The Malta Independent 22 October 2020, Thursday

TMID Editorial: Gozo’s Economy - Not repeating the same mistakes

Tuesday, 22 September 2020, 08:30 Last update: about 29 days ago

Gozo, in particular its economic development as an island, has always been an interesting subject of debate.

Many different options and visions have been mapped out for Malta’s sister island, with the ultimate aim being to spread the economy from singular reliance from tourism – both domestic and foreign – to encompassing different sectors.

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The subject was revitalized once more last Tuesday, when the government hosted a Cabinet meeting on the sister island, specifically at the Gozo Innovation Hub in Xewkija.

There, Prime Minister Robert Abela said that the government’s vision is for Gozo to be a key driver in the country’s economic growth.

“This does not mean that the island will lose those features that make it so particular and beautiful. Gozo's economic growth will be digitally and environmentally sustainable", Abela said while also noting that Gozo provides the greatest opportunity to show how the economy and the environment can complement each other.

"I see a future where Gozo is a leader in the use of renewable energy. A future where Gozitan businesses are pioneers in the adoption of new environmentally friendly technologies. A future where commercial and industrial spaces are dominated by greenery rather than greyness”, Abela said.

On the face of it, the talk is positive.  However, talk is cheap – the true crux will be transferring the talk into fact.

Many fear that the economic development of Gozo will be a repeat of the mistakes made in Malta; with the economy being reliant on tourism (as it already is) and construction, hence leaving an indelible and impossible to remove mark on Gozo’s true character as an island.

These worries are only further exacerbated when one remembers the impending building of the Gozo tunnel which, lest we forget, will not include the facility for a mass transport system.  That in itself makes the Prime Minister’s statement of seeing the economy and the environment to complement each other more difficult straight off the bat; what better way is there to reduce cars – the country’s biggest polluters – from Gozo’s streets?

The tunnel project itself has created many fears that the worst elements of Malta’s economic progress – in particular the near out of control construction development which has encompassed the island – would make their way to Gozitan shores.

This newsroom reported just a couple of weeks ago on how two massive blocks are planned to tower over Xlendi, while there have also been reported of similarly out of scale developments in localities such as Qala as well.

Hearing that Gozo’s economic growth is envisioned to be digitally and environmentally sustainable is reassuring in this regard, however it must be paired with action.

The development of a whole economy of course takes time, but certain things – such as planning policies which protect Gozo’s character and environment – can be implemented in a far shorter time-frame.

The key to the economic development of Gozo is in many ways not repeating the same mistakes made in the economic development of Malta.

One only hopes that the Prime Minister’s vision of an environmentally sustainable Gozo does pan out, and that we do not end up with a concrete-ridden Malta 2.0 instead.

 

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