Minister for Gozo Clint Camilleri recently reported how trends in ten economic and social indicators prove how much the island of Gozo benefited over the past decade.
Gozitans’ greatest regret before 2013 was the lack of work opportunities, even though the island had so much potential. So, perhaps, the most treasured achievement for Gozitans is the fact that those in employment increased by 60%, from less than 12,800 persons in 2013 to over 20,100 last year. This means that, since 2013, every week there has been an increase of 16 Gozitans in employment.
The Labour Party was given a strong electoral mandate in Gozo thanks to the promise of employment in gozo for Gozitans. It is therefore important to point out that three quarters of the overall increase in employment happened in Gozo itself – amounting to a boost of almost 5,500 new jobs.
Since 2013, the number of Gozitans working in Gozo in the private sector has nearly doubled, from from less than 6,500 to around 11,700. A key factor behind this increase in employment was the expansion of tourism. Even though last year’s numbers were buoyed down by the pandemic, the outlays generated by tourists visiting Gozo alone was still 7% more than the pre-2013 figures. Moreover, the number of Maltese who spent a holiday in Gozo has nearly doubled, to almost a third of a million people.
The Gozitan economy is growing almost three times the rate it had grown in 2013. Whereas back then Gozo grew economically less than Malta and was losing economic relativity, it has reversed this trend and is now growing faster than Malta.
Quality sectors have been brought to Gozo. Today, financial services, remote gaming, computing, and professional services create an added value of €131 million. This is more than three times what they used to generate in 2013.
With so many opportunities, those registering for work reached a historic minimum, while before 2013 the figure had reached a historic maximum. Currently in Gozo there are 12 times fewer unemployed persons than in March 2013.
Even looking at social dependency, the difference is huge. The number of Gozitans dependent on social assistance or unemployment assistance has fallen to less than a third of what it was in 2013. As a result, more than 770 Gozitans are now earning enough to stop being dependent on government financial support.
This is also the result of social policy initiatives introduced by the Government in 2014. In fact, a study recently published by the Gozo Regional Development Authority confirms the effectiveness of the social benefits tapering scheme in Gozo. The author of this study finds that this scheme led to a 23% improvement in the job finding rate of Gozitans previously on social benefits. The study says that the tapering scheme had a much greater effect in Gozo than it had in Malta.
This social progress also emerges when looking at the trend in the proportion at risk of poverty. While, under the previous administration, Gozo had a rate which was higher than in Malta, it now has a rate lower than the national average. Since 2013, the rate of those at risk of poverty decreased by five percentage points, or by a quarter.
The marked improvement in economic and social indicators was primarily caused by the fact that the current administration chose to invest heavily in Gozo. In fact, the allocation for recurrent expenditure was increased from €26 million to €64 million, or two and a half times more, while funds devoted to capital projects were boosted from €7 million to €20 million, or almost tripled.
Thanks to this allocation, as well as hundreds of millions from European funds, Gozo will continue to develop in a sustainable way, within the framework of the strategy to make it an island of villages.
|Gozitans working in Gozo
|Gozitans working with the private sector in Gozo
|Expenditure of tourists visiting Gozo only
|Maltese who have visited Gozo
|Computing, gaming, and professional and financial services
|Gozitans on the unemployment register
|Gozitans on social assistance and unemployment assistance
|Proportion of Gozitans at risk of poverty*
During the discussion of the estimates of the Ministry for Gozo, Alex Borg, the Opposition’s Spoksperson for Gozo, opted for a completely negative speech. He claimed that the allocation for Gozo was cut, with particular ferocity as regards tourism promotion where, according to him there was a cut of 30%. He also claimed that the Gozitan economy depends only on construction and that the Gozo Innovation Hub was a complete failure. He also resorted to the Opposition’s populist rhetoric that due to demographic changes (that is rise in the number of foreign workers) crime has risen.
The reality is that there was no cut in the amounts allocated for tourism promotion, which remained close to €1.2 million. Construction, which in 2012 was twice the size of the professional services sector in Gozo, is now at par, as professional services have grown much faster than construction. The same day that Borg was criticising the Gozo Innovation Hub, a €3 million collaboration between Cartesio Ltd, Noovle International, and the University of Malta was launched to create a chatbot that converses in Maltese, which will be adopted by the local financial services sector. And, guess what? Crime did not rise. Burglaries from houses, in fact, were 25% lower.