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Developers: Smart City terms discriminated against Maltese construction industry

Advantageous terms offered to Dubai developers in 2006 fail to achieve aim after Tecom offers Ricasoli land for sale.

Matthew Vella
30 July 2012, 12:00am
Smart City is still under development and few companies have started operations from there.
Malta's developers and construction entrepreneurs have hit out at news that the Dubai-owned Smart City Malta has put up for sale parcels of its land, originally earmarked for the creation of the Smart City internet village in Xghajra, for local investors.

The Malta Developers Association said that despite the fact that Tecom Investments, who are developing Smart City, had been given very advantageous conditions "to the detriment of Maltese developers", the realisation of its project originally intended to be financed totally with foreign money, was to end up depending on the input of the local investor.

"This can only be considered as undervaluing of public property with no justified and proportional input benefiting the country. This has already happened in other cases, such as the Chambray project," the MDA said in a statement.

Smart City is selling land for development at the Ricasoli site in a bid to accelerate the project development, after Tecom approached a number of Maltese contractors to sell them parcels of land for the construction of office blocks and apartments.

The Sunday Times had revealed that new plans show the site has been partitioned into tracts of land each covering thousands of square metres, which would have to developed in line with the Smart City master plan approved by the planning authority.

On its part, the MDA said that while Smart City needed a prestigious international developer to succeed, the prevalent negative international economic situation was also impinging on the efforts of small Maltese developers.

"We cannot but express our serious disagreement with a system whereby government gives advantageous conditions to foreigners to develop public land while individual developers of private land are hassled by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA), and by excessive bureaucracy from practically all government departments and entities, besides the prevalent system of taxation on sale of property and the way it is applied," the MDA said.

The association said this situation contrasted with the government's own policy to extract maximum possible income from its property, raising rents and ground rents to exorbitant levels. "This has been happening in the case of renewal of all leases or ground rents. Meanwhile the property market remains depressed," the MDA said.

In a meeting it held with the finance minister two weeks ago, the MDA presented a number of proposals to overcome the depressed market without substantial losses in government revenue or encouraging new development on virgin land. "We urge government to accept and adopt its requests and recommendations without any further delay," the MDA said.

Tecom's Smart City was expected to be developed into an 'internet village' consisting of high-end office blocks for IT companies, as well luxury apartments and villas, retail outlets and hotels. At least 5,600 jobs had to be delivered through the project but very few companies operate from Smart City for the time being.

Agricultural leases on 40,793 square metres of land lying outside development zones were terminated to make way for the internet village.

Matthew Vella is editor of MaltaToday.com.mt.

After graduating in a...

Joe Borg
The only people that did well out of this scam were Claudio Grech and Austin Gatt. But for these white collar criminals - the law does not exist in Malta. On the other hand. Thank God this project failed. They would have filled it with companies on Tax free status - destroying Maltese businesses paying 7 times the taxes and being treated as garbage. The audit and law firms would have been the only winners. the same firms the ministers in parliament belong too.
Joe Borg
Smart converted to Maltese is 'Haxxej'. Once you make that translation, everything starts to make sense about Malta.
fufa
Possibli hawn Malta ghad fadal nies li jemmnu u jafdaw lil politikanti bhal Gatt, Gonzi, Fenech u ohrajn? Ara veru dan il-poplu haqqu qatta silla ghax hmir bhalu ftit jezistu.
parla piu piano
Austin Gatt "Chapeau" issa x'hin jghaddi t-Tsunami PL ejja Marsalforn oqod ippopa sidrek u mniehrek. Kollha kemm intkom qghadtu kavall inkluz il-familjari u anke lil minn issagrifikajtu u taparsi gie mwarrab u mgiegel jirrezenja. Imma lil Gahan Malti bellajtulu r-ross bil-labra. Verament ghandkom biex tkunu kburin. Mhux talli qed jaqghu l-fortizzi PN talli qed isir bhal ma ghamlu r-rumani go Kartagni u ferxxu kull ma hemm bil-melh halli jinqered kollox. Xoghol, Gustizzja, Liberta + Gonzi PN.Keep it up.
Christian Thorn
SMART, VERY SMART , ANOTHER SMART PROJECT ENTRUSTED TO STATE -OF-THE ASS MINISTER DR. AUSTIN GATT WITH A FREEBEE PIECE OF LAND AT QAWRA WORTH MILLIONS IN THE DEAL! Who can afford to have Gonzipn administering the country with such giveaways?
Rose Barbara
x'Hanzirata
Alex Grech
They called Smart City.Because you have to be "SMART" to come and take all that land free, and sell it back to the stuped Maltese.Why dont you try to do the same in DUBAI.
GRACE PAVIA
I wonder how much TECOM pays in bachish. Must be an ongoing serious piece of dough.
m borg
Does the maltese electorate need more proof of gonzipn's failure? At the next general elections they shouldn't get any votes except theirs and btheir families, oh yes and of those who sucked dry the maltese economy.