12-il minuta pjaċir

F’waħda mill-ħrejjef minsuġa mill-konsulenti tal-Gvern, ġejna nfurmati li l-infieq massiċċ fl-infrastruttura tat-toroq ser iwassal biex ikollna 12-il minuta iktar fil-ġimgħa miżjuda mal-ħin liberu tagħna, ħin li illum hu mitluf.

Din iż-żieda fil-ħin liberu tagħna, qalulna, ser tkun possibli għax ser neħlu inqas fit-traffiku. Sa fejn naf jien, dak li ntqal eżatt f’din il-ħrafa għad mhuwiex ippubblikat. Nafu bl-eżistenza tagħha permezz ta’ waħda mill-attivitajiet pubbliċi tal-Onorevoli Ministru tat-Trasport Ian Borg!

Xi snin ilu, kien ippubblikat studju serju, intitolat The External Costs of Passenger and Commercial Vehicles use in Malta. Dan kien ippubblikat mill-Istitut dwar il-Bidla fil-Klima u l-Iżvilupp Sostenibbli fl-Università ta’ Malta. F’dan l-istudju, iffinanzjat mill-Unjoni Ewropeja, kien ġie stmat li l-ħin li jintilef fil-konġestjoni tat-traffiku f’Malta minn kull persuna li ssuq jammonta għal madwar 52 siegħa fis-sena, u ċjoe madwar 60 minuta fil-ġimgħa. Billi dan l-istudju kien ippubblikat erba’ snin ilu, fl-2015, probabbilment li s-sitwazzjoni illum hi xi ftit agħar minn hekk ukoll. Imma anke minn din iċ-ċifra ta’ 60 minuta fil-ġimgħa, diġa jidher li l-konsulenti tal-Gvern għadhom ftit lura: għax għad baqa’ 80% tal-ħin mitluf fil-konġestjoni tat-traffiku li għadhom l-anqas biss xammewh.

Il-problema bażika li għandu l-Gvern bil-politika tat-trasport tiegħu hi li l-miżuri u l-inizjattivi li qed jieħu biex jindirizza l-konġestjoni tat-traffiku huma indirizzati lejn l-effetti li jirriżultaw mill-użu tat-toroq. Mhux qed ikun indirizzat b’mod adegwat dak li qed jikkawża din il-konġestjoni. Jekk inħarsu fit-tul, li jitwessgħu t-toroq, inkella li tkun żviluppata l-infrastruttura tat-toroq biex dawn jifilħu iktar karozzi qatt ma ser jagħti riżultati sodisfaċenti. Is-sitwazzjoni inevitabilment taqleb għall-agħar, għax nispiċċaw nipposponu l-problemi għal iktar tard, meta ibagħad ikunu ferm agħar.

Miżuri li jimmiraw għal riżultati immedjati biex tiżdied l-effiċjenza tat-toroq jistgħu jagħtu riżultati kemm-il darba jintrabtu ma miżuri bl-iskop li jnaqqsu l-karozzi mit-toroq tagħna.

Ikun floku li nħarsu mill-ġdid lejn l-Istrateġija Nazzjonali tat-Trasport li twassal sal-2025: din identifikat li madwar ħamsin fil-mija tal-vjaġġi b’karozzi privati jieħdu inqas minn kwarta. Dan ifisser li l-inizjattivi tal-politika tat-trasport għandhom ikunu iffukati lejn il-movimenti tat-traffiku lokali u reġjonali. Ħidma iffukata f’din id-direzzjoni, bla dubju, tagħti riżultati fi żmien raġjonevoli.

Il-konġestjoni tat-traffiku hi riżultat tad-dipendenza akuta tagħna lkoll fuq il-karozzi. Hija din id-dipendenza li għandha tkun indirizzata bla iktar dewmien. Sfortunatament hu propju dan li l-Gvern u l-agenziji tiegħu qed jagħmlu ħilithom kollha biex jevitaw illi jindirizzaw.

