Għall-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar il-profitti tal-ispekulatur huma prijoritá

Id-deċiżjoni li ħa l-Bord tal-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar nhar il-Ħamis b’għaxar voti kontra tlieta biex 4,748 metru kwadru ta’ art barra miż-żona tal-iżvilupp (ODZ) ikunu żviluppati f’Dar għall-Anzjani fin-Naxxar hi preċedent ikrah li l-Awtoritá għad jiddispjaċiha li ħaditu.

L-applikazzjoni bin-numru PA 3592/16 ġiet ippreżentata biex jitwaqqa’ bini li tela’ qabel l-1978 u floku tinbena faċilitá għall-kura tal-anzjani fuq art “ġa disturbata”.

L-ewwel punt ta’ interess hu dan il-bini ta’ qabel l-1978 li hemm fuq is-sit. Ir-rapport dwar l-applikazzjoni ta’ żvilupp jiddeskrivi din l-art bħala “razzett mitluq u fi stat ta’ abbandun”. Meta inbena, dan ir-razzett kien meħtieġ fl-interess ta’ l-agrikultura. Issa li dan ir-razzett hu abbandunat kien ikun iktar għaqli kieku l-art ġiet irrestawrata għall-istat oriġinali tagħha biex tieħu lura postha bħala parti mill-pajsaġġ rurali. Minflok qed tintuża bħala għodda biex twaqqa’ għar-redikolu l-politika dwar l-ippjanar tal-użu tal-art.

L-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar skont dak li jipprovdi l-Pjan Strateġiku għall-Ambjent u l-Iżvilupp (SPED: Strategic Plan for Environment and Development) talbet lill-applikant biex jikkummissjona studju ħalli jiġi stabilit jekk fiż-żona ta’ żvilupp, fil-viċinanzi, kienx hemm art tajba għall-iżvilupp li setgħet tintuża għall-iskop mixtieq u ċioe biex tinbena dar għall-anzjani.

Dan ir-rapport (site selection report), datat Mejju 2016, fil-fatt identifika żewġ siti li t-tnejn kienu ikbar milli meħtieġ. Ir-rapport jgħid li s-siti identifikati kellhom “potenzjal kbir” bħala siti alternattivi għall-proġett taħt konsiderazzjoni. L-ewwel sit kellu qies ta’ 11,287 metru kwadru fil-waqt li t-tieni sit kellu qies ta’ 6,844 metru kwadru. It-tnejn kienu fin-Naxxar viċin tas-sit taħt konsiderazzjoni.

Wara, l-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar talbet lill-applikant biex jipproduċi studju dwar l-impatti finanzjarji tal-proġett. Dan l-istudju kien lest fi ftit żmien tant li hu datat 30 ta’ Mejju 2016. Fi ftit kliem dan ir-rapport ta’ sitt paġni, miktub minn accountant, jikkonkludi li billi l-art tajba għall-iżvilupp tiswa’ ferm iktar minn art ODZ (li m’hiex normalment ikkunsidrata għall-iżvilupp) il-proġett seta jrendi biss jekk tkun użata art ODZ!

Fid-diskussjoni waqt is-seduta pubblika ta’ nhar il-Ħamis tal-Bord tal-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar, iċ-Ċhairman Eżekuttiv tal-istess Awtoritá qal li l-istudju dwar l-impatt finanzjarju tal-proġett kien ivverifikat mill-konsulenti tal- Awtoritá li wara aċċettatu u talbet lill-applikant biex jibda jikkunsidra art fl-ODZ.

Din id-deċiżjoni tal- Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar taqleb ta’ taħt fuq il-politika dwar l-użu tal-art u prattikament tfisser li minn issa l-quddiem proġetti kbar barra miż-żona tal-iżvilupp mhu ser ikollhom l-ebda diffikulta biex ikunu approvati. M’hemmx ħtieġa li tkun professor biex tifhem li minn issa l-quddiem kull żvilupp ODZ jista’ jkun iġġustifikat mill- Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar a bażi tal-fatt li l-art ODZ tiswa’ ferm inqas mill-art tajba għall-iżvilupp.

Jekk inħarsu ftit sewwa lejn ir-rapport tal-accountant insiru nafu li l-art ODZ kellha l-prezz ta’ €1,200,000 fil-waqt li l-art l-oħra tal-qies meħtieġ għall-proġett kellha prezz ta’ madwar €5 miljuni u nofs f’kull każ. Differenza ta’ madwar 4 darbiet!

Bħala riżultat ta’ din id-deċiżjoni, fl-opinjoni tiegħi, l- Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar irmiet ix-xogħol utli li numru kbir ta’ professjonisti tal-ambjent u tal-ippjanar tal-użu tal-art għamlu tul dawn l-aħħar ħamsa u għoxrin sena. Hi deċiżjoni li tmur kontra l-emfasi kontinwa dwar il-ħtieġa li l-art limitata li għandu l-pajjiż tintuża b’mod sostenibbli. L- Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar għal darba oħra baxxiet rasha: il-kilba għall-profitti reġgħet rebħet fuq il-ħtieġa tal-ħarsien ambjentali. Il-bilanċ fil-kont tal-bank tal-ispekulatur hu iktar importanti għall- Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar mill-użu sostenibbli tal-art f’pajjiżna.

