L-ilma tax-xita: l-inkompetenza tal-awtoritajiet

Il-Ministru tal-Finanzi Edward Scicluna, fl-aħħar diskors tal-Baġit qalilna : “Il-Gvern huwa wkoll kommess li jkompli jaħdem biex jitnaqqas ir-riskju tal-għargħar f’pajjiżna. Għaldaqstant, se jsiru studji dettaljati sabiex jiġu żviluppati aktar miżuri li jistgħu jnaqqsu dan ir-riskju filwaqt li jimmassimizzaw l-użu tal-ilma tax-xita.”

Edward Scicluna bla dubju jaf li bħala riżultat tat-tibdil fil-klima l-maltempati kif ukoll ix-xita qed ikunu ta’ natura iktar intensivi. Meta tinżel ix-xita, b’mod partikolari meta tkun qawwija, l-infrastruttura tagħna ma tistax tlaħħaq. Imma minbarra l-impatti kkawżati mill-klima għandna fuqna ukoll il-piz u r-riskji kkawżati minn regolaturi nkompetenti.

F’Malta għal dawn l-aħħar 138 sena, il-liġi pprovdiet biex ikun hemm l-obbligu li jkollna l-bjar għall-ilma tax-xita fid-djar. Il-qisien tal-bjar varja tul is-snin. Originalment il-qies kien dipendenti fuq il-qies total tas-sulari kollha mibnija. Illum il-ġurnata dan tnaqqas biex ikun relatat mal-qies tal-art mibnija.

Sfortunatament dawn ir-regoli ftit huma osservati. Din mhiex storja li bdiet illum, ilha għaddejja snin twal possibilment sa mis-snin 60, żmien meta l-industrija tal-bini kienet għaddejja b’rankatura kbira. Jiena niftakar, meta kont għadni student, ftit snin ilu mhux ħażin, kont rajt rapport li kien tħejja għall-Gvern Malti minn esperti mibgħuta mill-Ġnus Magħquda. Dakinnhar diġa kien ċar li waqt u wara maltempati qawwija l-ilma għaddej mis-sistema tad-drenaġġ kien jiżdied b’mod astronomiku u dan billi ħafna ilma tax-xita flok ma jinġabar fil-bjar kien qed jintrema fid-drenaġġ. Is-sitwazzjoni, minn dakinnhar, marret ħafna għall-agħar!

Flok mal-ilma tax-xita jinġabar fil-bjar, f’ħafna każi qed jintrema fit-toroq, inkella direttament fis-sistema tad-drenaġġ pubbliku. Ammont enormi ta’ ilma tax-xita li nistgħu nutilizzaw qed jintrema. Ħafna, jekk jużaw l-ilma tax-xita jistgħu jnaqqsu b’mod drastiku l-kontijiet tal-ilma!

Meta l-ilma tax-xita jintrema fid-drenaġġ, dan mhux biss ifur fit-toroq tagħna imma minħabba li jgħabbi l-impjant tal-purifikazzjoni tad-drenaġġ b’ammont zejjed ta’ ilma iżid b’mod konsiderevoli l-ispejjes għat tmexxija tal-impjant.

Il-parti l-kbira tal-ħtija għal dan trid tinġarr minn dawk li jiżviluppaw il-propjetá. Anke l-Gvern, direttament, kif ukoll permezz tal-aġenziji tiegħu, fil-passat riċenti kien responsabbli għall-iżvilupp ta’ housing estates li fihom ma tinġabarx qatra ilma tax-xita!
Hu fatt magħruf li fejn żvilupp residenzjali jkun fih garaxxijiet parzjalment jew kompletament taħt il-livell tat-triq ftit għandna bjar għall-ilma tax-xita. L-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar hi responsabbli biex tassigura li l-kundizzjonijiet tal-permessi tal-iżvilupp ikunu osservati: dawn kważi dejjem jinkludu l-obbligu li jinbena bir biex fih jinġabar l-ilma tax-xita. Imma ħafna drabi, għall-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar, qiesu ma ġara xejn jekk il-bir ippjanat jibqa’ fuq il-karta.

Min-naħa l-oħra, l-Korporazzjoni għas-Servizzi tal-Ilma (WSC) matul dawn l-aħħar snin assumiet ir-responsabbiltá għas-sistema kollha tad-drenaġġ, liema responsabbiltá qabel kienet f’idejn id-Dipartiment tad-Drenaġġ. Din ir-responsabbiltá tinkludi l-għoti tal-permess biex bini ġdid jiġi imqabbad mas-sistema tad-drenaġġ.

Il-Korporazzjoni għas-Servizzi tal-Ilma x’verifiki qed tagħmel li l-katusi tad-drenaġġ biss qed jitqabbdu mas-sistema pubblika tad-drenaġġ? Qed isiru verifiki li m’hemmx katusi tal-ilma tax-xita ukoll? It-tweġiba teħduha waħedkom fit-toroq tagħna f’ġurnata ta’ xita qliel. Ħadd mhu jagħmel verifika dwar dak li qed jiġri.

