Il-Gvern tal-Labour ABZ mill-ambjent

F’Jum l-Ambjent, il-Gvern ABZ mill-ambjent u mill-impatti ambjentali

Jum l-ambjent, din is- sena, għal darba oħra, ma jfissirx affarijiet sbieħ. Ġimgħa wara l-oħra ħlief aħbarijiet li huma ta’ ħsara ambjentali m’hawnx.

L-istorja tan-Nigret li, suppost tkompli għada, hi waħda minn tal-aħħar.  Art barra miż-żona tal-iżvilupp (ODZ) ingħatat għall-bini mill-Gvern tal-PN. Il-Labour fil-Gvern jista’ jżommha milli tinbena, imma ma għamel xejn u ma hu ser jagħmel xejn.

Il-bieraħ kellna lill-Ministru għall-Finanzi jgħidilna li bil-mudell ekonomiku tiegħu, f’Malta ser ikollna 800,000 ruħ sas-sena 2040. Meta ikkunsidrajt sur Clyde l-impatti ta’ dawn kollha fuq l-ambjent?

Ir-residenti tal-Belt huma irrabjati għax il-Belt Valletta qed tkun ittransformata f’ċentru ta’ divertiment, bi storjbu sotanzjali matul il-lejl.

Il-Gvern ma jimpurtaħx minn dan kollu. Għax filwaqt li għandna ħafna tejatrin għaddej dwar l-ambjent, fir-realtà il-Gvern tal-Labour hu ABZ mill-ambjent u mill-impatti ambjentali.

Greening the Constitution

Within another ten months, the presidency of George Vella will have come to and end. His enthusiasm for a Constitutional Convention, so far, did not lead to any known tangible results. Covid-19, definitely did not help.

The debate of entrenching environmental protection in the Constitution, thereby reducing or completely removing governmental discretion as to when it can act, is healthy. It signifies recognition that we cannot trust the executive with exercising reasonable discretion, as it has not to date been reasonable in the way it has acted on environmental stewardship.

Let us start at the very beginning. Our Constitution, in its second chapter, contains declaratory provisions which establish a number of basic objectives of government, amongst which the environmental objectives to be attained. The environmental objectives, which were amplified in a recent amendment to the Constitution, moved by then Environment Minister José Herrera, are, in terms of the Constitution itself, fundamental to the governance of the country. They cannot, however, be enforced in a Court of Law. This means that in practice these environmental provisions of the Constitution are for all intents and purposes a dead letter. They need to be enforceable, the soonest, as my party has repeatedly emphasised both in its electoral manifesto in various elections as well as in its submissions to the now stalled Constitutional Convention.

It is now being suggested by the PN that the environment should be a human right entrenched in the Constitution. What does this mean? I think that what has been stated so far is a wrong choice of words. The environment cannot be and is not a human right. What they most probably mean is that access to a protected environment should be a guaranteed human right.  This is a tall order and it signifies that the PN has to reverse a substantial number of its policies in order to be credible: first on the list it needs to reverse its commitment to the 2006 rationalisation plan for consistency. We will wait and see what they really have in mind.

Environmental protection in the Constitution should, in my view, mean ensuring that humans respect the eco-system of which, together with plants and other animals we all form part. It should mean protection of biodiversity, both fauna and flora as well as their habitats. It should also signify the protection of the aquifer as this is not and should not be considered as private property. It also signifies a recognition of the national value of historical heritage.

Unfortunately, the Constitution emphasises in the minutest of details the need to protect private property but then it ignores the significance and the intrinsic value of the eco-system of which we form part and which belongs to all of us.

Reference to the natural environment in the Constitution should be eco-centric and not anthropocentric. This means that when considering the environment, the Constitution should deal with the protection of the rights of nature and not human rights. It is about time that we should start thinking about the rights of nature and link this with the rights of future generations who have a right to breathe unpolluted air and drink unpolluted water and enjoy nature in all its aspects. This is our common heritage and we should handle it with care.

