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.