Meta ttieħed il-vot finali, tlieta biss kienu l-membri tal-Bord tal- Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar li ivvutaw kontra: is-Sindku tan-Naxxar Anne Marie Muscat Fenech Adami, iċ-Chairman tal- Awtoritá tal-Ambjent w ir-Riżorsi Victor Axiaq kif ukoll r-rapprezentanta tal-għaqdiet ambjentali – Annick Bonello It-tlieta li huma mmotivaw id-deċiżjoni tagħhom li jivvutaw kontra l-proposta ta’ żvilupp minħabba li mhux aċċettabbli li tkun użata art ODZ għal dan l-iskop.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd 23 ta’ Lulju 2017

Planning Authority says: develop ODZ, it is cheaper!

The decision taken by the Board of the Planning Authority last Thursday, with ten votes in favour and three votes against the development of 4,748 square metres of land Outside the Development Zone (ODZ) for a home for the elderly in Naxxar, will come back to haunt it in the very near future.

Application number PA 3592/16  was submitted in order to demolish a pre-1978 existing building and construct a facility for the care of the elderly and nursing home on disturbed land.

The first point of interest is the existing pre-1978 building on site. The Development Permit Application report describes this as an unoccupied derelict farm. When it  was constructed, this building was necessary in the interests of agriculture. Now that it is in a derelict state, the land should have been returned to its former state, rehabilitated as part of the rural landscape. Instead it is being used as a tool through which to ridicule land use planning policy.

Applying the provisions of the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development (SPED) policy document, the Planning Authority requested the applicant to commission a site selection exercise in order to ascertain whether, within the development zone, there existed land in the vicinity that could be developed for the desired purpose – a home for the elderly. 

The site selection report, dated May 2016, identified two sites – both of which were larger than required.  Specifically, the report states that the identified sites offered very good potential as alternative sites for the project under consideration.  The first site had an area of 11,287 square metres, while the second had an area of 6,844 square metres. Both sites are in Naxxar, very close to the site that is the subject of the application.

The Planning Authority next proceeded to request the applicant to produce a financial feasibility study. This study was produced days after the site selection exercise was completed. In fact, it is dated 30 May 2016. Briefly, the six page study – drawn up by a certified public accountant – concludes that, due to the fact that land within the development scheme costs substantially more than ODZ land, the project would only be financially feasible if ODZ land were used.

During last Thursdays Planning Authority Board public hearing, the Authority’s Executive Chairman stated that the PA’s own consultants had check this feasibility study before accepting it and instructing the applicant to proceed with considering ODZ sites.

This PA decision turns land use planning policy on its head and practically gives the green light to large-scale ODZ development in the future. It does not require rocket science to arrive at a conclusion that this specific decision signifies that practically any ODZ development can be justified on the basis that ODZ land is cheaper than land in the development zone. Perusal of the feasibility study submitted by applicant to the Planning Authority indicates that the ODZ land to be developed for this project has been priced at 1,200,000. The alternative sites, of equal area to the ODZ site under consideration, were each priced at approximately 5,500,000 : a four-fold difference.

In my opinion, the result of this decision is that the Planning Authority has thrown into the dustbin the hard work of a large number of planning and environmental professionals over the last 25 years.   This decision contradicts the continuous policy emphasis on the need to use land in a sustainable manner. The Planning Authority has once more bowed its head when faced with gluttonous greed. Profit has once more carried the day, to the detriment of environmental protection. The speculators bottom line is more important to the Planning Authority than sustainable use of land resources.

When the final vote was taken, only three members of the Planning Authority Board voted against, namely the Mayor of Naxxar Anne Marie Muscat Fenech Adami, the Chairman of the Environment and Resources Authority Victor Axiaq and the environmental NGOs’ representative Annick Bonello. All three were motivated in their decision to vote against the proposal because they deemed it unacceptable to have the development in ODZ land.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 23 July 2017

Wiċċu bla żejt

 

Persuna li ma tistħix ngħidulha li jkollha wiċċ bla żejt. Taġixxi b’mod sfaċċat, qiesu ma ġara xejn. Bħall-membru parlamentari tal-PN David Agius.

David Agius, meta kien membru parlamentari fuq in-naħa tal-Gvern kien, flimkien ma oħrajn, ivvota favur li art f’diversi partijiet ta’ Malta, fil-parti l-kbira tagħha art verġni, tingħata għall-iżvilupp. Issa qasam fuq in-naħa l-oħra u qiegħed jappoġġa lir-residenti li qed jipprotestaw kontra dan l-iżvilupp li hu ivvota favur tiegħu.

F’Ħ’Attard, fl-inħawi magħrufa Tal-Idward, fil-periferija taż-żona tal-iżvilupp, David Agius jappoġġa lir-residenti li qed jipprotestaw biex art agrikola ma tkunx żviluppata. Ir-residenti huma rrabjati għax issa hemm it-tieni applikazzjoni biex ikun determinat kif tista’ tkun żviluppata l-art fl-inħawi tal-Idward.

David Agius kien hemm, kważi ċass, bla espressjoni f’wiċċu. Ħdax-il sena ilu, fil-Parlament kien ivvota favur l-istess żvilupp li issa kien qed jipprotesta kontra tiegħu!

L-istorja kollha hi dwar dak li hu magħruf bħala l-eżerċizzju ta’ razzjonalizzazzjoni li permezz tiegħu meded kbar ta’ art imxerrda mal-gżejjer Maltin, sa dakinnhar barra miż-żona tal-iżvilupp, saru tajbin għall-bini. Bil-vot tiegħu favur dan kollu David Agius għin biex dan ikun possibli li jsir. David Agius mhux waħdu. Fuq il-bankijiet tal-Opposizzjoni għad hemm diversi kollegi tiegħu li għamlu bħalu.

