Il-budget tal-inċertezza

December 5, 2012

Intervista dwar il-budget li dehret fil-gazzetta “Illum” 2 ta’ Dicembru 2012

1. Kif tiddeskrivi l-budget 2013 fi tliet sentenzi?

Bhal dejjem fih affarijiet pozittivi, hafna minnhom izda huma mizuri simbolici bi ftit wisq flus ivvutati ghalihom. Fit-taxxa tad-dhul minflok agevola min ghandu dhul baxx u medju, agevola dawk li jaqilghu l-aktar. Biss biss min jaqla’ 60,000 Ewro u aktar se jiffranka 3600 Ewro fis-sena mentri min jaqla 15,000 Ewro, bhall-maggoranza l-kbira ta’ haddiema Maltin u Ghawdxin m’huwa se jiffranka xejn.

2. Dan hu budget tal-elezzjoni u allura hu budget li jixtri lill-elettorat? Jew hu budget li jindirizza tassew ir-realtajiet ekonomiċi ta’ pajjiżna?

Is-sostenibbilita tal-budget tibqa’ mistoqsija mhux imwiegba. Kollox jiddependi mit-tbassir ta’ tkabbir ekonomiku. Jekk it-tkabbir ikun anqas minn dak previst mill-gvern allura jkollna l-problemi.

3. Kemm kien jagħmel sens li jkun ippreżentat dan il-budget, meta hemm ċans kbir li ma jgħaddix u jaqa’ il-Gvern?

Ahna ilna nghidu li jmissu ilha li ssejhet elezzjoni.

 4. X’inhuma l-akbar difetti li għandu dan il-budget?

L-akbar diffett huwa li x’aktarx huwa biss lista ta’ weghdi, li saru fl-ahhar qabel l-elezzjoni. L-akbar difett tibqa’ l-incertezza minhabba sistema politika mnawwra li tant jiftahru li hija ‘stabbli’ meta filfatt spiccat sistema fejn il-parlament spicca irrelevant u l-membri parlamentari pupazzi. L-ideat politici saru ma jiswew xejn – l-aqwa l-voti akkost ta’ kollox u “imbaghad naraw wara”!

5. Impossibbli li dan il-budget kellu kollox ħażin. X’inhuma dawk il-punti f’dan il-budget li fl-opinjoni tiegħek jagħmlu sens u li l-partit tiegħek għandu jikkunsidrahom kieku jkollu l-opportunita’ li jagħmel dan?

Ghalkemm ghadhom vagi l-inizjattivi dwar energija mix-xemx fuq bini tal-gvern huma inizjattivi interessanti. Anke l-inizjattiva mhabbra, li wkoll ghadha vaga, fejn min m’ghandux access ghal bejt jista’ jiehu sehem minn energija mix-xemx prodotta x’imkien iehor. Kif u fejn ghadna ma nafux.

6.       Dan il-budget kien wieħed tajjeb fejn jidħol l-ambjent? Fejn falla fil-miri ambjentali?

L-ambjent ghandu, flimkien mal-kwalita tal-hajja, ikun l-pern tal-politika li hija verament progressiva u ekologista. Hemm mizuri pozittivi izda zgur li l-ambjent u l-kwalita tal-hajja ghadhom jitqiesu bhala appendici aktar milli l-ispirazzjoni tal-politika tal-PN u l-PL. Il-fatt li l-gvern ma semmiex investiment f’sistema differenti u addizjonali ta’ transport pubbliku meta s-suppost riforma ghadha tbati minn nuqqasijiet kbar huwa aspett wiehed fejn mhux qed issir enfasi bizzejjed fuq ir-rabta bejn t-trasport u t-tniggis.

7. Ħafna qed jifirħu li f’dan il-budget il-Gvern semma li se jdaħħal (anke jekk b’mod mifrux sal-2015) il-wegħda li jitnaqqsu t-tax bands minn 35% għal 25%. Tagħmel sens fil-mod kif qed jipproponiha jew daħka fil-wiċċ meta suppost il-poplu ilu jgawdi minn din il-wegħda minn tal-inqas ħames snin?

