Green and clean :  beyond land use planning and hunting

It is obvious to everyone that the environment is nowadays an integral part of the political lexicon of all the political parties in Malta. Whether this is out of conviction or out of convenience is,  however, another story altogether. Irrespective of the objective, it is still however positive to observe this development.

Reckless land use planning over the years, as well as irresponsible and unsustainable hunting, have been at the forefront of the environmental agenda for quite some time and I have already written extensively on these topics. Caring for the environment signifies much more than this, even though both land use planning and hunting will, of necessity remain at the top of Malta’s environmental agenda.

However, competing for attention and resources, the quality of the air we breath – as well as the waste we generate – are two specific areas which will undoubtedly be on the environmental action agenda in the months and years ahead. These are areas which the environmental lobby has been emphasising for years on end as being crucial in determining a better quality of life for all.

Air quality has to be tackled head on through the formulation of a transport strategy that seeks to encourage alternative forms of sustainable access between our towns and villages. This will most probably be a combination of various means and actions.

The proposed metro is an option worth considering, even though details are currently not available. The metro will only be feasible if it is linked with focused action on reducing the number of cars from the road and ensuring that all remaining cars on the road, after a reasonable transition, are electric cars. It is useless promoting a metro and simultaneously retaining a substantial programme of road-widening and/or construction of flyovers. Improving the road network will only ease traffic congestion temporarily but it will simultaneously increase the capacity for more traffic leading in turn to more traffic congestion.

Encouraging the use of bicycles and pedelecs will contribute substantially to improved mobility and a better quality of life, including ever-improving air quality. Substantial investment in the bicycle infrastructure  is however required. This must include the provision of more bicycle friendly roads and shower facilities at places of work as an essential pre-requisite, together with more bicycle parking areas.

Different forms of public transport using clean energy should also be encouraged – for example, converting existing public buses to the use of methane as their primary fuel.

Waste management is another environmental headache, and which has, of late, been receiving more attention. An effort is currently under way to address the organic fraction of the household waste generated. If properly managed this could lead to substantial results as organic waste accounts for around 50 per cent of all the household waste generated. The tourism authorities must, however, seek to focus on the organic waste generated by bars and restaurants as MTA has neglected this matter for far to long.

Proper waste management can result in the generation of green jobs in the recycling industry – which is still in its infancy but holds a lot of potential.  It is an opportunity to transform a problem caused by neglect over the years  into an opportunity which will be both green and clean.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 28 May 2017

Vot lill-Alternattiva Demokratika : kontra x-xewqa tal-bulijiet

 

 

Mela skond in-Nazzjonalisti, vot għal Alternattiva Demokratika hu vot għall-Labour. Diska antika ħafna din, li smajniha fil-kampanja elettorali tal-2008 ukoll.

Issa jidher li tħajjar il-Partit Laburista ukoll. Għax il-bieraħ, fl-Imqabba Joseph qalilhom li  vot għal Alternattiva Demokratika hu vot għall-PN. [Il-kliem eżatt kien li vot għal xi partit li mhux il-Partit Laburista hu vot għal Simon Busuttil.] 

Qiesu qed jgħidulna li vot għal Alternattiva Demokratika hu three in one.

Issa għiduli inthom kif jista jkun li vot għal Alternattiva Demokratika jkun vot għall-PN u l-PL fl-istess elezzjoni?

Imma dawn bħalissa qed jagħmluha tal-bullijiet jippruvaw jintimidaw għax it-tnejn għandhom l-għatx.

Qatt daqs illum ma kienet għażla daqshekk ċara u bsaħħitha, vot għal-Alternattiva Demokratika. Vot favur l-indafa u kontra l-korruzzjoni.

Vot Alternattiv, vot nadif.  

Green and Clean: Parliament’s role

The general election is being over-shadowed by a web of corruption spun around the Office of the Prime Minister. It has been unravelling for months since the publication of the Panama Papers.

Months of debate has highlighted the need for Parliament to reclaim the authority which, over the years, it has ceded to government. All institutions require continuous Parliamentary oversight: even the civil service needs to be properly monitored by Parliament.

The PN are proposing labour-proof institutions. In reality the institutions need to be PN-proof as well – as both major political parties have had exclusive control of institutions over the years, bending them to their will.

