Drittijiet Ambjentali bir-riforma kostituzzjonali

Il-Konvenzjoni Kostituzzjonali, meta tiġi, tkun opportunità unika biex ikunu ntrodotti drittijiet ambjentali fil-Kostituzzjoni. Dan jista’ u għandu jseħħ billi dawn id-drittijiet jinkitbu b’mod ċar u li ma jħallux lok għal miżinterpretazzjoni f’riforma li ilna nistennew żmien kbir.

Id-drittijiet ambjentali, għandhom ikunu ċari daqs id-drittijiet dwar il-propjetà. Għax il-Kostituzzjoni, b’mod pervers, filwaqt li tipproteġi drittijiet dwar il-propjetà, illum ma toffri l-ebda protezzjoni għal drittijiet ambjentali bħad-dritt għal arja nadifa inkella għal aċċess għal ilma nadif. L-anqas ma tipproteġi l-bijodiversità jew il-pajsaġġ jew kwalunkwe dritt ambjentali ieħor bħall-ħarsien tar-riżorsi naturali. Id-drittijiet tal-individwi huma b’xi mod protetti imma d-drittijiet tal-komunità l-anqas biss jissemmew.

Meta wieħed iqis li d-drittijiet tal-ġenerazzjonijiet preżenti huma kemm kemm protetti, xejn ma hemm biex niskantaw jekk il-liġi bażika tagħna tinjora lill-ġenerazzjonijiet futuri għal kollox.

Waqt li dan kollu kien għaddej, Malta, fuq livell internazzjonali nsistiet dwar il-ħarsien ta’ qiegħ il-baħar (1967), dwar il-klima (1988) u dwar il-ġenerazzjonijiet futuri (1992). Imma minkejja dawn l-isforzi fuq livell internazzjonali, ma sar l-ebda sforz lokali biex dak li nippriedkaw barra minn xtutna nipprattikawh f’artna.  

Il-Kostituzzjoni ta’ Malta, fil-Kapitlu 2 tagħha, għanda sett ta’ linji gwida biex dawn ikunu ta’ għajnuna lill-Gvern billi b’mod ġenerali jindikaw it-triq li jeħtieġ li jimxi fuqha.  Wieħed minn dawn il-prinċipji gwida huwa dwar il-ħarsien ambjentali. Dan tfassal oriġinalment fl-1964 u ġie emendat riċentement.  

Wara din il-lista ta’ linji gwida, fl-aħħar tagħhom, il-Kostituzzjoni tgħidilna li ma tistax tmur il-Qorti biex tinfurzhom!

Dan il-kapitlu tal-Kostituzzjoni huwa mfassal fuq dak li hemm fil-Kostituzzjoni tal-Irlanda u tal-Indja. Kif jispjega Tonio Borg fil-kummentarju tiegħu dwar il-kostituzzjoni ta’ Malta, l-Qorti Suprema Indjana minkejja kollox, imma, interpretat il-linji gwida fil-Kostituzzjoni Indjana bħala l-kuxjenza tal-kostituzzjoni : linja gwida tabilħaqq.  Għax x’jiswa’ li toqgħod tipprietka u tħambaq dwar il-prinċipji bażiċi u l-linji gwida jekk imbagħad iżżomhom milli jkunu infurzati?

Sfortunatament, din l-istess attitudni kienet addottata meta tfasslet leġislazzjoni dwar l-ippjanar għall-użu tal-art u dwar l-ambjent. Anke hawn wara ħafna dikjarazzjonijiet ta’ prinċipji nsibu li dwar dawn ukoll ma tistax tmur il-Qorti biex tinfurzhom.

Fis-sottomissjonijiet tagħha lill Konvenzjoni Kostituzzjonali, Alternattiva Demokratika,  ipproponiet li dan il-kapitlu fil-kostituzzjoni għandu jkun revedut b’mod li jkun assigurat li l-Gvern dejjem jimxi mal-linji gwida kostituzzjonali.   

F’pajjiżi oħra, s-soċjetà ċivili, meta meħtieġ, tieħu azzjoni legali kontra l-Gvern biex tassigura li dan jerfa’ r-responsabbiltajiet ambjentali tiegħu f’kull ħin.

Għandi f’moħħi żewġ eżempji partikolari.

L-ewwel wieħed hu dwar azzjoni legali fir-Renju Unit mill-għaqda ambjentali  Client Earth dwar il-mod kajman li bih il-Gvern Ingliż mexa fil-konfront ta’ strateġija nazzjonali dwar il-kwalità tal-arja. Il-materja spiċċat quddiem il-Qorti Suprema li f’deċiżjoni ta’ struzzjonijiet lill-Gvern dwar iż-żmien sa meta għandha tkun lesta din l-istrateġija.   

It-tieni eżempju qiegħed l-Olanda u jikkonċerna t-tibdil fil-klima u l-grupp ambjentali  Urgenda li mar il-Qorti biex iġiegħel lil Gvern jistabilixxi miri raġjonevoli dwar emissjonijiet li għandhom impatt fuq il-bidla fil-klima.

F’dawn l-eżempji, u probabbilment f’bosta oħrajn, l-azzjoni tal-Gvern kienet ferm inferjuri għall-aspettattivi tas-soċjetà ċivili. Ikun tajjeb li l-kostituzzjoni tipprovdina bl-għodda biex kull meta l-Gvern jonqos milli jimxi mal-miri kostituzzjonali ikun possibli li nippruvaw inġibuh f’sensieh.

Sal-lum niddependu mill-Kummissjoni Ewropeja bit-tama li meta jkun meħtieġ din tieħu passi. Nistqarr li f’materji ambjentali, bosta drabi tiddisappuntana u ma tagħmilx dak li nistennew minn għandha.

Il-konvenzjoni Kostituzzjonali sal-lum, tista’ tkun l-unika forum fejn dan id-difett kostituzzjonali jkun possibli li nikkoreġuh. Għax hu l-waqt li d-drittijiet ambjentali jsiru parti integrali mill-kostituzzjoni.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum: il-Ħadd 6 ta’ Settembru 2020

Green rights through Constitutional reform

The forthcoming Constitutional Convention, whenever it happens, is an opportunity to entrench green rights in the Constitution. This can be carried out through spelling out such rights unequivocally during the long overdue constitution reform process.

