The Malta Independent 16 October 2019, Wednesday

TMID Editorial: Beach concessions - Please produce the 2013 and 2019 Ghadira agreements

Saturday, 10 August 2019, 09:55 Last update: about 3 months ago

Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi should deserve widespread kudos for the action he has been taking on the country’s beaches to limit the deckchair, sun bed and umbrella infestation that invades the country every summer, not too different from the seasonal cockroach infestation.

Widespread kudos would indeed be warranted if the move had been a straightforward one in which the minister publishes the new agreements struck with those who enjoy the few concessions on offer on the country’s few sandy beaches, Ghadira beach in this case.

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Widespread kudos would be warranted if the whole thing did not smack of the pursuit of political mileage against a politician, a leading bête noir of the government, Jason Azzopardi, at a juncture when he had just lost a libel appeal over the infamous Qormi Lowenbrau brewery case.

Mizzi accused Azzopardi of buckling to beach concessionaires before the 2013 election, allegations that have so far not been substantiated.  But it must be noted that should Mizzi’s accusation hold water, it would have been more than somewhat ironic if one of the main movers, shakers and promulgators of the Public Domain Act had actually been responsible for curtailing public beach use.

But, again, like the new agreements with the concessionaires in Ghadira, the accusations remain undetailed, unexplained and, frankly, unbelievable until they are seen in the flesh and in the full light of day.

It is true that this may be small fries compared to the big fish that Mizzi is used to dealing with when it comes to matters of the administration of the country, and on the surface of it appears all he got out of it was some public relations and political mileage, and we would like to see both types of mileage being fully substantiated

This is, after all, public land.  It does not belong, not by a long shot, to the government, Mizzi or the concessionaires.  It belongs to each and every one of us.  It is public domain and it is not the exclusive preserve any particular person or people.

But in the meantime, the agreements for the concessions on Ghadira, the country’s largest and most popular public beach, has, ironically, not been made public, and as such the Association of Consumer Rights is quite right to demand its publication before it is finalised and pen is put to paper.  We do, however, have a feeling it may be a little too late of that now.

So now, for the umpteenth time, we are going to once again ask Minister Konrad Mizzi to cough up the contract, to agree to release the agreement.

We have of course made this request time and time again when it comes to power stations, hospitals and other major bits and pieces of State infrastructure that this supposed Socialist administration has chosen to privatise and sell off lock, stock and barrel.

And while we understand that this is not a problem of Konrad Mizzi’s making, these perverse concessions for public beaches have been ongoing for decades, Mizzi is claiming huge credit for something which we are not fully able to quantify or qualify without perusing the details.

As such, the best course of action for Mizzi would be to publish both the 2013 agreement struck by Azzopardi, as well and the 2019 agreement that he himself struck.  That should put an end to all of this once and for all.

Anything short of that is simply taking the entire Maltese public, once again, for a ride.

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