Sens komun: fil-Mosta u f’Marsaxlokk

 

 

Matul dawn l-aħħar ġranet, Alternattiva Demokratika kienet qed tikkampanja kontra żvilupp massiċċ li ġie propost kemm fil-Mosta kif ukoll f’Marsaxlokk.  Din hi kampanja li ilha li bdiet ħdax-il sena, u tibqa’ għaddejja,  kontra t-tkabbir taż-żona żviluppabbli proposta minn George Pullicino, dakinnhar Ministru responsabbli għall-ambjent u l-ippjanar għall-użu tal-art.

Nhar il-Ġimgħa, f’Marsaxlokk, kien ta’ sodisfazzjoni li s-Sindku Horace Gauci, elett f’isem il-Partit Laburista, ingħaqad magħna ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika waqt konferenza stampa b’appoġġ għar-residenti Tal-Marnisi Marsaxlokk.

Hi kampanja biex is-sens komun favur l-ambjent jipprevali fuq id-deċiżjoni li kien ħa l-Parlament fl-2006 meta l-Gvern immexxi mill-PN mexxa ‘l-quddiem proposta biex żewġ miljun metru kwadru ta’ art li kienu barra miż-żona ta’ żvilupp, ma jibqgħux iktar ODZ u minn dakinnhar jibdew jiffurmaw parti miż-żona ta’ żvilupp. Dan sar mingħajr ma ġew eżaminati l-impatti ta’ deċiżjoni bħal din, lejliet li kellha tidħol fis-seħħ id-Direttiva tal-Unjoni Ewropeja dwar il-kejl tal-impatti strateġiċi ambjentali. Li ma sarx dan l-kejl, ifisser li l-impatti kumulattivi tal-iżvilupp li kien qed ikun propost kienu kompletament injorati.

Nhar it-Tnejn 20 ta’ Marzu l-Kumitat Eżekuttiv tal-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar ħa żewġ deċiżjonijiet kontrastanti dwar żewġ meded kbar ta’ art. Dwar l-ewwel waħda, art agrikola fil-Mosta tal-qies ta’ 38500 metru kwadru l-proposta bi pjan ta’ żvilupp kienet rifjutata filwaqt li dwar it-tieni waħda ukoll primarjament agrikola u b’qies ta’ 17,530 metru kwadru, l-propost pjan ta’ żvilupp kien approvat.

Fiż-żewġ każi ma sar l-ebda eżami tal-impatti soċjali, ekonomiċi u ambjentali u dan billi l-professjonisti tal-ippjanar li taw il-parir lill-Kumitat Eżekuttiv tal-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar kienu tal-fehma li d-deċiżjoni tal-2006 tal-Parlament kienet kemm ċara kif ukoll finali. Sfortunatament ma dehrilhomx meħtieġ li jeżaminhaw dan minn lenti kritika.

Fl-2006, il-Parlament kien iddeċieda li dawn iż-żewġ miljun metru kwadru ta’ art ma kellhomx iktar ikunu meqjusa bħala barra miż-żona tal-iżvilupp (ODZ). Il-grupp parlamentari tal-PN kien ivvota favur din il-proposta, u dan jispjega l-għaliex dak li taparsi kkonverta favur l-ambjent, Simon Busuttil, għadu ma fetaħx ħalqu dwar dan kollu.  Imma l-Partit Laburista, dakinnhar fl-Opposizzjoni ma kienx qabel u kien ivvota kontra li din l-art tkun tista’ tingħata għall-iżvilupp. Għalhekk Joseph Muscat bħalissa qiegħed f’posizzjoni imbarazzanti.

Il-Partit Laburista għadu tal-istess fehma, jew bidel il-ħsieb? Għax issa waslet is-siegħa tal-prova. X’ser jagħmel? Għax anke jekk ikun meqjus li d-deċiżjoni tal-Parlament tal-2006 titfa’ ċerti obbligi fuq il-Gvern u fuq l-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar, xorta hu possibli li l-impatt tal-iżvilupp massiv li ġie propost ikun imtaffi.

Id-deċiżjoni tal-20 ta’ Marzu tal-Kumitat Eżekuttiv tal- Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar li biha l-applikazzjoni dwar l-art fil-Mosta kienet rifjutat hu l-mod kif għandhom isiru l-affarijiet. Hi deċiżjoni li s-Segretarju Parlamentari Deborah Schembri għandha żżomm quddiem għajnejha meta l-każ ta’ Marsaxlokk jiġi quddiema biex tikkunsidra jekk tagħtix l-approvazzjoni tagħha. Jiena naħseb li s-Segretarju Parlamentari Schembri għandha tibgħat il-każ ta’ Marsaxlokk lura quddiem l- Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar biex ikun ikkunsidrat mill-ġdid.

