AD dwar il-BUDGET 2019 – “IL-KEJL TAL-KWALITA` TAL-ĦAJJA MA JISTAX IKUN BISS IL-FLUS”

PR23/10/2018 BUDGET 2019 – “IL-KEJL TAL-KWALITA` TAL-ĦAJJA MA JISTAX IKUN BISS IL-FLUS” – AD

Fi stqarrija bl-ewwel reazzjonijiet għall-Budget iċ-Chairperson tal-AD Carmel Cacopardo qal li min-naħa, il-proposti tal-Budget isaħħu ix-xibka soċjali billi jgħin diversi kategoriji ta’ persuni. Madanakollu, l-kejl tal-progress tal-kwalita` tal-ħajja imbagħad jieqaf ħesrem milli jikkunsidra aspetti ohra daqstant ieħor importanti.

Jagħmel sens li tissemma l-ħtieġa ta’ riċiklar tal-iskart. Li l-budget ma jindirizzax huwa kif dan l-isforz jintegra ruħu fl-ekonomija ċirkolari anke jekk il-ministru tal-ambjent kemm-il darba ftaħar fuq il-priorita` ta’ din l-ekonomija. Fid-diskors kollu, l-ekonomija ċirkolari ma tissemmiex darba. Jinbet għaldaqstant is-suspett li l-gvern tilef il-boxxla fuq aspett tant importanti fuq bazi ekonomika, soċjali u ambjentali.

Id-diskors jagħmel enfasi fuq il-generazzjoni tal-enerġija mill-inċinerazzjoni tal-iskart li tirrikjedi volumi kbar ta’ skart biex tkun vijabbli. Id-diskors ma jsemmi xejn fuq kif dan jintrabat ma inizjattivi ta’ riċiklar li jnaqqsu l-istess volum tal-iskart. Il-Gvern qisu jrid jikkonvinċina li min-naħa l-waħda jrid inaqqas l-iskart imma min-naha l-oħra għandu bżonnu għax mingħajru l-inċineratur ma jaħdimx.

Id-diskors tal-budget jagħti wkoll impressjoni li qed jindirizza aspetti importanti li jimpattaw il-kwalita` tal-ħajja meta fil-fatt joffri biss soluzzjonijiet nofs leħja. Fosthom hemm il-politika dwar l-ilma. Id-diskors isemmi inċentivi għal tiswijiet ta’ bjar eżistenti imma ma jagħmel l-ebda sforz biex jindirizza il-kwistjoni akuta ta’ abitazzjonijiet bla bjar li bħala konsegwenza ta’ dan jarmu l-ilma tax-xita fid-drenaġġ jew fit-toroq. AD kienet tistenna kif dan in-nuqqas nazzjonali jibda jiġi ndirizzat kemm għax jikkonserva l-ilma kif ukoll għax itaffi l-gharghar kif ukoll inaqqas il-fawran tad-drenaġġ fit-toroq Maltin wara xita qalila bħalma kellna fl-aħħar jiem.
L-istess jista’ jingħad għal soluzzjonijiet tal-konġestjoni tat-traffiku. Id-diskors jalludi għal inċentivi fiskali li jħajru l-użu ta’ mezzi alternattivi ta’ trasport filwaqt li jinjora għal kollox aspetti iktar kruċjali. Il-Perit Cacopardo tenna li inutli li l-gvern ser jonfoq mitt miljun fit-toroq f’sena meta kull ma qed jagħmel huwa li jakkomda iktar karozzi fit-toroq. Daqstant ieħor huwa inutli li l-budget jagħti inċentivi fuq ix-xiri ta’ roti u pedelecs jekk ma jiżgurax infrastruttura adegwata biex dawn il-mezzi jintużaw mingħajr periklu.

Fuq l-ambjent in ġenerali il-budget għal darb’ oħra jerġa’ jitkellem fuq pjan strategiku għall-ambjent qisu pjan strategiku bħala pajjiz qatt ma kellna. Il-Perit Cacopardo qal li dan jinkwieta lil AD għax jagħti l-impressjoni li pajjiżna ser jerġa’ jinħela fuq strateġija oħra meta li jonqos hija fuq kollox l-azzjoni konkreta li biha jiġu attwati il-pjanijiet strateġiċi li bħala pajjiz ilna s-snin li ddiskutejna u fassalna.

Cacopardo qal ukoll li d-diskors tal-budget kien saħansitra kontradittorju. F’waqt minnhom il-ministru tal-finanzi jiddikjara ruħu kontra l-evażjoni tat-taxxa. Fl-istess ħin iżda, ma jitkellimx fuq il-fatt li l-gvern malti tal-lum, bħal ta’ qablu, sistematikament jinkoraggixxi kumpaniji barranin li jirreġistraw Malta bil-karrotta ta’ ħlas ta’ inqas taxxi milli kieku jħallsu fil-pajjiz tal-oriġini tagħhom. Fl-istess waqt ukoll, il-ministru tal-finanzi naqas milli jidħol fuq kif il-gvern biħsiebu jindirizza l-kontradizzjoni li jaħdem kontra l-evazjoni tat-taxxa meta fi ħdanu hemm funzjonarji li fetħu kontijiet fil-Panama bl-intenzjoni li l-gwadann tagħhom ma jidhirx u għaldaqstant jevadu t-taxxa. Bejn il-kliem u l-fatti hemm il-baħar jikkumbatti, tenna jghid il-Perit Cacopardo.

