The environmental deficit

The environmental deficit is still rising and  the long-winded Budget speech by Finance Minister Edward Scicluna last Monday did not address it.

Through the MDA, their association, property developers have expressed satisfaction at the Budget as, once more, it has taken up their proposals intended to further extend tax incentive schemes linked to the purchase of property. The budget presents these measures as being of a social nature when, in fact, that are anti-environmental measures because their direct impact is the take-up of more land as well as additional pressure on the intensification of the development of our urban areas.

Cruise liner tourism comes in for substantial praise in the Budget speech. Minister Scicluna was over-enthusiastic in announcing that there has been a 75 per cent  increase in the cruise liner industry in Malta over the last six years. He may not be sufficiently aware that the cruise liner industry is a substantial contributor to the degradation of air quality. Various studies have been carried out on the environmental impacts of cruise liners on the high seas and the subject has also been studied by a local environmental NGO with the support of their German counterparts.

Their studies revealed that air samples taken from the Grand Harbour area indicte the presence of a high level of microscopic particulate matter, which is ending in the respiratory systems of those living, working or passing through this area. Similar issues undoubtedly exist in Birżebbuġa as a result of the operations of the Freeport.

A possible solution to address this problem  is the introduction of a compulsory shore-to-ship electricity supply – in respect of which preliminary studies have already been carried out. The studies, however, are not enough. They require a commitment to act – a commitment is currently non-existent. The studies date back to 2014 in respect of the Grand Harbour and to 2018 in respect of Birżebbuġa.

The government has not yet announced the cut-off date for the importation of cars running on petrol and diesel. We were informed that it may be announced some time in 2020. The government strategy in this respect is taking too long too formulate – given that it was announced by the Prime Minister over two years ago.

There is alack of seriousness about the manner in which this issue is being addressed. It  does not just involve determining when no more vehicles running on petrol or diesel will be imported; it also involves the current acute interest in the development of new fuel service stations in various parts of the island. Why do we need such fuel service stations if electrification of private transport is around the corner? An immediate moratorium on the development of new fuel service stations would have been quite appropriate, given that it is accepted by one and all that there will be no use for them!

In addition, the budget praises the heavy investment in road infrastructure, in particular the construction fly-overs and tunnels, the construction of which are either already in hand or else at an advanced state of planning. The justification for this, as has been made through various statements over the months, is to address the ever-increasing traffic congestion.

Studies carried out all over the world have repeatedly revealed that such developments in the road infrastructure inevitably leads to more traffic. Minster Scicluna ignores this experience from other countries and keeps insisting in channelling millions of euros down the drain. He should consult the Transport Master-Plan, drawn up under the direction of his own government, which clearly lists the reduction of the number of vehicles on our roads as an essential objective. The Finance Minister should query why his government commissions experts for their advice which it then ignores.

The Government has, at last realised that it needs a ‘Green New Deal’ strategy – a strategy which addresses the impacts of climate change sustainably, economically, ecologically and socially. But for such a strategy to make sense, it should first dismantle its existing strategies which are in direct opposition to a ‘Green New Deal’.

It does not make sense, for example, for the Government to declare the need to protect the environment and then hands out all sorts of incentives to encourage the property market. Nor does it make sense to keep to its programme of intensive development of the road infrastructure, or to keep pushing for the development of a tunnel between Malta and Gozo, which will only serve the free movement of more cars between the islands.

Instead of grants for batteries to store electricity generated through solar panels, it would have been much better had the Government embarked on a massive investment to ensure a better distribution network of electricity, as this would – of itself – increase the potential for the generation of more renewable energy by households. The lack of effective measures to generate more energy from renewable sources clearly shows that Government is not really committed to drafting and implementing a real ‘Green New Deal’ strategy.

The Minister of Finance is taking everybody for a ride when, on the one hand he speaks of Gozo as an ecological island and then, on the other, keeps insisting on the ‘need’ for a tunnel between the islands, – which will only serve to accelerate the environmental degradation of Gozo.

