Minister of Finance hosts Gozo budget breakfast meeting
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Tonio Fenech, Minister of Finance, the Economy and Investment, hosted a working breakfast in Gozo on Friday, where a number of local business owners and industrialists submitted their proposals in preparation for Budget 2013.
During his speech the Minister gave an overview of various projects, schemes and initiatives undertaken over the last four years with the aim of attracting more work to Gozo. He said that unemployment in Gozo fell by 13% since 2009, from an annual rate of 744 in 2009 to 646 in August 2012. Through the Employment Aid Programme, a scheme where employers will receive a subsidy equivalent to 50% of the wage costs i.e. half the basic salary excluding bonuses, allowances, commission or overtime together with half the employer’s national insurance, 150 businesses have created more than 450 jobs Gozo.
The Finance Minister said that both small and medium businesses in Gozo had responded to schemes launched by the government during this legislature to invest in their business, expand their operations and create more jobs. “From the start, 800 businesses applied for the Microinvest scheme, when business owners save up to 40% of the investment. 410 of the applications were from Gozo, at 60 per cent of the eligible expenses, the benefit is higher for Gozitan businesses in view of their double insularity, which often places them at a disadvantage.
He also spoke about the eco-Gozo initiative and various infrastructure projects and landscaping that are helping to improve the Gozitan tourism product. Among them, the rebuilding of more than 20 km arterial roads around Gozo, the completion of several projects such as the restoration of the Citadel, the Villa Rundle Gardens and new Marsalforn Project and work on the redevelopment of Zewwieqa Waterfront. This investment in the Gozitan tourism product is being complemented by the Air Malta rebranding.
The Minister said that according to the latest statistics of the NSO, in July the total arrivals at accommodation establishments in Gozo reached 146,062, an increase of 3.6% over 2011.
“The purpose of the Government is to continue to create more job opportunities and the best educational opportunities for young people in Gozo. During this term, the Government has invested around 12 million euros in projects such as the new Secondary School in Victoria as well as in the improvement of schools and educational facilities,” the Minister said.
Referring to the pre budget proposals the Minister stressed that “the priority remains the creation of more jobs and that’s why the Government aims to continues to create initiatives to strengthen the role of the island as a distinct destination, with an environment to create more investment and jobs.”
He also spoke about various proposals for environmental and social projects, including increased investment in the Gozo General Hospital and the establishment of a regional centre for child care to cater to the demand in extra services for children in Gozo.
The meeting was also attended by the Minister for Gozo Giovanna Debono and the Minister for Justice, Dialogue and the Family, Chris Said.