Messaġġi differenti bejn il-Ħamis u l-Ġimgħa

Bejn dak li ntqal fil-konferenza stampa ta’ Chris Fearne il-Ħamis waranofsinnhar u dak li ntqal fl-intervista l-Ġimgħa fil-għaxija minn Robert Abela hemm differenza. Din ma kienitx differenza żgħira u qed tħawwad lin-nies.

Chris Fearne, Ministru tas-Saħħa, qal, u fisser f’ċertu dettall, li madwar 118,000-il persuna kien jeħtieġilhom ma joħorġux mid-dar minħabba li huma vulnerabbli: jiġifieri hu iktar faċli għalihom li jimirdu. Min għax vulnerabbli minħabba l-età u min għax vulnerabbli minħabba l-kundizzjoni ta’ saħħtu minħabba li hu soġġett għal mard kroniku.

Kien imfisser ċar ħafna minn Chris Fearne li biex il-protezzjoni tingħata sewwa kien meħtieġ li anke dawk li joqgħodu fl-istess dar jibqgħu ġewwa huma ukoll. Biex ikun ċar Fearne qal li l-uniku mod biex dan ikun evitat kien li dawk li joqgħodu fl-istess dar issibu x’imkien ieħor fejn joqgħodu b’mod immedjat. Dan biex ikun evitat li min hu dieħel u ħiereġ jeffettwhom ħażin bil-coronavirus. B’hekk tkompli tonqos il-possibiltà tat-tixrid tal-virus.

Issa, sfortunatament, il-Prim Ministru Robert Abela bidel id-diska.

Fl-intervista, waqt l-aħbarijiet tat-tmienja l-bieraħ fil-għaxija, Abela qal li min jaħdem u joqgħod ma persuni ta’ età ikbar minn 65 sena, jista’ jmur għax-xogħol. U li jistgħu joħorġu ukoll biex jixtru. Dan imur kontra dak li qal il-Ministru tas-Saħħa u joħloq il-periklu ta’ infezzjoni għal dawn vulnerabbli.

Id-direttivi, li ghandhom l-iskop illi jnaqqsu l-moviment tan-nies, dejjem ser joħolqu diffikulta. Jekk ser joqgħodu jħawdu n-nies b’messaġġi differenti d-diffikultajiet ser ikunu ħafna ikbar u s-siwi tad-direttivi jonqos drastikament. Ser nispiċċaw li dak kollu li ser jingħad minn issa ‘l quddiem ma hu ser jemmnu jew jagħti kaz tiegħu ħadd, bit-tama li l-għada xi ħadd jgħid xi ħaġa differenti.

Minkejja d-diffikultà li inevitabilment tinħoloq b’kull restrizzjoni li titħabbar, s’issa jidher li t-tixrid tal-virus kien xi ftit jew wisq taħt kontroll. B’din it-taħwida hemm il-periklu li l-affarijiet issa ma jibqgħux hekk.

Għalfejn qed iħawdu in-nies? Sar tant xogħol siewi, jarmuh issa?

L-impatti tal-Coronavirus: inħarsu l-impiegi kollha

Il-Gvern ħabbar pakkett finanzjarju ta’ €1.8 biljun biex jilqa’ għall-impatti tal-Coronavirus.

Kif ser ikun effettwat il-ħaddiem b’kuntratt bla rabta ta’ numru ta’ siegħat li jaħdem (zero-hours contract), jew dawk f’impieg temporanju, dawk tas-sengħa li jaħdmu għal rashom, inkella n-negozjanti ż-żgħar? Il-pakkett finanzjarju imħabbar, ftit li xejn jaħseb fihom. Allura, minkejja l-merti tiegħu, il-pakkett finanzjarju tal-Gvern mhux tajjeb biżżejjed.

Il-ħaddiem iż-żgħir l-ewwel li jlaqqatha f’kull kriżi. Hu l-impatt fuqhom li għandu jservi ta’ kejl biex inkunu nistgħu niffurmaw opinjoni dwar kemm dan il-pakkett finanzjarju, kif ukoll dawk li għad jistgħu jiġu, huma effettivi.

Ilkoll nieħdu pjaċir b’inizjattivi biex jassiguraw li l-ekonomija u min iħaddimha jiġi fuq saqajh, mhux biss meta tiġi fi tmiemha din il-kriżi iżda ukoll fil-mixja li jeħtieġilna ngħaddu minnha biex nirkupraw. Imma kemm hu sew li noħorġu r-riżorsi tal-pajjiż biex tkun tista’ tirkupra ekonomija li mhiex kapaċi tirrispetta l-iktar dgħajfa fostna?

Il-proposti tal-Gvern biex jilqa’ għall-impatti tal-Coronavirus ma jorbtux lill-operaturi ekonomiċi li jagħmlu użu mill-proposti differenti fil-pakkett milli jħarsu l-impiegi. Is-sensji diġa bdew. Il-ħaddiem iż-żgħir l-ewwel li jlaqqatha. Warajh ilaqqtuha oħrajn.

Il-pakkett tal-Gvern biex jilqa’ għall-effetti tal-Coronavirus jeħtieġ miżuri addizzjonali.

