Illum : wara li l-Arċisqof beżaq mis-sunnara tal-PN

 

L-emendi Kostituzzjonali reġgħu fuq l-agenda.

Nafu li tul dawn l-aħħar snin il-possibilita li tiltaqa’ l-konvenzjoni kostituzzjoni kienet limitata minħabba li ġie mdeffes fin-nofs Franco Debono. Il-Partit Laburista ried lilu u l-Partit Nazzjonalista oppona. Nifhmu li għad qed isiru sforzi biex din il-problema tingħeleb.Imma qed jingħadu diversi affarijiet oħra li huma ta’ interess kbir.

Madwar tlett ġimgħat ilu, Mons Scicluna qal li l-Knisja ma jkollha l-ebda oġġezzjoni li titneħħa r-referenza għal Kattoliċiżku mill-Kostituzzjoni Maltija. Il-Knisja, qal Mons. Scicluna, ma tridx privileġġi imma trid il-libertà reliġjuża. Dikjarazzjoni makakka u f’waqtha ta’ Mons Scicluna li indirizzat waħda mill-issues jaħarqu quddiem il-Konvenzjoni Kostituzzjonali. Jaħarqu fis-sens li kien (u għadu) antiċipat li l-PN jopponi din il-bidla. Dan minkejja li din il-bidla kostituzzjonali ma għandhiex bżonn żewġ terzi tal-Parlament għall-approvazzjoni, iżda teħtieġ biss maġġoranza sempliċi. Bid-dikjarazzjoni ta’ Mons Scicluna l-Knisja beżqet mis-sunnara tal-P.N. u mhux ser tħalli lill-P.N. jinqeda biha!

Issa li l-Knisja beżqet mis-sunnara tar-Religio et Patria, illum ħarġet ir-reazzjoni ta’ Adrian Delia, mexxej tal-PN, u dan kif antiċipat. Ser jibda jbeżża’ bil-babaw ġaladarba l-Knisja mhux ser tħallieh jinqeda biha. Dalgħodu kien rappurtat li Adrian Delia qal li l-Prim Ministru jrid ineħħi l-kurċifissi mill-iskejjel! Daqt jibda jgħidilna li sejrin l-infern!

Ir-realta hi li Malta għandha bżonn Kostituzzjoni lajka, jiġifieri kostituzzjoni li filwaqt li tirrispetta l-liberta reliġjuża tkun waħda li ma tpoġġi l-ebda reliġjon fiċ-ċentru tagħha. Tkun kostituzzjoni sekulari. Il-pajjiż hekk hu fir-realtà, wieħed lajk, u l-kostituzzjoni tiegħu għandha tirrispetta dan il-fatt.

Hemm bżonn ftit iktar serjeta meta niddiskutu l-kostituzzjoni. B’mod partikolari mill-partit tal-avukati!

Sadanittant Alternattiva Demokratika qed tistenna li tibda l-konvenzjoni kostituzzjonali biex tkun tista’ tinvolvi ruħha fid-diskussjoni dwar it-tibdil meħtieġ fil-kostituzzjoni Maltija. S’issa, AD ma hiex involvuta f’xi diskussjjonijiet li jidher li għaddejjin.

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L-Ippjanar rasu l-isfel

Nhar l-Erbgħa, l-Kumitat Parlamentari dwar l-Ambjent u l-Ippjanar beda d-diskussjoni dwar jekk għandux ikun hemm tibdil fil-politika dwar il-pompi tal-petrol (u d-disil) (Fuel Service Stations Policy) tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar. Bla dubju kien xprunat mid-deċiżjonijiet riċenti tal-istess awtorità dwar pompi tal-petrol f’f’Burmarrad, Marsaskala u l-Magħtab. Hemm applikazzjonijiet pendenti għal pompi ġodda f’Ħ’Attard, l-Imqabba u l-Iklin fil-waqt li hemm madwar 60 pompa oħra qed jistennew il-permessi mill-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar biex itejbu l-faċilitajiet inkluż protezzjoni ambjentali u dan minn total eżistenti ta’ 85 pompa.

Il-kummenti validi kienu bosta. Ikkonċentraw l-iktar fuq il-ħtieġa li l-pompi tal-petrol fiż-żona urbana jingħalqu u li dawn jiċċaqalqu xi mkien ieħor. Ftit iżda kien hemm ħeġġa biex tkun diskussa l-qalba tal-materja: xi bżonn għandna tal-pompi tal-petrol?

