For those who can think: food for thought

Chamber of Commerce and Industry 1

Helga Ellul, retiring Brandstatter CEO in Malta  was interviewed by the Sunday Times on December 23, 2012. The last part of the interview was as follows:

How did the uncertainty on the election and the slim majority in Parliament impact business?

The problem is that in Malta with just two political parties it is always a close run and this makes it very difficult for whoever wins to govern.

Whereas in other countries we have more parties and coalition governments and different constellations, in Malta it is so close knit that if it is not a clear majority than it will be very difficult to govern.

The perception is that coalition governments will bring more instability.

In Germany we do have that (instability) but it is not all negative because a party has to come out with a proper programme and then change according to the coalition, which may not be the worst of it. Coalitions would encourage parties to look at the overall picture and adjust accordingly.

Il-Milied it-Tajjeb


Dejjem rajtha stramba li x-xewqat sbieħ jiġu biss għal 25 ta’ Diċembru u forsi jibqgħu sal-1 ta’ Jannar.

Ceasefire obbligatorju ta’ soċjeta wiċċ b’ieħor li taħseb li tista’ isserraħ il-kuxjenza dwar dak li tagħmel jew tittollera matul il-bqija tas-sena.

Nawgura Il-Milied it-Tajjeb. Mhux Milied li jiġi darba fis-sena ………… iżda dak li jiġi kuljum.

Voting at the Hospitals and Retirement Homes: 5. Infringement of data protection legislation


As  AD Deputy Chairman together with Prof Arnold Cassola on Monday 17 December 2012 I had a meeting with the Chief Electoral Commissioner relative to the amendments to the General Elections Act as applicable to state hospitals and state run retirement homes.

AD is worried that the said amendments require that the administrators of state hospitals as well as state run old people’s homes to submit regular updated list of patients and residents to the political parties for the purposes of monitoring the electoral process.

This information being made available permits the political parties not only to know who has been admitted to state run hospitals and retirement homes on a daily basis for practically two whole two months, but also to indirectly know what particular condition or ailment patients in hospitals are suffering from.

In a democratic country which gives value to the right to privacy this is totally unacceptable.

In view of this AD has requested the Data Protection Commissioner to investigate the manner in which the electoral process will invade the privacy of patients in state hospitals and residents in retirement homes when the list of patients/residents is provided to the political parties. The Data Protection Commissioner was requested to provide remedies ensuring that the provisions of the Data Protection Act are observed.

Those unrealistic water bills

Water Bill.Malta

Our water bills will have to change as water in Malta is not realistically priced. The Government is aware of this yet it is not informing the public. The Labour Party on the other hand is ignoring the pointers and foolishly insisting on the unsustainable electoral promise of reducing water bills.

A realistic water pricing policy is needed to ensure proper management of water resources. This can be done by ensuring that proper subsidies are in place for the basic use of water while simultaneously penalising waste.

In terms of article 9 of the Water Framework Directive of the European Union, Malta, like all other EU member states, must have a realistic water pricing system in place. The pricing system shall take account “of the principle of recovery of the costs of water services, including environmental and resource costs…”

In a report dated November 14, 2012 in reply to Malta’s submissions on the implementation of the Water Framework Directive, the European Commission takes Malta to task on the pricing of water. The report, addressed to the European Parliament and the European Council, states that “it seems that environmental and resource costs have not been included in the cost recovery calculation”.

The price for water which the Water Services Corporation charges is limited to recovering its operational costs.

When the corporation extracts groundwater it does not pay for the water extracted. The cost of the water extracted (referred to as the resource cost) is ignored. This is obviously an incorrect practice as groundwater does have a cost which is dependent on a variety of factors. Once identified, on the basis of proper studies, this is a cost which must be added to the current charges. This is a matter which the Malta Resources Authority as the regulator should have been analysing for the past years.

In addition to the operational costs and the resource costs there are also the environmental costs which must be identified and quantified. The EU, in order to assist in the implementation of the Water Framework Directive, facilitates a Common Implementation Strategy through which Guidance documents and technical reports are produced assisting member states in coming to grips with what is expected from them to protect water resources within their territories. Guidance document No. 1, in fact, entitled Economics And The Environment, is a 274-page long technical document which explains in detail what is to be taken into consideration.