L-għajnuna li ser tingħata għandha tmur lil dawk li sofrew tnaqqis sostanzjali fid-dħul tagħhom meta kkomparat mas-sena li għaddiet. Il-pakkett tal-Gvern huwa iffukat biex jiffaċilita l-likwidità kif ukoll biex jgħin ħalli jkun iggarantit self bankarju. Filwaqt li dawn huma miżuri importanti, f’din il-kriżi hu essenzjali li l-għajnuna tkun iffukata fuq il-pagi tal-ħaddiema. L-għajnuna diretta lill-operaturi ekonomiċi għandha tkun marbuta mal-obbligu tagħhom li jipproteġu l-impiegi. Jekk ma jkunx imħares ix-xogħol m’għandhiex tingħata għajnuna.

Aħna l-Ħodor f’Alternattiva Demokratika mħassba dwar il-ħaddiem iż-żgħir. Hu l-ewwel ma jlaqqatha f’din il-kriżi: huma l-ewwel vittmi tal-Coronavirus. L-għajnuna li dawn jeħtieġu hi fil-forma ta’ dħul minimu garantit tul ix-xhur li ġejjin, kemm iddum il-kriżi. Huma l-iktar vulnerabbli u ħadd mhu jitkellem dwarhom.

Il-kirjiet ta’ residenzi għandhom jiġġeddu awtomatikament sakemm tintemm il-kriżi. Għandu jkun hemm provediment għall-ħarsien minn xoljiment ta’ kuntratti ta’ kera tul il-kriżi. Hemm ħtieġa ukoll li tul il-kriżi l-Gvern jimpenja ruħu iktar biex jassigura illi l-iktar vulnerabbli jkollhom saqaf fuq rashom. Dan għandu jsir dejjem imma b’mod specjali tul il-kriżi.

Aħna l-Ħodor tal-fehma li l-impatt ta’ din il-kriżi fuq l-impiegi turi difetti strutturali fil-qasam soċjali fil-pajjiż. Malta mhux l-unika pajjiż li qed jiffaċċja din il-problema. Huwa importanti li bħal numru ta’ pajjiżi oħra, fosthom l-Isveżja, in-Norveġja, il-belt ta’ Utrecht fl-Olanda, anke f’Malta nidħlu fil-fond u neżaminaw kif jistgħu jaħdmu skemi ta’ dħul minimu garantit li jirreferu għalihom bħala Universal Basic Income u Guaranteed Minimum Income schemes. Ikun għaqli li neżaminaw sewwa dawn it-tip ta’ skemi, għax dawn jistgħu joffrulna tarka tajba meta nkunu iffaċċjati b’dawn il-kriżijiet.

Huwa l-waqt li kulħadd iżomm rasu f’lokha. Il-paroli vojt fil-Parlament tal-Ministru Silvio Schembri iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa kien barra minn postu u għamel il-ħsara, minkejja li wara skuża ruħu. Qatt mhi idea tajba li thedded bit-tkeċċija lil dawk li b’ħidmiethom taw kontribut biex il-pajjiż kiber, anke bix-xogħol tagħhom. Meta din il-kriżi tgħaddi jerġgħu jkunu huma, inkella oħrajn bħalhom, li nsibu biex jagħmlu dak ix-xogħol li għalih la hemm Maltin, inkella l-Maltin ma jridux jagħmluh għal raġunijiet diversi. Anke issa stess l-Onor Ministru jista’ jagħti titwila lejn is-servizz tas-saħħa u jara jekk hux possibli li jopera mingħajrhom, flimkien dejjem mal-kollegi Maltin. Flimkien qed jagħtu servizz impekkabbli lil pajjiż.

Ilkoll niftakru kif madwar sena ilu, l-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat kien assoċja l-involviment tal-barranin fid-dinja tax-xogħol f’Malta mal-ġbir taż-żibel. Anke hu, dakinnhar kien għamel apoloġija. Imma sfortunatament il-preġudizzji tiegħu ħallihom warajh fil-Kabinett ta’ Robert Abela.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd 22 ta’ Marzu 2020

Coronavirus fallout: the need to protect all jobs

Government has announced its financial package which it described as being a €1.8 billion stimulus package. What is in it for a zero-hours contract worker, the casual worker, the freelance tradesman, the small-scale businessman? Nothing at all. Hence notwithstanding its merits, Government’s package is not a suitable package.

Zero-hour contract workers, the casual worker, the freelance tradesmen and the small-scale businessmen are the first casualties in each and every crisis. It is in the assessment of their plight that we can arrive at a conclusion on the suitability or otherwise of this and any other Covid19 recovery package.

We all applaud initiatives to ensure that the economy and its operators can stand back on their feet not just when this crisis is over, but also along the long road to recovery. But, what purpose is there in pumping the nation’s resources to recover an economy which is not capable of respecting the most vulnerable ones amongst us?

Government’s Covid19 package proposals do not seek to bind economic operators making use of the different opportunities in the stimulus package to protect their labour force. Redundancies have already started. Casual workers and zero-hour contract workers are the first casualties. Others will soon follow.

Additional measures are called for in Government’s Covid19 package.

Assistance given to economic operators should only go to those which have suffered a drastic reduction in their income when compared to last year. Government’s package is predominantly focused on assistance in providing guarantees for bank loans as well as in facilitating and ensuring liquidity. While these are important measures, in this crisis, aid focused directed towards wages of workers is essential. Any direct assistance to economic operators should be linked to their duty of protecting jobs. No job protection should equate to no aid.

