Business Sense and Environmental Nonsense

earth_screwed_1

 

They call it business sense.  They do not realise that at times it is also environmental nonsense.

On MEPA’s website there is a link named Businessense. More efficiency. Less bureaucracy.

 

Among the measures which are being labelled as being ones which make business sense the reduction of development permit fees tops the list.

Now there are instances where it makes sense to reduce and at times even eliminate completely the payment of development permit fees. Among the examples which come to mind are restoration works in Urban Conservation Areas and Scheduled properties.

The reason for such reduction/elimination of fees is the need to encourage business to ensure that properties worth preserving are in fact restored and utilised. It is a way to channel investment in the preservation of our heritage by ensuring that our past has a future.

 

A blanket reduction of development permit fees is however environmental nonsense. The aim of development permit fees is not just to recover the costs incurred in the processing of planning applications. Development permit fees also serve another purpose: to encourage or discourage building activity.

In the present circumstances, that is with over 72,000 vacant properties (including those used partially for seasonal accommodation) there is no need to encourage building activity.

The reduction of development permit fees by MEPA thus makes neither business nor environmental sense. It is rather classified as utter nonsense.

Ebola: aħna imħejjija?

ebola

 

Waqt li l-istampa internazzjonali u in partikolari l-istampa Ingliża qed tgħarbel il-livell ta’ tħejjija bħala lqugħ għat-tixrid ta’ din il-marda tajjeb li nistaqsu x’inhi l-posizzjoni tagħna f’Malta.

Xi tħejjija hawn?

It-tobba u l-paramediċi huma ippreparati f’każ li jitfaċċa xi każ ? Fl-ajruport u fil-portijiet xi preparazzjoni hemm? Il-membri tal-iskwadra marittima tal-Forzi Armati huma imħejjija, u dan billi huma jiġu l-ewwel in kuntatt mal-immigrant ġejjin mill-Afrika ?

Tajjeb li nkunu nafu li 90% tal-każi jwasslu għall-mewt. M’hemmx fejqan magħruf għal din il-marda.

Ma nistgħux nissugraw li ma nkunux ippreparati

 

Għal iktar informazzjoni ara:

Independent: Ebola virus: UK health officials issue warning to doctors as experts admit the outbreak ‘is not under control’ 

Guardian : Ebola outbreak: UK ministers hold emergency Cobra meeting over threat.

 

 

The Tripoli kidnapping. Full disclosure required.

Medavia. return

 

Now that Martin Galea is safe,  it is time for a full disclosure.

Dr Marisa Farrugia, Malta’s Consul in Tripoli was singled out and thanked by Martin Galea for saving his life. But the Prime Minister  Joseph Muscat who, followed by his hangers-on,  tried to take complete control of the spotlight when Martin Galea descended from the Medavia jet  did his best to ignore and sideline Dr Marisa Farrugia.

In such circumstances the person entrusted with such delicate negotiations which have led to the release, unharmed, of a Maltese national would be showered with praise. Farrugia, only two months ago faced what the sensational press labelled as an investigation into a massive visa scam.

Anyone involved, even minimally, in such a “massive visa scam” would not be recalled to take charge of such a delicate operation as negotiating the release of a Maltese hostage held in Tripoli, the site of the alleged scam itself.

Has government lost face over what has turned up to be a trumped up charge? Could this be the reason for Muscat and his entourage pushing aside Marisa Farrugia?

This is certainly not the way to deal with Malta’s diplomats.

An explanation is long overdue. Nothing but a full disclosure will suffice. The purge of the civil service commenced with the dismissal of practically all Permanent Secretaries in March 2013 should not be allowed to proceed any further.

Natanyahu b’karrotti għal Joseph Muscat

1kg_carrot.Israel

 

F’Ottubru li għadda il-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat mexxa delegazzjoni Maltija fl-Iżrael. Kien hemm diversi Ministri u tkellmu dwar diversi affarijijiet. Kollha affarijiet important.

Bla dubju tkellmu ukoll dwar l-appoġġ li Malta ilha snin twal tagħti lill-kawża Palestinjana. Appoġġ li ingħata minn diversi Gvernijiet.

Fl-istqarrija li l-Prim Ministru kien għamel fil-Parlament nhar il-21 t’Ottubru 2013 jissemmew ħafna affarijiet interessanti u utli li dwarhom id-delegazzjoni Maltija tkellmet mad-diversi politiċi li ltaqgħet magħhom.