Il-problema hija l-kuncett – jekk il-pajjiz jiflah tnaqqis fit-taxxa tad-dhul, l-ammont ta’ tnaqqis missu infirex fuq min jaqla’ l-anqas. F’kelma wahda missu beda mir-rati ta’ taxxi ta’ isfel mhux ghamel bil-maqlub. It-taxxa fuq id-dhul suppost hija progressiva – igifieri min jaqla’ l-izjed jikkontribwixxi l-aktar. Jekk irridu li jkollna servizzi li jinghataw lil kulhadd bhas-sahha, l-edukazzjoni, l-istipendji, u l-pensjoni ta’ dizabilita, il-gvern m’ghandux jilghab mal-kuncett ta’ gustizzja socjali li huwa s-sies tat-taxxa fuq id-dhul. Fil-verita l-aktar li se jgawdu huma dawk li jaqilghu 60,000 Ewro u fuqhom ghax fuq aktar minn nofs id-dhul taghhom se jhallsu 3600 Ewro anqas taxxi. Minn min jaqla 15,000 Ewro, 20,000 Ewro u 60,000 Ewro l-gvern qed jivvantaggja sew ta l-ahhar. Is-sostenibilita ta’ din il-mizura hija l-mistoqsija l-kbira.

8. Dan hu sempliċiment budget jew għandu jitqies bħala l-manifest elettorali tal-Partit Nazzjonalista u bażi li fuqu l-partiti politiċi l-oħra jqabblu u jagħmlu wegħdi differenti u aħjar?

Aktar qiesu manifest, galadarba l-elezzjoni hija daqstant fil-qrib.

9. Jekk il-Gvern jaqa’ u l-partit tiegħek jirbaħ l-elezzjoni ġenerali li jmiss ma’ liema punti ta’ dan il-budget iħoss li għandu jintrabata u liema punti, assolutament jemmen li għandhom jitħallew barra?

L-ghan taghna hija l-partecipazzjoni fil-parlament fejn inkunu nistghu nressqu mozzjonijiet, proposti ta’ ligijiet u nwasslu l-ideat taghna direttament f’din l-istituzzjoni importanti. Fil-fatt nahsbu li l-parlament bhala instituzzjoni ghandu jissahhah biex verament jikkontrolla lill-gvern u mhux bil-kontra. Jekk ikollna l-opportunita nressqu l-proposti taghna kif spjegati fil-programm elettorali taghna u ovvjament dejjem lesti niddiskutu ma haddiehor dwar kull proposta, tigi minn fejn tigi. Zgur li l-enfasi taghna tkun fuq il-kwalita tal-hajja, s-sahha fis-sens usa taghha u li l-enfasi dejjem tkun fuq min huwa l-aktar batut. Jekk inkunu parti minn Gvern ovvjament jkun irid isir program komuni li jghaqqad punti u prijoritajiet ta’ dawk il-partiti li jiffurmaw il-gvern bhal ma jigri fil-pajjizi zviluppati, prattikament kollha tal-UE, ibda mill-Iskandinavja sal-Germanja.

 10.   Bħala kandidat fl-elezzjoni ġenerali li jmiss, x’kienu jkunu dawk il-miżuri li kont iddaħħal fil-budget u li dan il-Gvern naqas li jinkludi? 

Hemm bzonn mizuri serji biex jigu protetti l-ftit spazji miftuha li ghad fadal f’pajjizna flimkien ma unit iffokat fuq il-bijodiversita. Fondi adegwati ghal ricerka u zvilupp specjalment fejn tidhol dik li tissejjah ‘modernizazzjoni ekologika’ nahseb li huma important ukoll fejn jidhol zvilupp ekonomiku sostenibbli. L-energija alternattiva huwa qasam iehor importanti. Kif il-paga minima tista’ issir paga dicenti u l-pensjoni tad-dizabilita ma tibqax il-mizerja ta’ 55% tal-paga minima ghandhom ukoll ikunu prijorita. Bhala kandidat ta’ AD fuq is-7 u l-11-il distrett, flimkien ma shabi, dawn huma prijoritajiet importanti hafna ghalina.

