The PN Op­po­si­tion of­fers no al­ter­na­tive, fresh pro­pos­als for Gozo – An­ton Re­falo

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

Gozo Min­is­ter An­ton Re­falo said that for the Goz­i­tan dream to come true, the gov­ern­ment needs to work as a team. “We have as­sisted for an hour and a half harsh crit­i­cism from the Op­po­si­tion and I am very wor­ried at the lack of cred­i­bil­ity which the PN of­fers,” he started.

He said that the PN has no vi­sion for Gozo and in all the time re­served to the Op­po­si­tion, the PN MPs failed to present any ideas for the fu­ture. “I felt very sorry look­ing at the PN leader in Gozo, sur­rounded by Mal­tese peo­ple but fail­ing to present any pro­pos­als for this is­land. I thought he would present us with a star candidate, but he al­lowed Salvu Mal­lia to take the stage.”

The min­is­ter said that Salvu Mal­lia does not have half the in­ter­est which Joseph Mus­cat has for the Goz­i­tans. “This is how low the PN can go,” he added. He said that if the PN wants to be an al­ter­na­tive gov­ern­ment, it should present con­crete pro­pos­als.

Re­fer­ring to the build­ing of the new court halls in Gozo, Dr Re­falo said that Dr Chris Said can­not crit­i­cize the gov­ern­ment for not com­plet­ing this project be­cause he was not in favour of the project. The PN coun­ter­part re­but­ted with a point of order, and clar­i­fied that he was not against the project, but against set­ting up these courts in the al­lo­cated place.

The min­is­ter praised the gov­ern­ment be­cause thanks to this ad­min­is­tra­tion, Gozo be­came a tourist at­trac­tion all year round. He said the min­istry is not lead­ing with gov­ern­ment by cri­sis, and that the is­land is bet­ter off than how things ran un­der the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion.

On Gozo Chan­nel, the min­is­ter said that it is not true that the com­pany em­ploy­ees were em­ployed in pre­car­i­ous con­di­tions. He also ac­cused the Na­tion­al­ist Party that ‘theft was the order of the day’.

“Gozo’s eco­nomic growth is at a record and the is­land con­trib­utes to more than 70% of the coun­try’s eco­nomic growth,” he added. The gov­ern­ment aims to pro­mote the Gozo brand to en­cour­age more busi­ness in­vest­ment in the is­land, the min­is­ter said. While quot­ing sta­tis­tics, Mr Re­falo ex­plained that tourism record is also the re­sult of a good­feel fac­tor that is present.

On the new fi­bre op­tic cable, the min­is­ter said that this project will be com­pleted by next year.

“This is the best bud­get for Gozo since 2010,” he con­cluded.

The gov­ern­ment had only al­lo­cated 2% of the to­tal cap­i­tal vote for Gozo, PN MP Chris Said said ear­lier. This meant that, out of a to­tal sum of €395 mil­lion that will be spent on cap­i­tal projects in 2017, only €9 mil­lion will go to Gozo.

Dr Said, who is the shadow min­is­ter for Gozo, said the al­lo­ca­tion was “mis­er­able.”

He also in­sisted that the “cos­metic” bud­get did noth­ing to at­tract new in­vest­ment and jobs, to tackle pre­car­i­ous em­ploy­ment or to keep the av­er­age wage from fall­ing fur­ther.

As usual un­der a PL gov­ern­ment, this bud­get was all talk and no sub­stance. Out of 20 bud­get mea­sures pledged last year only one has been im­ple­mented, Dr Said in­sisted. Some of the pro­pos­als had been promised re­peat­edly over the last three years but had not been im­ple­mented. These in­cluded the de­vel­op­ment of a green airstrip and the cruise liner ter­mi­nal. The gov­ern­ment had also promised a ge­o­log­i­cal study on the Malta-Gozo tun­nel by the end of 2016 but it had only is­sued a ten­der.

The Gozo sec­tion of the bud­get speech was full of re­peated, cut-and-paste mea­sures. Some of them had been promised for the fourth or fifth con­sec­u­tive year. These in­clude the Bart Med­i­cal School, a fi­bre op­tic link, a Gozo Mu­seum, a swim­ming pool, the law courts and a fast ferry ser­vice.

Dr Said said some pro­pos­als from pre­vi­ous years had sim­ply dis­ap­peared, such as the open­ing of a casino, the air link and air strip and a yacht ma­rina and cruise liner ter­mi­nal.

The PN MP ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of em­ploy­ing peo­ple in pre­car­i­ous con­di­tions. Some 150 peo­ple had been em­ployed in a Gozo Min­istry scheme and were get­ting three quar­ters of a min­i­mum wage while 120 oth­ers had been em­ployed by a GWUowned com­pany and were on the min­i­mum wage. Oth­ers were em­ployed as clean­ers at the hospi­tal or at Gozo Chan­nel and were also get­ting a min­i­mum wage. The Prime Min­is­ter ad­mit­ted a few days ago that the min­i­mum wage is no longer suf­fi­cient.

Dr Said said more Goz­i­tans were now work­ing in Malta and un­em­ploy­ment fig­ures were dis­pro­por­tion­ately higher in Gozo.

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