Dan kollu jwassal għall-konklużjoni li waqt li l-ħtija ewlenija għall-qagħda preżenti hi tal-industrija tal-bini, għax, iktar le milli iva ma tipprovdix bjar għall-ilma tax-xita fi żvilupp ġdid, il-ħtija mhiex tagħha biss. L-awtoritajiet u d-dipartimenti tal-Gvern għandhom ukoll iġorru s-sehem tagħhom tar-responsabbiltá minħabba li ma onorawx l-obbligi regolatorji tagħhom. L-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar u l-Korporazzjoni għas-Servizzi tal-Ilma (u dawk li ġew qabilhom) setgħu waqqfu dan l-abbuz, imma ma għamlu xejn.

Meta jkollna xita qliel, jew xita għal ħin twil, diffiċli tgħaddi minn ċertu toroq f’Malta u Għawdex. Dan hu sors ta’ periklu u fil-fatt id-Dipartiment tal-Protezzjoni Ċivili ikun okkupat ħafna f’dawn iż-żminijiet jgħin lil min ikun f’diffikulta minħabba l-għargħar.
Fondi tal-Unjoni Ewropea ntużaw biex jiġu ffinanzjati mini taħt l-art biex l-ilma tax-xita fit-toroq jinġabar u jintrema l-baħar. Fondi pubbliċi intużaw biex jinħbew irregolaritajiet li sar mis-settur privat. Mhux biss, imma ntużaw ukoll biex riżors prezzjuż jintrema. Dawn il-fondi setgħu intużaw ferm aħjar kieku intużaw biex l-ilma inġabar u nħażen fl-ibliet u l-irħula tagħna, flok ma ntrema.

Il-parir tiegħi lil Edward Scicluna hu li, flok ma jinħlew iktar fondi pubbliċi, għandu jassigura ruħu li l-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar u l-Korporazzjoni għas-Servizzi tal-Ilma jwettqu l-obbligi regolatorji tagħhom. Meta jagħmlu dan, parti mdaqqsa mill-problema tal-ilmijiet fit-toroq tagħna tisparixxi.

 

Ippubblikat fuq Illum: 4 ta’ Novembru 2018

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Rainwater: the cost of incompetence

In his latest Budget speech, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna informed us that more studies will be carried out to identify flooding risks, simultaneously seeking to maximise the use of rainwater.

Edward Scicluna is aware that, as a result of climate change, storms are more intense than ever. When it rains, it pours, and our infrastructure is not capable of handling the resulting rainwater. To add to the impact of climate change, we also have to deal with the risks created as a direct result of incompetent regulators.

For the past 138 years,legislation in Malta has specifically provided for the construction of water cisterns in buildings, primarily residential ones. The dimensions of these water cisterns varied over time. Originally, they were related to the floor area of the residence but in the recent past, the required volume was reduced to be related to the footprint of the building.

These regulatory provisions are, however, more honoured in the breach, even when reduced. This is not a recent phenomenon. Regulatory control in Malta has been in steep decline since the building boom of the 1960s. I remember, while I was still a student – many moons ago- leafing through a UN expert-financed report penned in the late 1960s which, even then, had measured the significant increase in foul water in our sewers during intense rainfall, clearly indicating that too much rainwater was going to waste notwithstanding the collection obligations. The situation has not improved since!

Instead of being collected in rainwater cisterns, in an ever-increasing number of cases rainwater is discharged directly onto our roads or into the public sewers. Large volumes of rainwater, which can be utilised for various purposes, are being wasted. Its use domestically could substantially reduce water bills.

When rainwater is discharged into our public sewers, not only does the water overflow onto our streets, but it also increases the costs of sewage purification unnecessarily.
The major culprits are a substantial portion of the developers of blocks of flats and maisonettes. The government, both directly, as well as through its agencies, has also (in the recent past) been responsible for the development of housing estates without providing for the collection of rainwater.

In particular, it is common knowledge that in cases where basement or semi-basement garages are constructed, the duty to provide for the collection of rainwater is very rarely complied with. The Planning Authority (PA) is responsible for determining and ensuring the observance of the conditions of development permits which, in most cases, specify the required capacity of a rainwater cistern.

Over the years, the Water Services Corporation (WSC) has taken over responsibility for the management of the public sewers from the former Drainage Department. This responsibility includes authorising the owners of newly- constructed properties to connect the drains with the public sewer. Is the WSC verifying that it is only the drains that are connected and, in particular, that rainwater pipes are not connected to the public sewer too? The obvious answer is provided by our streets on a rainy day. Clearly, no one is bothering to check what is connected to the public sewer.

This leads to the conclusion that, while the culprit for the present state of affairs is the building industry because, more often than not, it does not provide for rainwater storage in new developments, it is not the only one to blame. The authorities and government departments must take a substantial share of the blame for not complying with their regulatory responsibilities. The PA and the WSC could have stopped the abuse, but they did not.