Happy clappy for Dr Tonio and Mr Borg

November 19, 2012

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When somebody even dares opposing their darlings, Nationalist sycophants such as Antoine Vella come out of the woodwork and scream blue murder.

Here is his contribution about Dr Tonio and Mr Borg in The Times today: http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20121119/letters/Extremists-moral-violence.445971.

Vella, in the old fascist and ‘corporativist’ tradition expects 100% of MEPs from all groups to support Dr Tonio and Mr Borg. He expects everyone to forget his game of saying one thing in Malta and another in the EP. He expects everyone to forget that he opposed gender quotas in Malta but changes tune in a couple of hours in Brussels. He expects everyone to forget that Dr Tonio (or was it Mr Borg?) sent a plane load of Eritreans to torture and death when advised of their probable predicament by international agencies. Some can see through the rhetoric and hyperbole. “Tkellem tajjeb” is not a good enough reason to support him. “Ghax Malti” is an even stupider reason.

The real reason for sending Dr Tonio and Mr Borg to Brussels was that it suits Lawrence Gonzi because he wants Simon Busuttil as Deputy Leader. Sycophants like Vella expect everyone to play their games.

Another thing most people have failed to notice is that the silly clapping during Dr Tonio and Mr Borg’s hearing came from some EPP MEPs – led by a fawning Simon Busuttil and from Nationalist sycophants working in Brussels. The hearing’s chairperson’s comment:”This is not a football match” hit the mark. Probably they thought they were under a “tinda” somewhere in Malta adulating their “kap” – what a bunch of ridiculous people.

These people think they are the ‘chosen ones’ – on a God-given mission to lead the flock. As the Maltese saying goes – “sabu kappell jigihom”.

European Citizens’ Initiative “30km/h – making streets liveable!”

November 14, 2012

I support the European Citizens’ Initiative “30km/h – making streets liveable!” (visit: http://en.30kmh.eu/. To sign the initiative visit: https://30kmh.eu:8181/oct-web-public/signup.do) . Unfortunately preliminary efforts (including gaining the support of all local councillors) to implement this initiative in Ħ’Attard were hampered by Transport Malta – which refuses to see the benefits of making residential roads safer for all and give them back to the public. Here is an excerpt from the initiative’s website:

Why 30km/h (20mph)?

Speed limits of 30km/h (20mph) save lives. Since the first 30km/h zone was installed as a pilot project in the small German town of Buxtehude in 1983, numerous 20-mph zones throughout Europe have proven their worth. Wherever these zones are installed, the number and the severity of accidents is reduced considerably.

A limit of 30km/h (20 mph) in all residential areas improves air quality, as far fewer exhaust gases are emitted, making an important contribution to public health.

The 30km/h (20 mph) limit in all residential areas helps mitigate against climate change, as a lower speed means less CO2 emissions. Additionally, it ensures a more constant traffic flow with less congestion and traffic jams and makes activities such as cycling, walking and using the bus or train much more enjoyable. This then encourages traffic reduction, thereby providing an even greater benefit in terms of less greenhouse gas emissions. What is very important for us: these effects will automatically help reduce the oil dependency of the European Union.

Limiting vehicles to 30kmh (20 mph) reduces traffic noise by up to 40% (3 dbA), which makes a real difference.

A calmer culture in the whole town encourages manufacturers to adapt the car motors to a more easy-going driving behaviour instead of fast speed-ups as its main priority.

Our goal: 30 km/h (20mph) as the standard European speed limit for residential areas – and no longer limited to single zones.

The EU population will benefit. However, children, old people and those with disabilities will benefit in particular, as well as those who can only afford cheaper housing, which is often along main roads outside of any 30km/h (20 mph) zone.

Up to now, there have been strict legal limitations on any administration wanting to establish a 30km/h (20 mph) zone. Also, it is obvious that many people simply do not respect the zones as the 30km/h (20 mph) limit is what they are used to. Or they just don’t see the signs. Therefore, local governments are forced to invest in expensive measures when they want to introduce traffic-calming. However, a standard speed limit for the whole town would both make the regulations very clear and save local governments considerable expense and time.