Environmental references in our Constitution should ensure that after years of preaching sustainability we can, maybe, translate our beliefs into legal tools in order that governments are bound to implement sustainable policies.

As things stand the Constitution provides guiding principles when dealing with environmental issues. This has proven to be insufficient as none of the Maltese governments since 1964 has acted in accordance with this constitutional guidance.

If we are to learn anything from the current mess it is that the way forward is to spell out clear environmental objectives which tie the hands of governments.

Greening the Constitution could be a first step in bring our house in order. At the end of the day, however, the Courts must be in a position to be able to instruct government to carry out its duty when it has failed to do so.

published on The Malta Independent on Sunday: 4 June 2023

In-Nigret: more agricultural land to be bulldozed

The local plans are seven in number. They are supplemented by a land use planning rationalisation exercise. This consists of the identification of land outside the development zone (ODZ), approximately 2 million square metres in area, on the outskirts of existing urban areas and settlements all over the islands. In July 2006, Parliament, decided that this ODZ land was suitable for development.

The PN led government had then proposed and voted in favour of developing this ODZ land with the Labour Opposition voting against the proposal. But come March 2013 nothing changed as a result of the change in government. Notwithstanding that Labour in Opposition had voted against the proposal, the ODZ land remained within the development zone. All two million square metres of it. As aptly underlined by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa in his Il Gattopardo: the more things appear to change the more they remain the same. Greed is in fact colour blind.

Today, almost 17 years after the event, our local communities are realising what that Parliamentary vote signifies. Together with my colleagues I have been all around the island on a regular basis discussing with residents the resulting overdevelopment which is eating up agricultural land at a fast rate. Most localities are impacted.

This week it is the turn of agricultural land at In-Nigret, on the outskirts of Żurrieq, where more agricultural land will soon be cleared for development. Residents are up in arms as they have realised that another 14,960 square metres of arable agricultural land will be shortly developed. Two particular applications for planning control have been submitted (PC85/18 and PC49/19). The former application has already been approved last year while the second application will be considered shortly: it has already been recommended for approval by the Planning Directorate at the Planning Authority.

The planning process currently in hand is concerned with zoning and with determining the extent of permissible development, that is the permissible height and the development density. The development has however already been approved in principle 17 years ago. Unfortunately, notwithstanding the efforts of my party as well as those of environmental NGOs, residential communities ignored the warning signs staring them in the face. Now that the threat of destructive development is approaching individual communities, they are realising that they have been taken for a ride for quite some time. They are now awakening from their blissful slumber, suddenly realising that those whom they trusted all along have betrayed them by giving up for development the open spaces surrounding our settlements and urban areas.

Giving up agricultural land for building development does not make any sense. This is not just an objective argument in favour of protecting agricultural land. It is also essential to protect the green lungs around our urban areas and settlements.

What sense does it make to embark on a €700 million spending spree on the greening of our urban environment and then, simultaneously to bulldoze through our fertile fields? Project Green, if it is to have any worth should first and foremost seek to protect our existing green lungs. This applies not only to the Nigret fields facing the bulldozer in the coming months. It also applies all around the islands to each and every one of the two million square metres of ODZ land which Parliament, 17 years ago, earmarked for development.

The question being asked is: what can be done about it? Is it not too late to act after 17 years? There are very few avenues which can be explored at this late hour but there are some possibilities which hopefully can be utilised to defend the little we have been left with. 

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 21 May 2023

L-Awtorità tax-Xandir: għalfejn qegħda hemm?

Xi ġimgħat ilu iddeċidejna bħala partit li nħarsu sewwa lejn il-media politika (ONE u NET) u l-fatt li dawn kienu qed jinjorawna. Għalihom qiesna ma neżistux. Hekk jixtiequ fil-fatt, għax jidhrilhom li l-eżistenza tagħna hi xkiel għalihom. Jidhrilhom li ntellfuhom.

Meta ilmentajna mal-Edituri tal-ONE u tan-NET dwar il-fatt li ma jirrappurtawniex, it-tnejn li huma, għall-ewwel weġbuna bl-istess mod: dak li jxandru hu fi-diskrezzjoni editorjali tagħhom.