Id-diskors jirreferi wkoll għas-saltna tad-dritt u għal darb’ohra jipprova jagħti l-impressjoni li pajjiżna miexi fuq ir-rubini. Madanakollu id-diskors iħalli barra aspett l-iktar kruċjali li jindirizza it-tisħiħ tas-saltna tad-dritt; it-tnedija tal-konvenzjoni kostituzzjonali li konvenjentement tħalliet fuq l-ixkaffa għal snin sħaħ. “Huwa biss meta nindirizzaw it-tqassim tal-poter u s-sorveljanza tiegħu li jkun possibbli li nagħmlu qabża fil-kwalita` lejn saltna tad-dritt li tkun effettiva” sostna l-Perit Cacopardo.

Hemm imbagħad aspetti li id-diskors tal-budget injora kompletament. Dawn jinkludu l-proposta li qed issir minn numru ta’ korpi kostitwiti għal determinazzjoni tal-living wage li taghti dinjita` lil ħaddiema kollha. Huwa ta’ għajb ukoll li l-bagit jitkellem fuq l-imigrazzjoni bħala kwistjoni ta’ sigurta` u ma jsemmi xejn fuq investiment fl-integrazzjoni ta’ persuni li qed jagħtu kontribut lis-soċjeta` Maltija. Il-budget lanqas ma jitkellem fuq mezzi kreattivi li ilhom l-għexieren ta’ snin jeżistu f’pajjiżi oħra fosthom il-ħolqien ta’ koperattivi fil-qasam tal-housing li jnaqqsu l-pressjoni finanzjarja fuq numru sostanzjali ta’ persuni. Il-budget ikompli jitkellem fuq iż-żieda tan-numru ta’ turisti f’Malta u Ghawdex u ma jitkellem xejn fuq is-sostenibbilta` tal-attivita` turistika li mingħajrha jiddgħajjef l-prodott turistiku nnifsu b’detriment għall-ekonomija u l-kwalita` tal-ħajja tal-Maltin u Għawdxin.

Cacopardo tenna wkoll it-tħassib tal-Alternattiva Demokratika li għal darb’oħra, iż-żieda fuq l-għoli tal-ħajja qed tinħadem fuq formola li thejjiet snin ilu u li għaldaqstant tagħti stampa żbaljata ta’ kemm attwalment għandu jkun il-kumpens tal-għoli tal-ħajja illum.

Huwa ndikattiv ukoll li l-ħarsien ta’ persuni bl-awtiżmu, fost persuni oħra, l-budget jitkellem fuqhom fil-kapitlu tas-saħħa meta illum ilna li morna lil hinn mill-mudell mediku tal-mod kif inħarsu lejn dawn il-kundizzjonijiet. Alternattiva Demokratika tistenna li l-inklużjoni ta’ persuni differenti tigi ttrattata mil-lat edukattiv mhux mil-lat mediku.

“Kollox ma kollox filwaqt li l-budget jenfasizza l-ġid finanzjarju, fl-istess waqt jitlef opportunita` li jagħmel differenza f’numru ta’ oqsma li jmorru lil hinn mill-but imma li għandhom impatt sostanzjali fuq il-kwalita` tal-ħajja ta’ kulhadd” temm jgħid il-Perit Cacopardo.

 

 

A financial surplus, yet an environmental deficit

As was expected, last Monday’s budget speech solemnly announced a budget surplus for the first time in many years. However, the environmental deficit was, as usual, hidden between the lines.

The budget is aptly titled Preparing for the Future (Inlestu għall-Futur). In dealing with environmental issues, the budget speech does not lay down clearly the path the government will be following. At times, it postpones matters – proposing studies and consultations on subjects that have been in the public domain for ages.

On the subject of vacant properties, the government prefers the carrot to the stick. In order to get dilapidated and empty properties in village centres back on the rental market, it is offering a €25,000 grant to renovate such properties, but then rightly insists that, once renovated these should be made available for social housing for a minimum of 10 years. In previous budgets, various other fiscal incentives have been offered to encourage such properties being placed back on the market.

After offering so many carrots, it would also make sense to use the stick by way of taxing vacant properties in situations where the owner is continuously ignoring the signals sent regarding the social, economic and environmental impacts of empty properties.

The budget speech announced improvements to rental subsidies. However, it then opted to postpone the regulation of the rental market. It announced a White Paper on the subject which, when published, will propose ways of regulating the market without in any way regulating the subject of rents. In view of the currently abnormal situation of sky-high rents, this is sheer madness.

It is fine to ensure that the duties and responsibilities of landlords and tenants are clearly spelt out. Does anyone argue with that in 2017? It should have been done years ago. Instead of a White Paper a Legal Notice defining clear-cut duties and responsibilities would suffice: there is no need to wait.

