Green gaps in the Budget

The green gaps in the Budget speech cannot be patched up with the millions of euros spread in the pockets of both those in need as well as those who are well off.

Edward Scicluna’s Budget speech last Monday was far too long. Yet in its over 100 pages it missed addressing a number of environmental issues on which different government spokespersons pontificate throughout the rest of the year: confirming that they just pay lip-service to the issues.

The lack of good environmental governance has considerable economic and social impact as is evident to one and all.

While the Budget proposals strengthen the social safety net, it is to be underlined that quality of life is not measured solely in terms of financial metrics. Throwing euros at problems does not lead to any solutions.

The budget speech correctly emphasises the necessity of waste recycling. Unfortunately, the Minister for Finance did not explain how this effort should be integrated into a circular economy, even though the Environment Minister repeatedly boasts of how supposedly the move towards a circular economy is a priority for government. In the entire speech, the circular economy is not mentioned once. Nor does the Economic Survey dwell on the matter or even faintly refer to the matter.

This raises the suspicion that government has lost the plot and does not have any policy ideas on such an important aspect of the economy with its social, economic and environmental effects.

The Budget speech emphasises the energy generation potential from waste incineration which requires large volumes of waste in order to be viable. But the budget speech is silent on how this fits in with the stated commitment to actually reduce the volume of waste.

The government is trying to square the circle; on the one hand it wants to reduce waste but on the other hand it needs more and more waste to make its huge incinerator viable.
The Budget speech also gives the impression that it addresses important aspects which impact the quality of life when in fact offers only half-baked and token solutions.

Among them is the point on water policy. The speech mentions incentives to encourage repairs of existing wells but then it avoids altogether a real and focused effort to address the acute issue of dwellings built without water cisterns, with the consequence that water ends up in the public sewers or flooding our streets.

Developers are let of the hook even when roads are flooded and sewers are overflowing, not to mention the sheer waste of perfectly good water.

The same can be said of the supposed solutions to traffic congestion. The Budget speech refers to the financial incentives available to encourage the use of alternative modes of transport, but here again it ignores the roots of the problem. The government spending of millions of euros for the development of the road infrastructure will only increase traffic congestion, thereby squeezing users of alternative means of transport off the roads.

It is useless to incentivize the purchase of bicycles and pedelecs when there is no investment in adequate infrastructure to ensure that people can commute safely using these important alternative means of transport, which actually help to decrease congestion in our roads.

Over one year ago the Prime Minister had taken a leaf from Alternattiva Demokratika’s electoral manifesto and declared that the government will determine a cut-off date by which new cars will need to be electrically driven or possibly of a hybrid nature.

This declaration had heralded the issue of electrification of transport on our roads addressing two major issues: the quality of air and the contribution of transport emissions to climate change. This, once implemented, would be a substantial contribution to the decarbonisation of the Maltese economy. We are none the wiser on government plans after listening to or reading the budget speech.

Clearly financial parameters are not the only indicators of our quality of life. The green gaps in the budget speech need plugging at the soonest.

published in The Sunday Times of Malta : Sunday 28 October 2018

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A financial surplus, yet an environmental deficit

As was expected, last Monday’s budget speech solemnly announced a budget surplus for the first time in many years. However, the environmental deficit was, as usual, hidden between the lines.

The budget is aptly titled Preparing for the Future (Inlestu għall-Futur). In dealing with environmental issues, the budget speech does not lay down clearly the path the government will be following. At times, it postpones matters – proposing studies and consultations on subjects that have been in the public domain for ages.

On the subject of vacant properties, the government prefers the carrot to the stick. In order to get dilapidated and empty properties in village centres back on the rental market, it is offering a €25,000 grant to renovate such properties, but then rightly insists that, once renovated these should be made available for social housing for a minimum of 10 years. In previous budgets, various other fiscal incentives have been offered to encourage such properties being placed back on the market.

After offering so many carrots, it would also make sense to use the stick by way of taxing vacant properties in situations where the owner is continuously ignoring the signals sent regarding the social, economic and environmental impacts of empty properties.

The budget speech announced improvements to rental subsidies. However, it then opted to postpone the regulation of the rental market. It announced a White Paper on the subject which, when published, will propose ways of regulating the market without in any way regulating the subject of rents. In view of the currently abnormal situation of sky-high rents, this is sheer madness.

