The government’s proposed development of a new road linking Żabbar and Smart City is due to a 2022 deal for the relocation of an American University of Malta campus from Żonqor, Marsaskala.
The deal, which The Shift revealed handed over some 32,000 square metres of public land at just €0.47c per square metre, additionally obliged the government to build a road for improved access to Smart City.
The agreement was entered into by Prime Minister Robert Abela following public outcry at the proposal for an AUM campus at the idyllic Marsaskala location. It followed years of secrecy surrounding the ‘university,’ which has continually failed to reach its operational targets.
The proposal would see a road stretching between Notre Dame Gate in Żabbar and Smart City, passing alongside Cottonera fortifications and the Capuchin Convent in Kalkara. The road’s development would occur over some 80,000 square metres of country lanes and land outside development zones.
Aside from the widening and paving of small country lanes, the development would include the creation of an entirely new 155m stretch of road, ploughing through agricultural land.
The proposal for the construction of the road, obliged through an agreement with AUM, raises questions considering the school’s continual failure to reach targets for the number of students, currently understood to hover around 100.
In 2022, the government’s plans for a deal with AUM, swapping promised ODZ land in Żonqor with an area in Smart City, were revealed by Abela during his electoral campaign.
That June, The Shift revealed how, as part of the deal, Abela had granted AUM the right to the Smart City land for a ridiculous price of €0.47c per square metre. In the process, Abela also turned the 99-year temporary emphyteusis into a perpetual one despite the previous contract explicitly forbidding it.
The situation resulted in some 31,500 square metres of land being sold for around €15,000 despite being valued at around €63 million.
The deal also included an obligation on the government to construct a new connection road between Notre Dame Gate in Żabbar and the Capuchin’s convent in Kalkara. The recently proposed road would fulfil these exact obligations.
The Shift has reported how the government has continually stonewalled any questions related to the Jordanian-owned university’s operations.
Education Minister Clifton Grima even repeatedly misled parliament in 2022 when asked about several audits of AUM’s fulfilment of its licensing criteria.
Questions included those surrounding the number of students attending the university, a widely touted aspect of the project when it was announced in 2015.
Following the announcement, large parcels of prime public land at Cospicua’s Dock 1 and Marsascala’s Żonqor Point were given to the Jordanian company for a pittance.