As expected, the agreement between the Maltese government and the Jordanian Investor from a construction company prominently active in Saudi Arabia has been signed. Even though the Prime Minister said that it would ‘consider’ alternative sites for this university, the outside development zone (ODZ) earmarked for this project will most likely be sold to the private investors. Even though such a venture would always be welcome as a form of investment, why has the Maltese public been completely left in the dark?
As discussed in a previous post, the area earmarked for the construction of this university is an ODZ area and classified as public space. It belongs to everyone. Yet, the government feels it has the authority to sell of this land without even consulting the public about its intentions. It is the same situation as if you own a shared commodity with ten other people, and the person managing it for you sells it off without your consent or approval.
It is also quite evident that the deal was struck months in advance, and the government only announced its intentions to the public a couple of days before signing the agreement out of obligation. Specifically, the project was announced on the Sunday, signed on the Tuesday and promotional material released on that same day.
If they had time to prepare a silly video and print their conference backdrops, they surely had enough time to consult the public before an agreement was reached behind closed doors.
But investor representative Thaer Mukbel said that “they take the environment very seriously, and that this university will be built with respect towards the environment”, and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat reiterated by saying that “it is as serious about the environment as it is about creating wealth and distributing it in a fair manner”.
So these two parties trade concrete and parcels of public land as if they were Comic Books, then proceed to joke about it by saying that they care about the environment. One would ask for a responsible consultation process between the government and the relevant local stakeholders (University of Malta, NGOs, Malta Development Authority, Local Councils and the PUBLIC), but one can only dream when it is Malta we are talking about.
How can we ever expect the environment to be taken seriously when there is absolutely no respect for the public in Malta to begin with? But we are told that this project will generate €25m a year, so we are expected to shut up and just be grateful about it – similar to how 16th Century peasants used to get excited when the King used to throw coins at them.
On a side note, DePaul University in Chicago is still mum on the whole issue, but I expect that this stakeholder is probably none the wiser. After all, the Maltese government is only concerned with appeasing the foreign investor – make it rain Hani Saleh!