Green gaps in the Budget

The green gaps in the Budget speech cannot be patched up with the millions of euros spread in the pockets of both those in need as well as those who are well off.

Edward Scicluna’s Budget speech last Monday was far too long. Yet in its over 100 pages it missed addressing a number of environmental issues on which different government spokespersons pontificate throughout the rest of the year: confirming that they just pay lip-service to the issues.

The lack of good environmental governance has considerable economic and social impact as is evident to one and all.

While the Budget proposals strengthen the social safety net, it is to be underlined that quality of life is not measured solely in terms of financial metrics. Throwing euros at problems does not lead to any solutions.

The budget speech correctly emphasises the necessity of waste recycling. Unfortunately, the Minister for Finance did not explain how this effort should be integrated into a circular economy, even though the Environment Minister repeatedly boasts of how supposedly the move towards a circular economy is a priority for government. In the entire speech, the circular economy is not mentioned once. Nor does the Economic Survey dwell on the matter or even faintly refer to the matter.

This raises the suspicion that government has lost the plot and does not have any policy ideas on such an important aspect of the economy with its social, economic and environmental effects.

The Budget speech emphasises the energy generation potential from waste incineration which requires large volumes of waste in order to be viable. But the budget speech is silent on how this fits in with the stated commitment to actually reduce the volume of waste.

The government is trying to square the circle; on the one hand it wants to reduce waste but on the other hand it needs more and more waste to make its huge incinerator viable.
The Budget speech also gives the impression that it addresses important aspects which impact the quality of life when in fact offers only half-baked and token solutions.

Among them is the point on water policy. The speech mentions incentives to encourage repairs of existing wells but then it avoids altogether a real and focused effort to address the acute issue of dwellings built without water cisterns, with the consequence that water ends up in the public sewers or flooding our streets.

Developers are let of the hook even when roads are flooded and sewers are overflowing, not to mention the sheer waste of perfectly good water.

The same can be said of the supposed solutions to traffic congestion. The Budget speech refers to the financial incentives available to encourage the use of alternative modes of transport, but here again it ignores the roots of the problem. The government spending of millions of euros for the development of the road infrastructure will only increase traffic congestion, thereby squeezing users of alternative means of transport off the roads.

It is useless to incentivize the purchase of bicycles and pedelecs when there is no investment in adequate infrastructure to ensure that people can commute safely using these important alternative means of transport, which actually help to decrease congestion in our roads.

Over one year ago the Prime Minister had taken a leaf from Alternattiva Demokratika’s electoral manifesto and declared that the government will determine a cut-off date by which new cars will need to be electrically driven or possibly of a hybrid nature.

This declaration had heralded the issue of electrification of transport on our roads addressing two major issues: the quality of air and the contribution of transport emissions to climate change. This, once implemented, would be a substantial contribution to the decarbonisation of the Maltese economy. We are none the wiser on government plans after listening to or reading the budget speech.

Clearly financial parameters are not the only indicators of our quality of life. The green gaps in the budget speech need plugging at the soonest.

published in The Sunday Times of Malta : Sunday 28 October 2018

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Wara d-dibattitu fi Strasburgu

 

Id-dibattitu tal-ġimgħa l-oħra fil-Parlament Ewropew dwar is-saltna tad-dritt wera li prattikament il-partiti politiċi kollha huma mħassba dwar is-saltna tad-dritt f’Malta. Il-qtil ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia jkompli jżid ma dan it-tħassib.

It-tħassib hu wieħed akkumulat u huwa ġġustifikat minħabba diversi affarijiet li ġraw fuq tul ta’ żmien.

Il-ħatra u r-riżenja ta’ diversi Kummissarji tal-Pulizija matul dawn il-ħames snin xejn ma għen f’dan il-kuntest.

Ir-rapporti tal-FIAU (Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit) li waslu għand il-Kummissarju tal-Pulizija u ma ittieħdu l-ebda passi dwarhom ukoll wasslu l-messaġġ li f’dan il-pajjiż xejn m’hu xejn: li l-liġi hi bla siwi.

