Malta tagħna lkoll

Malta taghna lkoll

 

Tal-Labour Party ħelwin.

Jgħidulna li Malta tagħna lkoll.

Iżda ma qalulniex għaliex lesti li jħallu lil min jisraq biċċa minn Malta li hi tagħna ilkoll iżomma għalih. Fil-fatt is-serq tal-art biex fuqu inbnew il-boathouses tal-Armier tal-Labour Party iberkuh. Għal-Labour Party l-Armier fejn insterqet l-art m’hiex tagħna ilkoll, iżda tagħhom biss!

Ma qalilniex kif tista’ tkun Malta tagħna ilkoll imbagħad il-Labour Party jivvota favur li Bertie Mizzi jieħu f’idejħ (b’tender s’intendi) Manoel Island.

Mal-ambjentalisti ħafna kliem ħelu dwar kemm taħraqhom qalbhom għall-ambjent. Imma meta jkunu ma’ dawk li jiżviluppaw l-art, jitkellmu b’mod differenti. Iktar jitkellmu dwar kemm il-MEPA qed iżżomm l-iżvilupp lura. Ħalluna naħdmu, qalilhom Sandro Chetcuti!

Malta tagħna lkoll. Bil-kliem iva. Iżda bil-fatti ħaġa oħra.

Magħna taf fejn int!

Dom: a giant surrounded by pygmies

Much has been written in the past days on Dom Mintoff. On his service to the nation. On his values. On his methods. On his achievements.

In what we write we ought to be respectful. Not just to Dom, the man and his memory. We must also respect  ourselves. We must be factual.

We cannot respect the man  if we have no self respect!

His first positive contribution was in the development of the tools of  social solidarity,  determined to ensure that all had access to the basic essentials. He did this initially with Sir Paul Boffa his predecessor as Labour Leader. It was Boffa who laid the foundations of the welfare state through the introduction of Old Age Pensions and Income Tax to finance them!  Years earlier Boffa had prodded Gerald Strickland through the Compact to construct St Luke’s Hospital.  Boffa has been sidelined in the past 50 years when in reality it was he who should get the credit for founding the welfare state in Malta. Dom built on Boffa’s solid foundations, widening and deepening social services in the process.

His second positive was his determination that independence be translated into Maltese absolute control of the islands and their strategic infrastructure. This contrasted with Borg Olivier’s more gradual approach.  His negotiations shocked the nation as it was the first time that a Maltese politician stood up and spoke what they had in mind. In his last mass meeting before the 1971 general elections, held  at Marsa,  Mintoff had stated in very clear terms what he had in mind. It was time for Britain to pay up or pack up.

Lord Carrington then Defence Secretary in Edward Heath’s Cabinet states in his memoirs that negotiating with Dom was tough business. He realised “that there was also calculation in every Mintoff mood.”  Mintoff’s moods noted Carrington, would alternate “between periods of civilised charm and spasms of strident and hysterical abuse.”

Dom also opened a third front. He rightly felt the need for a separation of Church and State. It was, and still is  an area which requires much attention. It was much worse 50 years ago with an unelected archbishop-prince wielding political power unwittingly aiding  the colonial masters. Divide and rule was the British policy in its colonies. This front has been the cause of various scars (political and social), still not sufficiently healed.  It was violence from unexpected quarters which multiplied the political problems which each government has had to tackle since.

In his endeavours Dom was undoubtedly influenced by his direct experiences.  His witnessing of abject poverty during his childhood, his youth and immediate post war years formed his vision for developing the welfare state which had been painfully plotted by Sir Paul Boffa.

Having a foreign power controlling any square metre of significance on the islands was too much to bear for someone with Dom’s temperament. His father’s employment in the service of Lord Louis Mountbatten undoubtedly added to the significance of it all and to his determination to make a clean sweep.

It would be dishonest to ignore the above.

It would be however similarly dishonest to ignore the fact that his stewardship was also characterised by arrogance and bullying. It was characterised by organs of the state which sought to protect abusive behaviour. The long list of cases wherein Dom’s government and his most trusted Ministers were found guilty of infringing human rights is there for all to see. None of them was ever forced to resign. This is also part of Dom’s contribution to the development of  post 1964 Malta.