Madwar ħames xhur ilu, il-Prim Ministru, wara li għal darba oħra ħares ħarsa sewwa lejn il-Manifest Elettorali ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika tal-2017, ħabbar, li l-Gvern immexxi minnu kien ser jagħti bidu għal process ta’ konsultazzjoni pubblika. Dan biex jistabilixxi data minn meta karozzi li jaħdmu bil-petrol u d-disil ma jkunux jistgħu jinbiegħu iktar biex minflok ikollna karozzi li jaħdmu bl-elettriku. Ma smajna xejn iktar dwar dan ħlief artiklu miktub mill-Ministru tat-Trasport Ian Borg entużjażmat li fis-snin li ġejjin ser nimxu fuq il-passi ta’ pajjiżi Ewropej oħra.

Il-Prim Ministru, bir-raġun kollu emfasizza li din il-bidla fil-politika tal-Gvern kienet meħtieġa minħabba li l-emmissjonijiet tal-karozzi kienu l-ikbar sors ta’ tniġġiż tal-arja fil-pajjiż. Għalfejn dan id-dewmien kollu biex ikunu stabiliti u mħabbra d-dettalji ta’ din id-deċiżjoni tajba? Uħud mill-pajjiżi Ewropej ilhom żmien li għamlu dan. In-Norveġja u l-Olanda stabilew is-sena 2025, il-Ġermanja qed tikkonsidra s-sena 2030, fil-waqt li Franza u r-Renju Unit huma mħajra għas-sena 2040 biex iwaqqfu l-bejgħ ta’ karozzi li jaħdmu bil-petrol u d-disil.

Id-diskussjoni dwar il-politika li tikkonċerna l-pompi tal-petrol/disil għandha issir f’kuntest wiesgħa tal-politika tat-trasport inkluż l-elettrifikazzjoni tal-mezzi privati tat-trasport.

Il-punt ewlieni tad-diskussjoni huwa li bħala riżultat tal-elettrifikazzjoni n-numru ta’ pompi tal-petrol/disel meħtieġa mhux ser jiżdied imma ser jonqos fuq medda ta’ snin u dan sakemm jasal għal xejn jew kważi xejn. Allura għalfejn nibnu u ninkoraġixxu l-bini ta’ iktar pompi tal-petrol/disil? Ikun ferm iktar għaqli kieku l-investiment nindirizzawh lejn is-soluzzjoni tal-problemi, mhux lejn it-tkattir tagħhom!

Il-pompi tal-petrol eżistenti fiż-żoni urbani qed jintużaw bħala skuża biex jippruvaw jiġġustifikaw it-tħarbit ta’ 3000 metru kwadru ta’ art. Fil-fatt dan hu l-iskop ewlieni tal-politika dwar il-pompi tal-fjuwil approvata fl-2015.

Ma jkunx aħjar li flok ma jingħalqu l-pompi tal-petrol fl-abitat ikunu konvertiti f’lok fejn tiċċarġja l-batteriji tal-karozzi? Dawn il-pompi qegħdin fil-parti l-kbira tagħhom f’żoni ċentrali u huma ġeneralment ta’ qies żgħir. Kull pompa tal-petrol urbana li tkun salvata u konvertita biex fiha niċċarġjaw il-batteriji tfisser ukoll li nkunu salvajna 3000 metru kwadru ta’ art minn spekulazzjoni. Fl-istess ħin inkunu qed nippovdu servizz li ser ikun essenzjali eżatt fejn hu meħtieġ.

Dan ikun użu tajjeb għall-investiment, aħjar milli jintuża f’bini ta’ pompi ġodda barra miż-żona ta’ l-iżvilupp. Jekk dan isir inkunu qed nittrasformaw problema eżistenti f’diversi lokalitajiet f’soluzzjoni addattata għall-bini tal-infrastruttura meħtieġa għall-eletrifikazzjoni tat-trasport privat f’Malta.

Dan ovvjament ifisser li nkunu qed naqilbu ta’ taħt fuq il-politika dwar il-pompi tal-fjuwil. Flok ma nużaw il-pompi urbani bħala skuża biex tkun ġustifikata l-ispekulazzjoni tal-art inkunu qed nagħtu spinta tajba lill-ħarsien ambjentali.