It is fine to ensure that the duties and responsibilities of landlords and tenants are clearly spelt out. Does anyone argue with that in 2017? It should have been done years ago. Instead of a White Paper a Legal Notice defining clear-cut duties and responsibilities would suffice: there is no need to wait.

It is, however, too much to bear when a “social democrat” Finance Minister declares  that he will not even consider rent control. There are ways and means of ensuring that the market acts fairly. Other countries have done it and are still doing it, as rental greed has no preferred nationality. Ignoring this possibility is not a good omen. The market should not be glorified by the Finance Minister; it should be tamed rather than further encouraged to keep running wild with the resulting social havoc it has created.

This brings us to transport and roads. The Finance Minister sends a clear message when he stated (on page 44 of the budget speech) that no one should be under the illusion that upgrading the road infrastructure will, on its own, resolve the traffic (congestion) problem. Edward Scicluna hints on the following page of his speech that he is not too happy with the current situation. He laments that the more developed countries encourage active mobility through walking, cycling and the use of motorbikes, as well as various means of public transport, simultaneously discouraging the use of the private car. However, he does not then proceed to the logical conclusion of his statement: scrapping large-scale road infrastructural projects such as the proposed Marsa flyover or the proposed tunnels below the Santa Luċija roundabout announced recently by Minister Ian Borg.

These projects, like the Kappara flyover currently in its final stages, will only serve to increase the capacity of our roads. And this means only one thing: more cars on our roads. It is certified madness.

While the Government’s policy of increasing the capacity of existing roads through the construction of flyovers and tunnels will address congestion in the short term, it will lead to increased traffic on our roads. This moves the problem to the future, when it will be worse and more difficult to tackle. The government is acting like an overweight individual who ‘solves’ the problem of his expanding wasteline by changing his wardrobe instead of going on a painful but necessary diet.

This cancels out the positive impact of other policies announced in the budget speech such as free public transport to young people aged between 16 and 20, free (collective) transport to all schools, incentives for car-pooling, grants encouraging the purchase of bicycles, pedelec bicycles and scooters, reduction in the VAT charged when hiring bicycles as well as the introduction of bicycle lanes, as well as encouraging the purchase of electric or hybrid vehicles.

All this contributes to the current environmental deficit. And I have not even mentioned issues of land use planning once.

Published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 15 October 2017

Int tibża’ mill-Kasco?

Keith & Joseph

Int tibża mill-Kasco? Għax il-Partit Nazzjonalista qal li ma jibżax. Tant li għada ser jibgħat Kastilja ċekk ta’ €121,000 wara li l-Kasco bagħat ittra uffiċjali biex jiġbor id-dejn mingħand il-PN.

Hekk tajjeb, bla biża!

Il-PN ma jibżax mill-Kasco. Imma l-anqas il-Kasco ma jibża’ mill-PN.

Imma donnu x’imkien ieħor hemm min qed jibża’ sewwa. Is-Sunday Times tal-lum fil-fatt tirrapporta li hemm battalja għaddejja dwar jekk il-Kap tat-Tax Compliance Unit hux ser jibqa’ fil-ħatra. Jidher li hemm min irid ineħħieh bl-iskuża li l-kuntratt ta’ tlett snin għalaqlu. Il-Professur Edward Scicluna, Ministru tal-Finanzi, qed jirreżisti. Imma tas-Sunday Times jgħidu li minn Kastilja ma jridux jafu!

Ghax la l-Kasco ma jibżax, min qed jibża’?

 

Is-siġġijiet tal-PN fil-Parlament

PN seats

Għaddej ħafna paroli bħalissa dwar dawk iż-żewġ siġġijiet li l-Qorti ordnat lill-Kummissjoni Elettorali biex tagħti lill-PN.

L-istorja hi ħafna iktar ikkumplikata minn hekk.

Fl-elezzjoni ġenerali tal-2013 il-Partit Laburista rebaħ 39 siġġu Parlamentari u l-PN rebaħ 26. Dwar tnejn mis-siġġijiet li rebaħ il-Partit Laburista kien hemm l-iżbalji. Qed nirreferi għas-siġġu Parlamentari li rebaħ Edward Scicluna fuq id-Distrett ta’ B’Kara (8) u għas-siġġu Parlamentari fuq id-Distrett ta’ Għawdex (13) li rebħet Justyne Caruana. Li kieku ma sarux l-iżbalji flokhom kienu jitilgħu Claudette Buttigieg u Fredrick Azzopardi.