Jekk il-liġi hi bla siwi għax l-awtorijtajiet li għandhom l-obbligu li jimplimentawha jagħlqu għajnejhom, daqqa waħda u drabi oħra t-tnejn, hu ġustifikat li jingħad li s-saltna tad-dritt hi mhedda.

F’dan il-kuntest ma tista’ tagħti tort lil ħadd li jissuspetta illi l-awtoritajiet kollha ħaġa waħda, jħokku dahar xulxin. Anke jekk mhux neċessarjament hekk.

Imma hemm min qiegħed japprofitta ruħu minn din is-sitwazzjoni biex jiżra’ sfiduċja iktar milli diġa hawn. Ilkoll kemm aħna, fuq quddiem nett il-partiti politiċi, għandna l-obbligu li f’din is-siegħa delikata ma nesagerawx fil-kritika li nagħmlu. Anke fejn il-kritika hi ġustifikata. Il-kritika li issir hemm bżonn li tkun waħda responsabbli avolja jkun hemm min ma jagħtix każ, jew inkella jipprova jagħti l-impressjoni li mhux qed jagħti każ.

Il-fatti jibqgħu dejjem fatti.

Il-Prim Ministru żbalja meta ma tajjarx lill-Konrad Mizzi mill-Kabinett u lil Keith Schembri minn Chief of Staff fl-uffiċċju tiegħu wara li isimhom deher fil-lista magħrufa bħala Panama Papers. Kien żball oħxon li anke fil-Partit Laburista stess kien hemm dibattitu jaħraq dwaru. Fil-Partit Laburista kien hemm min kellu l-kuraġġ li jesprimi fehmtu dwar dan fil-pubbliku. Hekk għamlu s-sena l-oħra Evarist Bartolo u Godfrey Farrugia. Kien hemm oħrajn li tkellmu fil-magħluq waqt laqgħat tal-Grupp Parlamentari. Fil-gazzetti kienu ssemmew l-ismijiet tad-Deputat Prim Ministru ta’ dak iż-żmien Louis Grech u tal-Ministri Leo Brincat, Edward Scicluna u George Vella. Hemm ukoll id-dikjarazzjoni ċara pubblika ta’ Alfred Sant, avolja dan issa qed jitkellem ftit differenti. Naf li hemm oħrajn. Kollha talbu r-riżenja ta’ Konrad Mizzi.

Il-preokkupazzjoni tal-lum hi in parti riżultat ta’ din id-deċiżjoni żbaljata tal-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat.

Il-kobba issa kompliet titħabbel bil-qtil ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Sfortunatament hemm min qed jitfa l-argumenti kollha f’borma waħda u jgħaqqad, b’mod irresponsabbli l-affarijiet, meta s’issa għad ma hemm l-ebda prova dwar min wettaq dan id-delitt u għal liema raġuni. L-iżbalji li saru fil-kors tal-investigazzjoni xejn m’huma ta’ għajnuna. La d-dewmien tal-Maġistrat Consuelo Scerri Herrera biex ma tibqax tmexxi l-investigazzjoni Maġisterjali u l-anqas li d-Deputat Kummissarju Silvio Valletta ma fehemx li l-presenza tiegħu fl-investigazzjoni tista’ tkun ta’ xkiel għall-kredibilita tal-konkluzjonijiet m’huma ser jgħinu.

F’dan il-kuntest il-kummenti ta’ Frans Timmermans Viċi President Ewlieni tal-Kummissjoni Ewropea huma ta’ validità kbira: “Let the investigation run its full course. What is not on is to start with a conclusion and look for facts to support that conclusion.”

Il-preokkupazzjoni tagħna lkoll hi ġustifikata. Imma tajjeb li nżommu quddiem għajnejna li t-taħwid kollu li għandna quddiemna ma tfaċċax f’daqqa, ilu jinġabar ftit ftit. Biex dan jingħeleb jeħtieġ l-isforz flimkien ta’ kull min hu ta’ rieda tajba.

