Minister confident on job creation in Gozo

Speaking on Reporter, Gozo minister Anton Refalo says government's plans to create new jobs in Gozo are on track.

Gozo was under the spotlight in tonight's edition of Reporter with Gozo minister Anton Refalo insisting that government was attracting a number of new industries to Gozo, with an IT company set to open shop in Gozo and create new jobs.  

Refalo and Nationalist Party candidate Kevin Cutajar were tonight's guests on Reporter which addressed a number of issues intrinsically linked to the island of Gozo, including employment, accessibility, tourism and the environment.

Recognizing that previous PN governments had successfully attracted EU funds and created a University campus in Gozo, Refalo said that successive PN administrations had failed to create jobs in Gozo.

He added that the government was also creating new jobs by moving back office work from Malta to Gozo. Moreover, the minister said that the private sector is vital in creating jobs in Gozo because "it can do what the state cannot do."

Citing the recent expression of interest for the private sector issued for the construction of a new residence for the elderly and the new court, Refalo said that the government and the private sector will be working together to create new jobs.

While insisting that government had so far failed to make it clear what its plans for Gozo was, Cutajar said that the country must be realistic and realize that in recent years the aspirations of Gozitans are different from what they were in the past, adding "we cannot expect Gozo to have the capacity to create jobs for each and every Gozitan."

Turning to accessibility issue, Refalo refused to say what his preference was in regards to linking Malta and Gozo with a bridge or a tunnel, stressing that a decision can only be taken after environmental, social and economic studies are carried out on a permanent link.

"It's about time to seriously consider the construction of a permanent link between Malta and Gozo," Cutajar said, stressing that Gozo's isolation meant that many Gozitans had to travel to Malta to study and work.

Presented by MediaToday Managing Editor Saviour Balzan, the programme looked at why the PN for the first time in decades no longer holds a majority of seats in what was once considered an infrangible Nationalist fortress.

"The PN has received the message and we have understood it," Cutajar said, stressing that the election was not won by Labour "but it was lost by the PN."

The two guests found common ground in defending the island's residents with both agreeing that Gozo was no different when it came to hunting and tax evasion.

Refalao and Cutajar denied that Gozo was lawless and agreed that the laws which applied to Malta also applied to Gozo.

In a MaltaToday survey published in October, Refalo's performance was judged negatively by 22% of respondents, the highest negative rating received by a minister in the survey.

Touching on a number of controversies he was involved in, Refalo said that he never ordered a Gozo Channel ferry boat to return to pick him up, pointing out that he only expected the boat to carry passengers on its way to Gozo "for the sake of the other people waiting in the line next to me."

In recent weeks Refalo faced accusations of impropriety, after a Gozo Channel ship, which had left shore empty was ordered back to pick up a small group of people, which included Refalo.

Refalo has also faced questions on his ministerial declaration of assets, which included an €830,000 loan, though he declared a joint annual income of €45,000.

A lawyer by profession, he hit back at criticism over his declaration of assets by saying that he did not work for 18 months since his father was seriously ill.

"I have no qualm in being criticised but what I am concerned with is the opposition's ideas and policies for Gozo," Refalo retorted.



Will the Hon. Minister stop working if another of his family becomes seriously ill?