Greens are concerned about several freelance tradesman, small scale businessmen as well as casual labour and workers on zero-hours contracts. They are bearing the brunt of the very sharp decrease in work opportunities: they are the first victims of Covid19. Aid to these categories should be a guaranteed income scheme for the coming months, throughout the duration of the crisis. These are the categories which are the most vulnerable and which nobody is talking about.

The lease contracts for tenants should be automatically renewed until the crisis is overcome. There should be introduced a special protection from eviction throughout the Coronavirus crisis. There is also a need for a greater commitment by the government to offer adequate and decent housing to the most vulnerable in particular during this time of crisis.

Greens consider that the crisis’ impacts on employment is showing the structural defects the country has in the social field. Malta is not the only country to have to face this problem. It is important that like various other countries, notably Sweden, Norway, and the city of Utrecht in the Netherlands, guaranteed income schemes referred to as Universal Basic Income and Guaranteed Minimum Income are discussed in depth in Malta too. It would be wise to start considering such schemes for the future as they could offer a long-term solution.

It is time for level-headedness. Minister Silvio Schembri’s outburst in Parliament earlier this week was uncalled for and damaging, even though he eventually apologised. It is never the time to threaten with expulsion those who have contributed so much to our country and economy. When the crisis is eventually over it will be those whom the Hon Minister threatened with expulsion who will once more plug the gap. Even now, the Hon Minister should take a look at the health service and consider whether it would be possible to operate without the participation of non-Maltese medics and paramedical staff who are performing miracles through their professional service hand-in-hand with their Maltese colleagues.

We do remember that around 12 months ago then Prime Minister Joseph Muscat equated non-Maltese participation in the local labour force with refuse collectors. Though he too eventually apologised, his prejudice unfortunately lingers on in those he left behind in Robert Abela’s Cabinet.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 22 March 2020

Coronavirus: predictions and precautions

The declaration by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, earlier this week, on the possibility that between 60 and 70 per cent of the German population could eventually be infected by the Coronavirus may have shocked quite a few. That could amount to close to 38 million infected persons in Germany alone and possibly a substantial number of deaths.

I understand that Angela Merkel’s projections are a worst case scenario. This would be catastrophic, were it to ever happen. It is for this very reason that health planners in Malta have advised government, which correctly agreed, to combat the virus by playing for time and focusing on slowing its spread as much as possible, thereby reducing its overall impact on Malta and its residents. As a result of this strategy it is unlikely that there will be a large number of infected persons at any one time, thereby giving sufficient time to the health service to nurse those infected back to their normal health. On the other hand, there is a real danger that if this is not achieved the national health service will break down under the resulting strain with the number of deaths spiralling out of control. Hence the need to follow the directions given by the health authorities.

In order that the combat against Coronavirus be successful everyone has an important role to play to obstruct its spreading. At times it will be very inconvenient, but it has to be done. In the absence of a known cure, so far, slowing down the spread of Coronavirus is the only way of ensuring that the numbers infected as well as its impacts are reduced. All of us have to bear part of the brunt. If successful, this will, in the long term save lives. It will also reduce the suffering of those who are most vulnerable through shielding them and consequently reducing their risk of exposure.

The suspension of air and sea traffic to Italy, France, Spain, Germany and Switzerland together with compulsory quarantine procedures for all those returning to Malta from affected areas and localities are aimed at containing and preventing the spreading of the Coronavirus. A deep sense of responsibility is essential if the measures in hand are to be effective. In this respect it is shocking to learn, from electronic comments posted by an emergency doctor that some patients were not forthright when replying to questions on their travel history and consequently on identifying their exposure to the risk of being infected. This, it is understood, was being done in order to try and avoid precautionary compulsory quarantine procedures.

At the time of writing 12 cases have been identified and tested positive. What is very worrying is that it was reported that two of the persons identified as being infected did not self-quarantine. They went to their workplace before their attention was drawn on the need to take some sensible action!

Quarantine procedures are an essential tool which the health authorities must use in order to be in a position to arrest the spread of the virus and consequently to save lives as well as to reduce the suffering of all, but primarily of those most vulnerable amongst us.

The elderly and the sick, in particular those subject to a chronic asthma condition – approximately numbering 30,000 in Malta – need effective solidarity which can only be put into effect through the responsible behaviour of all of us. Acting responsibly by following the instructions issued by the health authorities will save lives. Each case of avoidance of quarantine, whenever this is required, will encourage the spread of the virus and consequently may lead to the death of some of the most vulnerable amongst us.

If we follow to the letter the instructions issued, we may avoid more restrictive actions in the coming days.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 15 March 2020

Nimmansaw is-suq tal-kera

Il-ġimgħa l-oħra 17-il għaqda, prinċipalment attivi fil-qasam soċjali, ippubblikaw dokument importanti intitolat “A Proposal for Rent Regulation in Malta” dwar dak li għandu jsir biex is-suq tal-kera jkun immansat. Dan id-dokument jipproponi li s-suq tal-kera jkun regulat u dan f’kuntest fejn dak kollu li għandu x’jaqsam mal-propjetá f’Malta tħalla jimxi għal riħu għal ħafna snin. Bosta approfittaw ruħhom minn dan u stagħnew inġustament, xi drabi minn fuq il-miżerja ta’ ħaddieħor.

