Some budgetary considerations

In the Finance Ministry this is the time when they gear up to prepare next year’s budget which is normally presented sometime in October.

The Hon Minister for Finance has apparently already decided to proceed with the finishing touches to further finance clientelism in Air Malta. This is a long-term project what they call “works in progress”. It involves more millions of euro in taxpayer’s money down the drain to honour political pledges made during the March 2022 general election. This is another corrupt practice together with the distribution of cheques to every household during the general election campaign. A “fitting” monument to political clientelism.

The cost-of-living is out of control. Most probably that the COLA, the cost-of-living adjustment to wages, salaries and pensions, announced during the budget speech will be around €10 per week. Minister Clyde Caruana states that it could be substantially more if government did not subsidise fuel and electricity bills.

The blanket subsidises of fuel and electricity bills need to be revisited in order that they are more effective in supporting the vulnerable. In the present circumstances it is good policy to subsidise basic use but it does not make sense for a prolonged blanket policy of subsidies. The current subsidies are not going into the pockets of the vulnerable alone. Those who are not amongst the vulnerable can do without most of the current subsidies. Subsidises need to be focused such that they are of help to the most vulnerable. The country does not have the resources to go on in this way for too long a time.

Some days ago, the fuel subsidisation policy was amended in order that the fuelling of pleasure seacraft was at last excluded from further benefitting from the use of subsidised fuel. This is however not enough. The gradual reduction of subsidies of petrol and diesel would not only ease traffic from our roads and improve the quality of our air: they would also make substantial finance available for other areas.

The Chamber of Commerce has also rightfully pointed out that subsidising water and electricity bills across the board needs to be revisited. Even in this area it is basic use which should be subsidised. Subsidising across the board signifies that excessive use is subsidised too. This is a misuse of public funds which we can easily do without.

Josef Bugeja (GWU) is spot on in insisting that the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) should be paid out in full to all employees (and pensioners). It has to be underlined that COLA is not an increase in wages and salaries. It merely makes good for the impact of inflation on wages, salaries and pensions during the past year.

There is however need for a long overdue overhaul of the incomes policy to make it more relevant to this day and age.

It is about time that the basket of goods and services used to compute the minimum wage and the COLA is revised in order to ensure that it reflects todays needs. The Caritas studies throughout the years have made this basic contribution to the debate: revising the basket of goods and services would identify a 40 per cent shortfall in the current minimum wage. The sooner this is addressed the better. On the basis of the Caritas studies, currently a decent minimum wage should be around €14,000 per annum.

The substantial inflation throughout this year signifies that the vulnerable amongst us are passing though a very difficult patch. In such circumstances it would be reasonable to consider having COLA paid twice a year: 1st July and 1st January. This would not increase the amount due but by splitting it in two, and bringing forward part of its payment by six months, would reduce the burden shouldered by the most vulnerable amongst us.

We are still waiting for the Hon Minister of Finance to honour his commitment made this time last year to address the cost-of-living impacts on the vulnerable through some special mechanism. We are still waiting, unfortunately, as the Hon Minister is more preoccupied in servicing clientelism at Air Malta.

published on The Malta Independent on Sunday: 21 August 2022

Beyond 26 March

Increasing our vote tally by almost doubling it between general elections is no mean feat. That is what has been achieved by ADPD-The Green Party on 26 March. Notwithstanding the small numbers involved, the achievement is substantial, getting close to the best green result achieved in the 2013 general election. 

The 26 March electoral result, however, once more, exposes an electoral system which does not deliver proportional results when it really matters: results that is, supporting minority views. Political parties representing the PLPN establishment, have continuously benefitted from various adjustments to the electoral system, from which they obtain one proportional result after the other: proportionality which they benefit from but simultaneously, continuously and consistently deny to others.

Fair treatment would possibly have seen us achieve much better results than we have achieved so far. Unfortunately, the electoral system is designed to be discriminatory. This includes the setup of the Electoral Commission itself as well as the manner in which it operates under the continuous remote control of the PLPN. Even simple access to the individual district provisional results, which I requested, was continuously obstructed and objected to by the Electoral Commission late on Sunday 27 March when the counting process was still in progress.

Furthermore, PLPN have normal access to electronic counting data held by the Electoral Commission in order to be able to vet the validity of the final results. Repeated requests to extend such access to the green monitoring team in the counting hall were ignored. Even the OSCE election observation team present in the counting hall found this very strange and queried our monitoring team continuously on the matter.

