Malta, one of the major online gambling hubs within the EU jurisdiction that hosts big names such as Mr Green, Casumo, and BetFair, and more, and one that is experiencing an economic progress surge has become increasingly a point of interest for many foreign companies due to its highly competitive business tax rate and favourable living conditions. However, while some may view progress, especially that relevant to construction and cleaning up, as a symptom of overall improvement, others see this simply as gentrification, a market no longer accessible by the average family, and the erasure of architecture that defines a cultural identity as one of a kind.
Midi’s Proposed Renovation Plans for Manoel Island
In an article published in the Times of Malta on 23rd March, development consortium Midi plans to have Manoel Island in Malta converted into a luxury hotel, shopping complex, and casino with other telltale amenities. The changes will also affect the historic Lazaretto area on the island. Midi, who officially holds a concession granted in 2000 that put it in the driver’s seat for any developmental changes to Manoel Island, presented its master plan during a meeting with NGOs last Tuesday. The fully-fledged version is expected to be presented next week.
While the details of the plan have not yet trickled down to the public, what seeped through is that the whole perimeter will be used to build a hotel, with one more hotel plus casino to be built over Lazaretto, an isolation hospital with historic value. Midi’s checklist includes high-end retail outlets and luxury low-rise apartments as well as a garden designated as public space surrounding the old fort still standing. Plans also include a helipad, a superyacht marina, and a taxi pontoon where there currently is a swimming spot that was the centre of controversy due to a pitched campaign to keep it open to the public.
Conflict of Interests
Mr. Conrad Borg Manché, Gzira Mayor, starkly opposes Midi’s development project as it currently stands. He states that the average citizen has nothing to benefit from such changes, shutting him out, and the project is blatantly skewered in favour of the elite. He alternatively proposes that Midi should take a more balanced approach to the development, focusing more on cleaning up and opening parks to the public. He adds that at this time, these plans are only speculative. However, granting Midi the go-ahead would mean going against the spirit in which the original talks were made in Parliament when the concession was granted.
Ms. Tara Cassar, environment officer, further supports Mr. Borg Manché’s argument in saying that no part of the plans to include any provisions for the cultural aspects of the island, and everything simply homing in on commercial value and purpose.
Times of Malta contacted Midi to elicit a response, but at the time, Midi said they needed more time to put together a response.
Midi’s History Since Taking Up the Project
The concession agreement made in 2000 states that developments should be made with the goal of completing a “Mediterranean Village” by 2023. Otherwise, fines will be imposed daily for 3 years until the contract is invalidated.
Following Midi’s sealing off of the foreshore recently, Midi has come under fire by the public. This escalated last September when protestors cut through the fence. Gzira Local Council and the government joined to file judicial protests against Midi in an attempt to coerce the consortium to adhere to the agreements put forward in the concession contract.
Midi’s response was to grant conditioned access, stating that anyone entering can only do so between 8am and 8pm on weekends. The consortium is also planning to install a fence over 2 metres high enclosing most of the island, leaving open only one access route.