The Malta Independent 24 October 2021, Sunday

€971m to make it to the next level

Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi Sunday, 12 September 2021, 08:00 Last update: about 2 months ago

The past decade will be remembered for the rapid progress we made both in the social and physical infrastructure. Progress that was both a product of the experienced growth and a catalyst to sustain it. The next decade shall be marked with upgrading all that we have grown accustomed to - including the general standard of living on the island. The coming years must be characterised by sustainable measures as part of an integrated vision comprising social, environmental and economic revival.

The injection of €971m through Cohesion funds, the Just Transition Fund and the European Regional Development Fund shall form part of the comprehensive development that will be spearheaded.

Based on grants and loans, the lion's share of such funding will find its way to enterprises and public entities in our quest to make meaningful improvement in energy efficiency, important progress in the digital transformation alongside strides in the realm of research and innovation.

In this light we published a document for public consultation inviting the public, representatives of public entities, the private sector and civil society to indulge in open forward-looking dialogue.

Built around six main priorities the document outlines government's vision, short- to long-term goals which some of them are well within our grasp.

The strongest indicative allocation of €469m is intended to promote the transition to clean energy, supporting investment in the green economy and sustainable urban mobility.

Reducing emissions is a short-term must in the face of climate change. Financial instruments will be set up to help industry players and private households to resort to energy efficient measures. Developing our own energy's grid also through the second interconnector, will yield more security of supply for an island. Furthermore, we need to invest in energy storage.

As we consolidate quality in water preservation by investing in public infrastructure and the industry, we aim to accelerate the shift to a circular economy by improving the treatment of organic waste.

A carbon-neutral future could be made possible through a sustainable system of urban mobility that relies on a multitude of modes of transport and that primarily capitalises on surrounding waters.

Our way to the next level is digital. We can only survive in the European and global markets if we innovate digitally. For this reason we are indicatively allocating €207m with the immediate goal to upgrade infrastructure for research and innovation, to digitalise public administration and the health sector. Funds will stimulate further growth by easing the SME's access to finance.

This sustainable vision is set to improve the wellbeing of our society, which should grow into a more inclusive nature. €150m are indicatively earmarked for better education that is made more accessible especially through distance learning. Continuous upgrades in our health system are necessary to keep on delivering the best to our patients and in this realm mental health infrastructure will be prioritised. In fact it is being proposed that a new acute mental hospital will be built.

Attaining our aim to be a Climate Neutral state by 2050 will rely on our diligent maximisation of the Just Transition Fund. In line with the European Green Deal, ship-to-shore in the Grand Harbour and the Freeport will be facilitated as our road transport will be increasingly electrified through these funds.

No less than 10% will again be reserved for Gozo which is not a mere addendum to our holistic vision for the country. €60m will be directed towards sustainable urban development in our sister island, connectivity, spurring heightened economic activity, more work and sustainable tourism for the overarching aim to preserve its characteristics. Gozo will be enriched with open public spaces, accessible urban zones as it grows into an island that meets the dreams of its diverse population.

Our vision for the coming decade is clear and our aim is to grow sustainably into a modern, inclusive society that meets the aspirations of the whole population. €971m are a substantial injection that will pave the way for the desired progress.

Everyone is invited to lodge their comments and proposals by 8 October on [email protected]

 

Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi

Parliamentary Secretary for European Funds at the

Office of the Prime Minister


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