Hu eżattament dan li għandna bżonn f’dan il-mument: naqilbu l-ippjanar rasu l-isfel.

 

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd 4 ta’ Frar 2018

 

L-abort: x’inhu jiġri madwarna

Diskors minn Carmel Cacopardo, Chairperson, Alternattiva Demokratika
fl-okkażjoni ta’ Jum il-Ħajja, organizzat mill-Malta Unborn Child Movement
Oratorju tal-Kon-Katidral ta’ San Ġwann il-Belt Valletta, Il-Ħadd 4 ta’ Frar 2018

 

Uħud minnkom, wara dak kollu li ilu jingħad, bla dubju qed jistaqsu dwar meta u min ser idaħħal l-abort f’Malta. It-tweġiba għal din il-mistoqsija hi waħda sempliċi ħafna: ħadd. Għax l-abort ilu fostna. Il-fatt li l-liġi Maltija ma tippermettieħx ma hu ta’ l-ebda xkiel għal min jidhirlu li għandu jagħmel għażla ta’ din ix-xorta.

Rapporti annwali mediċi fir-Renju Unit jindikaw li madwar 60 mara Maltija fis-sena jutiliżżaw is-servizzi mediċi tal-Ingilterra u Wales biex jipprokuraw abort. Ma dawn imma, trid iżżid l-aborti minn Maltin li kull sena jsiru fl-Italja (prinċipalment Catania, Ruma u Milan imma ukoll f’lokalitajiet oħra) kif ukoll dawk li jseħħu fil-Ġermanja, l-Olanda, l-Belġju u iktar. Statistika uffiċjali hemm biss għar-Renju Unit, imma tobba Maltin li tkellimt magħhom, bla dubju a bażi prattika tal-professjoni tagħhom fl-ibliet u l-irħula Maltin, jistmaw li ċ-ċifra totali tista’ titla sa bejn 300 u 400 abort fis-sena li nisa Maltin jagħżlu li jagħmlu.

Fl-istatistika jkejlu l-frekwenza tal-abort bħala n-numru ta’ aborti għal kull elf mara li hi of childbearing age, u ċjoe bejn l-eta ta’ 15 u 44 sena. A bażi ta’ dan, ir-rata fl-Unjoni Ewropeja hi ta’ 4.4, filwaqt li fost il-Maltin hi ta’ bejn 3.6 u 4.7, dipendenti fuq jekk fil-kalkolu tagħmilx użu minn numru stmat ta’ 300 abort inkella l-istima massima ta’ 400 abort fis-sena fost il-Maltin.

Jiġifieri fi ftit kliem, l-indikazzjonijiet huma li l-Maltin ifittxu l-abort kważi daqs kull ġens ieħor fl-Ewropa.

Jekk irridu niddiskutu l-abort bis-serjeta għandna l-obbligu li l-ewwel u qabel kollox nippruvaw nidentifikaw u nifhmu l-fatti biex id-dibattitu pubbliku jkun wieħed infurmat u mhux wieħed intenżjonat biss biex ikeskes lil “qaddisin” kontra l-“midinbin”.

F’Alternattiva Demokratika qatt ma appoġġajna l-abort minkejja dak li jgħidu uħud, inkluż uħud fostkom. Imma f’Alternattiva Demokratika ma nagħmlux kruċjati. Nippreferu li l-pajjiż jikkommetti ruħu b’iktar qawwa biex ikunu indirizzati dawk iċ-ċirkustanzi li jwasslu għal abort.

Ir-rispett għall-ħajja, meta jkun ġenwin, jintwera mhux biss waqt it-tqala. Jintwera dejjem, kemm qabel kif ukoll wara t-tqal, kif ukoll f’ċirkustanzi li m’għandhomx x’jaqsmu mat-tqala.

Nirrispettaw il-ħajja ukoll meta nkunu ċari kontra l-vjolenza domestika, meta nkunu kommessi li nħarsu lil dawk li jissograw l-għarqa, maħrubin mill-moħqrija u l-għaks f’pajjiżhom, meta niftħu għajnejna beraħ għal nisa traffikati għas-sess f’pajjiżna, kif ukoll meta nifhmu li d-dinjità ta’ kull bniedem tmur lil hinn mill-kulur, razza jew ġeneru. Imma għal uħud forsi dan hu wisq!

