Sociologist, Local Councillor, Politician from Malta
MEP Candidate - Partit Nazzjonalista (EPP).

Sunday, January 20, 2019

L-għoti ta' art pubblika - Michael Briguglio



Sa issa huwa ċar li l-mudell ekonomiku tal-gvern jiddependi ħafna minn proġetti aċċellerati ta' kostruzzjoni. Dawn jitfgħu l-flus fl-ekonomija, dan iwassal għal tkabbir u ċ-ċiklu politiku tal-gvern jibqa' għaddej.



Iżda dan kollu għandu prezz. L-impatt ambjentali u dak soċjali qed jingħataw importanza sekondarja u hekk ukoll qed jingħata ċ-ċiklu ekonomiku fuq medda itwal ta' żmien. Lil hinn miċ-ċiklu politiku attwali tal-gvern, Malta tista' ssostni ekonomija li taħtaf dejjem aktar art għal proġetti ta' żvilupp spekulattiv? U min iħallas it-taxxa għandu jiffinanzja dan kollu permezz tar-roħs enormi li qed jingħata lil ċerti żviluppaturi tal-art?



Il-proġett ta' żvilupp tal-Corinthia f'San Ġiljan huwa każ ieħor ta' dan. Il-Corinthia hija kumpanija ta' suċċess li hija l-aktar magħrufa għall-kontribut turistiku tagħha lill-ekonomija Maltija u lil hinn minnha. Ta' dan ta' min ifaħħarha, u tal-pjanijiet tagħha għall-ewwel lukanda ta' sitt stilel f'Malta. Iżda peress li l-pjanijiet tagħha jinvolvu art pubblika u l-iżvilupp ta' proprjetà immobbli, nistenna li l-interess pubbliku jingħata prijorità mill-gvern fin-negozjati tiegħu ma' din il-kumpanija privata.



Il-gvern kuntent li l-impatt tal-proprjetà immobbli fuq l-art ikkonċernata hu stmat li ser ikun id-doppju tad-daqs tal-art mibnija għal skopijiet ta' turiżmu? Il-gvern kuntent li qed jagħti roħs ta' €70 miljun lill-Corinthia għall-art ikkonċernata, meta din l-art ingħatat valur ta' €121.7 miljun minn Deloitte?



Il-gvern huwa daqstant ġeneruż man-nies tal-klassi medja u tal-klassi tal-ħaddiema li jħallsu t-taxxa, mal-pensjonanti, u ma' persuni li għandhom ħtieġa urġenti ta' akkomodazzjoni soċjali?



Nixtieq infakkar lill-qarrejja li f'Ottubru li għadda ktibt lill-Kummissjoni Ewropea u lill-Bord ta’ Sorveljanza fuq l-Għajnuna Mogħtija mill-Istat ta' Malta dwar proġett simili ta' żvilupp qrib ta' dan: il-proġett kontroversjali tad-DB f'Pembroke.



L-ittri tiegħi staqsew jekk il-gvern ta' Malta kienx qed iħares il-leġislazzjoni Ewropea u dik Maltija dwar l-għajnuna mill-Istat meta ddeċieda li jbigħ is-sit fejn kien l-Istitut għall-Istudji Turistiċi lill-iżviluppaturi għal €15-il miljun biss, meta l-pjan tal-gvern stess għaż-żona kien ta lill-art valur ta' €8,500 għal kull metru kwadru, li jammonta għal total ta' €204 miljuni għall-art involuta.



Il-Bord ta’ Sorveljanza fuq l-Għajnuna Mogħtija mill-Istat għad irid iwieġeb għall-mistoqsijiet tiegħi. Il-Kummissjoni Ewropea wieġbet, bl-użu ta' lingwaġġ burokratiku li jgħin biex dak li jkun jifhem għaliex tant persuni qed isiru xettiċi dwar il-ħolma Ewropea.



Fi ftit kliem, il-Kummissjoni Ewropea qaltli li ma nistax nistaqsi mistoqsijiet bħal dawn sakemm m'inix kompetitur żvantaġġat. Allura ċ-ċittadini komuni ma għandhom ebda dritt jistaqsu lill-Unjoni Ewropea dwar għajnuna mill-Istat li tinvolvi art pubblika.



Iżda minnufih naħseb f'mistoqsija oħra. Min huma l-kompetituri żvantaġġati? U mhumiex jilmentaw għax huma wkoll ser jiksbu art pubbliku bi prezzijiet imraħħsa, bis-saħħa tal-gvern imma mħallsa minn dawk li jħallsu t-taxxa?



