The Malta Independent 24 June 2019, Monday

A year of more Gozo

Justyne Caruana Sunday, 6 January 2019, 13:22 Last update: about 7 months ago

The year 2018 is now part of history and it has been a year of clarity and consolidation for which we have all worked as a Cabinet, a Government and a people.

It has been the year of an infrastructural overhaul in Gozo with projects that should have happened decades ago and which, in our first year, are fully underway. No longer will our communities from San Lawrenz to Qala, from Zebbug to Mġarr ix-Xini be made to wait for a better quality of connecting roads and thus a deservingly more comfortable everyday life.  Not only are we catering for our own people, but we are planning and implementing the necessary infrastructure to face the continuing increase in visitors all year round.

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The best route

It has also been the year that has cemented our Government’s strong belief in the importance of Gozo as a central region in the Maltese everyday reality via a definitive go-ahead for a permanent link between the two sides of our country. This link will be another legacy passed on to our people and further generations. As the Minister for Gozo, I commit myself personally to shield our environmental sustainability first and foremost. In fact, we have already worked on a Decarbonisation Strategy which will start being rolled out in the coming months.

I am positive that there is a route that can link our love for the hills and sea to Gozo’s future economical sustainability. There is no other option but finding that very route. This is but another challenge that we have to surmount together and together we will take it up as an opportunity to bring out our characteristic dynamic abilities.

After all, we Gozitans have never shied away from challenges. We are an island of silent entrepreneurs who have fought the waves of change, who have turned harsh natural conditions into continuous successes with resilience and strokes of genius from the fields to the offices. After all, it is our natural heritage and innate strength.

 

Quality first

Finally, our island is also starting to churn out new quality job opportunities for our young people. The Gozo Innovation Hub in Xewkija has started taking shape. The former MDP site, which has been a construction location in the previous months will now be transformed into another fulcrum for the creation of wealth, opportunity and stability for many Gozitan families. It will be the home of jobs of the highest quality, as evidenced by the recent announcement that Noovle, a Google premium partner, will inject hundreds of thousands of Euros and goodwill in our people.

And we will not stop here. Alongside Malta Enterprise and Malta Industrial Parks and their officials, now also embedded in our Gozo Ministry, we will continue to push towards, and reach, new frontiers. Gozo will be a deserving sister island to Blockchain island Malta... and will not shy away from pushing with Malta in order to attract and absorb projects in industry R&D, innovative technologies and the blue and green economy.

 

Gozo’s ambassadors

With this said, I must ensure that we do not overlook our traditional economic sectors. It is a fact that tourist seasonality has started to fade away as a thing of the past. Soon enough we will have completely removed it from our everyday jargon. However, we will keep a close eye on all developments. We will assist our entrepreneurs, create more cultural and entertainment events and continue to improve training for our client-facing ambassadors.  And yet we cannot close our eyes to our own success. In fact, Gozo today is not only brimming with Maltese and international tourists but is also becoming a permanent home to so many new residents.

We are attracting love and interest from what I dearly consider as our fellow New Gozitans: artists, entrepreneurs and achievers from all over the world who are looking for a modern and genuine safe haven in the heart of the Mediterranean. I noted with endearment and pride the comments from Sir Billy Connolly – one of the most popular and successful stand-up comedians of all time. He is but one more addition to a long list of these newer members of our community.

He also reminded me of the young students from all over the world who I have met shedding their white lab-coats during the official opening of the new Bart’s Anatomy Centre at our general hospital. This Centre, which has been attacked, derided and criticised by the naysayers, is now a reality. Soon enough, alongside Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and my Cabinet colleagues, we will also inaugurate the new Bart’s College just next door to it.  This will be another jewel in the future of Gozo’s growth as an economy and, together with the enhancement of our health services, it will be a development that will turn the vision of Gozo as a home for international educational services and health tourism into a tangible reality.

 

Gozo’s own needs

This year will also be the year in which, as a Government, we will take our efforts forward in order to secure ourselves the best possible EU funding package. As Gozo’s main representative in the Executive, and as a Gozitan myself, I will make sure to highlight our particular circumstances and our needs at every opportunity with all the vigour needed.

This is the precise direction I have given all my officials at the Gozo Ministry and I will ensure that our plans for our specific considerations and requirements are given the utmost importance at all levels and stages of negotiations. We are already committed – through our election manifesto – to realise specific projects and we will be striving to seek the financial support required to plan further. In the end, the Labour Government is fully determined to act in a tangible fashion for the benefit of future generations. 

All this vision, and the hard work already accomplished, is the right way by which we succeed to rise over the chronic attempts of an Opposition that incessantly threatens the national well-being and seeks to tarnish the country’s reputation through the foreign media. The coming elections for the European Parliament will ensure that our representatives are those who have at heart the welfare and security of the Gozitans and Maltese who elect them. 

 

Our latest success

Our hard work is certainly paying dividends. Businesses in Gozo reported a bumper holiday season, with more people than usual crossing over for Christmas and the New Year. A record number of people – a significant 12 per cent increase over the same period last year – came over to enjoy the colourful calendar of festive and traditional events the Gozo Ministry coordinated for the festive season.

The continuous activity across the island has led both the Gozo Tourism Association and the Gozo Business Chamber to declare the satisfaction of all those they represent.  Hotels, bars, restaurants and those offering private accommodation have all had a very busy period, bolstered by an influx of both domestic and foreign tourists.

Business was boosted by a campaign organised by the Gozo Ministry to bring together other cultural and voluntary stakeholders. The fact that Gozo was advertised as the place to be over Christmas and the start of the New Year helped attract a large number of people from Malta and abroad, increasing business over this period. The high increase in the number of passengers highlighted the fact that Gozo Channel was operating around the clock and I must applaud the continuous efforts by the management and employees to cater for such a success.

Sustaining our intention to succeed will be our challenge for 2019. With the support of all stakeholders as a community, we will continue to strive to make Gozo the best amongst similar European regions.

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