L-ippjanar għall-użu tal-art hu strument li għandu jkun użat fl-interess tal-komunitá kollha, u mhux fl-interess tal-ftit. Sfortunatament, illum, ħdax-il sena wara huwa ċar iktar minn qatt qabel kemm l-eżerċzzju ta’ razzjonalizzazzjoni injora lill-komunitajiet residenzjali tagħna madwar il-pajjiż kollu biex jaġevola lill-ispekulaturi.

Meta l-Parlament approva li meded kbar ta’ art barra miż-żona tal-iżvilupp isiru żviluppabbli kien jaf li ma kien sar l-ebda studju biex ikunu mkejla l-impatti kumulattivi li rriżultaw minn din id-deċiżjoni. Bħala riżultat ta’ dan, l-impatti tat-traffiku, l-kwalitá tal-arja, l-għargħar, id-dellijiet fuq bini diġa armat b’pannelli fotovoltajċi kif ukoll in-numru dejjem jiżdied ta’ propjetá vojta kienu fatturi injorati kompletament meta l-Parlament iddeċieda li japprova l-eżerċizzju ta’ razzjonalizzazzjoni.

Sfortunatament, l-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar, minkejja li kienet taf b’dan in-nuqqas baqgħet għaddejja u ma ppruvatx tagħmel tajjeb għan-nuqqas tal-Parlament.

Sadanittant, fil-Parlament, il-Ministru Ian Borg huwa u jwieġeb għall-kritika ta’ din id-deċiżjoni tal-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar ipponta subgħajh lejn l-Opposizzjoni. Imma dan mhux biżżejjed għax anke l-Partit Laburista wara 4 snin fil-Gvern ma għamel xejn dwar dan kollu.

Bosta minna niftakru li meta l-Partit Laburista kien fl-Opposizzjoni, fil-Parlament, kien ivvota kontra dan l-eserċizzju ta’ razzjonalizzazzjoni. Dan iwassal għall-mistoqsija inevitabbli dwar jekk il-Partit Laburista bidilx fehmtu. Għax ħlief għal ftit kummenti waqt il-kampanja elettorali l-Partit Laburista qatt ma qal xejn dwar dan kollu. Dan x’jfisser? Għandna ninterpretaw in-nuqqas ta’ azzjoni mill-Partit Laburista fil-Gvern bħala qbil mal-ezerċizzju ta’ razzjonalizzazzjoni?

Sa fejn naf jiena, Alternattiva Demokratika biss indirizzat dan kollu waqt il-kampanja elettorali li għadha kif intemmet. Dan billi pproponiet li dawn it-tip ta’ permessi m’għandhomx joħorġu f’dawk il-lokalitajiet fejn hemm numru konsiderevoli ta’ propjetajiet residenzjali vakanti.

Jidher imma li l-partiti fil-parlament issa bidlu ir-rwol tagħhom. David Agius hu l-eżempju ovvju: meta l-partit tiegħu kien fil-Gvern jappoġġa l-ispekulazzjoni, u issa li qiegħed fl-Opposizzjoni taparsi jappoġġa lir-residenti.

ippubblikat fl-Illum il-Ħadd  9 ta’ Lulju 2017

David Agius’s mental gymnastics

 

David was always into sport – primarily basketball, if I remember correctly. He has, however, now dedicated considerable time to the practice of mental gymnastics.

In Attard, in the area known as Tal-Idward – which is just outside the development zone – David has time and again publicly manifested his support of the residents’ cause: opposition to the development of agricultural land. The residents have now vented their anger in a pubic protest against a second planning control application that seeks to identify what would be permissible development in the tal-Idward area at Attard, the first application having been turned down around three years ago.

David Agius, the Opposition Whip, stood there, with a poker face, not batting an eyelid. Eleven years ago, in Parliament, he voted in favour of permitting the same development against which he is now demonstrating!

The issue is the so-called “rationalisation exercise” as a result of which considerable tracts of ODZ land all over the Maltese islands will henceforth to be considered as developable land. In 2006, with his favourable vote in Parliament, David Agius, contributed to making this possible. On the Opposition benches, he is accompanied by a number of other MPs who likewise voted in favour of more virgin agricultural land being given up for development.

Land-use planning should keep in mind the interests of the whole community and not only the interests of a select few. Unfortunately, eleven years down the line, it is now more clear than ever that the rationalisation exercise has  completely ignored the interests of the residential communities all over the islands in order to satisfy the greed of land speculators.

When Parliament considered the approval of removing ODZ status of large tracts of land, primarily (but not exclusively) agricultural land, it did so in full knowledge of the fact that the cumulative impacts of such a decision had not been assessed. Such an assessment, which is prescribed in the Strategic Environment Assessment Directive of the EU, would have been mandatory had Parliament’s decision been taken some days later than it actually was.

As a result, traffic impacts, air quality, flooding, the shadowing of existing residential property equipped with photo-voltaic panels and the issue of an ever increasing stock of vacant properties were completely ignored when Parliament approved the rationalisation exercise.

The Planning Authority, unfortunately, notwithstanding that it is aware of the shortcomings underpinning the rationalisation exercise, has failed to take steps to mitigate these shortcomings apart from minor cosmetic changes to the  proposals submitted on behalf of speculators.

