of income come from industry, mostly present with small and medium-sized companies, almost totally centralized in the capital and operating in the mechanical (especially shipbuilding), textile and clothing, wood (furniture), chemical sectors. (plastics), food and tobacco. A good road network connects the capital with the main centers of the island; regular air and sea services (which respectively use the Luqa International Airport and the good port of Valletta) ensure communications with Italy and other European countries. The Maltese economy is on the whole always well integrated with that of Europe: European countries increase a large part of tourism and absorb most of both Maltese imports and exports. The country exports above all kinds of clothing and fabrics, therefore machinery and agricultural products (tobacco, flowers, horticultural first fruits, etc.), while it essentially imports various industrial products, machinery and means of transport, foodstuffs. The tourism sector is fundamental, supported by the climate and beautiful beaches. In addition to the income from tourism, the Maltese economy benefited during the 1990s from also of the positive effects generated by the transformation of the island into an offshore financial center, which has more than 32,950 companies registered in the register of the Financial Services Center. The realization of this project, which has been discussed since the second half of the 1980s, is part of a broader restructuring initiative of the Maltese economy, aimed at reducing the role of the state in the economy, as well as encouraging private initiative and to attract foreign investment.
PREHISTORY AND PROTOHISTORY
Although bone remains of Pleistocene fauna have been extracted from the Maltese subsoil, there are no traces of human presence in such remote times; according to globalsciencellc, the most ancient testimonies date back to Neolithic times, a period from which the numerous megalithic temples with multi-lobed plan date back, among which those of Tarxien, Gigantjia, Hagiar Kim, Mgiar deserve mention; of similar interest is also the Saflieni hypogeum, entirely excavated in the rock. Among the finds, some large and small statues depicting naked women are of considerable importance, probably simulacra of the goddess of fertility whose cult was widespread in the Mediterranean basin.