Environmental rights should be spelled out just as clearly as property rights. Our Constitution perversely protects property rights but then does not protect our right to clean air or the access to clean water. Nor does it protect our biodiversity or our landscape or any other environmental right. Individual rights are somehow protected but then the rights of the community are not even given a mention.

When one considers that the rights of the present generations are very poorly protected no one should be surprised that future generations are completely ignored in our basic law.

While this has been going on, Malta has on an international level been insisting on protecting the seabed (1967), the climate (1988) and future generations (1992). Notwithstanding the efforts made on an international level, however, there was no corresponding local effort to put in practice what we preached in international fora.

Malta’s Constitution contains a set of guiding principles in its Chapter 2 which are intended to guide government in its workings. One of these guiding principles relates to environmental protection. Originally enacted in 1964 it was amended recently.

Yet there is a catch. Towards the end of this list of guiding principles our Constitution announces that these principles cannot be enforced in a Court of Law.

This Chapter of our Constitution is modelled on similar provisions in the Irish and the Indian Constitutions. As explained in Tonio Borg’s A Commentary on the Constitution of Malta, however, the Indian Supreme Court has over the years interpreted similar constitutional provisions as the conscience of the Constitution, a real guiding light. It does not make sense to proclaim basic and guiding principles, declare that they should guide the state but then stop short of having them enforceable in a Court of Law.    

Unfortunately, the same attitude was adopted when drafting land use planning and environmental legislation. This legislation contains similar provisions: the announcement of basic guiding principles which are not enforceable in a Court of Law.

In its submissions to the Constitutional Convention, Alternattiva Demokratika-The Green Party has proposed revisiting this Chapter of the Constitution in order that it would be possible to ensure that government follows the guiding principles at all times instead of selectively.  

In other countries it is possible for civil society to take legal action to ensure that government carries out its environmental responsibilities adequately and at all times.

Two particular examples come to mind.

The first is legal action in the United Kingdom by environmental NGO Client Earth relative to the UK government’s lack of action on the formulation of an air quality masterplan. The matter ended up in a Supreme Court decision which instructed the UK government to act and established the parameters for such action including the relative timeframe.  

The second example comes from Holland and concerns climate change and the environmental action group Urgenda Foundation which went to Court to force government’s hand on the establishment of reasonable climate change emission targets.

In both the above examples, and probably in many others, government action was far below the expectations of civil society. It is right that the Constitution should provide us with the necessary tools such that whenever government fails to live up to the Constitutional benchmarks, (be these environmental or any other) then, civil society may call government to order.

To date we depend on the EU Commission as a fallback position, but the EU Commission, unfortunately, does not always live up to what we expect of it. It has let us down many times. The Constitutional Convention is the only forum possible, so far, through which this constitutional deficiency can be corrected. It is about time that our green rights are entrenched in the Constitution.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 6 September 2020

Pétrus: minn Yorgen għal Joseph: u ejja, b’daqshekk x’ġara?

Il-politiċi għandhom iżommu distanza soċjali min-nies tan-negozju, u dan mhux biss waqt pandemija. Dan kien rappurtat li ntqal minn George Hyzler, il-Kummissarju tal-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika, iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa, waqt seduta ta’ kumitat parlamentari li kien qed jiddiskuti r-rapport tiegħu dwar investigazzjoni li għamel fuq Joseph Muscat, ex-Prim Ministru. Ir-rapport ta’ Hyzler hu dwar ir-rigal li Joseph Muscat irċieva mingħand Yorgen Fenech li kien jikkonsisti fi tlett fliexken inbid prim, Château Pétrus, mingħand min hu presentement akkużat li kien il-moħħ wara l-assassinazzjoni ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Joseph Muscat mhux l-ewwel politiku li irċieva rigali kompromettenti. L-ex Ministru tal-Finanzi Tonio Fenech kien aċċetta rikba bla ħlas (bejn Malta u Madrid u lura) fuq jet privat flimkien ma żewġ negozjanti biex jara logħba futbal taċ-Champon’s League (l-Arsenal f’Madrid).  Tonio Fenech, li anke rċieva rigali kontroversjali oħra, dakinhar kien soġġett għal kritika qawwija, avolja l-kariga ta’ Kummissarju dwar l-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika ma kienitx teżisti!  Anke kellu l-barka tal-Prim Ministru ta’ dakinnhar, “ir-rett” Lawrence Gonzi. U ejja, b’daqshekk x’ġara?

Fl-2015 kellna ukoll il-każ tal-ex-Ministru tas-Saħħa  Joe Cassar li, kif kien sar magħruf, kien aċċetta numru ta’ rigali mingħand negozjant ieħor kontroversjali: Joseph Gaffarena. Dakinhar ukoll ma kellniex Kummissarju dwar l-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika, imma  Joe Cassar ħa deċiżjoni korretta u irreżenja wara li ammetta li żbalja. Cassar ma irrealizzax mill-ewwel bil-gravità ta’ dak li ġara. Imma fl-ebda ħin ma qal: u ejja, b’daqshekk x’ġara?

Meta dawk li jkollhom kariga politika jirċievu rigali li jiswew il-flus ikunu qed joħolqu sitwazzjoni li biha faċilment jikkompromettu l-kariga pubblika li jokkupaw. Il-posizzjoni kompromettenti tkun ferm iktar gravi jekk dak li jġib ir-rigal ikun jiddependi mill-politiku  minħabba deċiżjonijiet li jkunu għadhom pendenti, u ferm agħar jekk ikun jew tkun diġa ibbenefika minn deċiżjonijiet li diġa ttieħdu.