Żvilupp massiv ta’ din ix-xorta m’għandux ikun possibli meta hawn tant propjetajiet residenzjali vojta. Anke f’Marsaxlokk stess l-aħħar ċensiment, dak tal-2011, juri li 18.7% tar-residenzi huma battala filwaqt li 5.9% tagħhom jintużaw biss kultant. Nistgħu nibqgħu nibnu bil-goff meta għandna din il-kwantitá ta’ propjetá vojta?

Għandna bżonn ftit sens komun fl-ippjanar ta’ l-użu ta’ l-art. Sens komun li jagħti piz u konsiderazzjoni tal-impatti fuq il-komunitá kollha qabel ma jittieħdu deċiżjoniiet bħal dawn.

Fiż-żewġ każi, l-Mosta u Marsaxlokk, qed nitkellmu dwar raba’ li kienet tinħadem u li issa intelqet minħabba l-pressjoni kkawżata mill-iżvilupp. Dan hu process li jeħtieġ li nwaqqfuh minnufih. Illum qabel għada.

 

ippubblikat f’ Illum –  2 t’April 2017

Green sense is common sense

 

In the last few days Alternattiva Demokratika-the Green Party- has been campaigning against over-development at both Mosta and Marsaxlokk. It is the renewal of an everlasting campaign, started 11 years ago against the increase in the development zone piloted by former Environment and Land Use Planning Minister George Pullicino.

In Marsaxlokk last Friday we were joined by Labour Mayor Horace Gauci who arrived at, and addressed an AD press conference in support of the residents of Il-Marnisi, Marsaxlokk, in view of the impact of the rationalisation exercise in the area.

It is a campaign to see green sense prevail over the rationalisation exercise, as a result of which, in 2006 on the proposal of a PN-led government, Parliament included around two million square metres of land within the development zone overnight. This was done without a strategic environment assessment having been carried out to examine the proposals. It was on the eve of the coming into force of the Strategic Environment Assessment EU Directive which, just days later, would have made such an assessment compulsory. Not carrying out such an assessment signifies that the cumulative impacts of development were ignored by not being factored into the decision-taking process.

On 20 March, the Planning Authority Executive Committee took two contrasting decisions in respect of two large tracts of land. Regarding the first – 38,500 square metres of agricultural land at Mosta –  the scheme for a development proposal was turned down, while in respect of the second – 17,530 square metres of largely agricultural land in Marsaxlokk – the proposal for development was approved.

In neither case was any assessment of the social, economic and environmental impact carried out, as the professional land-use planners advising the Executive Committee of the Planning Authority consider that Parliament’s decision in 2006 was definite and any assessment unnecessary. Unfortunately they did not think it appropriate to examine the matters before them critically.

In 2006, Parliament had decided that this two million square metre area of land, formerly considered as ODZ land, was henceforth to be part of the development zone. The PN Parliamentary group had  voted in favour of this proposal, which is why the pseudo-environmental convert Simon Busuttil is completely silent on the issue. However, the Labour Party Opposition voted against the proposal, thus placing Joseph Muscat in an awkward position today.

Has the Labour Party changed its views? The chickens are now coming home to roost.

When push comes to shove, and notwithstanding the PN mantra that “ODZ is ODZ”, the PN always seeks to consent to ODZ development, as long as such development is given the go-ahead when it is in the driving seat!

But what about the Labour Party today? Even if it factors in the views of those who maintain that the 2006 decision ties its hands, it can certainly take mitigation measures that would substantially reduce the negative impact of the 2006 parliamentary decision which favours such massive over-development.

The decision of the Executive Committee of the Planning Authority on the 20 March to reject the proposal for the development of the tract of land in Mosta is the way forward. It should be taken on board by Parliamentary Secretary for land use planning Deborah Schembri when the Marsaxlokk case is placed on her desk for her consideration. I respectfully ask Ms Schembri to request the Planning Authority to reconsider its decision and hence send it back to the drawing board.

The proposed reconsideration should be undertaken primarily because such massive development is not required: it is not necessary to sacrifice so much agricultural land. (I am informed that on the site there is also a small stretch of garigue with a number of interesting botanical specimens.) The results of the 2011 Census indicated that 18.7 per cent of Marsaxlokk’s housing stock was then vacant and 5.9 per cent of it only in occasional use.  Why should we keep adding to the vacant housing stock through proposals for massive development projects?

We need some green sense in the planning of land-use. We need some common sense in considering the impact on the whole community before far-reaching decisions are taken.  In both cases mentioned above, the land that has been the subject of proposed  development schemes is agricultural land that has fallen into disuse as a result of development pressures. This process should be reversed forthwith, and the sooner the better: it is only common sense.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 2 April 2017

Mosta : 38,600 metri kwadri oħra għall-bini

 

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Iktar kmieni dal-għodu fkonferenza stampa fil-periferija tal-Mosta, ħdejn it-Torri Cumbo, Alternattiva Demokratika reġgħet semmgħet leħinnha dwar żvilupp żejjed u l-qerda tar-raba.