Biex inkun ġust fil-kritika tiegħi għandi ngħid ukoll li ġew introdotti diversi miżuri biex iħeġġu lil min jagħmel użu minn mezzi alternattivi ta’ transport. Dawn jinkludu aċċess bla ħlas għat-trasport pubbliku għal diversi kategoriji kif ukoll miżuri biex ikun inkuraġġit l-użu tar-rota. L-enfasi fuq l-użu tat-trasport bil-baħar fil-portijiet huwa ukoll ta’ benefiċċju u dan billi mhux biss hu mezz effiċjenti ta’ mobilità imma għandu l-kosegwenza diretta li jnaqqas il-karozzi mit-toroq tagħna. Miżuri biex ikun indirizzat it-trasport tal-iskejjel kienu ukoll inizjattiva oħra importanti. Fil-ħidma tal-gvern hemm nuqqas wieħed importanti li jagħmel id-differenza kollha: il-gvern għażel inċentivi biex iħajjar lil min jibdel l-iġieba tiegħu. Jonqos li jieħu miżuri fil-konfront ta’ dawk li jibqgħu jużaw il-karozzi privati meta hu għaqli li dan m’għandux isir. Dan qed isir għal raġuni ovvja: biex ikunu evitati konsegwenzi politiċi tal-miżuri iebsa li huma meħtiega.

Għandhom ikunu użati b’mod estensiv miżuri fiskali biex jonqsu l-karozzi mit-toroq kemm b’mod permanenti kif ukoll f’ħinijiet speċifiċi.

Fost il-miżuri li jistgħu jkunu użati hemm il-congestion charge li hi użata f’bosta pajjizi. Din tinvolvi ħlas skont kemm iddum f’zoni li jkun fihom ħafna traffiku, intenzjonata biex ħadd ma jdum iktar milli għandu bżonn f’dawn iż-żoni, kif ukoll biex min jista’ jevithom jagħmel hekk ukoll.

Sfortunatament, din il-congestion charge li xi snin ilu kienet applikata l-Belt Valletta ġiet limitata fil-mod kif kienet qed tiġi applikata b’mod li naqqset l-effettività tagħha. Jekk l-applikabilità ta’ din il-congestion charge tkun imsaħħa hu estiża lil hinn mill-Belt Valletta l-impatt tagħha biex tkun indirizzata l-konġestjoni tat-traffiku fiz-zoni urbani ewlenin f’kull ħin tal-ġurnata tista’ tkun waħda sostanzjali. Gradwalment miżura bħal din twassal għal tnaqqis permanenti ta’ karozzi mit-toroq tagħna flimkien ma żieda sostanzjali kemm fl-użu tat-trasport pubbliku kif ukoll fl-użu ta’ mezzi alternattivi ta’ mobilità sostenibbli.

Politika tat-trasport iffukata biex tindirizza bis-serjetà dak li qed jikkawża l-konġestjoni tat-traffiku, bla ebda dubju, tagħtina ferm iktar minn 12-il minuta żieda fil-ħin liberu tagħna. Dejjem, imma, jekk tindirizza l-kawża reali: id-dipendenza tagħna fuq il-karozzi. Sakemm dan iseħħ ser nibqgħu nisimgħu iktar ħrejjef minsuġa mill-konsulenti tal-Ministru Ian Borg.

ippubblikat fuq Illum : 21 t’April 2019

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12 minutes of fun

In one of the many fairy tales spun by government advisors, we have been informed that the heavy infrastructural investment in roads will result in all of us having the possibility of an additional 12 minutes of fun every week. This additional quality time, we are told, will result from spending less time in traffic congestion. As far as I am aware, the text of this fairy tale has not yet been published. So far, we have only been informed of its existence in one of the many media appearances of Transport Minister Ian Borg!

Some years back, a more serious study entitled The External Costs of Passenger and Commercial Vehicles use in Malta, published by the Institute for Climate Change and Sustainable Development of the University of Malta and funded by the EU, had estimated that the time lost in traffic congestion per commuter in Malta was 52 hours per annum. This works out at approximately 60 minutes per week. Matters are today much worse, as this study was published four years ago in 2015 and the situation has deteriorated further. Apparently, advisors to Infrastructure Malta have not yet accounted for at least 80% of the time estimated to be lost in traffic congestion.

The basic problem with government’s current transport policy is that its measures and initiatives to address traffic congestion are focused on the effects of road usage. The causes of traffic congestion are generally addressed in an inadequate manner. In the long term, increasing road capacity will not give satisfactory results. It will only make matters worse, as a result postponing the problem until a later date when it will be substantially much worse.

Short term measures which increase the efficiency of our roads will only yield results if they are coupled with robust measures intended to reduce cars from our roads.

It is pertinent to point out once more that the National Transport Master Plan 2025 has identified that around 50% of private vehicle trips on Maltese roads involve journeys of a duration of less than 15 minutes. This signifies that local and/or regional traffic movements should be the real focus of transport policy initiatives. This is the low-lying fruit which could give results in a reasonable time, if tackled adequately.

Traffic congestion is the symptom of our malaise: car dependency. It is car dependency which should be addressed head on. This is the real issue which government and its agencies are doing their utmost to avoid.