In Parliament Minister Ian Borg rightly pointed his fingers at the Opposition when replying to criticism of the above-mentioned Planning Authority’s decision.  Blaming the Opposition is however not enough as the Labour Party had sufficient time to act on the matter in the past four years, but has not done so. Most of us remember that the Labour Party itself, when in Opposition, had voted against the rationalisation exercise in Parliament. This leads to the inevitable question as to whether or not Labour has since changed its mind as – with the exception of a few sympathetic comments on the eve of the June general election – it has never committed itself to changes to the rationalisation exercise. Are we to interpret the Labour Party’s non-action as a change of political position, signifying agreement with the rationalisation exercise in the form approved by Parliament in 2006?

As far as I am aware, Alternattiva Demokratika, the Green Party, is the only political party to propose a specific measure on changes to the rationalisation exercise. This was done once more during the recent electoral campaign. Such a measure proposed by Alternattiva Demokratika is linked to the large number of vacant properties, which should be a break applied by land-use planning regulators in order not to develop more land unnecessarily.

But is seems that the Labour Party and the PN have switched roles. Hence David’s mental gymnastics: supporting speculators when in government, supporting residents when in opposition.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 9 July 2017

Il-PN jgħatti x-xemx bl-għarbiel ?

Voting Rationalisation YES

(nota : ir-ritratt hu estratt mill-minuti tal-Parlament li juri l-ismijiet tal-Membri Parlamentari li vvutaw favur l-estensjoni tal-limiti tal-iżvilupp, rationalisation, fl-2006 ) 

 

Il-Partit Nazzjonalista ippubblika l-proposti tiegħu dwar l-ambjent fi ktejjeb intitolat  : A Better Quality of Life for You.  Dan hu bla dubju pass ‘il quddiem, kienu x’kienu r-raġunijiet li wassluh għal dan il-pass.

Fid-daħla għad-dokument ippubblikat, il-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni jagħmel dikjarazzjoni importanti. Jgħid: “Bnejna l-istituzzjonijiet u b’mod ġenerali fassalna politika tajba – imma bosta drabi ma assigurajniex li din tkun implimentata, inkella qgħadna nduru mal-lewża u ħloqna wisq eċċezzjonijiet.”

Dan, fil-fehma tiegħi ifisser, li, wara kollox,  hu ċar għal kulħadd li mhux biss hu meħtieġ li tfassal il-politika t-tajba, imma li huwa essenzjali ukoll li l-istituzzjonijiet li jkunu fdati bl-implimentazzjoni ta’ din il-politika jkunu f’posizzjoni li jistgħu jwettqu r-responsabbiltajiet tagħhom. Għax kif jistgħu jiffunzjonaw dawn l-istituzzjonijiet jekk f’posizzjonijiet ta’ tmexxija kruċjali jkollhom persuni partiġjani jew persuni ta’ fiduċja tal-Ministru, flok persuni mħarrġa u teknikament kompetenti?

Wara kollox, it-twettieq tal-politika ambjentali jiddependi fuq tmexxija tajba (good governance) li ilha nieqsa mill-istituzzjonijiet għal perjodu mhux żgħir.

X’jiswa’ li jkollok il-politika tajba dwar l-ippjanar għall-użu tal-art biex imbagħad il-Gvern immexxi mill-PN iċedi għall-pressjoni tal-spekulaturi tal-art meta mexxa ‘l quddiem proposta imsejħa skema dwar ir-razzjonalizzazzjoni li permezz tagħha l-limiti tal-iżvilupp ġew estiżi b’mod orizzontali?  Biex tkompli tgħaqqadha, fl-istess ħin, il-PN fil-Gvern estenda ukoll il-limiti tal-iżvilupp f’direzzjoni vertikali. Bħala riżultat ta’ dan, il-PN fil-Gvern injora l-poltika dikjarat tiegħu kif ukoll l-informazzjoni miġbura fid-diversi ċensimenti li kienu juru ċar li l-bini vojt kien qed jiżdied.

Il-politika ambjentali hi intrinsikament marbuta ma diversi oqsma oħra. L-estensjonijiet bl-addoċċ għal-limiti ta’ żvilupp ħolqu ħafna diffikultajiet lil diversi residenti Maltin li jridu jiġġeneraw l-enerġija alternattiva permezz tal-pannelli foto-voltajċi fuq il-bjut. Waqt li l-Ministru responsabbli mill-politika dwar l-enerġija alternattiva kien qed ifittex li jħajjar lin-nies biex jistallaw il-pannelli foto-voltajċi, min-naħa l-oħra l-Ministru għall-Ippjanar tal-Użu tal-Art kien mehdi jilgħab bl-għoli permissibli tal-bini f’diversi lokalitajiet. Kif nistgħu nippjanaw sewwa għal ġenerazzjoni ta’ enerġija alternattiva jekk l-aċċess għax-xemx f’diversi lokalitajiet m’huwiex garantit b’għoli permissibli ta’ bini li ma jinbidilx?

Nitkellmu ukoll dwar il-ħtieġa li nassiguraw titjib fil-kwalitá tal-arja, imma fl-istess ħin ma hemm l-ebda ħeġġa biex ikun indirizzat in-numru ta’ karozzi fit-toroq tagħna li qed jikber b’mod astronomiku. Dawn il-karozzi huma l-kawża ewlenija ta’ kwalitá tal-arja li sejra dejjem għall-agħar, f’uħud mil-lokalitajiet tagħna. Minflok ma nindirizzaw din il-problema reali, gvern wara l-ieħor ipprefera li jagħmilha iktar faċli biex il-karozzi jibqgħu jiddominaw it-toroq tagħna u dan billi jroxxu l-miljuni fi proġetti infrastrutturali għal toroq mhux meħtieġa. Dawn il-proġetti jservu biss biex iżidu l-karozzi fit-toroq, meta l-oġġettiv ta’ gvern serju għandu jkun l-oppost: li dawn jonqsu.

