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From 2012 to 2013

This is a period when we look back at what we have ac­complished over the past year and look ahead at the coming year. What my Ministry accomplished in works and restorations alone during 2012 is extremely satisfying. We continued to deliver quality projects, both restorations as well as new recreational spaces for families to enjoy.

There is an urgent need for greater dialogue between Christians and Muslims so that fundamentalists from both sides be marginalised and isolated
- George Pullicino

The list is long but I will mention a few finalised in 2012: the Waterpark in Buġibba, the Mellieħa Park, the Dog Park and Petting Farm in Ta’ Qali, the Ta’ Xbiex Sea Front, the new paving in Paceville, the garden in Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq, and the Family Park in Marsascala in an area previously occupied by a landfill during the 1970s. This park is the size of 20 football fields, and will be inaugurated in a few days. At the moment, works are being carried out on the civic centre and garden in Swieqi, which will also soon be inaugurated. A similar project is also under way in San Ġwann.

During 2012, restoration works were completed on the Għajn Żnuber Tower in Mellieħa, the chapel of the Immaculate Conception in St Julian’s, the church of Our Lady of Victories in Qormi, and the three farmhouses that were delapidated in Buskett. We also continued works on the Auberge de Castille and the Grand Master’s Palace in Valletta. Extensive works are being carried out on the fortifications in Vittoriosa, Mdina, the Ċittadella and Valletta. We will soon be able to enjoy new gardens in the ditches surrounding Mdina and Vittoriosa. Restoration works have also been carried out on the salt pans and Ximenes Redoubt in Salina. In a few days the information centre on fortifications will be inaugurated at Biagio Steps, Valletta, where works are now complete.

One of our country’s greatest engineering projects is also under way, that is the excavation of underground tunnels for the flood relief project, which will cost around €56 million. We have also completed the first phase of the rehabilitation of the landfill in Maghtab, which will transform our greatest environmental wound into another national park. A never-ending stream of projects.

In 2012, as in every year since 2008, we have continued to raise the quality of life for the Maltese people through an endless array of quality projects around our islands. While the world is experiencing the worst economic times since World War I, our Government has ensured the continuous transformation of our country. I have no doubt that, when the people vote on March 9, they will keep all this is in mind, and entrust us once again to continue transforming our country – December 29.

Royal Malta Yacht Club

At times we do not appreciate enough our country’s heritage, including in sectors such as yachting. Few people appreciate the fact that the Royal Malta Yacht Club boasts a long history.

It was set up in 1835 when there were few clubs of its kind in the Mediterranean. Recently the Government gave a building in Ta’ Xbiex, that was until recently used by the MMA, to serve as headquarters for the RMYC. It was also fitting that the promenade and surrounding area close to the yachting centre in Ta’ Xbiex also be given a facelift.

As part of the embellishment works, a fountain was also installed, in the original form of a sailing boat. Together with the committee of the RMYC, it was decided that this fountain would be dedicated to the memory of Paul Ripard (1931-2009), who was certainly one of Malta’s best yachtsman. Ripard was not only a member of the RMYC since he was a child, but also represented the RMYC in several races both locally and internationally. He won no less than five Middle Sea Races since it began in 1968.

Perhaps few people know the origins of the Middle Sea Race. Wilfred Sultana recounts that the Middle Sea Race began incidentally by Jimmy White who had arrived in Malta on his sailing boat, Sandettie. He had recounted that when he retired in 1966 he planned to spend a few years in the West Indies. Yet he felt bad leaving and being so far away from his elderly parents, who both were not in the best health. As he discussed his concerns with an American acquaintance, it was suggested that he goes to Malta, from where daily three-hour flights to the UK operate.

He did just that. When he came to Malta, he planned the route for a race from Malta to and around Sicily and back to Malta. White’s brainchild placed Malta on the map.

Ripard is one of the most prominent members in the history of the RMYC and Middle Sea Race. This heritage therefore deserves recognition – December 28.

Gaming

There is little doubt of the importance of the remote gaming sector to Malta’s economy. For over 10 years the Government has encouraged this sector’s growth by adopting a regulatory framework which is both robust and business friendly. This policy and the availability in Malta of good quality service providers which support this sector’s needs have led to Malta becoming one of the leading remote gaming jurisdictions in Europe, certainly largest in terms of number of licences issued.

The most recent data available regarding the remote gaming sector’s contribution to Malta’s Gross Domestic Product is that commissioned by the Malta Remote Gaming Council, presented by Deloitte Malta last July. According to Deloitte’s findings, Malta’s remote gambling licensees generated an excess of €175 million in direct expenditure in Malta and employed over 3,700 employees in 2010. These figures certainly increased since then, and they do not include factors such as the incidental contribution to the tourism industry and the number of business trips and hotel nights generated by this sector.

There is also a significant social contribution that cannot be ignored. Of the 3,700 employees referred to in Deloitte Malta’s report, 74 per cent are said to be “non-Maltese”, which means that in 2010 there were over 2,740 non-Maltese persons living in Malta and working in the remote gaming sector. This has led to the ‘cosmopolitanisation’ of certain areas of the island and the consequent local investment to ensure that adequate services are provided. This aspect should not be underestimated and deserves to be the subject of a study in its own right.

Malta can remain a major player in the remote gaming sector for a long time to come. However, in order to do so Malta must be able to retain the larger operators established here. In order to do so, we need to strengthen dialogue between key stakeholders in industry, the LGA and the Government. It pays us all to do so. – December 27

Extremism

Extremism, especially religious extremism, is extremely ugly. In these past few days that should epitomise joy and celebration, I was particularly struck by three shocking incidents. The first: Images of Santa Claus were banned from appearing on television in Uzbekistan. It is the latest in a series of measures to reduce Russia’s cultural influence on the former Soviet country’s society, which is predominantly Islamic. A National TV journalist admitted that they had received instructions to not even mention the word Christmas!

The second: In the ancient city of Timbuktu in Mali, Islamic fundamentalists who are closely associated with Al-Qaeda, are destroying ancient historic mausoleums, soon after the United Nations decided to intervene and send African troops to control the situation. These groups are implementing their own version of Islamic Sharia law.

“No mausoleums should remain in Timbuktu. God doesn’t want them,” stated one of the leaders Abou Dardar of the movement Ansar Dine, which means Soldiers of the Faith. Last July, in the same city known as “the city of 333 saints”, fundamentalists destroyed the entrance of a mosque that was built over 400 years ago. This country has deteriorated into conflict, particularly in the north, already resulting in 400,000 refugees.

The third incident: In the north of Nigeria on Christmas Eve, a Christian church was attacked and set on fire, killing six people. The Islamic militant movement Boko Haram has since 2010 attacked a number of churches, including killing 40 people last year on Christmas Day. This violence was also mentioned by Pope Benedict XVI in his address on Christmas Day, where he prayed for religious harmony in this country that has become a victim of “savage terrorist acts”, more often than not on Christians.

I’m writing this not to instigate anger towards Muslims. We should remember that such fundamentalists are not a reflection of the Islamic faith. The large majority of Muslims are not fundamentalists. Yet unfortunately it is clear that fundamentalists are rearing their heads. There is an urgent need for greater dialogue between Christians and Muslims so that fundamentalists from both sides be marginalised and isolated. It is only cooperation that will overcome confrontation. – December 26.

http://georgepullicino.blogspot.com

George Pullicino is Minister for Resources and Rural Affairs.

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