The amendments to the American University of Malta contract and property exchange agreement will be beneficial for everyone, with land being returned to the people for the creation of more green spaces, and also push for more high-quality careers, Prime Minister Robert Abela said on Wednesday. 

Abela was opening a debate in parliament on the land swap deal the government is proposing with Sadeen Group’s American University of Malta and Smart City in Kalkara. 

Resolutions were tabled by Economy Minister Silvio Schembri following months of negotiations with both the AUM and Smart City Malta. 

The exchange will see the controversial university getting a plot of land, measuring more than 31,500 square metres at Smart City and renouncing its title over land it has in Cospicua and Żonqor, in Marsascala. 

Abela said the government was delivering on its promise to push for further investment to improve the people's quality of life in the first 100 days in office following the March general election.

The government was protecting and preserving Marsascala’s environment, creating more green spaces for families. 

While Abela admitted that the AUM project could have been handled better, he said the Sadeen group had invested in the regeneration of a dilapidated building and this led to the regeneration of the whole area in Cospicua. 

“They restored a historic building which had been left abandoned, and while they embellished the building, the whole area went through regeneration, improving Cospicua and turning it into an attraction in the south.”

He said the renegotiated contract with AUM will see the public regain 40,000 square metres of land in Żonqor and 5,000 square metres of land in Cospicua. 

Abela said the new contract will lead to more green projects. The Żonqor land will remain undeveloped while that in Cospicua can be converted into an open space for the community can enjoy.”

He stressed that 30% of the AUM land at Smart City will remain accessible to the public.

Moreover, part of it will also be for other government projects. Smart City is also obliged to construct a hotel, educational premises, and commercial offices. 

The government will be obliged to invest infrastructurally in Smart City and AUM. 

Government protecting interests of friends, investors - Grech

Replying, Opposition leader Bernard Grech said the government was protecting the interests of "friends and investors" rather than the people. 

“Żonqor should have never been taken from the people and the Nationalist Party has been voicing the people's concerns from the very beginning," he said. 

The decision for the land to return to the people proves that it had been right.

“It is clear that you tried to sell a dream, but you gave the country a nightmare,” Grech said.

He questioned the government’s contractual obligations and asked Abela if there are any other ties or "secret agreements" the people should know about. 

“Just because you won the election does not give you the right to do what you please,” he said. 

He said the Nationalist Party will stand with the people and vote against the resolutions. 

“You continue to protect the interests of your friends, but we will continue to protect and be the voice of the people.”

Both motions were approved with 38 votes for and 31 against after a division.

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