A number of areas are practically out of bounds whenever heavy or continuous rain hits the Maltese islands. This is a source of danger and, in fact, the Civil Protection Department is heavily involved in assisting residents or motorists who are trapped as a result of flooding.

Money made available by the EU has been used to fund a project for the construction of underground tunnels, as a result of which rainwater from our streets and roads is being collected and discharged into the sea. Public funds have been used to cover up private irregularities.

The EU funds utilised in the construction of these tunnels have been used to squander a very precious resource. European taxpayers’ money has also have been flushed down the drain. This could have been put to a much better use had it been applied to address the lack of adequate rainwater harvesting in our towns and villages.

My advice to Edward Scicluna is that before wasting any more public funds he should ensure that the Planning Authority and the Water Services Corporation carry out their regulatory responsibilities. When they do, a considerable part of the problem of the flooding of our streets will disappear.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 4 November 2018

Wara d-dibattitu fi Strasburgu

 

Id-dibattitu tal-ġimgħa l-oħra fil-Parlament Ewropew dwar is-saltna tad-dritt wera li prattikament il-partiti politiċi kollha huma mħassba dwar is-saltna tad-dritt f’Malta. Il-qtil ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia jkompli jżid ma dan it-tħassib.

It-tħassib hu wieħed akkumulat u huwa ġġustifikat minħabba diversi affarijiet li ġraw fuq tul ta’ żmien.

Il-ħatra u r-riżenja ta’ diversi Kummissarji tal-Pulizija matul dawn il-ħames snin xejn ma għen f’dan il-kuntest.

Ir-rapporti tal-FIAU (Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit) li waslu għand il-Kummissarju tal-Pulizija u ma ittieħdu l-ebda passi dwarhom ukoll wasslu l-messaġġ li f’dan il-pajjiż xejn m’hu xejn: li l-liġi hi bla siwi.

Jekk il-liġi hi bla siwi għax l-awtorijtajiet li għandhom l-obbligu li jimplimentawha jagħlqu għajnejhom, daqqa waħda u drabi oħra t-tnejn, hu ġustifikat li jingħad li s-saltna tad-dritt hi mhedda.

F’dan il-kuntest ma tista’ tagħti tort lil ħadd li jissuspetta illi l-awtoritajiet kollha ħaġa waħda, jħokku dahar xulxin. Anke jekk mhux neċessarjament hekk.

Imma hemm min qiegħed japprofitta ruħu minn din is-sitwazzjoni biex jiżra’ sfiduċja iktar milli diġa hawn. Ilkoll kemm aħna, fuq quddiem nett il-partiti politiċi, għandna l-obbligu li f’din is-siegħa delikata ma nesagerawx fil-kritika li nagħmlu. Anke fejn il-kritika hi ġustifikata. Il-kritika li issir hemm bżonn li tkun waħda responsabbli avolja jkun hemm min ma jagħtix każ, jew inkella jipprova jagħti l-impressjoni li mhux qed jagħti każ.

Il-fatti jibqgħu dejjem fatti.

Il-Prim Ministru żbalja meta ma tajjarx lill-Konrad Mizzi mill-Kabinett u lil Keith Schembri minn Chief of Staff fl-uffiċċju tiegħu wara li isimhom deher fil-lista magħrufa bħala Panama Papers. Kien żball oħxon li anke fil-Partit Laburista stess kien hemm dibattitu jaħraq dwaru. Fil-Partit Laburista kien hemm min kellu l-kuraġġ li jesprimi fehmtu dwar dan fil-pubbliku. Hekk għamlu s-sena l-oħra Evarist Bartolo u Godfrey Farrugia. Kien hemm oħrajn li tkellmu fil-magħluq waqt laqgħat tal-Grupp Parlamentari. Fil-gazzetti kienu ssemmew l-ismijiet tad-Deputat Prim Ministru ta’ dak iż-żmien Louis Grech u tal-Ministri Leo Brincat, Edward Scicluna u George Vella. Hemm ukoll id-dikjarazzjoni ċara pubblika ta’ Alfred Sant, avolja dan issa qed jitkellem ftit differenti. Naf li hemm oħrajn. Kollha talbu r-riżenja ta’ Konrad Mizzi.

Il-preokkupazzjoni tal-lum hi in parti riżultat ta’ din id-deċiżjoni żbaljata tal-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat.

Il-kobba issa kompliet titħabbel bil-qtil ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Sfortunatament hemm min qed jitfa l-argumenti kollha f’borma waħda u jgħaqqad, b’mod irresponsabbli l-affarijiet, meta s’issa għad ma hemm l-ebda prova dwar min wettaq dan id-delitt u għal liema raġuni. L-iżbalji li saru fil-kors tal-investigazzjoni xejn m’huma ta’ għajnuna. La d-dewmien tal-Maġistrat Consuelo Scerri Herrera biex ma tibqax tmexxi l-investigazzjoni Maġisterjali u l-anqas li d-Deputat Kummissarju Silvio Valletta ma fehemx li l-presenza tiegħu fl-investigazzjoni tista’ tkun ta’ xkiel għall-kredibilita tal-konkluzjonijiet m’huma ser jgħinu.