Nifhem li għal uħud mill-politiċi din tista’ tkun sitwazzjoni diffiċli ħafna, b’mod partikolari jekk il-politiku nvolut ma jkunx imdorri jaġixxi b’mod etiku saħansitra f’affarijiet żgħar li niffaċċjaw fil-ħajja ta’ kuljum.  L-imġieba etika mhiex switch li tixgħel jew titfi skond jekk tkunx attiv fil-politika jew le.  Il-politiku qiegħed taħt il-lenti pubblika u l-pubbliku, illum jew għada, jiskopri l-imġieba mhux korretta ta’ dak li jkun.  L-attitudni ta’ uħud ġeneralment hi rifless ta’ imġieba mhux etika li saret tant komuni fis-soċjetà tagħna: fil-professjonijiet, fin-negozju (żgħir u kbir), fis-servizzi, fis-settur pubbliku u f’kull qasam tal-ħajja ta’ kuljum. Is-soċjetà tagħna żviluppat attitudni ta’ “u ejja, b’daqshekk x’ġara?”. Kollox, jew kważi kollox jgħaddi.  Allura m’hemmx għalfejn nistgħaġbu jekk din l-attitudni hi riflessa ukoll f’dawk eletti f’karigi pubbliċi!

Ir-rapport dwar l-inbid Château Pétrus li Yorgen ta’ lil Joseph hu biss każ wieħed li spikka.  Bla dubju hemm kwantità ta’ każijiet ta’ għoti ta’ rigali lil politiċi konnessi ma’ deċiżjonijiet speċifiċi  inkella li kellhom impatt fuq il-proċess ta’ teħid ta’ deċiżjonijiet.  F’xi każi il-linja li tifred rigal minn  attentat ta’ korruzzjoni hi waħda fina ħafna. Il-parti l-kbira tal-każi imma, diffiċli li jkunu ppruvati.  Huwa għalhekk essenzjali li l-ftit każi li dwarhom hemm il-provi jittieħdu passi dwarhom.

L-uffiċċju tal-Kummissarju tal-iStandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika hu essenzjali fil-bini tal-infrastruttura etika tant meħtieġa biex ikunu regolati dawk f’ħatriet politiċi.  Hu għal din ir-raġuni li kien hemm elf skuża u dewmien sostanzjali biex din il-kariga inħolqot.

Ir-rapporti tal-Kummissarju dwar l-Standards fil-Ħajja Pubblika dejjem ser ikunu kontroversjali. Waqt li wieħed jirrispetta l-ġudizzju tal-Kummissarju, huwa għandu jifhem li l-konsiderazzjonijiet tiegħu dejjem ser ikunu taħt il-lenti. Bħalissa, f’xi waqtiet jidher li qed joqgħod lura bħalma għamel fl-investigazzjoni riċenti dwar il-vjaġġ ta’ Joseph Muscat f’Dubai.

Dawn huma materji li dwarhom bħalissa għadna qed nitgħallmu. Anke l-Kummissarju dwar l-iStandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika nnifsu għadu qed isib saqajħ f’mixja li forsi twassalna biex xi darba neliminaw mill-vokabolarju tagħna espressjonijiet bħal “u ejja, b’daqshekk x’ġara?”.

Kultant, imma, naħseb li diġa qegħdin tard wisq!

ippubblikat fuq Illum : il-Ħadd 26 ta’ Lulju 2020

Château Pétrus and the “anything goes” syndrome

Politicians should keep a social distance from big business, always, not only during a pandemic. This was reportedly stated by George Hyzler, the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life earlier this week during a parliamentary committee sitting, when discussing the contents of his report concluding an investigation of Joseph Muscat, former Prime Minister. Hyzler’s report dealt with the receipt by Joseph Muscat of a gift consisting of three bottles of the premier Bordeaux red wine, Château Pétrus, from Yorgen Fenech, entrepreneur, currently defending himself from the criminal charge of masterminding the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Joseph Muscat is not the first politician to receive such compromising gifts. Former Finance Minister Tonio Fenech had accepted a free ride to join a couple of entrepreneurs to watch an Arsenal Champion’s League match in Madrid on a private jet belonging to one of the entrepreneurs. Tonio Fenech, who also received other controversial gifts, was heavily criticised, even though unfortunately there was no Standards Commissioner to investigate back then! He even had the blessing of his boss, the sanctimonious Lawrence Gonzi.

In 2015 we also had the case of former Health Minister Joe Cassar who, it was revealed, had accepted a series of gifts from another controversial business man: Joseph Gaffarena. There was no Commissioner for Standards in Public Life then, but Joe Cassar took the right decision and resigned after publicly accepting that he had committed a serious error of judgement.

When holders of political office accept expensive gifts, they are placing themselves in a position which could easily compromise the public office which they occupy. The seriousness of the compromising situation created increases exponentially if the gift bearer is dependent on the holder of political office for decisions yet to be taken or worse, if he/she has already benefitted from decisions taken.

It is acknowledged that at times the holder of political office may be in a very awkward situation, especially if he is not accustomed to behaving ethically even in minor everyday matters. Ethical behaviour is not a switch-on/switch-off matter dependent on whether one is involved in politics. Holders of political office are under the glare of the public spotlight, which, sooner or later discovers their misdemeanours. Their attitude is however generally a reflection of the unethical behaviour prevalent throughout society: in the professions, in business, in all sectors of everyday life. Our society has developed an attitude that “anything goes”. Consequently, it is no wonder that this is also reflected in those elected to public office!

The Château Pétrus report is just one case which has made it to the headlines. There are undoubtedly countless of other cases of gifts to holders of political office which were the result of specific decisions or else had a material impact on decision-taking. In some cases, the gift bearing borders on corruption. Most of them are however difficult to identify or prove. It is hence imperative that action is taken in respect of the few provable cases.

The Office of the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life is an essential building block of the ethical infrastructure required for the regulation of holders of political office. For this specific reason, it took ages to be implemented with a multitude of excuses continuously piling up in order to justify substantial delays.   The reports of the Standards Commissioner will always be controversial. Whilst respecting his judgement he will undoubtedly realise that his considerations will always be subject to scrutiny as at times he appears to be applying excessive self-restraint as he has done in the investigation relative to the recent Muscat Dubai trip.