Anyone ever tried to identify the number of victims, some with a one way ticket to l-Addolorata Cemetery?

Former Air Malta chairman Albert Mizzi in an interview carried in The Sunday Times on March 25, 2012 stated: “I remember one time when someone mentioned something to him about corruption. He turned to me and said, ‘is it true?’ I replied: ‘That what’s people are saying’. His response was: ‘What can I do if that person has helped me to build up the party? Can I take action against him?’ You see, this is small Malta.”

That is Dom, the giant surrounded by pygmies: those who helped him build his party and then proceeded to squeeze it dry until the pips squealed.

Respecting Dom also means self-respect. Respect  the facts.  When this is done we can give the man his due.

originally published at di-ve.com

On this blog you can read the following additional posts on Dom MINTOFF :

21st August 2012 : Dom’s legacy

21st August 2012 : Dom Mintoff

22nd June 2012 : Dom Mintoff fuq in-Net TV.

5th May 2012 : Dom Mintoff : a political bully.

23rd April 2012 : Thanks O Lord for giving us DOM.

1st April 2012: Should we thank Dom?

RCC u l-Avro RJ70. Wara raqda ta’ 15-il sena

RCC kien ikkwotat illum li għamel sfida lill-Karmenu Vella tal-Labour dwar l-Air Malta.

L-isfida hi dwar l-erba’ Avro RJ70 li l-Air Malta xtrat fi żmien li hu (RCC) kien membru tal-Bord tad-Diretturi tal-Air Malta.

Dawn l-ajruplani kienu sors ta’ telf kbir ta’ flus lill-Kumpanija ta’ l-Ajru Nazzjonali Air Malta. Dan it-telf baqa’ jħabbat lill-Air Malta għal snin twal tant li hemm min jinsisti illi kienu wieħed mill-fatturi ewlenin li ikkontribwew għall qagħda attwali tal-Air Malta.

L-isfida ta’ RCC hi dwar il-kuntratt għax-xiri ta’ dawn l-ajruplani. Skond RCC kien hemm ftehim dwar klawsola partikolari fil-kuntratt tax-xiri biex il-kumpanija li min ghandha kienu ser jinxtraw tiggarantixxi  li dawn l-ajruplani ma joħolqux problemi tekniċi jew operattivi lill-Air Malta. RCC informa lit-Times li :

“The board’s decision to purchase the Avro RJ70s was also based on a specific clause – known as trip cost guarantee – which guaranteed the cost of operating the four aircraft for 10 years. This meant that during that period, Air Malta would not have been exposed to any risks from technical or operational problems affecting the aircraft.”

Imma żmien wara l-Bord tad-Diretturi kien infurmat li din il-kundizzjoni kienet sparixxiet mill-kuntratt tax-xiri ta’ l-ajruplani. Il-Bord tad-Diretturi ma kien jaf b’xejn. Jidher li saret inkjesta biex jiġi stabilit eżattament x’ġara. Din l-inkjesta saret fl-1997 meta RCC kien għadu Direttur.

RCC qed jgħid li r-rapport tal-inkjesta qatt ma ġie ippubblikat u allura bħal speċi ħadd ma jaf x’ġara u b’mod partikolari, min kien responsabbli  biex il-kundizzjoni fil-kuntratt tal Avro RJ70 tisparixxi, mhux magħruf.

Issa din kobba mħabbla sew.

Jekk fhimt sew :
1) l-inkjesta saret fl-1997 u Karmenu Vella hu akkużat li ma ippubblika xejn, żamm ir-rapport tal-inkjesta mistur, qiesu qed jaħbi xi ħaġa jew jgħatti għal xi ħadd,

2) ftit xhur wara RCC reġa’ sar kważi Prim Ministru u r-rapport baqa’ mistur ukoll.

Mela qiesu hemm xi ħaġa li kemm RCC kif ukoll Karmenu Vella jaqblu dwarha.  Donnu qablu li jżommuha mistura. Interessanti ħafna. Jistgħu t-tnejn li huma jgħidulna x’ġara? X’qed jgħattu? U għaliex issa wara ħmistax-il sena RCC jħossu komdu li jipponta subgħajh f’din id-direzzjoni?

