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GSD opposed to joint venture with China company

Johnny Bugeja

The GSD said it will continue to probe the Gibraltar Government’s joint venture with a Chinese sub-state-owned construction company to build a privately-funded prefabricated nursing home on the Rooke site.

Once built, the residence will be handed over to an “undisclosed private investor”, the GSD said, adding that it does not support this project.

In a statement to the press yesterday, the GSD’s Minister for Public Finance, Roy Clinton, questioned the effect this will have on the local construction industry and the process for planning permission.

Details of this project were revealed by Sir Joe Bossano in answer to questions put forward by Mr Clinton in the Gibraltar Parliament last week.

“Sir Joe Bossano has announced this project as part of the National Economic Plan but I fail to see how it will generate sustainable jobs or aid the local construction industry as all the real work and value added is to be done in China,” Mr Clinton said in the statement.

“This will mean that local suppliers to construction companies will effectively be cut out of most of the process.”
“Additionally the joint venture will compete against long-established local construction companies.”

The joint venture is with the UK subsidiary of the Beijing Liujian Construction Group, a company ultimately owned by a Beijing municipality that has been involved in major projects in China including Beijing airport, public buildings in the Chinese capital and the maintenance of the Forbidden City.

The residence will be constructed in China and shipped to the Rock for assembly, but the longer-term plans for the joint venture could include building modules here and using the Rock as a hub from which to export to other markets.

Sir Joe told Parliament the deal and the modular construction technique would deliver the building faster and cheaper than using traditional labour-intensive construction methods.

“Clearly the result of that first building is going to determine the success or otherwise of the product in the Gibraltar market,” he said at the time.

"It also produces the potential for us to be able to do something that we have not done before, which is to use Gibraltar as a base in order to introduce this product into other markets near us.”

But the GSD remains circumspect about that prospect.

Mr Clinton said that even if markets were found for pre-fabricated modules constructed on the Rock, Gibraltar does not have the ability to load the containers onto ships in any volume nor the waiting clientele, especially as it exits Europe.
He said the old components factory had to close once it ran out of local projects.

“The Gibraltarian client for this project has been revealed by the architect’s plans as ‘Community Supplies and Services Limited’, but who is behind that company?” Mr Clinton said.

“Who is the ultimate investor and how is all this being paid for and financed?”

“I will be seeking the name of the ultimate beneficial owner of this company in Parliament as well as details of what premium has been paid, and details of the lease granted without tender, for the site earmarked as 1 Bishop Caruana Road at the Land Registry.”

Mr Clinton said: “A multitude of additional questions need to be asked as to planning permission and why has a new nursing home for our elderly, akin to Mount Alvernia, been shoehorned into only 4% of the total Rooke site and built with such evident economy in mind given the recent lavish multi-million spending of this Government on still unfinished sports facilities?”

“Our elderly surely deserves better than to be housed in what can only be described as shipping container type boxes.”

“And why is this home going to be handed over to a private investor? On what terms will this be offered to the elderly if it is not to be run by the Government?”