We are currently riding a steep ethical learning curve. Even the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life himself is on this ethical learning trip at the end of which it may be possible to consign the “anything goes” syndrome to the dustbin of history, even though at times it seems that it may be already too late!

 

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 26 July 2020

It-turiżmu wara l-pandemija

It-turiżmu kien wieħed mis-setturi li l-iktar intlaqat bħala riżultat tal-pandemija Covid-19. Tul is-snin in-numri tat-turisti li ġew iżuruna żdied kull meta tjiebet il-konnettività: min-naħa l-oħra hekk kif il-konnettività naqset u eventwalment waqfet kompletament, ġara bil-maqlub.

Iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa bdew jaslu l-ewwel turisti fil-port u l-ajruport tagħna. Bil-mod qed terġa’ tiġi stabilita l-konnettività li twassal biex it-turiżmu jibda jirpilja bil-mod. Il-Ministru tat-Turiżmu Julia Farrugia-Portelli f’dawn il-ġranet ħabbret il-mira tal-Gvern: 700,000 turist sal-aħħar tas-sena. Iktar kmieni t-tmexxija tal-Ajruport Internazzjonali ta’ Malta kienet emfasizzat li jeħtieġ madwar sentejn biex il-wasla tal-passiġġiera tirkupra u naslu fejn konna qabel ma faqqgħet il-pandemija.

Jista’ t-turiżmu qatt jilħaq il-livelli ta’ qabel il-pandemija?

Jeżistu stimi diversi dwar il-kontribut tat-turiżmu lejn l-ekonomija. Stima minnhom tipponta lejn kontribut dirett ta’ 5 fil-mija tal-ekonomija. Imma, bħala riżultat tal-impatt fuq setturi oħra dan is-sehem jitla għal madwar 12 fil-mija. Barijiet, restoranti, ħwienet li jbiegħu bl-imnut, attivitajiet pubbliċi, l-industrija tad-divertiment u t-trasport (in partikolari l-kiri tal-karozzi) huma dipendenti fuq it-turiżmu. Setturi partikolari bħat-tagħlim tal-Ingliż u ċ-ċentri tal-għaddasa huma meqjusa bħala parti integrali mill-ekonomija turistika.

Intqal ħafna dwar l-impatt tal-pandemija fuq il-lukandi. Imma anke dawk li jipprovdu sodod turistiċi barra mil-lukandi ġarrew fuq spallejhom impatt sostanzjali avolja ftit li xejn issemmew fid-dibattitu konness mal-impatti tal-pandemija. Dan huwa settur li jinvolvi negozjanti żgħar u dawk li nirreferu għalihom bħala micro-businesses li kull wieħed minnhom jimpjega inqas minn għaxar persuni.

UNCTAD, l-Aġenzija tal-Ġnus Magħquda dwar il-Kummerċ u l-Iżvilupp, iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa ħabbret li l-iġġammjar tat-turiżmu minħabba l-pandemija ser jiswa’ lill-industrija globali tat-turiżmu madwar $1.2 triljun . Din l-istima tista’ tirdoppja skond kif tiżviluppa t-tieni mewġa tal-pandemija.

Il-Ġamajka tista’ titlef madwar 11 fil-mija tal-Prodott Gross Domestiku, t-Tajlandja 9 fil-mija, l-Italja 5 fil-mija. Fl-Unjoni Ewropeja l-agħar impatti huma mal-kosta Mediterranja fejn l-ekonomija hi dipendenti ħafna fuq it-turiżmu. Minbarra Malta hemm l-Italja, l-Kroazja, is-Slovenja, Cipru u l-Greċja li kollha ntlaqtu sew. It-Turkija u t-Tunesija, parteċipanti Mediterranji fl-industrija turistika ukoll iġġammjaw, wara li gawdew minn żidiet sostanzjali fin-numri ta’ turisti tul is-snin.

Jagħmel sens li l-Gvern, f’dan il-waqt, permezz tal-Awtorità Maltija tat-Turiżmu, qiegħed jiffoka fuq li jġib lill-industrija tat-turiżmu lura fuq saqajha. Dan imma, mhux biżżejjed. Jeħtieġ li nibdew naħsbu dwar il-futur tal-industrija u dan billi neżaminaw fid-dettall dak li l-industrja teħtieġ li tiffaċċja fit-tul.

Fi tmiem is-sena li għaddiet, l-2019, ilħaqna in-numru ta’ 2.8 miljun turista iżuruna. Il-punt hu jekk dawn in-numri humiex sostenibbli. Dan hu argument ta’ dejjem li ilu għaddej sa minnmeta n-numri kienu ferm iżgħar. Id-dibattitu kien, u għandu jibqa’ jkun dwar jekk għandniex niffukaw iktar fuq il-kwalità milli fuq il-kwantità.

Il-miġja fostna tal-linji tal-ajru low-cost bħala parti essenzjali mill-politika tat-turiżmu illum tpoġġi emfasi ikbar fuq in-numri. Din hi għażla politika li saret u li teħtieġ li tkun eżaminata u analizzata fil-fond. L-impatti ekonomiċi għandhom jitqiesu fl-istess ħin mal-impatti ambjentali. Irridu niftakru kontinwament li t-turiżmu jiġġenera bosta impatti ambjentali.

Wasal iż-żmien li nirrealizzaw li d-dibattitu meħtieġ dwar il-futur tat-turiżmu jeħtieġ li jsir fl-isfond tal-Patt l-Aħdar: The Green Deal.

L-emissjonijiet tal-ajruplani ser ikollhom ikunu indirizzati fil-futur qarib. Hu inevitabbli li jiddaħħlu taxxi dwar dawn l-emissjonijiet (carbon taxes) fi żmien mhux il-bogħod. Jekk mhux ser jittieħdu passi immedjati dwar dawn l-emissjonijiet ser ikun ħafna iktar diffiċli, biex ma ngħidx impossibli, biex ikunu ndirizzati l-konklużjonijiet tas-Summit Klimatiku ta’ Pariġi tal-2015. Summit li Malta ħarġet tiftaħar li kienet wieħed mill-ewwel pajjiżi li rratifikatu. F’dak il-mument (jekk nibqgħu ma nieħdux passi) mhux biss it-turiżmu jaqla’ daqqa kbira oħra imma tkun il-kwalità tal-ħajja tagħna lkoll li tieħu daqqa l-isfel.