The current mess is the direct result of a two-party system that spread its tentacles through the institutions creating empires with the specific aim of buttressing those in power and protecting them in their time of need. It is a two-party system which, over a 50-year period, has developed a winner takes all mentality, as a result of which only those aligned to the winner are deemed to be able to contribute to the well-being and development of the country. The rest, with few exceptions, have been repeatedly excluded, and it is Malta which, ultimately has lost the utilisation of substantial talent.

This is the background to Alternattiva Demokratika’s electoral manifesto. Entitled Vote Green – Vote clean, without ignoring other important issues, it focuses on matters of governance in addition to its core environmental proposals.

We have plenty of good laws. The problem is that, many times, the pool of talent from which those who implement such laws are selected is generally limited to those carrying the party card. Successive governments have often preferred the politically loyal to the technically and ethically competent. This has been possible due to the fact that Parliament has abdicated its responsibilities and assigned them to the government.

Parliament should reclaim the authority ceded to government to appoint authorities and it should proceed to screen those nominated through a public hearing by a Parliamentary Committee on the lines practised by the Senate of the United States of America. This screening by Parliament should  be applicable first and foremost to all constitutional authorities, as well as to all authorities set up in terms of law. Likewise, the appointment of Commissioner of Police, the Head of the Armed Forces, the Governor of the Central Bank,  the Head of the Civil Service and ambassadors, as well as all civil service grades from Director up to Permanent Secretary,   should be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny.

In addition to ensuring a more serious selection process, this would serve as a safety valve protecting the civil service itself from abusive action on the part of an incoming government as happened in 2013, when the Head of the Civil Service and practically all Permanent Secretaries were removed in the first minutes of a new Labour government.

The recruitment of people of trust on a large scale during the past 4 years has further politicised the civil service. It is a practice that has been on the increase even before March 2013. The engagement of people of trust throughout the wider public service was used as a stratagem to avoid the scrutiny of the Public Service Commission, a constitutional body established specifically to ensure a fair recruitment process. This should cease forthwith, with the engagement of people of trust being limited to the private secretariats of holders of political office.

The Standards in Public Life Act, which ironically was supported by both the PN and the PL, was approved by Parliament shortly before dissolution. It provisions were therefore not implemented. In particular, the appointment of a Commissioner for Standards in Public Life – to be tasked with investigating the behaviour of MPs – has not yet materialised and will have to be addressed by the new Parliament elected on 3 June.

Lobbying is not yet regulated. In fact, its regulation has been postponed as no agreement was reached between the PN and the PL about possible lobbying regulations.

AD considers that the next Parliament will have to address head-on whether Members of Parliament should be full-timers, thus severing all links with profession and/or employment and, as a result, substantially reducing instances of conflict of interest faced by Members of Parliament.

Parliament can, in the next few weeks, assume a central role in re-building the country’s institutions. It is the only way forward to ensure that ethical behaviour in public life is the norm, rather than the exception.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 21 May 2017

Il-Manifest Elettorali ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika 2017

Vot Alternattiv, Vot Nadif.

Il-politika nadifa ma tiġx mix-xejn. Jeħtieġ li naħdmu għaliha kuljum. Lejl u nhar.Vot alternattiv hu vot favur l-indafa u kontra t-tniġġis ta’ kull xorta. Tniġġis tal-ħajja pubblika minn nuqqas ta’ tmexxija tajba u korruzzjoni. Hu ukoll vot kontra t-tniġġis ambjentali li daqqa jeqred il-ħajja, u drabi oħra jtappan u jnaqqas il-kwalità tal-ħajja tagħna lkoll.Vot alternattiv hu vot favur l-indafa fil-ħajja pubblika kif ukoll vot favur il-ħarsien tal-ambjent.

Din il-kampanja elettorali qed isseħħ fi tmiem leġiżlatura ta’ erba’ snin li wriet kemm l-istituzzjonijiet tal-pajjiż huma dgħajfa. Huma dgħajfa tant li ma jistgħux jintervjenu kontra l-abbuż li jikber, flistess ħin li jkompli jherri dak li baqa’ mill-istituzzjonijiet.

L-istituzzjonijiet ħafna drabi jaħdmu fuq l-affarijiet sempliċi u ordinarji ta’ kuljum imma mbagħad huma dgħajfa fil-konfront ta’ abbuż li jew isir mill-istat inkella minn dawk li l-istat irid jipproteġi.