Additionally, the positive effects on health and the environment would increase and the external costs of transport would fall.

(source: http://en.30kmh.eu/why-30kmh-20-mph/)

Other related news items:

http://en.30kmh.eu/2012/10/26/arco-first-italian-town-becomes-a-pioneer-with-total-30-kmh/

http://www.greens-efa.eu/road-safety-8521.html

http://en.30kmh.eu/2012/10/26/spanish-law-for-30-kmh-in-the-pipeline/

The EP is not a rubber stamp

November 7, 2012

Today (7 November 2012) there was a rather patronizing letter in The Times by a certain Anthony Cachia Castelletti. Anthony Cachia Castelletti’s arguments regarding support or the lack of it for Tonio Borg’s nomination as EU Commissioner verge on the ridiculous.

It is clear that Mr Cachia Castelletti is not used to properly functioning parliaments were nominations to posts such as ministers are scrutinised by parliament based on the opinions, policies and track record of the nominee. Mr Cachia Castelletti expects MEPs to ignore the sending back of Eritreans to face torture and a murderous regime, when there was clear advice not to do so. If the majority of MEPs do not agree with the nomination of Tonio Borg he will not be approved – it’s as simple as that. It is also called democracy. Rubber stamping is not on – that happens in Malta but not in the European Parliament.

In the Maltese parliament it is the majority of MPs who through their support to government accept and indirectly choose Ministers. It is no different in the European Parliament where MEPs choose who to support or not as EU Commissioner.

Mr Cachia Castelletti expects that because the PN government can run roughshod over all and sundry here in Malta that the same should happen in the European Parliament, and has the cheek to demand approval of Tonio Borg’s nomination just because he said so.

Eritrea: religious persecution, torture and death… ignored by a “Christian Democrat”

October 29, 2012

Reproduced below is the story about Malta’s relations with the Eritrean regime and incidentally the persecution and murder of Chrsitians in Eritrea. Supporting someone’s candidature, chosen unilaterally by Lawrence Gonzi, just because “he is Maltese”, is the stupidest and silliest opinion being broached on the issue of the choice of the new EU Maltese Commissioner.  Jingoism and Nationalism and blindly following what the “great leader” says just reflects a poor and backward mentality. Further comment is unnecessary.

http://www.independent.com.mt/news.asp?newsitemid=80691

Malta strikes dubious friendship with Eritrean regime
by DAVID LINDSAY

Article published on 28 December 2008 in The Malta Independent 

 

Malta struck a somewhat dubious friendship this week with Eritrea – a country with no recognisable rule of law or respect for human rights, known for torturing dissidents, holding thousands of prisoners of conscience incommunicado, outlawing opposition parties, and imprisoning members of religious groups, journalists and citizens attempting to evade forced military conscription.

The country has also been censored on numerous occasions by both the United Kingdom and the United States over arbitrary detentions and gross human rights violations by the government, military and police.

A rather long-winded press release from the government this week announced Malta had established diplomatic relations with Eritrea, citing that the two countries “looked forward to a closer and fruitful relationship”.

The terms of such a friendship however, are as dubious as their past relationship.

Malta’s relationship with the dictatorial regime stretches back at least as far as 2002, when Malta forcibly returned 223 irregular migrants to Eritrea, despite pleas and warnings from organisations such as the UNHCR and Amnesty International, in what could be considered Malta’s worst ever transgression of fundamental human rights.

While Malta had insisted that the returnees faced no danger from the Eritrean regime, the facts speak otherwise. Most of the group, excluding the women and children, have not been heard from since, with the exception of the accounts provided by a handful of escapees who have given chilling accounts of their treatment at the hands of the Eritrean authorities on their return. Several documented accounts have revealed the horrific fates the so-called ‘ex-Malta deportees’ met on their return to Eritrea.