Marbuta ma dan kollu hemm in-nuqqas ta’ attenzjoni lit-trasport pubbliku tul is-snin. Filwaqt li għandna nirrikonoxxu li matul dawn l-aħħar sitta u tletin xahar kien hemm titjib fis-servizz, dan xorta għadu ferm ‘il bogħod minn dak mistenni f’pajjiż żgħir fejn id-distanzi bejn il-lokalitajiet huma minimi. Dan ukoll kien falliment ieħor fit-twettiq ta’ “politika tajba”.

Il-politika ambjentali hi dwar għażliet u deċiżjonijiet. Tul is-snin Alternattiva Demokratika, il-partit ekoloġiku f’Malta, fittex li jqiegħed dawn l-għażliet fuq l-agenda nazzjonali biex il-Maltin ikun f’posizzjoni li jiddeċiedu.

Wara ħafna snin, il-Partit Nazzjonalista stenbaħ għar-realtá ambjentali ta’ madwarna. Waqt li dan, minnu innifsu hu sinjal tajjeb, nistennew li l-PN  jibda l-proċess biex jirrevedi l-bqija tal-politika tiegħu u jġibha konsistenti mal-proposti ambjentali mħabbra. Meta dan iseħħ, forsi nkunu f’posizzjoni li niffurmaw opinjoni dwar jekk il-proposti ambjentali tal-PN humiex frott ta’ konvinzjoni inkella jekk għal darba oħra humiex jippruvaw jgħattu x-xemx bl-għarbiel.

ippubblikat fuq Illum : 5 ta’ Frar 2017

Environmental policy is about political decisions

The Nationalist Party has recently published its proposals for the environment in a document entitled A Better Quality of Life for You. This is a step forward, irrespective of the reasons motivating it.

In the foreword to the published document, the Leader of the Opposition makes a very important declaration. He states: “We built the necessary institutions, and generally put in the right policies – but all too often we did not ensure they were fully implemented, or we circumvented them, and made too many exceptions.”

This signifies a recognition of the fact that, at the end of the day, the real issue is not just the identification of the “right policies”,  but of ensuring that the institutions entrusted to implement them are in a position to carry out their responsibilities. How can these institutions function when key posts are filled with partisan cronies, or so-called “persons of trust” instead of competent technical people?

At the end of the day, the successful implementation of environmental policy is dependent upon a favourable climate of good governance which has been conspicuous by its absence for quite a long time.

What purpose does it serve to have the “right policies” on land use planning when, as a result of pressures from the land speculation lobby, the PN in Government adopted a rationalisation scheme extending the limits of development in a horizontal direction? To make matters worse, simultaneously the PN in government also extended the limits of development in a vertical direction. As a result it ignored both its own sanctimonious declarations as well as the clear indications from data collected and analysed by official bodies that the net result of its actions was a continuous increase in the number of vacant properties.

Environmental policy is intrinsically linked to various other policy areas. The haphazard extensions of the limits to development – the horizontal ones as well as the vertical ones – have, and still are, wreaking havoc on the capacity of Maltese households to generate alternative energy through the placing of photo-voltaic panels on the rooftops of their homes. While the Energy Minister advocates the need to generate alternative energy through the installation of photo-voltaic panels, the Minister responsible for land-use planning has been playing around with flexible permissible building heights in various localities. How can we adequately plan the generation of alternative energy if solar rights are not guaranteed through rigid height limitation regulations?

Similarly, we speak of the need to ensure an improvement in air quality but simultaneously there is a reluctance to address the spiralling number of cars on our roads – the major contributor to poor air quality in a number of areas. Instead of addressing the matter head-on, successive governments have sought to make it easier for car owners to dominate our roads by sprinkling millions of euros on the unnecessary development of the road infrastructure. In my view, such developments are unnecessary, as the end result will be a further increase in the number of cars when the real and only solution is an immediate reduction.

Linked to all this is the lack of importance given to public transport. While acknowledging that there has been an improvement in the use of public transport during the past 36 months, this is still considerably way off what it should be in a small country where distances between localities are minimal. This, too, is a failure to implement the “right policies”.

Environment policy is about making choices and taking decisions – some of which may be difficult and contentious. Over the years, it has been the objective of Alternattiva Demokratika, the Green Party in Malta, to place these choices on the national agenda so that our citizens are in a position to consider them and decide.

After many years, the Nationalist Party has woken up to the environmental realities around us. While this is positive, I await the revision of the PN’s other policies, which are inconsistent with their environmental proposals. When that happens, we may be able to form a definite opinion as to whether the publication by the Nationalist Party of its environment proposals is for real, or else another green-washing exercise in which matter the Nationalist Party has accumulated considerable experience.

published in the Malta Independent on Sunday : 5 February 2017

Paceville Master Plan: greed or need?

paceville-mp-land-use

Land use planning is essentially public control over the use and development of land, so it necessarily follows that it should not be a speculators’ shopping list implemented by the state.