Dom Mintoff: a political bully

The film Dear Dom has elicited contrasting reactions. It reflects the whims of the man. Initially being way ahead of his contemporaries, he ended up detached from the effects of the changes which he pursued.

He rightly wanted Malta to exit the soonest from its Middle Ages. The temporal powers of the Church run by an archbishop-prince and the colonial rulers were his first targets. Deliberately he opted to bully his way through. The bulldozer was Dom Mintoff’’s preferred operational tool and strategy. Initially used against the colonisers and the Church it was subsequently used by Mr Mintoff against his own people.

His oratory as well as his negotiating skills were central throughout his political career. He radically reformed and expanded the welfare state created by his predecessor as Prime Minister and Labour leader, Sir Paul Boffa, whom he toppled after accusing him of not being capable of standing up to the colonial masters.

Mr Mintoff’s strategy of seeking to improve the nation’s standard of living through integration with the UK stood in stark contrast to that of his nemesis George Borg Olivier who opted for independence as the tool to improve Malta’s living conditions. Mr Mintoff’s strategy to achieve integration failed and eventually he turned to Plan B: to follow the road leading to independence, patiently developed by Dr Borg Olivier. He couldn’t stand that, as playing second fiddle was not his game.

Dr Borg Olivier was patient. Mr Mintoff was not. Independence for Dr Borg Olivier was a gradual process starting with the essentials of self-government and slowly building up the county’s infrastructure: a prerequisite for its social and economic development. That was too slow for Mr Mintoff’s temperament. His attitude was one seeking absolute control at day one. His pace was much faster than Dr Borg Olivier could ever get accustomed to. This was reflected in Mr Mintoff’s style of negotiations, in his demands and in the stormy foreign relations which developed as a result of his approach.

Mr Mintoff’s followers embarked on many a violent spree. One may trace the justification of violence as a political tool in the debate and declarations leading to the Independence Round Table Conference, in particular in what are known as Labour’s six political points (is-sitt punti). Lino Spiteri interviewed in Dear Dom, qualifies this reference to violence as a necessary tool in the rebellion against the colonial powers. While that was indeed one of its earliest manifestations, unfortunately it eventually became a tool for all seasons, when Mr Mintoff lost control of the hangers-on which surrounded him, including the notorious members of his Cabinets, those who had their own “bully boys”.

Violence shamed Mr Mintoff and the Labour Party many a time, most notably when The Times was burnt down on Black Monday, October 15, 1979. In 1984 even his handpicked successor was embarrassed when supporters (labelled as the aristocracy of the working class) went berserk at the Archbishop’s Curia and destroyed all they could see.

Mr Mintoff was not capable of standing up to the criminal behaviour which slowly developed around him until it engulfed him and his party. This was recently described by former Air Malta chairman Albert Mizzi in an interview carried in The Sunday Times on March 25. Mr Mizzi stated: “I remember one time when someone mentioned something to him about corruption. He turned to me and said, is it true? I replied: ‘That what’s people are saying’. His response was: ‘What can I do if that person has helped me to build up the party? Can I take action against him?’ You see, this is small Malta.” That is Mr Mintoff at the mercy of his sycophants: those who helped him build his party and then proceeded to squeeze it dry until the pips squealed.

Bullying of opponents was an essential characteristic of Mr Mintoff’s method of government. Obviously those who benefited from his methods and actions think otherwise.

They consider it as a minor and insignificant blip. Those at the receiving end tend however to recognise it as an essential element of the man’s method. Positive politics is less relevant if the implementation method adopted is unacceptable. As a result Labour’s achievements under his leadership related to the welfare state and the general upgrading of the rights of working men and women will be forever overshadowed.

Coercive methods were characteristic of the man who sought to achieve his targets by hook or by crook. The shareholders of the National Bank of Malta, their heirs and all those who stood in his way are living testimony to Mr Mintoff’s methods. He bullied his way through all opposition: in his party, in Parliament, in civil society, in industrial relations and in the economy. His bullying of intellectuals bequeathed an inheritance of mediocrity to his Labour Party.

