Rent reform is long overdue

Over the years, successive governments have refrained from carrying out essential far-reaching changes to rent legislation.

The emergency which justified the original restrictive legislation was instead made more restrictive over the years. Court decisions from Valletta to Strasbourg denouncing the current state of play have been piling up. The rent reforms of 1995 and 2008 cannot be discarded, however they were not followed up. They were appropriate small first steps but too much time elapsed with no adequate follow-up action. Successive governments have been reluctant to disturb a hornet’s nest hoping that somehow time will solve the matter.

It is within this context that Government’s proposal to carry out a root and branch reform of the 9,700 remaining pre-1995 tenancies is thus a responsible and courageous political move. Through it government will be shouldering the accumulated shortcomings of all its predecessors, red and blue, which have generally ignored the matter over the years. The Greens in Malta have over the years actively campaigned on this specific issue: justice for the landlords must be carried out together with adequate protection of vulnerable tenants.

At the time of writing the statements made by Prime Minister Robert Abela and Social Accommodation Minister Roderick Galdes have not been followed up with the publication of the specific legal texts which will implement the policy declarations made.

The proposals as described so far, are, in my view acceptable in principle. It is however expected that when the detailed legislative proposals are published, these are accompanied by studies carried out, including costings. An essential healthy public debate needs to be adequately buttressed by well-researched background information.

The proposal as spelled out by Abela and Galdes is based on two fundamental points. It seeks to tread the difficult path of protecting both tenants and landlords.

Tenant protection will be achieved through ensuring that vulnerable tenants will at all times have access to a home, be it their current one or, in some cases, possible alternatives provided through access to social accommodation. This is essentially a transitory provision applicable to the identified 9,700 pre-1995 tenancies and is undoubtedly a restrictive condition on landlords. It is however of central importance. It is to be counterbalanced by a mechanism which determines a more reasonable determination of rental income which will be coughed up by the state in part or in whole depending on the vulnerability of the tenant. It is also a mechanism which over the past years has generally been accepted by the Courts as constituting a fair and reasonable rental income.

Of fundamental importance in the proposal as communicated so far is the manner of determination of the payable rent. This will not be left completely to the whims of market forces as it will be capped at 2 per cent of the property’s value. This signifies that, hopefully, some lessons have been learnt from the fallout resulting from the complete liberalisation of the post-1995 rental market.   

The proposal will be addressing an accumulated social problem with a substantial financial outlay consisting of millions of euros annually.

So far, the rent payable in respect of pre-1995 tenancies have been subsidised by the landlords who, in a number of cases are themselves in need of help! It is appropriate that this support is shouldered by the whole community, through the state, who now steps forward to shoulder the problem in the spirit of national solidarity.

So far most have acknowledged that pre-1995 tenancies are a tough challenge. What matters, now, is that we face this challenge head-on. It cannot be postponed any further.

published on The Malta Independent on Sunday: 7 March 2021

L-indifferenza tkompli

Il-media qed tirrapporta li ġew salvati 97 immigrant fiż-żona ta’ salvataġġ Malti. Ġew salvati minn vapur fiż-żona wara li (qed jintqal) li l-awtoritajiet Maltin ma weġbux sejħa għall-għajnuna.

It-Times online qed tirrapporta li l-awtoritajiet Maltin ma jweġbux, inkella li wara li jerfgħu it-telefon jerġgħu jpoġġuh f’post bla ma jwieġbu. Għadu kmieni biex inkunu nafu jekk dan hux minnu jew le.

Hu ċar li l-politika tal-Gvern Malti hi dik ta’ “full-up”. Politika ta’ alabiebiżmu mir-responsabbiltajiet internazzjonali ta’ Malta. Ir-responsabbiltà li nintervjenu u/jew insalvaw lil min ikun f’diffikulta fl-ibħra li għalihom Malta hi responsabbli hi tagħna minħabba l-posizzjoni ġeografika. Ma nistgħux naħarbu minn din ir-responsabbilta. Tgħid x’tgħid l-EU. Tagħmel x’tagħmel l-EU. Anke jekk tibqa’ma tagħmel xejn effettiv, jew kważi.

In-nuqqas ta’ solidarjetà minn pajjiżi oħra hi tat-tkexkix. Mhiex xi ħaġa ġdida. Hi kundannabbli, imma ma tħollniex mir-responabbiltajiet tagħna.