 

ippubblikat f’Illum – Il-Ħadd 19 ta’ Novembru 2017

Beyond the Strasbourg debate

Last week’s debate in the European Parliament on the rule of law in Malta revealed that all political parties are preoccupied with the matter and the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia has made a bad situation worse.

This preoccupation has not developed overnight, it has accumulated over time. The appointment of various Commissioners of Police and their subsequent resignation for a variety of reasons has not been helpful: it has reinforced the perception that “all is not well in the state of Denmark”.

The Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit reports received by the Commissioner of Police, and in respect of which no investigation was carried out, sent out one clear message: in this country, some people are clearly not subject to the rule of law. Can anyone be blamed if this message – sent by the Commissioner of Police – was clearly understood by one and all?

This transmits an additional clear message: the authorities are in cahoots; they are scratching each other’s back. Even though reality may be different, this is the message which has gone through.

Unfortunately, some people may be cashing in on these developments and, as a result, increasing exponentially the lack of trust in public authorities in Malta. This is a very dangerous development and calls for responsible action on the part of one and all, primarily political parties. Speaking out publicly about these developments is justified, notwithstanding the continuous insults which keep being levelled against such a stand. It is time to stand up and be counted.

The Prime Minister erred when he did not dismiss Minister Konrad Mizzi and Chief of Staff at the OPM Keith Schembri on the spot, after it was clear that their names featured prominently in the Panama Papers. This serious error by the Prime Minister triggered a debate about the matter in the Labour Party. Some even had the courage to speak publicly: Evarist Bartolo and Godfrey Farrugia did so. Others participated actively in the internal debates within the Labour Party, in particular during meetings of the Parliamentary Group. Last year, the media had mentioned various Labour MPs as having been vociferous in internal debates on the matter: it was reported that former Deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech and senior Ministers Leo Brincat, Edward Scicluna and George Vella took the lead.

Even former Labour Leader Alfred Sant made public declarations in support of required resignations. This week, Sant sought to change his tune in a hysterical contribution to the Strasbourg debate. Others have preferred silence.

The Prime Minister’s erroneous position in refusing to fire Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri has been a major contributor to the present state of affairs. The murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia has made matters worse and has, justifiably, led to the current preoccupation with the question of whether the rule of law is still effective in Malta at all.

Unfortunately some individuals begin linking all the incidents together – in the process, weaving a story which is quite different from reality, at least that which is known so far. Some claim to be able to joint the dots, thereby creating a narrative unknown to the rest of us, because the dots can be joined in many different ways.

Mistakes made during the initial stages of the investigation of the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder further reinforce the perceptions that all is not well. When Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera took quite some time to realise that it was not right for her to lead the investigation into the murder of a journalist who had been the prime mover in torpedoing her elevation to the position of a Judge in the Superior Courts, everyone was shocked.

Even the failure of Deputy Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta to realise that for him to lead the police investigation into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder could dent the credibility of the police investigation in view of his marriage to a Cabinet Minister was another serious mistake. This is no reflection on the couple’s integrity but an ethical consideration which should have been taken into consideration in the first seconds of the investigation.

In this context, the comments of European Commission Senior Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans assume greater importance “Let the investigation run its  full course. What is not on is to start with a conclusion and look for facts to support that conclusion.”

It is reasonable that all of us are seriously preoccupied. The present state of affairs did not develop overnight. It requires the concerted efforts of all of us to be put right.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 19 November 2017 

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

Tax avoidance: does Malta play a role?

basf-malta

On 30 August, the European Union, through Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, ordered Apple Corporation to pay €13 billion in unpaid taxes to the Irish state.  The EU ruling considered that the special tax treatment of Apple, whose tax bill was substantially reduced, amounted to unlawful state aid.

In November 2014, through Luxleaks, we learnt of tax avoidance schemes in Luxembourg and elsewhere, as a result of which billions of euros in tax were being avoided by multinational corporations.