X’għandu jiġri mela? Il-loġika tgħidlek li jekk il-Qorti ikkonfermat l-iżball il-Kummissjoni Elettorali għandha tkun ordnata tikkoreġi l-iżball.

Hemm mod wieħed kif jiġi ikkoreġut l-iżball. Dan isir billi ir-riżultat finali issirlu korrezzjoni. Fit-tmien Distrett flok Edward Sicicluna titla’ Claudette Buttigieg u fit-Tlettax-il Distrett flok Justyne Caruana jitla’ Fredrick Azzopardi. Dan ifisser ukoll li r-riżultat finali flok ma jaqra 39 siġġu għall-PL u 26 siġġu għall-PN jibda jaqra 37 siġġu għall-PL u 28 siġġu għall-PN.

Id-differenza ta’ siġġijiet bejn il-PN u l-PL ma tibqax 13 imma issa issir 9. Dan kollu jfisser li wieħed ikun irid jara mill-ġdid jekk ikunx hemm ħtieġa illi tkun applikata l-emenda Kostituzzjonali li tirrestawra l-proporzjonalita’ billi iżżid is-siġġijiet.

Joseph iħobb jiċċajta ………… ħafna

Joseph Muscat ihobb jiccajta

Iktar milli jiċċajta, forsi nkun iktar korrett jekk ngħid li jħobb jipprova jgħaddi n-nies biż-żmien.

F’waħda mill-okkazjonijiet li fihom indirizza lill-istampa riċentement qal li l-budget għall-2015 hu wieħed li jħares l-ambjent!

Ħadd ma jistax jiċħad li l-budget fih numru ta’ miżuri ambjentali. Imma b’daqshekk ma jfissirx li dan hu budget ambjentali. Kulma jagħmel il-budget hu li jiġbor flimkien id-diversi miżuri li qed jippjana li  jieħu l-Gvern matul is-sena 2015. Jonqsu viżjoni koerenti ambjentali li la għandu u l-anqas jidher li jista’ jkollu fil-futur immedjat.

Il-ħarsien tal-ambjent m’huwiex biss dwar il-kostruzzjoni, imma ukoll dwar il-bijodiversita, is-sostenibilita’, l-kwalita tal-arja, il-politika dwar ir-riżorsi, il-viżjoni marittima, l-ilma, il-politika dwar il-klima, l-enerġija alternattiva, t-trasport, l-ekonomija l-ħadra, l-ekonomija l-blu, l-ekonomija ċirkulari, it-tassazzjoni ambjentali u tant affarijiet oħra.

Diskors tal-budget li ħa kważi 4 siegħat biex inqara ma sabx imqar ftit sekondi biex jispjegalna kif il-Gvern ta’ Joseph Muscat ser jimplimenta politika ta’ żvilupp sostenibbli. Mhux biss. Imma fl-estimi għall-Ministeru bl-isem twil u bombastiku okkupat minn Leo Brincat (Ministeru għall-Iżvilupp Sostenibbli, Ambjent u Tibdil fil-Klima) kullma hemm ivvutat għall-politika tal-iżvilupp sostenibbli hu għaxart elef ewro. Dikjarazzjoni onesta li tfisser biss li matul l-2015 il-Gvern ta’ Joseph Muscat m’għandu l-ħsieb li jagħmel xejn f’dan il-qasam. It-terminu Żvilupp Sostenibbli fid-diskors tal-budget jissemma darbtejn. Jissemma biss fiż-żewġ tabelli fejn hemm imniżżel l-isem tal-Ministeru ta’ Leo Brincat.

Il-politika tal-Gvern ta’ Joseph Muscat dwar l-Iżvilupp sostenibbli (jekk  teżisti) tqieset mill-Ministru Edward Scicluna bħala li m’għandiex relevanza għall-budget tal-2015

Il-politika dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli tinseġ flimkien il-politika ambjentali, dik ekonomika u soċjali. Meta tkun żviluppata kif imiss, il-politika dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli tassigura l-interessi tal-ġenerazzjonijiet futuri billi tmexxi l-quddiem l-ekonomija b’rispett sħiħ lejn l-ambjent u lejn il-bniedem. Għalhekk ngħidu li l-politika dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli hi mibnija fuq erba’ pilastri: l-iżvilupp ekonomiku, l-ħarsien tal-ambjent, il-ħarsien soċjali u l-politika kulturali.

