- Published: 23 August 2023
Our economic model is based on speculation, profit margins, and the unquestioned theft of public resources. It must change
Smart City in Kalkara is set to be transformed into an 11-storey hotel after the Planning Authority approved the outline development permit for 250 rooms, accompanied by the usual “ancillary facilities.” Right next to it, another block will house anywhere from 95 to 128 residential units.
The Smart City project was a much-trumpeted ICT hub dreamt up by the Nationalist administration, but it was another grey elephant which would never take flight – just like many other dubious ‘investments’ which would never materialise such as Blockchain Island or the American ‘University’ of Malta.
Interestingly, the Planning Directorate cited a change in demographical trends over the last 20 years, thus the original concept of Smart City Malta as an ICT hub became outdated.
The need for the construction of residences as opposed to offices was therefore used as a justification for the granting of the development permit.
Curiously, the Planning Directorate forgot to quote a study by the MHRA which stated that 4.7 million tourists are needed to sustain the existing stock of hotel beds; this means that the industry does not need the construction of new hotels.
This also jars with recent statements from government wings about the need to change the economic model, possibly the real reason behind the alleged tense arguments in cabinet; in fact, the authorities plough on with the approval of anything related to construction as if there’s no tomorrow.
Sadly, not only did the Kalkara local council not submit feedback during the consultation, but even held back from attending the hearing.
The residents’ representatives abdicated their duty to represent those who elected them in a Labour constituency which will suffer the sprawl of what is now less than a smart city.
Mayor Wayne Aquilina has often been pictured in the company of Environment Minister Miriam Dalli, from the opening of the “first carbon-neutral garden” to backscratching on social media. It’s a bit like the much more contentious situation in Nigret, where Dalli made no effort to protect unbuilt land from unnecessary development despite the evident anger of her constituency; for the political class, silence is essential whenever private interests are involved.
There was no intervention from the neighbouring Xgħajra local council either. The once-idyllic seaside town will be dwarfed by huge developments to which mayor Neil Attard gave his consent, overturning his predecessor’s objections. Attard enjoys photo opportunities and funding from Alison Zerafa Civelli, the Parliamentary Secretary for Local Government, for whom he doubles up as a canvasser.
There is no doubt the residents of Kalkara and Xgħajra have had their fill of construction, as has happened in many other Labour-led constituencies. To add insult to injury, their local representatives have shied away from their duties, if not worked against their electorate’s interests.
This, together with the dam of political omertà on planning issues, is further proof of the ruling class’ unwillingness not just to change the economy, but to righten part of the many wrongs in the sector.
It is ironic how the government is spearheading a €700m urban greening campaign which has yielded a fraction of the open spaces lost to urbanisation. In the meantime, the promise to buy back land for open spaces has been buried. Planning blunders such as the rationalisation exercise remain untouched, and there’s the possibility of further pro-development tweaks introduced by stealth during the summer lull.
But this is the real economic model that nobody wants to change: one based on speculation, profit margins, and the unquestioned theft of public resources.
Quelle/Source: Times of Malta, 16.08.2023