Is-soċjetà tagħna qed tinbidel b’rata mgħaġġla. Hi bidla li tispira ruħha minn pluraliżmu ta’ valuri, valuri li ħafna drabi jikkuntrastaw, xi kultant b’mod sostanzjali.

L-obbligu li nirrispettaw lil xulxin jeħtieġ li jimmanifesta ruħu f’dawn iċ-ċirkustanzi ukoll. Għax x’utilità hemm li ngħidu li għandna rispett lejn il-fehma ta’ ħaddieħor jekk imbagħad fil-konfront ta’ min ma jaqbilx magħna, it-tgħajjir u l-insulti kkuluriti xi kultant huma bla limitu?

Fl-Irlanda bħalissa l-Gvern immexxi mill-partit demokristjan tal-Fine Gael ser jagħti bidu għall-kampanja referendarja favur l-abort, għax fir-realta l-qbil ma’ jew l-opposizzjoni għall-abort tmur lil hinn mill-fehmiet politiċi.

F’Malta ukoll dawk favur l-abort qed jieħdu d-deċiżjonijiet tagħhom u qed isibu lil min jagħtihom s-servizz mixtieq. Sakemm jieqfu l-insulti mhux ser ikun possibli li dawn il-Maltin bħalna jingħataw l-għajnuna li jkollhom bżonn u li jħossu l-ħtieġa għaliha fl-iktar mumenti diffiċli f’ħajjithom, meta jridu jieħdu deċiżjoni iebsa u diffiċli, imma jħossuhom waħedhom, insulentati u mkasbrin minn soċjetà li tfittex il-purità artifiċjali.

Xi darba, forsi, nagħmlu progress. U l-progress ikun reġistrat meta kulħadd ikun konvint li hu stmat, irrispettivament mill-fehmiet tiegħu.

Sfortunatament, imma, jidher li għadna ftit il-bogħod.

Grazzi.

Turning the Fuel Service Stations Policy on its head

Last Wednesday, the Parliamentary Environment and Land Use Planning Committee discussed the possible revision of the Fuel Service Stations Policy. The three development permits issued in the past weeks by the Planning Authority for fuel service stations at Burmarrad, Marsaskala and Magħtab without doubt was the spark that motivated the discussion. Among the pending applications, Attard, Mqabba and Iklin are queuing for new service stations, while over 60 more, from a current total of 85 stations are awaiting the Planning Authority go-ahead for upgrading.

A number of valid observations were made. Most of the discussion dealt with the need to relocate service stations currently within urban areas but there was, however, a reluctance to address head-on the real issue: do we need fuel service stations?

Almost five months ago, the Prime Minister – taking a leaf from Alternattiva Demokratika’s 2017 election manifesto – announced that his government will be launching a public consultation to establish a cut-off date for the sale of diesel and petrol cars in Malta and the use of only electricity-driven vehicles instead. We have not heard much more about this proposal, apart for an article by Transport Minister Ian Borg who wrote about following in the footsteps of other European countries in “phasing out new petrol and diesel vehicles in the next few decades”.

The Prime Minister has rightly emphasised that this change in policy is required in view of the fact that vehicle emissions are the largest source of pollution in Malta, but why wait so long to put flesh on the bare bones of the declared policy? Other European countries have already determined their cut-off date. Norway and the Netherlands are considering the year 2025, Germany is considering 2030, while France and the United Kingdom are opting for the year 2040 by which to halt the sale of diesel and petrol vehicles.

Revisiting the Fuel Service Stations Policy should not be discussed in a vacuum. It has to be placed in the context of related transport policies and in particular the fact (hopefully) that Malta should now be going electric.

The main issue clearly is that, as a result of going electric, the number of fuel service stations required will at some point in the future – hopefully the not so very distant future – will be next to nil. So why build more of them? Why encourage investment in something that is not needed? It would be much better to channel investment into resolving problems instead of adding to them.

The relocation of urban area fuel service stations – the main thrust of the Fuel Service Stations Policy approved in 2015 – is being used to justify the uptake of 3,000 square metres of land. But instead of relocating the existing service stations in urban areas, would it not be much better if these were converted into charging stations? These service stations are centrally located and mostly of a relatively small size. Every conversion one into a charging station would potentially save 3000 square metres of land in the middle of nowhere and simultaneously provide the service of electrically charging vehicles right where that service is required: in our urban areas.