When the historical dust will have settled there will be one issue which sticks out in defining the man. It will not be the welfare state but his political bullying which shaped his party for a generation.

published in The Times of Malta, May 5, 2012

Should we thank Dom ?

Yana Mintoff Bland has demanded that her father Dom be shown the respect which she claims he deserves.

The Times in its comments quoted Yana Mintoff Bland as objecting to her father  Dom Mintoff being  “shown as being partisan and interested only in his supporters.”

It was only last week that The Sunday Times reporting an interview with Albert Mizzi former Chairman of Air Malta quoted Mr Mizzi as saying the following about her father  :

“I remember one time when someone mentioned something to him about corruption. He turned to me and said, is it true? I replied: ‘That what’s people are saying’. His response was: ‘What can I do if that person has helped me to build up the party? Can I take action against him?’ You see, this is small Malta.”

Being a Mintoff supporter in those days paid huge dividends.

I have already in the past put on record my own stories about pressures exerted by Dom Mintoff through a PN politician as well as through an army official for me to withdraw a human rights case in Malta’s Constitutional Court against one of his Cabinet Ministers. I did not budge but the pressure kept mounting. And on top of all that I even had my professional warrant as an architect withheld for 4 years after graduating. A fact also confirmed by the Injustces Commission which investigated my claims.

My experiences are just one of the many which those who disagreed with or criticised Dom’s government and methods suffered repeatedly.

A few did not survive to recount their ordeal as they paid with their lives. It that sense I may be lucky, but that is nothing to thank Dom about.

Żejtun Airways

Fl-intervista tiegħu fis-Sunday Times ta’ nhar il-Ħadd li għadda, Bertie Mizzi, li kien l-ewwel Chairman tal-Air Malta, fisser kif sa mill-bidunett kienu jittieħdu d-deċiżjonijiet fl-Air Malta meta kienu jimpjegaw in-nies mal-kumpanija.

Fl-intervista jingħad is-segwenti :

“When I was at Air Malta, at Budget time the minister used to go around to see what employment he could factor in for the following year.

“He’d say: ‘Who will Air Malta be employing next year? I’d reply, ‘nobody, because we don’t need anyone’. And the response would be that the airline had to take at least 100 people whether you like it or not.”

Ic-Chairman dak iż-żmien kien Bertie Mizzi. Il-Ministru kien il-Membru Parlamentari elett miż-Żejtun, Wistin Abela.

Għalhekk dak iż-żmien l-Air Malta kienet qiesha Żejtun Airways!

PS : Għal iżjed dettalji aqra Air Malta: a reminder is always useful.   Tiffriska ftit il-memorja!

Bertie Mizzi u Manoel Island

Bertie Mizzi jrid idaħħaq.

Fl-intervista fuq is-Sunday Times tal-Ħadd li għadda qalilna li l-politiċi kollha (ħlief dawk li kienu Prim Ministri) għandhom nuqqas fid-dipartiment tal-onesta. Il-Prim Ministri kollha li ħadem magħhom, qalilna, kienu kollha nies ta’ subgħajhom dritt. Ikun hemm ċans nikkummenta fuq dan. Illum ser nillimita ruħi ghal dak li qal dwar Manoel Island.

Berti jidher li beda jikkonverti. Qalilna li minkejja li qabbad l-aħjar nies illum qed jifforma opinjoni oħra differenti (għandu second thoughts) dwar l-iżvilupp ta’ Tigne. Jikkonsla għax jgħid li tagħmel x’tagħmel dejjem ser issib x’tikkritika!

Berti lest biex ma jagħmel xejn, qal, (l-ebda żvilupp fuq Manoel Island) jekk ikun ikun ikkumpensat għall-ispejjes li għamel (expenses and unrecoverable costs jgħid Bertie).

Jidher li Bertie inkwietat : We will not be accused of raping Manoel Island when it was the government that issued this tender in the first place.”