To be fair various measures have been introduced which seek to encourage the use of alternative means of transport. These include free access to public transport to various categories and various measures to encourage bicycle use. Emphasis on the use of sea transport in the port areas is also beneficial as in addition to being an efficient means of mobility it also reduces cars from our roads. Addressing school transport was also an important initiative. Government has however opted to use mostly carrots and not sticks in implementing transport policy and initiatives. The reasons for this are obvious: to avoid political backlash as much as possible.

Fiscal measures should be used extensively to reduce cars from roads both permanently as well as during particular and specific times of the day.

Among the measures that can be utilised, congestion charges are the most used in other countries. This involves the payment of a charge depending on the duration of your stay in those zones subject to heavy traffic. Its aim is to reduce traffic in such zones.

Unfortunately, the congestion charge applied some years ago in Valletta was curtailed such that nowadays it is not very effective. If the congestion charge is strengthened and gradually extended beyond Valletta its impact could be substantial in addressing traffic congestion at all times of the day around the major urban areas. Gradually such a measure would lead to a permanent reduction of cars from our roads and a substantial increase in use of public transport as well as alternative means of sustainable mobility.

A focused transport policy which seriously tackles the causes of traffic congestion would yield much more than an additional 12 minutes of fun. It has however to deal with the real issue: car dependency. Until such time we will keep listening to the fairy tales spun by Minister Ian Borg’s consultants.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 21 April 2019

Malta u Għawdex: problema komuni tat-trasport

Id-dibattitu dwar il-mina bejn Malta u Għawdex għaddej.

Jekk tifli l-argumenti ta’ dawk li qed jesprimu ruħhom favur din il-mina taħt qiegħ il-baħar bejn Malta u Għawdex hemm raġuni waħda li tispikka: iridu jnaqqsu l-ħin li “jaħlu” jivvjaġġaw. Imma din il-problema, jiġifieri l-ħtieġa li nnaqqsu l-ħin li nivvjaġġaw hi problema tagħna lkoll, mhux tal-Għawdxin biss. Hi problema mifruxa prattikament ma Malta kollha. Imma ħadd mhu qiegħed jipproponi li nħaffru mina taħt il-Bajja ta’ Marsamxett biex innaqqsu l-ħin meta immorru minn Tas-Sliema għal Marsamxett. L-anqas mhi qed isir proposta ta’ mina taħt il-Port il-Kbir bejn il-Belt u Bormla avolja din kieku tnaqqas il-ħin biex nivvjaġġaw.

Is-soluzzjoni biex innaqqsu il-ħin tal-ivvjaġġar bejn Tas-Sliema u Marsamxett inkella biex naqsmu min-naħa għall-oħra tal-Port il-Kbir hi li nagħmlu użu aħjar tat-trasport bil-baħar u mhux mini taħt qiegħ il-baħar. Ir-riżultat hu aċċess f’iqsar ħin biex taqsam bejn naħa u oħra taż-żewġ portijiet. Bħala riżultat ta’ dan, kuljum ikun hemm inqas karozzi fit-toroq tagħna. Dan esperiment li diġa qed jaħdem b’ċerta success: min-naħa għall-oħra ma jċaqalqux karozzi imma biss lin-nies.

Il-mobilità bejn Malta u Għawdex tista’ tkun faċilitatà bl-użu ta’ fast ferry service bejn Għawdex, Tas-Sliema u l-Belt Valletta. Ikun mezz li jindirizza l-problema reali: il-mobilità tan-nies.

Sfortunatament dawk li qed jikkampanjaw favur il-mina, immexxija kif inhuma mill-Kamra tal-Kummerċ Għawdxija, iddeċidew li l-unika soluzzjoni biex tkun indirizzata in-nuqqas ta’ mobilità sostenibbli bejn Malta u Għawdex hi mina. Din hi fil-fatt l-agħar soluzzjoni għax tagħmel ħsara kbira u irriversibbli lill-Għawdex.

Il-problema f’dan kollu huma l-karozzi: jekk jirnexxielna inneħħuhom mill-konsiderazzjoni tagħna, naslu. Dan hu fil-fatt l-ikbar ostaklu biex naslu għal soluzzjoni sostenibbli għall-problemi ta’ mobilità li qed niffaċċjaw: mhux biss dawk ta’ Għawdex imma f’kull rokna tal-gżejjer Maltin.

