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‘University will generate €25m a year’

Joseph Muscat. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Joseph Muscat. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

The American University earmarked for the south of the island will generate about €25 million each year, boosting the economy by one per cent, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said yesterday.

Speaking on the Labour Party’s One Radio, Dr Muscat said the new campus would be a major economic boost for the country, particularly the south.

Jordanian investors are expected to meet tomorrow to sign a preliminary agreement for the development of the university campus, a construction investment of about €100 million.

Dr Muscat said lack of investment in the south of Malta in the past has led to families earning less than those living elsewhere on the island. The average southern family, he said, had an annual income that was €2,500 shy of that earned by families on the rest of the island.

If the educational project materialises, the American University of Malta will be established in collaboration with the Chicago-based De Paul University, the largest Catholic university in the US.

If I had to base my decisions on not wanting to anger one side or the other, I wouldn’t take any decisions. This is the way investment is created

Dr Muscat said the campus would employ about 800 people and create 4,000 jobs. New jobs, however, would not be the only result of the university project investment. he said, noting that studies had shown that educational institutions created indirect investment in the economy.

He said each of the 4,000 students expected to attend the university’s five colleges would spend about €15,000 in the Maltese economy. They would spend a further €1,000 each when their friends and family came to visit them, a phenomenon that would bolster tourism in the south.

The university project has raised concerns among the environmental lobby, as it is set to be developed on 90,000 square metres of green land in Marsascala that the government has offered to investors.

Dr Muscat said the planning authority would consider alternative sites for the development but the project would still take place in the south.

He said he understood the concerns being raised by the environmental lobby that the project would eat away at a large parcel of green land but the project should be seen in tandem with another for a national park.

Details on the proposed national park remain sketchy, however Dr Muscat said the project would ensure a large patch of land was safeguarded from development.

He said that just as the development of a university on green land had irritated environmentalists, so too had developers not embraced the proposal to cordon off a large piece of land for posterity.

“If I had to base my decisions on not wanting to anger one side or the other, then I wouldn’t take any decisions. This is the way investment is created and decisions need to be taken,” he said.

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