Originally I was in favour of the Malta-Gozo tunnel but the more educated I have become on the subject, the more I am convinced that the government is deceiving people into believing that this tunnel is the right thing to do and that it will be financially viable.
A national mega project of this size has significant financial and far-reaching environmental implications and the decision taken to issue a call for procurement is radically flawed.
The procedure adopted may even go against European Union Directive 2001/42/EC. The 2015 report on Economic Cost Benefit Analysis of Available Strategic Options does not evaluate the true capital cost per kilometre of the 14-kilometre tunnel.
Moreover, it does not factor in the actual cost and the environmental degradation of the one million cubic metres of inert waste that is to be excavated and dumped at sea or used for land reclamation. It is further noted that neither the Planning Authority nor the Environmental Resource Authority has tangibly resolved the huge issue of the present disposal of construction waste, let alone what is to be produced.
Malta lacks an overarching National Architectural Policy and thus we also lack nation-wide strategic planning.
No amount of rhetoric will convince the public that this government is going to follow best practices
Yet, the government has given the green light, approving a mega project prior to the approval of a sustainable strategy on the disposal of such waste and a robust mass transportation system for Malta and Gozo.
The Project Description Statement issued in May 2018 suggests that the cost of tunnel and road projects could be much higher than those indicated by the cost benefit analysis.
In my opinion, the total cost is bound to double as this government is renowned for its poor procurement, its lack of ethical correctness in the supervision of projects and a ‘solve as it comes’ attitude when it encounters technical difficulties.
Parliament will today discuss a motion presented by the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects Ian Borg and Minister for Gozo Justyne Caruana.
This motion argues that the project must go through because both the Labour Party and Nationalist Party electoral manifestos are for a permanent link and thus a people’s mandate has been sealed.
This evening one expects that the government will table all relevant documentation including the unpublished geological studies and the information submitted by the Norwegian Road Transport Authority, the terms and conditions of the proposed contract and then explain how the Malta Development Bank is going to subsidise such a project, and whether the taxpayers are going to fork out the money to guarantee this project, as in the case of Electrogas.
No amount of rhetoric will convince the public that this government is going to follow best practices as stated in the motion or that it will not anti-legally manoeuvre through the set of regulations or laws. It has a notorious reputation for that, not to mention its lack of transparency and accountability.
What surprises me is that this government does not call a spade a spade but wants to bulldoze ahead with an electoral pledge that does not seem to hold economic and environmental sustainability in mind.
The Maltese public needs to be informed. We have had enough of pseudo public policies which are a cover for vote grabbing or give rise to pro-shady business deals.
Godfrey Farrugia is leader of the Democratic Party.
This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece