Let’s be frank, the deal is wrong

It’s quite clear that the general election is round the corner and that GonziPN is trailing in the polls. The intention to privatise 32 public car parks coupled with the rent of 100 car spaces from MCP car park and the lease/purchase of St Philip’s Hospital are just the tip of an iceberg.

The timing of the deal shrouds the whole agreement
- Franco Mercieca

One can only imagine the innumerable amount of agreements with third parties, with the clear intent to sway voting intentions in GonziPN’s favour, all at the taxpayers’ expense; the power of incumbency at its best.

The privatisation of public car parks has led to such parliamentary turmoil that due to the fear of losing another minister from Law­rence Gonzi’s ever shrinking Cabinet, the whole project was shelved. It’s highly probable that this will resurface in the near future if the political situation is suitable.

The rental of 100 car spaces for 94 years at €3.2 million, which have to be paid in the first 10 years, is incredible. The excuse “to free up car spaces in Valletta” is simply unbelievable.

The St Philip’s story has an ironic twist. After years of propaganda from GonziPN loyalists and lackeys in addition to the Health Ministry trying to convince us that no more beds are required at Mater Dei Hospital, we have just had the announcement of the acquisition of St Philip’s Hospital.

And believe it or not, the excuse is that St Philip’s would provide the Maltese people with an immediate 110 beds and a potential of another 165 after some ‘alterations’.

St Philip’s Hospital is definitely a very well located hospital, easily accessible and has as an excellent design.

For unknown reasons and in mysterious cir­­­cumstances it closed its doors about two years ago while other private clinics and hospitals were sprouting and still doing so to this date.

It must have been in the red for quite some time before a financial decision was taken to call it a day.

Before the final act, a last-ditch attempt was carried out, by having a cosmetic managerial change which unfortunately didn’t work out either.

This was followed by a frenzied sale of most of the equipment, which is still being used in several private clinics.

As far as I know the Government has never shown any public wish to purchase any hospital or premises that would cater for a rehabilitation centre. I am quite sure that if the wish was made public, a few offers would have come afore.

There are plenty of small hotels and residences which are not in use anymore which would serve the purpose as a rehabilitation centre and at a much cheaper price.

On the other hand the Government has lots of empty properties and I often wonder why we have to cough up millions to buy property from third persons. St Luke’s Hospital is the most obvious of examples.

St Philip’s used to have four separate operating theatres. Are these still equipped?

Since at Mater Dei Hospital not all operating theatres are in use all the time, do we really need them in addition to the 25 operating theatres at Mater Dei Hospital?

On the other hand what is the rationale of renting a property, the use of which is definitely long term? Our population is an ageing one and the bed occupancy demand is bound to increase. Why lease and have the opportunity to buy only after three years? Is there a hidden motive?

The timing of the deal shrouds the whole agreement. Why now and not a year ago, or even earlier? It is most probable that the Foundation for Medical Services will come up with the theory that only now they managed to get the best deal for the Maltese people after long years of wrangling. In the end we would be expected to say thank you.

The least GonziPN should do is to publish the actual contract for public scrutiny. The actual terms of agreement have to be known to the public as, after all, it’s from our coffers.

The Maltese people need to know whether the purchase of the hospital would also mean taking on board the debt in­curred by the current hospital management linked to St Phi­lip’s Hospital.

After all, this is a major strategic decision and ca­pital expense in a ministry where the GonziPN minister is awaiting a potential no confidence debate and vote in Parliament.

The modus operandi of selling our assets cheaply but buying off from certain members of the public at a hefty price is worrying. This irresponsible squandering of public funds is in the end making all of us poorer as we are losing our assets and at the same time mounting our ever increasing debts. This irresponsible and bad practice has to be stopped.

GonziPN has lost too many sheep because of its arrogant and non-inclusive politics – let’s hope they don’t plunder the country’s finances in the desperate attempt to win some back.

Franco Mercieca is a Labour Party electoral candidate.


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