Success leads to more work
This week, the potential for tourism in Gozo has been reconfirmed with our inclusion in the ‘World’s 100 sustainable destinations for 2017’. This recognition gives further impetus to our efforts to not only maintain but to also enhance the island and ever
The Ministry’s public cleansing staff and the many volunteers who join in our efforts are to be commended for their dedicated service. However, we need more cooperation and a greater sense of responsibility from both residents and visitors, who can support our efforts and allow us to direct our resources towards more positive tasks
This week, I have launched a new campaign to keep Gozo clean with ‘ Broxkinu’ as a mascot with an educational purpose to support initiatives already taken by the Gozo Ministry during the last three months. The establishment of intervention teams and an additional investment of €150,000 in modern, more efficient technical equipment are proving their worth for everyone to see in a cleaner Gozo. The Gozo Ministry has also held discussion with all the local councils so that we now have in place a structured schedule of work to be carried out around the island. Keeping up standards of cleanliness and good maintenance is our responsibility and, as Minister for Gozo, I will see that all those involved will do their part for the benefit of everyone.
With perseverance and determination, smaller initiatives also produce the best results. The Ministry’s public cleansing staff and the many volunteers who join in our efforts are to be commended for their dedicated service. However, we need more cooperation and a greater sense of responsibility from both residents and visitors, who can support our efforts and allow us to direct our resources towards more positive tasks.
Over and above the reality experienced by all those involved, the latest statistics show a leap in tourist numbers during summer, with our hotels registering a large increase in the number of guests during July, with the August results still to be published. The net occupancy rate in Gozo’s accommodation rose by 3.9 per cent over 2016 to 68.6 per cent. The total number of guests in Gozo and Comino over the first seven months of the year amounted to 53,414 – an increase of 12.4 per cent over the 47,515 achieved last year.
Guests in collective accommodation establishments were up by 12.3 in July. Hoteliers in Gozo and Comino had an especially lucrative month, with guests up by a massive 24.5% when compared to July 2016. Nevertheless, with occupancy rates hovering at 68.6%, there remains plenty of space for Gozo-bound tourists to spend their holidays with a longer stay on the island. Gozo Channel also confirms such positive results, with record loads during summer.
The collective input on the part of all stakeholders, including the Gozo Ministry and other public entities, is behind such positive results. It encourages us to increase our efforts, and the keep-Gozo-clean drive I am personally undertaking should contribute to more success. Given the importance of tourism to the island’s prosperity, all my fellow Gozitans should feel proud of their involvement – either directly or indirectly – in establishing Gozo as a unique destination.
Diligent planning and management of the country’s finances by the Labour government continue to achieve excellent results, notwithstanding the customary economic slowdown during election times, although it did not indicate any economic impact during the last May-June period. Government’s Consolidated Fund registered yet another surplus of €31.1 million between January and August this year.
Compared to the same period last year, recurrent revenue registered an increase of €261.2 million, whereas total expenditure rose by €150.9 million. This resulted in a positive change of €110.2 million in the government’s consolidated fund. Recurrent revenue during the first eight months of this year was recorded at €2,583.8 million, up from €2,322.6 million last year. Additionally, the nation’s successful performance also resulted in a handsome reduction in indebtedness of €22.1 million during the same period.
Such excellent results are an encouraging preamble to the budget for 2018, scheduled for tomorrow week. Hard work pays off, and the hard-earned results achieved by Dr Joseph Muscat’s team during the first four years in office should be conducive to further financial and social measures in the years to come, leading to the best time for the people’s wellbeing.
It is also paramount that Labour ensures that the national wealth is reflected in the individual wellbeing of Gozitans and Maltese. Here again, the economic boom can be observed through the falling rate of unemployment. The number of people registering for work in August fell by 23.7 per cent, compared with the same month last year, and stood at 2,489, after another fall during July.
An increase was recorded in respect of women registering for over one year – which is in itself another plus in our endeavours to see more female participation in the labour market. Another positive result – which is dear to me personally – is that the number of people with a disability registering for work also fell by 73 compared to the previous year
Gozo part of the whole –
My all-time political aim has always been to ensure that, for any government, Gozo is never to be considered as an appendix to the main island, but an essential part of the whole. Gozo’s insularity should not prevent its people having access everything that the country can provide for its citizens by way of specific and applicable services for individual groups.
It was very satisfying, personally, last week to proceed along these lines with the launching of a new Gozo branch for Identity Malta. Employers living in Gozo are now to be spared a ferry trip to Malta, as Identity Malta begins issuing single permits from its Victoria office as from tomorrow. This followed intensive talks with my cabinet colleague Julia Farrugia Portelli and the agency’s management, together with specific training for staff working in the new office.
This will save employers the additional time required to get things done in Malta. Given the need to recruit foreign workers for Gozitan enterprises, this new initiative proves further the beneficial outcome of the continuous dialogue the Gozo Ministry maintains with all stakeholders.
Third-country nationals must have a valid single permit to be allowed to work and live in Gozo or Malta. More than 8,600 such permits were in circulation at the end of 2016, with approximately 172 issued to Gozo-based residents. With the Barts medical school and Gozo General Hospital both set to expand in the years to come, the government is expecting more foreign workers to be based in Gozo.
A great inspiration
On a personal basis, and as Minister for Gozo, I was very sad to learn of the death of Mgr George Grima. Dun Ġorġ, as he was affectionately known across the country, was the founder of the Gozitan Missionary Movement ‘ Jesus in thy Neighbour’ (Ġesù fil-Proxxmu) almost 30 years ago. He was a dedicated worker in the social field among the poor children of third-world countries, initially in Latin America and more recently in Africa. With his amazing capacity for appealing to the generosity of Gozitans and Maltese, Dun Ġorġ managed to build schools and hospitals that will remain as his monument for future generations.
Gozo was – and always will be – proud of philanthropists such as Dun Ġorġ. Apart from his spiritual inheritance by setting the most tangible example of a noble heart, he leaves behind a wealth of inspiration to anyone who intends to be of service to the community. While offering my sympathies to his family and to the Church in Gozo, I would like to add ‘Long live Dun Ġorġ and his endless inspiration to one and all!’
Dr Caruana is Minister for Gozo