L-art li se tintmiss din id-darba fiha qies ta madwar 38,600 metru kwadru. Dwarha l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar nhar it-Tnejn li ġej se tiddeċiedi dwar xtip ta żvilupp se jkun possibli fuqha.

L-aħħar ċensiment li sar fl-2011 kien żvela li minn 8359 residenza fil-Mosta, 16.2% kienu vakanti u 3.2% oħra kienu użati okkazjonalment. Allura għalfejn l-awtoritiajiet kontinwament jinkoraġġixxu żvilupp massiċċ?

Din hi medda oħra ta art li fl-2006 l-Gvern ta dakinhar kien iddeċieda li tista tinbena. Dakinhar il-Partit Laburista fil-Parlament kien ivvota kontra u l-Partit Nazzjonalista kien ivvota favur din il-qerda.

L-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar se tikkonsidra l-applikazzjoni PC 039/09 li biha fdin iżżona se jkun permess żvilupp ta tliet sulari u semi-basement bbini ta għoli ta 17.50 metru minn wiċċ it-triq. L-art hi mqassma fi 93 plot individwali u 8 biċċiet oħra ta art li sissa ma ġewx imqassma fi plots. Din l-art, meta tinbena tista iżżid numru konsiderevoli ta propjetajiet vojta ma dawk li diġa hemm.

Bħal din l-art hemm medded oħra ta art li kemm-il darba tkellimna fuqhom, inkluż fi Triq Dun Mikiel Xerri, fit-tarf ta Ħ’Attard.

Alternattiva Demokratika tistieden lill-Partit Laburista li fl-2006 ivvota kontra l-iżvilupp ta din l-art u oħrajn bħalha, biex ikun konsistenti u jieħu l-passi neċessarji, dejjem sakemm ma reġax bdielu, issa li qiegħed fil-Gvern.

The rental markets

The liberalisation of the rental market over the years has not served its objective. Those who own property are still reluctant to rent out to Maltese tenants and the rental market is, albeit slowly, developing in such a manner as to mostly serve non-Maltese residents and ignore the locals.

I have no quarrel with non-Maltese residents renting residential property in whatever form or shape. The problem is, however, that as a result the high rents demanded have squeezed out of the market the small numbers of Maltese residents who, not having the means to purchase, must perforce rent out.

The rental market was dormant for over 60 years and was resurrected primarily as a result of the 2008 overhaul of rent legislation. It was a process that started with earlier amendments to the law in 1995. Unfortunately, there was no real preparation for the impact of its resurrection in the residential sector.  The end result was that the residential rental market is functioning in a warped manner, catering for the high (foreign) earners and ignoring those at the lower end of the scale: the low wage earner who lives from hand to mouth.

Malta and Gozo are being incessantly raped to produce more residential units, primarily for renting out to non-Maltese employees in the financial services and betting sectors that are mushrooming to benefit from favourable taxation rates. Yet the properties that can be rented out to the locals are being left vacant, as can be ascertained by an examination of the information published as a result of the last census.

Subsidies dished out by the Housing Authority may be of some help in reducing the resulting social pain. However, what is required is a radical overhaul that would place all vacant properties on the market. Ideally, this should be done through fiscal incentives that would encourage owners to shoulder their social obligations. A number of incentives have been or will be rolled out to encourage the rehabilitation of dilapidated property. The carrot will certainly function in a number of instances and a number of vacant properties will, as a result, return to the marketplace.

However, after the carrot has carried out its duty, it should be the turn of the stick. Properties vacant for a long time, say for more than 5 years (or some other reasonable length of time), should be taxed until they are put back to use. In such a small country we cannot afford to waste any of our scarce resources. Ensuring that this waste is avoided is everybody’s business.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 22 January 2017

Il-libertà tal-moviment tal-persuni fl-Unjoni Ewropeja u r-Renju Unit

freedom of movement of persons

Waħda mill-affarijiet li ħarġet ċara mis-Summit tal-Unjoni Ewropeja tal-bieraħ hi li l-benefiċċju tal-aċċess għas-suq wiehed mhuwiex mingħajr responsabbiltajiet. Ilha ċara imma hemm għamel ta’ bir-ruħu mod ieħor.

L-aċċess għas-suq wieħed Ewropew iġib miegħu numru ta’ responsabbiltajiet bażiċi. Waħda minn dawn hi l-aċċettazzjoni ta’ dawk li nirreferu għalihom bħala l-erba’ libertaijiet  [the four freedoms] : il-libertà tal-moviment liberu tal-merkanzija, tal-kapital, tas-servizzi u tan-nies.