Il-gżejjer Maltin, bħall-parti l-kbira tal-gżejjer imxerrda mal-ibħra, ikunu minn tal-ewwel biex jaqilgħu ġo fihom l-impatti tat-tibdil fil-klima. Il-kosta tkun effettwat bl-għoli tal-livell tal-baħar. Tajjeb li niftakru li l-infrastruttura tat-turiżmu qegħda kważi kollha mal-kosta! Iktar ma ninjoraw dan il-fatt bażiku ikbar tkun id-daqqa li naqilgħu.

S’issa naħseb li kulħadd irrealizza kemm l-industrija tat-turiżmu hi waħda fraġli. Kull xokk li l-industrija issofri jista’ jwassal għal tnaqqis kbir fl-impiegi f’din l-industrija. It-turiżmu għadu staġjonali wisq u dan minnu innifsu jwassal għal kundizzjonijiet tax-xogħol ta’ natura prekarja.

Jeħtieġ li nippjanaw iżjed billi nħarsu il-bogħod u fuq medda twila ta’ żmien: naħsbu u nippjanaw sewwa dwar l-impatti soċjali, ambjentali u ekonomiċi ta’ kull deċiżjoni. Dan wara kollox hu l-proċess li jwassal għal żvilupp sostenibbli. Hu l-unika mod kif nistgħu nassiguraw li l-impatti negattivi tal-industrija tat-turiżmu nistgħu nindirizzawhom illum qabel għada.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : il-Ħadd 5 ta’ Lulju 2020

Post-Covid Tourism

Tourism is understandably one of the hardest hit sectors as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Over the years, tourism numbers increased substantially as a result of an increased connectivity: the reverse happened the moment that connectivity was restricted or became practically inexistent.

Earlier this week saw the first arrivals at our air and seaports. Slowly, connectivity is being restored. It is expected that tourism will now start a slow recovery. Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia-Portelli is on record with a 700,000-tourist target for year end. Malta International Airport CEO had earlier opined that it will take at least two years to recover to pre-pandemic level airport movements.

Will tourism ever recover to the pre-pandemic levels?

There are various estimates of the contribution of tourism to the economy. One such estimate points at a direct contribution of around 5 percent of our economy. However, as a result of its impacts on other sectors the overall contribution rises to around 12 percent. Bars, restaurants, retail trade, events, entertainment and transport (in particular car hire), are heavily dependent on tourism. Specific sectors such as the English language school sector as well as diving are important sectors in the tourism economy.

Much has been stated on the impact of the pandemic on the hotel industry. The providers of non-hotel beds, however, have also been heavily impacted by the pandemic, but they have not featured much in the post-Covid-19 debate. This is a sector which involves a number of small-scale investors and micro-businesses each employing less than ten employees.

UNCTAD, the UN Trade and Development Agency, earlier this week stated that the four-month standstill of the tourism industry due to the pandemic Covid-19 could cost the industry around $1.2 trillion. This estimated cost could more than double, depending on the severity and spread of a second wave of the pandemic.

Jamaica could lose as much as 11 percent of its GDP, Thailand 9 percent, Italy 5 percent. In the EU, the worst impacts are along the Mediterranean coast where the economy is heavily dependent on tourism. In addition to Malta, Italy, Croatia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Greece are also heavily impacted. Turkey and Tunisia, Mediterranean players in the tourism industry have also been almost at a standstill, after experiencing a substantial expansion of their tourism industry throughout the years.

It is understandable that government through the Malta Tourism Authority is currently focused on getting tourism back on its feet. This is however not enough. We must start discussing a long-term view of the tourism industry.

At the end of 2019 the 2.8 million mark of tourists visiting the Maltese islands had been attained. The point at issue is whether this is sustainable in the long-term. This has been a perennial issue in tourism politics since the days when the numbers were much lower. The debate was and should be whether we should focus more on quality than on quantity.

The advent of low-cost carriers as an essential part of the tourism equation places more emphasis on numbers than on quality. It is a choice which may need to be analysed and revisited. Economic impacts have to be viewed concurrently with environmental impacts. We must remember that tourism has a considerable environmental impact. It is about time that the tourism debate is carried out within the parameters of the Green Deal.

Aeroplane emissions will at some point in time in the near future have to be addressed. Carbon taxes will sooner or later come into play. Unless they are addressed immediately it will be more difficult, if not practically impossible, to address the Paris Climate Change conclusions to which Malta has adhered. At that point it will not be just the tourism industry but our whole lifestyle which will be in for the chop.

The Maltese archipelago, like all islands, will bear the brunt of climate change impacts. The coastline will be severely hit by a sea level rise. It may be pertinent to remember that the coast houses practically all of the tourism infrastructure. The longer we ignore this basic fact, the more severe will the impacts be.

By now all of us are aware that Tourism is a very volatile industry: any shock will result in mass redundancies. Tourism is currently way too seasonal, and consequently it only serves to create precarious working conditions.

It is the time to plan ahead: thinking carefully of the social, environmental and economic impacts of all decisions. This is what sustainable development is, after all, about. It is the only way to ensure that the negative impacts of the tourism industry are addressed by us sooner rather than later.

 

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 5 July 2020

Il-bluff ta’ Yorgen

Kemm hu minnu li Yorgen Fenech kien jaf bid-data tal-elezzjoni ġenerali bikrija li Joseph Muscat sejjaħ f’Ġunju 2017 sa minn Diċembru 2016? Din mhiex informazzjoni li għandha naċċettaw mingħajr ma ngħarbluha. Hu faċli, wara li l-fatti jkunu seħħew, li tagħmel dikjarazzjonijiet ta’ din ix-xorta.

