The Malta Developers’ Association is thinking of holding a protest over what it says are failures to reform the construction and development industry. 

MDA president Michael Stivala said the association has been calling for an “equal playing field” for years, but has yet to see adequate progress.

“Discussions are ongoing for a protest to take place, we want reforms just as much as anyone else,” Stivala said during an interview on 103- Malta’s Heart on Saturday morning. 

His comments came moments before demonstrators came together in Valletta to demand action to protect Malta’s environment, change planning policies and increase enforcement. 

“It is being discussed, this protest- I personally prefer discussions, but it is still on the table. These reforms are not only for the benefit of the industry but for the good of the economy and to improve affordability (of housing).”

Stivala said certain proposals made by the MDA have been ignored by the government, though he did not go into further detail.

The MDA boss and top developer has recently made headlines for a number of reasons, from a controversial PA decision to grant him a Gżira hotel permit to his claims during a Times of Malta interview that the island needs more construction to sustain economic prosperity and that developers use NGOs to harm their rivals. 

He said the MDA has been calling for a revision of the 2006 local plans and that the association has been calling for the licensing of building contractors for five years - a licensing system which will kick off next month after years of government stalling. 

As citizens gathered in Valletta to protest against the over-development of the island, Stivala said the increase in buildings is a result of the island’s economic growth. 

“There are more buildings because our economy is growing,” he said. “The pressure for property is not coming from the developer, the demand is coming from society, a society that has changed drastically.”

Stivala said it is landowners who put pressure on the government to develop ODZ land. He said many landowners try to “convince” the government and developers to build on their land.  

Comino development 

Questioned about the Comino hotel and bungalows project, Stivala said the project is beneficial to the country and will attract more tourists. 

Hili Ventures has said that overall the total land area of their new hotel will be reduced by 5,122 square metres, with no planned land reclamation, though the built-up area will be densely developed than the previous development.

NGOs have nevertheless rallied support to oppose the project

Asked if Malta needs more construction and tourists on Comino, Stivala pushed back, asking whether the current situation at Comino was acceptable. The old Comino Hotel and bungalow site currently lies derelict. 

He said it was not feasible to say the government should buy back the land, arguing people's taxes should be used for "other social issues".  

High-rises decreased not increased 

Stivala also pushed back against criticism of the MDA concerning high-rise buildings. 

The association was at the forefront of lobbying to ensure that specific zones are earmarked for high-rise buildings, he said. 

“Before the policy, even Mdina could have been earmarked for a tower,” he said. 

“In reality, since we worked with the government on the policy of high-rise buildings, these towers did not increase but were reduced. MDA has done a lot of good.”

Asked why citizens are protesting against developers, Stivala said the people’s anger is a result of the “volume” of developments. 

“They are angry because there is so much traffic. But people must understand, all we are doing is buying land from the people. We do not have the power to change measures, we are not the government.”

Developers have most 'risky' career

Stivala continued that developers are negotiators, who like other businesses, have expenses and commitments. 

"As an industry, I believe developers are the ones that take most risks, and that invest in money," he said. 

"Developers buy land from the landowner, and that landowner pushes us to build more and more, and then when we apply in line for what we have bought, we are accused."

"Could you imagine buying a product and then when you come to use it, you are accused of using it," he asked.

He said the system is built on Maltese and Gozitan families who sell their land to be developed.

"We continue to call for reforms that help and benefit the quality of life of people," he said.

Questioned about engaging Joseph Muscat as a consultant, Stivala refused to comment as he was representing the association during the interview, not himself personally. 

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