Gozo must have full accessibility

The news that Gozo is to have a €4.4 million card manufacturing plant is indeed welcome news. The island needs such investments, and other economic ventures, to help it overcome the disadvantages of double insularity.

The government should strive to attract similar projects to Gozo which are crucial to the island's economy, which depends on tourism, small and medium-size enterprises and agriculture.

The situation on the island is far from rosy. It suffers greatly from seasonality. While in Malta the number of gainfully employed seems to be stable, it is not so in Gozo, where unemployment is rising.

For Gozo to be able to stand on its own two feet, it needs accessibility by sea and air. It needs better roads, and a modern infrastructure. The laying of two stretches of road from Mġarr to the end of Għajnsielem and from Victoria to Għarb is commendable, but there are several others, such as the Victoria-Xlendi road, that need serious attention. A ring road round the island's main town is imperative.

Tourism is Gozo's mainstay. Although we have been repeatedly promised that cruise liners will be visiting the island, nothing has yet been done to provide a proper mooring place for them, after spending three years contemplating putting up a mooring buoy. The air link has been suspended since 2006. The seaplane service, though useful, has its limitations, and cannot be operated round the clock, for obvious reasons. The air service must be taken seriously if we are to attract upmarket tourists and top industrialists to the island.

A proper air service would have many beneficial effects and stimulate the Gozitan economy. The long defunct helicopter service must be replaced with a service using fixed-wing aircraft, carrying at least 20 passengers, baggage and all from Gozo, direct to Malta International Airport.

The idea that such an airstrip would cause pollution, noise, and other risks to the environment is totally unfounded - one has only to look at Roy Perry's presentation on how an airstrip would look like to get a good idea. The heavy commercial vehicles that roam the island at will, belching smoke and toxic fumes are responsible for the sorry state of the island.

I strongly appeal to the Gozo Tourism Association, the Gozo Business Chamber and others, who would like to see Gozo face the new year with hope and courage, to do their utmost, collectively, to see to it that Gozo's needs are served.

One hopes that the new year will persuade the authorities to look into Gozo's sorry plight , and forget the usual rhetoric of a few projects already done here after a long wait.

The 2009 budget contains very few new items concerning Gozo, and most of them have been promised for years.

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