Fid-dawl ta’ dan, l-indafa hi l-aġenda tagħna. Hi aġenda li tibni mill-ġdid jew issaħħaħ l-istituzzjonijiet u tagħti lura d-dinjità lill-pajjiż billi tistabilixxi mill-ġdid l-indafa fil-ħajja pubblika bħala valur imfittex u mixtieq. Hi aġenda li tfittex li tirrestawra s-serjetà fil-ħajja pubblika u l-indafa madwarna fit-toroq, fl-arja, fl-art u fil-baħar.

Idejn indaf fuq it-tmun tal-pajjiż. Nifs b’arja friska u nadifa. Ilma li nixorbu li jkun ċar u nadif. Ikel li ma jkunx ikkontaminat.

Il-Manifest sħiħ tista’ taqrah hawn.

Stephen Calleja : canvassing the PN

 

 

In todays editors blog, in the Malta Independent, Stephen Calleja deemed it fit to write a blogpost entitled A vote for AD is a vote for Labour.

A vote for AD is a vote cast in favour of ADs principles. As things stand it is also a vote against both the PL and the PN.

Has Mr Calleja ever considered what a vote for the PN means?

Stephen Calleja has every right to canvass the PN. I do not seek to deny him such a basic right. When exercising such a right he may consider it superfluous to inquire about the Hon. Claudio Grechs statement that he did not recollect ever meeting George Farrugia, of oil scandal fame. Searching for reasonable explanations and possibly the underlying truth does not seem to bother Mr Calleja the journalist.

He could also inquire deeper into the Capital One Investments Limited and maybe bother to ask whether as a minimum, the Hon Beppe Fenech Adamis judgement in accepting a directorship of the Company was a grave error of judgement.   

Mr Calleja could examine Mario de Marcos legal assistance to the db Group while Deputy Leader  for Parliamentary Affairs of the PN Parlimentary Group. In so doing he may recollect that Dr de Marco had stated that he had sought Dr Simon Busuttils second opinion on whether he should take up the brief with Dr Busuttil not finding any difficulty at all.

Of course, any inquisitive journalist would go one step further and seek an explanation as to what the term conflict of interest means. A Member of Parliaments duty on all sides of the House essentially entails holding the government to account. This definitely includes scrutinising the executives actions in negotiations relative to the transfer of property in public ownership.

When any Member of Parliament does not understand the above, it is serious enough. But having both the Leader of the Opposition and his Deputy without any clue on the matter, certainly says quite a lot about the ethical standards of the Opposition. If these are the ethical standards of the next government I do not think that there will be any change at the helm. It will be simply more of the same.

I could go on and on. I have limited myself to the PNs compromised leadership, as currently it is the most effective canvasser of the Labour Party.

Mr Calleja has every right to ignore all this when he canvasses the PN, but then doesnt that say a lot about his standards and values?

One final point. AD held exploratory talks with the PN during which talks, the above and more were referred to.  The proposals made by AD were aimed to create a functioning coalition which would not be burdened by the accumulated sins of the PN. That no progress was made is certainly not ADs fault. Given the right conditions, AD was willing to participate in a coalition but it never accepted to be tagged as anybodys appendage.

Vot Alternattiv Vot Nadif

 

 

Il-politika nadifa ma tiġx mix-xejn. Jeħtieġ li naħdmu għaliha kuljum. Lejl u nhar.

Vot alternattiv hu vot favur l-indafa u kontra t-tniġġis ta’ kull xorta. Tniġġis tal-ħajja pubblika minn nuqqas ta’ tmexxija tajba u korruzzjoni. Hu ukoll vot kontra t-tniġġis ambjentali li daqqa jeqred il-ħajja, u drabi oħra jtappan u jnaqqas il-kwalità tal-ħajja tagħna lkoll.

Vot alternattiv hu vot favur l-indafa fil-ħajja pubblika kif ukoll vot favur il-ħarsien tal-ambjent.

Din il-kampanja elettorali qed isseħħ fi tmiem leġiżlatura ta’ erba’ snin li wriet kemm l-istituzzjonijiet tal-pajjiż huma dgħajfa. Huma dgħajfa tant li ma jistgħux jintervjenu kontra l-abbuż li jikber, fl-istess ħin li jkompli jherri dak li baqa’ mill-istituzzjonijiet.

L-istituzzjonijiet ħafna drabi jaħdmu fuq l-affarijiet sempliċi u ordinarji ta’ kuljum imma mbagħad huma dgħajfa fil-konfront ta’ abbuż li jew isir mill-istat inkella minn dawk li l-istat irid jipproteġi.