Ma nistgħux nagħlqu għajnejna għal dak li qed jiġri. Huwa ħażin li l-EU ma tistax tiċċaqlaq għax hi miżmuma milli tagħmel dan minn pajjiżi li għalihom is-solidarjetà hi proċess one-way. Il-ġlieda favur solidarjetà u kontra l-indifferenza tkompli.

Is-solidarjetà mhiex kwarantina.

Il-pandemija u l-kummerċ tal-Milied

Bħala riżultat tal-pandemija Covid-19, dan il-Milied ser ikun wieħed differenti minn dawk li ġew qablu.  Normalment il-Milied  huwa ż-żmien meta  nissoċjaliżżaw iktar mill-bqija tas-sena. Żmien li fih niltaqgħu iktar mal-ħbieb u mal-familjari. Huwa ż-żmien li fih hu normali li niltaqgħu fi gruppi għal attivitajiet differenti.  

Dan hu kompletament bil-maqlub tal-mod kif issa jeħtieġ li naġixxu biex nikkumbattu kontra l-coronavirus. Li nnaqqsu drastikament u possibilment nevitaw il-kuntatti tagħna hu l-minimu meħtieġ f’dawn iċ-ċirkustanzi biex tonqos l-imxija tal-coronavirus.  Bosta minna hekk jagħmlu, minkejja li l-Gvern kontinwament jagħtina sinjali konfliġġenti.   

Wieħed minn dawn is-sinjali konfliġġenti ngħata waqt il-konferenza stampa biex ikun imniedi  Christmas in the City iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa. Il-Ministri  Josè Herrera u Julia Farrugia-Portelli, imwieżna miċ-Chairman tas-Super One Jason Micallef, u oħrajn, tkellmu dwar il-ħinijiet tax-xiri u dwar kemm ser ikun faċli l-parking għal min jitħajjar imur il-Belt biex jixtri r-rigali tal-Milied. L-ispirtu tal-Milied xejn ma jiddependi mis-siegħat ta’ xiri fil-ħwienet. L-anqas ma jiddependi minn kemm ikollna aċċess faċli għall-parking.  

Is-sinifikat propju tal-Milied hu tal-istaġun tas-solidarjetà li fiċ-ċirkustanzi preżenti, maħluqa mill-pandemija, hu importanti iktar minn qatt qabel.

Fl-istess ħin li l-Ministri Herrera u Farrugia-Portelli kienu kienu qed jitkellmu dwar Christmas in the City, epidemologisti kienu qed iwissuna li matul ix-xahar ta’ Diċembru r-rata tal-imwiet f’Malta mill-Covid-19 mistenni li tiżdied bi tlett darbiet: minn żewgt imwiet kuljum għal sitta kuljum. In-numru tal-imwiet mill-Covid-19 diġa żdied b’mod konsiderevoli sa minn meta tnaqqsu r-restrizzjonijiet f’Lulju li għadda. Fil-ħin li qed nikteb in-numru ta’ mwiet ħtija tal-Covid-19 laħaq il-108, u sa x’ħin dan l-artiklu jinqara n-numru sfortunatament ikompli jikber.

Fid-dawl ta’ dan ma jagħmilx sens li tistieden lin-nies biex jinżlu l-Belt għax-xiri tar-rigali tal-Milied. Huwa l-waqt li nagħmlu eżatt bil-maqlub:  innaqqsu l-moviment tan-nies bit-tama li dan jgħin fit-trażżin tal-pandemija.  Huwa dan li messu qed iħeġġeġ il-Gvern.

Ikoll nirrikonoxxu li l-pandemija kellha impatt qawwi u negattiv fuq l-għixien ta’ bosta.  Is-setturi tal-ikel u tal-ospitalità  kellhom sfida qawwija matul ix-xhur tas-sajf. Iż-żmien meta normalment imorru tajjeb, kien iż-żmien meta qalgħu l-ikbar daqqa.  Iktar ma noqorbu lejn il-Milied mhux talli l-pandemija ma naqqsitx, talli donna iktar irrankat. L-irkupru ekonomiku jidher li għad baqalu.

