Island region of Gozo - Lino DeBono

At present, the European Union is discussing its budget distribution for the coming years. Locally a debate was initiated on how Malta will fare in the next EU budget. The Prime Minister said Malta will fight for its rights but it is too early for one to start speculating. He is right.

I, as a Gozitan, would like to bring to the government’s attention what was promised by the then government for Gozo and its inhabitants prior to Malta joining the EU.

“Recognising further that NUTS 111 classification according to the island region of Gozo may not, on its own, ensure implementation of the European Union’s stated commitment to take measures for the benefit of less favoured regions, declares that, before the end of each community regional policy, Malta will request the Commission report to the Council on the economic and social situation of Gozo and, in particular, on the disparities in the social and economic development levels between Gozo and Malta.

“The Commission would be asked to propose appropriate measures, as required, in the framework of the community regional policies, to ensure the continuation of the reduction of disparities between Gozo and Malta as well as further integration of Gozo into the internal market of fair conditions.

“In the event Malta, as a whole, would no longer be eligible to certain measures of the regional policy, the report would assess whether the specific economic situation of Gozo justifies a continued eligibility of Gozo to these measures, and under which conditions, during the reference period.”

As Gozo was sacrificed to the general benefit for Malta to declare a GDP under the 75 per cent required for Malta to qualify for NUTS 1 & 2, now it is time for all attention to be directed for Gozo to really benefit from the financing clout required to better Gozitan lives and the economic and social situations.

Although good progress has been achieved in Gozo regarding the financial aspects in general, much is still required.

I for one always questioned the promised 10 per cent of EU funds being dedicated annually for Gozo. I ask, who made any financial survey to actually verify how much and how these funds were spent. As far as I know, nobody. The statistics promised for Gozo on Malta’s joining the EU are only now being partially done by Finance Minister Edward Scicluna. More needs to be done so that in Gozo we will know exactly where we stand.

I laugh when I see some statistics and reports.

Say one had a euro and earned another euro. The statistics will show that there was a 100 per cent profit. If one has €100 and earns €20, the statistics will show a 20 per cent profit. If one asks someone in the street what he would prefer, the 100 or a 20 per cent profit, the answer will be 100 per cent, little realising that 100 per cent will render only one euro.

Past and present cabinets are composed of some 15 ministerial posts, 14 Maltese ministers and one minister from Gozo. Each minister, rightly so, would prefer to promote projects in his/her particular district. That leaves the Gozo minister by him/herself in acquiring the support of the other ministers, where their focus will not be on Gozo but on the particular districts their votes come from.

This can be easily verified. Just check where the projects have been carried out.

Each minister, rightly so, would prefer to promote projects in his/her particular district

So what are Gozitans hoping for? Definitely we want to see the rural aspects remaining as we have them. Villages and towns in Malta are being raped by greedy speculators. We believe that when they are ready with Malta, these sharks will turn their attention to Gozo.

We do not want any of that.

For this not to happen, Gozo must have the final word on these kind of projects. This final say is so essential. As Gozitan residents, while we like to see others residing in Gozo, we do not ever want to see the monstrosities happening on a daily basis in Malta.

To mind comes the destruction of Sliema seafront, which once housed beautiful villas and classy houses. My wife and I used to walk along the seafront admiring those beautiful buildings. Now this beautiful area is similar to a jungle. So, no thank you, we Gozitans do not want anything similar to this happening in Gozo. We already have Xlendi and Marsalforn ruined by speculation. No more please.

On the other hand, there is much need for investment in Gozo. The tunnel is favoured by over 75 per cent of the people.  Gozo Channel needs a further extension to its ferries. Cargo has to be separated from passengers, and this requires further vessels. Sadly there are no berthing facilities at present to berth any additional ferry.

As stated so rightly in the Times of Malta editorial (February 24), Gozo is in desperate need of sports facilities in several disciplines.

Our youths need good work prospects in Gozo itself. The government allocates €5 million annually for the Gozo University but it is never ever spent in and for Gozo as this is administered by the University in Malta.

The expansion of Mġarr Harbour is a must. If the extension was carried out, we could then have a cruise liner terminal, hundreds of yachts, even superyachts, better facilities for our few fishermen, ferry berths, and so on. This would create hundreds of jobs in Gozo.

Promoting our local abilities is attracting high-end tourists. Gozo can further expand its rural aspects so missing elsewhere, to our benefit. The international promotion of our two wonderful theatres is so sadly lacking.

So if one evaluates that, Malta and Gozo can still benefit from the coming EU budget.

We as a nation should support with our ideas and proposals on how the islands can benefit. The doom and gloom of some writers in our local newspapers do not reflect the general aspects of our islands. These supposed writers have blinkers over their eyes much more than farmers used to put on their donkeys.

Partisan politics has no place whenever our national interests are concerned.

Lino Debono is a former Labour MP.


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