Reducing 122,000 vehicles from Malta’s roads


traffic congestion

source :


The government is apparently worried about parking problems being faced by practically all localities in Malta and Gozo. In fact, during a press conference by Transport Minister Joe Mizzi in Rabat recently, it was stated that a policy document on parking has been submitted for Cabinet’s consideration, prior to its being issued for public consultation. As usual, the government worries about effects and is very rarely willing (or able) to exercise some thought on the causes of the everyday problems we all face.

The National Statistics Office says that at the end of the Third Quarter of 2014, Malta had 332,455 vehicles on its roads.  With a population of around 421,000 this translates into 790 vehicles per 1000 population, one of the highest vehicle ownership profiles in the world. Being one of the smallest countries, with everywhere being within easy reach, it would be logical to expect that Malta should have a much different and lower vehicle ownership profile. This also sharply contrasts with the vehicle ownership profile of the USA (786), Italy (682), UK (516), Spain (592) and Switzerland (573). Even Luxembourg’s profile which stands at  741 per thousand is lower than Malta’s.

To visualise the severity of the problem, it is being stated that if Malta were to have a vehicle ownership profile of say 500 vehicles per thousand population (close to that of the United Kingdom  which currently stands at 516), the total number of vehicles on Maltese roads would be 210,673, that is a reduction of 121,784 vehicles from the current total. This would amount to a reduction of 36.63% of vehicles on Malta’s roads at present. This I submit is a realistic objective that we should aim for: reducing 122,000 vehicles from Malta’s roads.

Thus the issue which  should be tackled by Malta’s Minister for Transport is not one of seeking space for parking but reducing the number of vehicles on our roads. While parking is a problem, which will undoubtedly get worse, it is not the major transport problem in Malta.  Extensive car ownership is “the” problem. Too many vehicles on the road is not a sign of affluence but a clear indicator of administrative incompetence throughout the years. This should be the primary target of transport policy: facilitating sustainable mobility for all while reducing radically the number of vehicles on the road, thereby reversing the accumulated impacts of administrative incompetence.

Unfortunately, the government’s objective so far seems to be the precise opposite: making way for more vehicles on the road. This is the only real significance the parking policy-in-waiting or of major transport infrastructure projects in the pipeline which absorb millions of euros. These funds  could easily be used to promote more fruitful objectives.

It should focus on facilitating sustainable mobility for all while reducing vehicle ownership as a policy target would address traffic congestion, parking and air  and noise pollution. An added benefit would be that it would also cost much less to both the state and to the individual. In the long term, as a result of reduced air pollution, we will also have less respiratory illness, consequently reducing both the individual as well as the national health bill. Fewer cars on the road would also encourage more bicycle use and maybe the introduction of more and continuous bicycle lanes in contrast to the intermittent ones currently provided by Transport Malta.

This cannot be done overnight. Having been neglected for the past 50 years or so, it will take quite some time to reverse the dependence on private vehicles nurtured by a public transport system which was allowed to disintegrate. Various policy initiatives can be taken. Both the carrot and the stick have a role in such policy initiatives.

A number of interim measures may need to be introduced until such time as the new public transport provider, Autobuses de Leon, establishes itself firmly. When this is done, it is in everybody’s interest that public transport use is the success it never was to date.

A public transport system has to be both efficient and reliable. To achieve these objectives substantial subsidies are essential. This is the primary reason why the Arriva experiment failed. It was starved of subsidies as a matter of policy and was expected to survive on a relative pittance.  Even on the drawing board, it was clear from day one that the Arriva experiment was doomed to fail.

Public transport is not made up just of the public buses. The monorail initiative currently on the drawing board as well as adequate sea-transport  [servicing primarily Valletta, Sliema and the Three Cities] will also go a long way to reduce th number of  vehicles from our roads.

These are the policies which the government should consider implementing. Will it be bothered?

published in the Malta Independent on Sunday: Sunday 4th January 2015

Learning to use chopsticks


We have been told that it is most worrying that China could acquire a share in our energy corporation. It is worrying, we are told, due to the strategic importance of the sector.

