The government, through Agenzija support, has disqualified around €19 million of EU funding that Brussels pledged in 2016 to develop a service hub for people with special needs in Nasher.
Known as Project Reach, the project was first announced by the government in 2015 and was expected to be completed by the end of 2023.
However, since the first excavation in 2019, the project has come to a complete standstill and no actual construction has taken place. This prompted the EU to withdraw her €19 million European Regional Development Fund. business.
The government has so far given no explanation as to why the project has not yet been implemented and what the future holds. It mentions only legal issues and the discovery of archaeological sites, but no progress has been reported in years on either front.
Shift has been informed that around €5 million has already been spent on excavations at the site, carried out by the Bonnici Brothers.
But since the end of 2020, workers have not appeared on-site (just outside the Naxxar trade fair grounds) and the multi-million euro EU-funded project remains in ruins and nothing is happening.
In response to a recent parliamentary question from opposition MP Graziella Gallea, Minister Giulia Fargia Portelli claimed the government was still committed to the project, but she said when work on the site would resume or be completed. He did not elaborate or give details about what to do.
Also, in 2023, the Finance Minister put just €300,000 into the project in his last budget, so no concrete progress on the hub is likely.
Shift has been informed that EU funding is no longer available as the government failed to stick to the project’s original plans and that local funding must be deployed if the project is to continue.
The project was the brainchild of former Nasher-based minister Michael Falguia, who was not reappointed to cabinet after the last election, and was criticized by the Nasher community, disability NGOs, and the opposition. It’s here.
The argument is that the very concept is based on outdated practices of segregating people with disabilities rather than integrating them into the community as a whole.
Even former Labor MP Oliver Scicluna, current CEO of Agenzija Support, was against the project.
Planning for the project included the construction of four separate apartment blocks with 78 residential units, a large car park, a 26-room hostel, restaurants, retail units and a therapy centre.
The Planning Office approved a development application in 2017, but no progress has been made beyond initial excavations of the site.