Wasal iż-żmien għal ftit sens ta’ ġustizzja fis-suq tal-kera. Dawk vulnerabbli, bla ebda dubju l-iktar li ntlaqtu mir-rebus li ilu jiżviluppa prinċipalment mill-2008, ilhom jistennew li l-kuxjenza soċjali tal-pajjiż tagħti ftit kaz tas-suq tal-kera.

Il-ħolqien ta’ xibka soċjali, anke fil-qasam tal-kera, huwa prinċipalment responsabbilitá tal-Gvern. Il-Gvern jagħmel dan mhux biss billi jipprovdi oqsma residenzjali affordabbli għal dawk l-iktar vulnerabbli imma fuq kollox billi jiffaċilita l-aċċess għal suq tal-kera mmansat, jiġifieri suq relattivament ħieles imma suq li fl-istess ħin jkun wieħed ġust. Suq immansat hu wieħed li jopera f’parametri ġusti stabiliti mill-liġi: suq raġjonevoli għas-sidien imma ġust ma kull xorta ta’ inkwilin.

Il-mudell propost mill-koalizzjoni ta’ 17-il għaqda huwa bbażat fuq numru ta’ konsiderazzjonijiet bażiċi: id-dritt fundamentali għal post fejn toqgħod, id-distinzjoni ċara bejn id-drittijiet u d-doveri ta’ sid il-kera u l-inkwilin li t-tnejn għandhom dritt għal serħan il-moħħ, li jkun iffaċilitat is-suq tal-kera għall-kirjiet fit-tul, id-dritt tas-sidien li jistabilixxu l-kera inizzjali u l-mod kif din tkun varjata imma dejjem fil-qafas tal-parametri regolatorji intiżi biex jistabilixxu qafas ġust, kif ukoll li jkun iffaċilitat id-dħul fis-suq tal-kera ta’ propjetá presentement vojta għal diversi raġunijiet.

Id-dokument hu qasir ħafna, kull ma fih hu 12-il paġna. Imma hu mimli bi proposti li huma kemm validi kif ukoll li jħarsu fit-tul.

Hu pożittiv li s-Segretarju Parlamentari għad-Djar Roderick Galdes, li presentment qed jagħti l-aħħar irtokki għall- White Paper dwar is-suq tal-kera, meta kien qiegħed jiltaqa’ ma rapprezentanti ta’ dawn is-sbatax-il għaqda indika li, b’mod ġenerali, hu kien f’sintonija mal-għaqdiet fil-ħsieb tagħhom li jinbena mill-ġdid suq tal-kera li jkun jista’ jopera f’limiti ġusti u raġjonevoli.

Roderick Galdes, professjonist dwar l-ippjanar tal-użu tal-art, qiegħed f’posizzjoni unika bħala riżultat tal-esperjenzi inter-dixxiplinari tiegħu, li jassigura li l-politika dwar id-djar tidħol gradwalment fis-seklu wieħed u għoxrin wara li għal madwar tmenin sena kienet miżmuma milli tiżviluppa. Id-dikjarazzjoni tiegħu hi sors ta’ tama għal bosta li wara kollox hu possibli li suq tal-kera immansat jista’ jipprovdi kera ġusta.

Il-proposta fil-qalba tad-dokument tas-sbatax-il għaqda hi dwar il-ħtieġa li l-kirjiet ikunu kollha regolati minn ftehim li jsir bil-miktub. Dan il-ħsieb hu motivat mill-ħtieġa li d-drittijiet u l-obbligi kollha jkunu mfissra b’mod ċar u b’hekk jassigura l-kontroll tal-abbużi kontinwi, kemm mis-sidien kif ukoll mill-inkwilini. Fit-tfassil tal-proposti tagħhom il-koalizzjoni tal-għaqdiet għarblet l-esperjenzi ta’ diversi pajjiżi Ewropej, fejn (ġeneralment) jeżisti suq tal-kera b’saħħtu li hu ukoll wieħed ġust.

Alternattiva Demokratika ilha s-snin tħeġġeg dwar il-ħtieġa ta’ suq tal-kera b’saħħtu għax dan hu kemm ħtieġa soċjali kif ukoll ħtieġa ambjentali. Il-ħtieġijiet soċjali jkunu ndirizzati meta naqbdu t-triq li trid twassalna biex nassiguraw li d-dritt bażiku għal residenza diċenti jkun imnaqqax fil-liġijiet tagħna, kif ukoll applikata fil-prattika. Imma dan iwassal ukoll għal tnaqqis tal-impatti ambjentali tal-industrija tal-kostruzzjoni billi kemm-il darba jkun possibli li l-kera tkun waħda ġusta tonqos konsiderevolment il-pressjoni biex tkun żviluppata iktar art verġni, kif ukoll il-pressjoni fuq iż-żona ta’ konservazzjoni urbana u l-bini protett.

Alternattiva Demokratika taqbel b’mod ġenerali mal-proposta tal-għaqdiet. Sadanittant nistennew il-pubblikazzjoni tal-White Paper dwar ir-riforma tas-suq tal-kera u bla ebda dubju ser nieħdu sehem fid-dibattitu nazzjonali dwar is-suġġett. Għax wasal iż-żmien li s-suq tal-kera jkun immansat.

 

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : 4 ta’ Marzu 2018

 

Taming the Rental Market

The policy document entitled “A Proposal for Rent Regulation in Malta” published last week, has been endorsed by 17 NGOs that are mostly involved in the field of social action.