It is, however, too much to bear when a “social democrat” Finance Minister declares  that he will not even consider rent control. There are ways and means of ensuring that the market acts fairly. Other countries have done it and are still doing it, as rental greed has no preferred nationality. Ignoring this possibility is not a good omen. The market should not be glorified by the Finance Minister; it should be tamed rather than further encouraged to keep running wild with the resulting social havoc it has created.

This brings us to transport and roads. The Finance Minister sends a clear message when he stated (on page 44 of the budget speech) that no one should be under the illusion that upgrading the road infrastructure will, on its own, resolve the traffic (congestion) problem. Edward Scicluna hints on the following page of his speech that he is not too happy with the current situation. He laments that the more developed countries encourage active mobility through walking, cycling and the use of motorbikes, as well as various means of public transport, simultaneously discouraging the use of the private car. However, he does not then proceed to the logical conclusion of his statement: scrapping large-scale road infrastructural projects such as the proposed Marsa flyover or the proposed tunnels below the Santa Luċija roundabout announced recently by Minister Ian Borg.

These projects, like the Kappara flyover currently in its final stages, will only serve to increase the capacity of our roads. And this means only one thing: more cars on our roads. It is certified madness.

While the Government’s policy of increasing the capacity of existing roads through the construction of flyovers and tunnels will address congestion in the short term, it will lead to increased traffic on our roads. This moves the problem to the future, when it will be worse and more difficult to tackle. The government is acting like an overweight individual who ‘solves’ the problem of his expanding wasteline by changing his wardrobe instead of going on a painful but necessary diet.

This cancels out the positive impact of other policies announced in the budget speech such as free public transport to young people aged between 16 and 20, free (collective) transport to all schools, incentives for car-pooling, grants encouraging the purchase of bicycles, pedelec bicycles and scooters, reduction in the VAT charged when hiring bicycles as well as the introduction of bicycle lanes, as well as encouraging the purchase of electric or hybrid vehicles.

All this contributes to the current environmental deficit. And I have not even mentioned issues of land use planning once.

Published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 15 October 2017

Beyond roundabouts and flyovers

 

The need for adequate traffic management is apparently, at last, very high on the list of matters preoccupying the Maltese public. The solutions to the problems we face, however, depends on the behaviour of each and every one of us.

Traffic congestion is a constant irritation, as our roads are clogged for longer periods of time and in addition to wasting an ever-increasing amount of time in traffic, we are simultaneously constantly reducing the quality of the air we breathe.

Tackling traffic management adequately would hence address two fundamental issues: air quality and our clogged roads.

I do not dispute that improving the road network eases the flow of traffic. However, it has to be stressed that this is only a short-term measure. Adjusting the roundabout at Manwel Dimech Street in Qormi or the traffic lanes close to the airport or constructing flyovers at Kappara and Marsa will address and rationalise traffic movement now.

However, this further development of the road infrastructure is simply an encouragement for more cars to use our roads. It is only a matter of time when it will be the turn of the new developments to burst at the seams.

The present state of affairs is the direct result of the long-term neglect of transport policy. Public transport – as well as alternative means of transport – has been given the cold shoulder for far too long.

We require a transport policy that actively encourages the reduction of the number of vehicles on the road. Having around 800 cars on the road for every one thousand people in a small country is ridiculous. The small distances between localities in Malta and Gozo should make it much easier to encourage a reduction in dependence on the privately-owned car. Initiatives can be taken on a local level as well as between neighbouring localities. In such instances, it can be much easier to encourage the use of bicycles or the use of public transport or even to walk short distances: our health will surely benefit.

Isn’t it about time that we claim back ownership of our streets? We need more pedestrianised streets inaccessible to cars at any time of the day in every locality in Malta and Gozo. More streets need to be traffic-free, safe for children and parents to walk to school and back. We also need wider pavements for the use of pedestrians (not for tables and chairs to service catering establishments).

In the 2016 Budget speech, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna announced that, during 2017, government entities should be finalising sustainable transport plans. In the coming weeks these should be made public and, as a result, we expect that all government entities will commence addressing the mobility requirements of their employees and their customers. If carried out properly, this exercise could also impact on the private sector thereby (hopefully) substantially reducing a substantial number cars from our roads at peak times. In turn, this could have a considerable impact on public transport because with fewer cars on the roads, it should be more efficient.

Concurrently, government should also address the proposal to electrify the whole private transport sector through banning petrol and diesel cars from our roads, after a reasonable transition, and switching over to cars running on electricity. In Malta, this proposal was launched as part of Alternattiva Demokratika’s 2017 election manifesto. Since then, it has also been taken up by the French and UK governments. Removing petrol and diesel cars from our roads would substantially improve the quality of the air we breathe in all our localities and consequently in the long term will contribute to a considerable reduction of respiratory ailments.

This is the only way forward by which traffic is brought under serious control simultaneously ensuring sustainable mobility and improving the quality of our air.