Ir-responsabbilta’ ghar-“rape of Manoel Island” qed jgħidilna Bertie Mizzi hi tal-Gvern, mhux tiegħu! Mhux biss, qalilna ukoll li l-Parlament kollu qabel miegħu għax il-proposta għall-iżvilupp ta’ Manoel Island kienet approvata unanimament mill-Parlament.

Dan kollu (li l-Parlament approva l-proposta għal-iżvilupp ta’ Manoel Island b’vot unanimu) ma jfissirx li din hi deċiżjoni tajba. Ifisser biss li fid-dinja tal-flus il-PN u l-PL m’hemmx x’tagħżel bejniethom.

It-tnejn jaqblu ma Bertie Mizzi li hu fil-business. U għal Bertie business is business!

Il-PN jisserva bl-Armata

Il-Malta Today  u l-Illum tal-Ħadd li għadda 19 ta’ Frar 2012  ippubblikaw storja li fiha żvelaw kif  Lawrence Gonzi uża ajruplan tal-Forzi Armati biex jattendi laqgħa politika tal-Partit Popolari Ewropew ġewwa Palermo f’Mejju 2011.

Skond l-Illum l-ispjega li ngħatat kienet illi kieku ma għamilx hekk ma kienx ilaħħaq jiġi lura biex jindirizza konferenza internazzjonali tan-Nurses iktar tard fl-istess jum.

Mela issa qegħdin tajjeb. Il-Gvern iġib l-għajnuna tal-Unjoni Ewropeja biex jixtri ajruplan Hawker Beechcraft Kin g Air li sewa €9.6 miljuni. Ajruplan intenzjonat biex jissorvelja l-fruntieri marittimi ta’ Malta kif ukoll biex jagħti għajnuna ta’ salvataġġ li tkun meħtieġa.

F’jum minnu dan l-ajruplan flok ma jintuża fuq xogħolu jintuża biex iwassal Kap ta’ Partit Politiku għal laqgħa ta’ partiti politiċi.

M’hiex skuża aċċettabbli dik li nġiebet li m’hemmx flights ta’ l-Air Malta disponibbli.

Il-kaxxa ta’ Malta m’għandiex tissussidja lill-Partit poltiiku ta’ Lawrence Gonzi.

Tajjeb li nkunu nafu x’għamel  l-Awditur Ġenerali dwar dan il-każ ta’ abbuż fejn l-armata ta’ Malta qed tiffinanzja l-attivita’ politika tal-PN billi wasslet lill-Kap tal-Partit Nazzjonalista f’Palermo u ġiebitu lura.    

AIR MALTA : a reminder is always useful

 
 
The Times Logo

Thursday, February 17, 2011 ,

by

Michael Mallia

Air Malta: The politicians’ milch cow

Finally, the Air Malta pigeons, whether leaded or otherwise, are coming home to roost. And during their flight over the years, starting from the early 1970s to date, we, the public, have had to pay the price to nurture what has been also a prime politicians’ cow, serving as one of the major founts of political (and vote-getting) patronage.

Yes. it is the politicians and not its employees who made the airline into what it has sadly become, verging on the brink of extinction. The concept of setting it up was very sound and far-sighted, indeed one major political plus. But the subsequent “use” of the airline as a politicians’ milch cow eroded the originally very sound idea.

I was asked into Air Malta’s board of directors in July 1987 by the late Joseph Fenech, then responsible for the airline. The 1987 board, chaired like most of those before it by Albert Mizzi, had to deal with two major political scandals. One was that some 250 or so employees (totally unrequired) were taken on by Minister Wistin Abela in the run up to the 1987 election. Two was the fact that a substantial number of the lowest level employees were given promotions in the same 1987 electoral run-up. This was done on the strength of a flimsy excuse for an interview, in each case, where employees were asked the equivalent of name, rank and serial number and, subsequently, promoted.

Just stop and add up what the 250 odd extras employed in early 1987 as well as those promoted at the same time have amounted to in cost and your mind starts to boggle.

But there is more, much more.

First of all, our 1987 board could perforce only do justice by those not promoted pre-1987 elections, of various hues and colours, by upgrading them to the level of those irregularly promoted. Even in so doing we found massive resistance from the resident trade union supposed to defend the rights of and rectify the wrongs and injustices done to employees.