Sussegwentement, imma, in-NET bidel id-diska. L-ewwel beda jxandar xi affarijiet żgħar, imbagħad beda jxandar ftit iktar. Li ġara kien li ċempilli s-Segretarju Ġenerali tal-PN Michael Piccinino. Niftakar kont Brussels u ċempilli biex infurmani li qalulu bl-ilmenti ta’ ADPD u li hu kien ta’ struzzjonijiet biex dawn ikunu indirizzati. Kien pass tajjeb il-quddiem.

Kien hemm kambjament fuq in-NET. Beda jkun hemm rappurtaġġ avolja mhux ta’ xi kwalità. Kif mistenni joqgħodu attenti biex filwaqt li jirrappurtaw, ħafna drabi fuq fuq, iħallu barra fejn jinqaras il-PN. Dik kont nistenniha, avolja, jekk irridu xandir sura din trid tinqata’ ukoll.

Fil-kaz tal-ONE imma bqajna l-istess. Baqgħu għaddejjin b’ċensura politika totali fl-interess tal-Partit Laburista u kontra l-obbligi li jirriżultaw mill-liċenzja li għandhom.

F’Marzu kellna deċiżjoni li kienet l-ewwel waħda tax-xorta tagħha fejn l-Awtorità tax-Xandir laqgħet ilment ta’ ADPD u ordnat lil ONE ixandru rapport qasir dwar dak li kienu iċċensuraw. Dan kien ġie imxandar, b’geddum sal-art! Is-suġġett dakinnhar kien dwar l-isptarijiet, dwar Vitals u Stewards Health Care!

Il-bieraħ kellna kaz ieħor, dwar il-fatt li xi politiċi qegħdin viċin wisq ta’uħud fin-negożju u li dan hu perikoluż għad-demokrazija. Il-bieraħ l-Awtorità tax-Xandir ħabbret li laqgħet l-ilment tagħna. Qaltilna li għandna raġun. Imma din id-darba ma tatx rimedju. Ma ħarget l-ebda ordni lil ONE biex ixandar fil-qosor dak li kien ġie ċċensurat.

Ngħiduha kif inhi: dan it-tip ta’ rimedju hu essenzjalment wieħed simboliku imma hu meħtieġ.

Imma ma jagħmilx sens li l-Awtorità tax-Xandir tgħidli li għandi raġun, imma fl-istess nifs tgħidli biex nieħu paċenzja.

Għax ngħiduha kif inhi: f’dawn iċ-ċirkustanzi għalfejn għandna awtorità?

In-Nigret : iktar raba’ tajjeb ser jingħata għall-bini

Bħalissa għaddejja diskussjoni dwar applikazzjoni PC 049/19 dwar art agrikola fin-Nigret biex din tinbena. Kellmuna bosta dwar dan.

L-art hi kbira: 11,500 metru kwadru (iva ħdax-il elf u ħames mitt metru kwadru), ftit iktar minn għaxart itmiem.

Hemm kważi 1500 oġġezzjoni għal din l-applikazzjoni li dalwaqt tkun deċiża.

Ftit jirrealizzaw li d-deċiżjoni ilha li ittieħdet mill-2006 biex din l-art tkun tajba għal bini. Id-deċiżjoni ħadha l-Partit Nazzjonalista fil-Gvern permezz tal-Kabinett ta’ Lawrence Gonzi: fuq quddiem il-Ministru George Pullicino.

Dakinnhar Alternattiva Demokratika u l-għaqdiet ambjentali oġġezzjonaw. Il-Labour fl-Opposizzjoni, dakinnhar, fil-Parlament ivvota kontra, imma hekk kif tela’ fil-Gvern ħalla kollox kif kien.

Fl-aħħar programm elettorali ADPD biss insitiet li din l-art m’għandhiex tinbena.

Ir-rapport tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar tlesta u jġib id-data tal-11 ta’ Mejju 2023: jirrakkomanda li l-art għandha tinbena: tlett sulari.