Din id-dikjarazzjoni ta’ Yorgen Fenech dwar li kien jaf bid-data tal-elezzjoni bikrija saret waqt l-interrogazzjoni tiegħu u saret pubblika mill-Ispettur Kurt Zahra iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa fil-Qorti. Milli ntqal mhux ċar kemm Zahra ta importanza lil din l-informazzjoni kif ukoll jekk din kienitx korraborata.

Dan il-bluff ta’ Yorgen, fil-fehma tiegħi, għandu skop wieħed u preċiż: li jsaħħaħ l-argument u “joħloq” il-provi li mhux hu kien il-moħħ wara l-assassinju ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Li toqgħod tilgħab b’din l-informazzjoni hu ħafna agħar milli ixxerred il-gideb. Forsi Jason l-avukat jirrealizza dan u jiġbed widnejn Jason il-Membru Parlamentari.

Dan il-bluff ta’ Yorgen jinkwadra f’dak li jaħsbu uħud: li Kastilja kienet involuta fl-ippjanar tal-assassinju ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia. Imma dan hu f’kunflitt ma’ informazzjoni oħra li kisbet l-investigazzjoni permezz tar-recordings ta’ Melvin Theuma: meta Yorgen Fenech, iffaċċjat b’elezzjoni ġenerali bikrija fil-bidu ta’ Mejju 2017 ta’ struzzjonijiet biex l-assassinju jkun sospiż. Sfortunatament uħud għandhom memorja qasira ħafna: illum jinsew dak li jkunu saru jafu fil-ġranet li għaddew!

Minkejja dan, naħseb li għadu kmieni biex naslu għal konklużjonijiet dwar min hu involut, apparti dawk li diġa qed iwieġbu għal għemilhom quddiem il-Qrati. Hu ovvju li Joseph Muscat ser jiċħad bil-qawwa kollha anke l-iktar konnessjoni remota mal-assassinju. M’għandniex nimpressjonaw ruħna għax f’dan l-istadju għadu kmieni u hu prudenti li ma neskludu xejn.

Yorgen kontinwament jitfa biċċiet żgħar ta’ informazzjoni biex iċaqlaq l-attenzjoni għal fuq ħaddieħor. Din il-ġimgħa kompla permezz tax-xhieda ta’ Keith Schembri. Schembri informa lill-Qorti kif sieħbu Yorgen ġieli qallu bil-krib ta’ Adrian Delia tal-PN biex jiffinanzjhom. Ma qal xejn imma dwar kemm ħareġ flus għall-Labour, apparti l-inbid Petrus lil Joseph, għax dak donnu hu ovvju u mistenni li fejn jidħol il-Labour idaħħal idu fil-but. Għaliex le, sakemm ikun fil-limiti ta’ dak permissibli?

Huwa u jwieġeb għall-mistoqsijiet tal-ispettur Keith Arnaud, Keith Schembri rrakkonta dak li qallu sieħbu Yorgen dwar kemm dejqu l-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni Adrian Delia għall-fondi. Il-flus, qal Schembri lill-Qorti, kien jiġborhom Pierre Portelli, sieħeb Delia, €20,000 kull darba. Kif kien mistenni kemm Delia kif ukoll Portelli b’mod immedjat u kategoriku ċaħdu dan kollu. Delia żied jiċħad li qatt talab finanzjament biex jipprova jixkana l-barra lil David Casa mis-siġġu fil-Parlament Ewropew. Dawn, imma, huma allegazzjonijiet li diġa konna smajnihom minn bnadi oħra.

Din hi informazzjoni li hi minnha jew inkellha hi informazzjoni żbaljata li d-duo Keith-Yorgen qed jisqu lill-inkjesta? Dan l-aħħar l-iskwadra tal-Pulizija dwar ir-reati ekonomiċi bħal donnha qamet mir-raqda u bdiet tinvestiga dan l-allegat finanzjament ta’ Delia minn Yorgen. Hu possibli li jkollna konklużjoni dwar x’daħal fis-sasla ta’ Delia malajr u dan minħabba li l-iskwadra dwar ir-reati ekonomiċi issa jidher li ser ikollha x’tagħmel għax ser teżamina xi rapporti li ħalliet jiġbru t-trab fil-passat qrib. Jista’ jkunu okkupati ftit fit-tul b’Konrad Mizzi li tul dan l-aħħar għalqu ftit għajnejhom mhux ħażin dwar dak li qed jingħad li għamel u ħawwad.

Konrad issa tkeċċa mill-Grupp Parlamentari tal-Partit Laburista wara li hu irrifjuta t-talba ta’ Robert Abela biex jirreżenja.

Din ma kienitx l-ewwel darba li fil-Partit Laburista kellhom diskussjoni taħraq dwar Konrad Mizzi. Imma din id-darba ma kienx hemm Joseph Muscat jiddefendieh.

Erba’ snin ilu Joseph Muscat kien irrifjuta li jkeċċi lil Konrad meta kien irriżulta li Konrad kien l-uniku Ministru fl-Unjoni Ewropeja li ssemma fil-Panama Papers. Minn dakinnhar l-iskandli assoċjati miegħu żdiedu biex issa hemm ukoll il-kaz tal-kummissjonijiet li tħallsu fuq it-tanker tal-gass li hemm Delimara, kif ukoll l-istejjer dwar il-kumpanija 17-Black. L-aħħar storja hi dwar l-imtieħen tar-riħ fil-Montenegro li bħala riżultat tagħha is-17-Black selħet madwar €5 miljuni profitti minn fuq dahar l-Enemalta, li għaliha kellu responsabbiltà politika Konrad Mizzi għal żmien twil.

B’dan it-tip ta’ transazzjonijiet il-kumpanija ta’ Yorgen Fenech 17-Black faċilment tilħaq il-miri tagħha biex tkun tista’ titrasferixxi €5000 kuljum fil-kumpaniji li n-Nexia BT waqqfet fil-Panama f’Marzu 2013.

Edward Scicluna, Ministru tal-Finanzi, qalilna li l-Gvern ma għandu l-ebda ħtija għal dan il-ħmieġ. Għandu żball: dawk kollha involuti ngħataw vot ta’ fiduċja wieħed wara l-ieħor. It-tort hu kollu kemm hu tal-Gvern!

