Simon’s ODZ bluff

Simon Busuttil.Zonqor2


20 January is the closing date for the submission of expressions of interest in response to the call by the Privatisation Unit for the setting up of a Motorsports complex in Malta.

During the press conference that launched the call on 29 September, Parliamentary Secretary for Sport Chris Agius emphasised the fact that the choice of location was up to the investors presenting the submissions, even though several sites were proposed in the consultation process leading up to the call for expressions of interest.

However, Sam Collins, writing on 25 April last year on an online motor-racing guide, under the heading Malta eyes Formula 1 with new circuit stated that a “110 hectare parcel of land has been earmarked for the development.”  It is pretty obvious that the as yet unidentified  “110 hectare parcel of land” to be used for this proposed motorsports complex will be situated outside the development zone (ODZ). Each hectare consists of 10,000 square metres, meaning that 110 hectares equals one million, one hundred thousand square metres.

Sam Collins describes the proposal in this manner: “The government documents relating to the circuit’s development point out that part of its purpose would be to attract major international racing series, including Formula 3 and similar classes. The proposed facility would also include facilities for concerts, conferencing and a racing school. A hotel and museum of motoring and transport heritage would also be built on site. Road safety and driver training would play a major part in the facility’s layout, with a dedicated area for these activities. A CIK Kart circuit would also be built alongside the main track.”

The basic question which had to be addressed – but which most obviously has not been addressed so far – is whether Malta can afford to waste this much land. The answer, in my opinion, irrespective of the number of motor-racing car enthusiasts on the island, is clear and unequivocal: Malta cannot waste any more of its limited land.

The sites that have been possibly earmarked are limited in number, as Malta’s size does not present too many options and the impact of the selected site will be substantial, irrespective of its current use.

Development on the  parcel of land selectedcould have a substantial impact on areas of ecological importance that are protected either in terms of local policy or else as a result of EU or international commitments. Knowing that most of the undeveloped land along Malta’s coastline from Bengħajsa right up to Ċirkewwa is protected for ecological purposes, this could be the case, particularly if the identified parcel of land is close to the coast.

The impact could be further increased in view of the possible proximity of the selected parcel of land to residential areas. A specific area, mentioned consistently through the grapevine, would lump these impacts on Malta’s political south, further adding to the disregard for residents’ quality of life in the region accumulated over the years.

There are, therefore, three issues on the basis of which the proposed facility is objectionable: firstly, that Malta is too small for such a development; secondly, that the environmental impact will be substantial and thirdly, that the neighbouring residents’ quality of life, as well as biodiversity and natural resources, will be bartered for short term economic gain.

Depending on the precise eventual location, it may be possible to mitigate and reduce the impact on residents. However, it is most probable that a reduced impact on residents would signify increased impact on natural resources and biodiversity. In my opinion, this signifies that even on the drawing board the project should have been a non-starter.

In recent months we have had the Żonqor “University” debacle. A major sticking point in that case was that the original proposal was to use land situated outside the ODZ and public opinion’s unifying reaction was “No to ODZ development”.

The Parliamentary Opposition, both inside and outside Parliament, took a clear stand against the ODZ Development proposed at Żonqor. Yet in the case of the proposed motor track facility, the Opposition Spokesperson on Sport, David Agius, was invited to be present when the call for expressions of interest was launched. His presence confirms that, notwithstanding Simon Busuttil’s solemn declarations on the sanctity of ODZ land, the proposal for the (ODZ) motor track facility enjoys bipartisan support.

Which means that Simon’s talk on ODZ is just bluff.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 3 January 2016

A step in the right direction

The presentation by maverick MP Franco Debono of a motion requesting that Parliament and the Auditor General should examine the proposal that government takes over St Philip’s Hospital is a step in the right direction.

The decision for government to take over the private hospital was taken after negotiations between auditing firms representing government and the hospital owners concluded terms for an eight year lease with the option to purchase. No call for tenders was issued. The hospital owner however issued a call for an expression of interest in the acquisition of the hospital.

There are various matters which the Auditor General should examine.

First: is the proposed takeover of St Philip’s Hospital value for money or is it a political gimmick on the eve of general elections?

Second : isn’t the proposal to take over St Philip’s Hosptal just a confirmation of bad planning involved in the development of Mater Dei Hospital which has resulted in its being too small for the country’s needs so soon after being finalised?  Who was responsible for the Mater Dei brief which has resulted in wards bursting at the seams and  hospital corridors being transformed into wards? Who will shoulder political responsibility for this failure?

Third: is it right for government to negotiate with those who are in breach of the Companies Act through non-submission of audited accounts for a number of years?

Four companies are involved in St Philip’s Hospital. All of them have not submitted audited accounts for a number of years as can be noted through the list of documents available online  at the Registry of Companies. The Golden Shepherd Group Ltd   (C 14948) has last submitted its audited accounts on July 15, 2008. Private Health Investment Ltd (C 24386) has last submitted its audited accounts on February 1, 2007. Medicaid Ltd (C 5283) has last submitted its audited accounts on September 14, 2007. Biomed Laboratory Ltd (C 14303) has last submitted its audited accounts on October 12, 2007.

The Golden Shepherd Group is owned by Frank Portelli, Private Health Investment Ltd and Medicaid Ltd.  Private Health Investment Ltd is owned by Medicaid Ltd and Biomed Laboratory Ltd.  Medicaid Ltd is owned by Frank Portelli whilst Biomed laboratory Ltd is owned by Frank Portelli and Medicaid Ltd.

I await the Auditor General’s conclusions!   I also look forward to Dr Frank Portelli’s comments on government’s health policy and its implementation.

first published on Friday 12 October 2012

Frank Portelli : il-mument tal-verita’

Il-Gvern jagħmel sew jekk isib mod kif jista’ jagħmel użu bl-aħjar mod tal-faċilitajiet tal-Isptar St Philip’s, propjeta’ tat-Tabib Frank Portelli.

Biex jagħmel dan iżda għandu l-obbligu li jsegwi r-regoli finanzjarji. Fosthom li jrid joħroġ tender pubblika. Minkejja li jidher li n-negozjati mat-Tabib Frank Portelli jinsabu fi stadju avvanzat tant li bdew ħerġin id-dettalji fil-gazzetti s’issa ma ħarget l-ebda tender pubblika. Ħarġet biss expression of interest f’isem il-kumpanija reġistrata bħala sid l-isptar. Sid l-isptar talab sottomissjonijiet minn min hu interessat li jieħu l-isptar f’idejh!

M’għandi l-ebda dubju li t-Tabib Frank Portelli jkun irid li jsir kollox above board.  S’issa jidher li hu mexa sewwa imma l-Gvern għal darba oħra miexi b’disprezz lejn ir-regoli finanzjarji.

Dejjem hekk jagħmel il-Gvern lejliet l-elezzjoni. (Id-darba l-oħra kien imiss lill-MEPA għal bosta irregolaritajiet lejlet l-elezzjoni!) Dan hu ħażin u għandu jkun it-Tabib Frank Portelli l-ewwel wieħed li jsemma’ leħnu fuq hekk. Wara kollox kien Frank li kontinwament semma’ leħnu kontra l-irregolaritajiet.

Jiena naf lil Frank bħala persuna serja. Nittama li ma jiddiżappuntanix.

Għal Frank dan hu l-mument tal-verita!