Nirrikunsidraw is-sussidji tal-enerġija, l-ilma u l-fuel

Bla ebda dubju hu l-każ li l-użu tal-enerġija u l-ilma jkun issussidjat f’dan il-mument ta’ kriżi. Dan is-sussidju għandu jkun immirat biex jindirizza l-impatti soċjali ta’ żieda fil-prezz tal-enerġija u l-ilma sakemm nibqgħu taħt l-effett tal-impatti tal-invażjoni tal-Ukrajina. M’għandniex nieħdu t-triq il-faċli li twassal għal abbuż minn fondi pubbliċi imferrxa fuq kulħadd.

Is-sussidji għandhom ikunu indirizzat lejn min għandu l-ħtieġa tagħhom. Xi ħtieġa hemm li tissussidja lil min għandu l-mezzi biex ikampa?

Il-konsum bażiku tal-enerġija u l-ilma fid-djar tagħna għandu definittivament jibqa’ protett bis-sussidji għaż-żmien li ġej. Din hi neċessità soċjali biex primarjament ikunu mħarsa l-vulnerabbli u dawk bi dħul baxx. Imma lil hinn mis-sussidji applikati għal dan il-konsum basiku ta’ enerġija u ilma ma hemm l-ebda raġuni biex dan is-sussidju jkun japplika għal konsum iktar minn dak bażiku. Min għandu l-mezzi li jwasslu għal konsum ikbar għandu jkollu ukoll ir-riżorsi biex jerfa’ l-ispiża addizzjonali tal-konsum tiegħu jew tagħha.

Ma hemm xejn ikkumplikat f’dak li qed ngħid. Huwa l-mod kif wara kollox diġa jinħadmu l-kontijiet għall-ilma li nikkunsmaw: il-konsum bażiku tal-ilma jitħallas b’rati sussidjati, filwaqt li konsum ikbar tal-ilma diġa jitħallas b’rati kummerċjali. M’għandu jkun hemm l-ebda diffikultà li dan jinftiehem: huwa l-mod kif il-kontijiet tal-ilma ilhom jinħadmu għal iktar minn tletin sena!

Dan kollu hu ukoll dibattibbli meta nikkunsidraw il-konsum ta’ ilma u l-enerġija meta dan il-konsum ma jsirx fir-residenzi. Hu raġjonevoli li napplikaw is-sussidji biex inħarsu l-impiegi. Jeħtieġ imma li s-sussidji jkunu iffukati. Ikun għaqli għalhekk li perjodikament neżaminaw mill-ġdid il-kif u l-kemm b’mod li dawn is-sussidji jkunu raġjonevoli u mhux iktar milli nifilħu bħala pajjiż.

Ma jagħmilx sens imma, li l-użu kollu tal-enerġija u l-ilma jkun issussidjat. Hu meħtieġ li r-riżorsi limitati li għandna nużawhom bir-reqqa.

Iżda l-kaz tas-sussidji għall-konsum tal-fuels, jiġifieri s-sussidji applikati għall-petrol u d-dijżil hi storja kompletament differenti. Il-Gvern diġa, wara ftit ġimgħat, biddel ftit il-proposta oriġinali tiegħu billi ma baqax jissussidja l-konsum tal-fuel (primarjament dijżil) fil-każ ta’ opri tal-baħar imdaqqsa.

Ma hemm l-ebda ħtieġa soċjali biex ikun issussidjat il-petrol u d-dijżil. In-numru żgħir ta’ każi fejn l-użu ta’ karozzi privati hu meħtieġ biex tkun indirizzata d-diżabilita konnessa mal-mobilità jistgħu faċilment ikollhom għajnuna iffukata għall-ħtiġijiet partikolari tagħhom.

It-tneħħija tas-sussidji fuq il-konsum tal-fuel ikun ifisser żieda sostanzjali fil-prezz tal-petrolu u d-dijżil. L-impatt ewlieni tat-tneħħija ta’ dan is-sussidju fuq jkun wieħed pożittiv għax iwassal għal tnaqqis immedjat ta’ karozzi mit-toroq tagħna. Dan iwassal ukoll għal titjib fil-kwalità tal-arja.