Ma tissemmiex ħaġa waħda: appoġġ politiku lill-istat tal-Iżrael.

Ftit ftit minn Ottbru 2013 lil hawn ħerġin biċċiet ta’ informazzjoni li jindikaw illi għaddej taqlib kbir fil-politika Maltija fil-konfront tal-Iżrael.

Il-Malta Today ippubblikat artiklu minn Jürgen Balzan dwar dan.  Jidher li għaddej argument bejn George Vella  Ministru tal-Affarijiet Barranin li jsostni appoġġ lill-kawża palestinjana u dawk fil-Kabinett li huma iktar prammatiċi u allura jitkellmu b’mod li jidhru bilanċjati, jiġifieri kritiċi nofs kedda  favur tal-qagħda attwali fil-Lvant Nofsani.

Fin-nofs jidher li hemm l-appoġġ għall-kandidatura tal-Iżrael għall-Kunsill tas-Sigurta’ tal-Ġnus Magħquda. Il-Gvern Malti jidher li qed jikkunsidra li jappoġġa din il-kandidatura.

Nistennew il-karrotti ta’ Natanyahu.

Is-sigriet tal-Ministru George Vella

George Vella

 

Segwejt il-parti l-kbira tad-dibattitu dwar is-sitwazzjoni fil-Libja fil-Parlament il-bieraħ.

Il-Gvern qed jiġi ikkritikat mill-Opposizzjoni u minn parti mill-media li żamm il-ħtif tal-Malti Martin Galea mistur.

Għamel sewwa jew għamel ħażin?

B’mod ġenerali l-Gvern għandu jkun trasparenti. Għandu jinforma mhux jaħbi. Iżda anke għal dan, f’soċjeta’ demorkatika hemm l-eċċezzjonijiet.

Hawn għandna każ ta’ ħtif minn grupp terroristiku. X’gwadann kien ser ikun hemm kieku l-Gvern, ġimgħa ilu ħareġ l-aħbar li Malti ġie maħtuf? Xejn, assolutament xejn ħlief pubbliċita’ lil att ta’ terroriżmu.

Imma kien ikun għaqli kieku l-Ministru ta’ l-Affarijiet Barranin George Vella  informa b’mod kunfidenzjali lill-Opposizzjoni dwar dan. Dan jidher li ma sarx.

L-Imħallef Wenzu Mintoff: kwalifikat jew mhux?

Wenzu Mintoff gurament

 

Il-ħatra ta’ Wenzu Mintoff bħala Imħallef nisslet ħafna kritika.

Essenzjalment il-kritika kienet dwar żewġ affarijiet.

L-ewwel tip ta’ kritika kienet dwar il-fatt li Wenzu Mintoff kien attiv għal żmien twil fil-politika. Mhux biss, imma li għal dan l-aħħar kien ukoll attiv fil-ġurnaliżmu fejn uża ħafna l-pinna fi kritika politika.

Jiena naħseb li jiena ħafna iktar komdu ma min hu ċar fil-kritika tiegħu milli ma min ma jgħid xejn, imbagħad meta jiftaħ ħalqu tista’ tinduna li hu ferm agħar.

It-tieni kritika fil-konfront tal-ħatra ta’ Wenzu Mintoff hi dwar jekk għandux l-esperjenza meħtieġa. Hu fatt li biex avukat jinħatar Imħallef irid ikun ilu ta’ l-inqas tnax-il sena jipprattika ta’ avukat.  Il-Kostituzzjoni fl-artiklu 96 tgħid li l-Imħallef li jinħatar irid ikun ilu mhux inqas minn tnax-il sena jeżerċita l-professjoni ta’ avukat.

Hemm opinjonijiet differenti dwar din xi tfisser. Dawk li qed jikkritikaw il-ħatra qed jgħidu li l-professjoni ta’ avukat tiġi eżerċitata fil-Qrati u li għaldaqstant avukat li ma jipprattikax il-Qorti ma jissodisfax dan il-kriterju tal-artiklu 96 tal-Kostituzzjoni. Din kienet ukoll il-linja li ħadet il-Kummissjoni għall-Amministrazzjoni tal-Ġustizzja meta ma qablitx mal-ħatra tal-Avukat Andre’ Camilleri bħala Imħallef xi snin ilu.

