Continuing on our successes
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.