Funnily enough, it was then Home Affairs Minister Tonio Borg who had overseen the forced returns to Eritrea in 2002 and who had pledged for the deportees’ safety upon return, and it was the same individual, now Malta’s foreign affairs minister, who has overseen the setting up of diplomatic relations between the two countries this week.

As for the countries’ future relationship, both the Maltese and Eritrean ambassadors to the United Nations who signed the agreement this week spoke of possible maritime and educational links, as well as the issue of illegal immigration.

Following migrants from neighbouring Somalia, Eritreans comprise the second-largest group of migrants being hosted by Malta – hundreds of people that Malta would, quite understandably, have a serious interest in returning.

Eritrea would, according to the volumes of evidence documenting the Horn of Africa State’s human rights violations, also have an interest in seeing its citizens repatriated.

The country – which has been gripped in a 10-year border conflict with Ethiopia following a 30-year war for independence – is engaged in supporting anti-government Somali forces and is also involved in the Sudanese civil conflicts – does not take kindly to those seeking to evade its strictly implemented compulsory military service, and seeks to make examples of those caught, as revealed in the horrific accounts of the ‘ex-Malta deportees’ and scores of other documented cases.

It is sincerely hoped that the establishment of diplomatic relations with the regime is not intended to lend the Eritrean government a shroud of respectability, under which more Eritreans could be repatriated from Malta only to face the same fate as those returned in 2002.

While the list is far too extensive for reproduction here, among the more recent human rights violations committed by the Eritrean regime, according to groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, was the imprisonment of over 2,000 religious prisoners of conscience, mostly of Protestant denominations, among which were women and children, have been detained incommunicado for over three years. Members of evangelical groups have been tortured to make them abandon their faith.

According to both AI and HRW, religious persecution and the ill-treatment of those caught evading military conscription are both on the increase, while torture is systematically practised by the police and military.

Another nationwide sweep yielded another 100 Christian men, women and children, who were apprehended in a campaign of mass arrests between late November and 12 December. The crackdown involved Christians of all denominations, who have been reportedly transferred to military facilities where they are being physically abused.

Eritrea is not an electoral democracy and dissent against the government is not allowed, leading to the secret imprisonment of hundreds of government critics – including 11 former government ministers. Independent or private news and media outlets are banned and a group of 13 journalists arrested in 2001 remain detained incommunicado without charge or trial.

The UNHCR had issued guidelines, which are still in force, that rejected Eritrean asylum seekers should not be returned to Eritrea on account of the country’s serious human rights situation.

For background and the accounts of the ‘ex-Malta deportees’, see http://www.independent.com.mt/news.asp?newsitemid=43604 and http://www.independent.com.mt/news.asp?newsitemid=52136

‘Magħtab mountains’ in Attard

September 17, 2012

I’m convinced that the most effective tactic this government uses is to ignore people, making them give up trying to put things right. The latest damning EU report about the state of waste management in Malta brought to mind the neglected issue of construction waste. I’m sure that what holds for the case I’m writing about in Attard holds for other places around Malta and Gozo.

Having been involved in local politics since 1994, when I was elected councillor on Alternattiva Demokratika’s ticket in Attard for the first time, and having worked with others on the issue of illegalities and the impotence of the authorities to deal with the owners of quarries in Wied Inċita, I know only too well how frustrating it is to ask for one simple thing: law enforcement. It is a call that went unheeded for the past 18 years.

In 1996, Francis Zammit Dimech’s ministry had allowed the dumping of excavation and construction waste in the quarries but without any monitoring whatsoever. From that day onwards we have our own “Magħtab mountains” in Attard. The waste was not used to rehabilitate and restore parts of the spent quarry but is constantly moved around and processed into building material and piled high into huge heaps of rubble.

The sides of the quarries will one day erode and collapse ruining what’s left of the valley, once one of the most beautiful natural areas in Malta.

Among the list of illegalities or irregularities in the Wied Inċita quarries are an illegal brick plant, excavation of public land when no permits for such excavation were issued, excavation going beyond established depths and ever-increasing heights of mounds of dust and debris.