Ir-Renju Unit irid jillimita l-libertà tal-moviment liberu tan-nies.

Għadhom ma fehmux li r-regoli mhumiex a la carte. Għax dawn huma prinċipji fundamentali li fuqhom hi mibnija l-Unjoni Ewropeja.

Stimi jindikaw li fir-Renju Unit hemm 3.3 miljun ċittadin mis-27 pajjiżi l-oħra membri tal-Unjoni Ewropeja li minnhom 2.1 miljun qed jaħdmu.

Min-naħa l-oħra hemm 1.2 miljun ċittadin mir-Renju Unit li qed jgħixu fis-27 pajjiż membri tal-Unjoni Ewropeja. L-ikbar komunitajiet qegħdin fi Spanja ( 309,000), l-Irlanda ( 255,000), Franza (185,000) u l-Ġermanja ( 103,000). 800,000 huma ħaddiema u d-dipendenti tagħhom fil-waqt li 400,000 huma pensjonanti.

Skond iċ-ċensiment tal-2011 kien hawn 6,652 ċittadin tar-Renju Unit jgħixu f’Malta. Nafu ukoll li madwar 28,000 Malti kellhom dritt tal-vot fir-referendum tar-Renju Unit.

 

 

Inħarsu l-kwalità tal-ħajja ta’ kulħadd

mdalogo

indirizz li għamilt lil Laqgħa Ġenerali Annwali

tal-Malta Developers Association

il-Ħamis 4 ta’ Frar 2016

Bħalissa pajjiżna għaddej minn fażi fejn kulħadd qed iħoss il-ħtieġa li jgħid li għalih l-ambjent hu ta’ importanza kbira. Dan huwa importanti ħafna, anke jekk ma jistax jitwemmen kull ma jingħad.

L-importanza tal-ħidma favur l-ambjent hi rifless tax-xewqa li ngħixu f’armonija mal-eko-sistema u dan flok ma nkunu f’konflitt kontinwu magħha.  Dan itejjeb il-kwalità tal-ħajja ta’ kulħadd imma l-iktar ta’ dawk li huma bla mezzi jew b’mezzi limitati.

Il-ħidma tagħkom hi assoċjata ma ħsara ambjentali sostanzjali minħabba li tul is-snin inbniet ħafna art li wasslet għall-fatt stabilit fl-aħħar ċensiment ta’ il-fuq minn 70 elf propjetà residenzjali li huma vojta. Nistgħu nargumentaw dwar id-daqs u l-kundizzjoni ta’ din il-propjetà vojta, jew dwar il-fatt li numru mdaqqas tagħha hi użata bħala akkomodazzjoni staġjonali, imma l-fatti jibqgħu dak li huma: li pajjiżna hu żgħir wisq biex nittolleraw din il-ħela ta’ art, l-iktar riżors skars li għandna. Iċ-ċokon tal-pajjiż kellu jwassal għal iktar ħsieb dwar użu razzjonali tal-art. Mhux illum, iżda snin kbar ilu.

Ikun inġust li nitfa f’ħoġorkom biss il-ħtija għal dan l-istat ta’ fatt. Parti kbira mill-ħtija trid tintrefa mill-partiti politiċi mmexxija miż-żewġ sinjuri li ser jitkellmu warajja li, kif iddeskriva b’mod ikkulurit l-President tagħkom, qieshom żewġ supermarkets kbar li jippruvaw iħajjrukom bl-offerti tagħhom tant li daqqa tiġru wara wieħed u drabi oħra wara l-ieħor. Offerti li tul is-snin lilkom fetħulkom il-bibien imma fl-istess ħin għalquhom għal ħafna oħrajn għax kienu l-kawża ta’ ħsara ambjentali sostanzjali f’kull rokna ta’ Malta u Għawdex.

Filwaqt li tajjeb li nħarsu l-quddiem, ma nistgħux indaħħlu rasna fir-ramel, għax inkella ninsew l-abbużi w it-tmexxija ħażina li wasslu lil dan il-pajjiż fl-istat ambjentali li qiegħed illum. Kull darba li ninsew il-passat inkunu fil-periklu li jkollna repetizzjoni tal-istess żbalji ħoxnin li kienu responsabbli biex għaġnu l-preżent.

Ma għandi l-ebda dubju li kull wieħed minnkom jixtieq li l-kwalità tal-ħajja tkun aħjar għal kulħadd. Tixtiequ dan, l-ewwel u qabel kollox, għall-familji tagħkom u tagħmlu sewwa. Tajjeb imma li tifhmu li l-familji l-oħra ukoll għandhom l-istess xewqat u aspirazzjonijiet. Xewqat u aspirazzjonijiet li huma maħnuqa ma’ kull biċċa raba’ li tinbela’ mill-konkos biex jinbena xi blokk flats, inkella ma kull torri (żgħir jew kbir) li jdellel iż-żoni residenzjali ta’ madwaru u dan apparti t-tniġġiż tal-arja u l-ħsejjes ġġenerati. Il-profitti ġġenerati minn dan l-hekk imsejjaħ żvilupp iħallsu qares għalih il-ġirien. Dan ma jidhirx li jitkejjel minn xi indiċi ambjentali fażull ta’ xi Università Amerikana.

