The Partit Demokratiku today said its vision for Gozo is very different from PL’s and PN’s “tunnel vision” by which they are presenting a tunnel under the seabed as the solution for all of Gozo’s problems.
PD is of the opinion that the solution lies in radically improving the connectivity between the two islands, but not by means of a permanent link.
A tunnel under the seabed would improve connectivity but has so many downsides that in our opinion will sign the death knell of Gozo as we know it, PD said.
The tunnel will have a severe environmental impact both during execution as well as in operation; It will facilitate even further the mass flow of cars to Gozo with inherent increase in traffic congestion, emissions and noise; It will open the doors for Gozo to become the next mecca for property speculators with an exponential rise in construction, uptake of ODZ and damage to its natural capital; It will destroy the social, cultural and historical fabric that makes Gozo what it is; It poses a threat to Maltese internal tourism and puts the attractiveness of Gozo to our tourists at great risk; It will not solve the transit time for travel between Malta and Gozo as outside of the tunnel, traffic congestion will still exist; It will create serious environmental damage at the exit/entry points in Nadur and Manikata.
PD’s Social vision
PD believes in invigorating the economy by safeguarding and enhancing the many positives that Gozo possesses, whilst at the same time improving connectivity and giving better opportunities to Gozitans.
a) Incentives and work opportunities
· Tax free living for families whose children attend primary and secondary schools in Gozo;
· The concept of Eco Gozo will be revamped by means of a holistic approach which will make Gozo a living showcase of all that is worth visiting and living in our islands;
· Making Gozo a hub of a Green wave of industries such as organic farming, green cottage industries, green logistics and green tourism;
· A different tourist marketing plan built around a disseminated accommodation concept which will utilise vacant properties in Gozo and present exciting business opportunities to Gozitans and serious, environmentally conscious entrepreneurs rather than traditional hotels;
· A serious drive to attract high value-added job opportunities for Gozitans in Gozo and turning the island into a magnet for Maltese job seekers as well. Proposing and encouraging teleworking, work-from-home concepts that facilitate job movement to Gozo. This requires a high speed internet link to attract the right economic sectors;
· Creating a centre of excellence for Health Services in Gozo, run by the state or as a serious PPP, to shift part of the services in Mater Dei to Gozo, creating more job opportunities on the Island. Areas such as long term convalescence and geriatric rehab could be developed.
· Incentivising IT based sectors to open up in Gozo by means of favourable taxation rates and special micro-invest schemes, particularly focused on investment in Gozo;
· University of Malta and MCAST to open virtual campuses in Gozo to reduce the need for Gozitan students to physically attend lectures every day in Malta. Encourage Educational Institutions to settle in Gozo;
· Developing Gozo as a model for enhancing personal mobility modes of transport rather than the present car centred approach – leading to the giving back of village cores to the residents by creating ample pedestrianization;
· The creation of a Nature Park on Comino and stricter control on the impact caused by tourist and recreational activity on the island. The removal of structures no longer in use such as the pig farm and the restoration of the site to its original state;
· Upgrading Gozo’s harbouring and yachting facilities;
· The provision of subsidized accommodation for all post-secondary students studying in Malta.
A fast ferry passenger service connecting Mgarr Gozo, St Paul’s Bay, Sliema, Valletta and Kalkara with dedicated connections via an ACES service (automated, connected, electrical, shared) towards Bugibba, St Julians and Smart City. This will reduce travel time compared to present by at least 50% by reducing road travel and will be totally free of charge for Gozitans and Maltese working in the other island.
· Public transport to be reorganised in line with the fast ferry service and the need to offer frequent and fast routes as part of a campaign towards reduction of car use.
· A proper re-evaluation of fixed wing aeroplane service between the two islands, and an overhaul of the Gozo Channel service to render it more responsive to market needs.
These proposals are to be complemented by:
· A Gozo Strategy, where the money that would have been spent on the Gozo tunnel in the coming seven years would be dedicated to Gozo’s embellishment, upgrades and creation of job opportunities to really bring an economic revival of the island in a structured and environmentally sane way;
· The Ministry for Gozo along the years has resulted in too much power resting in the hands of the incumbent minister – PD proposes the establishment of a Regional Assembly directly elected by Gozitans with ample budget and decision taking in specified areas. The Minister’s role is to ensure that Gozo remains aligned in general policy with Cabinet decisions, and is not involved in the day to day running of Gozo – an element of devolution would empower Gozitans to take decisions on the administration of their Island;
· Proposing a holistic development masterplan for Gozo which will commit against high rise buildings, any more ODZ uptake, further ribbon development between villages and any more uptake of agricultural land.
Original article found on The Malta Independent