Jiena emfasizzajt repetutament li is-soluzzjoni għall-probemi tagħna ta’mobilità qegħdin filli nirrispettaw u nimxu mal-Pjan Nazzjonali għat-Trasport 2025 li kien approvat għal Malta fl-2016. Is-silta segwenti li ħadt minn dan il-pjan tispjega b’mod ċar dak kollu li hemm ħażin fl-ippjanar tat-trasport f’Malta:

“Improve integrated and long-term strategic planning and design: This objective has been defined since historically, it can be seen from experience that the approach to transport planning and policy in Malta has generally been more short-term (4-5 years) in nature. The lack of importance given to long-term planning means that a long-term integrated plan based on solid analysis with clear objectives and targets is lacking. This has resulted in the lack of strategic direction and the inherent inability to address difficult issues such as private vehicle restraint.

There is a strong reluctance for Maltese society to change but this is in contrast with the need for communal actions to address the traffic problems existing now and in the future. This results in the Maltese traveller expecting that everyone else will change their travel habits so that they can continue to drive their car.” (paġna 88 tal-Pjan Nazzjonali tat-Transport 2025)

Ħallejtha appost fl-oriġinal għax naħseb li tinftiehem mingħajr ħtieġa ta’ traduzzjoni. Fi ftit kliem din is-silta tgħidilna li ma nistgħux nibqgħu nippjanaw mil-lum għal għada. Hemm ħtieġa li nħarsu fit-tul. In-nuqqas li nagħmlu dan fisser li bqajna ma indirizzajniex id-dipendenza tagħna fuq il-karozzi. Għax is-soċjeta Maltija tibża’ mill-bidla: tippretendi li kulħadd jibdel id-drawwiet tiegħu biex hu (jew hi) jkun jista’ jibqa’ jsuq il-karozz!

Malta u Għawdex għandhom problema tat-transport komuni. Problema deskritta minn kelma waħda: karozza. Is-soluzzjoni għal din il-problema tirrikjedi alternattivi għall-karozza: il-mina mhiex waħda minn dawn is-soluzzjonijiet. Fil-mument li nkunu lesti li naqtgħu d-dipendenza tagħna fuq il-karozza il-problema tissolva b’faċilità.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd 6 ta’ Jannar 2019

Malta & Gozo share a transport problem

The Malta-Gozo tunnel debate is now in full swing.

Going through the arguments of those expressing themselves in favour of the proposed tunnel between Malta and Gozo, one specific reason sticks out: the need to reduce travelling time.

May I point out that this problem – the need to reduce travelling time – is not peculiar to Gozitan commuters: it applies all over the Maltese Islands. Yet no one is proposing the drilling of a tunnel below Marsamxett Bay to reduce travelling time between Valletta and Sliema. Nor is a tunnel between Valletta/Floriana and Bormla on the books, even though this would reduce the travelling time between Valletta/Floriana and the Cottonera area.

The solution adopted to reduce travelling time across Marsamxett Bay and the Grand Harbour has been to tap sea transport and not the drilling of tunnels below the seabed! The end result is a faster access between Valletta and Sliema on the one hand and between Valletta and Cottonera on the other hand: and a number of cars off our roads, every day.

Facilitating the mobility between Malta and Gozo can easily be carried out by means of a fast ferry service between Gozo, Sliema and Valletta. It would be a ferry facilitating the movement of people and, as a result it will be addressing the real issue: the mobility of individuals.

Unfortunately, the Gozo tunnel lobby, led by the Gozo Business Chamber, has decided that the only solution to the lack of sustainable mobility between Gozo and Malta is a tunnel. It is, in fact, the worst possible solution because, in the process, it will ruin Gozo in an irreversible manner.

The real issue to be addressed is to remove cars from the equation. This is, in fact, the real obstacle to achieving a sustainable solution to our mobility issues, not just in respect of Gozo but also with reference to Malta.

I have emphasised time and again that adherence to the National Transport Master Plan 2025 approved for Malta in 2015 is the solution to most of our sustainable mobility issues. This extract from the Master Plan clearly explains all that is wrong with transport planning in Malta:

“Improve integrated and long-term strategic planning and design: This objective has been defined since historically, it can be seen from experience that the approach to transport planning and policy in Malta has generally been more short-term (4-5 years) in nature. The lack of importance given to long-term planning means that a long-term integrated plan based on solid analysis with clear objectives and targets is lacking. This has resulted in the lack of strategic direction and the inherent inability to address difficult issues such as private vehicle restraint.