The environmental deficit is clearly out of control.

 

published on The Malta Independent on Sunday 20 October 2019

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Għajnuna lis-suspettati?

F’kummenti lill-istampa dwar informazzjoni ppubblikata l-bieraħ fis-Sunday Times li tagħti dettalji dwar l-investigazzjoni li qed jagħmlu l-Pulizija Joseph Muscat qal li hu ma jikkummentax. F’dawn iċ-ċirkustanzi l-uniċi nies li jibbenefikaw mill-informazzjoni ppubblikata huma dawk taħt suspett, qal Joseph.

Naqbel miegħu mija fil-mija.

Issa s-Sunday Times il-bieraħ qalet li l-informazzjoni ġiet għandha minn sorsi viċin ħafna tal-investigazzjoni.

Nistgħu allura nikkonkludu li min kixef l-informazzjoni jrid jgħin lil dawk li huma taħt suspett?

Għal darb’oħra: il-PLPN jimxu id f’id, favur il-ħsara ambjentali

 

L-approvazzjoni mill-Parlament, iktar kmieni illum,  tal-mozzjoni dwar il-mina bejn Malta u Għawdex tikkonferma dak li ilna nafu: li fil-qerda ambjentali l-Partit Nazzjonalista u l-Partit Laburista jimxu id f’id. Jaqblu.

Ta’ xejn iżejnu l-argumenti tagħhom biex jippruvaw jagħtu l-messaġġ dwar kemm qalbhom taħraqhom għall-ambjent għax ma jimpressjonaw lil ħadd.

Il-proġett tal-mina bejn Malta u Għawdex ser ikun il-kawża ta’ ħsara ambjentali enormi. L-istudji, jekk isiru sewwa, għad jikkonfermaw il-kobor ta’ din il-ħsara.

Hu tal-mistħija li fil-Parlament ma kien hemm l-ebda vuċi kredibbli li esponiet il-kaz ambjentali kontra l-proġett tal-mina. L-ebda leħen kredibbli li jfiehem kemm il-konnettività bejn Malta u Għawdex tista’ titjieb sostanzjalment b’soluzzjonijiet alternattivi.

Hi ta’ sfortuna li membri parlamentari kollha li hemm fil-Parlament illum ġew eletti fuq manifest elettorali li jappoġġaw il-mina u dan mingħajr l-ebda eċċezzjoni.

Hemm messaġġ wieħed ċar, għal min irid jifhmu. Forsi min ittama li jista’ xi darba jara xi ħjiel ta’ appoġġ ambjentali mill-PN u PL jiftaħ ftit għajnejħ u jirrealizza li kull meta dawn tkellmu dwar l-ambjent kellhom skop wieħed, biex jgħadduk biż-żmien.

Issa, kull ma jonqos hu t-timbru tal-pupazzi fl-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar u l-Awtorità għall-Ambjent u r-Riżorsi.

Sven Giegold u l-Partit Nazzjonalista

Sven Giegold ilu jsegwi dak li qiegħed jiġri f’Malta. Tkellem diversi drabi fuq materji differenti. Fuq il-ħasil tal-flus, fuq il-korruzzjoni, u fuq l-evażjoni tat-taxxa. Bla dubju ifforma l-opinjoni tiegħu primarjament minn dak li hu magħruf pubblikament. Imma ukoll minn dak li sema’ kemm waqt iż-żjarat ta’ delegazzjonijiet tal-Parlament tal-EU f’Malta kif ukoll minn dak li jisma’ membri parlamentari Maltin fil-Parlament Ewropew jgħidu.

Waqt li jiena m’għandi l-ebda ħsieb li nikkundanna lil ħadd, irrid iżda nirrimarka li dak li ngħidu barra minn xtutna fuq pajjiżna, anke meta jkun veru, jista’ jagħmel ħafna ħsara. Kien ikun faċli għalija u għal sħabi f’Alternattiva Demokratika li nippreżentaw mozzjonijiet dwar il-qagħda politika f’Malta fil-laqghat internazzjonali li nattendu. Għażilna li dan ma nagħmluħx biex ma nagħmlux ħsara iktar milli diġa qed issir mill-Gvern Malti nnifsu.