F’dan il-kuntest il-kummenti ta’ Frans Timmermans Viċi President Ewlieni tal-Kummissjoni Ewropea huma ta’ validità kbira: “Let the investigation run its full course. What is not on is to start with a conclusion and look for facts to support that conclusion.”

Il-preokkupazzjoni tagħna lkoll hi ġustifikata. Imma tajjeb li nżommu quddiem għajnejna li t-taħwid kollu li għandna quddiemna ma tfaċċax f’daqqa, ilu jinġabar ftit ftit. Biex dan jingħeleb jeħtieġ l-isforz flimkien ta’ kull min hu ta’ rieda tajba.

 

ippubblikat f’Illum – Il-Ħadd 19 ta’ Novembru 2017

Beyond the Strasbourg debate

Last week’s debate in the European Parliament on the rule of law in Malta revealed that all political parties are preoccupied with the matter and the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia has made a bad situation worse.

This preoccupation has not developed overnight, it has accumulated over time. The appointment of various Commissioners of Police and their subsequent resignation for a variety of reasons has not been helpful: it has reinforced the perception that “all is not well in the state of Denmark”.

The Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit reports received by the Commissioner of Police, and in respect of which no investigation was carried out, sent out one clear message: in this country, some people are clearly not subject to the rule of law. Can anyone be blamed if this message – sent by the Commissioner of Police – was clearly understood by one and all?

This transmits an additional clear message: the authorities are in cahoots; they are scratching each other’s back. Even though reality may be different, this is the message which has gone through.

Unfortunately, some people may be cashing in on these developments and, as a result, increasing exponentially the lack of trust in public authorities in Malta. This is a very dangerous development and calls for responsible action on the part of one and all, primarily political parties. Speaking out publicly about these developments is justified, notwithstanding the continuous insults which keep being levelled against such a stand. It is time to stand up and be counted.

The Prime Minister erred when he did not dismiss Minister Konrad Mizzi and Chief of Staff at the OPM Keith Schembri on the spot, after it was clear that their names featured prominently in the Panama Papers. This serious error by the Prime Minister triggered a debate about the matter in the Labour Party. Some even had the courage to speak publicly: Evarist Bartolo and Godfrey Farrugia did so. Others participated actively in the internal debates within the Labour Party, in particular during meetings of the Parliamentary Group. Last year, the media had mentioned various Labour MPs as having been vociferous in internal debates on the matter: it was reported that former Deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech and senior Ministers Leo Brincat, Edward Scicluna and George Vella took the lead.

Even former Labour Leader Alfred Sant made public declarations in support of required resignations. This week, Sant sought to change his tune in a hysterical contribution to the Strasbourg debate. Others have preferred silence.

The Prime Minister’s erroneous position in refusing to fire Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri has been a major contributor to the present state of affairs. The murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia has made matters worse and has, justifiably, led to the current preoccupation with the question of whether the rule of law is still effective in Malta at all.

Unfortunately some individuals begin linking all the incidents together – in the process, weaving a story which is quite different from reality, at least that which is known so far. Some claim to be able to joint the dots, thereby creating a narrative unknown to the rest of us, because the dots can be joined in many different ways.

Mistakes made during the initial stages of the investigation of the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder further reinforce the perceptions that all is not well. When Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera took quite some time to realise that it was not right for her to lead the investigation into the murder of a journalist who had been the prime mover in torpedoing her elevation to the position of a Judge in the Superior Courts, everyone was shocked.

Even the failure of Deputy Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta to realise that for him to lead the police investigation into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder could dent the credibility of the police investigation in view of his marriage to a Cabinet Minister was another serious mistake. This is no reflection on the couple’s integrity but an ethical consideration which should have been taken into consideration in the first seconds of the investigation.

In this context, the comments of European Commission Senior Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans assume greater importance “Let the investigation run its  full course. What is not on is to start with a conclusion and look for facts to support that conclusion.”

It is reasonable that all of us are seriously preoccupied. The present state of affairs did not develop overnight. It requires the concerted efforts of all of us to be put right.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 19 November 2017 

Beyond roundabouts and flyovers

 

The need for adequate traffic management is apparently, at last, very high on the list of matters preoccupying the Maltese public. The solutions to the problems we face, however, depends on the behaviour of each and every one of us.

Traffic congestion is a constant irritation, as our roads are clogged for longer periods of time and in addition to wasting an ever-increasing amount of time in traffic, we are simultaneously constantly reducing the quality of the air we breathe.

Tackling traffic management adequately would hence address two fundamental issues: air quality and our clogged roads.

I do not dispute that improving the road network eases the flow of traffic. However, it has to be stressed that this is only a short-term measure. Adjusting the roundabout at Manwel Dimech Street in Qormi or the traffic lanes close to the airport or constructing flyovers at Kappara and Marsa will address and rationalise traffic movement now.