Il-ħolqien tal-assoċjazzjoni tagħkom kienet pass il-quddiem għax miġburin flimkien hemm ċans ikbar li tifhmu li lkoll kemm aħna qegħdin fl-istess dgħajsa. Miġburin flimkien hemm iktar ċans li titjieb l-attitudni. Huwa pożittiv li anke intom konxji li l-waħdiet fostkom li jabbużaw jagħmlu ħsara lil kulħadd, l-iktar lilkom stess, u li dawk fostkom li jimxu tajjeb b’rispett lejn il-komunità kollha fl-aħħar jagħmlu isem tajjeb għall-industrija kollha kemm hi.

Huwa neċessarju li tifhmu li biex l-industrija tal-bini jkollha futur jeħtieġ li lkoll nifhmu li din trid tagħti każ tar-realtajiet ta’ madwarna: u l-ikbar realtà hi ċ-ċokon tal-pajjiż li ma jistax jibqa’ jżid il-firxa tal-bini, la fuq l-art (inkluż permezz ta’ torrijiet) u wisq inqas fuq il-baħar. Nawgura li xi darba dan tifhmuh, għax qabel ma jasal dak il-jum ma nistgħux nimxu l-quddiem.

Sadanittant għandna bżonn li nsaħħu djalogu strutturat għax huwa biss b’dan il-mod li nistgħu nifhmu iktar lil xulxin. Hu għalhekk li Alternattiva Demokratika ltaqgħet magħkom u tibqa’ tiltaqa’ magħkom kull meta jkun meħtieġ.

Hu inutli li nfittxu li ntejbu l-kwalità tal-ħajja ta’ dawk ta’ madwarna jekk biex naslu ngħaffġu l-kwalità tal-ħajja ta’ ħaddieħor. It-tajjeb li nixtiequ lil dawk ta’ madwarna jeħtieġ li nferrxuh mal-bqija tal-pajjiz. Għax il-familja tagħna hi ikbar minn dik bejn l-erba’ ħitan ta’ darna. Huwa biss meta naħsbu f’ din il-familja estiża li inkunu nistgħu nitkellmu dwar il-progress. Imbagħad biss jibda jagħmel sens il-paroli ma jispiċċa qatt favur l-ambjent.

Il-ġenerazzjonijiet ta’ warajna jitolbu kont ta’ għemilna

environmental footprint

 

L-iżvilupp sostenibbli hu l-ħolqa li tgħaqqad flimkien lill-ġenerazzjonijiet tal-lum ma dawk ta’ għada, il-ġenerazzjonijiet futuri. Għax l-iżvilupp ikun sostenibbli meta l-għażliet li nagħmlu llum ma jkunux ta’ xkiel għall-ġenerazzjonijiet ta’ għada, meta huma jiġu biex jagħmlu l-għażliet tagħhom.

Il-ġenerazzjonijiet futuri m’għandhomx vuċi fil-preżent. M’għandhomx is-saħħa li jisfidawna meta illum nieħdu deċiżjonijiet li jorbtulhom idejhom. Ħafna drabi hu faċli li ma nagħtux każ tagħhom għax la għandhom vuċi, la għandhom saħħa finanzjarja u l-anqas ma għandhom vot. U fis-soċjetà tagħna, min hu bla vuċi, bla saħħa finanzjarja u iktar u iktar bla vot ftit għandu ċans li jinstema. Kultant, bil-kemm bil-kemm jingħata każ ta’ dawk li għandhom vot, aħseb u ara ta’ dawk li m’għandhomx!

Il-futur ħadd minna ma rah, imma, nistgħu nagħtuh sura bid-deċiżjonijiet li nieħdu illum.

Sfortunatament m’aħniex nagħtu futur tajjeb lill-ġenerazzjonijiet li ġejjin warajna għax qed inħarbtu kull ma jiġi għal idejna.

33% tal-art f’Malta hi mibnija, u ħafna minna inbniet f’dawn l-aħħar tletin sena. Imma nibqgħu nibnu minkejja li għandna 71,080 propjetà residenzjali li hi vojta (skond iċ-ċensiment tal-2011: 41,232 propjetà residenzjali hi vojta s-sena kollha, u 29,848 propjetà oħra tintuża kultant). Nibqgħu nibnu meta l-kwantità ta’ propjetà vojta fiha 9 darbiet daqs il-parti l-mibnija ta’ B’Kara, l-ikbar lokalità fil-gżejjer Maltin.

