Editorial: Air link with Gozo

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 January, 2023 at 11:42 am by Andre Camilleri

The subject of an air link to Gozo was again brought up by Labour MEP Alfred Sant a few days ago.

In a Facebook post, the former Prime Minister said that he cannot understand why Gozo’s businessmen, generally speaking, are in favour of the idea. Sant’s belief is that the project will fail, as all other attempts for an air connection between the two islands have done in the past. His understanding is that the project presages more land speculation and will probably open the way to the building of residential and commercial blocks in the area where the air link is planned.

The Gozo Tourism Association issued a statement to counter Sant’s position, saying that an air connection will reduce Gozo’s isolation, and that it is needed “urgently”. Sea and air links are the “roads” that connect the two islands, and questioned whether the air link should necessarily be “commercially viable”. Which road is commercially viable? the GTA asked, rather bizarrely. It said that users are not charged any tolls to use the roads. Well, the GTA is wrong here as we all know that drivers have to pay road licences to drive their cars. Is the GTA suggesting that some sort of fee is introduced for any given trip?

We stand with Sant on this one.

History has told us that any air connection between Malta and Gozo is bound to fail, as the helicopter service did in the past. This is simply because the numbers do not add up to make it all worth it. So what we are heading into is a project that is doomed to fail. To counter the argument made by the GTA, should we invest so many millions in a project that we already know will fail? And then, when it does, is the GTA expecting that the government subsidises it? Does the GTA want it to become yet another burden on the taxpayer?

The second part of Sant’s comment is even more worrisome.

More countryside in Gozo will be eaten up and destroyed, he wrote, so that after the project collapses, it is replaced by residential and commercial blocks with developers then going for other agricultural land in the vicinity.

So the question arises as to whether the air link project is simply camouflaging the real intention behind the government’s plan – that to allow development to take place in what is now land which is free of buildings and mostly agricultural.

The government has not yet responded to Sant’s statement, and this makes the project all the more ominous. Usually, the government is quick to reply to any statement which it wants to deny. This time, it did not. Maybe it’s because it does not want to contradict one of its own, or maybe it’s because what Alfred Sant is saying today will become true in a few years’ time.

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