However, this further development of the road infrastructure is simply an encouragement for more cars to use our roads. It is only a matter of time when it will be the turn of the new developments to burst at the seams.

The present state of affairs is the direct result of the long-term neglect of transport policy. Public transport – as well as alternative means of transport – has been given the cold shoulder for far too long.

We require a transport policy that actively encourages the reduction of the number of vehicles on the road. Having around 800 cars on the road for every one thousand people in a small country is ridiculous. The small distances between localities in Malta and Gozo should make it much easier to encourage a reduction in dependence on the privately-owned car. Initiatives can be taken on a local level as well as between neighbouring localities. In such instances, it can be much easier to encourage the use of bicycles or the use of public transport or even to walk short distances: our health will surely benefit.

Isn’t it about time that we claim back ownership of our streets? We need more pedestrianised streets inaccessible to cars at any time of the day in every locality in Malta and Gozo. More streets need to be traffic-free, safe for children and parents to walk to school and back. We also need wider pavements for the use of pedestrians (not for tables and chairs to service catering establishments).

In the 2016 Budget speech, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna announced that, during 2017, government entities should be finalising sustainable transport plans. In the coming weeks these should be made public and, as a result, we expect that all government entities will commence addressing the mobility requirements of their employees and their customers. If carried out properly, this exercise could also impact on the private sector thereby (hopefully) substantially reducing a substantial number cars from our roads at peak times. In turn, this could have a considerable impact on public transport because with fewer cars on the roads, it should be more efficient.

Concurrently, government should also address the proposal to electrify the whole private transport sector through banning petrol and diesel cars from our roads, after a reasonable transition, and switching over to cars running on electricity. In Malta, this proposal was launched as part of Alternattiva Demokratika’s 2017 election manifesto. Since then, it has also been taken up by the French and UK governments. Removing petrol and diesel cars from our roads would substantially improve the quality of the air we breathe in all our localities and consequently in the long term will contribute to a considerable reduction of respiratory ailments.

This is the only way forward by which traffic is brought under serious control simultaneously ensuring sustainable mobility and improving the quality of our air.

 

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 10 September 2017

Tax avoidance: does Malta play a role?

basf-malta

On 30 August, the European Union, through Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, ordered Apple Corporation to pay €13 billion in unpaid taxes to the Irish state.  The EU ruling considered that the special tax treatment of Apple, whose tax bill was substantially reduced, amounted to unlawful state aid.

In November 2014, through Luxleaks, we learnt of tax avoidance schemes in Luxembourg and elsewhere, as a result of which billions of euros in tax were being avoided by multinational corporations.

The EU has subsequently launched various investigations into the favourable tax treatment which Luxembourg, The Netherlands and Belgium have granted to various multinationals.

As a contribution to the on-going debate on tax avoidance in the EU, the Green Group in the European Parliament has recently published a study on the tax avoidance strategies adopted by the industrial giant BASF, the largest chemical company in the world.

Founded in 1865, BASF has its headquarters in Ludwigshafen, Germany, from where it manages a €70.4 billion turnover with production sites in 80 countries.

Malta features in this report together with Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Over the years, BASF has used mismatches in national tax systems in order to avoid paying its taxes. It is estimated that, over a five-year period spanning 2010 to 2014, BASF avoided the payment of close to one billion euros in taxes.

Chapter VIII of the report, published by the Green Group in the European Parliament, deals with Malta. It refers to the existence of a BASF subsidiary in Malta which held €5.07 billion in assets. These assets where transferred to a new German subsidiary, BASF Finance Malta GMBH, which was managed from an office in St Julian’s, thereby creating the eligibility for preferential tax treatment which could amount to as much as a refund of six-sevenths of all tax payable in Malta.

All this is a clearly planned movement of profits through generous loopholes as a way of avoiding most of, if not all, of the taxation which would be due under normal circumstances.

This abuse of the differences in national tax systems needs to be addressed urgently. As rightly stated by Malta’s Finance Minister Edward Scicluna at a Luxembourg ECOFIN meeting last September, the way forward lies in coordination at an EU level and not in the harmonisation of the national taxation systems, as some EU member states are insisting.

Tax competition has a role to play as an important tool that small and peripheral countries in the EU have at their disposal. No one should expect these countries to throw away the small advantage they have, but it should be clear that this should be used responsibly and in no way should it buttress the urge of multinationals to circumvent the national taxation system where their profits are generated.

Profits should be taxed where they are actually generated and not elsewhere. The EU needs to end – once and for all – not only tax evasion but also tax avoidance resulting from loopholes in national tax rules. For this to happen, the member states must not only be vigilant, but must also refrain from encouraging tax avoidance through the creation of more loopholes.