I am informed that the Malta Resources Authority, after EU accession, carried out such an exercise of identifying and costing in detail the resource and environmental costs of water. Producing these studies is part of its role as the competent authority to report to the Commission on the economics of water use as required under Article 5 of the Directive –

that the management of water resources in the Maltese Islands is on a sound footing. The authority, I am informed, also made detailed professional proposals as to the Programme of Measures required by article 11 of the Water Framework Directive. This leads me to conclude that the Government has been in receipt of sound professional advice as to what needs to be done to manage in a professional manner Malta’s water resources. Unfortunately this advice has been ignored. This is a political responsibility yet to be shouldered.

The Auditor General’s Performance Audit entitled Safeguarding Malta’s Groundwater, published in February 2012, is an eye-opener as to the measures which have not yet been implemented (fully or partially). One of the most worrying is the metering of boreholes. The MRA has not been given adequate means which would go a long way to fast-track this control on the rate of extraction of groundwater. The end result is that notwithstanding that metering of boreholes was accepted by the Government as a suitable measure very late in the day, its implementation is already two years behind schedule.

The metering of boreholes should be the first step of a process leading to a long-term objective ensuring that all boreholes are no longer operational. It should be clear to all that ground water is public property.

Even agriculture should be slowly weaned away from the use of ground water. Adequately polished treated sewage effluent would be a suitable alternative.

Water is a precious resource essential for our well-being. It is essential for the well-being of our families, for our agriculture, for our manufacturing industry as well as for tourism. Notwithstanding its being a basic requirement for practically all our activities, it has been mismanaged for a very long time. Successive governments have ignored its mishandling.

Water has been considered as a freebie for far too long. It is now time to pay for past mistakes. If we take longer to realise this fact the environmental bills will be insurmountable. Hence it is irresponsible for the Labour Party to promise a reduction of water bills.

originally published in The Times, December 22, 2012

Voting at the Hospitals and Retirement Homes: (4) Voting documents & voters choices


The voting documents shall be delivered personally to residents in retirement homes. The same procedure shall apply to patients in hospitals unless they would have been delivered to them prior to admittance.

The residents/patients may opt to retain possession of the voting document or else they may opt to give it to the Chairman of the sub-committee for safekeeping. The Chairman of the sub-committe will return the voting document on the day fixed for voting or when so requested by the voter.

Voters in retirement homes/hospitals have the option to chose the manner in which they are to proceed to the polling station. They may opt to proceed on their own or else they may opt to proceed with the assistence of members of the staff or with members of their family. The voters are expected to make a choice. There is no provision in the law for the residents/patients to inform the authorities that they ought to mind their own business through the use of appropriate language.

The sub-committee is obliged in terms of subarticle 83(2) of the Act to ascertain the manner in which voters intend to proceed to vote and thereafter to inform the delegates of the political parties of the options chosen. It is expected that once voters decide on the selected option in which they are to proceed to vote they do not change their mind unless they have special permission from the sub-committee as is provided in subarticle 83(7) of the Act!

A medical consultant having in his care any voter in a hospital or retirement home may draw attention to any dangers which may result if a voter is moved for the purposes of  being taken to vote. His advice may however be ignored by the voter or his next of kin where applicable.

Voters who opt to be accompanied by members of staff shall be so accompanied by staff forming a pool nominated by the political parties. If there are not sufficient members of staff the Electoral Commission at the request of the political parties must ensure that sufficent additional personnel are transferred  as required!

On the day fixed for voting access to retirement homes/hospitals shall be restricted.  Such access shall be limited to members of the sub-committee, members of staff and those relatives authorised to accompany voters to vote.

All those accomanying voters shall only accompany them as far as the door of the polling booth.

to be continued : tomorrow (5) Infringement of data protection legislation

Voting at the Hospitals and Retirement Homes: (3) Political Parties and the lists of patients/residents

stored data

So far, in parts 1 and 2 we have identified that twenty four hours after the publication of the writ establishing the date of the general elections the Electoral Commission shall form a sub-committee, chaired by a Commissioner together with a representative of each of the political parties. The Electoral Commission shall delegate the running of the general election  in retirement homes and hospitals to this sub-committee. The duties of this sub-committee are wide ranging.

The sub-committee shall receive from the administration of the Hospitals/Retirement homes lists of patients/residents. These shall be submitted to the sub-committee within three days from the publication fo the writ identifying the general election date.  In addition a list of all staff expected to be on duty up to the day following election day shall be furnished by the administrators to the sub-committee.

The list of residents in retirement homes shall include names, ID card numbers, last known address, age, ward number, name and address of next of kin and the electoral district where the resident is entitled to vote.

