Malta Developers’ Association head Michael Stivala recently gave a long interview to Times of Malta in which he outlined the lobby’s vision for the construction sector in Malta.

It made for sad reading indeed. While excessive construction and the state of the environment are increasingly worrying citizens – so much so that they are now among the top concerns in surveys – Stivala spoke of the need for more construction, foreign workers and tourists.

It could be that the MDA head is blissfully unaware of the present situation, whereby the country has turned into a permanent construction site, a result of the unregulated race to the highest storey which, in 2022 alone, saw an average of 26 new dwellings daily being approved by the Planning Authority.

As for tourists, the last three years have seen the majority of them caught in traffic and waking up to the sound of building works.

Stivala himself has come under fire for a number of developments, such as the controversial Gżira hotel permit granted to him by a three-person PA commission, a town in which the Stivala Group’s interests dominate to the detriment of the residents and their community.

Not only does Stivala ignore the plight of thousands of citizens subjected, without respite, to the onslaught of over­development, not only have his lobby’s members, especially those on the MDA’s board, benefitted from dubious land concessions (such as that in Qortin, Mellieħa) and are proposing monstrous buildings (such as the Villa Rosa deve­lopment in St Julian’s) to serve an inexistent demand for hotel beds but he has the cheek to claim that the government is hampering business with “red tape” and that he has to pay a fifth in tax.

All the while, the lobby is intent on denying there’s a slowdown in the pro­perty market, verging into the surreal whenever Stivala tries to rubbish the disconcerting findings of numerous studies. Auditors paint another picture: a KPMG report confirms that the standard Maltese household is priced out of the market. Another by Deloitte states that Malta needs 4.7 million tourists to occupy 80 per cent of the currently available hotel beds.

In the midst of all this, the government has gladly served some leading businesses with land concessions, such as Fortina’s marina in Sliema, the ODZ Lidl in Żebbuġ and a change of conditions for EORC’s chicken farm, which can now be developed into a five-storey industrial building after a change of the local plans in 2021. Other informal land grabs are the order of the day, with government bodies, such as the Lands Authority, maintaining a shroud of secrecy over its operations.

In addition to complaining about fictitious slowdowns in the construction machine due to an invisible roll of red tape, Stivala found time to resurrect an old proposal of Sandro Chetcuti’s, whereby developers would be allowed to build more storeys in exchange for preserving Urban Conservation Areas and town cores.

This would result in UCAs being engulfed by pencil developments, in additional pressures on ODZ areas. The lack of any buffer zones, in the light of the damage that has already been done, makes this proposal nothing short of shocking.

Here, too, the MDA ignores the concerns of residents and resuscitates a ridiculous proposal to hold UCAs hostage in exchange for a further relaxa­tion of height limitations and “bureaucracy”, which seems to be on Stivala’s mind all the time.

One wonders whether Prime Minis­ter Robert Abela will, once again, give in to Stivala’s demands with more tweaking of the rules in the back room, in what would be another unsurprising display of servility to a lobby of greed.

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