An online poll by The Times on whether the hosting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting will be beneficial to Malta has mainly served to raise the ire of the public towards the General Workers' Union, which plans to stage a protest march today.

"It is, indeed, sad that the GWU is going to use this occasion to damage Malta's image internationally. Shame on the GWU!", said one respondent, who believed that CHOGM was a unique opportunity to showcase Malta.

"I hope the GWU does not ruin everything with its childish protest!", said another.

For other respondents, it was a chance for Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi to explain to the Commonwealth countries how "the GWU hibernates while the MLP governs and wakes up when the PN is in power... Shame on this union that is privileged by the MLP leader!"

Respondents said CHOGM was beneficial to Malta but the GWU was not; that CHOGM could help boost the economy but the GWU would not!

CHOGM was seen as being beneficial to the country's tourism industry and as an attraction for entrepreneurs to invest in Malta and create the much-needed jobs. But, unfortunately, "all this could be easily lost if the GWU takes to the streets on the eve of the opening ceremony... I hope the union will shoulder the responsibility for any loss of existing jobs, or potential job creation by sending negative messages to the rest of the world," one respondent said.

CHOGM was considered to be an opportunity of a lifetime, which should be taken seriously, a respondent said. It was a "big marketing opportunity and nothing and nobody should be allowed to disrupt its success. Internal issues should remain so".

Over half the respondents of the poll felt that the hosting of CHOGM will be beneficial to Malta but about 20 per cent thought it was irrelevant and the same amount did not see the event as beneficial to the country.

CHOGM will be good publicity for Malta and will make the headlines on most newspapers and TV stations, according to respondents among the 53.39 per cent who deem the event to be beneficial to the country.

But a respondent who follows the BBC pointed out that the event had not received any coverage from the station and that Lm1.9 million was a hefty price to pay for a supposed three-day coverage.

The expense of the event was not justified by everyone, especially the 20.47 per cent who felt it was not beneficial to Malta. It was considered to be "too much hassle and little return"; "another occasion for the government to squander money"; "the second biggest waste of money after Dar Malta in Brussels" and "too heavy an expenditure, which Malta cannot afford".

One respondent said it would cost the taxpayers a lot of money and the revenue from the event would only go into the pockets of businessmen chosen by the government to feed, accommodate and entertain the delegates.

Some respondents also considered security threats and the possibility and danger of terrorist attacks while, on a more positive note, it was pointed out that "at least the roads get done up this way!"

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