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Freezing government funds for the construction of a new tourism school in Smart City will be “a huge blow” for the industry, a catering lobby group said.

The Association of Catering Establishments (ACE) was reacting to news reports suggesting a freeze on large public investments as a result of spiralling energy subsidies.

The Sunday Times of Malta reported yesterday that government was planning to freeze expenditure on several large infrastructural projects entirely funded by national funds.

The move, which the newspaper claimed includes the Institute for Tourism Studies new campus at Smart City, is intended to save on expenditure as government continues to subsidise electricity and fuel costs.

“Whilst ACE remains prudent to wait for the government to confirm such news, it insists that the freezing of the ITS project would be a huge blow for the catering industry and the tourism sector at large, especially when one keeps in mind the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine war,” the organisation said on Monday.

It said the decision would add “insult to injury” for a sector struggling to identify and attract enough talent.

“One should keep in mind that the ITS project plays a fundamental role in the government's goal to attract and develop more talent as well as ensure opportunities for upskilling for all those who operate in the catering industry,” ACE said, adding that the ITS project is part of the government's educational goals set in its Budget 2022.

The lobby group said it hoped common sense will prevail and the project will not be shelved.

Earlier this summer, the Planning Authority gave its green light to the project that will be built on a portion of land at Smart City.

ITS currently operates from a campus in Luqa that was Air Malta’s former head office. The campus was supposed to be a temporary move until the Smart City campus is built. ITS used to operate from a building in St George’s Bay, Paceville, before the land was sold off by the government to the DB Group for the construction of two residential towers, a hotel and commercial outlets.

Government has been cushioning the blow of rising energy prices by subsidising electricity and fuels. However, a €200 million cushion identified in last year’s budget when the Ukraine war was not a thing, is proving to not be enough, forcing the Finance Minister to seek expenditure cuts from elsewhere.

Electricity and fuel prices in Malta have remained stable unlike those in other European countries where consumers have been shouldering the brunt of rising gas prices as a result of supply disruptions from Russia.

European sanctions against Russia seek to wean the continent of Russian gas and oil but in retaliation, Russia has closed off gas supplies, in what promises to a bleak winter for the continent.


Autor(en)/Author(s): Kurt Sansone

Quelle/Source: malta today, 05.09.2022

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