Tajjeb li uħud jiftakru li 50 fil-mija tal-vjaġġi li nagħmlu bil-karozzi privati fit-toroq tagħna huma vjaġġi għal distanzi qosra. Il-parti l-kbira ta’ dawn il-vjaġġi, bi prezz rejalistiku tal-petrol u d-dijżil ma jsirux u minflok jintuża t-trasport pubbliku jew forom oħra ta’ mobilità sostenibbli. It-trasport pubbliku kif nafu hu bla ħlas!

Il-partiti parlamentari presentement qed jargumentaw b’veduti dijametrikament opposti. Min-naħa l-waħda l-Labour irid jibqa’ b’sussidji fuq il-konsum kollu filwaqt li l-PN qed jargumenta favur li dawn is-sussidji jkunu eliminati. Dan il-kuntrast bejn il-PLPN  dwar iż-żamma jew it-tneħħija tas-sussidji iħawwad l-imħuħ. Neħtieġu nimxu bir-raġuni anke meta nitkellmu dwar is-sussidji f’dawn iċ-ċirkustanzi.

Ir-riżorsi tagħna huma limitati. Irridu nużawhom bil-għaqal biex inkunu nistgħu nibqgħu ngħinu lill-vulnerabbli.

ippubblikat fuq Illum: 30 t’April 2023

Revisiting energy, water and fuel subsidies

There is definitely a case to make in favour of subsidised energy and water use in this particular time of crisis. This should be aimed at mitigating the social impacts of an increase in energy and water rates for as long as the impacts of the Ukraine invasion remain. We should not, however, take the easier way out and splash public funds around indiscriminately. Subsidies should be focused on those who need them. Why subsidise those who can cope?

The basic energy and water consumption of residential households should definitely remain protected and subject to subsidies in the medium term. This is a social necessity in order, primarily to protect the vulnerable and low earners. However, beyond subsidies applied to basic and essential energy (and water) consumption, there are no valid reasons for the current across the board energy/water subsidies of residential households. Those who can afford to run large domestic properties should be able to shoulder the increased cost of the energy and water which they consume.

This is not rocket science. It is in fact the manner in which we are already billed for our water consumption: basic water consumption is billed at subsidised rates whilst beyond that, commercial rates apply. It should not be too difficult to understand: it is how our water bills have been computed for the past thirty years or so!

The matter is also debatable when considering non- residential energy and water consumption. When protecting existing employment, in the short to medium term, subsidies to energy and water rates are reasonable. Beyond that, however one needs to be more focused and revisit the workings to determine whether and the extent to which such subsidies may be reasonable and affordable to the national exchequer.

Blanket long-term energy and water subsidies for non-residential use are not on. We must be capable of living within our limited means.

The case of subsidies applied to fuel consumption, that is to say subsidies applied to petrol and diesel use is completely different. Government has already after a few weeks tweaked its original decision and removed the applicability of subsidies when applied to fuel consumption (primarily diesel) in the case of large boats.

There is generally no social need to subsidise petrol and diesel. The small number of cases where private vehicle use is required to address issues of disability can be addressed directly by introducing adequate focused help.

Removal of fuel subsidies would signify a substantial increase in the price of petrol and diesel. The primary impact of the removal of subsidies applied to petrol and diesel would be beneficial as it would signify an immediate reduction of cars from our roads and a consequent immediate improvement in air quality.

Some may need to be reminded that 50 per cent of private car trips on our roads is for the travelling of short distances. Most of these trips could, as a result of a realistic price of fuel, be shifted to public transport or other alternative modes of sustainable mobility.  As we know public transport is free of charge.

The Parliamentary parties are at present arguing on two diametrically opposed views. On one hand Labour is emphasising the need of complete subsidisation while the PN is in favour of the complete removal of these subsidies. The contrasting views on the retention of subsidies or their negation, advocated by PLPN, are not at all helpful. We need reasonableness even when considering the application of subsidies in such situations.

