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The Gozo Business Chamber is calling for all of Gozo to be designated as a design priority area and for a regional and comprehensive planning policy to be developed for the island and its localities, warning that “the deterioration of our environment has significant repercussions on Gozo both as a foreign and domestic tourism destination”, adding that “much damage has already been done”.

In its pre-Budget document, the lobby addresses fours areas it feels should be given the highest priority in order to increase Gozo’s resilience and sustainability.

Apart from raising environmental points, the GBC also looked at employment, accessibility and infrastructure, noting that in each of these Gozo needs to be considered as a distinct region with specific characteristics and issues which need to be addressed.

It noted that Gozo’s employment market is highly dependent on the public sector, which makes up 32 per cent of all jobs, as compared to 21 per cent on the main island. This without factoring in employees in the Community Workers Scheme (which numbered 502 in Gozo), or those working with private contractors with the Gozo Channel (101) or the public health care system, which are considered private sector workers.

“The labour market situation in Gozo is very difficult. Companies in all sectors are finding it difficult to recruit local employees, most often having to resort to third country nationals with all the difficulties this entails in terms of recruitment and the bureaucratic process that needs to be followed,” the GBC said.

“Within this scenario the public sector is also in competition with the private sector for employees. This is leading to a situation where despite the increased demand in some sectors, companies are not in a position to tackle the demand for their services, which is consequently leading to a slower recovery rate post COVID-19.”

It warned that employee poaching and rising wages drag on Gozitan companies’ competitivity, especially in the context of increases in the prices of raw materials and transport costs.

The GBC said that, “given the current situation, it is important that measures are in place which assist in the retention of the full-time employees in the private sector”, and suggests that a measure included in the Budget for last year, allowing overtime up to a maximum of €10,000 to be taxed at 15 per cent, to ca this cap removed to make it attractive for employees in the private sector to work overtime with their own employers, rather than seek part-time employment.

It also suggested a support scheme for those professionals who have their main office in Gozo but would like to open an office in Malta, allowing them to sustain their operations in Gozo also through their clientele in Malta.

When it comes to accessibility, the GBC’s demands call for improved links between the two islands, including retaining the fast ferry service and ensuring a consistent service, renewed focus on the development of the air link, and that a permanent link between the two islands remains a key policy priority.

It also called for the finalization of a number of important infrastructural projects, such as the primary school in Victoria, the Gozo Museum, the Aquatic Centre, and the old people’s home in Għajnsielem, with the objective that the services required from these various projects start being offered.

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