We tend to forget that Malta has plenty of foreign investments in other strategic sectors. Another one wouldn’t change much would it?

Our only airport is run by Austrians.

Gambling has been left to  Greek Intralot.  Banking is heavily influenced by global HSBC ironically originating from Hong Kong, the tip of the Chinese mainland.

The public  transport fiasco has an Anglo-German fingerprint through Arriva.

LPG Gas is controlled by Italians through GASCO.

The Freeport is controlled by a Franco-Turkish alliance for the next 65 years. (CMA-CGM and Yildirim Group)

When its Austria, Greece, Anglo-German interests, Italian investments, Franco -Turkish controls, or global HSBC then its globalisation.

The Chinese interest is part of the same process.

Obviously the details of the memorandum of understanding signed earlier this week are not yet known. Hence a proper discussion would have to wait until such details are known. There will surely be positive and negative impacts. China stands to gain. Whether Malta’s potential gains are adequate is still to be seen as we have only been fed titbits of information.

China obviously stands to gain through establishing a stronger foothold in Malta and within the EU.  Whether it will be similarly positive for Malta is still to be seen.

Some Chinese companies are world class. They provide stiff competition to international firms such as Lahmeyer International the one time consultants to the Malta Resources Authority and to Enemalta Corporation. Some of these Chinese companies have reached the same grade in World Bank blacklists !

We have been there before.

It may turn out not to be so difficult to learn to use chopsticks after all !

Fil-Parlament għada t-Tnejn: mera għal Lawrence Gonzi


Għada t-Tnejn 10 ta’ Diċembru 2012, Lawrence Gonzi, Prim Ministru, b’diskorsu, jġib fi tmiemu l-ewwel fażi tad-diskussjoni dwar il-budget ghall-2013. L-oratorija m’hiex ser tonqos imma s-sustanza wisq nibża’ li ser terġa’ tkun assenti.

Ser iwieġeb dak li qal il-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni, li l-anqas hu ma qal kull ma kien jeħtieġ li jingħad. Lawrence Gonzi ser jipprova jfissrilna kif inhu meħtieġ li l-inċertezza li hawn fil-pajjiż tinqata’ billi jkun approvat il-budget.

Lawrence Gonzi iwaħħal f’kulħadd talli l-inċertezza mhux biss nibtet imma firxet l-għeruq tagħha fil-fond. Jaħseb li hu biss m’għandu l-ebda ħtija. Kulħadd għandu l-obbligu li jerfa’ r-responsabbiltajiet tiegħu, jgħid. Imma dawk ta’ madwaru huma esklużi.

Din kienet leġislatura ħażina sa minn l-ewwel jum: għandha fuqha s-saħta tal-Mistra. Saħta li titfa d-dell fuq iż-żewġ naħat tal-Parlament.

Is-saħta tal-Mistra qegħda fuq Lawrence Gonzi għax fl-iskandlu tal-Mistra ipprova jgħatti l-iżbalji u ma kellux il-kuraġġ morali li jgħid li JPO kien żbaljat. Ipprova jpinġieh bħala vittma meta l-vittma vera kienet il-komunita’. Konmunita’ li suppost kellha istituzzjoni maħluqa apposta biex tiddefendiha – il-MEPA. Minflok  iżda din il-MEPA kienet kompliċi u għażlet li tiddefendi l-istupru tal-pajjiż.

Is-saħta tal-Mistra qegħda fuq Joseph Muscat ukoll.  Il-predeċessur tiegħu Alfred Sant kien iddeskriva lil JPO bħala morally and politically corrupt.  Imma Muscat ma ħass l-ebda skruplu biex jinqeda bih.

Hekk ġara fil-każ tal-barriera li Gonzi u RCC riedu li titħaffer quddiem il-Kon Katidral ta’ San Ġwann. Hekk ġara ukoll fuq il-mozzjoni biex il-Parlament iddikjara li m’għandux fiduċja f’RCC.