There is a strong reluctance for Maltese society to change but this is in contrast with the need for communal actions to address the traffic problems existing now and in the future. This results in the Maltese traveller expecting that everyone else will change their travel habits so that they can continue to drive their car.” (page 88 of National Transport Master Plan 2025)

Malta and Gozo share the same transport problem. The problem is a three-letter word: car. The solution to our mobility problem requires alternatives to the use of the private car and the tunnel is not one of them. If we are ready to dump our dependency on cars, the rest is not difficult to achieve.

Published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 6 January 2019

Traffic and the budget

traffic.Marsa

The Budget acknowledges that traffic is a problem; unfortunately it fails to present a vision for the future, as Transport Malta has yet to carry out a consultation exercise.

Acknowledging that Malta’s roads are bursting at the seams is one small step in the right direction. Simultaneously, however, the Budget goes in to propose various measures, amongst which a couple which will definitely increase traffic. Providing more parking spaces, widening roads and improving junctions through the provision of flyovers will improve traffic flow, but it will also increase vehicular traffic.

It is not rocket science to conclude that a long-term plan to reduce car ownership is the only way forward. Currently, with around 341,000 cars on our roads, car ownership in Malta stands at 802 per thousand population. In contrast, the figure for the UK is 516, for Italy 682 and for the USA 786. If Malta’s car ownership profile were to be reduced to a reasonable 500 cars per 1000 population, this would signify that there are currently 130,000 more cars on our roads than is reasonable.

Given the short travelling distances in Malta, public transport should normally be sufficient for most of our needs. Car ownership has increased exponentially over the years as public transport was found lacking – even for such short distances and it  got worse over time.

The recently published White Paper by the Education Ministry pointed out how schools are affected by traffic congestion. They are not, in fact, a  cause of traffic congestion; rather, they are one of its many victims. Introducing a coordinated scheme providing school transport to serve both private and public schools could reducing traffic during rush hours.

The same could be stated in regarding the accessibility of industrial estates. If these were suitably serviced by public transport routes, a substantial reduction in traffic generation could be achieved.

The budget also refers to alternative means of transport. Reinforcing sea links across Grand Harbour between Valletta and the Three Cities as well as across Marsamxett Bay between Sliema and Valletta, could also contribute substantially to a reduction of traffic movements. Various attempts have been made over the years to restore such links but they were not as successful as had been hoped due to the fares having generally been considered as being on the high side.

Reintroducing these maritime links across the harbours on a sound footing would provide a long-term alternative public transport service that would substantially reduce travel time for all its users. However, it would not be reasonable to expect this to be completely self-financed, at least not until such time as it has attracted custom and established itself as a reliable and efficient public transport service.

The budget also encourages the use of small-capacity motorcycles by reducing their annual road licence fee to €10. This reduction would certainly be an encouragement, even though it could very easily been removed completely!  However, as was pointed out – even in the budget speech itself – such a measure can only be effective if it is reinforced by an improvement in the  behaviour of  road-users as well as through better maintenance of our roads.

Improving the use of the existing road infrastructure would be effective as a short-term measure. The proposal to introduce the “tidal lane” in a number of ours roads would  certainly reduce congestion through facilitating traffic flow. It will not, however, reduce vehicle movements.

The EU -funded study entitled The External Costs of Passenger and Commercial Vehicles Use in Malta carried out by the Institute for Climate Change and Sustainable Development at the University of Malta examined the economic impact of traffic in Malta. Such impact included not only time lost due to heavy traffic, but also excessive fuel consumed and the effect on health of the resulting air and noise pollution.  The estimated impact is substantial and add up to around four per cent of GDP. This would completely cancel out the projected 2016 increase of 3.6 per cent in Malta’s GDP.

The current extent of the traffic problem in Malta is due to the failure on the part of the state over a number of years. The mismanagement of public transport has created a vacuum, as a result of which cars have been permitted to take over our roads. Reversing the process is possible, but it will not be easy: it will require a coordinated approach and clear thinking. At the end of the day, all the measures taken must have one clear objective: replacing the private car as the preferred means of transport. It is the only way forward.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday, 18 October 2015

Fejn kont, meta nbniet il-Belt Valletta ?

La Valette

 

Eħe, fejn kont meta 450 sena ilu l-Gran Mastru La Valette ħolom li jibni l-Belt fuq l-għolja Xiber-ras?

Jiena ma kontx hawn. Kieku kont, probabbilment bħal bosta oħrajn, kien imissni l-istess xorti ta’ dawk li kienu meqjusa li jipprotestaw wisq! La Valette ma kienx jittollera l-kritika!

