The Soviet Ambassador in London, Mr. Smirnovsky,has arrive in Malta for talks with the island's?
The Soviet Ambassador in London, Mr. Smirnovsky,has arrive in Malta for talks with the island's new Prime Minister, Mr. Dom Mintoff. The Soviet Ambassador is in Malta at the Prime Minister's invitation. Mr. Smirnovsky is fully expected to make proposals for increased Soviet use of Malta's port facilities and the setting up of a Soviet Embassy.
Mr. Mintoff is expected to announce on Monday (16th August) his decision on Britain's offer of eight and a half million points a year in cash and aid for continued use of the island's military and port facilities.
On Saturday NATO announced it would abandon it's Mediterranean headquarters on the strategic island after a request from Mr. Mintoff. Shortly after his election, in June, Mr. Mintoff imposed a ban on visits to the island of ships of the American Sixth Fleet, based in the Mediterranean.
By this exclusion of allied military presence the Maltese economy stands to suffer an economic setback of about twenty million pounds a year. The current annual benefit to the Maltese economy from the British bases amounts to about GBP13 million a year.
In the past the Maltese economy has leaned heavily on the revenue from the allied military presence -- and the tourist industry. Now both of these are slackening off.
Tourism is one of the mainstays of the island's economy. It's now the height of the season and the income from tourism has dropped significantly in the last two years. It's still a major money maker but parts of the industry will be hard hit if the military money is taken away from the island.