Labour’s Gozo airstrip pledge ‘has vanished into thin air’, MP warns

Opposition MP Chris Said calls out government for failing to build an airstrip in Gozo, warns employment schemes are leading Gozitan workers into minimum wage jobs  

Opposition MP Chris Said delivers a speech in Parliament
Opposition MP Chris Said delivers a speech in Parliament

Shadow Gozo minister Chris Said has taken the government for task for falling short of its pre-electoral pledge to build an airstrip in Gozo that will connect the island to Malta and other Mediterranean countries. 

Speaking in Parliament during a debate on the 2017 Budget estimates for the Gozo ministry, Said noted that the proposed airstrip was not even referred to in the recent Budget, this despite the fact that finance minister Edward Scicluna had said two years ago that studies on the project were complete.

“Can the Gozo minister [Anton Refalo] inform us when the first flights from Gozo to Tunis, Rome and Catania will be?” Said questioned.

The PN MP also claimed that Refalo recently told social partners at the MCESD that the project had been held up because the government was awaiting consensus with the Opposition.

“He hasn’t even spoken to us about the airstrip, and has consistently refused to publish the studies on it,” Said said.

He also said that other pre-electoral promises for Gozo – such as the construction of a casino and a yacht marina and cruise liner terminal – have been completely left out of the Budget, and that indeed the government has only devoted €9 million to Gozitan capital projects for next year.

“This is a miserly amount, amounting to only 2% of the capital expenditure that it has devoted to the entire country. Also, only €900,000 of that capital expenditure will come out of EU funds.”

In his speech, Said also warned that some 150 Gozitans currently registered under a government scheme to enhance their employability are only being paid three-quarters of the minimum wage.

He claimed that some people had actually quit average-wage jobs in the private sector to enter the scheme, because the Gozo ministry had promised that it would lead them on the path to fixed government jobs. However, they were in for a nasty shock and ended up employed on the minimum wage by private companies from whom the government procures its services.

A further 150 people are being paid the minimum wage through a separate community scheme that is being run by the General Workers’ Union to help unemployed people find a job.

“[Gozo minister] Anton Refalo is deceiving workers by promising them government jobs, thereby also reintroducing the old mentality that it is best to work in the public sector,” he said. “Only a few days ago, the Prime Minister admitted that the minimum wage is not high enough for people to get by, and yet his own minister is continuously coming up with schemes that pay people the minimum wage.”