As a board we also found something, if my memory serves me right, like 1,420 employees and we determined not to let this number rise despite substantial political pressure to the contrary. When we were removed in 1992 I believe we more or less left the employee level around the same we had found it; believe me a remarkable achievement!

I must add that, in 1987, I was one of the persons who was stating the airline should do with half of its workforce if it were to survive and this is quite close to the figure being mooted today – of about 700! I got to this figure simply by looking at the operations of other airlines of the time, such as Air Europe. Obviously, in those better times a gradual workforce reduction would have been planned.

In 1992, the mathematics started to take off again. The board of 1992-1997, chaired by Joseph N. Tabone, left the airline with some 1,750 employees, another massive increase of 300 employees plus. Now work out the figures for that too!

Then comes along the next board following the Labour Party electoral victory of 1996, chaired by Louis Grech, now of Euro parliamentary fame. This chairman was retained by the Nationalist government of 1998 till the switch of Air Malta minister, from Josef Bonnici to Austin Gatt. Some shocking financial remuneration numbers came out at this point of ministerial change, a far cry from the few hundred of Malta liri we received per annum as board members (which I ensured were paid to a charity). And, in Mr Grech’s tenure, Air Malta’s workforce rose to over 2,000 employees. Now work that out too!

The end result: an airline that should have functioned with some 600 to 700 employees ended up with a workforce of over 2,000 employees! Now that is really something.

Well done to all concerned!

Reflections on an Environment Policy

The current debate on what should form part of a National Environment Policy is a healthy exercise. It is focusing not only on the different aspirations of each citizen but also on the role of each one of the towns and villages which together constitute this country.

The environmental issues we face are the result of the manner we organise our lives both individually and as a community. In fact it can be safely stated that the manner in which economic activity has been organised throughout time has created different environmental and social impacts.

The exercise at this point in time is hence the clear identification of these impacts and subsequently seeking the best manner in which they can be tackled. This is done on two fronts: firstly through the formulation of an environment policy and secondly by integrating this environment policy with economic and social policy within the National Strategy for Sustainable Development (NSSD).

The NSSD has already been formulated and approved by Cabinet almost three years ago after a long process of consultation. It established targets and objectives which have unfortunately been ignored by the same Government which has approved them. This necessarily leads to the conclusion that these exercises can be a waste of time as their only purpose seems to be an exercise to prove that the new hands on deck can do things in a better way than those they have replaced. 

The National Environment Policy Issues Paper identifies a number of areas which are to be tackled but excludes a number of important ones. What is in my view objectionable and bordering on the insulting is the ignoring by the Issues Paper of the NSSD. It also ignores matters which have been tackled by the NSSD as well as the specific targets identified. This the NSSD did after extensive consultation with civil society, which the Issues Paper promises to go through again.

 

Eco-taxation

One such case refers to the use of economic instruments to attain environmental objectives. The Issues Paper queries whether and to what extent there is agreement  with the use of such instruments to further environmental objectives. Simultaneously with the publication of the Issues Paper, Finance Minister Tonio Fenech through the pre-budget document was lauding the idea of introducing a carbon tax and the possible utilisation of the proceeds to affect a tax shift. This is in the spirit of the former EU Commission President  (French Socialist) Jacques Delors’ 1993 EU White Paper entitled “On growth, competitiveness and employment. The challenges and ways forward into the 21st century”.

So whilst the Environment Ministry is requesting our opinion on the use of eco-taxation (and other instruments) it seems that the Finance Ministry is dead-set to proceed.  Do these two Ministries form part of the same government? 

Both the Environment Ministry and the Finance Ministry would do well to go back in time to the debate on the introduction of the eco-contribution (2003-05) where they could identify a number of issues raised by civil society.