 

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 10 September 2017

Transport and the budget

budget-2017-speech

 

The Finance Minister  is apparently delighted that, during the past year, over 40 million passengers made use of public transport. While this represents a seven per cent increase on the previous year, it  could have been much more had the government not wasted millions of euros in the improvement of the road network. This money should have instead been channelled towards initiatives encouraging sustainable transport.

When the road network is improved, traffic congestion eases temporarily and, as a result, more cars take to the roads. This in turn leads to more traffic congestion – a direct result of government investment. Transport policy-makers have yet to realise that rather than improve the road network, they should increase exponentially initiatives to reduce the number of cars on our roads. It is in this area that major investment is required.

The government has decided to make a slow start in this area by announcing two initiatives to encourage group transport in relation to working places. The private sector is being encouraged to provide this through tax credits, whilst government entities employing more than 50 people have been instructed to prepare a sustainable transport plan. This is a belated slow start to addressing traffic congestion, which is related to people going to work using their own transport. The government has opted to use the carrot rather than the stick. Most probably, in the long term there is both the room and the need to use both.

A token incentive of free public transport for five thousand 18-year-olds who will reach that age in 2017 will do no harm. It could, however, have been presented in a more innovative manner – linking a longer period of free public transport with bicycle incentives as well as an undertaking from recipients not to seek a driving licence for at least 10 years. Now that would be an investment which would reduce cars from the road in the long term!

All initiatives that seek to encourage the use of public transport are worth a try, as they are a step in the right direction. It is, however, necessary that more investment in alternative and sustainable means of transport is forthcoming, primarily in setting up the required basic infrastructure. For example, the infrastructure required to encourage bicycle use is practically non-existent. This needs to be addressed adequately. A first step would be the sustainable transport plans which the Finance Minister is expecting from government entities during 2017. I would expect that, in 12 months time, these plans will start being implemented because government entities should be the first to set an example.

Most of our localities are a stone’s throw away from each other and this should make it much easier to encourage a reduction in dependence on the privately-owned car. Initiatives can also be taken on a local level and between neighbouring localities. In such instances, it can be much easier to encourage the use of bicycles. This would require streets where access to cars is prohibited, such access being reserved for bicycle users. In such instances, school  children, under supervision,  should be encouraged to go to school on bicycles, in bicycle-friendly streets.

Initiatives at a local level add up over time and slowly contribute to the formation of a bicycle-friendly society.  Even in matters of transport, national problems can be resolved at the town and village level, eventually leading to a solution at a national level. This is a practical way of applying the environmental maxim “think global, act local”.

The problem of traffic congestion will not be resolved by the construction of a new generation of flyovers but by equipping our young generations to challenge the status quo.

It can be done.

published in the Malta Independent on Sunday 23 October 2016

Il-mina bejn Malta u Għawdex

Gozo_tunnel_route_alignment_options

 

Ma nafx jekk il-Ministru tal-Finanzi kienx jaf x’inhu jgħid meta qal li l-feasibility study “ikkummissjonat minn Transport Malta u l-Gozo Business Chamber” dwar il-mina bejn Malta u Għawdex kien lest. Imbagħad fis-sentenza ta’ wara jgħidilna li l-pass li jmiss issa huwa l-istudju tekniku u ġeoloġiku dwar il-mina.

Il-mistoqsija toħroġ waħedha: kif tista’ tagħmel feasibility study sura, jiġifieri studju dwar jekk jaqbilx li jsir il-proġett, meta għadek ma lestejtx l-iktar studju importanti: dak ġeoloġiku.

Dan ilu żmien jingħad minn kull min jaf l-affarijiet.

Jiena ktibt dwar dan kważi ħames snin ilu.

Iktar importanti milli ktibt jien, illum tkellem mat-Times il-ġeoloġista Peter Gatt. Tkellem ukoll mat-Times nhar it-3 ta’ Frar 2011.

Dr Peter Gatt jispjega fit-Times tal-lum għaliex qabel ma jsir l-istudju ġeoloġiku ma tista’ tikkonkludi xejn. Dan l-istudju hu “a vital first step”. Dan minħabba li l-istudju ġeoloġiku, jekk isir sewwa, jidentifika l-problemi ġeoloġiċi fuq ir-rotta li tkun ser titħaffer. Min-naħa l-oħra, jispjega Dr Gatt, jekk l-istudju ma jsirx, jew ma jsirx sewwa l-ispejjes tal-proġett jimmoltiplikaw. Kif ġara, jgħidilna Dr Gatt, fil-mina bejn Delimara u l-Marsa [bejn iż-żewġ power stations] li swiet id-doppju ta’ dak ippjanat minħabba li, billi ma kienx hemm informazzjoni ġeoloġika adegwata f’idejn min fassal il-proġett, kien hemm kollass tal-blat f’diversi partijiet tal-mina.

Dr Gatt isemmi l-eżempju tal-istudju ġeoloġiku li sar bi preparazzjoni għaċ-Channel Tunnel bejn l-Ingilterra u Franza. Dan l-istudju dam 50 sena biex sar u minkejja dan, l-ispiża taċ-Channel Tunnel xorta varjat bi 80% mill-istima oriġinali.