Tackling tax evasion and tax avoidance seriously will mean that taxes are paid where they are due, thereby funding the services and infrastructure that is required in a modern, civilised society. This can only happen if more companies pay their dues. Tax competition need not be a race to the bottom.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 4 December 2016

Issa x’imiss …………… wara l-apoloġija ta’ Konrad Mizzi

Konrad Mizzi 101

F’Malta, l-iskandlu tal-Panama ilu għaddej minn Frar, madwar għaxar ġimgħat kontinwi. Tul dawn l-għaxar ġimgħat ħarġet l-informazzjoni dwar żewġ kumpaniji fil-Panama li għandhom il-Ministru Konrad Mizzi u c-Chief of Staff fl-Uffiċċju tal-Prim Ministru Keith Schembri magħruf bħala l-Kasco.

L-apoloġija ta’ Konrad nhar l-Erbgħa fil-Parlament kienet l-aħħar pass s’issa. Imma tajjeb li niftakru dak li ntqal matul dawn il-ġimgħat għax hemm kuntrasti interessanti.

Fil-bidu kien qed jingħad b’insistenza li Konrad ma għamel xejn ħażin.

Mument importanti kien fil-bidu tax-xahar t’April meta ħarġet l-aħbar li fil-grupp Parlamentari tal-Partit Laburista kien hemm diskussjoni imqanqla dwar l-iskandlu. Diversi Ministri u membri parlamentari insistew (bejn erba’ ħitan) li Konrad Mizzi u Keith Schembri l-Kasco kellhom jirriżenjaw.

L-aħbar ħarġet fil-pubbliku bħalma ħarġu l-ismijiet ta’ uħud minn dawk li kienu qed jinsistu għar-riżenja. Evarist Bartolo, Godfrey Farrugia u Alfred Sant tkellmu b’mod ċar fil-pubbliku li Konrad Mizzi kellu jerfa’ r-responsabbiltajiet tiegħu u jirriżenja.

Anke Edward Scicluna tkellem fil-Parlament dwar il-ħtieġa li jittieħdu deċiżjonijiet iebsa u malajr. Kulhadd jirrikonoxxi li l-fatt li dawn il-Ministri/Membri tal-Parlament tkellmu b’dan il-mod kien pass kbir il-quddiem. Kienet xi ħaġa mhux tas-soltu.

Bosta ġustament qed jistaqsu għaliex dawk fil-Partit Laburista li tkellmu favur ir-riżenja ma ivvutawx favur il-mozzjoni ta’ sfiduċja imressqa minn Marlene Farrugia. Ma naħsibx li jkun ġust li wieħed jgħid li dawn kellhom nuqqas ta’ kuraġġ. Huwa essenzjalment realiżmu politiku li wara li kellhom il-kuraġġ li jimxu kontra l-kurrent ma rnexxilhomx jaslu t-triq kollha. Irnexxilhom “biss” iwasslu lill-Partit Laburista jimxi biċċa mit-triq.

Jidher li kien hemm kompromess intern fil-Partit Laburista matul ix-xahar t’April. Dan il-kompromess hu wieħed interessanti għax bħala riżultat tiegħu  Konrad Mizzi ma baqax jgħid li ma għamel xejn ħażin, anzi talab skuża (anke jekk din kienet waħda imqanżha). Riżultat ta’ dan il-kompromess intern jidher li hemm qbil fil-partit laburista li “l-ħtija ta’ Konrad hi waħda żgħira” u allura l-kastig għandu jkun wieħed hekk imsejjaħ “proporzjonali”: għalhekk Ministru bla portafoll u riżenja minn Deputy Leader tal-Partit Laburista. Dan l-argument ċar joħroġ min-numru ta’ diskorsi li saru nhar l-Erbgħa fil-Parlament. B’mod partikolari minn Joseph Muscat u Edward Zammit Lewis.

Ċertament li mhux biżżejjed. Imma naħseb li hu pass il-quddiem għal dawk fil-grupp parlamentari laburista li għamlu rebħa żgħira li jistgħu jibnu fuqha fil-futur. Wasslu lill-partit laburista biex jaċċetta li hemm ħtija li trid tintrefa’. Dan hu mertu tal-opinjoni pubblika li ċaqalqet lill-Partit Laburista mill-egħruq.

Kif kelli l-opportunità li ngħid fuq dan il-blog diversi membri tal-grupp parlamentari laburista huma konxji li “s-skiet tal-Partit Laburista quddiem it-taħwid tal-Gvernijiet tas-snin 70 u 80 kienet raġuni ewlenija li kkundannat lill-partit għal 25 sena fl-Opposizzjoni.” Għalhekk Konrad Mizzi ġie mġiegħel jagħmel apoloġija. Għalhekk tneħħa minn Deputy Leader. Għalhekk tneħħewlu r-responsabbiltajiet diretti. Biex ta’ l-inqas il-Partit Laburista jagħti messaġġ simboliku.

Imma l-messaġġ simboliku mhux biżżejjed. Imma xorta hu pass li jikkuntrasta mac-ċaħda totali li kienet il-posizzjoni oriġinali tal-Partit Laburista.

Huwa neċessarju li d-deċiżjonijiet jittieħdu mill-ewwel u b’mod ċar.