Kontra kull parir li ħallewlna missierietna, l-parti l-kbira tal-bini l-ġdid tul dawn l-aħħar snin ma fihx bir biex jiġbor l-ilma tax-xita. Flok fil-bir (li ma jeżistix) l-ilma jintefa fit-triqat jew fid-drenaġġ u fl-aħħar, wara li jgħerreq lit-toroq tagħna, jispiċċa l-baħar.

Mhux biss ma nieħdux ħsieb li naħżnu l-ilma tax-xita, talli dorna għall-ilma li taħżen in-natura nnifisha. Dorna għall-ilma tal-pjan, u ħarbatnieh. Użajna dan l-ilma bla limitu tant li naqas sewwa. Il-ftit li baqa’ huwa kontaminat bil-pestiċidi u kimiċi oħra mill-għelieqi tagħna.

In-natura tieħu ż-żmien biex issewwi din il-ħsara kbira. Snin kbar. X’ser inħallu lil ta’ warajna?

Ma jidhirx li hemm rieda li nieqfu mit-tħarbit. Għax issa jidher li ser nibdew kompetizzjoni tal-bini tat-torrijiet f’tas-Sliema. X’għandna bżonn dal-bini kollu meta għandna tant bini vojt?

L-ilma tax-xita ser jispiċċa l-baħar għax il-mini imħaffra taħt l-art issa lesti.

Il-ġenerazzjonijiet ta’ warajna jitolbu kont ta’ egħmilna. Għax qed nisirqulhom ir-riżorsi tagħhom. M’għandhomx vot biex jipprotestaw bih, forsi għalhekk ħadd ma jrid jismagħhom u jagħti kazhom.

kummentarju mxandar fuq l-RTK illum 21 ta’ Diċembru 2015

Taxxa fuq propjetà vojta

abandoned property Malta

 

 

Fit-Times tal-bieraħ, l-ekonomista veteran Joe Consiglio jitkellem dwar taxxa fuq propjetà vojta. Dan hu sinjal tajjeb. Anzi, huwa tajjeb ħafna li ekonomisti jiddiskutu din il-materja.

Tajjeb li jkun emfasizzat li Alternattva Demokratika hi l-uniku partit politiku f’Malta li tkellem u ħa posizzjoni favur taxxa bħal din.

Il-proposta ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika ilha li saret 23 sena u għaldaqstant saret fil-kuntest regolatorju ta’ dak iż-żmien, lejliet l-elezzjoni ġenerali tal-1992. Alternattiva Demokratika, dakinnhar kienet preokkupata bl-ispekulazzjoni li kienet qed tirriżulta bħala konsegwenza ta’ propjetà li kienet qed titħalla vojta u abbandunata għal snin twal.

Ftit wara, fl-1993, ġiet introdotta l-Capital Gains Tax li kienet tindirizza parti mill-problema u dan għax, jekk imħaddma tajjeb din it-taxxa tista’ tindirizza sewwa l-issue tal-ispekulazzjoni.

Fl-aħħar budget il-Gvern ħoloq inċentivi (tnaqqis ta’ taxxi) biex jinkoraġixxi d-dħul fis-suq ta’ propjetà li dwarha kien hemm problemi ta’ wirt. Bla dubju dawn l-inċentivi jistgħu jnaqqsu xi ftit il-problema.

F’dan il-kuntest ikun tajjeb jekk niddiskutu iktar taħt liema ċirkustanzi tkun ġustifikata li tkun introdotta taxxa fuq propjetà li titħalla vojta.

L-art f’Malta hi limitata u ma nistgħux nibqgħu nużaw iktar art għall-bini, meta għad hawn min għandu propjetà mibnija u jibqa’ ma jużahiex jew ma jħallihiex tkun użata. Il-liġijiet tal-kera, li inbidlu fl-2008, illum huma iktar raġjonevoli u propjetà tista’ faċilment tinkera għal perjodu limitat sakemm sidha jkollu bżonnha.

Għaldaqstant dawk li setgħu kienu raġunijiet fil-passat (li wieħed seta jifhem) biex propjetà titħalla vojta m’għadhomx jagħmlu sens. Propjetà li ma tintużax u titħalla vojta toħloq pressjoni bla bżonn biex tinbena iżjed art meta Malta ma tistax titlef iktar art għall-kapriċċ ta’ min iħalli l-propjetà tiegħu vojta. Il-pajjiż jonfoq flejjes kbar biex jiżviluppa l-infrastruttura u jagħti servizzi li fejn propjetà tibqa’ vojta jibqgħu ma jintużawx.

F’artiklu li ktibt fl-Independent tal-Ħadd 11 t’Ottubru kont eżaminajt iċ-ċifri ta’ propjetà vojta li jirriżultaw minn l-aħħar ċensiment, dak tal-2011.