Our resources are limited. We must use them judiciously in order to be able to continue helping the vulnerable.

published in the Malta Independent on Sunday : 30 April 2023

Air Malta: vittma tal-klijenteliżmu

Nhar it-Tlieta, fil-Parlament, l-Opposizzjoni talbet dibattitu urġenti dwar il-futur tal-Air Malta. L-iSpeaker, korrettement ma laqax it-talba. Għax x’sens jagħmel li żżomm dibattitu ta’ din ix-xorta waqt li għadhom għaddejjin negozjati sensittivi, anke jekk dawn qed joqorbu lejn it-tmiem?

Iktar kien jagħmel sens kieku l-Opposizzjoni tablet li kellha tinżamm infurmata dwar fejn waslu in-negozjati. Dan ikun xieraq li jsir, fl-interess pubbliku u a bażi li l-informazzjoni tinżamm kunfidenzjali. Imma sfortunatament  l-Opposizzjoni iktar hi interessata fit-tejatrin!

Il-PN għandu ħafna x’joffri dwar dan kollu li għaddej, għax bħall-Labour, tul is-snin ta’ kontribut biex żviluppat il-qagħda attwali tal-Air Malta, waħda fejn ġiet żviluppata dipendenza fuq il-klijenteliżmu. It-tnejn li huma jġorru responsabbiltà għall-qagħda attwali.

L-istat attwali tal-Air Malta hu wieħed ta’ eżempju kif il-klijenteliżmu jkollu impatt fuq intrapriża pubblika li tul is-snin tmexxiet b’favoritiżmu politiku. It-tmexxija tal-Air Malta hi ukoll rifless ta’ kif tmexxa l-pajjiż. Il-klijenteliżmu qered lill-Air Malta, bħalma qiegħed jeqred lill-pajjiż.

Tul is-snin l-Air Malta kienet mgħobbija b’ħafna iktar impiegi milli kienet tiflaħ. Deċiżjonijiet ta’ tmexxija ittieħdu minn politiċi li f’xi waqtiet l-anqas rieda tajba ma kellhom!  Tiftakru, per eżempju lil Konrad Mizzi, ex-Ministru li fl- 2019 kien ħabbar li fl-aħħar l-Air Malta kienet għamlet profitt? Dakinnhar kulħadd kien jaf li din kienet gidba ħoxna!

Kellna wieħed ex-Direttur tal-Air Malta, li miet riċentement, li f’artiklu li kien kiteb xi snin ilu kien iddeskriva lill-Air Malta bħala l-baqra li l-politiċi kontinwament jaħilbu. Riżultat ta’ hekk in-numru ta’ impjegati spara l-fuq, b’mod partikolari fil-perjodi qrib ta’ xi elezzjoni ġenerali.

L-affarijiet ilhom ċari. Saru eżerċiżżji ta’ ristrutturar u ħarġu numru ta’ skemi ta’ irtirar kmieni. Intefqu flejjes kbar, imma l- Air Malta xorta baqgħet f’diffikultà minkejja l-fondi pubbliċi li xorbot. Hu għal din ir-raġuni li l-Kummissjoni Ewropeja qed tirreżisti li għal darba oħra jkun hemm għajnuna minn fondi pubbliċi: l-Air Malta kellha kemm-il darba għajnuna biex tirkupra, imma kull darba reġgħet għal li kienet: ħliet dak li rċeviet!

Il-wasla tal-linji tal-ajru low cost għamlu s-sitwazzjoni ħafna iktar diffiċli għall-Air Malta għax dawn huma mibnija fuq mudell ekonomiku li l-Air Malta, frott tal-qagħda tagħha, ftit setgħet tikkompeti miegħu.  Mgħobbija kif kienet bl-spejjes, hemm limitu  kemm l-Air Malta setgħet tiċċaqlaq f’suq dejjem iktar kompetittiv.

L-istrateġija li fassal il-Ministru tal-Finanzi Clyde Caruana lejlet l-elezzjoni tal- 2022 ġiet tard wisq. Il-marda kienet daħlet il-ġewwa wisq.

