The Malta Independent 23 June 2024, Sunday
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Gozo: What the hell is water?

Emmanuel J. Galea Sunday, 26 May 2024, 08:39 Last update: about 29 days ago

There are these two young fish swimming along and they meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?”

I copied this short story from the late author David Foster Wallace from his speeches he used to deliver to young university graduates in 2005.


The point behind this parable story is that the most important factors influencing our lives are rarely spotted and seldom discussed. They are too obvious. We might as well apply it to the prevailing situation in Gozo’s capital city, Victoria.

Let’s start with Republic Street, especially during weekends when the traffic situation is chaotic. There may be drivers on their way to Gharb, Dwejra Bay or Ta’ Pinu. There may be others who are on their way to Xlendi or Marsalforn, while others are merely seeking a parking slot. I ask to all those responsible what is the underlying reason of having these parking space sensors along the pavements if whoever wants to park has no hint which slot is vacant.

Consider the other parallel busy street, Giorgio Borg Olivier. Here, the situation is even more critical. Traffic passing both ways with no consideration of who is going to cross as after all no pedestrian crossing is available at the lower part of the road where many business outlets are situated. They do not enforce and have a speed limit in place. Victoria Local Council made several requests for a pedestrian crossing, but Transport Malta officials shamelessly ignored them.

This is not all. The parking spaces are not enough because employees who work nearby occupy them from early in the day. Nothing wrong with that, but what about the businesses? Can we at least provide several parking spaces, at least ten, which are subject to time restriction of about 20 mins? This would at least give a breathing space for some driver who needs to fetch anything from a pharmacy or retail shop in a hurry. But no! The other alternative is that a warden comes over. Her eyes sparkle with thirst to dish out parking tickets, as if a fox just entered the chicken pen, irrespective if the owner is just leaving the vehicle for a quick errand nearby. Zero tolerance, her only satisfaction is just printing the infringement and affixing it to the windscreen. Is this fair? So how about if a nearby garage owner parks his passenger coach parallel to these parked cars? Road space is now limited and manoeuvrability is difficult for everyone, but this warden just passes by as if everything is normal. She just ignores this passenger coach parked wrongly. Why? 

The overall parking situation in Victoria is mind-boggling. But there is still hope!

On February 2022, a month before the general election, Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri announced that, following several lengthy discussions, they will propose an ambitious project in the centre of the island of Gozo – next to the bus station in Victoria where the main parking area is currently located. This “ambitious project” comprised an underground car park.

Another extremely dangerous road is Capuchins Street, leading to Marsalforn. The pavements are not practicable as these are all steps and ramps. Vehicles passing in both directions at breakneck speed with no respect to anyone - why isn’t there a speed limit or speed bumps? Pedestrians and residents using this road are risking their lives any time. Even more, the ‘Arms’ office in this road embraced in scaffolding, with repairs never happening. This scaffolding has been there more than a year. The government is paying for the rent of this scaffolding but no one cares, the taxpayers’ coffers are bottomless.

Now let’s proceed to St Francis Square. Years ago, the Gozo Ministry gave St Francis Square a facelift with lights and lined the sidewalks with road markers: cat’s eyes. The number of people who tripped over and suffered several face injuries is surprising and happening frequently. These ‘cat’s eyes’ are suitable for roads, not squares. Has anyone taken any action to resolve this issue? No. 

The situation at St George’s Square does not need further mentioning here. Access to the Basilica remains restricted by the invasion of the catering outlets. The Victoria council issues permits for accessing the Golden Basilica for a wedding, baptism, or funeral. But this permit is merely a piece of paper with no other enforcement. The council is powerless, cannot enforce it, and it can only issue permits. 

Same as issuing permits for cranes or construction. Regardless of whether the road ends up blocking residents, they issue these permits. Can this keep going on? Consider the state of the roads. Surely we can improve this, but no one cares.

Recently, after years of neglect, the ‘by the bastion road’ is being reconstructed. The time to do this is more than normal. Still, a grocery outlet at the end of the road had to close as customers cannot reach it as the road is upturned. Is this fair?

Well, all fingers point at the local council. People expect miracles from this council, but they conveniently forget that the council relies on other government departments that have their own agendas.

The recent Marsalforn road project has met with several objections. Still, the Ministry ignored all of them is proceeding with the project. The Ministry has already allocated a budget of a whopping sum of €9 million to their favorite construction company for this project.

The government has relegated the councils, especially those with a PN majority, to mere rubber stamps. This government, elected on the promise of ‘we promote justice and we treat all equal irrespective of their political views’, did not practice what they preached - in fact, they did the opposite.

Do these councils have a choice? No, they have to abide by the saying: “If can’t beat them, join them”. And that’s what we do with the forthcoming election on June 8. We support them through our votes, we have faith in them, and above all, we hold the belief that someday, sometime, truth will prevail and these councils will achieve the glory which they enjoyed thirty years ago.

Swieqi mayor Noel Muscat told The Malta Independent on Sunday in August 2023. “Who defends the residents? Twenty-three parliamentary secretaries and ministers do nothing, others in authority do nothing, the local council can’t do anything and this is all done intentionally because they want the popularity of local councils to decrease – especially PN-leaning councils.”

Any further comments will be superfluous and time wasting. Let’s all aspire for better times, but hopefully when it’s not too late. 

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