It is a proposal for rent regulation in a situation where everything concerned with property in Malta is spiralling out of control and has been in this state for a number of years. In the process, many have made lots of hay while the sun shone, frequently at the expense of vulnerable people.

It is about time that a sense of justice is restored in the rental market, and the sooner the better. The vulnerable – undoubtedly the hardest hit in the post 2008 free-for-all – have been patiently waiting for the country to listen to its social conscience regarding the rental market.

The creation of a social safety-net, even in rental matters, is primarily government’s responsibility. The government fulfils this not only through the direct provision of affordable housing to the most vulnerable, but also by facilitating access to a tamed rental market to the rest – a market which ought to be relatively free but fair at all times. A tamed market operates within reasonable and just limits: reasonable for landlords but also for a wide range of tenants.

The model proposed by the 17 NGO coalition is founded on a number of basic considerations: the fundamental right to a home, a clear demarcation of the rights and duties of landlords and tenants – both of which have the right to peace of mind, enhancing the long-let rental market, recognising the landlord’s right to establish the initial rent and its variation within a fair regulatory framework and incentivising entry into the rental market of property that is currently vacant for a variety of reasons.

The document is short and very brief, being just 12 pages long, yet it is brimming with far-reaching proposals.

It is encouraging that, when meeting representatives of the 17 NGOs, Parliamentary Secretary for Housing, Roderick Galdes – who is currently applying the finishing touches to a long-awaited White Paper on the Rental Market – indicated that he was generally on the same wavelength in seeking to reconstruct a rental market which operates within acceptable and socially fair limits.

Thanks to his inter-disciplinary experiences Galdes, a land-use planner by profession, is in a unique position to ensure that housing policy moves gradually into the 21st century after having been restrained for the past 80 years or so. His declaration is a source of hope to many that affordable housing can co-exist with a tamed rental market.

The central proposal of the NGO’s document is the need to ensure that all leases are drawn up in writing. This proposal is motivated by the need to clearly spell out rights and duties of both landlords and tenants, thereby ensuring that any abuse (by either) is, if possible, nipped in the bud. In their proposals, the coalition of NGOs drew on the experience of a multitude of other European countries where a healthy and (generally) fair rental market has been in existence for years.

For years, the Greens in Malta have been advocating the need of a healthy rental market, as this is both a social and an environmental necessity. Addressing the social necessity will ensure that we embark on the road which will lead to ensuring that the basic human right to having a decent home is entrenched in our laws and, hopefully, meticulously applied. This will also lead to a reduced environmental impact of the part of the construction industry, as the adequate development of a fair rental market will eventually decrease development pressures on virgin land as well as on urban conservation areas and protected buildings.

Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party is generally in agreement with the NGO Coalition’s proposal. We look forward to the publication of the White Paper on the reform of the rental market and will definitely be actively participating in the ensuing national debate.

Taming the rental market is a long overdue objective that should be relentlessly pursued.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 4th March 2018

After Wednesday’s earthquake: civil defence

 

 

On Wednesday an earthquake of 4.4 magnitude on the Richter scale was reported in the Maltese islands. As far as we are aware no damage was caused, yet it would be appropriate to consider a number of relevant issues.

Are we prepared for the consequences of a much stronger earthquake which would cause considerable damage including the potential death of a substantial number of persons?

Around two years ago, the Civil Protection Department (CPD) in conjunction with the Sicilian counterparts carried out an earthquake simulation exercise in Gozo which, undoubtedly, provided CPD personnel with valuable experience. It is not known if the department has been involved in any subsequent exercises, either locally or abroad, nor is it known if any specific operational changes were implemented by the CPD as a result of the lessons learned in the 2015 exercise.

It is, however, pertinent to point out that it is not only the CPD, the Police, the AFM and the Health Authorities that need adequate and continuous training to cope with the aftermath of a strong earthquake in the Maltese Islands. In addition to the operators of the different sectors of the infrastructure (energy, water, transport) the civilian population should also receive training for this unlikely eventuality.

Simulation exercises involving the civilian population are necessary as they would develop at local level an ability to manage a disaster. We need to start from scratch in building up a civil defence corps worthy of the name, coordinated and trained by the CPD but based in each locality in Malta and Gozo.

It is a responsibility which, together with adequate resources, should be assigned to local councils under the watchful eye of the CPD.

This would be the appropriate way to build up an adequate general level of preparedness for disaster management. The involvement of the local councils would also ensure that the needs of the most vulnerable members of our communities are addressed. Specific protocols need to be developed and tested in conjunction with local councils regarding the assistance required by children and those who are bedridden or disabled. Catering for all disabilities is an indispensible prerequisite and this requires trained personnel to which the CPD currently has little if any access. It is an easily identifiable deficiency that needs to be addressed forthwith.

Those in charge of disaster management in time of need require the ability to communicate with people having impaired hearing. Is anyone at the CPD, the Police, the AFM or the Health Authorities able to communicate in sign language? Addressing this communication deficiency on the part of the authorities is required not just to ensure that Malta is adequately prepared for disaster management, it is also an everyday deficiency that every authority in Malta that offers a direct service to the population at large needs to address. With around 500 known Maltese with impaired hearing and a number of others who could have remained below the radar, this is an issue that is manageable primarily at local level.

