Finance Minister Edward Scicluna held a public consultation meeting in Gozo ahead of next month’s budget where he emphasised the need to upgrade the country's infrastructure and to boost the island's private sector.
Prof. Scicluna pledged to “give Gozo more importance” in the forthcoming national budget than the island has been given in past budgets by the government.
He said the public sector had often had to prop up the Gozitan economy in the past.
“Let’s face it, the public sector has a function in every country; however in the past, it also served as crutches in instances where the private sector was not able to bring Gozo to its feet,” he said.
He emphasised that while this might have worked in the past, it was not sustainable going forward, insisting that Gozo needed to “start learning to walk without crutches”.
The minister said that the budget’s theme – Upgrading Malta’s Infrastructure – had been chosen because the country was entering a new phase in its history, given that it was continuing to experience unprecedented economic growth.
The minister said that he was pleased at the fact that Gozo had become a tourist destination in its own right, and was no longer “an appendix to Malta”.
He said Gozitans were right to be concerned with the sector’s sustainability. For this reason, he said, it was essential that the country’s landscape be protected. “This is why we have to be cautious about where we build.”
Furthermore, he said that while the tourism sector was an important one for Gozo, the island needed to develop other sectors - including the financial services and digital sectors - in order to reduce its vulnerability to fluctuations in tourism trends.
Scicluna stressed that the reason that the private sector on the island needed boosting, was so that its productivity could increase, which would result in companies being able to afford better wages.