L-ewwel pass hu dejjem tajjeb. Imma qatt ma hu biżżejjed.

Sadanittant l-iskandlu tal-Panama jibqa’ miftuħ beraħ sakemm ta’ l-inqas jirriżenjaw għal kollox Konrad Mizzi u Keith il-Kasco Schembri. Il-ħidma trid tibqa’ għaddejja sa ma naslu.

Il-Grupp Parlamentari Laburista u l-iskandlu tal-Panama

Joseph Muscat +

Id-dimostrazzjoni tal-Partit Laburista li saret fuq Kastilja nhar il-Ħadd l-1 ta’ Mejju ma kienitx dwar l-iskandlu tal-Panama. Bħal kull attività politika pubblika tingħata t-tifsira li jkun l-aktar jaqbel. Għalhekk naturali, u nifhem li l-Partit Laburista, taħt assedju tul dawn l-aħħar tmien ġimgħat, jinterpreta d-daqs tal-folla fuq Kastilja bħala waħda li tagħtih appoġġ f’dan il-mument diffiċli.

Peró, fir-realtà, x’appoġġ qed tagħti l-folla lill-partit f’dan il-mument kritiku?

Il-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat innifsu mhuwiex ċert. Ġie ikkwota jgħid li jekk il-każ Panama huwiex magħluq jew le, iridu jkunu in-nies li jiddeċiedu. Ma kienx qed jirreferi biss għal dawk li kellu quddiemu. Muscat hu konxju li kemm Konrad Mizzi kif ukoll Keith Schembri l-Kasco għamlu gaffe kbir. Imma Konrad u Keith ħadmu miegħu mill-qrib u hu ovvju li jħossu obbligat mhux ftit lejhom. Għalhekk dam biex iddeċieda u meta iddeċieda iċċaqlaq mill-inqas u effettivament ma ddeċieda xejn.

Ittieħdu żewġ miżuri : Konrad ma baqax direttament responsabbli għall-enerġija imma tħalla membru tal-Kabinett bħala Ministru bla portafoll. Kien ġest simboliku li bih Joseph Muscat qed jirrikonoxxi li sar żball imma mhux qiegħed jaċċetta li l-iżball hu gravi biżżejjed li jimmerita tkeċċija. L-iskuża fjakka li qed iġib Muscat hi li ħadd ma qiegħed jallega llegalità. Li mhux qiegħed jgħid Muscat hu li dwar allegazzjonijiet ta’ illegalità ma hemmx ħtieġa ta’ intervent tiegħu għax jeżistu mekkaniżmi legali li jipprovdu għal dan l-intervent min-naħa tal-awtoritajiet. L-issue reali, a bażi ta’ dak li hu magħruf s’issa pubblikament hi waħda ta’ imġieba u ta’ serjetà fit-tmexxija [good governance].

Konrad irriżenja [jew ġie mitlub jirriżenja] minn Deputy Leader tal-Partit ftit ġimgħat wara li inħatar f’elezzjoni fejn kien jidher li kien il-magħżul u tellaq waħdu.

Il-mistoqsija inevitabbli hi : għalfejn ma rriżenjax minn kollox? Dak li għamel [li għandu kumpanija fil-Panama] għandu jkun tal-mistħija għalih, għall-partit u għall-pajjiż. Dwar l-istess ħaġa irriżenja l-Prim Ministru tal-Iżlanda kif ukoll Ministru Spanjol. Imma Konrad le, għax skond Joseph, fil-waqt li l-affarijiet setgħu saru aħjar, ma sar xejn ħażin.

Din hi l-qalba tal-problema. Li Joseph Muscat hu amorali. L-etika għalih hi irrelevanti. Jgħodd x’inhu legali jew illegali imma mhux x’inhu tajjeb jew ħażin.

Fortunatament bosta membri tal-grupp parlamentari jaħsbuha differenti minn hekk. Hemm min tkellem fil-pubbliku bħalma għamlu Evarist Bartolo u Godfrey Farrugia. Hemm oħrajn li tkellmu fil-magħluq waqt laqgħa tal-Grupp Parlamentari. Issemmew l-ismijiet tad-Deputat Prim Ministru Louis Grech u tal-Ministri Leo Brincat, Edward Scicluna u George Vella. Hemm ukoll id-dikjarazzjoni ċara ta’ Alfred Sant. Naf li hemm oħrajn. Kollha talbu r-riżenja ta’ Konrad Mizzi.

Il-grupp parlamentari laburista m’huwiex kuntent bis-sitwazzjoni. Huwa konxju li s-skiet tal-Partit Laburista quddiem it-taħwid tal-Gvernijiet tas-snin 70 u 80 kienet raġuni ewlenija li kkundannat lill-partit għal 25 sena fl-Opposizzjoni. Illum jirrealizzzaw li hu kmieni wisq, wara biss tlett snin, biex il-partit laburista jsib ruħu f’dan it-taħwid kollu. Il-ftit li għamel Joseph dwar il-kaz (anke jekk kosmetiku) għamlu biex jipprova jissodisfa lill-grupp parlamentari tiegħu. Imma xorta ħadd ma hu sodisfatt. Dan kien jidher anke nhar il-Ħadd mill-body language ta’ Joseph x’ħin kien qed jindirizza l-folla fuq Kastilja.

