Land in Malta is the scarcest and most valuable resource. And land owners are guaranteed riches beyond any dream of avarice.
Just like in a feudal system, the Maltese economic model revolves mainly around land and developers and big business are the new lords. However, the saddest part of it all is that these lords are getting richer on the back of public land sold to them for peanuts.
The Corinthia development project in St Julian’s is the latest in a series of scandalous deals in which private interests have been accommodated at the expense of the environment and citizens’ quality of life.
Corinthia Group, which owns some €1.7 billion in assets was given a €70 million discount by government for the stretch of land in what is dubbed the ‘golden mile’.
After being granted a 99-year lease, Corinthia now controls 60,000 square metres of prime land in exchange of €51 million when the site has been valued at €121.7 million by Deloitte and much higher by industry experts.
The company plans to invest some €300 million to build a ‘six-star’ hotel and the deed also allows it to develop a maximum of 100,000 square metres of residential and office real estate to sell or rent to third parties.
Thanks to this deal, Corinthia will be raking in hundreds of millions of euros through selling apartments on land they practically acquired for free. The Corinthia project will be three times the size of the adjacent City Centre development on the ITS site which the same government sold for a mere €15 million.
With the Paceville Masterplan still on the drawing board, government is giving away public land with no restraint and absolutely no regard for the environment, residents and their quality of life.
As Moviment Graffiti said in a statement this week, “this is a blatant case of land theft by big business from the people. It is the epitome of greed and injustice, especially when taken in the current Maltese context of many people facing hardships with buying or renting a home.”
Despite all the talk on public domain and sustainable development, it is evident that public land does not belong to citizens, if it ever did, and the environment remains at the bottom of government’s agenda.
Government is not acting in the public’s best interest in giving public land away in complete disregard of the country’s laws.
The Paceville Masterplan and local plans have been purposely left on the shelf to accommodate private companies that will make millions by selling real estate on what once was public land. And the disregard of public procurement rules only fuel suspicions of backroom deals, similar to the Cafe Premiere, Gaffarena, Electrogas and Vitals scandals.
Land is worth more than just money. Our landscapes are part of our identity. The places which provided us with spaces where we could swim, walk, fish, picnic or just get away from the congested and polluted island life are being replaced by ugly apartment blocks, shopping malls, cars, noise and pollution. A perfect habitat for hyper-consumerism and a true reflection of the country’s evolving identity.