Dawn iż-żewġ proġetti huma l-aktar żewġ eżempji reċenti tar-relazzjoni simbjotika bejn il-gvern u l-iżviluppaturi l-kbar li jiddependu minn xulxin għat-tkabbir ekonomiku u l-appoġġ mill-Istat rispettivament, filwaqt li tiġi injorata kull prijorità oħra.



L-unika differenza hi li din id-darba, il-gvern kien ippospona r-reviżjoni tal-pjan għal Paceville eżatt qabel l-aħħar elezzjoni ġenerali wara kritika qawwija mill-pubbliku.



Dak li qed joffri issa huwa agħar: l-għoti ta' art pubblika fuq bażi ad hoc - mingħajr regoli u skont il-bżonn.



Il-gvern ser jgħid lir-residenti mweġġa' li, bis-saħħa ta' dan l-iżvilupp, il-kunsilli lokali ser jingħataw flus mill-qligħ mill-ippjanar: madwar miljun euro fil-każ tal-iżvilupp tal-Corinthia.



Iżda dak li l-gvern forsi għandu jgħid ukoll huwa li minkejja l-bilanċ pożittiv nazzjonali, dan l-aħħar iddeċieda li jieħu €2 miljuni mill-Fond għall-Ippjanar tal-Iżvilupp mingħand kull wieħed mill-kunsilli lokali ta' San Ġiljan u Tas-Sliema mingħajr anqas biss indenja ruħu jikkonsultahom.



Ma għandix wisq tama li l-gvern ser ibiddel il-mudell ekonomiku tiegħu, iżda nsejjaħ lill-qarrejja biex jagħtu preferenza lill-Malta li jixtiequ meta jgħarblu dawn is-suġġetti.



 Dan l-artiklu deher fil-Mument, 20 ta' Jannar 2019

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Parcelling public land - Michael Briguglio

Times of Malta, 14 January 2019

By now it is no secret that the government’s economic model is heavily dependent on accelerated construction projects. Money is injected in the economy, growth takes place and the government’s political cycle is fuelled.
But this comes at a cost. Environmental and social impacts are given secondary importance as is the longer-term economic cycle. Beyond the government’s current political cycle, can Malta sustain an economy that gobbles up more and more land for speculative development projects? And should the taxpayer fund this through the massive discounts given to certain land developers?
The Corinthia development project in St Julian’s is yet another case in point in this regard.
Corinthia is a successful business mostly known for its touristic contribution to the Maltese economy and beyond. Hats off to it for this, and for its plans to have Malta’s first six-star hotel. But given that its plans involve public land andthe development of real estate, one expects that the public interest is prioritised by the government in its negotiations with the private company.
Is the government pleased that the footprint for real estate on the land in question is estimated to be twice as large as the built-up area for tourism purposes? Is the government pleased to give a discount of €70 million to Corinthia for the land in question, when it was valued at €121.7 million by Deloitte?
Is the government equally generous with middle class and working-class taxpayers, with pensioners, with persons in dire need of social housing?
I will remind readers that last October I wrote to the European Commission and to Malta’s State Aid Monitoring Board on a similar development project close by: the controversial DB project in Pembroke.
My letters queried whether the government of Malta was conforming to European and Maltese State aid legislation when it decided to sell the former ITS site to the developers for a mere €15 million, when the same government’s own master plan for the area had valued the land at €8,500 per square metre, which would amount to a total of €204 million for the land at stake.
Malta’s State Aid Monitoring Board is yet to reply to my queries. The European Commission did reply, using bureaucratic jargon that helps one understand why so many people are becoming sceptical of the European dream.
In a nutshell, the European Commission told me that I am not able to make such questions unless I am a disadvantaged competitor. Right, so common citizens have no right to query the EU on State aid involving public land.
But an immediate question comes to mind. Who are the disadvantaged competitors? And are they not complaining because they too will get public land at discounted prices, courtesy of the government but paid by the taxpayer?
These two projects are the two newest instances of the symbiotic relationship between the government and big developers who depend on each other for economic growth and State support respectively at the expense of other concerns.
Only that this time around, the government had postponed the revision of the Paceville Masterplan just before the last general election following public outcry.
What it is now offering is worse: the parcelling out of public land on an ad hoc basis.
The government will tell aggrieved residents that in return for such development, local councils will get money through the planning gain: around one million euros in the case of the Corinthia development.
Maybe the government should also say that despite the national surplus, it recently decided to take €2 million each from the nearby St Julian’s and Sliema local councils from the Development Planning Fund without bothering to consult them.
I am quite pessimistic that the government will change its economic model, but I do appeal to readers to give preference to the Malta they want when deliberating on such issues.