Editorial | Developing an economic plan for Gozo

The strategy must also outline the critical infrastructure required in Gozo to make it more attractive to investors


The Gozo Innovation Hub cost €9 million to build and came with a promise to be ‘a place where inspiration meets innovation’.

The project in the Xewkija industrial estate was completed in 2019 on the site of a disused milk processing plant. It was intended to provide space for technology and innovation companies wanting to set up shop in Gozo. The project was part-financed by EU funds.

But almost four years after opening shop, the project has flopped. The hub only houses four companies, a far cry from a buzzing hive of inspiration and innovation.

Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri admitted on TVM’s Xtra last Monday that the hub houses two IT companies, a software development company and another company working in financial services. The companies occupy less than a tenth of the available office space in the hub.

What was a promising investment intended to create jobs in Gozo is today a shadow of what it was intended to be.

It is a pity that only a handful of companies were attracted to the hub, which promised to create new, modern jobs on the sister island.

While the sluggish start was initially blamed on the COVID-19 pandemic, which stifled investment, the continued difficulty to attract innovative investment to Gozo warrants a deeper analysis of the problem.

The factors that make companies shun Gozo as an investment hub need to be studied carefully since this would enable policy makers to embark on the right projects in the future.

Accessibility undoubtedly plays a part, especially if there are not enough Gozitan workers to fill the potential new jobs, which would require Maltese workers to transit to Gozo.

A second aspect that could possibly contribute to lack of attraction, especially for hi-tech companies that are likely to employ foreign nationals, is Gozo’s lack of entertainment diversity. It is the whole ecosystem around investment that has to be looked at and only a proper study can identify those issues that hamper private companies from opting to open shop in Gozo.

Malta Enterprise may have invested €16 million in Gozo to help existing businesses expand their operations as Camilleri said in the TV programme. But more must be done.

With government planning to invest in an airfield in Xewkija, the potential to use it as a node for drone testing and development should be considered. Ancillary facilities may be located in the industrial estate to avoid take-up of agricultural land around the airfield.

The Gozo Innovation Hub may be repurposed to target this niche market in Malta’s aviation sector.

Undoubtedly, attracting investment to Gozo will never be easy when most public services and key infrastructure is located in Malta.

This may also prompt the question as to what type of investment is likely to be attracted to Gozo.

Once again, Gozo’s characteristics require tailor-made solutions. Malta Enterprise should team up with Gozitan stakeholders to draw up a targeted investment and jobs strategy.

The strategy must also outline the critical infrastructure required in Gozo to make it more attractive to investors.

Before embarking on individual initiatives that risk turning into white elephants, the Gozo Ministry and the government as a whole must chart out a plan for Gozo that seeks to develop the island’s economic potential.

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