Iċ-ċavetta qegħda f’idejn il-grupp parlamentari laburista biex dan iwassal lill-partit forsi jiġi f’sensieh. Is-soċjetà ċivili ukoll għandha responsabbiltà kbira li tibqa’ ssemma’ leħinha biex tkompli tagħmel il-kuraġġ lil dawk li fil-Partit Laburista qed jinsistu li Konrad (u Keith) għandhom jirriżenjaw. L-intellettwali tal-pajjiż hemm bżonn ukoll li joħorġu mill-friża u jiftħu ħalqhom flok ma jillimitaw ruħhom għat-tfesfis fil-widnejn.

Għax il-folol preżenti għad-dimostrazzjonijiet m’humiex biżżejjed biex tirbaħ l-elezzjonijiet. Hemm bżonn ferm iktar minn hekk. L-imġieba tajba tal-Gvern hi element essenzjali. U dan il-Gvern, bħal ta’ qablu qiegħed iġib ruħu ħażin.

Il-Grupp Parlamentari Laburista ………..beda jistenbaħ

 muscat_j_signing_election_1st_billboard

Kienet aħbar tajba fl-Independent il-bieraħ li l-laqgħa tal-Grupp Parlamentari Laburista kienet waħda imqanqla. Issemmew diversi ismijiet li insistew għar-riżenja tal-Ministru Konrad Mizzi. Issemmew l-ismijiet ta’ tlett Ministri li qablu li Konrad Mizzi għandu jirriżenja. [Varist Bartolo, Louis Grech u Leo Brincat – dal-għodu l-Malta Today semmew ukoll lil George Vella]

Bla dubju hemm oħrajn li s’issa għad ma kellhomx il-kuraġġ li jsemmgħu leħinhom. Fil-Parlament il-bieraħ beda jiċċaqlaq ukoll Edward Scicluna l-Ministru tal-Finanzi.

Konrad (u miegħu Keith Mizzi) żbalja li mar il-Panama, anke jekk il-kumpanija tiegħu ma laħqitx bdiet topera. Il-fatt biss li mar hemm hu ġustifikazzjoni biex jirriżenja.

Hi issue ta’ imġieba ħażina ta’ Konrad (u Keith).

Qegħdin nitkellmu dwar responsabbiltà politika li Konrad (u Keith) għandu jerfa’ talli fetaħ il-kumpanija fil-Panama.

Fl-aħħar, huwa ta’ inkuraġġiment li anke fil-Grupp Parlamentari Laburista hemm min jaħsibha b’dan il-mod. Fl-aħħar fil-Grupp Parlamentari tal-Partit Laburista hemm min stenbaħ u beda jaħseb b’moħħu. Avolja daqsxejn tard.

Il-ħsara li saret lill-pajjiż hi issa irreparabbli.

 

Iż-żewġ verżjonijiet tal-budget

edward scicluna budget 2016

 

L-iżbalji jagħmilhom kulħadd. Peró fuq materji ta’ serjetà kbira bħalma hu l-budget hemm Dipartiment sħiħ tal-Gvern li suppost għandu jnaqqas il-possibilità ta’ żbalji kbar.

L-iżball jidher li kien illi l-verżjoni tad-diskors li ttieħdet biex tkun stampata kienet waħda bikrija, u mhux l-aħħar waħda. Bil-konsegwenza li l-kopja tad-diskors li ngħatat kmieni lill-Opposizzjoni kif ukoll dik li tqegħdet fuq il-mejda tal-Parlament kienet il-kopja żbaljata. Anke l-kopja li għal xi ħin kienet online kienet dik żbaljat.

Id-diskrepanza eżatta għadni ma nafx x’inhi imma jidher li hemm differenza ta’ madwar 50 miżura bejn iż-żewġ verżjonijiet tal-budget. Matul il-ġranet u l-ġimgħat li ġejjin, bla dubju nisimgħu iktar dwar dawn id-diskrepanzi.

Konna nafu li nqala’ xi ħaġa għax sal-ħin li qed nikteb dan il-blogpost għad m’għandix kopja stampata tad-dokumenti tal-budget. Qed nagħmel użu mill-verżjoni elettronika li kif tafu mhux dejjem hi l-aħjar verżjoni li tuża meta tkun qed tagħmel użu minnha fit-tul.

Il-Ministru Scicluna m’għandu l-ebda tort li sar l-iżball. Peró seta evita li jħalli l-inċident jikber kieku spjega mill-ewwel x’ġara nhar it-Tnejn qabel ma beda jaqra l-budget.

Bla dubju, daqsxejn umiltà kienet tagħmel il-ġid.