When Malta was being favourably considered by the British government for possible integration, a certain Lord Balogh, accompanied by Douglas Seers, came here to facilitate a holistic plan for the future of these islands.

Their report, submitted to both the British and local governments during the 1955-8 administration, was not only accepted by subsequent local administrations but they even started implementing it.

The 1955-58 administration, which at the time received £6 to £7 million a year in financial aid from the British, took a number of initiatives.

In Gozo, a massive school building programme was started, the Gozo milk marketing unit was built, a hygiene campaign was launched in schools, free milk was given to students, more medication was provided, roads were asphalted, water dams were built in valleys, new roads were constructed, electricity reached homes and water and drainage systems were installed.

In the meantime, families were being provided with food under the American Marshall Aid programme.

It had also been proposed that MÄ¡arr harbour would be extended so it would also be used in bad weather, that a new hospital and textile factories are built and that new hotels and catering facilities would be provided. There had also been talk of a coast road starting from Qbajjar, work on which began but was never completed.

The Gozo Council also started work on a housing estate in Sannat Road, Victoria.

I wonder whether some of the six Gozitan MPs really exist

These were, in a nutshell, the major plans for Gozo.

Subsequent administrations had worked on the recommendations made but, in general, Gozo was considered to be a rural island with fishing and farming as its main industries.

Thanks to the Balogh report, our islands became a lot better.

On the mainland, many more initiatives were taken and new projects unveiled along the years. On the other hand, many Gozitan women were employed in factories, working 48 hours weekly for just £1.5s a week. Otherwise, Gozo was left on its own, depending on fishing and agriculture.

One major breakthrough for Gozo was the introduction by the Gozo Channel of a 24-hour service. But what was mostly welcomed were the free distribution of many plots to the people, augmented by low lending interests and a governmental grant to the plot owners to help in the building process.

Gozo benefited from the general policies adopted by successive administrations but it never had a holistic plan, except for a mention in the annual Budget.

In truth, the level of education and living standards in Gozo have improved but it is still way behind those enjoyed on the mainland. Studies are likely to show that the GDP gap between the mainland and Gozo has widened not narrowed.

When I was a member of Parliament on the Opposition side, I recall the then Gozo minister continuously saying he had a plan for Gozo. Although inside I believed such a plan had been drafted, truth is it was never ever published. In my opinion, the government of the time did not want it to be published. I can only wonder why.

Gozo remains without a holistic plan, notwithstanding the numerous suggestions made by local councils, individuals and organisations, including NGOs. But these only seem to see as far as their noses.

As I see it, those running Gozo are only patching up the holes that surface. There are no innovative ideas tailor-made for Gozo. A few unscrupulous money-hungry, so-called entrepreneurs are having a field day and Gozitan villages are being destroyed by overdevelopment.

Beaches, the seafront in many areas and certain sites have been taken over by the few and look like one big open restaurant. Public land has become private property. Citizens cannot walk in the streets or on pavements and car parks too are being occupied with tables and chairs.

Is this what the people want? Is this benefiting Gozo or its citizens?

The proposed new Gozo hospital is welcome foreign investment in Gozo that will hopefully also raise the standard of healthcare.

The initiatives aimed at people with disabilities, the disadvantaged and the homeless are very welcome indeed. Gozo has never benefited from such major projects in such a short time.

However, a general holistic plan that would see Gozo through for the next 20, 30 or 40 years remains elusive.

What educational and industrial systems should Gozo look for? Will it be possible for Gozitan university students to follow their courses in Gozo? Is it possible for Gozo to also benefit from the gaming industry? Who will protect the cultural and historic sites that are threatened by greed and stupidity? There are so many issue to be addressed.

Many capable individuals have managed to take these islands to new heights and greater prosperity. I wonder why the residents of for both islands cannot have and  enjoy the same level of progress and standard of living.

Our leaders and those occupying high offices need to take a very good look at the real situation in Gozo. Then, maybe, and I think it is a big maybe, a holistic plan for Gozo could be given some serious thought. After all, Gozo does have six MPs, though I personally wonder if some of them really exist.

Lino DeBono is a former Labour MP.

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