Unfortunately, the Paceville Master Plan is just such a shopping list as it collates together the requirements of nine mega-projects and presents them as a “master plan”. In fact Sandro Chetcuti, on behalf of the Malta Developers’ Association, reacted to the Master Plan by stating that it “ fails to address the possibility of new projects that could involve existing buildings and concentrated too much on nine particular sites.”   Mr Chetcuti’s Association is also feeling excluded.

And the residents have the same feeling; they have been excluded by a master plan which focuses on the interests of business – in particular  the interests of mega-speculators.

Not so long ago, in May 2012, The Social Affairs Committee of Malta’s Parliament  published a 63-page report on Paceville in which it emphasised the fact that right there, in the midst of this entertainment Mecca, there was also  a residential community. The conflicts between these two interests can at times be substantial and yet the Master Plan ignores these conflicts completely. The only residents in which the Master Plan is interested  are those who will purchase  apartments in the new developments.

The five over-arching objectives of the Master Plan emphasise the creation of a development vision which can be described in one word : “Dubai-ification”. Painted in glossy words as “Clear Brand and Identity” , “Access and Connectivity”,  “Planned and Managed Change”, “Quality Place-Making” and “Private-Public Partnerships”, at the end of the day “Dubai-ification” is what the Paceville Master Plan is all about.

The problems currently faced by Paceville are basically no different from those faced by other parts of Malta. Yet the Master Plan document wastes a substantial number of its 234 pages in order to emphasise the obvious. For example, it emphasises that Paceville is dominated by traffic and on-street parking. However, the consultants drawing up the plan then stopped short of proposing – as a preferred option –  measures that would  radically address the area’s dependence on cars. They did not choose the option to create an environment that is not dominated by the car, thus missing an opportunity to eliminate traffic congestion in Paceville that would have had the additional  benefit of improving local air quality.

While the Master Plan consultants went into great detail about issues that are covered in various national environmental policy documents, they did not consider it necessary to examine in any detail the area’s tourism-carrying capacity. The Master Plan does not examine whether it makes sense to keep on encouraging hotel construction in an area that is already saturated with such development. It takes the issue for granted and opts to propose reserving the Paceville coastline for future hotel redevelopment and expansion. This matter calls for some serious consideration, as tourism cannot continue on a never ending expanding trajectory due to the substantial environmental constraints which we face on a daily basis.

The cherry on the cake is the reference to “potential land reclamation” on the Portomaso site. The Master Plan warns that, though relatively shallow, the site lies very close to a Marine Special Conservation Area, a fact which necessitates a very sensitive approach.

The manner in which the Master Plan is presented tries to camouflage its obvious speculator “shopping list” features. Most of the projects indicated have been in the pipeline for years, and for each and every one of them there is a growing list of concerned residents from the whole of Paceville and neighbouring localities. By trying to present the mega-speculators greed as a national need the proposed Master Plan is doing a disservice to the never ending debate on land use planning in Malta.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 9 October 2016

Taxxa fuq propjetà vojta

abandoned property Malta

 

 

Fit-Times tal-bieraħ, l-ekonomista veteran Joe Consiglio jitkellem dwar taxxa fuq propjetà vojta. Dan hu sinjal tajjeb. Anzi, huwa tajjeb ħafna li ekonomisti jiddiskutu din il-materja.

Tajjeb li jkun emfasizzat li Alternattva Demokratika hi l-uniku partit politiku f’Malta li tkellem u ħa posizzjoni favur taxxa bħal din.

Il-proposta ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika ilha li saret 23 sena u għaldaqstant saret fil-kuntest regolatorju ta’ dak iż-żmien, lejliet l-elezzjoni ġenerali tal-1992. Alternattiva Demokratika, dakinnhar kienet preokkupata bl-ispekulazzjoni li kienet qed tirriżulta bħala konsegwenza ta’ propjetà li kienet qed titħalla vojta u abbandunata għal snin twal.

Ftit wara, fl-1993, ġiet introdotta l-Capital Gains Tax li kienet tindirizza parti mill-problema u dan għax, jekk imħaddma tajjeb din it-taxxa tista’ tindirizza sewwa l-issue tal-ispekulazzjoni.

Fl-aħħar budget il-Gvern ħoloq inċentivi (tnaqqis ta’ taxxi) biex jinkoraġixxi d-dħul fis-suq ta’ propjetà li dwarha kien hemm problemi ta’ wirt. Bla dubju dawn l-inċentivi jistgħu jnaqqsu xi ftit il-problema.

F’dan il-kuntest ikun tajjeb jekk niddiskutu iktar taħt liema ċirkustanzi tkun ġustifikata li tkun introdotta taxxa fuq propjetà li titħalla vojta.

L-art f’Malta hi limitata u ma nistgħux nibqgħu nużaw iktar art għall-bini, meta għad hawn min għandu propjetà mibnija u jibqa’ ma jużahiex jew ma jħallihiex tkun użata. Il-liġijiet tal-kera, li inbidlu fl-2008, illum huma iktar raġjonevoli u propjetà tista’ faċilment tinkera għal perjodu limitat sakemm sidha jkollu bżonnha.

Għaldaqstant dawk li setgħu kienu raġunijiet fil-passat (li wieħed seta jifhem) biex propjetà titħalla vojta m’għadhomx jagħmlu sens. Propjetà li ma tintużax u titħalla vojta toħloq pressjoni bla bżonn biex tinbena iżjed art meta Malta ma tistax titlef iktar art għall-kapriċċ ta’ min iħalli l-propjetà tiegħu vojta. Il-pajjiż jonfoq flejjes kbar biex jiżviluppa l-infrastruttura u jagħti servizzi li fejn propjetà tibqa’ vojta jibqgħu ma jintużawx.

