Con­tin­u­ing on our suc­cesses

Malta Independent - - DEBATE & ANALYSIS -

For Gozo this bud­get has also brought ad­di­tional at­ten­tion to the pro­jects we have been work­ing on since the first days of this ad­min­is­tra­tion. The first phase of the con­struc­tion of the home for the el­derly will soon be fi­nal­ized, and then the fo­cus will turn to the finishing of the build­ing. Next year will also see the start of the ex­ca­va­tions and build­ing of the car park un­der­neath the new Courts. St Fran­cis Square will be up­graded to com­ple­ment the new en­trance via the wide steps lead­ing from the bus ter­mi­nus. This will pro­vide a safe en­trance to the main square vis­ited by so many be­cause this is where the main gov­ern­ment ser­vices are pro­vided. The bud­get also in­cludes al­lo­cated funds to con­tinue main­tain­ing our roads, val­leys, ports, beaches, street fur­ni­ture and gen­eral up­keep of the is­land.

The most cru­cial in­vest­ment that the bud­get an­nounced is the €3.2 mil­lion al­lo­ca­tion for the se­cond fi­bre op­tic ca­ble. This is a much-needed es­sen­tial in­fra­struc­ture thay will not only as­cer­tain that Gozo is con­tin­u­ously dig­i­tally linked to the out­side world, but more im­por­tantly it will act as a big in­cen­tive to all those want­ing to in­vest in Gozo, as it will dras­ti­cally re­duce the pos­si­bil­ity of be­ing out off from the rest of the world. The set­ting up of Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Gozo is an en­tity that at­tracts small com­pa­nies to Gozo, some­thing that the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion failed to do. Such com­pa­nies can op­er­ate from small premises and em­ploy a num­ber of spe­cial­ized per­sons. Gozo is par­tic­u­larly at­trac­tive to those per­sons who would like to work in a tran­quil and beau­ti­ful en­vi­ron­ment but whose work re­quires a solid con­tin­u­ous link to the out­side world. The se­cond fi­bre op­tic ca­ble is a must for such in­vest­ments. Elec­tronic iso­la­tion is un­think­able in to­day’s global eco­nomic en­vi­ron­ment.

Over the past three years we have shown that Gozo can im­prove the out­put and pro­duc­tiv­ity of its econ­omy. We have in­vested time and en­ergy to main­tain our tourism in­dus­try year-round. Thanks to initiatives such as lower-fare week­ends, or­ga­nized in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Gozo Chan­nel, and es­pe­cially with the Min­istry’s sup­port of a colour­ful and di­ver­si­fied cul­tural cal­en­dar, we have seen an in­crease in tourists. Data shows that Gozo Chan­nel has seen a 20 per cent in­crease in pas­sen­gers in the shoul­der months Jan­uary to March of this year. The ho­tels and restau­rants in Gozo have been able to re­main open all year and thus also re­tain their em­ploy­ees. This is an en­cour­ag­ing show of lo­cal be­lief in Gozo and its po­ten­tial.

In­vest­ment is prob­a­bly the most tan­gi­ble ev­i­dence of con­fi­dence in Gozo. Apart from the pro­jects men­tioned in the bud­get, we have sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ments through both EU funds and pri­vate in­vest­ment. Pro­jects such as the new of­fices and mini fac­to­ries to be built on two sites in the in­dus­trial area of Xewk­ija bode well for those com­pa­nies which want to ex­pand but do not have the premises to do so. This is a €16 mil­lion in­vest­ment in the po­ten­tial of our SME’s. Th­ese premises are equally avail­able to the new in­vest­ment we hope to at­tract in spe­cific in­dus­tries re­lated mainly to IT, fi­nance and medicine-re­lated ar­eas.

The big­gest pri­vate in­vest­ment will be the new hospi­tal ex­ten­sion and the med­i­cal school. Both have sig­nif­i­cant mul­ti­plier ef­fects. The first will of­fer more spe­cial­ized care with a fo­cus on at­tract­ing med­i­cal tourism. This will en­tail af­ter care ser­vices and it is a won­der­ful op­por­tu­nity for pri­vate in­vest­ment to cater for post-op­er­a­tive and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tive care. More­over, the med­i­cal school will not only re­quire ac­com­mo­da­tion for stu­dents and pos­si­bly even fam­i­lies, but will also need an­cil­lary ser­vices, such as food, trans­porta­tion and en­ter­tain­ment. The school will bring a fresh at­mos­phere at a hospi­tal which will not be deal­ing solely with rou­tine ac­tiv­i­ties but would need to keep up to date with the lat­est ad­vances in medicine, as it will be­come a teach­ing hospi­tal. This com­bi­na­tion of a teach­ing and spe­cial­ized ex­tended hospi­tal will have far­reach­ing im­pacts on the op­er­a­tion of the ex­ist­ing hospi­tal. It will also pro­vide for more op­por­tu­ni­ties of ad­vance­ment to those who en­gage in such a change and will also bring more spe­cial­ized per­son­nel from dif­fer­ent fields of the med­i­cal pro­fes­sion.

So what can we count as our suc­cesses? Th­ese in­clude: in­crease in jobs, de­cline in un­em­ploy­ment, a turn­around for Gozo Chan­nel from a loss-mak­ing one to a profit-mak­ing one; finishing the Cit­tadella to the high­est qual­ity; em­bel­lish­ment of sev­eral squares, streets, val­leys and at­tract­ing in­vest­ment to Gozo to con­tinue to pros­per.

I will not dwell on what Gozo was turn­ing into up to a few years ago. I hope that with the plans we have set in mo­tion, we will give Gozo the op­por­tu­nity to ex­ploit bet­ter its re­sources and its tran­quil en­vi­ron­ment while be­ing able to pro­vide eco­nom­i­cally for its res­i­dents, be they lo­cal or for­eign. Let us work to­gether to keep Gozo mov­ing on and con­tinue build­ing on our suc­cesses.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malta

© PressReader. All rights reserved.