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : il-Ħadd 28 ta’ Ġunju 2020

Yorgen’s bluff

Did Yorgen Fenech really know the date of the early election called in June 2017 by Joseph Muscat as far back as December 2016? I would take that information with a pinch of salt.

It is quite easy to bluff your way after the fact. Yorgen Fenech’s declaration on knowing the date for the early election was made to Inspector Kurt Zahra during his interrogation.

It is not clear whether Inspector Kurt Zahra simply noted Yorgen’s bluff or else whether he succeeded in corroborating this with additional information. Yorgen’s bluff, in my view, had a specific purpose: to drive home the point that he was not the mastermind behind the assassination.

Spinning this is at times worse than spreading lies. Maybe Jason the lawyer should caution Jason the MP about this.

Yorgen’s bluff fits like a glove into one of the theories making the rounds: that the OPM was involved in the planning and commissioning of the assassination. However it is in conflict with other bits of information fed into the investigation through the Theuma recordings: the plans in motion for the assassination were suspended by Yorgen as soon as the early election was called in early May 2017.

This signifies that actually he had no prior knowledge! Unfortunately, some have a very short memory span: they tend to forget today what was reported the day before yesterday!

Notwithstanding, it is too early to arrive at conclusions as who is or isn’t involved beyond those already arraigned. It is to be expected that Joseph Muscat categorically denies even the remotest of connections to the assassination.

We should not however be impressed into conclusions either way at such an early stage. I would definitely not exclude anything at this stage.

Yorgen’s dripping titbits of information continued through Keith Schembri’s testimony this week. Schembri recounted how his friend Yorgen described the manner in which he financed the PN. No information is forthcoming as to whether and how he financed the PL: presumably this is taken for granted. Replying to questions fielded by police inspector Keith Arnaud, Keith Schembri recounted how he had been informed by his friend Yorgen Fenech as to funding requests by Adrian Delia, Leader of the Opposition.

Delia’s sidekick, Pierre Portelli, the Court was told, used to collect the monies €20,000 at a time. As expected, Delia and Portelli immediately and categorically denied this. Delia further denied that he had requested funding to squeeze out David Casa from his MEP seat. We have however already heard of these allegations from various other sources. Are they true, or is it just incorrect information being slowly fed into the investigation by the Yorgen-Keith tandem? The Police Economic Crimes Unit has recently done a Rip van Winkle and is investigating the possibility of Yorgen funding Delia’s PN.

It may be possible to have a conclusion on Adrian Delia’s collections quite soon as the Police Economic Crimes Unit may now be in a hurry as they may soon have to recall their Konrad Mizzi archives to act upon reports which they were too busy to examine appropriately in the recent past.

Konrad has now been kicked out of the Parliamentary Group of the Labour Party after refusing to act on Robert Abela’s suggestions to resign. The discussion within Labour earlier this week was not the first with Konrad as the target. This time Joseph Muscat was however not around to defend him. Four years ago, Joseph Muscat had refused to dismiss Konrad Mizzi when it had resulted that Mizzi was the only member of Cabinet within the EU member states to have his name included in the Panama Papers. Since then we have had plenty of additions to the Panama Papers saga. These include commissions paid on the gas tanker anchored at Delimara as well as the 17-Black saga.

The latest addition is the Montenegro windfarm scandal as a result of which 17-Black made a windfall profit of around €5 million at the expense of Enemalta, for which Konrad Mizzi was politically responsible for a considerable length of time. With this type of transaction 17-Black could easily fulfil its objectives of transferring €5000 a day to the Panama companies setup by Nexia BT.

Finance Minister Edward Scicluna has stated that government is not to blame. He is wrong: those in the spotlight were repeatedly given votes of confidence. Government has no one to blame but itself.

 

Published on the Malta Independent on Sunday: 28 June 2020

Min qed jiġbed l-ispag?

Hemm mistoqsija li bla dubju tberren f’moħħna aħna u nisimgħu jew x’ħin inkunu qed naqraw rapporti dwar ix-xhieda li qed tinġabar il-Qorti in konnessjoni mal-assassinju ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia. Lil min qed tipproteġi l-pulizija?

Qed joħroġ messaġġ ċar li f’waqtiet partikulari xi uffiċjali tal-Pulizija u l-kriminali li bħalissa qed ikunu investigati kienu id f’id. Naturalment l-uffiċjali in kwistjoni dan jiċħduh. Imma, sfortunatament għal kulħadd, il-kredibilità tagħhom ilha li spiċċat.

Id-deċiżjoni tal-5 t’Ottubru 2018 tal-Qorti Kostituzzjonali dwar Silvio Valletta, dakinnhar Deputat Kummissarju tal-Pulizija, b’kunflitt ta’ interess minħabba r-responsabbiltajiet politiċi ta’ martu Justyne Caruana (politically exposed person) għamlet l-affarijiet ferm agħar. Fl-2018 il-Qorti Kostituzzjonali kienet aċċettat l-argumenti ta’ tal-familja ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia u ordnat li Silvio Valletta jitbiegħed mill-investigazzjoni dwar l-assassinju.

Fid-dawl tal-allegazzjonijiet kontra id-Deputat Mexxej tal-Partit Laburista Chris Cardona dwar il-possibiltà ta’ ordni separata għall-assassinju ta’ Caruana Galizia, jikber konsiderevolment id-dubju dwar min qiegħed ikun protett mill-Pulizija. Għax kif jista’ jkun li Deputat Kummissarju tal-Pulizija li hu politikament espost jinvestiga politiku ġej mill-istess partit politiku li fih hi attiva martu ukoll Membru tal-Kabinett? Kien fit-8 ta’ Mejju 2016 li din il-gazzetta kienet irrappurtat illi Silvio Valletta kien offrut il-ħatra ta’ Kummissarju tal-Pulizija imma ma aċċettax minħabba li martu Justyne Caruana u l-fatt li “hija Membru tal-Kabinett u persuna prominenti fil-Partit Laburista, seta’ jitfa’ wisq piż u dell fuq l-operat tiegħu kieku aċċetta li jkun fit-tmun tal-Korp.” Dakinnhar iddeċieda tajjeb imma wara insihom id-dellijjiet!