The Water Services Corporation, with an interest in protecting the water table, had reported that, in some parts, the permissible depth of excavation of 25 metres had been exceeded. The concept of ‘best practice’ seems to be completely alien in this ‘cowboy’ industry.

Seven enforcement notices issued by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority were never applied. Site visits by the Mepa board, accompanied by local councillors and led by the present chairman, Austin Walker, who happens to live close by, led to nothing. Clear instructions in November 2008 issued by Mepa, ordering the operator to present a ‘full restoration plan’ and a ‘phased plan’ to restore the quarry to its natural state were completely ignored.

Judicial letters filed by the Attard council against Mepa, the Land Commissioner and the quarry operator, again, were completely ignored. The Land Commissioner and the minister responsible for land do not seem to give two hoots about the misuse of public land and the failure of lease holders to abide by conditions that go back to 1967. The conditions stipulate that areas where rock excavation is exhausted has to be rehabilitated within 12 months. There is not one square metre of land that has been rehabilitated since 1967.

The truth of the matter is that conditions and laws were never enforced and, for over 18 years, the Nationalist government has also allowed the quarries to become another ‘Magħtab’.

Like in many other areas, law enforcement is non-existent. Ministers in charge of the environment and Mepa have changed – from Zammit Dimech, to George Pullicino, to Lawrence Gonzi and now to Mario de Marco – but the free-for-all continues.

The status quo in Maltese politics has led to this: some are more equal than others; they are above the law.

ralph.cassar@alternattiva.org.mt

The author is secretary general of Alternattiva Demokratika and local councillor in Attard.

http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20120917/opinion/-Mag-tab-mountains-in-Attard.437219

Il-kaccaturi diga jaghmlu li jridu, izda jridu aktar…

September 12, 2012

Artiklu fit-timesofmalta.com (riprodott hawn taht) jitkellem kif il-kaccaturi iridu aktar kacca fir-rebbiegha u hinijiet itwal ta’ kacca – iridu aktar mill-wisq li diga ghandhom. Qeghdin fejn qeghdin grazzi ghal Gonzi u Muscat u l-partiti taghhom.

Gonzi u Muscat ghandhom ilsienhom xieref tant ilhom jilaghqu u jiffirmaw kull tip ta’ ftehim mal-“konservazzjonisti” li mlew il-kampanja ewkaliptus. L-ebda politiku serju ma jiffirma ftehim ma’ l-ebda grupp li jorbotlu idejh. Li jaghmel huwa li jiddikjara l-programm u principji li se jimxi fuqhom u min ghandu pjacir jivvutalu.

Izda Gonzi u Muscat jitkellmu b’mod differenti skont lil min ikunu qeghdin jitkellmu. Mhux se noghmodha: jekk int tqis ruhek ambjentalist trid tkun bahnan biex tappoggja lil Gonzi, Muscat u l-partiti medjokri taghhom.

Il-“konservazzjonisti” qed jghidu li l-ligijiet tal-Unjoni Ewropea ma tispecifikax hinijiet ta’ kacca. Ghal min ma jafx id-direttivi tal-Unjoni Ewropea huma l-minimu – kull stat membru, u biex inkun ezatt kull parlament nazzjonali (jew f’certi pajjizi ir-regjuni jew kunsilli lokali li ghandhom il-poter li jaghmlu l-ligijiet u regolamenti) bil-ligijiet tieghu li jimplimentaw id-direttiva partikolari jiddeterminaw id-dettalji bhal per ezempju hinijiet u dati tal-istaguni, zoni fejn ma tistax issir kacca ecc.

Ironika li l-konferenza stampa tal-“konservazzjonisti” saret fil-Buskett, zona protetta imam fejn l-kacca illegali xorta ssehh.

Sakemm dawk iz-zewg laghqa Gonzi u Muscat u l-partiti “skips” taghhom jibqghu minghajr sinsla, il-“konservazzjonisti” se jkomplu jitolbu aktar.

Iridu aktar minn 20,000 summiena u gamiema – meta kacca fir-rebbiegha suppost ma ssirx, imma Gonzi bla sinsla u Muscat min jaf x’iwieghed.

