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 Malta Independent on Sunday - - DEBATE & ANALYSIS - Justyne Caru­ana

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.

Leap for­ward

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.

Sur­plus re­con­firmed

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.

Un­em­ploy­ment down

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

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