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