Il-klijenteliżmu flimkien mal-għajununa minn fondi pubbliċi, lill-Air Malta kissruha. Kien għaldaqstant inevitabbli li illum jew għada l-Air Malta kellha tiffaċċja r-realtà.  L-affarijiet ilhom ċari sa mill-2004 meta Malta issieħbet fl-Unjoni Ewropeja: l-ebda pajjiż ma jista’ juża fondi pubbliċi biex joħnoq il-kompetittività. Il-fondi pubbliċi bħala għajnuna lill-intrapriża jistgħu jintużaw biss f’ċirkustanzi eċċezzjonali u ċertament mhux b’mod repetut. L-Air Malta kellha kważi 20 sena ċans, li ħliethom. Xorbot il-fondi pubbliċi bla ma tat riżultati. 20 sena li tulhom kien hemm Gvern immexxi mill-PN u ieħor immexxi mill-Labour!

Minn strateġiji, kieku, l-Air Malta qatt ma kienet nieqsa!  Sfortunatament qatt ma kien hemm rieda biex ikun indirizzat in-nuqqas fundamentali tal-kumpanija, l-kontroll politiku. L-Air Malta għexet kontinwament bil-kontroll politiku li spiċċa qeridha darba għal dejjem. Issa l-qrid li għaddej, kollu għal xejn, tard wisq!

ippubblikat fuq Illum: 23 t’April 2023

Air Malta: victim of clientelism

On Tuesday the Opposition in Parliament requested an urgent debate on the future of Air Malta. The Speaker rightly refused the request. What sense does it make to have such a public debate when sensitive negotiations are still ongoing, even though it is known that they are approaching the end?

The Opposition should, in my view, have insisted to be kept in the loop, to be kept informed continuously of developments, as to the current state of play of the negotiations. This should have been done in the public interest and on the basis of confidentiality. Unfortunately, the Opposition prefers theatrics!

The PN has much to offer on the matter, in view of the fact that together with Labour, it has, over the years, contributed substantially to the current state of Air Malta, ensuring its dependency on clientelism. Both PN and Labour shoulder responsibility for the current state of affairs.

Air Malta’s current state is a textbook case of the impacts of clientelism on a state enterprise which is, or rather, has been managed on the basis of political favouritism throughout the years. The administration of Air Malta is also a reflection of the manner in which the country is managed. Clientelism has ruined Air Malta just as it is ruining the whole country.

Over the years Air Malta engaged employees much more than it required. Most administrative decisions were taken by holders of political office who at times even lacked good faith. Don’t you remember, for example, the declarations by disgraced Minister Konrad Mizzi in 2019 that Air Malta had at last turned a profit, when it was pretty obvious to one and all that he was lying through his teeth? Mizzi was Minister for Tourism as well as in charge of the restructuring of Air Malta. Unfortunately, as we well know today, fraud permeated practically all areas for which Mizzi was politically responsible over the years!

A former Air Malta Director, recently deceased, had described Air Malta as the politicians’ milch cow in an article he penned some years ago. The number of Air Malta employees spiralled out of control in the run-up to most general elections.

The writing has been on the wall for quite some time. Various restructuring exercises and early retirement schemes have been implemented at considerable expense, only for Air Malta to remain in considerable difficulties notwithstanding the massive state aid utilised in the process. This is the basic reason as to why the European Commission is reluctant to approve further use of state aid for Air Malta.

The advent of low-cost flights over the years made matters more difficult for Air Malta. Low-cost fares are dependent on ensuring the minimisation of costs throughout the airline’s operations. As a result of being overloaded with excess labour, accumulated as electoral favours, Air Malta could never compete with low-cost airlines!

The four-year strategy announced by Finance Minister Clyde Caruana on the eve of the 2022 general election was too little, too late. At that point Air Malta was already on its knees.

Clientelism buttressed by state aid continuously made matters worse for Air Malta. The moment that we joined the EU it was only a matter of time as to when we had to face the music.

