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People should not expect new ID cards before the next general election since the rolling-out process has been “intentionally delayed” to avoid linking the two events. The project, which will cost almost €8 million of EU funds, is contractually bound to be concluded by the end of 2014. Besides wanting to “decouple” the process from the election, the process was also delayed because of technological developments that created more opportunities for the new high-tech cards.
Dr Godwin Grima, principal permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister explained that the old cards will nit be replaced by new cards as these are not similar. The new cards would include a chip that could be used to access anything from health records to banking information and electronic tickets, such as public transport. This will be an e-wallet and more and it would also replace the Kartanzjan (reserved for the over 60s) since there would be various age-related options on the cards. The delay will allow the Government to fully maximise these opportunities to ensure citizens are given added value. The process was almost complete and the new cards could be rolled out immediately. The plan was to wait until after the general election to conclude the project. Meanwhile, expired ID cards would remain valid thanks to legal notices which kept extending their validity.
The Government is planning to start issuing new cards for non-Maltese nationals by the end of this year. This would serve as a pilot project with a smaller population – an experience the Government would then be able to build on in the future. This was also the most urgent part of the project since the European Commission no longer allows member states to issue national ID cards to non-nationals. Another reason to delay rolling out the cards was to make sure the necessary defences were made against white collar crime and identity theft.
This is a particularly important issue since the rolling-out process will include the opportunity for all Maltese to correct any inconsistencies between their birth certificates and other documents. A publicity campaign, including an information leaflet to be distributed to each household, is also in the pipeline. The package of legal amendments is not restricted to the ID Card Act. There are other complementary changes such as what is being called a “live events certificate”. The Public Registry will be empowered to issue a certificate which records one’s main life events, including, for example, a sex change. If approved by the court, this change will be logged the way changes to a car are registered in a log-book.