The EU has subsequently launched various investigations into the favourable tax treatment which Luxembourg, The Netherlands and Belgium have granted to various multinationals.

As a contribution to the on-going debate on tax avoidance in the EU, the Green Group in the European Parliament has recently published a study on the tax avoidance strategies adopted by the industrial giant BASF, the largest chemical company in the world.

Founded in 1865, BASF has its headquarters in Ludwigshafen, Germany, from where it manages a €70.4 billion turnover with production sites in 80 countries.

Malta features in this report together with Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Over the years, BASF has used mismatches in national tax systems in order to avoid paying its taxes. It is estimated that, over a five-year period spanning 2010 to 2014, BASF avoided the payment of close to one billion euros in taxes.

Chapter VIII of the report, published by the Green Group in the European Parliament, deals with Malta. It refers to the existence of a BASF subsidiary in Malta which held €5.07 billion in assets. These assets where transferred to a new German subsidiary, BASF Finance Malta GMBH, which was managed from an office in St Julian’s, thereby creating the eligibility for preferential tax treatment which could amount to as much as a refund of six-sevenths of all tax payable in Malta.

All this is a clearly planned movement of profits through generous loopholes as a way of avoiding most of, if not all, of the taxation which would be due under normal circumstances.

This abuse of the differences in national tax systems needs to be addressed urgently. As rightly stated by Malta’s Finance Minister Edward Scicluna at a Luxembourg ECOFIN meeting last September, the way forward lies in coordination at an EU level and not in the harmonisation of the national taxation systems, as some EU member states are insisting.

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 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 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 tax rules. For this to happen, the member states must not only be vigilant, but 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 – 4 December 2016

Int tibża’ mill-Kasco?

Keith & Joseph

Int tibża mill-Kasco? Għax il-Partit Nazzjonalista qal li ma jibżax. Tant li għada ser jibgħat Kastilja ċekk ta’ €121,000 wara li l-Kasco bagħat ittra uffiċjali biex jiġbor id-dejn mingħand il-PN.

Hekk tajjeb, bla biża!

Il-PN ma jibżax mill-Kasco. Imma l-anqas il-Kasco ma jibża’ mill-PN.

Imma donnu x’imkien ieħor hemm min qed jibża’ sewwa. Is-Sunday Times tal-lum fil-fatt tirrapporta li hemm battalja għaddejja dwar jekk il-Kap tat-Tax Compliance Unit hux ser jibqa’ fil-ħatra. Jidher li hemm min irid ineħħieh bl-iskuża li l-kuntratt ta’ tlett snin għalaqlu. Il-Professur Edward Scicluna, Ministru tal-Finanzi, qed jirreżisti. Imma tas-Sunday Times jgħidu li minn Kastilja ma jridux jafu!

Ghax la l-Kasco ma jibżax, min qed jibża’?

 

Issa x’imiss …………… wara l-apoloġija ta’ Konrad Mizzi

Konrad Mizzi 101

F’Malta, l-iskandlu tal-Panama ilu għaddej minn Frar, madwar għaxar ġimgħat kontinwi. Tul dawn l-għaxar ġimgħat ħarġet l-informazzjoni dwar żewġ kumpaniji fil-Panama li għandhom il-Ministru Konrad Mizzi u c-Chief of Staff fl-Uffiċċju tal-Prim Ministru Keith Schembri magħruf bħala l-Kasco.

L-apoloġija ta’ Konrad nhar l-Erbgħa fil-Parlament kienet l-aħħar pass s’issa. Imma tajjeb li niftakru dak li ntqal matul dawn il-ġimgħat għax hemm kuntrasti interessanti.

Fil-bidu kien qed jingħad b’insistenza li Konrad ma għamel xejn ħażin.

Mument importanti kien fil-bidu tax-xahar t’April meta ħarġet l-aħbar li fil-grupp Parlamentari tal-Partit Laburista kien hemm diskussjoni imqanqla dwar l-iskandlu. Diversi Ministri u membri parlamentari insistew (bejn erba’ ħitan) li Konrad Mizzi u Keith Schembri l-Kasco kellhom jirriżenjaw.

