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

Monday, October 22, 2018

Gozo in the budget? Michael Briguglio

Image result for gozo
Gozo has recently been in the news for the wrong reasons: the privatisation of a public hospital and resultant deficiencies in services offered; Gozo channel workers on strike; lack of national and EU funds for road projects; certain development projects that can ruin the island’s unique beauty; and students who are facing prohibitive rent costs in Malta. The list goes on.
One hopes that tonight’s budget will give due importance to Gozo and recognise its characteristics as a small island within a small island state: an island off another island that suffers from double insularity.
From an economic perspective this can result in disadvantages such as the expensive transportation of industrial supplies, thus impinging on the competitivity of manufacturing. It also means that around 7,000 Gozitans currently work in Malta, with around 3,000 of these being employed in the private sector: a minority within a minority, as one recently put it.
On the other hand, Gozo should compete well in services such as tourism and financial services. The former is characterised by the success of the private sector, but the latter needs more incentives by the government to take off.
Gozo can also have its own version of Malta Enterprise with the intention to attract foreign direct investment in areas which can be produced on a smaller scale, including the same financial services and other sectors where IT connectivity is of paramount importance. For this reason, government investment in the latter can help attract companies which do need to constantly import industrial supplies for their operations.
The government can also develop the idea of moving certain public service operations to Gozo. This already exists in some areas and can be developed further to help keep Gozitan workers on their island, should they wish to do so. Besides, through evidence-based policy making, the government can identify problems, risks, opportunities and strategic niches which can be dealt with.
This would involve various social-scientific methodologies and impact assessments and thorough consultation with stakeholders such as residents, workers, students, experts and entrepreneurs.
More can also be done so that Gozo gets a better deal out of Malta’s EU membership. The proposal to have it recognised as an EU region that qualifies for suitable regional funds should be endorsed by all political players. This will enable the island to have a better status within EU policy frameworks. The expert input of key professionals is vital for such a proposal to be taken seriously at EU level.
Let us keep in mind that Gozo currently faces difficulties in accessing and absorbing EU funding, even since current programmatic requirements do not seem to be tailored for the needs of such islands within small islands. 
From a political perspective, institutional allies should be sought so that Gozo can have better access to EU funds.
The European Committee of the Regions is one of them. Last year it endorsed a request of the Maltese EU presidency and adopted an opinion regarding islands’ economic, social and territorial development. It called for an island clause in EU cohesion policies for the 2020-27 period, given that 362 islands within the bloc “face permanent structural difficulties specific to them which entail additional costs for their businesses and which affect their development prospects”.
It is important that such requests are put to life and acted upon so that Gozo gets the respect it deserves within the European community. Again, alliance-building within the EU is important especially since the 362 EU islands with over 50 inhabitants each represent almost 18 million people. Their per capita gross domestic product amounts to around 79 per cent of the EU average in 2010, and many islands remain in the less developed region category.
Article 174 of the European treaty states that island regions warrant attention from the EU, which must aim to reduce disparities between the levels of development of the various regions within and between member states. Malta should lobby harder for the implementation of this article and set an example through tangible initiatives for Gozo during tonight’s budget.
Malta should also decentralise and devolve more powers to Gozo so that its own policymakers and civil society will have a greater say in decision making. Empowerment in practice.
This article appears in Times of Malta print edition, 22nd October 2018.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Baġit: Nagħtu aktar setgħa lin-nies - Michael Briguglio




F’artikli preċedenti enfasizzajt firxa ta' miżuri li jistgħu jiġu implimentati fil-Baġit li jmiss għall-2019 f'kuntest ta' ekonomija li qed tikber li qiegħda tħabbat wiċċha ma' sfidi marbutin mal-esklużjoni soċjali, is-sostenibbiltà u n-nuqqas ta' ugwaljanza. F’dan ir-rigward, il-Partit Nazzjonalista ippreżenta ukoll numru ta’ proposti, u jien kont wieħed mill-awturi tad-dokument.



Semmejt il-ħtieġa ta' mekkaniżmu rivedut u realistiku għall-aġġustament għall-għoli tal-ħajja ta' Malta mogħti lill-ħaddiema u għajnuna għal dawk bi dħul baxx u negozji ta' persuni li jaħdmu għal rashom, pereżempju bit-tneħħija tat-taxxa fuq l-overtime u b'taxxi aktar baxxi rispettivament.



Irreferejt għall-bżonn ta' żidiet deċenti fil-pensjonijiet u ta' kunsens nazzjonali dwar is-sostenibbiltà tal-pensjonijiet. Sħaqt ukoll dwar l-importanza ta' assistenza xierqa għall-persuni li jikru, fid-dawl ta' prezzijiet li qed jiżdiedu b'mod inkontrollabbli. Politika msejsa fuq l-evidenza u konsultazzjoni olistika ma' esperti u ma' dawk ikkonċernati huma fatturi ewlenin meħtieġa għal dawn ir-riformi.



Semmejt ukoll il-ħtieġa għal investiment f'oqsma li jistgħu jgħinu fit-titjib tal-kwalità tal-ħajja tan-nies. B'rabta ma' dan irreferejt għall-bżonn ta' multi infurzabbli għall-abbużi ambjentali u l-bżonn li prattika ambjentali tajba tiġi ppremjata. Enfasizzajt il-ħtieġa għal strateġija nazzjonali ta' investiment għal bankini aċċessibbli u l-bżonn li niżguraw li t-trasport pubbliku jagħti servizz deċenti lill-klijenti. L-involviment tal-kunsilli lokali f'din il-politika huwa essenzjali.