Nagħmlu żball oħxon nippruvaw niġġudikaw illum deċiżjonijiet li ittieħdu l-bieraħ imma imbagħad nagħmlu dan bil-kriterji tal-lum. Kieku kellha issir il-proposta biex tinbena illum, hemm ċans tajjeb li l-Belt Valletta ma kienitx tinbena. Imma fiż-żmien li nbniet kien jagħmel sens għad-difiża tal-pajjiż. La Valette qabad u iddeċieda. La għamel EIA u l-anqas talab permess ta’ ħadd!

L-istess nistgħu ngħidu, per eżempju għall-Port Ħieles. Kieku l-idea kellha tfaqqas illum bla dubju li l-Port Ħieles kien jinbena differenti, ħafna iktar il-bogħod mir-residenzi ta’ Birżebbuġa. Imma meta l-Gvern fl-1962 beda jesproprija l-art biex eventwalment inbena l-Port Ħieles, il-ħsieb kien differenti. Anke l-ideat ta’ ħarsien ambjentali dakinnhar kienu għadhom ftit primittivi, jekk kienu jeżistu.

Aħna qegħdin hawn illum u kull wieħed minna għandu l-obbligu li jiftaħ ħalqu illum.

Tul is-snin li għaddew ikkritikajna d-deċiżjonijiet żbaljati li għamlu ħsara ambjentali kbira. Waħda wara l-oħra.

Bħalissa fuq l-aġenda hemm iċ-ċirkwit propost għat-tlielaq tal-karozzi.

Diġa ktibt dwar dan is-suġġett diversi drabi wara li giet ippubblikata t-talba għal espressjoni ta’ interess dwar iċ-ċirkwit. Issa nistennew il-proposti li jridu jkunu sottomessi sal-20 ta’ Jannar 2016.

Mhux nistenna proposta li jkollna l-karozzi jtellqu fit-toroq ewlenin tal-pajjiż bħalma jiġri f’Monaco! L-indikazzjonijiet dejjem kienu dwar artijiet sostanzjali fl-inħawi ta’ Ħal-Far li fuqhom ikun propost li jiġi żviluppat iċ-ċirkwit. L-istorbju, qed jintqal, “mhux problema” għax diġa hemm storbju mhux żgħir f’kull ħin tal-ġurnata mill-ajruplani neżlin lejn, jew tiela’ mill-ajruport ta’ Ħal-Luqa. Storbju li “ndara” mir-residenti fl-inħawi tul is-snin. Ftit iżda jintqal li anke jekk l-istorbju jindara xorta jagħmel il-ħsara lis-saħħa tan-nies.

Diġa fil-preżent ikun hemm numru ta’ karozzi fl-inħawi fejn min isuqhom ikun qed jipprattika d-delizzju tiegħu billi jtellaq. Xejn ma hi esperjenza pjaċevoli għar-residenti fl-inħawi li issa jridu jiddeċiedu jekk jibqgħux jissaportu inkella jekk iridux isemmgħu leħinhom.

Nistennew u naraw.

Bebbux u bigilla għal La Valette

La Valette . bigilla 

 

Fi Frar li għadda s-Sindku tal-Belt Valletta kien insista li l-kiosk tal-hamburgers ma kienx postu ħdejn l-istatwa ta’ La Valette.  Għamel sewwa li nsista li jitneħħa. Anke l-Partit Nazzjonalista, dakinnhar kien tkellem kontra l-presenza ta’ dan il-kiosk f’parti daqshekk sensittiva tal-Belt kapitali.

Issa bil-villaġġ tal-festi tal-Indipendenza li qed jintrama’ mill-Partit Nazzjonalista fid-daħla tal-Belt, La Valette mhux biss hamburgers ser ikollu, imma ravjul, bigilla u bebbux ukoll.

Fejnu s-Sindku tal-Belt Valletta issa?  

 

 

 

 

 

Political responsibility

 

Mallia inquiry

Good governance is clearly going to the dogs. It is not just a case of matters that could have been handled better, as Prime Minister Joseph Muscat stated in the aftermath of the Cafè Premier scandal.

In February 2015 the National Audit Office had underlined notable shortcomings in terms of governance with respect to Joseph Muscat’s government’s failure to involve the Government Property Division in the negotiations to re-acquire Cafè Premier in Valletta.

The purpose of holding inquires, irrespective of their format, is not just to identify those responsible for shortcomings relative to matters under investigation. High on the list of objectives of inquires is the identification and subsequent doing away with administrative practices which are liable to be abused.