In-numru ta’ dawk li qed ikunu infettati qiegħed jikber.  Fl-istess ħin lkoll nifhmu li l-iskop wara x-xewqa li jkunu mħajra n-nies lejn il-Belt u ċ-ċentri kummerċjali hi motivata mill-ħtieġa tad-dinja tal-kummerċ biex ittaffi d-daqqa li qalgħet billi tipprova issarraf ftit mill-kummerċ li normalment jiġġenera l-Milied. Il-konsiderazzjonijiet ta’ saħħa, imma, għandhom dejjem jibqgħu l-prijorità: issa mhux iż-żmien li jkunu nkoraġġiti l-ebda tip ta’ celebrazzjonijiet.  Flok ma ninkoraġixxu lin-nies biex tersaq lejn ic-ċentri kummerċjali l-Gvern għandu jkun fuq quddiem biex iħeġġeġ l-attenzjoni u prudenza. Mhux Ministru wieħed, imma l-Gvern kollu! Il-vouchers, l-għotjiet, l-għajnuniet u s-supplimenti għall-pagi li l-Gvern qed iqassam f’isimna lkoll, wara kollox, għandhom l-iskop li jtaffu dan il-piz li nħoloq bħala riżultat tal-pandemija.

Għalfejn f’dan il-mument kritiku narmu l-kisbiet li ġibna bis-sagrifiċċji ta’ bosta? Għax huwa dan li nkunu qed nagħmlu kull meta jingħata ħjiel li wara kollox tajjeb li ninġabru u niċċelebraw. Issa mhux il-waqt għal dan.

Il-Covid-19 mhux ser joqtol il-Milied jekk inqas nies jixtru ir-rigali! L-ispirtu tal-Milied ma jitkejjilx  mill-volum ta’ rigali li jinxtraw imma minn kemm aħna kapaċi nkun solidali mal-vulnerabbli tal-lum.

U issa?

L-ikbar att ta’ solidarjetà, bħalissa, hu li harsu lill-vulnerabbli fostna billi nimxu mad-direttivi tal-awtoritajiet tas-saħħa intenzjonati biex iżommu lill-pandemija milli tkompli tixtered.  Il-vaċċin jidher li hu fil-qrib. Dan inissel tama li possibilment matul l-ewwel nofs tas-sena l-ġdida nibdew l-ewwel passi fil-mixja bil-mod lejn in-normalità.  

Imma sadakinnhar hu obbligu tagħna li nħarsu kemm lilna nfusna kif ukoll lil ħaddieħor b’imġieba prudenti. Din hi s-solidarjetà prattika li dan l-istaġun tal-Milied jistenna minn għandna.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum: il-Ħadd 22 ta’ Novembru 2020

Covid-19 and the City

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, this Christmas is essentially different from all past ones.

Christmas is normally time for meeting with friends and family, for socialising. It is the time when we normally gather in large groups for a variety of purposes. This is exactly the opposite of what is required to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Avoiding and reducing unnecessary contacts to the bare minimum helps to prevent the further spread of Covid-19. That is what we all say and believe, notwithstanding government’s continuous conflicting signals. 

One of the last such conflicting signals was given during a Press Conference launching Christmas in the City earlier this week. Ministers Josè Herrera and Julia Farrugia-Portelli, buttressed by Super One Chairman Jason Micallef and others spoke about shopping hours and parking requirements when launching Christmas in the City.  The Christmas spirit is not dependent on shopping hours, nor does it have any parking requirements.

In my book Christmas is the solidarity season which in the context of the current Covid-19 pandemic assumes additional significance.

Almost simultaneously with the Christmas in the City launching, epidemiologists were warning us that the daily number of deaths from Covid-19 in Malta was expected to triple during the month of December: from two to six deaths daily. At the time of writing the Covid-19 death count is 106 and rising. The death count has increased substantially since restrictions were reduced in July 2020.

Within this context it is not on to encourage large numbers to descend on Valletta for their Christmas shopping. It is the time to do exactly the opposite: discourage movements, hoping that as a result, movements are restricted to the bear minimum.

All of us acknowledge that Covid-19 has seriously impacted the livelihood of many. Economic sectors such as the food and the hospitality industries have experienced severe challenges during the summer season, when ordinarily this business would have been booming. As we approach Christmas, the pandemic not only does not show any sign of slowing down: it may well spike once more. An opportunity for economic recovery remains under threat.