The details of all patients in hospitals is also to be submitted. It shall include names, ID card number, last kniown address, ward number, name and address of next of kin. This list is to be updated daily until the day preceeding the election.

Full details of staff at both retirement homes and hospitals will also be furnished by the administrator: the information shall include name, ID card number, grade, address, as well as their expected working hours up to the day after the election .

The sub-committee shall supply to the political parties the lists containing the information on residents, patients and staff. The information supplied to the political parties shall be updated regularly.

Staff members in hospitals and retirement homes are expressly prohibited from engaging in propaganda for any political party or candidate. Severe penalties shall apply if they ignore this: general interdiction for a period of 10 years.

The political parties will thus be informed in detail of who the residents in retirement homes as well as hospital patients are, their last known residence as well as details as to their next of kin. It is to be pointed out that in respect of hospital patients information as to the ward where the patient is receiving treatment will also be communicated to the political parties thereby indirectly informing them of what’s wrong with the voter’s health.

to be continued : tomorrow (4) Voting documents & voters choices

Voting at the Hospitals and Retirement Homes: (2) The draconian powers of the sub-committee


In part 1 we identified that twenty four hours after the publication of the writ establishing the date of the general elections the Electoral Commission shall form a sub-committee, chaired by a Commissioner together with a representative of each of the political parties. The Electoral Commission shall delegate the running of the general election  in retirement homes and hospitals to this sub-committee.

The sub-committee has 4 basic duties established in subarticle 81(2) of the General Elections Act. These duties are listed as follows:

  1. that no undue pressure is bought to bear on voters in retirement homes and hospitals,
  2. that proper and adequate facilities are given to all political parties to canvas voters
  3. that adequate arrangements for voting are made in view of the special needs of such voters
  4. that no political party enjoys an unfair advantage.

The sub-committee in terms of subarticle 81(3) of the Act is given the authority to ensure that

  1. immediate steps are taken to remove and substitute members of staff gravely suspected to have attempted to influence voters
  2. arrangements are made for receipt/delivery of propaganda material and for canvassing dring visiting hours by candidates and political parties contesting that electoral division
  3. complaints from political parties/candidates are speedily investigated and rectified when found to be justified.

These dragonian powers were agreed to unanimously by Parliament as they were agreed to by the PN and the PL. It is not known whether Trade Unions were consulted. Most probably they were not.

to be continued : tomorrow (3) Political Parties and the lists of patients/residents

Voting at the Hospitals and Retirement Homes: (1) Introduction


On Monday morning together with Professor Arnold Cassola on behalf of Alternattiva Demokratika I had a meeting with the Chief Electoral Commissioner who was accompanied by the Commission’s Secretary. The point at issue were recent amendments to the General Elections Act (through Act XIV of 2012) which set out the framework for the running of general elections in retirement homes and Hospitals.

Retirement homes to which the amendments apply must have at least fifty resident voters and must be run by the state. This means that only one retirement home, St Vincent de Paul  Residence, is targeted. Ther retirement homes which though owned by the state are run by the private sector (Zejtun and Mellieħa homes) are excluded.

Likewise when it comes to the hospitals it will be the state hospitals which will be subject to the recent amendments. These are four in number, namely Mater Dei Hospital, Karen Grech Hospital, Mount Carmel Hospital and the Gozo General Hospital.

Twenty four hours after the publication of the writ establishing the date of the general elections the Electoral Commission shall form a sub-committee which shall be chaired by a Commissioner together with a representative of each of the political parties. Alternattiva Demokratika shall participate in this sub-committee and I shall be its representative.

In terms of these latest amendments to the General Elections Act the Electoral Commission shall delegate to the above-mentioned sub-committee the running of the general election  in retirement homes and hospitals.

to be continued : tomorrow (2) The draconian powers of the sub-committee

L-ittra anonima tal-PN

PN ittra anonima p.1.122012

Jiena ukoll irċevejt l-ittra anonima tal-PN li paġna minnha qed nirriproduċi hawn fuq.

Żammejtha għax mill-envelope u l-label għaraft mill-ewwel minn fejn ġiet. Fl-ebda ħin ma kelli dubju u irriżulta li kelli raġun dwar dan.

Il-PN beda l-kampanja tat-twerwir bit-transfers.

Jiena ma kellix bżonn min ifakkarni għax kemm il-PN fil-Gvern kif ukoll il-Labour fil-Gvern it-tnejn imxew ħażin miegħi meta kont impjegat fis-settur pubbliku.