The CPD is one of the youngest departments and to date it has given sterling service in fire-fighting, managing pollution and providing assistance required as a result of flooding after heavy storms. We look forward to the next step in its development: ensuring that training in disaster management is an integral part of the services of local authorities.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 27 August 2017

L-ambjent u l-ġustizzja soċjali

e-waste-africa

Il-ħsara ambjentali teffettwa lil kulħadd, imma b’mod speċjali tolqot iktar lil dawk li huma vulnerabbli. L-esperjenza tal-ħajja ta’ kuljum, imsaħħa bir-riċerka turi li l-agħar effetti tal-ħsara ambjentali jġarrbuhom l-aktar nies foqra. Per eżempju, n-nuqqas jew it-tniġġis tal-ilma jolqot l-iżjed lil dawk li huma l-aktar foqra, li għalihom ix-xiri ta’ flixkun ilma ħafna drabi hi spiża żejda. U meta f’diversi pajjiżi għola l-livell tal-baħar dan laqat l-ewwel lill-foqra li kienu qed jgħixu fi griebeġ mal-kosta, u li ma kellhomx iktar fejn imorru.

M’aħniex konxji biżżejjed tal-problemi li jolqtu lil dawk li huma mwarrba mis-soċjetà. Illum ma nistgħux ma nagħrfux li l-impenn ambjentali irid jieħu ukoll dimensjoni soċjali. Dan għandu jdaħħal diskors dwar il-ġustizzja fid-diskussjonijiet dwar l-ambjent, biex nifhmu dejjem iktar li l-karba tal-art hi ukoll il-karba tal-fqir. Il-ħsara ambjentali hi l-kawża ta’ inġustizzja soċjali.

Flok jindirzzaw il-problemi tal-foqra uħud iwaħħlu fiż-żieda fil-popolazzjoni u jippruvaw ma jagħtux importanza lill-konsumiżmu estrem u selettiv tas-soċjetà moderna. B’hekk jippretendu li jilleġittimizzaw il-mudell ta’ distribuzzjoni tar-riżorsi li għandna llum, fejn hemm minoranza li temmen li għandha dritt tikkonsma fi proporzjon li qatt ma jista’ jiġi applikat fuq livell universali, għax il-pjaneta bilkemm l-iskart ta’ konsum bħal dan ma tkun kapaċi żżomm.

Iktar minn hekk, terz tal-ikel li nipproduċu qed jinħela: l-ikel li jintrema qed jinsteraq minn fuq il-mejda tal-fqir. Iż-żieda fil-konsum taf twassal għat-tlaqqigħ flimkien ta’ problemi marbuta mat-tinġis ambjentali, il-mezzi ta’ trasport, it-trattament tal-iskart, il-qerda ta’ riżorsi, u l-kwalità tal-ħajja.

Jeżisti “dejn ekoloġiku” bejn il-pajjiżi żviluppati u dawk inqas żviluppati. Dan id-“dejn ekoloġiku” hu marbut ma’ żbilanċ fil-kummerċ b’konsegwenzi fil-qasam ekoloġiku, kif ukoll mal-użu sproporzjonat tar-riżorsi naturali storikament imwettaq minn xi pajjiżi. L-esportazzjoni ta’ xi materja prima biex tissodisfa s-swieq tal-pajjiżi industrijalizzati ħalliet warajha ħafna ħsara ambjentali, bħal, per eżempju t-tinġis bil-merkurju fil-minjieri tad-deheb jew bid-dijossidu tal-kubrit fil-minjieri tar-ram.

It-tisħin ikkawżat mill-konsum enormi ta’ xi pajjiżi għonja għandu riperkussjonijiet fl-ifqar postijiet ta’ din l-art, speċjalment fl-Afrika, fejn iż-żieda fit-temperatura flimkien man-nixfa għandha effetti diżastrużi fuq l-agrikultura.

Ma’ dan inżidu r-rimi ta’ skart tossiku f’pajjiżi li qed jiżviluppaw minn intrapriżi ibbażati f’pajjiżi żviluppati. Dawn jagħmlu fil-pajjiżi mhux żviluppati dak li m’huwiex permess li jsir f’pajjiżhom.

Ġeneralment, meta jwaqqfu l-attività tagħhom u jitilqu, iħallu warajhom ħsarat kbar umani u ambjentali, bħal qgħad, irħula bla ħajja, il-qerda ta’ ħażniet naturali, deforestazzjoni, tifqir fil-biedja u fil-merħliet tal-post, ħofor kbar, għoljiet imħarbta, xmajjar imniġġsa u xi opra soċjali li ma tiflaħx tieqaf iktar fuq riġlejha”.

Din hi s-sejħa li tagħmlilna l-art. Hi s-sejħa tal-fqir li hu ukoll misruq mill-ġid li tagħtu n-natura biex biex bih jistagħna ħaddieħor. Il-ħsara ambjentali hi l-kawża ta’ inġustizzji soċjali kbar li lkoll isiru f’isem l-iżvilupp. Għax fl-aħħar huma dawk l-iktar vulnerabbli fostna li l-iżjed iħossu l-konsegwenzi tal-qerda ambjentali li qed isseħħ madwarna. Għalhekk kull pass il-quddiem, (żgħir jew kbir), li nagħmlu biex inħarsu l-ambjent ta’ madwarna huwa pass biex innaqqsu l-inġustizzji ta’ madwarna.

