San Gimignano, political parties and Manoel Island

Towers or mini-skyscrapers are once again in fashion

Towers or mini-skyscrapers are once again in fashion. It not only offers investors the great possibility of a good return from a small footprint, it also provides them with something to brag about.
Towers or mini-skyscrapers are once again in fashion. It not only offers investors the great possibility of a good return from a small footprint, it also provides them with something to brag about.

14 striking towers symbolise the magnificent Tuscan town of San Gimignano. Fourteen towers with varying heights that marked the rivalry of fourteen well-to-do Italian families who shared the precise egotistic dream of having a higher tower than their fellow neighbours’.   

Then, some 700 years ago, I guess there were no newspapers or environmental activists or Marlene Farrugias to lament over the rape of the Tuscan landscape; not a single soul to protest against the loss of pine forests that disappeared from the Tuscan hills to decorate the small and large palaces and homes; no one at all to be concerned about the sprouting quarries that provided the stone and granite and marble; no planning authority to decide on policy and no unions to defend the plight of workers forced to build the towers at miserly wages and dreadful conditions.

Then too there was what we would call an environmental and aesthetic catastrophe. 650 or 700 years later, San Gimignano is not an aesthetic nightmare, quite the contrary, it is in fact more than a pretty place, it is simply impressive. I guess age gas transformed something that was obnoxious into something beautiful.

Fast forward to 2016 to St George’s and St Julian’s Bay and we can see that there could be up to seven towers, two for the Corinthia six-star hotel, two for the Seabank project, one for Villa Rosa and one for Joe Portelli at Mercury House.

Until now the only representative Maltese skyscraper is at Portomaso.

Towers or mini-skyscrapers are once again in fashion. It not only offers investors the great possibility of a good return from a small footprint, it also provides them with something to brag about.

Before the advent of the towers in Malta, most of Malta’s top brass would have been flaunting their superyachts. “How big is it? How much did you buy it for?” would be one way of showing how affluent and successful they are. The superyachts and the luxury cars remain a reference point but the real barometer for success will now be the towers, monuments of ascendancy.

The sad thing is that this trend was not developed in this century. It dates back to the early days of mankind. 500 years from now, I get the feeling that the towers if built will be historical monuments, beautiful symbols worth preserving. I cannot imagine which organisation will be charging around claiming that we should destroy our historical heritage of towers.

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Partit Demokratiku (PD) or DP, the new political party headed by Marlene Farrugia, will try its best to break the electoral hurdle and get a seat in parliament. But the obstacles are high.  

History could serve as a lesson. What is interesting is that some former Alternattiva Demokratika activists and supporters are now in PD. But there are no real heavyweights except for Farrugia. And from the surveys it is clear that the largest segment of voters will come from the PN.

That is not good news for either the PN or PD. Very much as was the case with Alternattiva Demokratika in 1989, who at the time had some heavyweights including Toni Abela and Wenzu Mintoff, Labour’s President and party whip respectively. But there were other heavyweights such as Joe (Peppi) Azzopardi, Arnold Cassola, Harry Vassallo and others. 

The party had been preceded by a newspaper Alternattiva, published fortnightly and later a radio station. I know all this since I was there as the coordinator and co-founder, and singularly as funder and bank guarantor, and I can never forgot how the PN in government and the PL in opposition ganged up together to make it impossible for us to get to places.

To make matters worse, TVM, The Times and The Independent, One TV and Net TV made us look like simpletons.

That was 24 years ago, and there were several political issues to tackle: divorce, party financing, local councils, political broadcasting, electoral reform, accountability and of course gay rights.

The so-called Democratic Party is kicking off with more or less the same weather conditions. The snag is that with the present electoral system the PD has no chance in hell of getting off the ground. After nine years in AD, I realised this and left.

And yes, Marlene is right, the big two will denigrate her, most especially the PN-friendly press. But it is to be expected. As was the case with the Greens, most of the electoral fall-out affected the PN. Few Labour voters steered towards AD.

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Manoel Island is effectively run by the Midi Group where one finds significant shareholding of MSV and BOV apart from Gasan and the Alf Mizzi and Sons group.

What the bank is doing in this shareholding beats me. BOV chairman John Cassar White can explain, as well as MSV. The real big question goes to the Alf Mizzi and Sons group, which has seemingly slept on the project, apart from the fact that it is trying to sell Manoel Island to other interested parties for a song.

The fact that they have done nothing in Manoel Island is fine, considering the way they converted Tigné Point in a ghetto of tall buildings surrounding a paved square reminiscent of some Moscow suburb. It was a wonderful exercise in architectural madness, and a sick joke for the Valletta peninsula.  

The point about Manoel Island is that the company entrusted to develop this site had commitments and it seems to have no upheld them fully. Manoel Island should not be raped but gracefully developed with open spaces that can serve as a lung for the urbanites who live in their thousands in the surrounding localities.

The government is duty-bound to look at the contract and act now. It is unacceptable that years later the Midi consortium choose to do nothing because they are either short of funds, ideas or better still a vision.

It’s not extreme for a government to see that contractual obligations are fulfilled. The alternative is doing nothing and doing nothing is never a good idea. 

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