Tomorrow, we will start the long process in court which could deliver some form of justice: the restitution of the parliamentary seats which our party has been robbed of by the PLPN political establishment throughout the years.

Normally, after elections, we waste a lot of time engaged in soul searching discussing whether taking the PLPN establishment head-on, one election after another, is worth the effort. This time we are immediately taking the plunge to ensure once and for all that each vote cast in Maltese general elections, irrespective of whom it is cast for, has an equal value. It is a long journey which may possibly take us to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, if this is considered essential, in order to settle the issue of electoral justice in these islands once and for all.

We have had to take this line of action as parliament in Malta has been consistently incapable of acting fairly. Parliament is, since 1966 under the complete control of the establishment political parties: PLPN.

By next Tuesday all bye-election results will be known. Subsequently the constitutional gender balance mechanism will be applied in favour of the establishment PLPN. This will be limited in implementation, similarly to the proportionality mechanism: limited in favour of the PLPN

The PLPN duopoly which has completely hijacked the institutions wants to be sure that its control is adequately embedded such that it can withstand any future shocks.

It is unacceptable that electoral legislation treats us in this despicable manner: differently from the manner in which it treats the establishment political parties. Unfortunately, the PLPN duopoly have not been able to deliver any semblance of fairness in our electoral system. The Courts, consequently, are our only remaining hope to address and start removing discrimination from electoral legislation, which is why tomorrow we will embark on our long overdue Court case.

The team we have built in the past months at ADPD has functioned quite well in achieving one of our best electoral results. It is now making the necessary preparations to ensure a better Green presence in our towns and villages in the months ahead. As a result of the excellent teamwork developed, we have starting preparing plans for the future which should lead to an organic growth of the party. This will make it possible for us to achieve even better results in the next political cycle.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 10 April 2022

B’sodisfazzjoni, inħarsu l-quddiem

Flimkien ma sħabi ħriġt mis-sala tal-għadd tal-voti f’nofs il-lejl bejn il-Ħadd u t-Tnejn.

Għalina din l-elezzjoni kienet esperjenza posittiva għax irnexxielna nirbħu lura l-parti l-kbira tal-voti li konna tlifna fl-elezzjoni tal-2017.

Sodisafatt li l-ilħaqna l-miri tagħna li naqbżu kwota fuq livell nazzjonali. Issa nistgħu ngħaddu għall-fażi li jmiss fil-kampanja politika tagħna: il-ġlieda għall-proporzjonalità vera. Proporżjonalità li l-liġi tagħna tirriżerva b’mod esklussiv għall-PLPN.

Kif diġa ħabbart, iktar tard matul il-ġimgħa ser nikkontestaw ir-riżultat elettorali. Il-kontestazzjoni tagħna hi limitata għall-mekkaniżmu tal-proporzjonalità u dak tal-bilanċ tal-ġeneru li jiddiskriminaw fl-applikazzjoni tagħhom. Il-fatt li ġibna kwota fuq livell nazzjonali jagħti saħħa u kredibilità lill-argumenti tagħna.

Il-Kummissjoni Elettorali tul il-kampanja kollha agixxiet ħażin. L-aħħar argument li kelli mal-kummissjoni l-bieraħ kien meta bi stupidita kbira irrifjutaw li jagħtuni kopja tar-riżultati bil-counts u l-wirt tal-voti. Domt ħin twil nargumenta magħhom meta fl-aħħar ċedew u għaddewli kopja. Ma nistax nifhem għalfejn jieħdu dan l-atteġġament.

Fuq nota personali għandi sodisfazzjoni kbir li kelli madwari team tajjeb li lkoll kemm huma ħadmu għat-team kollu. Ir-riżultat hu xhieda ta’ dan. Grazzi.

Jiena illum il-ġurnata għandi 66 sena u ma naħsibx li hu fl-interess tal-partit li nibqa’ fit-tmexxija wisq iktar. Lil sħabi ilni li nfurmajthom li jridu jsibu lil xi ħaddieħor biex imexxi lill-partit għall-futur. Mhux ser naqbad u nitlaq għax dan ikun ta’ ħsara imma hu l-mument li posti jieħdu ħaddieħor biex ikompli jibni fuq ix-xogħol utli li wettaqna flimkien. Jiena ngħin kemm nista’, mhux biss fi transizzjoni għal tmexxija ġdida imma anke fil-ħidma li trid tibqa’ issir. Għad baqali iktar enerġija!