L-aħbar ħarġet fil-pubbliku bħalma ħarġu l-ismijiet ta’ uħud minn dawk li kienu qed jinsistu għar-riżenja. Evarist Bartolo, Godfrey Farrugia u Alfred Sant tkellmu b’mod ċar fil-pubbliku li Konrad Mizzi kellu jerfa’ r-responsabbiltajiet tiegħu u jirriżenja.

Anke Edward Scicluna tkellem fil-Parlament dwar il-ħtieġa li jittieħdu deċiżjonijiet iebsa u malajr. Kulhadd jirrikonoxxi li l-fatt li dawn il-Ministri/Membri tal-Parlament tkellmu b’dan il-mod kien pass kbir il-quddiem. Kienet xi ħaġa mhux tas-soltu.

Bosta ġustament qed jistaqsu għaliex dawk fil-Partit Laburista li tkellmu favur ir-riżenja ma ivvutawx favur il-mozzjoni ta’ sfiduċja imressqa minn Marlene Farrugia. Ma naħsibx li jkun ġust li wieħed jgħid li dawn kellhom nuqqas ta’ kuraġġ. Huwa essenzjalment realiżmu politiku li wara li kellhom il-kuraġġ li jimxu kontra l-kurrent ma rnexxilhomx jaslu t-triq kollha. Irnexxilhom “biss” iwasslu lill-Partit Laburista jimxi biċċa mit-triq.

Jidher li kien hemm kompromess intern fil-Partit Laburista matul ix-xahar t’April. Dan il-kompromess hu wieħed interessanti għax bħala riżultat tiegħu  Konrad Mizzi ma baqax jgħid li ma għamel xejn ħażin, anzi talab skuża (anke jekk din kienet waħda imqanżha). Riżultat ta’ dan il-kompromess intern jidher li hemm qbil fil-partit laburista li “l-ħtija ta’ Konrad hi waħda żgħira” u allura l-kastig għandu jkun wieħed hekk imsejjaħ “proporzjonali”: għalhekk Ministru bla portafoll u riżenja minn Deputy Leader tal-Partit Laburista. Dan l-argument ċar joħroġ min-numru ta’ diskorsi li saru nhar l-Erbgħa fil-Parlament. B’mod partikolari minn Joseph Muscat u Edward Zammit Lewis.

Ċertament li mhux biżżejjed. Imma naħseb li hu pass il-quddiem għal dawk fil-grupp parlamentari laburista li għamlu rebħa żgħira li jistgħu jibnu fuqha fil-futur. Wasslu lill-partit laburista biex jaċċetta li hemm ħtija li trid tintrefa’. Dan hu mertu tal-opinjoni pubblika li ċaqalqet lill-Partit Laburista mill-egħruq.

Kif kelli l-opportunità li ngħid fuq dan il-blog diversi membri tal-grupp parlamentari laburista huma konxji li “s-skiet tal-Partit Laburista quddiem it-taħwid tal-Gvernijiet tas-snin 70 u 80 kienet raġuni ewlenija li kkundannat lill-partit għal 25 sena fl-Opposizzjoni.” Għalhekk Konrad Mizzi ġie mġiegħel jagħmel apoloġija. Għalhekk tneħħa minn Deputy Leader. Għalhekk tneħħewlu r-responsabbiltajiet diretti. Biex ta’ l-inqas il-Partit Laburista jagħti messaġġ simboliku.

Imma l-messaġġ simboliku mhux biżżejjed. Imma xorta hu pass li jikkuntrasta mac-ċaħda totali li kienet il-posizzjoni oriġinali tal-Partit Laburista.

Huwa neċessarju li d-deċiżjonijiet jittieħdu mill-ewwel u b’mod ċar.

L-ewwel pass hu dejjem tajjeb. Imma qatt ma hu biżżejjed.