The Manwel Mallia inquiry, which was commissioned by the Prime Minister in terms of the Inquires Act, was handled by three former judges and focused on the behaviour of the then Honourable Minister Manwel Mallia. It is pertinent to point out that in their report dated 8 December 2014, the three judges had emphasised that Manwel Mallia had to shoulder ministerial or political responsibility in respect of the behaviour of those persons who he had nominated to a position of trust. Tongue-in-cheek, the panel of judges carrying out the Mallia inquiry had commented that Maltese politicians, when in Opposition, emphasise the need to shoulder political responsibility only to forget all about it when they make it to government.

In fact, in view of the conclusions of that inquiry, former Minister Manwel Mallia, in defiance of the basic rules of good governance, refused to resign from office and was subsequently fired by the Prime Minister – who had no other option at his disposal.

The current Gaffarena scandal may lead to similar considerations. Two politicians are under the spotlight: Joseph Muscat, who, in addition to being Prime Minister is also Minister for Lands, and Michael Falzon, who is the Parliamentary Secretary responsible for Lands. Both have to shoulder political responsibility for the operation of the Government Property Division for which they are jointly politically responsible. Twenty seven months into Labour’s mandate it is not justifiable that they shift the blame onto their predecessors. Labour in government has had sufficient time to carry out basic operational changes, if they considered that these were necessary.

Two inquires are under way. One has been requested by the Opposition and is being carried out by the National Audit Office. The other has been requested by the government and is being carried out by the Internal Audit and Investigation Department.

The two inquires will necessarily overlap but, due to differing terms of reference they should be complimenting each other.

There are too many coincidences in this latest Gaffarena scandal and consequently various issues need to be explained. The Government Property Division seems to have preferred Marco Gaffarena, giving him time to purchase a second portion of the Valletta property before expropriating it, when it could have easily expropriated it directly from the then owners! Likewise, it is clear that someone took the decision to pay Marco Gaffarena partly in kind, by allowing him to select amongst government property that land which suited him most. Who took this decision?  The civil service does not normally take such decisions. This particular decision, in my view, has political fingerprints.

The values attributed to both the expropriated property and to the government properties used to facilitate payment have raised eyebrows. Detailed explanation is required to establish whether there is some computational error or whether there is some other explanation.

Throughout the past week, the press has pointed at a particular member of the private secretariat of Parliamentary Secretary Michael Falzon who, too often, was observed accompanying Marco Gaffarena at the Government Property Division. This person, appointed in a position of trust by the Honourable Michael Falzon, did not reply to questions from the press intended to clarify whether – and to what extent – he opened doors for Gaffarena. In particular, the queries sought to clarify whether he facilitated the pick and choose land deal between the Government Property Division and Marco Gaffarena.

The conclusions of the two investigations should undoubtedly shed light on the decisions taken, as well as on those who facilitated them. The fact that this is the second case concerning the Government Property Division being investigated by the National Audit Office in the space of a few months should ring the alarm bells because, essentially, it signifies that no lessons were learnt from the Cafè Premier debacle.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 14 June 2015

Il-kaċċaturi jikxfu l-maskra

 

estevan mallia + Kastiljaglenn briffa sfida

(kummenti fuq MaltaToday online)

 

Xi kaċċaturi l-bieraħ kmieni wara nofsinnhar organizzaw dimostrazzjoni l-Belt u wara baqgħu sejrin sal-Buskett.

L-insulti ma naqsux. Fil-Buskett , għall-ħabta tal-5.00pm madwar 30 kaċċatur wara li telqu mill-protesta li kellhom il-Belt, attakkaw ukoll in-nies.

Fuq is-sit tal-Malta Today online ma naqsux il-kummenti li jħeġġu iktar vjolenza.

 

Huwa forsi l-mument addattat biex kull min fil-passat kien jagħti l-appoġġ lill-kaċċa u lill-kaċċaturi jaħsibha sewwa dwar dak li fil-fatt qiegħed jappoġġa. L-inċidenti tal-bieraħ kienu serji. Setgħu weġġgħu serjament in-nies.

Tajjeb li niftakru li dan mhux l-ewwel inċident. Kien hemm fil-passat inċidenti vjolenti oħra li kienu jinvolvu lil dawk il-kaċċaturi li malajr tisħnilhom rashom.

Fil-ġimgħat li ġejjin tibda l-kampanja tar-referendum biex tispiċċa l-kaċċa fir-rebbiegħa.

B’dak li għamlu l-bieraħ, il-kaċċaturi ta’ rashom sħuna, bdew il-kampanja referendarja fuq togħma morra. Il-kampanja referendarja għandha tkun waħda paċifika bbażata fuq ir-raġuni. Sfortunatament, iżda, dejjem jidher iżjed ċar li ma tantx hemm ma min tista’ tirraġuna.