Fid-dawl ta’ dan, l-indafa hi l-aġenda tagħna. Hi agenda li tibni mill-ġdid jew issaħħaħ l-istituzzjonijiet u tagħti lura d-dinjità lill-pajjiż billi tistabilixxi mill-ġdid l-indafa fil-ħajja pubblika bħala valur imfittex u mixtieq. Hi aġenda li tfittex li tirrestawra s-serjetà fil-ħajja pubblika u l-indafa madwarna fit-toroq, fl-arja, fl-art u fil-baħar.

Idejn indaf fuq it-tmun tal-pajjiż. Nifs b’arja friska u nadifa. Ilma li nixorbu li jkun ċar u nadif. Ikel li ma jkunx ikkontaminat.

(Din hi l-introduzzjoni tal-Manifest Elettorali ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika 2017. Il-Manifest sħiħ tista’ taqrah hawn.)

Simon Busuttil dwar il-kaċċa

Qed jgħidulna li Simon Busuttil mhu ser jagħmel l-ebda referendum ieħor dwar il-kaċċa (fir-rebbiegħa).

Bħal dak li qallu li Simon Busuttil jew il-PN qatt kellhom x’jaqsmu mar-referendum abrogattiv dwar il-kaċċa fir-rebbiegħa!

Ir-referendum abrogattiv dwar il-kaċċa fir-rebbiegħa seħħ wara li Alternattiva Demokratika u numru kbir ta’ għaqdiet ambjentali flimkien ġbarna l-firem biex dan ikun jista’ jsir.

Jekk isirx referendum ieħor jew le ma jiddeċidix Simon imma l-votanti meta dawn jagħżlu jekk jappoġġawx petizzjoni oħra għal referendum, dejjem jekk din il-petizzjoni issir!

Ta’ l-inqas issa nafu li Simon Busuttil ivvota favur il-kaċċa. Dan nafuh għax qalilna hu x’ħin kien qed jipprova jilgħaq lill-kaċċaturi.

Nittama li ma jerġax jibda jippoża favur l-ambjent issa li kixef  x’hemm wara l-maskra!

 

Ghost towns in the Maltese Islands

The last Census, carried out in 2011 – with results published in late 2014 – revealed that in the Maltese islands only 68.2 per cent of residential property is regularly occupied. The rest is either vacant (18.4 per cent) or else used seasonally or for some secondary use (13.3 per cent).

If we focus on the regional data, the situation is much clearer. The rate of occupied residential property varies – from 79.5 per cent in the Western Region (between Dingli, Siġġiewi and Balzan) to 46.4 per cent in the Gozo and Comino Region. Table 1 gives the full data. Property that is completely vacant varies from a rate of 16 per cent in the Northern Region (between Naxxar and Mellieħa) to 23.9 per cent in Gozo and Comino as shown it Table 2. Finally, property which is used seasonally or for some secondary use varies from an insignificant three per cent in the Southern Harbour Region (Valletta to Xgħajra, up to Paola and Luqa] to a staggering 29.7 per cent in Gozo, with the Northern Region (between Naxxar and Mellieħa) with a 25.9 per cent rate being a close second as shown in Table 3. This data has been extracted from the 2011 Census Final Report pages 221 and 222.

This amounts to more ten times the size of residential Birkirkara, meaning that the vacant or underutilised properties in Malta and Gozo at this time are equivalent to 10 ghost towns – each of which is equivalent to Birkirkara, the largest locality in the Maltese Islands. This represents a substantial waste of public funds. As a minimum it means that funds spent on the development of the infrastructure (roads, electricity, water, drainage and telecommunications) for these 10 ghost towns went down the drain and could have been mostly avoided.

While all this built-up residential property is vacant or under-utilised, the building industry keeps building more – thereby adding to the glut. They call this progress and a significant contribution to the economy. Alternattiva Demokratika – the Green Party and the environment lobby in Malta has been vociferous about this over-development of the Maltese Islands. This state of affairs has been worsening, with neither the Labour Party nor the Nationalist Party giving a fig about the consequences.

Instead of addressing the issue, the PN government increased the size of the development zone through the addition of the so-called “rationalisation” exercise. On the other hand, the Labour Party has, during the past four years, encouraged more development.

Last March I had the opportunity to represent a number of Mosta residents in opposing the scheming of a large tract of land at Tad-Durumblat, Mosta. This concerned 38,600 square metres of land which formed part of the rationalisation exercise piloted in 2006 by a PN-led government. Mosta has a sizable vacant and under-utilised residential area consisting of 19.4 per cent of the housing stock as in November 2011. The Executive Council of the Planning Authority accepted my arguments and rejected the relative planning control application, thereby saving – at least temporarily – this large tract of land from the greedy forces of development.