Sadanittant l-iskandlu tal-Panama jibqa’ miftuħ beraħ sakemm ta’ l-inqas jirriżenjaw għal kollox Konrad Mizzi u Keith il-Kasco Schembri. Il-ħidma trid tibqa’ għaddejja sa ma naslu.

Il-Grupp Parlamentari Laburista u l-iskandlu tal-Panama

Joseph Muscat +

Id-dimostrazzjoni tal-Partit Laburista li saret fuq Kastilja nhar il-Ħadd l-1 ta’ Mejju ma kienitx dwar l-iskandlu tal-Panama. Bħal kull attività politika pubblika tingħata t-tifsira li jkun l-aktar jaqbel. Għalhekk naturali, u nifhem li l-Partit Laburista, taħt assedju tul dawn l-aħħar tmien ġimgħat, jinterpreta d-daqs tal-folla fuq Kastilja bħala waħda li tagħtih appoġġ f’dan il-mument diffiċli.

Peró, fir-realtà, x’appoġġ qed tagħti l-folla lill-partit f’dan il-mument kritiku?

Il-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat innifsu mhuwiex ċert. Ġie ikkwota jgħid li jekk il-każ Panama huwiex magħluq jew le, iridu jkunu in-nies li jiddeċiedu. Ma kienx qed jirreferi biss għal dawk li kellu quddiemu. Muscat hu konxju li kemm Konrad Mizzi kif ukoll Keith Schembri l-Kasco għamlu gaffe kbir. Imma Konrad u Keith ħadmu miegħu mill-qrib u hu ovvju li jħossu obbligat mhux ftit lejhom. Għalhekk dam biex iddeċieda u meta iddeċieda iċċaqlaq mill-inqas u effettivament ma ddeċieda xejn.

Ittieħdu żewġ miżuri : Konrad ma baqax direttament responsabbli għall-enerġija imma tħalla membru tal-Kabinett bħala Ministru bla portafoll. Kien ġest simboliku li bih Joseph Muscat qed jirrikonoxxi li sar żball imma mhux qiegħed jaċċetta li l-iżball hu gravi biżżejjed li jimmerita tkeċċija. L-iskuża fjakka li qed iġib Muscat hi li ħadd ma qiegħed jallega llegalità. Li mhux qiegħed jgħid Muscat hu li dwar allegazzjonijiet ta’ illegalità ma hemmx ħtieġa ta’ intervent tiegħu għax jeżistu mekkaniżmi legali li jipprovdu għal dan l-intervent min-naħa tal-awtoritajiet. L-issue reali, a bażi ta’ dak li hu magħruf s’issa pubblikament hi waħda ta’ imġieba u ta’ serjetà fit-tmexxija [good governance].

Konrad irriżenja [jew ġie mitlub jirriżenja] minn Deputy Leader tal-Partit ftit ġimgħat wara li inħatar f’elezzjoni fejn kien jidher li kien il-magħżul u tellaq waħdu.

Il-mistoqsija inevitabbli hi : għalfejn ma rriżenjax minn kollox? Dak li għamel [li għandu kumpanija fil-Panama] għandu jkun tal-mistħija għalih, għall-partit u għall-pajjiż. Dwar l-istess ħaġa irriżenja l-Prim Ministru tal-Iżlanda kif ukoll Ministru Spanjol. Imma Konrad le, għax skond Joseph, fil-waqt li l-affarijiet setgħu saru aħjar, ma sar xejn ħażin.

Din hi l-qalba tal-problema. Li Joseph Muscat hu amorali. L-etika għalih hi irrelevanti. Jgħodd x’inhu legali jew illegali imma mhux x’inhu tajjeb jew ħażin.

Fortunatament bosta membri tal-grupp parlamentari jaħsbuha differenti minn hekk. Hemm min tkellem fil-pubbliku bħalma għamlu Evarist Bartolo u Godfrey Farrugia. Hemm oħrajn li tkellmu fil-magħluq waqt laqgħa tal-Grupp Parlamentari. Issemmew l-ismijiet tad-Deputat Prim Ministru Louis Grech u tal-Ministri Leo Brincat, Edward Scicluna u George Vella. Hemm ukoll id-dikjarazzjoni ċara ta’ Alfred Sant. Naf li hemm oħrajn. Kollha talbu r-riżenja ta’ Konrad Mizzi.

