Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has defended the controversial Central Link road project, saying there was a clear bottleneck in the area which gave rise to more emissions.

The Central Link project, which will make way for a wider thoroughfare leading from Rabat through Attard to Mrieħel, has drawn objections from several residents, farmers and activists who are concerned about the environmental impact of the project. 

The €55 million project will see Infrastructure Malta uproot almost 550 trees – half of which are protected species. 

Around 30,000 people drive through the area every day, Dr Muscat said.

Speaking during a short radio interview on Sunday, Dr Muscat said Attard and Balzan residents have long complained about the traffic in the area. 

He said he had been concerned about the initial plans for the project, which, he said, had been drawn up in 2006, but that amendments to the plans meant the trees in the area would increase by 220.

The project, he insisted, would forge ahead. "We don’t expect to get thanks for it," Dr Muscat said. 

We will not slow down because of the summer break - PM

On the recent upgrade by credit rating agency Moody’s, Dr Muscat said this was the result of the country's growing economy and its balanced budget. The positive ratings meant that businesses who wanted to come to Malta would look at the independent credit ratings agencies and find a positive recommendation. 

He said the government was continuing with its budget preparations through summer.

"We will not slow down because of the summer break."  

Some sectors- particularly the banking sector- still had to catch up with the demand brought in by foreign investment, he said. The Chamber for Small and Medium Enterprises (GRTU) had warned in a meeting with the Prime Minister earlier this week that investors were turning away from Malta because businesses were being turned down by banks.

"Why should opening a bank account take close to a year, even for sectors that are considered low risk," the GRTU had said.

Dr Muscat said the government was on the same page as the GRTU and recognised that the banking sector had a growing demand. 

Foster parents before adoption cut in half

The newly-approved Child Protection Act would be protecting the most vulnerable, Dr Muscat said.

The new legislation would allow foster parents to adopt a child in their care after five years, rather than 10 in cases where they have three positive reviews by authorities. 

"I hear of a lot of cases of parents whose children are taken away from them. I do not envy our institutions who have to take decisions," he said.

He also praised a newly-unveiled mental health national strategy, which would "help break the taboo around the issue". 

Relocating the core of mental health services from Mount Carmel to Mater Dei meant that service-users would not be as much affected by the stigma of having a mental health illness, he said. 

There will also be a greater focus on community services, he added. 

Do you agree with the Central Link project? Have your say in the timesofmalta.com poll.

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