Lill-Gvern Malti ikkritikajnieh diversi drabi. Ma qbilniex miegħu u tkellimna dwar dan pubblikament elf darba. Tkellimna dwar il-korruzzjoni, dwar il-ħasil tal-flus, dwar l-iskandlu tal-Panama u li l-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat żbalja meta ma ħax passi drastiċi kontra Konrad Mizzi u Keith Schembri. Għidna diversi drabi li Muscat kellu jerfa’ ir-responsabbilta politika għall-fatt li naqas li jaġixxi. U għamilna sewwa li tkellimna b’dan il-mod.

Ma għandna għalfejn ninfurmaw lil ħadd fi Brussell dwar dak li qiegħed jiġri f’Malta għax kulħadd għandu għajnejħ f’wiċċu. Ġieli f’laqgħat internazzjonali jistaqsuna dwar dak li jkun għaddej u niddiskutu l-fatti mingħajr esaġerazzjonijiet.

Dak li ġara f’Malta f’dawn l-aħħar xhur u snin hu magħruf minn kulħadd. Sempliċi search fuq l-internet u jkollok l-istorja kollha.

Huwa f’dan il-kuntest li l-presentazzjoni tal-mozzjoni ta’ Sven Giegold kienet il-pass loġiku għal min iħares lejn Malta minn barra. Għalija u għal Alternattiva Demokratika hu pass żejjed li kien ikun aħjar li ma sarx. Imma għal min tefa’ l-ħatab fin-nar ma jistax issa jgħid li ma kkontribwixxiex anke ftit għal din is-sitwazzjoni.

Għaldaqstant, il-kundanna ta’ Sven Giegold mill-PN hi ftit ipokrita. Ikun aħjar jekk jeżaminaw ftit il-kuxjenza tagħhom u jaraw x’kontribut taw biex sviluppat din is-sitwazzjoni.

Il-kaz tal immigranti fuq l-Aquarius

Għamel tajjeb il-Gvern Malti li iddikjara li ser jimxi mar-regoli. Mhux dejjem kien hekk, imma tajjeb li l-Gvern tgħallem.

Is-saga tal-bastiment Aquarius li Matteo Salvini, Ministru tal-Intern Taljan irrifjuta li jħalli jidħol fil-portijiet Taljani jidher li ser jikber. L-Aquarius qed iġorr 629 immigrant li inġabru minn biċċiet tal-baħar f’diffikulta tul il-Kosta tal-Libja. Inġabru mill-Guardia Costiera Taljana jew minn vapuri merkantili f’żona li fiha Malta żgur li m’għandiex responsabbiltá.

Dan hu it-tieni każ f’din l-ewwel ġimgħa tal-Gvern il-ġdid populista Taljan magħmul mil-Lega u Moviment Cinque Stelle.

Kien mistenni li dan ser jiġri u kien għalhekk li iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa Alternattiva Demokratika, fi stqarrija, għidna li Malta għanda bżonn allejati ġodda fl-Unjoni Ewropeja. Għax il-Gvernijiet Ewropej li ma jħarsux b’lenti tajba lejn is-solidarjetá qed jiżdiedu.

Fl-ewwel ta’ Lulju it-tmexxija tal-Unjoni Ewropeja tgħaddi f’idejn l-Awstrija, pajjiż ieħor fejn il-populiżmu jirrenja. Ma tantx jidhru possibli deċiżjonijiet favur is-solidarjetá fix-xhur li ġejjin.

Kien għalhekk importanti li l-Prim Ministru dal-għodu afferma l-posizzjoni tal-Gvern favur l-osservanza tal-obbligi internazzjonali u li l-posizzjoni li ħa u jibqa’ jieħu l-Gvern Malti hi waħda li tagħti prijoritá li jkunu salvati ħajjiet in-nies.