M’hemm xejn x’iżomm lil dawk li qed jikkritikaw il-ħatra ta’ Wenzu Mintoff u li jidrilhom li m’għandux biżżejjed prattika quddiem il-Qrati mill-jikkontestaw il-validita’ tal-ħatra tegħu. Jiena naħseb li flok id-dikjarazzjonijiet diversi li saru dwar bojkott tal-ewwel seduta jew ta’ avukati li mhux lesti li jindirizzawħ bħala Sur Imħallef jew min mhux lest li jkollu kawża quddiemu jkun ħafna aħjar li min jidhirlu li Wenzu Mintoff mhux kwalifikat jikkontesta l-validita’ tal-ħatra tiegħu.

Dan hu l-uniku mod serju kif isiru l-affarijiet.  Għax jekk  mhux kwalifikat il-ħatra tiegħu hi abbużiva, imma jekk hu kwalifikat hu fl-interess ta’ kulħadd, u l-iktar fl-interess tal-ġustizzja f’pajjiżna, li jkun hemm ftit iktar attenzjoni dwar dak li qed jingħad.

Ikun allura fil-fehma tiegħi għaqli li min jemmen li Wenzu Mintoff  mhux kwalifikat għall-ħatra ta’ Imħallef jikkontesta d-deċiżjoni tal-Gvern li jaħtru u dan billi jiftaħ kawża f’dan is-sens.

Nifhem li trid il-kuraġġ biex tagħmel dan. Kwalita li mhiex komuni ħafna. Imma għas-serjeta’ hi l-unika triq.

Lobbying risks corruption

 

EU.lobbying

In a democratic society, lobbying is a potentially legitimate activity. It involves the communication of views and information to legislators and administrators by those who have an interest in informing them of the impacts of the decisions under consideration.  It is perfectly legitimate that individuals, acting on their own behalf, or else acting on behalf of third parties, seek to ensure that decision takers are well informed before taking the required decisions. Obviously lobbying should not be the process through which the decision takers make way for the representatives of corporations to take their place.

Free and open access to decision takers is an important matter of public interest. It is perfectly legitimate but ought to be regulated and the resulting information adequately and appropriately disclosed. The difficulty, as always, is where to draw the line. It must be ensured that society protects itself against the corruption risks involved in lobbying when this is secretive and unregulated.

The manner in which Dalligate is unfolding in the EU institutions clearly underlines this preoccupation.  The European Institutions have lobbying rules.  The basic issue of Dalligate is in my view not whether former EU Commissioner John Dalli resigned or was dismissed. Rather, in line with the Code of Conduct for Commissioners, the issue is whether he “acted in a manner that is in keeping with the dignity and duties” of his office when meeting with lobbyists away from the Commission offices, unaccompanied, and such that what went on during the meetings is not documented but known only to a couple of persons. Even if everything said in such meetings was above board, the fact that they were held is itself unacceptable. John Dalli claims, most probably correctly, that he was entrapped by the tobacco industry. Being so naive as to facilitate his own entrapment, it was right that he should go without a whimper. Instead we were regaled with theatrics which have served no useful purpose, not even for John Dalli.

All this is further compounded by the additional very serious allegation that representatives of the tobacco industry met with other senior officials of the EU Commission without these meetings being disclosed and documented.  Emily O’Reilly Ombudsman of the European Union is currently carrying out an investigation at the request of Corporate Europe Observatory on fourteen such meetings.

Corporate Europe Observatory, a watchdog based in Brussels and campaigning for greater transparency and accountability in decision taking, estimates that in Brussels alone there are around 30,000 lobbyists. Compare this to the around 24,000 staff employed by the European Commission as on 31 December 2013 and you get a glimpse of what’s going on in the corridors of Brussels. Lobbying in Brussels is a billion euro industry which seeks to influence and at times deflect political decisions. The regulation of lobbying seeks to place a spotlight on the source of influence and hopefully to counter attempts to derail or deflect political decisions.