More people are succumbing to the virus every day. The desire to draw people to Valletta and other commercial centres in an effort to tap the Christmas spirit for commercial gain, thereby providing a lifeline to businesses is understandable. Health considerations should however take priority: now is however not the time to encourage celebrations of whatever nature. Instead of encouraging people to get out to the commercial centres, government should encourage more cautious behaviour. Government handouts and wage supplements have the specific purpose of helping shoulder the burden created by all this.

Why do we threaten the sacrifices of the many at this critical time by encouraging unreasonable behaviour?

Covid-19 will not kill Christmas if fewer people do their Christmas shopping. The Christmas spirit is not measured in terms of the volume of Christmas shopping but in terms of our acts of solidarity.

Where do we go from here?

The greatest act of solidarity, at this time, is to protect the vulnerable amongst us by following the advice of the health authorities intended to contain the Covid-19 spread as much as possible. A vaccine may be on the horizon, possibly heralding the beginning of a slow return to normality in the first half of the new year.

Until then, it is our duty to take care of ourselves and others by ensuring cautious behaviour. This is the practical solidarity expected from all of us this Christmas season.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 21 November 2020

Solidarjetà flok il-bacon tal-injoranza u l-mibgħeda

Quran-bacon

Moslems attend mass

 

Fi Franza, b’ġest ta’ solidarjetà wara l-qtil tal-qassis anzjan Jacques Hamel fil-knisja f’Saint Etienne du Rouvray, il-Musulmani attendew il-Knisja waqt il-quddiesa f’diversi partijiet ta’ Franza.

Imma f’Malta, mimlija qaddisin, iwieġbu bl-insulti tal-bacon fil-Koran fl-Isptar Mater Dei. Xi żmien ilu kien hemm min qassam l-ħobż bil-perżut quddiem il-Knisja tal-Imsida!

L-ikbar għadu ta’ dan is-seklu hu l-injoranza u l-mibgħeda.

 

Mill-karità għall-ġustizzja soċjali

Charity

Il-ġenerosità tal-poplu Malti hi kbira, kważi bla limitu. Dan jixhduh il-fondi li nġabru mill-Istrina għall-Community Chest Fund l-għada tal-Milied kif ukoll il-fondi li nġabru l-bieraħ b’risq id-Dar tal-Providenza.

Matul is-sena jinqalgħu diversi ċirkustanzi oħra li għalihom ukoll ikun hemm rispons tajjeb.

Huwa tajjeb li nagħmlu l-karità. Peró dan mhux biżżejjed.

Mill-karità irridu naslu għal ġustizzja soċjali iktar effettiva. Għas solidarjetà. Għax il-fatt li hemm il-ħtieġa ta’ din il-karità kollha ifisser bla ebda dubju li x-xibka tas-servizzi soċjali li għandu l-istat m’humiex jilħqu lil kulħadd.

Huwa neċessarju li flok ma naraw lill-Ministru tal-Finanzi fl-Istrina jippreżenta ċekk ta’ €60,000 mill-Fond tal-Kawżi Ġusti naraw żieda sostanzjali fil-fondi allokati lill-Ministeri tas-Saħħa u tas-Sigurtà Soċjali.

Imma jekk il-Gvernijiet ser jibqgħu jnaqqsu it-taxxa tad-dħul, dan ma jistax isir.

Gvern progressiv, minn dan kollu jasal għall-unika konklużjoni loġika: mill-karità jgħaddi għal ġustizzja soċjali iktar effettiva.

 

Il-Milied it-tajjeb

solidarity

Nawgura l-Milied it-tajjeb lil kulħadd. Milied li jġib is-sliem. Sliem dejjiemi.

Festa tas-solidarjetà, mhux festa ta’ kummerċ.

Hi ħasra li l-messaġġ reali tal-Milied, ingeżwer kif inhu fit-tlellix, jintilef wara ftit siegħat biex jerga’ jitfaċċa sena oħra. Hemm bżonn li l-valuri tal-Milied, s-sliem u s-solidarjetà, jkunu ċċelebrati kuljum, 366 darba matul is-sena 2016.  Il-Milied it-tajjeb lil kulħadd: kemm lil dawk ta’ rieda tajba kif ukoll li dawk ta’ mingħajr rieda tajba.

 

 

Riflessjoni, wara l-massakru ta’ Pariġi

eiffel peace symbol

 

It-total tal-vittmi qiegħed jiżdied. Fil-ħin li qed nikteb, in-numru ta’ mejtin huwa ta’ 129,  b’352 feruti, 99 minnhom gravi ħafna.