Il-grupp parlamentari laburista m’huwiex kuntent bis-sitwazzjoni. Huwa konxju li s-skiet tal-Partit Laburista quddiem it-taħwid tal-Gvernijiet tas-snin 70 u 80 kienet raġuni ewlenija li kkundannat lill-partit għal 25 sena fl-Opposizzjoni. Illum jirrealizzzaw li hu kmieni wisq, wara biss tlett snin, biex il-partit laburista jsib ruħu f’dan it-taħwid kollu. Il-ftit li għamel Joseph dwar il-kaz (anke jekk kosmetiku) għamlu biex jipprova jissodisfa lill-grupp parlamentari tiegħu. Imma xorta ħadd ma hu sodisfatt. Dan kien jidher anke nhar il-Ħadd mill-body language ta’ Joseph x’ħin kien qed jindirizza l-folla fuq Kastilja.

Iċ-ċavetta qegħda f’idejn il-grupp parlamentari laburista biex dan iwassal lill-partit forsi jiġi f’sensieh. Is-soċjetà ċivili ukoll għandha responsabbiltà kbira li tibqa’ ssemma’ leħinha biex tkompli tagħmel il-kuraġġ lil dawk li fil-Partit Laburista qed jinsistu li Konrad (u Keith) għandhom jirriżenjaw. L-intellettwali tal-pajjiż hemm bżonn ukoll li joħorġu mill-friża u jiftħu ħalqhom flok ma jillimitaw ruħhom għat-tfesfis fil-widnejn.

Għax il-folol preżenti għad-dimostrazzjonijiet m’humiex biżżejjed biex tirbaħ l-elezzjonijiet. Hemm bżonn ferm iktar minn hekk. L-imġieba tajba tal-Gvern hi element essenzjali. U dan il-Gvern, bħal ta’ qablu qiegħed iġib ruħu ħażin.

Iż-żewġ verżjonijiet tal-budget

edward scicluna budget 2016

 

L-iżbalji jagħmilhom kulħadd. Peró fuq materji ta’ serjetà kbira bħalma hu l-budget hemm Dipartiment sħiħ tal-Gvern li suppost għandu jnaqqas il-possibilità ta’ żbalji kbar.

L-iżball jidher li kien illi l-verżjoni tad-diskors li ttieħdet biex tkun stampata kienet waħda bikrija, u mhux l-aħħar waħda. Bil-konsegwenza li l-kopja tad-diskors li ngħatat kmieni lill-Opposizzjoni kif ukoll dik li tqegħdet fuq il-mejda tal-Parlament kienet il-kopja żbaljata. Anke l-kopja li għal xi ħin kienet online kienet dik żbaljat.

Id-diskrepanza eżatta għadni ma nafx x’inhi imma jidher li hemm differenza ta’ madwar 50 miżura bejn iż-żewġ verżjonijiet tal-budget. Matul il-ġranet u l-ġimgħat li ġejjin, bla dubju nisimgħu iktar dwar dawn id-diskrepanzi.

Konna nafu li nqala’ xi ħaġa għax sal-ħin li qed nikteb dan il-blogpost għad m’għandix kopja stampata tad-dokumenti tal-budget. Qed nagħmel użu mill-verżjoni elettronika li kif tafu mhux dejjem hi l-aħjar verżjoni li tuża meta tkun qed tagħmel użu minnha fit-tul.

Il-Ministru Scicluna m’għandu l-ebda tort li sar l-iżball. Peró seta evita li jħalli l-inċident jikber kieku spjega mill-ewwel x’ġara nhar it-Tnejn qabel ma beda jaqra l-budget.

Bla dubju, daqsxejn umiltà kienet tagħmel il-ġid.