Smart City: Latest CEO departs as master plan revision suspended

Smart City Malta Ltd, the Dubai government company given a large tract of public land in Kalkara in 2007 to develop into a state-of-the-art ICT village, has lost its latest CEO, Edmond Brincat.

The company has not announced his sudden departure. Brincat has been leading the company since 2018.

The latest developments follow media reports on new proposals submitted by Smart City to change the project’s master plan and turn the project into another speculative real estate development.

Edmond Brincat is the latest CEO to leave Smart City.

These reports follow revelations by The Shift in 2022 about a secret agreement made by Prime Minister Robert Abela in which he gave in to all the demands of the Dubai government.

The Shift has now confirmed that following Brincat’s sudden departure, the company’s plans to revise the area’s master plan submitted in 2023 have now been put on hold. The project architects, AP Valletta, have asked for a suspension of the whole process.

No details were given as to why the Planning Authority’s revision process of the master plan has been put on hold.

Villas in the pipeline

Smart City Malta Ltd, the holding company in which the Dubai government holds a 90% equity, has failed to complete the project by 2022 as envisaged in the original government concession.

Instead of terminating the concession according to the contract, the government has entered into a deal with the Dubai Sheiks to take back a small area of Smart City and hand it to the owners of the beleaguered Jordanian American University of Malta to build their campus instead of the designated area in Marsaskala.

In exchange, the government agreed to revamp Smart City’s master plan, allowing the Dubai company to use  Malta’s public land for real estate speculation.

While the master plan’s changes have been put on hold, the Planning Authority is expected to rubberstamp a new permit application for part of Smart City to be turned into 69 luxury villas next to the historic Fort St Rocco. The board is expected to grant this permit later this month.

Changing the rules

According to the 2007 deal, signed by a PN administration, most of the development at Smart City had to be office space intended to host cutting-edge IT companies. For this reason, the 99-year concession was based on a nominal value of €0.50c per square metre.

Yet the promised Dubai investment never arrived. The only office block built was occupied by government entities, including the Malta Tourism Authority and the Malta Gaming Authority, among others, when Labour was elected to power in 2013.

Soon after disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat’s right-hand man, Keith Schembri, was appointed as the government’s representative on Smart City’s board, he engineered a new multi-million-euro ITS campus to be built at Smart City – not allowed in the original concession.

                           

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