How the government hides things from you

Government takes many decisions behind closed doors. I understand confidential details should be confidential for as long as necessary. Greater transparency means we would better understand why a decision was taken even if we don’t agree with it. The Gozo tunnel proposal is one such problem.

Before I get started I want to make it clear I’m not debating whether we do or whether we don’t need a permanent connection to Gozo. As the second largest Maltese island, there are good arguments for and against this idea.

The proposed tunnel between Malta and Gozo

When you have a country measuring 27 x 14.5 kilometres it can be frustrating when you can’t get around. It’s also part of the charm of life on a Mediterranean island.

This article is all about the fog surrounding the government’s decision to connect the two islands. We saw some discussion in the media about a bridge or a tunnel. The government decided to go with a tunnel. 

Why a tunnel? What’s wrong with a bridge? Why not enhance the current sea and air connections?

We don’t know. This was a decision taken behind closed doors so we don’t know if the decision makes sense or not.

Would knowing make things better? Does this matter?

I argue it does.

My personal preference would be for a bridge. I’d want something majestic like the Millau Viaduct in France. I would organise a bridge climb like they have on Sydney Harbour bridge. I’d insist designers build restaurants in the pillars to have a submerged restaurant. These are all revenue-generating ideas that make a bridge more than a mere connection from A to B.

It would be a destination in its own right.

The Millau viaduct – France

Are these ideas fanciful? Perhaps, but we don’t know why the government eliminated the possibility of a bridge. There could be sensible environmental issues at stake. Perhaps the government didn’t think of all these ways to make money out of it. Maybe international maritime regulations make a bridge less workable than I imagine.

I’d like to know.

But all I know is the government will launch a tender next year for a tunnel.

Would knowing do anything other than satisfy my curiosity?

Oh yes.

First of all if we had this information we could evaluate the government’s short-term solutions in the right perspective. We’ve heard of plans for a mass-transit solution for the islands. We’ve not heard much lately so we still don’t know what this would look like. It is an interesting project which ties in to any work connecting the main islands. 

After all, if we’re going to have a metro or tram network within the next decade then the connection to Gozo will be a critical part of this network. If so, then we should save money by building the train tunnel now when we excavate the vehicular tunnel. Treating these two as separate items will be more expensive.

People walking on top of the Sydney Harbour bridge

This doesn’t even take futuristic tech into account.

We could future proof our infrastructure by considering hydrogen trains or the Hyperloop.

There are many cities working on proof-of-concepts to see if these technologies make sense. We could tap into EU funding to get involved in these projects. Malta would then be a centre of excellence in this sort of thing. As I explained in my article about future-proofing our cities, we could export this know-how and manufacture this tech for the rest of Europe.

Has the government considered these proposals? Has the government considered any futuristic proposals? 

Without the right amount of transparency we cannot tell if the government’s decisions make sense or not. As I said before, we can disagree with the conclusion. I still want reassurance about the process.

Greater (government) transparency means greater (government) honesty

I think this is critical.

Greater transparency means greater honesty.

How else am I supposed to know if my tax money is being spent properly?

References

  1. Quiet hamlet of l-Imbordin earmarked for Gozo tunnel entrance; Keith Micallef; The Times of Malta; 2018-07-19
  2. Call for tender on Gozo tunnel to be issued in six months’ time; The Malta Independent; 2018-12-11
  3. Hydrogen fuel cell trains herald new steam age; Mark Hookham; The Sunday Times; 2018-05-13
  4. How Malta can have a free smart city; Antoine P Borg; Brain, not ego; 2018-05-08
  5. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer; Antoine P Borg; Brain, not ego; 2018-08-14

All references were valid and correct when this article was published. Changes to referenced websites or web pages may render some references invalid. If this is the case, please leave a comment below.


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