Fil-ġranet li ġejjin ikolli l-opportunita’ nispjega iżjed fid-dettall kemm il-budget ippreżentat għall-2015 bl-ebda mod ma jista’ jitqies budget li jħares l-ambjent.  Minkejja li hemm miżuri individwali li huma pożittivi ma teżistix viżjoni ambjentali ċara u koerenti.

Għalhekk Joseph qed jiċċajta meta jgħid li dan hu budget ambjentali.

sd strategy budget 2015

Id-dilemma tal-Professur Edward Scicluna

scicluna + muscat

Waqt il-kampanja elettorali l-kelliema tal-Partit Nazzjonalista spiss ftaħru li l-finanzi tal-pajjiż kienu fis-sod. Kellhom ċertifikat, qalulna, mill-Unjoni Ewropeja li l-iżbilanċ finanzjarju kien taħt kontroll skond ir-regoli tal-EU (Il-Patt tat-Tkabbir u Stabilita’). B’ċertifikat li l-żbilanċ finanzjarju kien taħt it-3%, kienu repetutament jgħidulna, l-pajjiż kien finanzjarjament qabad it-triq it-tajba.

It-tweġiba ta’ Alternattiva Demorkatika dejjem kienet li aħna konna nieħdu pjaċir kieku l-finanzi tal-pajjiż kienu amministrati sewwa. Imma kollox kien jindika li l-affarijiet kienu differenti milli kienu qed jgħidu l-kelliema tal-Gvern: iċ-ċifri finanzjarja għal Diċembru 2012 kienu għadhom mhux pubblikati. Kollox kien jindika li meta dawn iċ-ċifri jkunu ippubblikati l-żbilanċ ser jerġa’ jisplodi.

Rapport  dal-għodu fl-Independent on Sunday jagħtina raġuna.

F’artiklu fl-ewwel paġna intitolat : Figures show 2012 public deficit redlining at 5.4% of GDP hu ċar li s-sena 2012 kienet sena oħra disżastruża għall-amministrazzjonji finanzjarja tal-pajjiż.

Waħda mill-kionsegwenzi loġiċi ta’ din l-aħbar hi li kienet irresponsabbilta’ għal Partit Nazzjonalista (li kellu iktar minn ħjiel ta’ din l-aħbar) li jwiegħed tnaqqis fit-taxxa tad-dħul. Alternattiva Demokratika biss qalitu dan waqt il-kampanja elettorali. Għax il-Partit Laburista ukoll ma kellux il-kuraġġ li jiffaċċa ir-realta.

U xi ngħidu għall-ħafna wegħdiet elettorali li jiswew flejjes kbar? Minn fejn ġejjin il-flus? Id-deficit li reġa’ kiber (fil-fatt kważi irdoppja) jfisser li mhux tnaqqis ta’ taxxi ser ikollna! Jew żieda ta’ taxxi inkella tnaqqis fl-infieq!

Issa?

X’ser jagħmel il-Professur Edward Scicluna l-Ministru tal-Finanzi?

Għandu l-kuraġġ jgħid li kemm il-PN kif ukoll il-PL għaddew lill-votanti biż-żmien?

Il-PBS u l-Labour Party: xi smajt għand tal-grocer

 

green onions

Sewwa qal Simon li in-nies għandha tiftaħ ħalqha għand tal-grocer. Ara xi smajt:

” Smajtu d-diskors ta’ Gonzi?

Iva, anke ta’ Debono smajt. Imma veru m’għaddiex imma l-budget?

Mela inti m’hux tgħix f’dinja jew? Ma tafx li Franco ivvota mal-Opposizzjoni u l-budget ma għaddiex?

Iva. Naf. Imma ma nistax nifhem x’inhu jiġri għax il-PBS għadu qed ixandar ir-reklami dwar il-budget. Għadda jew m’għaddiex?

Dak taf għaliex għadhom għaddejjin bir-riklami? Għax issa meta jitilgħu il-Labour mhux l-istess budget ser jagħmel il-Professur Scicluna? Isib ix-xogħol lest!”