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Muscat outlines proposals on day trip to sister island

Joseph Muscat being mobbed in Gozo last night. Photo: Jason Borg

Joseph Muscat being mobbed in Gozo last night. Photo: Jason Borg

A Gozitan cruise liner terminal, €50,000 tax credit for startups and Gozo office at Dar Malta in Brussels are among the Labour Party’s proposals for Malta’s sister island.

The PL also wants to provide a fast ferry service to and from the Valletta area and would ask the European Commisson to assess Gozo as a specific region, to free up further EU funds for the island.

Labour leader Joseph Muscat announced these and other Gozo-specific proposals, which he said would bump capital expenditure for the island up by €7.5 million and recurrent expenditure by €2 million, during a day-long tour of the island yesterday.

Gozitan startups would receive a tax credit of up to €50,000 or 25 per cent of their investment, valid for up to four years. Existing companies would also receive €5,000 for each new worker they employed, provided they were offered contracts of at least three years each.

He said a cruise liner terminal – “the biggest Gozitan investment project since establishing Gozo Channel” – would complement Malta’s terminal and make the country a “double destination” for cruise liner tourists. Dr Muscat said the terminal would “not be built on virgin land” and indicated Mġarr as a possible site.

A PL government would continue working on already existing in­itiatives, such as Eco-Gozo, the creation of a permanent link between the two islands and making chemotherapy available to Gozitans. The PL would also consider restarting a helicopter service, Dr Muscat added.

Gozitan public sector workers would be given the option to transfer to Gozo-based back office departments, which would be increased under a PL administration.

Gozo-specific planning permits would also be grouped together, with their hearings held on the island, while the PL would also appoint a judge to sit permanently within the Gozo courts.

Speaking in Xagħra, the PL leader said he saw potential for Gozo as an educational hub for foreign institutions.

He singled out Gozo general hospital, which he said would be modernised, as a potential spot for medical school investment.

More university courses would be made available in Gozo, although students forced to study in Malta would be given “incentives” – Dr Muscat did not elaborate – to rent property in Malta throughout their studies.

The PL, he said, was against the proposed development of Ħondoq ir-Rummien into a luxury yacht marina. The proposal, still at planning stage, has been recommended for refusal.

He said the PL would introduce cheaper ferry rates for those spending a minimum amount of time in Gozo, as well as reducing ticket prices “on certain occasions”.

Having announced the pro­posals, Dr Muscat took to Gozitan roads, visiting the family-run Debono printing press in Xewkija, the Dar Emmaus home for domestic violence victims in Victoria and a Gozitan family in Ta’ Cawla, Victoria.

The visit to Dar Emmaus, Gozo’s first specialised shelter for victims of domestic violence, allowed Fondazzjoni Kenn u Tama (The Shelter and Hope Foundation) chairman Mgr Joe Vella Gauci to make an appeal for State aid.

In between the visits, Dr Muscat held a public meeting at the Kempinski hotel, during which he fielded questions from audience members.

He voiced support for a “more proactive” Gozo ministry and promised one woman that the PL would put Għarb’s Ta’ Dbiegi craft village “back on the map”, although he disappointed two other audience members by saying neither a golf course nor aeroplane link figured in PL plans.

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