Should fiscal objectives be the purpose of environmental taxation or would it rather be environmental improvement? All over the globe governments declare that their aim in applying eco-taxation is environmental improvement. Yet they resist transferring political responsibility for environmental taxation from the Finance Ministry to the Environment Ministry. Such a move would lend credence to statements on the environmental objectives of eco-taxation and would ensure that the design of specific measures is more in line with encouraging changes in behaviour. Retaining political responsibility for environmental taxation at the Finance Ministry on the other hand signifies that the objective is to tax behaviour but not  to change it. This reluctance is generally reflected in the manner  in which eco-taxes are designed. Fiscal policy makers pay attention to the fact that changing behaviour would mean drying up a source of revenue. Hence eco-taxes designed for fiscal objectives are intended not to affect the elasticity of demand. This is done by selecting items in respect of which there are no alternatives and thus irrespective of tax added to the price there is no alternative to purchasing the product or service. The eco-contribution exercise clearly illustrates this argument.

 

Environmental nuisance 

The Issues Paper has failed to project an understanding that environmental issues can be most effectively tackled at a micro-level. In fact the Issues Paper adopts an exclusively macro approach and does not give any weight to the real life issues. Issues of environmental nuisance are the ones which the man in the street feels strongly about. These include primarily noise, air quality and odour nuisance caused by neighbours in residential areas. They could range from an air conditioner fixed below your bedroom window to a neighbour’s fireplace chimney spewing smoke right into your living room or a bakery belching black smoke onto your washing line. Or the newly opened restaurant or snack bar in a transformed ground floor flat whose operator wouldn’t care less about where the odours from his kitchen end up.    

Information

Access to environmental information is an important aspect of environment policy. Yet the drafters of the Issues Paper ignored it. The environmental information aspects of the Åarhus Convention have been incorporated into Maltese legislation as a direct result of Malta’s EU accession. This legislation provides a mechanism through which the citizen requests the release of information which up till then would be withheld by the authorities. This is a very primitive form of governance. The state should release information without having its hand forced to do it. This is the minimum required in an age of transparency and accountability. 

Policy proposals and other initiatives must be buttressed by studies which not only justify the proposal or initiative but which also identify the resulting impacts and the manner in which these can be addressed. Studies must be published at an early stage and not in the final stages of a discussion. Otherwise the public debate cannot be fruitful.

Transparency and accountability

Transparency and accountability are not only duties of the state. They are also a responsibility of private enterprise.  Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reporting is one way in which private enterprise informs the public on its activities. It is a function as important as financial reporting. Financial reporting having been accepted by society for quite a long time as a reporting requirement.

In Malta currently two companies publish a CSR report. Vodafone (Malta) and Bank of Valletta (BOV) have already published two editions of their CSR report. There has been considerable improvement in the information made available by Vodafone (Malta) in its second report, but BOV’s reporting  can be substantially improved.

The environment policy should identify the type of organisations that should have the duty to report publicly and on a regular basis on their environmental and other impacts. By organisations I understand not just industry and business but also public corporations, government departments and local authorities. A reasonable first step would be for companies quoted on the stock exchange to take the lead followed by public bodies such as Enemalta, Water Services Corporation, Heritage Malta and Air Malta.

CSR reporting should be guided by international standards such as the Global Reporting Initiative G3 guidelines and should be subject to auditing in order to verify that the statements made reflect what the organisation is really up to. 

Alternattiva Demokratika, AD, the Green Party in Malta has earlier this month published a document in reply to the National Environment Policy Issues Paper which lists and discusses the areas missed out by the said Issues Paper.  In addition to focusing on the urgent need to implement the NSSD, environment information, environmental nuisance and environment information it also points out the need to tackle the uptake of environmental management systems such as ISO 14001 and the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) Regulations of the European Union, light pollution, contaminated land, environmental and sustainability planning at a locality level better known as Local Agenda 21,  the role of civil society and environmental NGOs in environment policy and environment  research.  

We hope that when the environment policy is drafted it will include the widest possible list of issues and will tackle them in an holistic manner keeping in mind the parameters established in the National Sustainable Development Strategy.                 

Alternattiva Demokratika considers that environment policy is one of several instruments through which improvement in the quality of life can be attained. Protecting the environment signifies that we better our quality of life. It also signifies that each one of us acts in a responsible manner. However primarily it must be government which leading the way should act in an appropriate manner in order that it leads by example.

 published in

The Independent on Sunday, October 17, 2010, Environment Supplement