F’Malta għandna 71,080 propjeta vojta. Minn dawn 29,848 jintużaw kulltant – probabbilment il-parti l-kbira minnhom huma villeġġatura jew ta’ sidien mhux Maltin li jkunu Malta perjodikament. Il-bqija huma vojta. Uħud vojta għal ftit żmien u oħrajn vojta fit-tul.

Jekk tħalli barra l-propjetà użata bħala villeġġatura, l-ammont ta’ propjetà vojta s-sena kolla xorta jibqa’ enormi: 41,232.

Dan tajjeb?

L-introduzzjoni ta’ taxxa fuq propjetà vojta bla dubju tħajjar ħafna mis-sidien biex jevitaw il-ħlas tat-taxxa u jsibu użu għal din il-propjetà u b’hekk tonqos il-ħtieġa li tinbena iktar art. Tajjeb li nkomplu d-diskussjoni.

Tackling vacant property

Valletta houses

 

Malta Developers Association president Sandro Chetcuti took a good step forward this week when he said that the government should address the issue of abandoned property. It is a small step, but certainly a step forward.

Alternattiva Demokratika – the Green Party – would prefer it if all vacant property is considered, and not just abandoned property. This would help reduce pressure on undeveloped land and, given that less than 70 per cent of existing dwellings are fully utilised, there is room for much improvement in this respect.

Let me start by spelling out the facts, as resulting from the 2011 Census, published in 2014.

In 2011, Malta and Gozo had 223,850 dwellings of which 68.2 per cent were occupied, 13.3 per cent were in use occasionally (seasonally or for a secondary use) and 18.4 per cent were completely vacant.

Table 1 clearly shows that Gozo has a concentration of seasonal accommodation, whilst the actual extent of the problem of vacant dwellings is 18.4 per cent of the housing stock. Another interesting fact shown in Table 1 is that less than 50 per cent of housing stock in Gozo is occupied all year round.

 

Table 1 : Properties in Malta: data extracted from Table 85 of the Census 2011 report

  Malta % Gozo % Total %
Occupied 141140 71.0 11630 46.4 152770 68.2
Occasional use 22404 11.3 7444 29.7 29848 13.3
Vacant 35236 17.7 5996 23.6 41232 18.4
  198780 100 25070 100 223850 100%

 

Additional data of interest made available by the 2011 census is that in Table 2 relative to the state of the unoccupied property, this being the total of the property which is either in occasional use or else completely vacant.

 

Table 2 :  State of unoccupied property: data extracted from Table 140 of the Census 2011 report

  Malta % Gozo % total %
Shell 5374 9.32 1563 11.63 6937 9.76
Dilapidated 1495 2.59 341 2.54 1836 2.58
Serious repairs 4312 7.48 841 6.26 5153 7.25
Moderate repairs 8098 14.05 1126 8.38 9224 12.98
Minor repairs 10475 18.17 1922 14.30 12397 17.44
Good condition 27886 48.39 7647 56.89 35533 49.99
  57640 100.00 13440 100.00 71080 100.00

 

A total of almost 7,000 dwelling units in shell form is substantial, even though most probably the great majority of these properties would be in shell form only for a short period of time. It would be a good step forward if Mepa were to establish a time frame within which properties under construction are to be completed.

In a number of cases, a validity period of five years is too long for a development permit. Permissible completion dates should vary and a system of fines would ensure that our towns and villages are not permanent building sites and would be most welcome by our local councils. This would reduce the presence of dust resulting from building construction material and would be of considerable help in reducing the contribution of building sites to air quality.

This leaves the properties requiring repairs totalling slightly fewer than 29,000. The abandoned properties referred to by Sandro Chetcuti would most probably be those in a state of dilapidation or requiring serious/extensive repairs totalling 7,000.

This is the essential information on the basis of which authorities need to take a decision. It is known that most of these cases are the result of either inheritance disputes or ownership by a multitude of owners whose share has an insignificant value. Fiscal incentives to encourage the consolidation of ownership rights where such properties are concerned are most probably the best way forward. This would address the problem of a number of such properties owned by a large number of co-owners who do not consider it worth the effort to do anything, as they would end up exposing themselves to substantial expenses without any practical benefits.

Reasonable action has to be taken to ensure that properties are not vacant as a result of administrative failures. Subsequently, we can consider the circumstances under which owners of vacant properties who leave such properties vacant for a long period of time should share the financial burden which the state has to shoulder to regulate and service new development. This financial burden is paid for through our taxes and it is only fair that these taxes should be shouldered by the owners of vacant properties.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 11 October 2015

Sound governance protects the environment

 

green hands

Demerger will cause institutional fragmentation.

The state’s duties are not enforceable in a Court of Law.

