[WATCH] Alex Borg: ‘The PN won back Gozo because the PL failed Gozitans’

The PN’s spokesperson for Gozo is a rising star in politics and buoyed by recent success for his party in European and local elections, Alex Borg tells Matthew Farrugia that more people are now willing to join the bandwagon

PN MP Alex Borg (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
PN MP Alex Borg (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

The Nationalist Party has regained the trust of the majority of Gozitans due to Labour’s failures to improve their quality of life, PN Gozo spokesperson Alex Borg believes. 

This is Borg’s assessment of the success the PN had in Gozo in European and local elections last month. 

Borg is one of the PN’s greatest assets in Gozo and in this interview, he says that despite the PL flipping the island in 2017, Gozitans feel forgotten by the current administration. Borg says he is “someone who knows the challenges young Gozitans are facing” and which have been neglected by the government. 

The MEP and local council election results have reignited hope within party structures, he tells me, resulting in more people contributing to the PN. 

Despite this, Borg admits the PN still needs time to position itself as a governing party. He outlines how the party is holding meetings with various stakeholders from all walks of life so that they can build the PN’s vision for the islands. 

The road is not one bereft of pitfalls. I challenge Borg on the construction and business lobbies that remain dominating players in Malta’s political ecosystem, as he defends his vote of approval for a 2005 concession on Fort Chambray to be transferred to another private party which aims to build a five-star hotel, apartments and shops within the historic Għajnsielem fort.

The following are excerpts from the interview. 

The full interview can also be viewed on Facebook and Spotify.

The PN has succeeded in winning a majority of votes in Gozo. What do you think led to this? 

…These are positive results but that doesn’t mean we’re there yet. We have much to do because we have to understand what brought about the result and how to address shortcomings. At the end of the day, this wasn’t a general election, you have to understand how and why people voted as they did. There are various reasons behind the change in Gozo. Gozo’s hospital comes to mind. To this day we’re still left with the same hospital that has been there for years. There was no investment in the hospital and that’s certainly a factor behind the result because Gozitans were left without a hospital and patients had to go to Malta to be treated. 

We’ve been hearing about, ‘quality work for Gozitans in Gozo’, for years now, it’s become a buzzword. When Justyne Caruana was minister (for Gozo) there was an investment in the Gozo Innovation Hub. The idea behind it was to have this hub in Xewkija where they would try to incentivise companies to relocate… Today there aren’t more than four companies, and they don’t employ more than 20 people between them… 

On top of that you have the decadent state of roads in Gozo. The fourth ferry, we’ve been promised a new fourth ferry which hasn’t arrived yet. Instead, the PL government gave us a second-hand ferry that’s costing us about €13,000 per day… It’s clear evidence that for the PL, Gozo isn’t a priority…

You’ve mentioned a lot of factors, but it seems that a lot of them are what the PL didn’t do. But what do Gozitans want the PN to deliver? 

Gozitans, like Maltese, want peace of mind. The majority of people don’t want anything extraordinary; they want to live in a country where they’re comfortable and they’re assured that future generations can live in peace. We’ve recently seen surveys that say that 70% of young people want to leave Malta to live or work abroad. I’d say the figure is higher in Gozo. The brain drain we’ve seen in Gozo is drastic, the majority of youths need, not want, to leave Gozo. It’s because of a lack of quality work, a lack of investment in the Gozo university campus and other reasons… 

Imagine a government that incentivises companies in Malta to open ancillary companies in Gozo. Imagine the Gozo Innovation Hub having various government departments so that Gozitan workers who work in Malta can work from Gozo. A PN government guarantees that from its first day in government, it will invest to build a new hospital that Gozitans deserve and avoid having them going to Malta for care. PN governments have track records of investments in all major roads in Gozo, and the PN will keep investing in all Gozitan roads.

Many Maltese and Gozitans are irked with the transfer of public land to private interests. Despite this, the PN and PL have voted to allow Fort Chambray to be transferred once again to private interests so that it can be developed... Don’t you think this gives credence to those who say that the two parties are driven by the same interests? 

These are questions that I received after they read news articles which weren’t completely true… You said that this public land was given to the private sector, but the problem is that this was already private land. In 2005, through a concession, government gave the Chambray land to the private sector as freehold, meaning that it was made private, except for the historic aspects of the fort, which remain government property. The rest is private land…

But as you say it was given up by a different PN government... 

But this was given to the private sector for investment. This is a clear example of what we want in Gozo, while safeguarding Gozitan identity. The investors won’t build blocks of flats in Chambray, they won’t build some road in the middle of it, but they will invest to attract quality tourists to Gozo. They [the investors] are guaranteeing that they’ll do what government has failed to do, which was to repair the fortifications. The fortifications are completely dilapidated nowadays, so much so that if no investment is made, the walls could collapse or remain in a decadent state…

A few days ago, Moviment Graffitti entered Joseph Portelli’s property in Qala where, among other things, there were illegal swimming pools and took direct action on the site. Do you agree with this direct action? 

Moviment Graffitti undoubtedly does great work, and I believe they have an important role to play. If these pools were built illegally and in a way that they damage Gozitan identity, I believe that the necessary actions must be taken. Today there are procedures to determine what’s going to happen to the pools, and if their permits should be removed, then they should be removed.

They were built illegally in fact, as when the appeal was underway, Joseph Portelli kept building... 

I don’t like attacking individuals but if these swimming pools were built illegally, I believe that the permit should be removed, and the area restored back to the way it was before.