Gozo tunnel should be replaced by metro link, Malta Chamber says

The Malta Chamber has said the government should rethink investing in a Gozo tunnel and instead direct the funds towards building a multi-modal transport backbone including Gozo metro connectivity


The Malta Chamber has said the government should rethink investing in a Gozo tunnel and instead direct the funds towards building a multi-modal transport backbone including Gozo metro connectivity.

The proposal was one of several contained in the Chamber’s vision for the country for the next five years, which it launched today.

The 2020-2025 vision proposes a two-pronged approach based on targeting swift economic aimed at securing sustainable development and enhancing people’s quality of life.

It includes 59 recommendations drawn up through a consultation process involving 26 top business executives from diverse economic sectors and coordinated by former Enemalta CEO and government consultant David Spiteri Gingell.

Amongst the most salient recommendations is that the government reconsider the investment in the tunnel between Malta and Gozo, and instead direct the investment towards the building of a multi-modal transportation backbone with metro connectivity to Gozo.

"All in all, public transport systems in the country need to evolve. Technical and financial feasibility studies should therefore take place on rapid transit solutions that can be implemented in reasonable time frames," the Chamber said.

The Chamber said the introduction of a fourth ferry between Malta and Gozo had decisively shown, as evidenced by Gozitan civil society and citizen feedback, that most of the connectivity issues were now resolved.

“A fourth ferry that operates on a 24/7 basis – or even a fifth ferry that connects Mġarr to Valletta – would provide improved service connectivity for Gozitans working in the Valletta–Cottonera–Sliema area also by means of the inter-modality links with the Valletta–Cottonera and Valletta–Sliema ferries,” the Chamber said.

“This will remove traffic congestion that results from greenhouse gas emitting heavy-goods vehicles,” it said.

“A fast ferry connection between Mġarr, Buġibba, Sliema, Valletta, and Cottonera would potentially attract knowledge-based industries to Gozo as it would provide employees with easy access to entertainment areas, assuming that these are industries that are mainly resourced by young people who are generally known for their ‘work hard, play hard’ attitude.”

Contacted by BusinessToday for a reaction, the Gozo Business Chamber - firmly in favour of the tunnel as proposed by Government - said that it would this week by analysing the Malta Chamber’s proposal and be drawing up its position on the matter.

Smart, sustainable island

The Chamber’s overall vision is for a smart, sustainable island which sets the pathway for Malta’s future economic growth and social wealth, Malta Chamber director Kevin Borg said.

Borg said the gist of the recommendations – which span core industries such as tourism, construction, manufacturing, financial services and iGaming – was that, over the next five years, Malta should achieve economic growth through using innovation, employing knowledge and up-skilling.

Malta Chamber president David Xuereb said the proposals were tangible, real, sustainable and would add to quality of life.

He underlined, that, for the first time, the Chamber would be actively measuring the implementation of the recommendations through a series of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for each recommendation, which have been drawn up with the help of an economist and statistician.

The KPIs, which will be published in the coming weeks, will be followed up every six months with the respective ministries and institutions responsible for putting the recommendations in place, he said.

Xuereb said the Chamber wanted to “get its hands dirty” to ensure that the progress to implement the recommendations was measured and that they led to tangible benefits.

Goals can only be achieved if reputational damage is fixed

Borg said that the two-pronged approach rested on four fundamentals: governance and the judiciary, long-term macroeconomic stability, digitalisation and addressing infrastructural bottlenecks.

In terms of good governance, Borg said the reputation of brand Malta had suffered damage and that a thorough clean-up was needed. “Without this, we cannot achieve our economic goals,” he said.

When it came to long-term macroeconomic stability, he said that while the economy had been doing exceptionally well in the past years, attention must be paid to three areas – pensions, health care and care of the elderly – to ensure the country isn’t taken over by expenditure due to people’s increased longevity.

On digitalisation, Borg said Malta should embrace 5G and encourage the more widespread use of digital tools.

Infrastructural bottlenecks, moreover, had to be addressed and traffic congestions, emissions and transport costs for citizens and companies should be lowered. It is within this context that the Chamber is proposing that the government re-evaluate whether it should go ahead with the Gozo tunnel project.

Businesses should aim to grown beyond Malta’s shores

Chamber deputy president Marisa Xuereb said the recommendations revolved around sevens strategic principles.

The first was quality, which is paramount to the Chamber’s economic vision. The achievements of the Chamber’s previous vision, covering 2014-2020, had not met expectations, she said. “If we do not keep improving the quality of the labour force, of infrastructure, and of buildings, we will not meet our targets and sooner or later we will be outsmarted by our international competitors,” she said.

Another principle is the importance of applying innovation and technology, with Xuereb saying that this is the only way Malta could gain headway over its competitors over, time and have a more efficient level of service and implementation of policy.

Xuereb said Maltese businesses should also have an ambition to grown beyond the island’s shores, no matter their size. “This makes it even more critical that our international reputation be restored as quickly as possible,” she said, emphasising that the Chamber was prioritising this, since the future of the country “lies in having a global reach.”

Investing in human capital is another important principle, she said. In this regard, the Chamber was in discussion with educational institutions to assist them in improving the quality of education provided and working to make this more in line with the requirements of industry. She said Malta had to also attract the right talent from abroad. “It’s not about how many foreign workers come, but their quality and our ability to train and retain them long-term.”

Increasing productivity, improving governance and working for social cohesion were the other strategic principles Xuereb mentioned.

“The long-term ruler will be productivity – how able Malta is to do more with less,” she said.

“Governance, moreover, is not an optional extra. It is a must and has to be addressed.”

She added that, when it came to social cohesion, this didn’t only concern the rich and poor, but also had to do with the issue of multi-culturalism. “We need to ensure our policies are directed towards integrating foreign workers and ensuring, irrespective of where they come from, that it is a pleasure for them to work and make a life here,” Xuereb said.

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