F’artiklu li ktibt fl-Independent tal-Ħadd 11 t’Ottubru kont eżaminajt iċ-ċifri ta’ propjetà vojta li jirriżultaw minn l-aħħar ċensiment, dak tal-2011.

F’Malta għandna 71,080 propjeta vojta. Minn dawn 29,848 jintużaw kulltant – probabbilment il-parti l-kbira minnhom huma villeġġatura jew ta’ sidien mhux Maltin li jkunu Malta perjodikament. Il-bqija huma vojta. Uħud vojta għal ftit żmien u oħrajn vojta fit-tul.

Jekk tħalli barra l-propjetà użata bħala villeġġatura, l-ammont ta’ propjetà vojta s-sena kolla xorta jibqa’ enormi: 41,232.

Dan tajjeb?

L-introduzzjoni ta’ taxxa fuq propjetà vojta bla dubju tħajjar ħafna mis-sidien biex jevitaw il-ħlas tat-taxxa u jsibu użu għal din il-propjetà u b’hekk tonqos il-ħtieġa li tinbena iktar art. Tajjeb li nkomplu d-diskussjoni.

Magħna taf fejn qiegħed

new identity

 Il-ġimgħa d-dieħla nisimgħu s-suffara li ssejjaħ elezzjoni ġenerali.

Alternattiva Demokratika ser terġa tkun hemm fuq id-Distretti kollha. F’uħud b’kandidat wieħed, f’oħrajn b’iktar.

Il-programm elettorali ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika bħal dejjem ser ikun ċar fuq issues li partiti oħra jevitaw. Hekk ġara fil-passat dwar id-divorzju u r-riforma tal-liġijiet tal-kera. Il-partiti l-oħra evitaw dawn is-suġġetti fil-kampanja elettorali imma mbagħad kellhom jiffaċċawhom fil-Parlament.

Alternattiva Demokratika m’hi ostaġġ ta’ ħadd, għalhekk titkellem ċar.

AD tkompli tkun l-akbar difensur ta’ dak li baqa’ mill-wirt ambjentali Malti, tistinka għal aktar spazji pubbliċi u infrastruttura aħjar. AD mħiex ostaġġ tal-kaċċaturi u n-nassaba, l-iffissati fil-logħob tan-nar, l-abitanti illegali tal-Armier, u spekulaturi u żviluppaturi bla rażan. Issejjaħ għal politika sostenibbli dwar l-art u l-ilma, għal politika ekonomika progressiva, bħal żieda fil-paga minima u taxxa mit-tielet proprjetà vojta lil hinn.

AD hi favur politika soċjali umana u drittijiet ugwali għal kulħadd, fosthom il-minoranzi fil-politika soċjali u tal-familja, bħall-persuni b’diżabilità, il-persuni LGBT u kull tip ta’ familja. AD hi favur ugwaljanza bejn is-sessi, id-dekriminalizzazzjoni tad-drogi għall-użu personali, u l-għajnuna għall-vittimi tad-droga minflok kriminalizzazzjoni.

AD lesta biex taħdem ma’ ħaddieħor, skont programm konġunt maqbul. Taħdem biex dak miftiehem jitwettaq meta nkunu fil-Parlament. Bħala sieħeb minuri, AD tistinka biex tkun żviluppata il-politika bil-kunsens u ma theddidx li tgħaddi tagħha akkost ta’ kollox, konxja mill-fatt li dan iġib l-instabilità.

Vot għal Alternattiva Demokratika jkun vot għall-bidla fil-mod ta’ tmexxija u favur stabbilità.

Jekk temmen li għandhom jkunu fuq quddiem il-ġustizzja soċjali, id-drittijiet ċivili, il-ġustizzja ambjentali, l-iżvilupp sostenibbli, il-modernizzazzjoni ekoloġika u, fuq kollox, ir-riforma tal-istituzzjonijiet għat-tisħiħ tad-demokrazija, mela taf fejn qiegħed mal-Alternattiva Demokratika. Vot għall-PN jew għall-PL ifisser vot għas-sistema staġnata taż-żewġ partiti.

Jekk vera trid il-bidla, ivvota Alternattiva. Magħna taf fejn qiegħed.

Budget with positive, vague and missing measures – AD

Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party said the budget had a mix of measures, some of which were positive, whilst others being rather vague. The budget also missed out from taking concrete action in certain social and environmental matters.
 
Michael Briguglio, AD Chairperson, said: ‘It is positive that in a context of global economic difficulties, Government is aiming to reduce the deficit. Hopefully, Government’s expenditure programme will be more sustainable’.
 
‘We also agree that Government shall pay workers on minimum wage who undergo training programmes, and that Government will make life easier for people on social assistance who choose to work. On the other hand, AD strongly believes in an increase in the national and hourly minimum wage, including that for part-timers and contractual workers on a pro-rata basis. AD also augurs that Government’s enforcement against employers who exploit foreign workers is effective’.
‘As regards cost of living and social benefits, we agree with the increase in supplementary benefits and in expenditure aimed at vulnerable groups such as fostered children. We would however have expected more expenditure on disabled persons and the inclusion of vulnerable groups such as those with ME and FB for entitlement of disability benefits’.

‘As regards health, it is also positive that Government shall investment in the Cancer Centre at Mater Dei Hospital. In this regard, it is important to note that cancer should also be confronted through better environmental policy which is currently lacking. Government should also do much more to tackle costly medicinal prices, including considering importing them itself alongside importers from the private sector’.