There was ample time, almost twenty years, to rectify matters. One Board of Directors after the other ignored the writing on the wall until it was too late. Twenty wasted years spanning PN and Labour led governments!

Air Malta never lacked strategies. It just lacked one crucial target: the political will to be cut loose from political control. Clientelism was its lifeblood for so long. It was also its death certificate.

It is now useless to argue further as it is clear that Air Malta will soon be no more.

Just send a thank you note to Castille Place: addressed to the Cabinet, for the attention of past and present members.

published on The Malta Independent on Sunday: 23 April 2023

Wara d-deċiżjoni tal-Awtorità tax-Xandir

Idealment l-istazzjonijiet tal-partiti politiċi jingħalqu illum qabel għada. Però hu ovvju li dan mhux ser isir, tal-inqas għalissa.

Sfortunatament dawn kontinwament iqiesu ruħhom li huma l-fuq mil-liġi. Mhumiex sors tal-aħbar, imma magna ta’ propaganda politika.

Jippretendu li għandhom il-kapaċità li jeżerċitaw diskrezzjoni editorjali, meta fir-realtà, t-tnejn li huma kontinwament jipprattikaw ċensura politika: xi drabi bl-iktar mod ovvju, drabi oħra b’mod sottili.

Dan hu l-isfond tal-każ ta’ ADPD deċiż mill-Awtorità tax-Xandir iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa. Il-konferenza stampa saret nhar is-Sibt 11 ta’ Marzu, kif norganizzaw kull nhar ta’ Sibt, kemm qabel kif ukoll wara dakinnhar. ONE u NET, bħas-soltu ma xandru xejn. Ġbidnielhom l-attenzjoni dwar dan. ONE injorawna. NET kellmuna u ġiebu skoss skużi, imma immedjatament bdew jiċċaqlqu, probabbilment għax irrealizzaw x’inhu ġej. Bdew jirrappurtaw ftit. Dan kien pass żgħir il-quddiem li seta u għad jista’ jwassal għal soluzzjoni: avolja għadna l-bogħod.

Wara bgħatna l-ilment lill-Awtorità tax-Xandir li semgħet il-każ u ħadet deċiżjoni.

Ir-rappurtaġġ dwar din id-deċiżjon il-bieraħ fuq il-medja kien estensiv. L-emfasi kien ivarja. Tim Diacono tal-Lovin’ Malta immeraviljat li ONE baxxew rashom u obdew l-ordni tal-Awtorità tax-Xandir. Li ma appellawx mid-deċiżjoni hu fatt li issorprenda. Għaliex? Diffiċli tgħid għalissa.

Bertrand Borg mit-Times of Malta min-naħa l-oħra analizza d-deċiżjoni u ppreżenta l-konklużjoni tiegħu li din kienet l-ewwel darba li l-Awtorità tax-Xandir qed tiċċensura stazzjon politiku. Jibni argument validu f’kuntest tad-dikjarazzjoni li għamlet il-Qorti Kostituzzjonali dan l-aħħar (f’kawża tal-PN dwar ix-xandir) fejn bl-iktar mod ċar kienet qalet li l-obbligu tal-imparzjalità mhux biss tax-xandir pubbliku. Hu obbligu ta’ kull mezz ta’ xandir, bla ebda distinzjoni. Dan hu argument li aħna ilna nagħmlu żmien twil.

L-Independent, Malta Today u Newsbook min-naħa l-oħra irrappurtaw l-aħbar tad-deċiżjoni tal-Awtorità b’mod fattwali.

Issa, x’ser jiġri minn hawn il-quddiem?

Jiena nippreferi li NET u ONE jagħrfu r-responsabbiltajiet tagħhom u jonorawhom. Jekk iridu jkellmuna biex flimkien insibu mod prattiku kif dan jista’ jsir jistgħu jikkuntattjawna meta jridu. Imma jekk mhux ser jimxu sewwa mhux ser ikolli triq oħra ħlief li nkompli nħarrax il-battalja biex leħen ADPD jinstema.

Nistennew u naraw.