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Nationalist MPs hit out at 'low' Gozo Budget

Half of the increase in the recurrent expenditure allocated for next year’s budget for Gozo will cover personal emoluments within the Gozo Ministry, according to PN spokeswoman for Gozo Giovanna Debono.

Ms Debono was speaking to the media outside the main gate of the University of Malta which hosts 1,200 Gozitan students out of the 10,000 total population.

She described the budget for Gozo as “really poor” despite an increase of €3 million.

The increase was nothing new, as year after year, the previous administration increased the budget for Gozo, once even reaching an increase of €18 million, she said.

Half of this €3 million will cover salaries and daily running costs, which have increased with the increase in the number of people at the Gozo Ministry. In fact, there was an increase within the Gozo Ministry of 11 employees and two consultants from the private sector, Ms Debono said.

At the same time, the allocated capital expenditure - which would cover projects – was decreased.

Comparing the Nationalist government’s expenditure in 2012 in this sector, with that allocated by the current government for 2014, there was a decrease of €3 million.

Funds allocated for Eco-Gozo decreased by €2 million, while there were further reductions in the roads, agriculture, housing and sports facilities sectors, among others.

Asked about figures, Ms Debono said that while €12.7million were spent on Gozo (excluding the health and education sectors) in 2012, only €9.5 million have been allocated for 2014.

Speaking about employment, Ms Debono said Labour had said it would transfer Gozitan civil servants from Malta to Gozo, but so far, only two had been transferred.

The current government was also retaining work schemes initiated by the Nationalist government – like the employment aid programme and the work and training exposure scheme – but it had not created new schemes to create jobs in Gozo.

Speaking at the same press conference, Frederick Azzopardi pointed out that while the Gozo Ministry was no longer responsible for the education and health sectors on the sister island, there were other sectors, like sewage system plans, that were being moved to other ministries.

PN Secretary General Chris Said referred to the increase in stipends for Gozitan university students. While the previous government had increased their stipends by €1,400 during the whole legislature, this government allocated an increase of 40c weekly.

He also spoke about accessibility between the two islands, questioning the need of a second feasibility study about a permanent link when the previous government had already carried out these studies.

What was the Prime Minister going to do about the Chinese company employed to carry out these studies, which it has transpired, is blacklisted, he asked.

Dr Said also spoke about the Gozo General Hospital. He noted that the Gozo Blood Bank, which used to operate daily, including weekends, was opening only once a fortnight on Sundays.

In the meantime, the ECG technicians, which during the previous administration used to stay at the hospital until 7pm, are now finishing their shift at 2pm.

Was this a cost-cutting exercise, he asked, adding that these decisions should be taken by the Gozo Ministry, and not other ministries.

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