‘Alternattiva Demokratika believes that it would have been better if Government put even more investment in public education and childcare centres rather than incentivising private education’.
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Ralph Cassar, AD Secretary General, said: ‘As regards environmental policy, we strongly believe that Government should do much more for sustainable development, for example by reactivating the national commission for sustainable development. Government’s expenditure on renewable energy is simply not enough, especially when one keeps in mind the dirty fuel which shall be used in the power station extension. Government should also elaborate on the assistance schemes for sustainable energy’.
‘Government should also have introduced fiscal measures on property speculation, from the third vacant property onwards, particularly when one considers that Malta is a perpetual building site where a quarter of properties are vacant. Fiscal mechanisms should encourage the renting and selling of properties which are kept vacant for speculation purposes and the use of existing buildings rather than building more areas’.

‘AD also supports the investment in farmers’ markets and in animal welfare centre. It is also positive that Government shall introduce incentives encouraging cleaner transport. Till now details are too vague to comment in detail.’
 
 
Baġit b’taħlita ta’ miżuri pożittivi, vagi u nieqsa – AD

Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party qal li l-baġit kellu taħlita ta ‘miżuri, li wħud minnhom kienu pożittivi, filwaqt li oħrajn huma pjuttost vagi. Il-baġit ukoll ma ħax azzjoni konkreta fuq ċerti materji soċjali u ambjentali.

Michael Briguglio, AD Chairperson qal: “Huwa pożittiv li f’kuntest ta’ diffikultajiet ekonomiċi globali, l-Gvern qed jimmira li jnaqqas id-defiċit. Nawguraw li l-programm ta’ infiq tal-Gvern ikun aktar sostenibbli “.

“Aħna wkoll naqblu li l-Gvern iħallas ħaddiema bil-paga minima li jagħmlu programmi ta’ taħriġ, u li l-Gvern se jagħmel il-ħajja eħfef għall-persuni fuq assistenza soċjali li jagħżlu li jaħdmu. Min-naħa l-oħra, AD temmen li għandu jkun hemm żieda fil-paga minima nazzjonali u bis-siegħa, inkluż dak għall-part-timers u ħaddiema kuntrattwali fuq bażi pro-rata. AD tawgura ukoll li l-infurzar tal-Gvern kontra min iħaddem li jisfruttaw ħaddiema barranin ikun effettiv “.

“Fir-rigward ta’ l-għoli tal-ħajja u l-benefiċċji soċjali, aħna naqblu maż-żieda fl-assistenza supplimentari u fin-nefqa għall-gruppi vulnerabbli bħal tfal fostered. Iżda konna nistennew ukoll nefqa ikbar għal nies b’diżabilita’ u  li l-Gvern jinkludi gruppi bħal dawk li jbatu bl-ME u l-FM ma dawk intitolati għall-benefiċċji ta’ nies b’diżabilita’”.

“Fir-rigward tas-saħħa, huwa wkoll pożittiv li l-Gvern qed jinvesti fiċ-Ċentru tal-Kanċer fl-Isptar Mater Dei. F’dan ir-rigward, huwa importanti li wieħed jinnota li l-kanċer għandu ukoll ikun kkonfrontat permezz ta’ politika ambjentali aħjar li bħalissa hija nieqsa. Il-Gvern għandu wkoll jagħmel ħafna aktar biex jiġu indirizzati prezzijiet mediċinali għaljin, inkluż li jiġi kkunsidrat l-importazzjoni tagħhom flimkien ma’ importaturi mis-settur privat’.

“Alternattiva Demokratika temmen li kien ikun aħjar jekk il-Gvern jinvesti aktar fl-edukazzjoni pubblika u childcare centres minflok fl-edukazzjoni privata”.
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Ralph Cassar, Segretarju Ġenerali ta’ AD, qal: “Fir-rigward tal-politika ambjentali, aħna nemmnu bil-qawwa li l-Gvern għandu jagħmel ħafna aktar għall-iżvilupp sostenibbli, per eżempju li jerga’ jattiva l-Kummissjoni Nazzjonali għall-Iżvilupp Sostenibbli. In-nefqa tal-Gvern dwar l-enerġija rinnovabbli hija sempliċement mhux biżżejjed, speċjalment meta wieħed iżomm f’moħħu l-fjuwil maħmuġ li se jintuża fl-estenzjoni tal-power station. Il-Gvern għandu jelabora wkoll dwar l-iskemi ta ‘assistenza għall-enerġija sostenibbli’.

‘Il-Gvern naqas milli jintroduċi miżuri fiskali fuq l-ispekulazzjoni tal-propjetà, mit- tielet propjeta vojta ‘l fuq, partikolarment meta Malta u Ghawdex huma sit tal-bini perpetwu u meta kwart tal-propjetajiet huma vojta. Mekkaniżmi fiskali għandhom jinkoraġġixxu l-kiri u l-bejgħ ta’ propjetajiet li huma miżmuma vakanti għal għanijiet ta’ spekulazzjoni u uzu ta’ bini ezistenti milli l-bini ta’ aktar postijiet’.

‘AD tappoġġja wkoll l-investiment fis-swieq tal-bdiewa u fiċ-ċentru għall-ħarsien ta’ l-annimali. Huwa wkoll pożittiv li l-Gvern jintroduċi inċentivi li jħeġġu trasport aktar nadif. S’issa d-dettalji huma vagi wisq biex nikkummentaw f’aktar dettall’.