Alfred Sant: db project approval a huge mistake

Labour MEP Alfred Sant has slammed the economic model that sees public land being passed on cheaply to developers for the construction of luxury apartments under the guise of tourism projects

Alfred Sant has said the db project approval was a 'huge mistake'
Alfred Sant has said the db project approval was a 'huge mistake'

The db project planning permit was a “huge mistake” and a “disaster” in terms of public interest, former prime minister Alfred Sant said.

“The project will form part of a series of disasters in terms of the public interest, that have included among others Chambrai, Tigne Point and Smart City,” Sant said in a hard-hitting blog published today on The Malta Independent.

The Labour MEP lamented the fact that no Maltese government has learnt from experience, insisting his criticism of the project was not based only on the fact that public land given up by the government was valued “in cents”.

Sant was critical of the economic model that saw private entities acquire public land on the cheap under the guise of some tourism project that included the construction of luxury apartments for rich clients.

READ ALSO: PA board approves 38-storey db Group development

He said that such projects often failed to stand on their own and the consequences on the environment, the infrastructure, the historical heritage and other qualitative aspects of contemporary life end up being “totally ignored”.

“Some people though end up making huge profits from the whole arrangement,” he added.

The db project includes a residential tower with 38 levels and a 17-storey hotel and commercial outlets. It will be built on public land that housed a tourism school and was handed over to the developer for €15 million.

The project got the Planning Authority’s green light last Thursday amid widespread dismay in the Pembroke community. The Labour-led Pembroke council opposed the project but government’s representative on the PA board, MP Clayton Bartolo, voted in favour. The Nationalist Party representative, MP Marthese Portelli voted against.

However, Sant was not only criticial of the project but also the economic model that underpinned such developments.

He argued that tourism policy should go back to giving incentives, exclusively for tourism-related projects.

“The time has come to go back to an incentives policy for tourism similar to the one that was in force during the 1960s and the 1970s. If public land is going to be delivered on the cheap and under favourable conditions for a tourism project, this has to consist exclusively of a tourism proposal and should not be attached to the additional establishment of residential or commercial development. Land for the latter should be paid for at full market rates,” he said.

The Labour MEP said that anyone claiming that such a scheme will not attract new tourism facilities or encourage the refurbishment of existing facilities, was affectively arguing that tourism in Malta was “only viable if doubly subsidised”.

“That is hardly an encouraging conclusion for an economic sector which happens to be the second largest in the country,” Sant said.

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