Dan hu tajjeb u jgħin biex ikun imrazzan it-trewwieħ favur ir-razziżmu. Hu neċessarju li Malta tibqa’ taħdem favur miżuri ta’ solidarjetá tant meħtieġa fl-Unjoni Ewropea.

 

Wrong messages from the National Audit Office

 

The National Audit Office (NAO) has recently published its report for 2017. In a democracy, the role of the NAO is of paramount importance. Its role of ascertaining the presence (or absence) of good governance at all levels is crucial in determining the health of the public sector.

The report lists the investigations carried out during 2017 in respect of which separate reports have been published and discussed publicly. These include the annual report on the public accounts, the consolidated annual report on local government, special audits and investigations and performance audits. Last year also saw the publication of a stand-alone report on the results achieved by the three main revenue-generating departments of the government, namely the Inland Revenue Department, the Value Added Tax Department and the Department of Customs.

In his overview, Auditor General Charles Deguara welcomes the positive developments, highlighting the administration’s commitment to implementing the NAO’s recommendations as far as possible. This has been done for two consecutive years and it is to be hoped that it becomes an annual occurrence.

The report explains the efforts made to continuously train the staff, thereby ensuring that, as far as possible, an internal team of experts is available to monitor and investigate as required. This is essential in order that the NAO keeps the administration on its toes.

The NAO, in its present format, was set up 20 years ago. Since 1997, it has been part of Parliament, accountable directly to Parliament. Previously, although technically independent it formed part of the Ministry of Finance.

During the past 20 years, it has had much to do. Its specific investigations are the ones about which we hear the most but the workings of the NAO go much deeper. Its continuous examination of the country’s public accounts, and the recommendations made to fine tune or correct methods of operation are always work in progress.

In order for the NAO to be as effective as possible, it should ensure that it keeps at arm’s length from the administration’s day to day operations. For this reason I was worried when reading in the 2017 report a short list of a number of domestic working groups in which the NAO participated. These range from the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) Implementation Project Board, the Financial Legislation Working Group, the Local Government Good Governance Working Group and others. The NAO should have oversight and not sit around the same table forming part of working groups to implement or draft a proposal for implementation.

Some years back the Auditor-General, together with the Ombudsman and the Chairman of the Electoral Commission, had decided to go beyond their terms of remit and accepted the Prime Minister’s invitation to examine the issue of the salaries of MPs and holders of political office. I had taken the Ombudsman Said Pullicino to task about his stand when, together with Arnold Cassola I had met the trio. They then justified their stand by referring to legal advice from the Attorney General’s office and others! The three wise men did not realise that they had compromised their office because they cannot – and should not – switch from being regulators to being advisors, even if temporarily.

The NAO would do well to take a step back, thereby ensuring that it is at arm’s length from the administration. Otherwise it risks sending the wrong messages.

 

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 29 April 2018

L-IVF mhux kapriċċ: (6) Il-medjazzjoni tal-President tar-Repubblika

L-offerta tal-President tar-Repubblika Marie Louise Coleiro-Preca li timmedja mhux ta’ min jinjoraha. Il-President ġustament triq diskussjoni serja li tirrispetta s-serjetá tas-suġġett. Trid brejk fuq l-għaġġla li għandu l-Gvern.

Il-punt tat-tluq għandu jkun il-pluraliżmu etiku. Għandna nirrispettaw l-ideat u l-idejali ta’ xulxin kif manifestati f’valuri li jikkuntrastaw sostanzjalment.

Id-diffikultá li qed timmanifesta ruħha fid-diskussjoni pubblika kurrenti hi l-insulti gravi u l-bombastiċitá fl-argumentazzjoni. Bħal meta t-Tabib Godfrey Farrugia ddeskriva l-emendi għal-liġi tal-IVF bħala l-bidu ta’ ġenoċidju.

Il-medjazzjoni tal-President trid twassal biex kulħadd jirrealizza li qegħdin fis-seklu 21 !