Id-dnub ma jorqodx u jidher li qed joqrob żmien il-kontijiet.

Il-konfront ta’ Gonzi ma Franco Debono hu żejjed għal partit li diġa qiegħed jegħreq. Kien hemm mument partikolari iżda li kien hemm possibilita’ li l-affarijiet ma jikkumplikawx ruħhom. Kienu ippreżentati quddiem il-Parlament żewġ mozzjonijiet.

L-ewwel mozzjoni kienet ippreżentata minn Franco Debono innifsu u kienet kritika tal-politika tal-Gvern ta’ Gonzi dwar il-Ġustizzja u l-Intern. Kritika qawwija u kienet tieqaf hemm.

It-tieni mozzjoni kienet ippreżentata minn Jose’ Herrera u Michael Falzon: barra li kienet tikkritika l-politika tal-Gvern dwar il-Ġustizzja u l-Intern kienet tipproponi ukoll vot ta’ ċensura fil-Ministru Carm Mifsud Bonnici.

Gonzi għażel li jpoġġi fuq l-agenda tal-Parlament il-mozzjoni tal-Opposizzjoni u ħalla fuq l-ixkaffa l-mozzjoni ta’ Franco Debono. Jiġifieri għamel għażla favur mozzjoni b’konsegwenzi negattivi u warrab mozzjoni li kienet tikkritikah u tieqaf hemm.

Nafu fejn wasslet din l-għażla. B’għażla ta’ Gonzi l-Parlament spiċċa sfiduċja lil Mifusd Bonnici. Deċiżjoni li Gonzi seta’ jevita imma ma riedx. Għaliex għamel hekk hu jaf.

Meta Gonzi jħares fil-mera ma jara l-ebda sinifikat fil-każ ta’ korruzzjoni ta’ Noel Borg Hedley (ex-Segretarju Privat tal-Ministru Tonio Fenech) li fil-Qorti ammetta akkużi ta’ korruzzjoni mill-iżviluppaturi JPM Brothers.

Il-fjask tal-Arriva bir-responsabbilta’ politika dwaru li kellu jinġarr minn Austin Gatt l-anqas ma kellu sinifikat għal Gonzi meta jħares fil-mera.

Issa  ħarġet oħra. Fir-rapport tal-Awditur Nazzjonali l-inkompetenza fl-amministrazzjoni finanzjarja tal-kumpanija tal-Gvern Wasteserve hi imfissra fid-dettall. L-iktar li jispikka hu dak il-kuntratt ta’ miljun euro li spiċċa jissarraf f’kuntratt ta’ disgħa u għoxrin miljun euro. Qiesu ma ġara xejn. Is-sejħa biex George Pullicino jerfa’ r-responsabbilta’ politika u jwarrab ma tfisser xejn.

Quddiem dan kollu it-talba ta’ Gonzi biex il-budget ikun approvat tistona. Għax il-vot fuq il-budget mhux biss vot favur budget rigressiv imma hu ukoll vot favur Gvern li hu moralment zopp. Gvern li jrid lil kulħadd jimxi sewwa imma hu mhux kapaċi jagħti l-eżempju. Għax repetutament irrifjuta li jerfa’ r-responsabbilta politika ta’ għemilu.

X’ser jiġri għada jiena ma nafx. Naf iżda ħaga waħda: li l-Gvern wasal sa hawn għax Lawrence Gonzi ma kienx kapaċi japplika għalih il-kejl li bih hu jkejjel lil ħaddieħor.

Il-Partit Nazzjonalista ġustament qed jitlob li l-Imħallef Lino Farrugia Sacco jirreżenja. Jekk il-PN japplika l-istess kejl għall-Kabinett ta’ Lawrence Gonzi m’għandix dubju li jinbidlu l-Ministri kollha, Gonzi innifsu inkluż!