Dan hu t-tieni massakru f’ Pariġi: l-ieħor seħħ f’Jannar.

Sebgħa mit-terroristi nvoluti huma mejta, it-tmien wieħed kif ukoll numru ta’ persuni assoċjati magħhom huma preżentment imfittxija.

L-attakk ta’ nhar il-Ġimgħa kien wieħed simboliku: kien attakk fuq il-valuri li Franza u Pariġi jirrappreżentaw. L-attakk seħħ fl-istess żona li fiha hemm l-uffiċini ta’ Charlie Hebdo [il-mira tal-attakk l-ieħor f’Jannar] kif ukoll infirex fiż-żona li fiha jsiru id-dimostrazzjonijiet Pariġini.

Ilkoll kemm aħna ixxukkjati b’dak li ġara. Avolja minn dak li nisimgħu ilna nistennew dan it-tip ta’ inċident.

Franza iddikjarat stat ta’ emergenza. F’Malta ġie estiż is-sospensjoni tar-regoli tas-Schengen biex dan issa jibqa’ sejjer sa wara li jintemm is-Summit taċ-CHOGM.

L-attakk fuq il-moviment ħieles tal-persuni fiż-żona Schengen ilu li beda. Intensifika mal-mewġa kurrenti ta’ migrazzjoni mis-Sirja. Wara Pariġi bla dubju dan l-attakk ser ikompli jintensifika.

L-ikbar rebħa tat-terroriżmu jkun jekk jirnexxielu jnissel il-biża’ fit-tul. Biża’ li jekk isseħħ tkompli tnaqqar it-tolleranza u s-solidarjetà.

Bla dubju jeħtieġ li noqgħodu attenti, kemm aħna ċ-ċittadini, imma iktar minnha l-awtoritajiet. Huwa neċessarju imma li ma nħallux il-biża’ tirkibna għax bħala konsegwenza ningħalqu f’gaġġa.

Huwa żmien ta’ riflessjoni favur il-paċi u s-solidarjetà, il-messaġġ ta’ Jean Julie il-karikarturista li pinġa l-karikatura riprodotta hawn fuq.

Il-vjolenza ma tiġġielidiex bil-vjolenza iżda bid-disponibilità ta’ kull wieħed minnha favur il-paċi u bit-tixrid ta’ kultura ta’ solidarjetà. Dan mhux faċli meta qed ngħumu f’baħar ta’ indifferenza. Inċidenti bħal dan jixxokkjawna, imma forsi jġibu lil uħud f’sensihom u jgħinhom biex inaqqsu l-indifferenza għas-sofferenzi madwarna.

Eiffel lights the way

ippubblikat fuq iNews, it-Tnejn 16 ta’ Novembru 2015

Naqbel ma’ Joseph ……………. u ma’ Hermann, u ma’ Michael u ma’ Ralph

Joseph Muscat ihobb jiccajtahermann schiavonemichael-briguglioRalph-Cassar

 

Il-bieraħ Joseph tkellem dwar is-solidarjetà. Solidarjetà mal-Greċja u l-Italja huma u jissieltu biex bir-riżorsi limitati tagħhom jassistu lir-refuġjati. Joseph qal li “ma nistgħux nitkellmu dwar solidarjetà jekk meta tiġi s-siegħa tal-prova ma nipprattikawhiex.”

Wara din id-dikjarazzjoni ċara ta’ Joseph favur is-solidarjetà ikun xieraq jekk huwa ukoll jingħaqad mal-kunsilliera Hermann Schiavone (kunsillier f’Birżebbuġa), Michael Briguglio (kunsillier f’Tas-Sliema, Ralph Cassar (kunsillier f’Ħ’Attard) u ma’ ħafna kunsilliera oħra ta’ rieda tajba li qed jipproponu illi l-komunitajiet tagħna jaddottaw familja ta’ refuġjati mis-Sirja.

Fi kliem Joseph, din hi is-siegħa tal-prova u għalhekk ikun xieraq li l-Gvern Malti jissieħeb mal-Kunsilli Lokali u l-NGOs li jixtiequ b’solidarjetà jaddottaw familja Sirjana.

Dan ikun messaġġ ċar ta’ solidarjetà, li l-poplu Malti dejjem wera ma’ min hu dgħajjef u mgħakkes.