Meta wieħed iqis dan kollu ma nafx x’feasibility study sar!

Qalulna ukoll (mhux fil-baġit) li l-mina ser tiġi tiswa madwar €250 miljun. Meta tqis l-ispejjes li jistgħu jkunu meħtieġa minħabba l-kundizzjonijiet ġeoloġiċi taħt il-Fliegu bejn Malta u Għawdex, naħseb li din l-istima hi baxxa ħafna. Fil-fatt jiena fl-artiklu tiegħi tal-2011 kont għidt li probabbilment li l-ispiża tkun bejn €1 biljun u €1.5 biljun. Dan kont ibbażajtu fuq l-ispiża stmata għall-mina bejn il-gżira Daniża ta’ Lolland u l-gżira Ġermaniża ta’ Fehmarn li kienet qed tkun diskussa f’dak iż-żmien. Għalkemm dawn huma stimi imma xorta hemm diskrepanza kbira li mhiex ġustfikata.

Hemm dawn il-problemi kollha u għandna ma bdejniex nitkellmu dwar impatti ambjentali, li minnhom hemm bosta.

Il-mina, biex issir, ser tiġġenera kwantità kbira ta’ blat imqatta. Dan ivarja skond id-diżinn u jista’ jammonta sa żewġ miljun metri kubi ta’ blat. Hemm ukoll is-siti Natura 2000 li qegħdin viċin ħafna taż-żona fejn ser tiżbokka l-mina fl-inħawi taċ-Ċumnija limiti tal-Mellieħa.

Imma l-feasibility study lest, qalilna l-Ministru!

It-Tabib Godfrey Farrugia u l-ilma

Godfrey Farrugia

L-ewwel nett nagħti merħba lil Godfrey li rritorna għall-ħidma politika wara l-esperjenza kerha li għadu kif ħareġ minnha. Ngħidlu prosit għall-mod kif affronta l-kanċer tal-prostata kif ukoll għall-messaġġ pożittiv li ipprova jwassal permezz tal-esperjenza tiegħu.

Illum Godfrey fil-Parlament għamel intervent qasir fid-diskussjoni dwar l-estimi tal-Ministeru tal-Enerġija u s-Saħħa.

Tkellem dwar żewġ punti importanti.

Tkellem dwar il-ħtieġa tal-konservazzjoni tal-ilma tal-pjan u tkellem ukoll dwar ir-rimi tal-mediċini.

Nieħu pjaċir li Godfrey ħass il-ħtieġa li jemfasizza l-ħtieġa tal-konservazzjoni tal-ilma tal-pjan għax il-Ministru tal-Finanzi ma sabx il-ħin fid-diskors tal-baġit biex jagħmel dan. Is-serq tal-ilma tal-pjan bil-boreholes illegali kif ukoll il-kontaminazzjoni tiegħu, prinċipalment minn sorsi agrikoli, mhiex biss issue ambjentali. Hi ukoll materja ta’ importanza ekonomika kbira li ma nistax nifhem kif il-Ministru tal-Finanzi qiegħed jinjorha sena wara l-oħra.

Godfrey tkellem ukoll dwar il-rimi tal-mediċini. Bosta jarmu l-mediċina fis-sistema tad-drenaġġ inkella maż-żibel. Dan mhux aċċettabbli għax toħloq diffikultajiet kbar. Is-suggeriment ta’ Godfrey li l-ispizeriji fl-ibliet u l-irħula tagħna għandhom rwol importanti fil-ġbir tal-mediċini li jkunu għar-rimi m’għandux ikun skartat. Ikun utli kieku l-Wasteserve teżamina sewwa is-suġġeriment ta’ Godfrey għax naħseb li jista’ jkun implimentat mingħajr wisq diffikulta.

 

Stennejt xi ħaġa aħjar minn Simon Busuttil

 

good_governance

Fid-diskors tal-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni Simon Busuttil bi tweġiba għall-baġit issemmew qraba ta’ politiċi u dan in konnessjoni ma ħatriet f’Bordijiet fis-settur pubbliku.

Dak li ser ngħid m’huwiex rifless la fuq l-integrità tal-politiku u l-anqas tal-qarib jew qariba.

Huwa ħażin, fl-opinjoni tiegħi, li argument validu favur tmexxija tajba (good governance) jiddawwar f’battibek li jipprova jagħti l-impressjoni ta’ nuqqas ta’ integrità, b’mod partikolari meta ma hemm xejn li jagħti l-iċken indikazzjoni ta’ dan.  Għalhekk naħseb li l-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni qiegħed il-kliem b’mod żbaljat u b’hekk il-kontribut tiegħu għal diskussjoni serja dwar din il-materja kien wieħed kompletament inkorrett. Stennejt xi ħaġa aħjar minn Simon Busuttil.

Din mhiex l-ewwel darba li qraba ta’ politiċi kienu taħt l-ispotlight. Hi issue li tista’ tinqala’ minn żmien għal żmien kważi taħt kull amministrazzjoni.  Il-mistoqsija ta’ dejjem hi dwar fejn għandha tinqata’ linja.