There is a continuous debate in the EU institutions on fine tuning the rules regulating lobbying. In 2011 the European Parliament approved an “Inter-institutional agreement on a Common Transparency Register between the Parliament and the Commission”. This register provides for the voluntary registering of lobbyists active in the EU institutions. It is hoped that during the current EU Parliament’s term the registration of lobbyists in Brussels will be a compulsory matter. This may happen when the issues raised by Dalligate are finally addressed, possibly within the next few months.

Closer to home, a Parliamentary Select Committee has concluded its workings on Standards in Public Life. The Select Committee generally did a good job. It produced a final report which Mr Speaker laid on the Table of the House on the 24 March 2014. The report, including the proposed legislation attached to the said report, deals with the behaviour of Members of Parliament (including members of Cabinet) and persons appointed to positions of trust in the public sector (including statutory authorities) primarily with reference to their declaration of assets as well as with reference to a Code of Ethics which has been in force since 1994.  Surprisingly there is no direct reference to lobbying in the workings and conclusions of the Parliamentary Select Committee.

Lobbying, as is normal, is very much existent in Malta too. It would be appropriate if it is addressed by ensuring that it is regulated, documented and disclosed where appropriate. However it seems that currently there are no plans to regulate lobbying in Malta. If we are really serious on tackling corruption at its roots it would be better if the need to regulate lobbying is urgently reconsidered. Together with legislation on the financing of political parties, the regulation of lobbying would create a quasi complete tool-kit in the fight against corruption.

published in The Times of Malta – 21 July 2014

Joseph u r-referendum dwar il-kaċċa fir-rebbiegħa

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Il-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat qed jikkunsidra li l-elezzjonijiet għall-Kunsilli Lokali jibdew isiru kull ħames snin, mal-elezzjonijiet għall-Parlament Ewropew. Probabilment li dan ifisser ukoll li l-elezzjonijiet kollha lokali li kellhom isiru sal-2019 ikunu posposti sadakinnhar.

Issa kif jaf kulħadd probabilment li r-referendum abrogattiv dwar il-kaċċa fir-rebbiegħa jsir f’Marzu li ġej, Marzu 2015, preċiżament ma numru ta’ elezzjonijiet lokali li sal-lum il-liġi torbot li jsiru: elezzjonijiet f’34 Kunsill Lokali.

Din il-mossa hi interpretat minn uħud bħala pass ta’ appoġġ minn Joseph u l-Gvern tiegħu favur il-kaċċa fir-rebbiegħa. Jagħtihom appoġġ billi jnaqqas dawk l-affarijiet li jagħmluha iktar faċli illi tmur tivvota.

Joseph kien daqshekk ġentili li qalilna illi din m’għandha tagħmel l-ebda differenza għal dawk li għandhom daqshekk entużjażmu biex isir dan ir-referendum. Ta’ l-inqas hekk irrappurtat il-Malta Today illum fir-rapport intitolat Standalone Referendum shouldn’t trouble eager supporters.

Xi ftit effett anke jekk żgħir jista’ jkun hemm. Pero’ kull deni ħudu b’ġid: hemm ukoll il-possibilita’ li jekk ikun ċar li l-Gvern ser jilgħab maħmuġ billi jfittex l-opportunitajiet biex jagħti l-gambetti, allura l-effett jista’ wara kollox ikun bil-maqlub ta’ dak li għandu f’moħħu l-Gvern.

Għax il-Gvern ta’ Joseph Muscat ma jridx li r-referendum abrogattiv iwassal biex il-kaċċa fir-rebbiegħa  tieqaf.  M’għandi l-ebda dubju li din hi l-ewwel waħda minn diversi mossi jew tricks biex jagħti daqqa t’id.

Tajjeb li kulħadd jiftaħ għajnejh.

Storbju fi Ġnien il-Gardjola

Il-Gardjola

Għadni kif kont Ġnien il-Gardjola, l-Isla.

Kellmuni diversi residenti jilmentaw għax qed ikunu organizzati diversi attivitajiet privati, bħal tiġijiet, li jibqgħu sejrin bl-istorbju sa tard bil-lejl.

Ġnien il-Gardjola qiegħed viċin wisq ir-residenti biex jitħallew ikunu organizzati fih attivitajiet li jiġġeneraw l-istorbju sa tard bil-lejl.

Kien hemm żmien li dawn kien waqfu imma issa jidher li reġgħu bdew.

Dan m’għandux jibqa’ jsir għax in-nies għandha d-dritt għall-mistrieħ.