In an interview carried out with Times of Malta, Transport Minister Aaron Farrugia claimed that a €700m pledge to upgrade Malta’s road network only referred to Malta’s residential roads, rather than all of Malta’s road network.
“It’s black on white […] the €700m over seven years are residential roads,” Farrugia insisted when challenged.
The €700m pledge was originally made in the Labour Party’s 2017 electoral manifesto. Upon re-election in 2017, the government created Infrastructure Malta to implement this promise.
What does the pledge say?
The Labour Party’s 2017 manifesto states that a new Labour Government would “give unprecedented priority to the infrastructural development to roads in our country. All roads will be done up, as they should be”.
The manifesto went on to outline its “Plan to do up all roads in Malta and Gozo”, describing it as “an ambitious plan for all roads in Malta and Gozo to be done up and maintained in the way a modern country deserves”.
The party promised to invest €700m through “European funds, funds from the Development Bank, funds gathered through the Citizenship by Investment Programme and through other financial instruments”.
It said that residential roads that had never been asphalted would be given “first priority” in this plan. These 170 roads were to be asphalted over a period of three years.
The pledge was repeated in the Labour Party’s 2022 manifesto, which outlined its intention to continue with the plan to invest €700m in Malta’s roads, stating that “our goal is for all roads in Malta and Gozo to be done”.
Neither manifesto stated that this pledge refers exclusively to residential roads and does not include non-residential roads such as arterial or distributor roads.
How was the pledge understood at the time?
The pledge received significant media coverage from all major local news organisations at the time.
Times of Malta reported then-Prime Minister Joseph Muscat saying “a Labour government would resurface all of Malta’s roads in what would be the biggest ever investment on the roads over a period of seven years”, while MaltaToday described it as a “pledge to have all of Malta and Gozo’s roads redone over a period of seven years”.
Likewise, TVM stated that “the Labour Party is committing itself to fix all Malta and Gozo’s roads in a period of seven years”. One News, the Labour Party’s media house, adopted a similar position, reporting that “one of the promises of the Labour Government is that all Maltese and Gozitan roads will be fixed”, under a headline quoting Muscat making the same statement.
Muscat himself tweeted, in May 2017, that the pledge was a“€700m project to upgrade all roads in Malta and Gozo over 7y”.
The then-Prime Minister was also asked about this pledge during a pre-electoral campaign event on May 5, 2017. He said that thanks to funds collected through the cash-for-passports scheme “we can do up all the roads in Malta and Gozo”.
He went on to say that “we now have enough wealth to invest €100m instead of €20m each year for seven years to fix all roads”. During the same event, then-Transport Minister Joe Mizzi said, “we now have the funds to do up all roads in the next seven years”.
Although the interviewer mentions residential roads in her initial question, neither Muscat nor Mizzi clarified that the pledge only refers to residential roads in their replies.
Infrastructure Malta itself, the agency set up to implement this plan, also does not make this distinction.
Its website describes the pledge as “an unprecedented €700 million, seven-year commitment to upgrade the quality and safety of the Maltese road network”.
Things appear to have changed by 2019, when Infrastructure Malta announced that it “launched a €700 million, seven-year national investment to upgrade the quality of Malta’s residential roads” .
This announcement suggests two significant changes to the original pledge. Firstly, the investment is only for residential roads and secondly that its seven-year deadline is to begin in 2019, rather than 2017, when the pledge was first made.
Are there other sources of funding for roadworks?
Some of Malta’s main thoroughfares are eligible for funding through the TEN-T Network, an EU policy to develop a Europe-wide network of roads, railway lines and airport terminals. Malta has listed several road projects within this network, including the Coast Road, the Central Link project and the Marsa Junction project.
Farrugia refers to this in his interview with Times of Malta, saying that these major projects are funded through different funds, not the €700m allocated.
The TEN-T Network is also listed in the Labour Party’s 2022 manifesto, which indicates that the Msida Creek Junction will also be funded through this network.
Whether the funding received through the TEN-T Network was included in the original pledge remains unclear.
What does Infrastructure Malta say?
In comments to Times of Malta, Infrastructure Malta said it has completed 1,057 roads/projects to date, approximately 75% of its total 1,400 planned projects. Another 104 projects are still ongoing.
Infrastructure Malta plans to maintain its current rate of 200 road projects (approximately 60km in length) per year until all planned roads are completed.
These figures refer to residential and rural roads but do not include arterial or distributor roads. IM clarified that although they carry out rebuilding works on residential roads, these fall under the responsibility of local councils.
Infrastructure Malta CEO Ivan Falzon told Times of Malta “In reality the investment in infrastructure was much larger than originally planned, also because we took advantage of the pandemic to increase investment and the speed of works. In 2021 and 2022 alone, investment in roadworks exceeded €300m”.
When contacted for comment, a Labour Party spokesperson said “the priority of the pledge was always residential roads, as explained in the party’s 2017 manifesto”.
The Labour Party’s initial pledge in 2017 did not distinguish between residential and non-residential roads, and media reports from the time show that it was widely understood as referring to all roads.
Key political figures at the time, including the then-Prime Minister and Transport Minister, spoke about redoing all of Malta and Gozo’s roads within seven years.
Later announcements from authorities introduced the word “residential” when referring to the project, indicating that work on arterial roads is to be funded separately, including through the TEN-T Network. Nonetheless, this distinction was not made when initially making the pledge.
This claim is therefore mostly false because the evidence generally refutes the claim, although some minor aspects may be accurate.
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