Il-problema tikber konsiderevolment kull meta jissemmgħu dawk li kienu madwar Joseph Muscat, ewlieni fosthom Keith Schembri. Imma hemm oħajn ukoll li kellhom parti importanti fl-iżviluppi ta’ din il-ġimgħa: min jikkonsla u jikkalma u min iwassal il-messaġġi.

Hu magħruf li kemm Chris Cardona kif ukoll Keith Schembri intalbu jwieġbu xi mistoqsijiet mill-Pulizija imma safejn hu magħruf pubblikament s’issa ħadd minnhom mhu qed jiġi investigat.

Jingħad li għad baqa’ informazzjoni sensittiva x’tinkixef.

Irridu nżommu quddiem għajnejna li Daphne kienet stħarrġet u kitbet dwar il-każijiet ta’ korruzzjoni ewlenin fil-pajjiż tul dawn l-aħħar snin, li minnhom ma kellniex ftit. L-atturi xi drabi huma l-istess. Din il-ġimgħa kellna iktar informazzjoni fuq każ kbir. Hu il-kaz tal-Montenegro li stħarrġet it-Times u li minnu irriżulta li 17 Black ta’ Yorgen Fenech daħħlet madwar ħames miljun euro minn fuq dahar l-Enemalta. Min hemm sħab ma Fenech fis-17 Black u s’issa ma jidhirx?

Ix-xhieda fil-Qorti fil-kaz tal-assassinju qed jindikaw il-possibilità li hemm iżjed minn moħħ wiehed wara dan il-qtil. Yorgen Fenech ilu jinsisti li mhux hu l-moħħ iżda li hemm xi ħaddieħor li hu aqwa minnu.

Ma nagħmlux mod li dawn l-idejn moħbija wara l-qtil għandhom interess ukoll fil-qliegħ mill-Montenegro fejn spiċċa jidher Yorgen Fenech għal darba oħra għalihom hux?

Min qed jiġbed l-ispag f’dan kollu? Meta l-Pulizija jagħmlu investigazzjoni iktar fil-fond forsi jkollna ħjiel. Imma ma jiddependix biss minnhom. Jiddependi ukoll minn min s’issa għadu qiegħed jerfa’ l-piz waħdu u jostor lil ħaddieħor.

Il-kobba hi mħabbla sewwa. L-iskandli wieħed wara l-ieħor ilhom jakkumulaw. Dwar uħud minnhom ma sar xejn u dwar oħrajn tapari sar xi ħaġa. F’dan kollu hemm rwol fundamentali għall-ġurnaliżmu investigattiv li b’responsabbiltà jgħarbel u jfittex il-konnessjonijiet bejn in-numru dejjem jikber ta’ skandli. Il-qtil biex isikket lil min jinvestiga mhuwiex biss delitt kontra l-persuna imma hu ukoll delitt kontra d-demokrazija. Għax l-istampa libera li ma tibżax hi pilastru ewlieni tad-demokrazija tagħna.

L-istess idejn jidhru repetutament. Min hemm mistoħbi warajhom? Min qed jiġbed l-ispag Delimara, il-Montenegro u lura sal-Bidnija?

ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd 21 ta’ Ġunju 2020

Who is the puppet master?

There is a lingering question as we listen to or read reports on the evidence being compiled in Court relative to the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Who do the police protect?

The clear message being conveyed is that at a point in time specific police officers and the criminals currently under investigation were apparently in cahoots. Naturally, the officers referred to always deny any wrongdoing. Unfortunately for all of us, their credibility has been discarded over the years.

The decision of the Constitutional Court on the 5 October 2018 relative to Silvio Valletta, formerly Deputy Police Commissioner, having a conflict of interest on account of his being a politically exposed person due to his marriage to former Gozo Minister Justyne Caruana made matters worse. In 2018 the Constitutional Court had accepted the arguments of the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia and ordered that Silvio Valletta desists from continuing to be part of the investigation into the assassination.

In view of the allegations against former Deputy Leader of the Labour Party Chris Cardona about the financing of a separate and parallel DCG assassination contract, doubts linger on as to who received police protection. How could a politically exposed Deputy Police Commissioner investigate a politician belonging to the same political party as his wife, a Cabinet Minister? After all it was Silvio Valletta himself who in 2016 was reported in the Press as having declined being appointed as Commissioner of Police due to the perceived incompatibility of the duties of Commissioner with that of Cabinet Minister, as his wife then was. He took the right decision then!

The problem is further compounded by references to Joseph Muscat’s then Chief of Staff Keith Schembri as well as other persons close to the Office of the Prime Minister during the murder proceedings.

It is known that both Chris Cardona and Keith Schembri were questioned by the Police, but as far is publicly known none of them is under investigation yet. We do not know much more except the selected leaks planted in the media over the past weeks by those who certainly have some axe to grind.

The latest twist to the whole saga is the instructions issued by inquiring Magistrate that the police investigate the behaviour of former Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar after it was revealed in open court that he may have messed things up in his contacts with potential witnesses.

It is rumoured that there is still much more to be unravelled. While the evidence being heard in Court is pointing towards the possibility of two separate initiatives leading to the assassination of DCG it is still unclear as to who the real mastermind is. Whether Yorgen Fenech is a mastermind is still to be proven to the satisfaction of the Court. We should however remember that he contests this and points elsewhere.

Whether the ultimate puppet master is eventually identified is dependent on the investigative skills of the police. It also however depends on the extent to which those currently shouldering the blame are willing to pay the full price for the crime commissioned by others.

The resignation of Chris Cardona from Deputy Leader earlier this week is long overdue. He should have departed the moment the Acapulco brothel scandal saw the light of day. But that is another matter about which the whole truth is not yet in the public domain. Hopefully at some point in time more will be revealed as it may yet turn out to be of fundamental importance in entangling the whole mess.

At the end of the day it should be clear that crime does not pay.

 

Published on the Malta Independent on Sunday: 20 June 2020