Sant skirts illegal boathouses
MLP proposes yearly capital projects to boost tourism
Explaining the Labour Partys proposals for tourism, Opposition
leader Dr Alfred Sant insisted more than once on the need for government
leadership in the sector but when talking about the illegal boathouses
occupying valuable coastal land all he could muster was: "we will
safeguard the social rights of citizens."
Flanked by tourism spokesman Karmenu Vella and MP Joseph Cuschieri,
the Labour leader said that a new Labour government would embark on
capital projects on an annual basis to improve the tourism product.
Sant highlighted the area surrounding Grand Harbour, which he described
as an asset that has not been put to good use. A new Labour government,
Sant said, would embark on a development plan for the whole area.
Sant added that a new Labour government would encourage the creation
of a golf course, a casino and marina. Both Sant and Karmenu Vella dwelt
on the importance of improving the number of yachting berths and facilities.
A Labour government intends developing niche tourist markets such as
scuba diving, educational and cultural tourism while Gozo will be marketed
as a separate destination. Sant added that the country required a general
upgrade in its infrastructure and a Labour government was going to see
to it that the country was tidied up.
However, when asked by The Malta Financial and Business Times about
the partys position on the illegal boathouses that occupy large
tracts of coastal land Sant chose to answer enigmatically leading one
to believe that the boathouses would be left standing and a solution
to regularise them would be found.
Referring to the war in Iraq and its probable impact on tourism the
Labour leader accused government of lacking leadership because of what
he claimed a lax attitude that did not address the problems.
Sant also chose to defend Karmenu Vella when a journalist asked about
Vellas seemingly dual role as tourism spokesman and director with
the leading hotel company Corinthia, in relation to EU membership.
Corinthia, of which Vella is a director, supports Maltas bid for
EU membership. Sant defended the Zurrieq politician and said that such
criticism against Vella was puerile.
Meanwhile, Vella said that since 1998 the tourism industry has witnessed
a drop in profitability as higher costs burdened operators. He insisted
that Maltas image abroad was on a downward spiral because the
positioning of Maltas tourist package was wrong when compared
to that of other competitors. Vella added that the quality of tourists
was also on the downturn.
Acknowledging the external difficulties such as the general slowdown
in economies abroad and the 11 September attacks, Vella argued that
government was slow to react and adapt to the circumstances. "These
problems were used as an excuse while nothing was done to tackle them,"
MP Joe Cuschieri also addressed the press conference and reading from
a scripted speech he dwelt on the achievements of the brief Labour administration
between 1996 and 1998 and accused government of not continuing on the
good work started in places such as Bugibba, Marsaskala, Birzebbuga