Tradituri u tradimenti

 

Żewġ kelmiet li l-użu tagħhom qiegħed jiżdied. Dan id-diskors ma jagħmel ġid lil ħadd. La lil min jgħidu u l-anqas li min jisimgħu.

Dan hu diskors li ġeneralment qed jingħad minn persuni viċin il-Gvern tal-lum u dan b’difiża għall-kritika li qed issir, f’Malta u barra għal dak li għaddej madwarna.

Nifhem li l-kritika ddarras, b’mod partikolari meta tkun iebsa. Pero’ min hu konvint minn dak li qed jagħmel m’għandux ħtieġa ta’ insulti, iżda hu kapaċi jwieġeb argument b’argument.

L-użu tal-kelma “tradituri” fil-konfront tal-kritiċi tal-Gvern l-iktar li tagħmel il-ħsara hu lill-Gvern innifsu għax twassal il-messaġġ li dawk li jappoġġaw lill-Gvern (jew parti minnhom) huma intolleranti għall-kritika.

Fuq kollox għalkemm huwa l-Gvern (bis-saħħa tal-maġġoranza li għandu fil-Parlament) li jiddeċiedi, ma jfissirx li neċessarjament illi għandu raġun, kemm f’dak li jgħid kif ukoll f’dak li jagħmel.

Tajjeb li dejjem inżommu quddiem għajnejna li n-numri jiddeterminaw min jiddeċiedi, mhux min għandu raġun.

Il-kritika lill-Gvern tal-lum saret u tibqa’ issir, bħalma saret lill-Gvern tal-bieraħ. Iċ-ċavetta biex nimxu l-quddiem hi li lkoll niftħu widnejna beraħ biex nisimgħu iktar.

B’dan il-mod biss hemm iċ-ċans li jsiru inqas żbalji, mhux bl-insulti. Għax l-insulti huma l-għodda esklussiva ta’ min m’għandux fiduċja fir-raġuni.

L-Air Malta u l-arroganza ta’ Konrad Mizzi

 

It-theddid ta’ Konrad Mizzi (f’isem il-Gvern) li jekk il-Unions fl-Air Malta ma jbaxxux rashom għal dak li qed jgħid il-Gvern ma jkollux triq oħra għajr li jagħlaq il-kumpanija u jerġa’ jiftagħha b’impjegati ġodda hi l-agħar forma ta’ arroganza ta’ Ministru.

U meta theddida bħal din tkun ġejja minn Ministru Laburista li l-partit tiegħu repetutament wiegħed li mhux ser jagħlaq l-Air Malta din mhux biss hi theddida imma fuq kollox hi manifestazzjoni ta’ iprokrezija grassa.

Mhux qed ngħid li ma hemmx bżonn tibdil fil-prattiċi industrijali fl-Air Malta. Probabbilment hemm ukoll element ta’ intransigenza li żviluppa fil-proċess tan-negozjati. Imma ikun tajjeb li Konrad Mizzi jifhem li l-proċess tan-negozjati hu “give and take”. Li tinnegozja jfisser li tifhem u tfiehem u wara li tagħmel dan tipprova issib soluzzjoni ġusta għaż-żewġ naħat.

Fl-aħħar għalhekk hemm l-arbitraġġ: biex jekk il-proċess tan-negozjati ma jwassalx, il-partijiet jippruvaw jaslu bl-involviment ta’ persuni indipendenti.

Imma kif nafu lkoll, aħjar soluzzjoni miftehma minn waħda imposta.

Nawgura lil Konrad li jiġi f’sensieh. Fl-interess ta’ kulħadd.

Ir-riżultat elettorali : l-ewwel riflessjonijiet

 

L-ewwel nett grazzi lill-2563 persuna li għoġobhom jagħtu l-fiduċja tagħhom lill-kandidati ppreżentati minn Alternattiva Demokratika.