It is towards the conversion of these fuel stations that investment should be channelled. They can be transformed from being a problem in our residential communities to being an integral and focal part of the strategy to develop a suitable, reliable and – above all – sustainable infrastructure so necessary for the electrification of private transport.

This would obviously turn the Fuel Service Stations policy upside down. Instead of using urban service stations as an excuse to trigger more land speculation, it is about time to inject some environmental considerations right where they are most needed.

This is what we need right now: the turning of the Fuel Service Stations Policy on its head.

 

published on the Malta Independent on Sunday : 4 February 2018

Ċaħda tal-intolleranza

Nhar il-Ħamis li għadda, flimkien ma uffiċjali oħra tal-Alternattiva Demokratika, attendejt fil-lokalità ta’ San Ġwann għal ċerimonja qasira imma simbolika li tfakkar l-40 anniversarju tal-qtil ta’ Karin Grech b’ittra bomba nhar it-28 ta’ Diċembru tal-1977. Din iċ-ċerimonja kienet organizzata mill-Partit Laburista, u ilha tkun organizzata sena wara l-oħra sa mill-1978.

Iktar kmieni matul dan l-istess xahar għamilt l-istess fil-Gudja fil-wieħed u tletin anniversarju tal-qtil ta’ Raymond Caruana, ċerimonja dakinnhar organizzata mill-Partit Nazzjonalista.

Il-parteċipazzjoni tiegħi u tal-Alternattiva Demokratika fiż-żewġ ċerimonji ta’ kommemorazzjoni ma saritx biex iżżomm xi bilanċ artifiċjali imma għax hu meħtieġ li dawn il-grajjiet infakkruhom flimkien. Possibilment ilkoll flimkien. Huwa hekk biss li jista’ jasal ċar u bl-aħjar mod il-messaġġ taċ-ċaħda tal-intolleranza. Sakemm il-Partit Laburista u l-Partit Nazzjonalista jibqgħu jagħmlu l-kommemorazzjoni għal rashom ser nibqgħu lura. Nittama li ma nistennewx wisq li nħottu l-firdiet partiġjani biex flimkien niftakru f’dawk li l-intolleranza ħasditilhom ħajjithom.

Il-weġgħa tal-familji ta’ Karin Grech u Raymond Caruana hi ferm ikbar minn weġgħa privata ikkawżata minn telfa ta’ bint jew iben, ħajja innoċenti ta’ żagħżugħ jew żagħżugħa. Hi weġgħa tal-pajjiż kollu. Hi għalhekk weġgħa tagħna lkoll. Ilkoll flimkien għandna l-obbligu li niftakru f’dak li wassal għall-qerda ta’ ħajjithom bit-tama li nagħmlu ħilitna biex ma jkunx hemm ripetizzjoni.

Hu għalhekk importanti li bil-presenza tagħna f’dawn il-kommemorazzjonijiet nagħtu xhieda taċ-ċaħda tal-intolleranza billi nħottu biċċa oħra, anke jekk żgħira, tal-ħajt li jifred dan il-pajjiż fi tribujiet ostili.

Dan hu pajjiż li kapaċi jalterna bejn mumenti ta’ solidarjetà eċċezzjonali ma mumenti ta’ ostilità bla qies. Mumenti ta’ sensittività għal dak li għaddej minnu ħaddieħor u waqtiet ta’ vjolenza bla qies. Kuntrarjament għal dak li jgħidu, din hi r-realtà tal-pajjiż. Iż-żewġ avvenimenti li kkomemorajna dan ix-xahar huma differenti fis-sens li huma frott ta’ ċirkustanzi kompletament differenti li żviluppaw fil-pajjiż fuq spazju ta’ għaxar snin bejn l-1977 u l-1987.

Il-qtil ta’ Karin Grech hu bla dubju assoċjat mat-tilwima industrijali tal-Gvern mat-tobba, liema tilwima damet tkarkar snin twal. Il-qtil ta’ Raymond Caruana min-naħa l-oħra hu frott it-tensjoni politika li żviluppat fil-pajjiż fil-bidu tas-snin tmenin u li bħala riżultat tagħha kien hawn ġgajtiet ta’ bulijiet li ppretendew li jagħmlu li jridu.

