Gozo Business Chamber wants Gozo tunnel to remain ‘key priority’, new regional planning policy

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 August, 2022 at 10:10 am by Andre Camilleri

The Gozo Business Chamber wants the Malta to Gozo tunnel to remain a “key policy priority”, as it proposed a set of measures for the sister island for the upcoming Budget.

The Chamber’s document addressed four main points: employment, environment, accessibility, and infrastructure, as it said that these are the areas which should be given the highest priority.

“Gozo is an island region with specific characteristics and issues which need to be addressed. The situation brought forward by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the recent situation in Ukraine, points forward to an economy which needs to be more resilient and sustainable so that it can start to recover,” the Chamber said.

From an employment perspective, the Chamber suggested that the tax on all overtime should be at a flat rate of 15% and that a scheme whereby those professionals who have their main office in Gozo but would like to open an office in Malta in order to expand their clientele would be supported.

On the environment, the Chamber said that Gozo should, as a whole, be designated as a design priority area and the regional and comprehensive planning policy for the island should be created.

Turning to accessibility, the Chamber said that the fast ferry service between Malta and Gozo must be retained with a consistent level of service provided throughout.  Both the current fast ferry operators have said that the service at present is not financially viable, and that a mechanism of government support – such as through a Public Service Obligation – is required.

The Chamber also wants an air link between Malta and Gozo to be developed.  In this sense, the government has filed plans for a small airfield near the Heliport in Xewkija, but the viability of such a project has been questioned.

Furthermore, the Chamber has called on the government to ensure that the permanent link between Malta and Gozo remains a “key policy priority given the long-term nature of the project”- a suggestion which contradicts an earlier suggestion by the Malta Employers Association which called on the government to ditch “airy fairy” projects such as this to preserve its finances.

Infrastructurally, the Chamber wants the government to initiative the process for a sustainable multistory underground car park in Victoria, and to start the process for a new hospital in Gozo which should complement the investment made in the Queen Mary University of London Gozo campus to be built.

“The challenges being faced by the Gozitan economy and society at this point in time are many and multi-faceted. The COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have exacerbated certain problems and issues, which are being compounded by the fact that both Malta and Gozo depend completely on maritime and air transport to connect to the rest of the world. The context being faced in Gozo cannot be taken out from what is being faced both nationally and worldwide,” the Chamber wrote in its proposal document.

“Nonetheless it is important that we do not lose sight of what we want to achieve. The higher thresholds being offered on government incentives for Gozitan based businesses have been an important step in the right direction. Nonetheless it is important that certain projects and initiatives which are a prerequisite for a modern society and economy are also present in Gozo. Gozo cannot fall by the way side at this crucial point in time, and it is important that we address urgent issues like the labour market and the environment, which are two of the prime concerns currently being faced,” it added in its conclusions.

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