Dan ifisser ukoll li AD naqqset it-total ta’ voti miksuba bi ftit iktar min-nofs. Riżultat li kien mistenni minħabba li ftaqbida elettorali qawwija, bħalma kienet din l-elezzjoni, uħud isibu lill-AD bħala target faċli. Din ġrat diversi drabi fl-istorja elettorali ta AD u fil-fatt minħabba fhekk AD kisbet riżultati agħar minn hekk fil-passat.

Għal min qed jgħid li dan hu l-agħar riżultat li qatt kisbet l-AD, ninfurmah li dan mhux il-kaz. Dak inkiseb fl-2003 meta fil-klima inċerta dwar jekk Malta tissieħibx jew le fl-EU, AD kisbet 1929 voti fl-ewwel għadd.

Setgħet AD tikseb riżultat aħjar? U xkien ikun il-prezz għal dan?

It-tweġiba għal din il-mistoqsija bażika hi li AD setgħet tikseb riżultat aħjar kieku aċċettat li tkun appendiċi tal-PN. Dan konna nafuh, imma ma konniex disposti li nħallsu l-prezz: għax il-prezz kien li narmu l-kredibilitá l-baħar, u dan ma konniex disposti li nagħmluh.

Ir-raġunijiet għaliex għażilna li ma nissieħbux mal-PN huma magħrufa, imma huma ukoll uħud mir-raġunijiet li jistgħu jagħtu spjegazzjoni għal dan ir-riżultat elettorali li għal uħud jidher stramb. Imma mhu stramb xejn.

Uħud qed jgħid li bir-rebħa massiċċa tal-Partit Laburista hemm rebħa għall-korruzzjoni u għan-nuqqas ta governanza tajba. Nissottometti li dan mhux il-kaz.

Kif għidna bħala Alternattiva Demokratika, l-argumenti tal-Partit Nazzjonalista, u tal-appendiċi tiegħu l-Partit Demokratiku, ma kienux kredibbli.

Kif tista titwemmen meta tiftaħ ħalqek kontra l-korruzzjoni, favur il-governanza tajba u kontra l-impatti ta kunflitti ta interess qawwija meta dan kollu madwarek tħallieh għaddej?

Il-PN u dawk li ħeġġew vot favur il-PN dan kollu injorawh u bhekk ikontribwew għal dan ir-riżultat.

Għalkemm nixtieq li r-riżultat kien aħjar għal AD, pero jiena kburi li ħadd ma għaddieni biżżmien.

Ir-riżultat għadu mhux konkluż, għax l-impatti tiegħu għad jistgħu jkunu mitigati xi ftit mit-trasferimenti ta’ voti li ser ikun hemm matul il-bqija tal-għadd. Imma l-istorja bażika hi din li qed ngħidu.

Issa irridu nħarsu lejn il-futur. AD trid tindirizza dawk l-affarijiet li ilha tevita s-snin. Ma jistax ikun li partit politiku bħal AD ma jkunx organizzat aħjar biex ikun fposizzjoni li jilħaq aħjar lill-eletturi. FAlternattiva Demokratika hemm allerġija għall-ħidma organizzattiva, li tiqies minn uħud bħala burokrazija żejda. AD tista’ tkun iktar relevanti biss jekk tkun kapaċi li tagħmel dan il-pass li għalih kien hemm resistenza qawwija internament tul is-snin.

Dan ifisser organizzazzjoni iktar ħajja u viċin l-egħruq tas-soċjetá li fiha naħdmu.  

Għax fl-aħħar mill-aħħar hu inutli li jkollok uħud mill-aħjar ideat jekk ma jkollokx il-kapaċita li twassalhom għand in-nies. Fl-aħħar dan hu in-nuqqas ta AD, nuqqas li hu preżenti elezzjoni wara l-oħra u li sissa ma ġiex indirizzat. AD dejjem kienet partit politiku bideat ċari, li mhux biss tipprietka l-etika fil-politika, imma tpoġġi dan fil-prattika. Huwa neċessarju issa li AD ma tibqax dgħajfa amministrattvament. Għax fdawn iċċirkustanzi l-ideat tajba u l-iġieba korretta mhux biżżejjed.