Il-Kodiċi tal-Etika tal-Ministri, per eżempju, fir-regola 23 tiegħu jinsisti li safejn hu possibli l-Ministri (u allura anke s-Segretarji Parlamentari) għandhom jevitaw li jappuntaw qraba bħala membri tas-segretarjat privat tagħhom.

Safejn naf jiena dik hi l-unika limitazzjoni bil-kitba li hemm dwar ħatriet ta’ qraba ta’ politiċi f’Malta. Ma jfissirx imma li ħatriet oħra jistgħu jsiru, iżda jfisser li jekk ikunu ikkunsidrati għal xi ħatra oħra għandu jkun hemm attenzjoni kbira. Bil-fatt li l-Kodiċi tal-Etika tal-Ministri kważi jeskludi l-ħatriet tal-qraba mis-segretarjat privat tal-Ministru (u tas-Segretarju Parlamentari) qed jingħata messaġġ ċar li l-politiku m’għandux jaħtar lill-qraba tiegħu bħala l-għajnejn u l-widnejn tiegħu fid-dikasteru li għalih huwa responsabbli. Ir-raġuni għal dan hi ċara: id-demm qatt ma jsir semm. Il-lealtà familjari, fil-ħajja pubblika, hi ostaklu għal tmexxija tajba.

Meta qraba ta’ politiċi li jkollhom is-setgħa eżekuttiva jinħatru f’Bordijiet fl-istess Ministeru tal-politiku qarib tagħhom, jinħoloq konflitt ta’ interess reali bejn il-lealtà familjari u l-lealtà lejn id-dover pubbliku. Tipprova kemm tipprova tegħleb dan il-kunflitt, dan dejjem ser jibqa’ hemm. Huwa kunflitt reali li jitfa’ dell bla bżonn fuq il-ħidma tal-persuna li tinħatar. Għalhekk biss, kapaċi kemm ikun jew kemm tkun, dawn il-ħatriet m’għandhomx isiru u dan fl-interess tal-amministrazzjoni pubblika korretta.

Qiegħed nillimita ruħi għal ħatriet li jkunu fl-istess qasam ta’ responsabbiltà tal-politiku għax ħatriet f’oqsma oħra, anke ta’ qraba ta’ politiċi, m’għandhomx ikunu imwarrba sempliċiment għax huma qraba. Pajjiżna hu żgħir wisq u ma jistax jeskludi wisq nies minn ħatriet ta’ din ix-xorta.

Il-qarib tal-politiku li jingħata ħatra fl-istess Ministeru tal-qarib tiegħu jew tagħha qatt ma jista’ jkun gwardjan effettiv tal-interess pubbliku. Id-demm qatt ma sar semm. U mhux ser jibda illum.

Il-baġit u l-ilma

world-water-week-graphic-2

Il- baġit jiddiskuti l-Korporazzjoni għas-Servizzi tal-Ilma, iktar milli l-ilma innifsu. Jagħmel dan fil-paġni 37 u 38 tiegħu fi ħmistax il-linja.

L-ilma tal-pjan, ir-riżerva li tipprovdilna n-natura, l- baġit ftit li xejn jinteressah. Jgħidilna li għandna nnaqqsu d-dipendenza tagħna fuqu. Il-bqija, mill-baġit ma tirriżultax il-ħtieġa li nagħtu importanza lill-miżuri biex jiġi eliminat is-serq tal-ilma tal-pjan. M’hemm l-ebda referenza għall-eluf ta’ boreholes imħaffrin b’mod illegali f’kull rokna ta’ Malta u Għawdex li permezz tagħhom dan ir-riżors naturali tal-pajjiż għadu qiegħed jinsteraq għall-gwadann privat.

L-anqas imkien ma hemm referenza għall-obbligu li Malta tosserva d-Direttiva tal-EU dwar l-Ilma [Water Framework Directive] fil-politika li tiddetermina l-prezz li bih jinbiegħ l-ilma.

Fi ftit kliem l-impatti ekonomiċi ta’ din ir-riżorsa naturali huma għal darba oħra injorati minn dan il- baġit.

Wara li smajt lill-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni jwieġeb id-diskors tal-baġit, jidher li l-anqas l-Opposizzjoni ma’ jidhrilha li l-ilma hu importanti. Wara kollox x’ilna li smajna lil Simon Busuttil jiftaħar bil-proġett li permezz tiegħu l-ilma tax-xita, fil-parti l-kbira tiegħu jispiċċa l-baħar?

Il-baġit hu wieħed nej

Scicluna + Speaker 2016

 

Il- baġit fih diversi ingridjenti tajbin. Iżda m’humiex imħalltin tajjeb. M’hemmx ħsieb biżżejjed. L-anqas m’huma msajra biżżejjed. Kif ngħidu bil-Malti: il-baġit hu nofsu nej.

F’dan l-artiklu ser nillimita ruħi għal uħud mill-proposti ta’ natura soċjali.

