Valletta 2018 has yet to begin, but in the eyes of Jason Micallef, the years-long project is already a success in many ways. 

"We've opened up, we're no longer insular in our thinking,"  the Valletta 2018 Foundation chairman says. "Our opening ceremony will feature 1,000 artists, 350 of them from abroad, from every part of the globe....I'd humbly argue that in this sense, our team has succeeded." 

Critics of the European Capital of Culture programme have dismissed its emphasis on the traditional festa - Mr Micallef has pitched Valletta 2018 as "the biggest festa Malta has ever seen" - as tired and cliched, arguing that the country flunked a golden opportunity to push the envelope on the cultural front. 

But Mr Micallef sees things differently. "It's our biggest cultural tradition," he says of the festa. "Nobody, local or foreign, contests that. We wanted to create something that would be universally understood."

In this Times Talk interview, Mr Micallef attributes delays in finishing City Gate ditch works to a sheer lack of manpower and confidently insists the MUŻA and the Valletta Design Cluster projects will be completed by the end of the year. 

READ: 400 projects in 365 days - Valletta 2018 launches its cultural programme

The Valletta 2018 Foundation chairman waxes less lyrical when asked about the capital city's waste collection problems, saying existing systems "are not up to scratch - anywhere on the island, but especially for a capital city". 

He is also less than enthused by the proliferation of cars parked all over the UNESCO World Heritage capital city. 

READ: Which Valletta 2018 projects will be completed in time?

"You have to take residents into account, but if I had the power I would pedestrianise many, many more parts of Valletta," he says. "Seeing cars parked on the pavement right outside the Manoel either laugh or cry." 

Mr Micallef says he is hatching plans to push for more pedestrianisation across the capital once the Valletta 2018 project is over. 

"When I come across walls, I don't climb them, I break them," Mr Micallef  proudly says. "And for Valletta, I'd run through them if I could."


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