Kburi li wasalna hawn. Grazzi lill-4747 votant li tawna l-fiduċja tagħhom. Inħarsu l-quddiem b’sodisfazzjon.

The politics of the broom

ADPD – The Green Party has selected the broom as its political symbol for the 26 March elections. The broom is a tool which assists us in achieving cleanliness. It is the street sweeper’s tool, the humble worker that cleans our streets after we mess them up.

Achieving cleanliness is an objective which should be shared by all parliamentarians.  Parliament and its members should be the political sweepers, keeping politics clean, safeguarding its integrity and above all ensuring that decisions are taken whenever required without unnecessary delay.

The Green political manifesto has been published in mid-week. Its main message is that Green sweeps clean (Xkupa ħadra tnaddaf).

There is so much to do to get this country back to normal. Other parties generally have a different vision and attitude and convey contrasting messages. There are however also areas of overlap between the different political parties. It is to be assumed that all seek the common good, even though at times this is not that clear!

We recognise that we are in this journey all together. We will do all in our power to contribute to a positive debate. We are critical of the political platforms of other parties but we do this in a responsible manner.

The last months of parliamentary debate have been dominated by the consideration of the reports of the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life on the unethical behaviour of members of Cabinet. These reports have led to the resignation of two members of Cabinet and a Permanent Secretary. They were reluctant resignations. The Prime Minister unfortunately did not act decisively in both cases: he acted only as a result of the substantial public pressure of civil society.

It is a well-known fact that accountability, transparency and ethics in public life are severely hindered by the close connections between political power and business concerns. It is not only ADPD that has been saying this for a long time. The ever-increasing voice of civil society has led to these issues being given the attention they deserve. The Inquiry Commission investigating the circumstances into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia also confirmed this unsavoury link between politics and business: they are too close for comfort.  

We need a Parliament that is ethically sensitive. We need more Members of Parliament of integrity, able to oversee continuously and consistently the public administration. We need institutions with character and a solid spine. We need a Parliament that includes ADPD representatives elected from amongst the candidates being presented to the electorate in each district – candidates that are not in it for their personal gain or in the interests of others but for the service of all citizens.

I emphasise the verb “includes” as ADPD candidates are not the only ones who can contribute positively to the development of our politics. I speak with utmost respect of the candidates presented by other parties. Most of them are dedicated men and women willing to be of genuine service to the community.

ADPD’s electoral manifesto presents a wide range of proposals that impact directly on citizens’ rights. It is not a manifesto of Father Christmas promises but a vision laying out a road map to be followed.

Our agenda is to be of service to the whole community. Clean politics in public life is essential. We want to be a political tool for renewal. A green broom to sweep clean. Politics that serves today while keeping an eye on the impact on tomorrow, ensuring that actions taken today do not deny future generations their right to eventually take their own decisions.

At this critical point the politics of the broom is the way forward. It is about time that we sweep Maltese politics clean.

Published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 6 March 2022

Xkupa ħadra li tnaddaf

Il-Partit Laburista qed jgħidilna li “Malta Flimkien” filwaqt li l-Partit Nazzjonalista qed jgħidilna “Miegħek. Għal Malta.”

Miegħek, flimkien u għal Malta, hemm bżonn tindifa papali ta’ dan il-pajjiz.

Xkupa ħadra li tnaddaf tindifa sew, hemm bżonn, mal-ADPD.

Ser inkunu prezenti fid-distretti kollha b’dawn il-kandidati:

  1. Tabib Anthony Buttigieg
  2. Mario Mallia
  3. Brian Decelis
  4. Perit Carmel Cacopardo u Brian Decelis
  5. Dr Melissa Bagley
  6. Sandra Gauci
  7. Dr Ralph Cassar
  8. Mario Mallia u Mark Zerafa
  9. Perit Carmel Cacopardo, Mina Tolu u Mark Zerafa
  10. Dr Melissa Bagley, Tabib Anthony Buttigieg u Mina Tolu
  11. Dr Ralph Cassar
  12. Luke Caruana u Sandra Gauci
  13. Luke Caruana