Fiż-żmien li Lawrence Gonzi u l-PN ilhom fil-Gvern mhux transfer ħadt iżda kelli l-kuntratt tax-xogħol fl-uffiċċju tal-Uffiċjal tal-Verifika tal-MEPA (Audit Officer) mhux imġedded u dan f’April 2007!

L-istorja tiegħi mal-Labour seħħet fl-1984 meta tkeċċejt mix-xogħol mal-Gvern għax kont nikteb fil-gazzetti tal-PN.

Għadni ma fhimtx għalfejn bgħatuli l-ittra anonima. Imma jidher li l-PN għandhom ħafna flus x’jaħlu.

M’għandhomx għalfejn ifakkruni. Għax jiena niftakar sewwa x’għaddejt minnu! Imma jidher li huma (il-PN) donnhom insew, u jippretendu li l-uniku passat li jeżisti hu ta’ ħaddiehor. Għax tagħhom iridu jinsewh qiesu qatt ma kien xejn. Mhux hekk tgħid.

Wara Xarabank li ma sarx …………..


Il-bieraħ fil-għaxija kont mistieden għall-programm Xarabank biex fid-dibattitu bejn Simon Busuttil u Anġlu Farrugia ngħaddi xi kummenti.

Qed ngħid ngħaddi xi kummenti għax fil-programm kont ser nipparteċipa u inkun allokat massimu ta’ 8 minuti għal xi tlett interventi bħalma xi ġimgħat ilu kien allokat Michael Briguglio fid-dibattitu bejn il-mexxejja tal-PN u l-PL.

Alternattiva Demokratika m’għandiex l-istazzjon tagħha u allura m’għandiex għażla dwar x’tista’ tagħmel f’dawn iċ-ċirkustanzi, tiddependi kompletament fuq il-ħin offrut. Anke jekk dan ikun allokat b’mod li fil-fehma tagħna jkun inġust. Il-Partiti l-oħra min-naħa l-oħra għandhom kemm l-istazzjon televiżiv tagħhom kif ukoll iridu sehem mill-ħin fuq l-istazzjon nazzjonali.

Il-farsa li żviluppat fil-ħin li kellu jibda Xarabank il-bierah hi issa magħrufa. Franco Debono ried li jkollu l-opportunita li jiddibatti ma Simon Busuttil. Il-motiv ewlieni għal dan hu li matul il-ġimgħat u forsi anke matul ix-xhur li għaddew inżamm il-bogħod mill-istudios konnessi mal-PBS. Tas-Super One ovvjament jippruvaw jagħsru  li jistgħu għall-vantaġġ massimu li jippermettu ċ-ċirkustanzi. Tan-NET iqiesuh irrelevanti.

F’pajjiż fejn il-ġurnaliżmu investigattiv jirrenja, l-istazzjonijiet televiżivi kien ikollhom minjiera ta’ informazzjoni x’jesploraw fi Franco Debono.  Imma dan ftit li xejn sar sfortunatament. Għax il-ġurnaliżmu fil-pajjiż hu prinċipalment wieħed motivat minn aġenda politika. Ħafna drabi b’mod li tidher, xi drabi mlibbsa b’mod li hi taparsi indipendenti. F’xi każi indipendenti ftit, xi kultant ftit iktar.

Franco hu bniedem taħt assedju u fil-fehma tiegħi iħoss li billi ma ikkonformax mas-sistema din ippruvat toħonqu. Nifhem dak li jħoss għalkemm naħseb li ma użax il-metodi addattati. Il-konsegwenza hi li hu inħaraq u probabilment li ser jinħarqu miegħu dawk kollha li matul din il-leġislatura xelfu xi ftit difrejhom mat-tmexxija tal-PN.

Pero’ l-istorja ma naħsibx li tieqaf hawn. Kulħadd naħseb li tgħallem xi ħaġa minn dak li ġara fil-Parlament matul dawn il-5 snin. Mhux biss minn dak li qal u għamel Franco, iżda ukoll minn dak li għamel JPO. (Lil Mugliett ma nsejtux. Ma semmejtux għax ma kienx persuna li ħadet xi inizzjattiva. Pjuttost mexa mal-kurrent. Għamel numru ta’ diskorsi parlamentari tajbin. Wieħed minnhom kien dwar l-ismart meters. Kien diskors studjat u ippreparat.)

Hi ħasra li daqstant enerġija inħliet meta setgħet faċilment intużat b’mod ħafna iktar pożittiv.