Gozo accessibility discussion taken up by questions on Chinese company's interest in Malta

Prime Minister 'urges' Opposition to show it was in favour of investment from China.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat wonders whether the Opposition was in favour of a bridge or not.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat wonders whether the Opposition was in favour of a bridge or not.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat turned tables on the Opposition when he expressed his hope that the opposition "had nothing against" foreign investment from China. 

The majority of this evening's plenary session was taken up by a discussion on the proposed feasibility study for a Gozo bridge - or rather on the Chinese company which has offered to do the study free of charge.

Questions were raised as to whether the government knew the company was blacklisted and to explain what this company would gain from the study.

"I urge the Opposition to send a clear message that it had nothing against the Chinese government showing interest in investing in Malta. It was the Chinese government which approached us, suggesting this company should carry out a feasibility study," he said, adding that the government needed to be flexible in attracting foreign investment.

At the same time, he reiterated that the government was not bound to opt for the China Communications Construction Company if it were decided that a bridge should be developed to increase accessibility between Malta and Gozo.

Muscat expressed his "disappointment" over still not knowing whether the opposition was in favour of a bridge or a tunnel or both. He said, that before presenting the public with a referendum, the government needed all feasibility studies studying the best options for a fixed link to be concluded.

"Yet, I still don't know whether the Opposition is in favour of a bridge or not. We have before us an important opportunity to discuss connectivity and instead we faced an onslaught on the agreement signed," he said.

The Prime Minister said he felt like the Opposition was telling him to "apologise" on government's success in having managed to obtain a favourable agreement for the Maltese Islands. "Their [oppostion's] feedback is that 'it's too good to be true' because the number one contractor in China, owned by the Chinese government showed an interest in us."

Reacting to questions on whether he knew the company was blacklisted by the World Bank, Muscat noted that - contrary to the Lahmeyer saga - this Chinese company was not a consultant and the government was not paying it as a consultant.

"We do not have any obligations, which shows this government's diligence. We are also comforted by the fact that there is parallel feasibility study, financed by the Europeam Union, which is looking at all fixed link options," he said.

Muscat confirmed that during all meetings held between the government and the company, an official representing the Chinese government was present. He also reassured the House that the Auditor General had analysed and proposed changes before the MoU before was signed.

According to the Memorandum of Understanding signed on Friday, the Chinese company shall present the government with a detailed feasibility study for a fixed link between Malta and Gozo within a period of 12 months from the date of signing the MoU. The understanding is that China Communications Construction Company Ltd shall complete the study "free of any charge" to the government and the government shall not be obliged to pay CCCC any charges or other expenses.

In his intervention, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil said he was surprised that the Prime Minister failed to refer to the company's debarment by the World Bank until 2017, as revealed by MaltaToday. The same company, he said, was facing cases in Malaysia over conspiracy and fraud.

"Did the Prime Minister know that the company was blacklisted? Did he carry out the necessary research? A Google search immediately leads you to the news that this company was blacklisted," he said.

Busuttil asked whether the government questioned what was in it for the Chinese government.

Both Nationalist MPs Marthese Portelli and Ryan Callus pointed out that according to the MoU, the designs included in the study "were the intellectually property of CCCC" and may be only used by the government for the implementation of the project by mutual agreement between the two parties. At one point, Portelli also asked why the signature of Liu Lingzhong, deputy general managers of the company, did not appear in the MoU even though his name was listed.

MP Tonio Fenech asked how the prime minister arrived to the €4 million figure when nothing in the MoU referred to figures. Like his colleagues, Fenech questioned what was in for the Chinese company especially when it appeared that the government could be restricted in his use of the feasibility study. Fenech also asked how far was the Chinese government involved in the agreement.

In his ministerial statement, Muscat said government was looking at various options to increase connectivity between Malta and Gozo including a fast-ferry service, a helicopter and a small airplane service.

"We are a government that shows we are ready to get things moving. We are a government who is ready to listen to the Gozitans and take decisions," Muscat said.

Simon u Tonio inkwetati li permezz tal-bridge ta bejn Malta u Ghawdex ic-Cinizi se jinvadu l-Ewropa. Imsieken kemm ihobbu jaqilqghu storms in a tea cup. Dawn in-nies ghadhom l-istess. Ma jixtiequx li jaraw dan il-pajjiz jimxi l-quddiem. Jghidu li nbidlu, imma bhal camaleonte jibdlu l-kulur fejn jaqblilhom u jergghu lura ghal-kulur ahdar originali taghhom.
As usual, the PN Opposition clutches at straws. Any large international company wanting to obtain any contracts in Third World countries (i.e. all of Africa, most of Asia and even in some European countries) may ONLY do so on the strength of "inducements", "sweeteners", bribes and what have you and probably much more substantial inducements than - say - normal wall clocks, free travel to see football matches etc. Obviously these companies become automatically blacklisted by various organisations but such blacklisting is par for the course because otherwise nothing would get done anywhere in the world. Therefore, a big fuss about nothing in the face of having nothing to make a big fuss about. When in Government the PN did not show the same assiduous zeal in investigating the Swedish tobacco company, snus and other implications but were quite willing to condemn ex-EU Commissioner John Dalli (and an ex-PN Minister) as being "guilty as charged" without making even the minimal effort to defend his reputation. This is hypocrisy by the ton and even greater hypocrisy by Simon Busuttil who was then a Euro MP. ALBERT FENECH - Qawra
Muscat should go for it and has nothing to be ashamed of considering that no 'arloggi' tal-lira are involved; neither free flights to watch Arsenal playing football in Spain! Ara fuq il-Lahmayer International(owner tal-BWSC) li inqabdet tikkorrompi ministri tal-Gvern ta Lesotho, biex jixtru l- heavy fuel oil power station taghha: SimonPN jinxfilhom ilsienhom! SimonPN more of the same and a return to the past! Ifthu pagna gdida ghidu latanija ta mea culpa ghal hames snin qabel ma nibdew nemmnukom!
By coincidence the world's longest bridge was today opened in China! It is 6.2miles long over the sea and has six car lanes. Lets go for it. We will save millions in ships,fast catamarans,helicopters and can hop over to Gozo in under an hour from all over Malta just imagine the business boost Gozo and Malta will get. The PN took 12 years studying a minor bridge from Zebbug to Siggiewi and did nothing!
Take up the challenge TeamPN, come out and say it.....