Is-similarità bejn il-każi hi l-ħasda ta’ ħajjiet innoċenti u l-fatt li l-investigazzjoni tal-Pulizija baqgħet mhux konkluża. Mhux għax il-Pulizija ma ippruvawx! Tant ippruvaw li f’kaz minnhom anke ippruvaw frameup bħalma jixhed il-kaz ta’ Pietru Pawl Busuttil.

Imma fortunatament dak hu passat, li fuqu għaddew iktar minn 30 sena! Nittama li jibqa’ passat u li niftakru fih biss biex nippruvaw nifhmu fejn wasslet l-intolleranza fostna.

Differenzi fostna ser jibqa’ jkollna. Uħud naslu biex insolvuhom imma oħrajn jibqgħu jkarkru. Irridu nagħmlu sforzi ikbar biex dawn id-differenzi ma nħalluhomx jikbru u nippruvaw insolvuhom b’metodi ċivili.

Id-differenzi fil-fehmiet jissolvew biss bid-djalogu u d-diskussjoni li għandhom ikunu u jibqgħu l-pern tal-proċess demokratiku. Il-vjolenza u azzjonijiet li jwasslu għaliha qatt ma jistgħu jitħallew jgħollu rashom.

ippubblikat f’Illum: 31 ta’ Diċembru 2017

The intolerance in our midst

 

Last Thursday, I led a number of officers of Alternattiva Demokratika-The Green Party, at a short yet symbolic ceremony in San Ġwann commemorating Karin Grech, murdered by a letter bomb 40 years ago on 28 December 1977. The ceremony was organised by the Labour Party, as it has been continuously since 1978.

Earlier in December, I participated in a similar ceremony in Gudja on the 31st anniversary of the murder of Raymond Caruana, a ceremony organised by the Nationalist Party.

Alternattiva Demokratika’s participation in these two commemorative ceremonies is not an attempt to create a fictitious balance. Rather, it is an effort to underline the wish that such activities should be owned by all political families – all of whom should participate. It is the only way to send the clear message that there is no room for intolerance in our midst. With the Nationalist Party and the Labour Party continuing to organise these yearly commemorations as party activities, there is still a long way to go. There is no room for partisanship in commemorating the victims of intolerance.

The pain inflicted on the families of Karin Grech and Raymond Caruana is much greater than that caused by the loss of a daughter or a son: it is a pain inflicted on the whole country – it is our loss, too. It is thus our collective duty to remember what led to this loss, hoping that this remembrance will lead to the possible avoidance of the same mistakes.

By being present at such commemorative events, we bear witness to a determination to avoid intolerance through the dismantling of our own Berlin wall, the demarcation line of two hostile tribes.

This country is capable of alternating between moods of solidarity without any limits and moods of extreme hostility, alternating between being extremely sensitive to the needs of others to witnessing violence of the worst kind. Contrary to what some try to portray, this is the real Malta.

The two commemorations to which I am referring are different, as they are the consequence of different circumstances which developed in Malta in the 10 years between 1977 and 1987.

Karin Grech’s murder is undoubtedly associated with the doctors’ dispute which continued over a long period. On the other hand, Raymond Caruana’s murder was the result of the political tensions that engulfed the country during the 1980s, as a result of which the groups of thugs that roamed the streets dissipated the feeling that they laid down the rules.

The similarity between the two is the loss of innocent lives and the inconclusive police investigations. The police cannot be blamed for lack of trying, because in one of the cases it was proved in Court that the Police even tried – unsuccessfully – to frame an innocent person: Pietru Pawl Busuttil.

Fortunately that is the past – more than 30 years ago. I sincerely hope that its use will be restricted to reminding us of the fruit of intolerance.

Notwithstanding our efforts, we will still have plenty of differences – some of which we will resolve but others that will remain in the pending tray for some time. Our efforts must focus on ensuring that we try to solve our differences in a civil manner.

Dialogue should be our primary tool. It is possible: it is the basis of the democratic process.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 31 December 2017

Encouraging the avoidance of paying tax

The issue as to whether or not  Malta is a tax haven has been brought to the fore once again, as a result of the amendment to the Panama Papers Inquiry Report discussed in the European Parliament earlier this week. The defeated amendment would have seen Malta, Luxembourg, Ireland and the Netherlands labelled by the European Parliament as “tax havens”.

The matter is much more complex. On the one hand it involves tax competition and on the other hand it is a matter of justice in taxation matters.

