Culture Minister Owen Bonnici has been slammed on social media by carnival enthusiasts over his latest ‘announcement’ that a carnival village, first promised over a decade ago, is subject to a new application for EU funds as the previous tranche was reallocated over a failure to get the project off the ground.
During a press conference, he admitted that the government had to reapply for EU funds to finance the long-awaited project and that the government would “be working on implementing this promise”.
The promise was originally part of the Labour Party’s election manifesto in 2013, the same one that brought them to power. Carnival Village, otherwise known as the Arts and Culture Complex, was to be built in Marsa at a cost of €6 million, mostly through EU funds. Tenders were granted for the works to commence, but no progress was ever made, and 11 years later, the project never got off the ground.
Furthermore, the millions of EU funds initially earmarked for the Marsa site had to be transferred to another public project to avoid losing them altogether. Now, Bonnici confirmed that an entirely new application for EU money has been made, and still, there is no end in sight.
This did not go down well on social media, with some critics dubbing Owen Bonnici “king carnival”.
“Once again, the sleepy minister thinks that we are all fools,” one Facebook user wrote. “Most probably, Bonnici won’t be a minister any longer when this project sees the light of day.”
Others described Bonnici as “A waste of time and money”, complaining that the same minister has been repeating the same promise for a decade.
A long-running promise
In 2012, under the then-Nationalist Party administration, a development permit was issued for the Carnival Village project. When Labour then came to power the following year, it changed its plans and announced a state-of-the-art “new concept”.
The project would see the construction of 18 warehouses to store floats, eight smaller craftsperson workshops for building floats, figures and for making costumes, a souvenir shop, museum, dance studio and even a music performance complex where musicians could rehearse.
Bonnici, at time already responsible for the project, brought in singer Willie Mangion as a consultant to assist him with the task, but since then, no progress has been made.
After years of criticism, in 2017, Bonnici announced that “the carnival village dream was only one step away,” and in 2019, the state broadcaster PBS said it would be ready by 2020.
A site was identified in Marsa, and excavation work started, but the works were halted and have not been restarted.
While Bonnici’s ministry is now applying for EU funds to finish the project, it is known that this is a lengthy process aside from launching new tenders for the work to be carried out.
Sources working in EU funds told The Shift that the project would take around five years to complete if everything goes smoothly.