12 JUNE 2002

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Comic this week: Sant on the Mount

When a Golf course is intrinsically wrong

To the creation of Golf courses, this newspaper says a guarded yes. We need Golf courses to help support a niche tourism that is non-existent in this country. But we have some reservations when it comes to certain proposals. There are four Golf course proposals that we know of.

The most significant lobbying has come from Mr Angelo Xuereb, but then Mr Xuereb has always been very good at making noise.

First of all we believe that there must be little or no apparent environmental damage and secondly the land in question must not be given away to the developer.

Golf course developers are traditionally those who have millions to invest.

Yesterday, Mr Angelo Xuereb presented his golf course proposal at St James Cavalier, supported by the marketing scriptwriter Ms Caruana Galizia, a former staunch critic of Mr Xuereb.

Mr Xuereb does not own the agricultural land in question. Of that we are sure.

Indeed he does not even, technically speaking, own the hotel that overlooks the beautiful panorama.

We know he has taken more than his fair amount of time to pay up over a million liri to the Malta Development Corporation. He argues that he has not paid up since his hotel development is linked to the development of a golf course. We fail, however, to find such a commitment in the contractual wording that covered his purchase in 1994.

No one seems to inform the public and the press that Mr Xuereb expects to take over land that does not belong to him in the first place.

Indeed with most of our leading opinion writers busy covering the facts with the fiction, there is very little chance of this happening.

The involvement of a particular environmental organisation with Mr Xuereb’s press appearances may add credence to his arguments. The fact that the NGO’s head happens to be an official with the environment directorate, makes it the more interesting.

It is also noteworthy to see a Planning Authority member, a certain Mr Cassar, involved in the drafting of the Environment Impact study for Mr Xuereb.

To encourage business, entrepreneurs need to believe that there is a level playing field.

Encourage entrepreneurial spirit by all means, but the government should not go on giving land on a silver spoon.

Build a golf course by all means, but if the cost means forcing farmers off government and Church land then the answer should be a loud and unequivocal NO.

What this country needs are Golf projects supported by ‘big business’ on land that is privately owned or purchased and with the financial clout to go it alone.

There is no question that this is not the case. The Government and its administrative arm, the MEPA should ensure that this takes place in a transparent and useful manner.

It is very unlikely that a decision over the golf course will take place before the next election. In 2003, a new administration will have to take some tough decisions.

We will have to wait and see.

Saviour Balzan


Copyright © Network Publications Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07, Malta
Tel: (356) 21382741-3, 21382745-6 | Fax: (356) 21385075 | e-mail: editorial@networkpublications.com.mt