As has been repeatedly stated, competition on taxation matters is one of the few areas in which small, as well as peripheral, countries in the European Union have a competitive advantage. Alternattiva Demokratika-The Green Party is not in favour of loosing this competitive advantage through tax harmonisation in the EU. However, it has to be used in a responsible manner.

The rules permitting the refund of a substantial amount of tax paid by foreign-owned companies based in Malta is one of the main reasons for the current spotlight. This substantial tax refund effectively reduces the tax paid by such companies from 35% to five per cent and is obviously considered very attractive by a number of companies. The basic question that requires a clear answer is how many of these companies are letter-box companies, that is companies which do not have any part of their operations on Maltese soil?

It would be reasonable to encourage companies to base part of their operations in Malta and, as a result, make use of tax advantages. But in respect of those companies which have not moved any part of their operations to Malta, making use of beneficial taxation arrangements is unreasonable and unjust. It leads to such companies avoiding paying tax in the countries in which they create their profits and consequently avoiding their social responsibilities on paying taxes in the countries that are providing them with the very facilities which make it possible for them to create their wealth.

In a nutshell, Malta is providing these companies with the legal framework to avoid their taxation responsibilities in the countries in which they operate through payment of a fraction of these taxes to the Maltese Exchequer. They pocket the rest.

Hiding behind the EU unanimity rule on tax issues will not get us anywhere, as Ireland has learnt in the Apple case. At the end of the day, the situation is not just about  taxation: it also involves competition rules and rules regulating state aid, as the legal infrastructure encouraging the avoidance of taxation is, in effect, a mechanism for state aid. The is also an issue of tax justice, as a result of which tax should be paid where the profits are generated.

Tax competition has a role to play as an important tool that small and peripheral countries in the EU have at their disposal. No one should expect these countries, Malta included, to throw away the small advantage they have, but it should be clear that this should be used responsibly and in no way should it buttress the urge of multinationals to circumvent the national taxation system in the country where their profits are generated.

Profits should be taxed where they are actually generated and not elsewhere. The EU needs to end – once and for all – not only tax evasion but also tax avoidance resulting from loopholes in national taxation rules. For this to happen, the EU member states must not only be vigilant, but they must also refrain from encouraging tax avoidance through the creation of more loopholes.

Tackling tax evasion and tax avoidance seriously will mean that taxes are paid where they are due, thereby funding the services and infrastructure that is required in a modern, civilised society. This can only happen if more companies pay their dues.

Tax competition need not be a race to the bottom.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 17 December 2017

New Petrol Stations: immediate moratorium needed

For a short period of time, the number of new petrol stations in Malta was on the decline but recently this trend has reversed, undoubtedly as a result of the Planning Authority 2015 Fuel Service Station Policy.

New petrol stations are mushrooming all over the place, and not only is it easier to obtain a development permit to construct a petrol station but you get the added “concession” to ruin up to 3,000 square metres of surrounding land.

Those proposing the development of new petrol stations claim to be doing us a favour. They argue that the increasing number of cars on the road necessitates more and more petrol stations. The number of petrol stations in the Maltese islands currently stands at around 80 and new ones are mushrooming, undoubtedly fuelled by the 3,000 square metres permissible footprint in the 2015 planning policy.

It is submitted that the policy on the development of fuel stations should complement the policy on the phasing out of internal combustion engines and an immediate moratorium on the development of new petrol stations is essential.

During the 2017 General Election campaign, Alternattiva Demokratika proposed the phasing out of vehicles running on internal combustion engines in Malta over a 20-year period. This time-frame was deemed sufficient to develop an infrastructure for electric-driven cars. It was also deemed to be a reasonable time-frame to permit those who possessed vehicles running on internal combustion engines to adjust to a new reality without petrol or diesel.

This position was also taken up by the Labour government in Malta after the June election. However the details have not yet been determined.

Various other countries have decided on, or are considering, eliminating internal combustion engine driven vehicles from their roads, including Norway (by 2025), the Netherlands (by 2025), Germany (by 2030), France (by 2040), the United Kingdom (by 2040), India (by 2040) and China (by 2040). Others will soon inevitably follow.

In addition, car manufacturers are considering shifting to a manufacturing mode that will only produce hybrid or fully electric cars. Volvo will proceed on such a path by 2019 and no doubt others will follow fast on Volvo’s heels.