Iridu l-kacca nhar ta’ Hadd ukoll u anke wara t-3pm matul il-gimgha – mela l-kampanja taghhom biss? Minn filghodu kmieni sat-3pm ma jibbasthomx, Alla jbierek. X’inhi ezattament il-problema li jkun hemm hinijiet stipulati u gurnata mqaddsa wahda minghajr kacca?

Dal-gvern hallihom jikkaccjaw ukoll fil-Park Nazzjonali tal-Majjistral… ghax inkella Gonzi jitlef xi vot u forsi ma tafx kif jiehdu Muscat.

Forsi wasal iz-zmien li xi hadd jghidilhom li dardru lil kulhadd iduru bis-snieter fi-kampanja. Forsi wasal iz-zmien li xi hadd jghidilhom imorru jixxejru.

Gonzi u Muscat ili li bghatthom jixxejru – jekk rajtu s-sinsla taghhom f’xi skip x’imkien ibatughha jew Kastilja jew il-Hamrun!

***

The Times, Monday, September 10, 2012, 13:43

FKNK seeks hunting law reforms

The hunters’ federation (FKNK) insisted today that Framework Legislation governing bird hunting needed to be amended.

Federation president Joe Perici Calascione said that the cap of 20,000 Turtle Doves and Quails which may be shot in a year was far too limited and was not based on proper scientific reports which showed that bird populations were such that a bigger bag was justified.

The press conference, held in Buskett, marked the third anniversary of a European Court of Justice decision on spring hunting in Malta.

Mr Perici Calascione said that decision by the court was a major victory for hunting in Malta and the federation would continue to insist that the decision should be interpreted correctly by the government so that Malta could have a proper spring hunting season.

He said the federation was calling for a revision of the framework legislation also in areas such as how the hunting seasons were decided.

The government, he said, also needed to lift unnecessary hunting restrictions which were not required by EU law, such as the ban on hunting on Sundays and after 3 p.m. on weekdays.

http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20120910/local/fknk-seeks-hunting-law-reforms.436331

Planning conditions ignored for 20 years

September 10, 2012

It is incredible how the Nationalist Party tries to sell things which were supposed to have been implemented ages ago as if they are something innovative and new.

Minister Jason Azzopardi has just announced that the car park just outside Valletta will now have a garden at ground level. Not everyone is gullible and naive. The fact is that the garden was part of the original permit for the car park. The fact is the government has allowed a breach of permit conditions for the past 20 years or so.

Labour never really bothered either, even during its two years in power. Good governance, indeed.

Two years too late

September 6, 2012

A motion about the use of heavy fuel oil for the BWSC plant at Delimara has been presented in Parliament by Nationalist MP Franco Debono.

I am afraid that Franco Debono is two years too late. On May 6, 2010, he could have voted against the way the BWSC contract was awarded. The problem is that the parliamentary debate that day degenerated into the usual cat-calling and ridiculous style of tribalism as practised by the Nationalist and Labour parties, when Mario Galea voted against the government, presumably by mistake, and, according to Nationalist MPs, Justyne Caruana voted with the government. Whether this is true or not makes no difference.

Instead of discussing the issue at hand, Gonzi and Muscat spent weeks trading insults and nitpicking about the voting procedure. In the meantime, the awarding of the BWSC contract went ahead and we’re all stuck with heavy fuel oil.

Some things never change

July 22, 2012

New candidates, whether running for PL or PN are just nice wrapping, there to dupe people into thinking that something has changed within the catch-all parties they are standing for. It is the same strategy used by the PN in European Parliament elections: fielding candidates who are supposed to appeal to voters with opposing interests. When push comes to shove, it is those who have the other parties in their pockets who call the shots. Those who have organised their events for free, those who have provided ‘free’ security services and those who prop up their heavily-in-debt television stations will queue up to demand payment – from public funds. Those whose abuse has been ignored for years – from the land-grabbers at Armier to the speculator whose fines or buildings on public land have been written off or ‘sanctioned’ will continue in their old ways.