Nibda bil-paga minima. F’Malta din ġiet introdotta fl-1974 mit-tieni Gvern tal-Perit Mintoff.  Dakinnhar kienet stabilita għall-ammont ta’ Lm10, jiġifieri €23.29. Ovvjament Lm10, dakinnhar, kienu jiswew u bihom kont tixtri ferm iktar mill-tixtri illum. Kull sena, din il-paga minima tiżdied b’ammont li jikkumpensa għaż-żieda fil-għoli tal-ħajja. L-ammont jitħabbar fil- baġit. Iż-żieda b’effett minn l-1 ta’ Jannar li ġej ser tkun €1.75 biex b’hekk il-paga minima għal persuna ta’ il-fuq minn tmintax-il sena għal ġimgħa xogħol ta’ 40 siegħa issa ser tkun €168.01. Ma din irid jiżdied il-bonus statutorju.

Il-paga minima teħieġ li tkun reveduta. Meta tfasslet fl-1974, tfasslet għall-ħtiġijiet ta’ dakinnhar.

Illum, wara 41 sena teħtieġ titfassal mill-ġdid skont il-ħtiġijiet tal-lum. Fil-fatt studju li kien ippubblikat mill-Caritas f’Marzu 2012 kien jistma illi hu meħtieġ li jkun hemm żieda ta’ 13.8% fil-paga minima biex l-iktar persuni vulnerabbli jingħataw in-nifs.  Ir-rapport kien intitolat A Minimum Budget for a Decent Living. A research study by Caritas Malta focusing on three low-income household categories.

Il-Gvern,(kemm dak tal-lum kif ukoll dak tal-bieraħ) ma jaqbilx ma dan. L-argument politiku tagħhom hu li bit-taħriġ u l-investiment iffokat fuq il-kisba ta’ ħiliet, ikun possibli li taqla’ l-persuni fuq il-paga minima u ċċaqlaqhom ‘il-fuq fis-sellum tal-ħajja. Din hi idea nobbli imma fil-prattika, iddum ma tagħtik ir-riżultati. Sadanittant min hu vulnerabbli jispiċċa dipendenti mill-ħarsien soċjali u għajnuniet supplimentari. Jintgħaġen fid-dipendenza. Il-paga għal dawn in-nies mhiex biżżejjed għall-minimu neċessarju tal-ħajja. In-nuqqas tal-istat li jintervjeni biex il-paga minima toffri l-protezzjoni minima meħtieġa, hu messaġġ li bix-xogħol ma tistax tgħix meta dan jitħallas bil-paga minima li għandna illum.

Huwa neċessarju li nżewġu flimkien it-taħriġ, ma’ paga minima suriet in-nies li tkun rifless tal-ħtiġijiet minimi għall-bniedem tal-lum. In-nuqqas tal- baġit li jagħraf din il-ħtieġa u jagħġina bħala parti integrali mill-viżjoni tiegħu jagħmlu l-baġit wieħed nej.

Il- baġit jirrikonoxxi l-ħtieġa li togħla l-pensjoni minima nazzjonali biex din eventwalment tasal sa 60% tad-dħul medju f’pajjiżna.  Jagħmel  l-ewwel pass  billi jipproponi żieda fil-pensjoni minima għall-dawk li għandhom il-bolol tas-sigurta soċjali mħallsa b’tali mod li l-anqas pensjoni kontributorja ser tkun €7,280 fis-sena.  Dan hu pass tajjeb. Ħadd ma jistenna li l-aġġustament meħtieġ isir kollu f’daqqa. Imma l-pensjonanti tagħna li bnew  lil Malta kif inhi illum, bi dritt jippretendu li jkun stabilit żmien raġjonevoli sa meta l-pensjoni minima nazzjonali tkun 60% tad-dħul medju f’pajjiżna. Mhux biżżejjed li l-baġit  jgħid li dan it-tragward nilħquh sal-2027. Ikun xieraq li l-pensjonanti tagħna jingħataw lura d-dinjità w ir-rispett li jistħoqilhom. Anke hawn il-baġit kien jonqsu ftit ieħor biex isir. Għadu nofsu  nej.

L-aħħar eżempju li rrid insemmi huwa dwar il-persuni b’diżabilità. Il-baġit isemmi l-ħolqien ta’ hub għal persuni b’diżabilità. Il-baġit hu xott mid-dettalji u fil-fatt jiddedika biss 6 linji għal din il-proposta fil-paġna 77 tiegħu. Dawn id-dettalji imma kienu biżżejjed biex nhar il-Ħamis li għadda, l-eks-chairman tal-Kummissjoni Nazzjonali għall-Persuni b’Diżabilità Joseph Camilleri jiddeskirivi dak propost bħala attentat biex tkun introdotta s-segregazzjoni bis-serqa (Segregation by stealth. Times of Malta, October 15, 2015).

Joseph Camilleri jargumenta li għad hawn min ma jistax jaċċetta l-fatt li l-persuni b’diżabilità ukoll għandhom l-istess aspirazzjonijiet bħal kull wieħed u waħda minna. Għaddew minn istituzzjonijiet edukattivi li taw importanza ikbar lill-inklussività, u dan b’differenza kbira minn dak li rċevew il-ġenerazzjonijiet passati.