Bid-deċiżjoni tal-Gvern fi tmiem il-ġimgħa li jwaqqaf temporanjament l-istaġun tal-kaċċa tal-ħarifa ngħata messaġġ li wara kollox l-irkatt bil-vot mhux dejjem għandu effett. Jista’ jkun li fl-aħħar il-Partit Laburista ukoll beda jiftaħ għajnejħ li l-appoġġ li kien qiegħed jagħti lill-kaċċaturi kien wieħed żbaljat.

Kuraġġ hemm spazju għal kulħadd fil-Koalizzjoni kontra l-Kaċċa fir-Rebbiegħa.

Local plans, and not regional

grand-harbouraerial

MEPA has embarked on a process which will lead to a revision of the seven existing  Local Plans. Five were approved in 2006. Two of them were approved earlier: the Marsaxlokk Bay Local Plan (1995) and the Grand Harbour Local Plan (2002).

With the exception of the Marsaxlokk Bay Local Plan (which regulates  Birżebbuġa, Marsaxlokk and their surrounding areas) all the Local Plans cover extensive areas. The Structure Plan, approved in 1990 and currently subject to revision, had identified the need for 24 Local Plans addressing urban areas, as well as other unspecified plans for Rural Conservation Areas. Initially when MEPA approved the Marsaxlokk Bay Local Plan it started along this path but then it opted for plans which are more regional than local in nature.

Local Plans are necessary in order that planning policy is appropriately applied at a local level where one can focus on practical considerations. Though there may be overlaps between Local Plans covering similar areas there will also be variations resulting from the specific nature of the different localities. There will be inevitable similarities between, for example, a Local Plan addressing Valletta and Floriana on one hand and another one addressing the Three Cities due to the fact that both contain vast stretches of fortifications.  However the planning issues arising may also lead to different considerations both in respect of what is to be prohibited as well as in what ought to be encouraged.

Local Plans are not neutral policy instruments. Departing from the common need to ensure a continuous maintenance programme for the fortifications (which programme is currently in hand)  Local Plans may explore different potential uses to which the fortifications in two completely different areas may be put. This would be dependent on the infrastructural services in the area  and on the impacts generated by the potential use  on the surrounding amenities and localities. It would be much easier to ensure that this is done through two separate local plans, one specifically addressing Valletta and Floriana and the other addressing just the Three Cities.

It is not just an issue of fortifications. The large number of vacant properties, currently totalling  over 72,000 cannot be addressed adequately at a regional level. Different policies and different targets have to be identified at a local level as both the causes as well as the extent of the problem vary from one locality to another.

Boundaries of a number of Urban Conservation Areas (UCAs) were substantially revised in 2006 on the understanding that it is better to limit the extent of a UCA to that which is necessary and essential. Consequently it should stand to reason that a smaller UCA is much better to regulate and monitor.

A number of vacant properties lie within UCAs as it costs much more to bring such properties to an adequate state compatible to modern standards of living. This is an area which has already been explored in the last years with various fiscal incentives being offered to encourage rehabilitaton and the reuse of such properties. Much more needs to be done. The revision of the Local Plans is another opportunity to re-examine the way forward in tackling the ever increasing number of vacant properties. The proposed policies must however be focused and local in nature as otherwise they will fail to have any impact at all.

As emphasised by eNGOs  the Local Plans should also be an opportunity to consider the integration of environmental policy and its applicability at a local level. Whilst all environmental policy is of relevance to our localities two particular areas easily spring to mind: air quality and noise pollution.

Both air quality and noise control standards can be undoubtedly upgraded if action is taken at a local level. Traffic generated is a major contributor to both. Heavy traffic through residential areas has to be reduced. If the Local Plans address this issue they will be simultaneously contributing to a better air quality and less acoustic pollution in urban areas.

From declarations made in the past weeks it is obvious that one of the controversial issues to be tackled, (most probably in a plan addressing rural areas) would be agro-tourism.  This is a very sensitive matter . If the point of departure is to seek to establish new development zones on the pretext of tourism than such proposals would be unacceptable. If on the other hand such a Rural Plan addresses the use of existing  agricultural holdings aiming to maximise the use of their existing footprint, provide a different touristic experience as well as  provide alternative or additional employment opportunities to our agricultural communities then there is room for considerable discussion.

The Local Plans to be produced will have an impact on our quality of life for the next ten years. It is hence imperative to not only ensure a high level of participation in the consultation process but that the resulting proposals are given due consideration.

This article was published in The Times of Malta, Saturday August 10, 2013