The Malta Independent 20 August 2019, Tuesday

Facts speak louder than words

Justyne Caruana Sunday, 31 March 2019, 09:37 Last update: about 6 months ago

Statistical data plays an important role in project planning and eventually providing scientific feedback of the resulting effects. It is never an end but a way of reading the situation in a more objective manner.

This explains why statistics prove that facts speak louder than words. It is not a matter of numbers or percentages, but a scientific yardstick that defines the government's performance and that of any organisation that respects itself.  Statistics, particularly in economic activities, reflect the truth that no one can deny and this week's latest figures prove that, for the second year running, in 2018 the national debt fell by a further €53 million. This means that during, the last two years,  with budgets that contained no new taxes and with an unprecedented capital expenditure, a total €160 million has been struck off the debt accumulated over the past 30 years.


Highest expenditure

Additionally, the National Statistics Office (NSO) found that debt-servicing costs had been brought down by almost another €12 million, while a €70 million deficit was registered in the consolidated fund. Unsurprisingly, the usual doomsayers ignore the greater truth that public expenditure increased to almost €255 million over the previous year and shot up to €605 million in extraordinary investment, particularly in the much needed road projects. In itself, this is further proof of the government's determination to build a new and durable basis for the country's future infrastructural requirements.

Had it not been for this expenditure, public funds would have again registered another surplus to the tune of €185 million during 2018. The actual financial situation has, in fact, seen a significant increase of €270 million in government income over the previous year, reaching €6.6 billion from taxes, VAT and National Insurance contributions. Here again, statistical data confirms the higher rate of employment, successful private business activities and public spending and consumption.  

Regional statistics

Another recent publication by the NSO on regional statistics is of particular interest to us in Gozo. A total of 32,723 people lived in Gozo and Comino in 2017, of whom 13,272 had a full-time job, an increase of 6.7 per cent compared to the previous year. It is also worth noting that a majority of 58.1 per cent worked in the private sector. Full-time employment in Gozo amounted to 10,133, an increase of eight per cent over the previous year.

In respect of Gozitan students, the share of graduates at MQF levels 5 and 6 per thousand inhabitants was highest in Gozo at 5.4 and 6.3 respectively. This reflects our students' intellectual abilities and their enthusiasm to reach higher levels of education. 

Almost all industries in Gozo recorded increases, with the largest seen in economic activities relating to professional, scientific and technical activities. Administrative and support service activities, at 49.3 per cent, contributed 12.5 per cent of the total GVA.

In 2016, the number of licenced vehicles in Gozo accounted for 9.1 per cent of the total for the Maltese Islands. The NSO said that Gozo also registered the highest ratio of vehicles, at 1.025 per 1, 000 total residents. In 2017, 2,977 fishing vessels were registered in the Maltese Islands, 19.8 per cent of which were in Gozo.  

With tourism being the main economic activity for the island-region, data on Gozo Channel crossings in 2018 show that passengers and vehicles travelling between Malta and Gozo increased by seven and 7.5 per cent respectively, compared to 2017. In the Gozo and Comino region, the number of guests staying in collective accommodation during 2017 increased by 12.6 per cent to 97,781, while guest nights went up by 11.1 per cent.

Data noted that, at the end of 2017, registered self-catering establishments in Gozo accounted for 72.3 per cent of total bedstock in the Gozo and Comino region. The NSO also reported that, in 2017, the number of domestic trips to and from Malta amounted to 260,763, an increase of 10.3 per cent compared to 2016.  Maltese visitors to Gozo and Comino spent an estimated €40 million, 8.9 per cent more compared to 2016.

 Work in progress

The facts and figure are proving us right and more people are realising the bold strides forward that both Malta and Gozo have made during the past six years under a Labour Government.  On both islands, work in progress is tangible proof that diligent planning is leading to major projects to meet the needs of the people and even higher prosperity all-round.

The Gozo Ministry has now embarked on the regeneration of 23 boat houses in Pjazza Anfori, Xlendi, which were constructed in the 1970s. Estimated to cost some €300,000, the work will entail the replacing of roofs, beams and other dangerous structures. Work will also be carried out on restoration of the façades to complement the characteristics of the square on which work is expected to start later this year. The work in Xlendi is part of a masterplan for the area, which also includes work on the promenade.

Up to now, the area behind the boathouses has been cleared of waste and other material which has ended up there over the years.  This project, which demonstrates that the Government believes in Gozo's fishing industry, goes hand in hand with other projects for fishermen, including the Mġarr Harbour project, where work is under way to clear the seabed and increase the number of moorings for fishermen.

More work

Work started this week on the paving and embellishment of St Francis Square in Victoria. This is a holistic project that will not only complete the regeneration of the area and make it more accessible, but will also be serving different needs and functions in the central square that links various networks to and from the capital.

Progress is also being made on the regeneration of the Rotunda Square in Xewkija, apart from the many other roadworks that are under way around the island.  All major projects were subject to public consultation last year and the completion of the work on St Francis Square will also complement the project for the steps and new health centre in this same central area.  Contemporaneously, statutory procedures are ongoing for other areas around Gozo, with the Gozo Ministry employees working on restoration and upgrading projects, all of which are intended to meet the public outcry that has lingered on unheeded for decades.

Considering the short span of time within which this is now being delivered, Gozitans and visitors alike can witness the Gozo Ministry's determination to realise what the island has long deserved. Without any doubt, statistics are a good start for our impetus to accomplish the many election pledges in the months and years ahead.  Indeed, work in progress - but steadily ahead!

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