 

(kummentarju li xxandar fuq l-RTK it-Tnejn 4 ta’ Jannar 2016, ibbażat fuq il-paragrafi 48 sa 51 tal-enċiklika Laudato Sì tal-Papa Franġisku)

Il-baġit hu wieħed nej

Scicluna + Speaker 2016

 

Il- baġit fih diversi ingridjenti tajbin. Iżda m’humiex imħalltin tajjeb. M’hemmx ħsieb biżżejjed. L-anqas m’huma msajra biżżejjed. Kif ngħidu bil-Malti: il-baġit hu nofsu nej.

F’dan l-artiklu ser nillimita ruħi għal uħud mill-proposti ta’ natura soċjali.

Nibda bil-paga minima. F’Malta din ġiet introdotta fl-1974 mit-tieni Gvern tal-Perit Mintoff.  Dakinnhar kienet stabilita għall-ammont ta’ Lm10, jiġifieri €23.29. Ovvjament Lm10, dakinnhar, kienu jiswew u bihom kont tixtri ferm iktar mill-tixtri illum. Kull sena, din il-paga minima tiżdied b’ammont li jikkumpensa għaż-żieda fil-għoli tal-ħajja. L-ammont jitħabbar fil- baġit. Iż-żieda b’effett minn l-1 ta’ Jannar li ġej ser tkun €1.75 biex b’hekk il-paga minima għal persuna ta’ il-fuq minn tmintax-il sena għal ġimgħa xogħol ta’ 40 siegħa issa ser tkun €168.01. Ma din irid jiżdied il-bonus statutorju.

Il-paga minima teħieġ li tkun reveduta. Meta tfasslet fl-1974, tfasslet għall-ħtiġijiet ta’ dakinnhar.

Illum, wara 41 sena teħtieġ titfassal mill-ġdid skont il-ħtiġijiet tal-lum. Fil-fatt studju li kien ippubblikat mill-Caritas f’Marzu 2012 kien jistma illi hu meħtieġ li jkun hemm żieda ta’ 13.8% fil-paga minima biex l-iktar persuni vulnerabbli jingħataw in-nifs.  Ir-rapport kien intitolat A Minimum Budget for a Decent Living. A research study by Caritas Malta focusing on three low-income household categories.

Il-Gvern,(kemm dak tal-lum kif ukoll dak tal-bieraħ) ma jaqbilx ma dan. L-argument politiku tagħhom hu li bit-taħriġ u l-investiment iffokat fuq il-kisba ta’ ħiliet, ikun possibli li taqla’ l-persuni fuq il-paga minima u ċċaqlaqhom ‘il-fuq fis-sellum tal-ħajja. Din hi idea nobbli imma fil-prattika, iddum ma tagħtik ir-riżultati. Sadanittant min hu vulnerabbli jispiċċa dipendenti mill-ħarsien soċjali u għajnuniet supplimentari. Jintgħaġen fid-dipendenza. Il-paga għal dawn in-nies mhiex biżżejjed għall-minimu neċessarju tal-ħajja. In-nuqqas tal-istat li jintervjeni biex il-paga minima toffri l-protezzjoni minima meħtieġa, hu messaġġ li bix-xogħol ma tistax tgħix meta dan jitħallas bil-paga minima li għandna illum.

Huwa neċessarju li nżewġu flimkien it-taħriġ, ma’ paga minima suriet in-nies li tkun rifless tal-ħtiġijiet minimi għall-bniedem tal-lum. In-nuqqas tal- baġit li jagħraf din il-ħtieġa u jagħġina bħala parti integrali mill-viżjoni tiegħu jagħmlu l-baġit wieħed nej.

Il- baġit jirrikonoxxi l-ħtieġa li togħla l-pensjoni minima nazzjonali biex din eventwalment tasal sa 60% tad-dħul medju f’pajjiżna.  Jagħmel  l-ewwel pass  billi jipproponi żieda fil-pensjoni minima għall-dawk li għandhom il-bolol tas-sigurta soċjali mħallsa b’tali mod li l-anqas pensjoni kontributorja ser tkun €7,280 fis-sena.  Dan hu pass tajjeb. Ħadd ma jistenna li l-aġġustament meħtieġ isir kollu f’daqqa. Imma l-pensjonanti tagħna li bnew  lil Malta kif inhi illum, bi dritt jippretendu li jkun stabilit żmien raġjonevoli sa meta l-pensjoni minima nazzjonali tkun 60% tad-dħul medju f’pajjiżna. Mhux biżżejjed li l-baġit  jgħid li dan it-tragward nilħquh sal-2027. Ikun xieraq li l-pensjonanti tagħna jingħataw lura d-dinjità w ir-rispett li jistħoqilhom. Anke hawn il-baġit kien jonqsu ftit ieħor biex isir. Għadu nofsu  nej.

L-aħħar eżempju li rrid insemmi huwa dwar il-persuni b’diżabilità. Il-baġit isemmi l-ħolqien ta’ hub għal persuni b’diżabilità. Il-baġit hu xott mid-dettalji u fil-fatt jiddedika biss 6 linji għal din il-proposta fil-paġna 77 tiegħu. Dawn id-dettalji imma kienu biżżejjed biex nhar il-Ħamis li għadda, l-eks-chairman tal-Kummissjoni Nazzjonali għall-Persuni b’Diżabilità Joseph Camilleri jiddeskirivi dak propost bħala attentat biex tkun introdotta s-segregazzjoni bis-serqa (Segregation by stealth. Times of Malta, October 15, 2015).