An interview with Joseph Muscat in the ‘Sunday Times’ (17/06/2012) just goes to prove, if any proof were needed, that there isn’t much of a difference between PL and PN: they are both beholden to the land speculation lobby, not to mention the usual arrogant lobbies of hunters and Armier squatters, with whom agreements both PL and PN have signed over the years. The mess created by George Pullicino and Lawrence Gonzi’s cabinet with the so called ‘rationalization scheme’ which turned whole areas of Malta into a construction site again should be fresh on everyone’s mind – we are still and will continue to suffer the consequences of this government’s or party’s (no difference really) love affair with its funders for years to come. Not a whimper from Labour – in parliament its MPs were suggesting additional parcels of land to be included in the scheme. Serving as a councillor in H’Attard I cannot but mention the disaster this building spree has caused.

Do you remember Labour actively lobbying for a golf course in Ta’ Cenc in Gozo? And what about Gonzi’s statements that he’ll see to it that a golf course will be built in Xaghra l-Hamra? ‘Different’ parties, same logic. Now we have Joseph whizzing off to Dubai and coming back excited about land reclamation – obviously, as usual without the details. Typical.

As regards land reclamation per se – this is nothing new – thousands of square metres of land were reclaimed from the sea for specific projects – from theFreeport, to roads along the coast, Msida and Qormi have areas reclaimed from the sea, whole quays are built on what was once sea. What Joseph means is a re-hash of what PN dreamt up as far back as the early 2000s. Pushed by their funders they waxed lyrical about more construction – flats, flats and more flats on artificial islands. As if we need more of that. A MEPA report had concluded that the cost is so high that it can only be recovered by real estate on scale of SmartCity. The misleading statements by the Nationalists about SmartCity–who are addicted to the “construction = growth” mantra are joined by Labour’s promises, basing its economic proposals on the same mantra. It’s nothing new – they sing the same tunes, the Muscat Sunday Times interview is further confirmation of their lack of vision.

When asked if he thinks that in the past 30-40 years too much damage has been inflicted on the environment and someone needs to say ‘that’s enough’, Joseph Muscat chirps that “We’ve gone from one extreme to the other. Nowadays, we need to be realistic. If MEPA was set up during the Knights’ time, it would have probably barred them from building the President’s Palace. We need common sense. We can’t hide behind bureaucracy.”

Incredible but true. It just confirms who is behind his phoney movement – the same people who fund or maybe used to fund PN. They are now hedging their bets on Muscat. Muscat is either living in cuckoo land or is copying straight out of PN’s pro-speculation and speculators’ phrase book. The development process is still skewed in favour of the developer – just look at the resources afforded to ‘planning’ in MEPA and the resources afforded to its environment protection directorate.

What developers must be told is that the industry can flourish in restoring and refitting the tens of thousands of empty buildings all overMalta. There is also a killing to be made in the regeneration of run down areas in the harbour region from Marsa to Cottonera to Kordin – industrial wasteland which can be put to productive use.

The energy sector is another area where both PL and PN lack the vision necessary to move Malta to the forefront of new, renewable and cleaner energy production – creating jobs in new and innovative areas in the process. Unkept promises have characterised the Nationalist party’s ‘reign’. Heavy fuel oil, whose stench, reportedly, can be smelt from Marsaxlokk to Birzebbuga is their legacy. Labour promises a reduction in tariffs and at the same time sings the praises of a 1 billion Euro experiment – again using, coal, the dirtiest fuel of all, with a few olive pits thrown in for good measure – and calls the process ‘clean’. The only way to control the price of energy is first an foremost to continuously increase the efficiency of power plants and distribution, make solar water heaters mandatory on all buildings, invest massively in thousands of small clean energy generating units – be they PV or other sources like micro-wind turbines, coupled with larger renewable energy generating plants.

Labour or Nationalist – a vote for any of them won’t make any difference, if you vote based on principles, that is. The strongest message is in your vote – it will leave an impact and influence decision makers whatever happens. If you want to send a message against the status quo the only choice is Green.

Ralph Cassar is AD secretary general and spokesperson on energy, transport and IT.