Chris Fearne praises golden passports for funding Gżira health centre

Easter celebrations will take place without COVID-19 restrictions while Fearne praises the golden passports scheme despite calls to suspend applications from Russia

Health Minister and Labour Party deputy leader Chris Fearne praised the golden passports scheme for offering a large source of revenue that government can tap into for community projects.

During a political activity in Birżebbuġa on Thursday, Fearne specifically referred to a newly refurbished healthcare centre in Gżira, which he inaugurated earlier in the day.

"The funds for this health centre, that will be welcoming patients as from tomorrow, came from the National Development and Social Fund (NDSF) and in turn from the revenue of the IIP," he said.

The IIP, or Individual Investor Programme, was a scheme that allowed high-net-worth people to purchase Maltese citizenship in return for direct investment into the Maltese economy.

However, a multi-newsroom investigation revealed that many applicants to the scheme simply invested the bare minimum required so as to quickly buy their Maltese passport, in turn gaining entry into the EU market. 

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Robert Abela refused to say whether Malta will allow Russian nationals to buy Maltese citizenship as the EU plans its package of sanctions on Russia after attacking Ukraine.

The Maltese Green Party appealed to both Abela and Opposition leader Bernard Grech that Malta should not be used as a way for Russia to infiltrate Europe.

The scheme was rebranded to Citizenship for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment, and is now run by Community Malta Agency.

'We're putting our money where our mouth is'

Earlier in the activity, Fearne pledged that the party will continue to give public land back to people, as was recently announced for an area at Żonqor Point and for the Marsaskala creek.

During a political activity in Birżebbuġa on Thursday, Fearne said that the Labour Party wants to prioritise the environment more over the coming legislature, vowing to continue returning land for public use. 

"We are putting our money where our mouth is," he said. "We say this concretely - not just because we're dedicating €700 million to the environment over seven years, but also because we've already done this with Żonqor Point."

Prime Minister Robert Abela revealed earlier this month that the American University of Malta will be giving back its right to land in Żonqor Point, instead opting to expand its campus at Smart City.

"Since the environment is a priority, we will give land back to people living in the South of Malta, like what we did with the Marsaskala creek, and how we will continue to do for all Maltese and Gozitans."

Similar to the Żonqor reveal, Abela announced this week that plans for a yacht marina in Marsaskala have been scrapped for good after listing to the people's concerns.

Fearne added that this effort by the Labour PArty will have a positive knock-on effect on people's mental health. "This is a sea change in mentality," he said.

Architect behind Floriana green project will join government design team

Ian Camilleri, the architect who first designed a green overhaul of Floriana's Triq Sant'Anna, will be part of the government design team to transform the main road into a large public space.

"I've been dreaming of this project for the past 10 years," he said while speaking at the political activity. 

He explained that cars will be able to pass underneath the park using an underpass system connecting the Lion Fountain to the Valletta war monument. 

"Modifications would be needed, but it will be the same concept as to what we already have today - it will just be underground."