Faced with this situation, AD considers that the number of vacant properties in any locality should be an important criterion in determining whether development applications for larger areas are approved or not. This should also apply to the large tracts of land forming part of the rationalisation exercise, in respect of which the determination of the applicable scheme should not be decided if the number of vacant properties is substantial.

It is about time that this situation is addressed and for this purpose, AD’s election manifesto is making this specific proposal: in those localities where the number of vacant properties is substantial, large-scale residential projects will not be permitted.

This would be a good first step in addressing Malta’s ghost towns, ensuring that their enlargement is restrained and thereby applying a significant brake to over-development in the Maltese Islands.

 published in The Malta Independent on Sunday, 14 May 2017

 

Region No. per cent
Southern Harbour 29,107 75.9
Northern Harbour 46,181 72.9
South Eastern 22,279 71.6
Western 19,584 79.5
Northern 23,989 58.1
Gozo and Comino 11,630 46.4

Table 1: Occupied property by Region 

 

Region No. per cent
Southern Harbour 1,113   3
Northern Harbour 6,650 10.5
South Eastern 3,294 10.6
Western 6,33  2.6
Northern 10,692 25.9
Gozo and Comino 7,444 29.7

Table 2: Property used seasonally or for secondary use by Region

 

Region No. per cent
Southern Harbour 8,126 21.2
Northern Harbour 10,556 16.7
South Eastern 5,552 17.8
Western 4,420 17.9
Northern 6,582 16.0
Gozo and Comino 5,996 23.9

 Table 3: Vacant Property by Region

Fuq il-polza tal-vot : il-Forza Nazzjonali ma teżistix


Xi uħud għandhom bl-illużjoni li hawn xi Forza Nazzjonali u spiss jiktbu li għad hemm ċans li wieħed jingħaqad ma din il-forza.

Meta il-Kummissjoni Elettorali, illum, tibda tilqa n-nominazzjonijiet forsi tindunaw li ma hu ser ikun hemm l-ebda nomina fisem xi Forza Nazzjonali. Sempliċiment għax din ma teżistix. In-nomini ser ikunu fisem il-Partit Nazzjonalista, l-Partit Laburista, l-Alternattiva Demokratika, possibilment xi partiti żgħar oħra u xi kandidati indipendenti.

Għax fir-realtá ma teżisti l-ebda koalizzjoni imma lista elettorali tal-PN li fiha kandidati li mhumiex membri tal-PN u ċjoe membri tal-Partit Demokratiku.

Dan seħħ għax uħud, inkluż min jippretendi li jifhem ħafna, għaġġlu u bhekk ma tawx ċans li tkun żviluppata koalizzjoni vera.

Alternattiva Demokratika dejjem riedet tipparteċipa fkoalizzjoni, immaterjalment minn din xi tkun tissejjaħ, imma koalizzjoni ma hawnx.

Ma nkunx ġust jekk nittimbra lil min qed jaqbel mal-PN li hu opportunist, għax ma naħsibx li huma. Imma jibqa l-fatt li mhumiex jirrealizzaw il-konsegwenzi gravi ta dak li għamlu.

Fdan il-mument kritiku kien ikun tajjeb kieku ġiet iffurmata koalizzjoni, imma koalizzjoni mhawnx u issa dan mhuwiex iktar possibli.

Dan hu ħasra għax it-triq li qabad il-PN mhiex fl-interess nazzjonali. Il-lingwaġġ użat fil-kampanja elettorali sissa hu qalil u ser ikompli jkattar il-mibgħeda. Fl-aħħar min qed jikkontribwixxi għal din il-mibgħeda irid jerfa r-responsabbiltá sħiħa.

Xser jiġri fl-aħħar ma nafx. Naf biss ħaġa waħda: li fuq il-polza tal-vot mhu ser ikun hemm l-ebda Forza Nazzjonali!   

X’jifhmu tal-PN b’koalizzjoni

Min qed jitkellem dwar koalizzjoni tajjeb li jifhem sewwa li din ta hawn fuq ġiet ippubblikata mis-Sur Geoff Pisani Bencini imma li tneħħiet immedjatament wara, nhar l-20 ta Marzu 2017. Aħna ta Alternattiva Demokratika ridna koalizzjoni suriet in-nies.