Joseph Camilleri jargumenta li għad hawn min ma jistax jaċċetta l-fatt li l-persuni b’diżabilità ukoll għandhom l-istess aspirazzjonijiet bħal kull wieħed u waħda minna. Għaddew minn istituzzjonijiet edukattivi li taw importanza ikbar lill-inklussività, u dan b’differenza kbira minn dak li rċevew il-ġenerazzjonijiet passati.

Il-proposta fil-baġit li toħloq dan il-hub għall-persuni b’diżabilità hu għaldaqstant pass retrogradu, nieqes mill-ħsieb u huwa anke perikoluż.  Is-soċjetà Maltija tant imxiet il-quddiem, li d-Dar tal-Providenza, il-pijuniera f’Malta tal-kura għall-persuni b’diżabilità, illum il-ġurnata qed tiffoka l-enerġija tagħha fuq inizjattivi bbażati fil-komunità li joffru opportunitajiet għal għixien indipendenti lill-persuni b’diżabilità.

Anke hawn il-baġit hu nej għax huwa nieqes mill-ħsieb. Post il-persuni b’diżabilità hu magħna fil-komunità u mhux ġo gaġġa bil-vireg tad-deheb. Għax is-segregazzjoni tibqa’ gaġġa u irrispettivament mill-kwalità għolja tas-servizz mogħti, tibqa’ ħajja f’gaġġa li toqtol l-aspirazzjonijiet tal-persuni b’diżabilità. Qed nitkellmu dwar persuni, mhux dwar numri.

Għalhekk, u għal bosta raġunijiet oħra, l-baġit ta’ nhar it-Tnejn kien wieħed nofsu nej.

Ippubblikat fil-gazzetta Illum, il-Ħadd 18 t’Ottubru 2015

Next Thursday’s earthquake

earthquake

 

This will be a simulation exercise coordinated by Malta’s Civil Protection Department at 4pm next Thursday in Gozo and three hundred people will be involved.

It will be carried out with EU assistance and in conjunction with the Civil Protection Authorities in Sicily who are partners with the Maltese Civil Protection Department (CPD) in establishing a network within the region that is able to manage seismological disasters.

This exercise signals the coming of age of Malta’s CPD. It has to date delivered sterling service in the areas of fire-fighting, managing pollution and providing assistance required as a result of flooding after heavy storms. Training its staff, and subjecting them to a gruelling simulation exercise, is a gigantic step forward for the CPD. It is the first step of a long journey that is dependent on the dedication of the CPD staff  – which is unlimited – as well as the resources allocated by the state. Such resources, although limited over the years, seem to be slowly trickling down, for a change.

Developing the CPD’s ability to handle disasters will be a major challenge. For a start it will identify its capability to develop effective coordination with the Police Force, with the AFM (Armed Forces) and the health authorities as well as with local councils.

At the end of the day the CPD’s proficiency in disaster management will be measured in terms of its response time as well as the number of lives it saves in such situations. This will generally depend on the severity of the disaster with which it is faced.

This will not only translate into a general level of preparedness. It will also require focusing on the needs of the most vulnerable in our communities and in this respect the role of local councils is indispensable. Specific protocols need to be developed and tested in conjunction with local councils regarding the assistance required by children and those who are bedridded or disabled. Catering for all disabilities is an indispensible prerequisite and it requires trained personnel to which the CPD currently has no access. It is an easily identifiable deficiency which needs to be addressed forthwith.

One small example would suffice: how would the CPD personnel, the police, the AFM – or the health authorities for that matter – communicate with persons with  impaired hearing in the absence of staff able to communicate in sign language? Addressing this deficiency is required not just to ensure that Malta is adequately prepared for disaster management. It is also an everyday deficiency that every authority in Malta that offers a direct service to the population at large needs to address. With around five hundred known Maltese with impaired hearing and a number of others who may have remained below the radar, this is an issue which is manageable primarily at a local level. Yet to date it has not been adequately prioritised.

In this context, one would also need to query the level of preparedness of institutions such as Mount Carmel Hospital and id-Dar tal-Providenza. I am informed that even when it comes to fire drills in residential homes for the elderly, the results were not impressive, to put it mildly.

Prompt and effective coordination between the different authorities is crucial in ensuring disaster management. There is a need to test how the different types of equipment used by the CPD, the Police and the AFM interact. Are they compatible? The planned simulation exercise is an opportunity to identify whether, in an actual practice run, matters will work out as planned. Lessons learned in this area will have to be translated into better procurement procedures in the future to ensure smooth interaction between the CPD, the police and the Army.

This will translate into compatible communication equipment as well as adequately maintained vehicles, sea craft and aeroplanes/helicopters which can be used in difficult circumstances. Knowing that maintenance of equipment has never been our forte, this could be quite a challenge!

The simulation exercise on Gozo on 3 September will necessarily lead to a number of lessons learnt which will have to be acted upon in order that Malta’s capability in disaster management is enhanced. This is definitely a bold step in the right direction.

I look forward to the next steps which require the involvement of local authorities.

Published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 30 August 2015