Within this context, does it make any sense to continue issuing development permits for more petrol stations?

We need an in-depth examination of transport related policies. It is clear to everyone  that our roads are bursting at the seams and that the further development of our road infrastructure is opening up our roads to more cars, as a consequence adding to our pollution problems and simultaneously making our accessibility worse.

An overhaul of Malta’s transport policies should seek to promote sustainable transport policies thereby reducing the number of cars on our roads.

Yesterday, I addressed a press conference on the site of the proposed extension to the road network at Attard. This project, when implemented, will take up valuable irrigated agricultural land. This is one more instance which will increase the number of cars on our roads, gobble up agricultural land and ruin the life of full time farmers.

Transport policy on these islands seems to be multi-directional, sending mixed signals in all directions. Some coherence is required. Establishing a moratorium on the construction of new petrol stations and establishing a date by which internal combustion engine driven vehicles are phased out from our roads would be a good first step. This should then be followed by ending the crazy spree of the development of new roads.

It is a process which will lead us to reclaim our roads for our own use, but then it will take some time.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 3 December 2017

Għalxejn nippuntaw subgħajna lejn xulxin

Il-bieraħ Alternattiva Demokratika ltaqgħet mal-Partit Laburista madwar mejda, mejda oħra, differenti minn dik ta’ nhar il-Gimgħa.

Huwa importanti li l-partiti politiċi nitkellmu flimkien iktar spiss. Hemm bżonn nitkellmu iktar imma ukoll hemm bżonn li nisimgħu iktar lil xulxin.

Tkellimna dwar il-politika, dwar dak li qed jiġri kif ukoll dwar dak li ġara. Tkellimna dwar l-ambjent, dwar it-toroq, dwar l-ODZ, dwar l-inċinerazzjoni u dwar id-droga.

Tkellimna dwar il-Konvenzjoni Kostituzzjonali u dwar l-istituzzjonijiet: kif dawn għandhom jissaħħu.

Meta Alternattiva Demokratika tieħu sehem f’laqgħat bħal dawn, dan tagħmlu għax bħal kull partit politiku għandha l-obbligu li ssemma leħinha u twassal dak li taħseb f’kull rokna tal-pajjiż.

Xi kultant l-għajjat u t-tejatrin fil-politka jista’ jidher neċessarju u effettiv. Imma fl-aħħar minn l-aħħar dan qatt ma jsolvi xejn. Il-problemi jistgħu jissolvew biss bil-kalma, madwar il-mejda. Dejjem ovvjament jekk aħna lesti li noqgħodu bil-qegħda u nisimgħu lil ħaddieħor bħalma nippretendu li ħaddieħor jisma’ lilna.

Pajjiżna għandu problemi li m’humiex żgħar. Biex nibdew insolvuhom jeħtieġ is-sehem ta’ kulħadd. Bħal dejjem, Alternattiva Demokratika lesta tagħti s-sehem tagħha. Dan tagħmlu billi titkellem ma kulħadd u ma tipponta subgħajha lejn ħadd.

Madwar il-mejda aħjar

Iktar kmieni illum flimkien ma uffiċjali oħra ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika iltqajt ma’ Adrian Delia l-Kap tal-PN. Iddiskutejna l-qagħda politika attwali u l-veduti taż-żewġ partiti dwar dak liqiegħed iseħħ bħalissa.

Il-klima politika li qed tiżviluppa fil-pajjiż qed twassal għal ħsara rreparabbli għar-reputazzjoni internazzjonali tal-pajjiż u iktar minn hekk qed ikunu imminati l-istituzzjonijiet tal-pajjiż li diġa huma dgħajfa. Dan ifisser li issa, iktar minn qatt qabel, hu meħtieġ li l-partiti politiċi f’Malta jaħdmu flimkien biex insibu soluzzjonijiet li jkunu effettivi kemm immedjatament kif ukoll fit-tul.

Din kien l-ewwel laqgħa. Il-ġimgħa d-dieħla ser niltaqgħu ma’ Joseph Muscat u l-Partit Laburista.

Nittama li din l-inizjattiva żgħira ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika tkun ta’ kontribut biex iġġib lill-partiti politiċi flimkien madwar il-medja, fejn jistgħu jinstabu s-soluzzjonijiet meħtieġa fl-interess tal-pajjiż.