Il-proposta fil-baġit li toħloq dan il-hub għall-persuni b’diżabilità hu għaldaqstant pass retrogradu, nieqes mill-ħsieb u huwa anke perikoluż.  Is-soċjetà Maltija tant imxiet il-quddiem, li d-Dar tal-Providenza, il-pijuniera f’Malta tal-kura għall-persuni b’diżabilità, illum il-ġurnata qed tiffoka l-enerġija tagħha fuq inizjattivi bbażati fil-komunità li joffru opportunitajiet għal għixien indipendenti lill-persuni b’diżabilità.

Anke hawn il-baġit hu nej għax huwa nieqes mill-ħsieb. Post il-persuni b’diżabilità hu magħna fil-komunità u mhux ġo gaġġa bil-vireg tad-deheb. Għax is-segregazzjoni tibqa’ gaġġa u irrispettivament mill-kwalità għolja tas-servizz mogħti, tibqa’ ħajja f’gaġġa li toqtol l-aspirazzjonijiet tal-persuni b’diżabilità. Qed nitkellmu dwar persuni, mhux dwar numri.

Għalhekk, u għal bosta raġunijiet oħra, l-baġit ta’ nhar it-Tnejn kien wieħed nofsu nej.

Ippubblikat fil-gazzetta Illum, il-Ħadd 18 t’Ottubru 2015

Traffic and the budget

traffic.Marsa

The Budget acknowledges that traffic is a problem; unfortunately it fails to present a vision for the future, as Transport Malta has yet to carry out a consultation exercise.

Acknowledging that Malta’s roads are bursting at the seams is one small step in the right direction. Simultaneously, however, the Budget goes in to propose various measures, amongst which a couple which will definitely increase traffic. Providing more parking spaces, widening roads and improving junctions through the provision of flyovers will improve traffic flow, but it will also increase vehicular traffic.

It is not rocket science to conclude that a long-term plan to reduce car ownership is the only way forward. Currently, with around 341,000 cars on our roads, car ownership in Malta stands at 802 per thousand population. In contrast, the figure for the UK is 516, for Italy 682 and for the USA 786. If Malta’s car ownership profile were to be reduced to a reasonable 500 cars per 1000 population, this would signify that there are currently 130,000 more cars on our roads than is reasonable.

Given the short travelling distances in Malta, public transport should normally be sufficient for most of our needs. Car ownership has increased exponentially over the years as public transport was found lacking – even for such short distances and it  got worse over time.

The recently published White Paper by the Education Ministry pointed out how schools are affected by traffic congestion. They are not, in fact, a  cause of traffic congestion; rather, they are one of its many victims. Introducing a coordinated scheme providing school transport to serve both private and public schools could reducing traffic during rush hours.

The same could be stated in regarding the accessibility of industrial estates. If these were suitably serviced by public transport routes, a substantial reduction in traffic generation could be achieved.

The budget also refers to alternative means of transport. Reinforcing sea links across Grand Harbour between Valletta and the Three Cities as well as across Marsamxett Bay between Sliema and Valletta, could also contribute substantially to a reduction of traffic movements. Various attempts have been made over the years to restore such links but they were not as successful as had been hoped due to the fares having generally been considered as being on the high side.

Reintroducing these maritime links across the harbours on a sound footing would provide a long-term alternative public transport service that would substantially reduce travel time for all its users. However, it would not be reasonable to expect this to be completely self-financed, at least not until such time as it has attracted custom and established itself as a reliable and efficient public transport service.

The budget also encourages the use of small-capacity motorcycles by reducing their annual road licence fee to €10. This reduction would certainly be an encouragement, even though it could very easily been removed completely!  However, as was pointed out – even in the budget speech itself – such a measure can only be effective if it is reinforced by an improvement in the  behaviour of  road-users as well as through better maintenance of our roads.

Improving the use of the existing road infrastructure would be effective as a short-term measure. The proposal to introduce the “tidal lane” in a number of ours roads would  certainly reduce congestion through facilitating traffic flow. It will not, however, reduce vehicle movements.

The EU -funded study entitled The External Costs of Passenger and Commercial Vehicles Use in Malta carried out by the Institute for Climate Change and Sustainable Development at the University of Malta examined the economic impact of traffic in Malta. Such impact included not only time lost due to heavy traffic, but also excessive fuel consumed and the effect on health of the resulting air and noise pollution.  The estimated impact is substantial and add up to around four per cent of GDP. This would completely cancel out the projected 2016 increase of 3.6 per cent in Malta’s GDP.

The current extent of the traffic problem in Malta is due to the failure on the part of the state over a number of years. The mismanagement of public transport has created a vacuum, as a result of which cars have been permitted to take over our roads. Reversing the process is possible, but it will not be easy: it will require a coordinated approach and clear thinking. At the end of the day, all the measures taken must have one clear objective: replacing the private car as the preferred means of transport. It is the only way forward.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday, 18 October 2015