The Malta Independent 1 March 2021, Monday

Loose ends

Noel Grima Sunday, 21 February 2021, 08:30 Last update: about 9 days ago

Those entering Valletta can see on the right hand side a steel structure which is not in use.

That is a lift which was intended to take people down to the ditch and which was meant to offer a pleasant stroll amid flowers and trees and above all, shade.

For one reason or another, that lift has never worked and the ditch is still mainly inaccessible.

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But of course, the lift and the ditch (as well as the old railway track crossing the ditch) formed an integral part of Renzo Piano’s. Plan for City Gate and, having objected to it for years and years, one could not expect a Labour government to  continue implementing the plan. It’s already something that the Labour post 2013 administration continued with the plan to move Parliament from the Palace to City Gate.

This is a very Maltese trait – each new government discards and tramples over what the previous government was doing, especially if it is left unfinished.

There are aspects of the Piano City Gate plan that, after these years I find I disagree with. The open-air theatre instead of the Opera House is one. Some future government will come round and roof it.

There were other plans that the Nationalist administration had been working upon and they have been similarly discarded.

This there were plans to improve access to Valletta from the Marsamxett side through the reopening of long-blocked tunnels and the installation of free escalators as they have eg in Perugia but nothing was done. What you don’t manage to do during your term, you might as well forget.

On the plus side, this Labour administration is to be praised for Pjazza Tritoni, though it still needs completion and maybe the removal of the unsightly containers cum shops.

There are many other examples of projects begun by one administration and not continued by the next. Overall they give an impression of a rather schizophrenic people going first one way and turning around in the opposite direction.

Sometimes it is one and the same administration that is schizophrenic. The Nationalist government had begin a programme of floodlighting all the Valletta bastions and even before it was voted out in 2013 most of the floodlights had been turned off, mostly by vandals, and not replaced.

Still regarding Valletta, the plans to clean up the Lower St Elmo seem to have disintegrated. Could it be that the illicit users managed to get the government give up?

Across the harbour nothing seems to have been done regarding the vast Marsa Shipbuilding site – the rusting cranes like pterodactyls left over from the Ice Age still dominate the skyline.

This Labour administration is to be praised for unsnarling the congestion near the cemetery. Now crossing over from South to North has been made simpler and faster.

Without appearing ungrateful however I still cannot understand the tight corner we are made to turn, next to the former Roger Camilleri site. It reminds me every time I pass of the tight corner at Monte Carlo before the drivers get to the straight and the finish.

One rather silly plan by the Nationalist government about which the present government has done nothing, except scratch its head in exasperation is the completely useless salt pans interpretation centre at Salina.

Apart from this lack of continuity between one administration and the next, we get an even deeper chasm between the overall plans of the two main parties. We have had enough years under each of them to be able to compare.

Labour, especially this Labour, gives absolute prominence to the roads. We have had to endure huge disruption while works on the Marsa junction were ongoing but the result is overall more than positive. We cannot say so with regards to the many ongoing roadworks in practically every town and village where works many times take months to be completed. There is widespread suspicion all these works some to provide contractors with loosely-monitored jobs to follow in when other jobs go missing. We reserve judgement on the Central Link and of course on the proposed Msida interchange.

On the whole, PN promotes restoration and holistic rehabilitation. Had it not been for the PN administration, Valletta would not have made the huge improvement it has registered. In contrast, Labour can only point to Strait Street. Labour promotes clientelism, with so many contracts being issued.

There is so much to do and so much to correct. Instead of bickering, the two main parties should be competing on plans for the regeneration of Malta. Places like Selmun and Fort Campbell and Delimara at the other end of Malta that are crying out for restoration and re-use. The plans for a huge logistic hub between the airport and the Freeport seem to have been forgotten.

Meanwhile, what has been done in previous years, maybe under a different administration must not be allowed to degenerate through neglect. Even street markings and general maintenance tend to be forgotten once the government that put them there is defeated

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