 

 

Protection of the environment is not achieved in proportion to the number of authorities established to deal with the environment, resources and land use planning. In fact, subject to sound governance, the number of established authorities is irrelevant.

The government has, through its election manifesto, created a storm in a teacup, raising expectations that the demerger of MEPA would result in a government locked into a green commitment. The Opposition, on the other hand, has spoken of a doomsday scenario which will be triggered by the proposed demerger.

Both are wrong as the path to a green commitment requires a political will that is not easily detectable in the House of Representatives as presently composed. The Labour government and the Nationalist Opposition have entered into other commitments intended to bolster the building development industry. Labour is currently moving along that path, whilst the Nationalists did it throughout their 26 years in government.

As a nation, we are still reeling from the devastating actions of the PN-led government which caused considerable environmental damage. Former Environment Minister Mario de Marco has recently been on record as stating that maybe too much has been sacrificed in the pursuit of economic growth. This is not simply a revival of the past, it is an exercise in trying to understand past PN issues of environmental governance that contradict all the sweet green talk of Simon Busuttil.

When the 2005 census indicated the existence of over 53,000 vacant or under-utilised residential properties, the PN-led government increased the uptake of land for development through the rationalisation exercise. It addition, it simultaneously increased the permissible height in several areas. In a number of instances, this increased from 2 to five floors. It also facilitated the construction of penthouses. This has led to an increase (as of 2011) in the number of  vacant and under-utilised residential properties to 72,000 units.

The proposed demerger of MEPA will neither address nor reverse this mess which is the PN’s environmental legacy to the nation.

Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party – is not in agreement with the MEPA demerger proposed by government due to the resulting institutional fragmentation. As a result, human and financial resources will be spread thin over two authorities, thereby weakening effective environmental governance. As a small country, we actually require defragmentation, as this reinforces effective environmental stewardship.

Earlier this week, I and AD’s General Secretary Ralph Cassar had a meeting with Environment Minister Leo Brincat during which we discussed AD’s views in relation to the Environment Protection Act currently pending on Parliament’s agenda.

AD noted that whilst the proposed Environment Protection administrative structures do not contain any parliamentary representation, this has been retained in the land use planning structures. In fact, in paragraph 63(2)(d) of the Development Planning Act 2015, it is provided that two MPs will sit on the Planning Board.

AD does not consider it necessary for Parliament to be present in the planning decision-taking structures. It serves no purpose to have MPs involving themselves in decisions as to which individual development permit is approved or rejected. Alternattiva Demokratika suggested to Minister Brincat that MPs have no direct role to play in operational matters regarding land use planning. It would be more appropriate if Parliament’s Standing Committee on the Environment and Development Planning is given wider powers to monitor both the Planning Authority as well as the authority dealing with the environment and resources. This would entail the availability of financial and human resources so through its Standing Committee, Parliament would be in a better position to identify, and consequently nip in the bud any irregularities or inconsistencies.

Both the Development Planning Act as well as the Environment Protection Act list the duties and principles which the state should observe to ensure “a comprehensive sustainable land use planning system” and “to protect the environment”.   However, after going into detail to explain such duties, the legislation before Parliament then proceeds to state that these “are not enforceable in a Court of Law”. This is specified in Article 4 of the Development Planning Act and in Article 5 of the Environment Protection Act.

One should state that there are similar provisions in present legislation. It is, however, high time that such provisions are removed so that it will be possible for Maltese citizens to seek redress against the state if it attempts to circumvent its duties and abdicate its responsibilities.

Last April, following a legal challenge by the environmental NGO Client Earth, the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court  squashed Her Majesty’s government’s ineffective plans to reduce illegal levels of air pollution in Britain and ordered it to deliver new ones by the end of 2015.

Similarly,  last June Courts in Holland ordered the Dutch Government to reduce its carbon emissions by at least 25 per cent within 5 years in what is being termed as the world’s first climate liability suit.

Maltese citizens deserve no less. It would therefore be appropriate if the above mentioned provisions of the Development Planning Act and the Environment Protection Act are enforceable in a Court of Law.

Another proposal made by Alternattiva Demokratika in the meeting with Minister Brincat concerns the method of selection of the board members of the  two Authorities, as well as their senior executives (CEOs and Directors). AD believes that before government proceeds to appoint such members/executives, it should seek and subsequently follow the advice of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Environment and Development Planning . Such advice should be given by the Parliamentary Committee after the persons nominated are examined by the Committee during a sitting held in public. This change would increase the possibility of the appointment of a higher percentage of competent people as members of the board/senior executives. It would also reduce the possibility of appointing people whose only qualification is membership in the government party.

The proposed demerger is, in my view a non-issue. Legislating to facilitate the entrenching of good governance should be the real objective. After discussing the matter with Minister Leo Brincat I believe that, even at this late hour, this is still attainable.

Published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 16 August 2015