Speaking exclusively to Business Today from Dubai, Smart City CEO Fareed Abdulrahman said that the reason why the multi-million project in Ricasoli suffered delays was a result of the international economic crisis.
Everything is linked to the shareholders priorities, Abdulrahman said. These include the evaluations of financial institutions, variations in prices for the acquisition of hundreds of tonnes of cement, steel and other strategic commodities required for the project.
Meanwhile, he insisted that the investors “will keep to their contractual obligations undertaken with the government of Malta, including the generation of hundreds of new jobs.”
Abdulrahman - who is temporarily replacing Claudio Grech, the former Smart City (Malta) CEO who last week announced his resignation, stressed that “Claudio’s resignation should not put the project in doubt.”
He stressed that Smart City Malta, worth in the region of €200 million, is going ahead according to plan and the delays registered so far have been defined as “normal” given the scale of the development and issues related to the equation between financing and equity.
“Claudio and I are very good friends, we have worked hard together and he was an excellent negotiator when we first brought the project to Malta,” he said, while adding that the two are effectively “employees” and each had a “normal choice” of seeking new pastures and move on to something they believe can be more rewarding or satisfying.
While announcing that Smart City Malta is embarking on a new recruitment drive to fill in the key senior and middle-management posts, Abdulrahman explained that whoever visits the project site could see that construction has started and will effectively gain momentum in the coming weeks.
“We are not talking of a development of just one building block, but a lot of construction over a vast area, and while I appreciate people’s concerns, I can assure them that all is going ahead according to plan,” he said.
The interim CEO revealed that within a few days, Smart City Malta will once again be brought before MEPA as is required by law.
Due to the implications of Foreign Direct Investment in Malta, Abdulrahman stressed that media reports that may prejudice the reputation of Smart City in Malta will only have an adverse effect to the local economy. “I humbly say that we mean business and we insisted to call it Smart City ‘Malta’ because this project is intended to promote Malta and nobody else. We are bringing the best in the sector to operate and put Malta on the map, and anything said against Smart City ‘Malta’ will be read abroad and it damages the country,” he said.
Asked about a remark made by the directors of Smart City during President George Abela’s recent State Visit to Dubai about “bureaucracy”, Abdulrahman made it clear that the reference was made in good judgement, where the directors explained to the Maltese Head of State that given the high-profile firms that are being touted to operate from Smart City Malta “they will be expected to work in an efficient and less bureaucratic environment.”