Fl-artikli preċedenti tiegħi enfasizzajt ukoll il-ħtieġa li jitħallsu lura l-ħlasijiet żejda li qed jirriżultaw mill-mekkaniżmu illegali għall-kontijiet tad-dawl u l-ilma u l-bżonn ta' aktar investiment fir-riċerka, l-edukazzjoni, it-taħriġ u t-taħriġ mill-ġdid tal-ħaddiema. F'dan l-artiklu nixtieq nidħol aktar fil-fond dwar dawn il-proposti.



B'rabta max-xogħol, b'xorti ħażina jeżistu kundizzjonijiet ħżiena ta' xogħol f'għadd ta' setturi f'Malta, fosthom l-ekonomija illegali. Il-prekarjat jidher li hu l-aktar komuni f'setturi li jvarjaw mill-kostruzzjoni sal-ġbir tal-iskart u minn xi 'ħwienet tal-massaġġi'  sa ċerti xogħlijiet fis-settur tad-divertiment. Huwa wkoll pjuttost ċar li għadd ta' xogħlijiet marbutin mal-kura huma kkaratterizzati minn pagi baxxi, li ma jirriflettux ir-responsabbiltà involuta.



Barra minn hekk, minkejja titjib tal-politika soċjali f'oqsma bħal ċentri fejn jittieħed ħsieb it-tfal, Malta għadha lura f'termini tal-ugwaljanza bejn is-sessi u l-edukazzjoni meta mqabbla mal-bqija tal-Ewropa, u għaldaqstant dan jindika li hemm bżonn ta' aċċess mingħajr ħlas għal ċentri fejn jittieħed ħsieb it-tfal anke għal tfal li l-ġenituri tagħhom la jaħdmu u lanqas jistudjaw.



Fil-qasam tal-ambjent, il-gvern għandu jikkonċentra fuq l-għoti ta' inċentivi għall-ekonomija ċirkolari li tqis l-immaniġġar tal-iskart bħala opportunità. Għandu jagħti inċentivi wkoll għal teknoloġiji ekoloġiċi u jintroduċi inċentivi differenti li jgħinu biex jissebbħu l-lokalitajiet tagħna. Dawn tal-aħħar għandhom ikunu aċċessibbli għal individwi, is-soċjetà ċivili, is-settur privat u l-kunsilli lokali.



L-investiment tal-gvern fit-toroq għandu jiġi rifless f'infrastuttura, passaġġi u spazji li tassew jiffavorixxu dawk li jużaw ir-roti u dawk li jimxu. Dan ma jidhirx li hu l-każ fil-proġetti tat-toroq li qed iwettaq il-gvern bħalissa.



Nistenna wkoll li l-gvern iżid il-firxa ta' għajnuna mogħtija lil individwi li għandhom ħtiġijiet speċifiċi marbutin ma' kundizzjonijiet bħal, pereżempju, il-fibromijalġija u l-ME.



Ikun inkoraġġanti wkoll jekk il-gvern iwaqqaf ix-xejra ta' ċentralizzazzjoni tas-setgħa f'idejn il-ministri u minflok juri fiduċja u rieda tajba lill-kunsilli lokali u lis-soċjetà ċivili permezz tad-deċentralizzazzjoni, is-sussidjarjetà u d-devoluzzjoni tal-art pubblika.



Biex insemmi eżempju wieħed, għadd ta' artijiet li bħalissa huma proprjetà tal-gvern jista' jsir użu aħjar tagħhom għaċ-ċittadini jekk l-amministrazzjoni u s-sjieda tagħhom tiġi fdata lill-kunsilli lokali. Punt baġitarju li jikkunsidra dan il-proċess ikun ferm ta' ġid.



Fl-aħħar nett, naħseb li wasal iż-żmien li l-Ministru tal-Finanzi ta' Malta jagħti informazzjoni komprensiva dwar il-bejgħ taċ-ċittadinanza, li jien kontrih kemm fil-prinċipju kif ukoll minħabba li nqis li mhuwiex sostenibbli fit-tul.



B'rabta ma' dan, il-pubbliku għandu jingħata tagħrif dwar il-proċess ta' teħid ta' deċiżjonijiet marbut mal-allokazzjoni u l-użu tal-fondi mill-IIP, jekk jeżistix pjan, jekk hemmx kalendarju u affarijiet oħra relatati. Jekk dan ma jsirx, bilfors nissuspettaw li l-finanzi pubbliċi ta' Malta qegħdin jiddependu dejjem aktar minn fond li għandu nuqqas ta' sostenibbiltà, u li ċ-ċiklu elettorali qed jingħata aktar importanza mill-ippjanar ekonomiku fit-tul.



Dwar dan is-suġġett, importanti li niftakru li l-Fond Nazzjonali Soċjali u għall-Iżvilupp li fih imur 70 fil-mija tad-dħul mill-bejgħ taċ-ċittadinanza mhuwiex parti mill-qafas ta' finanzjament ferm regolat tal-UE u għalhekk jista' jkun aktar vulnerabbli għal interventi partiġġjani. Ma jkunx aħjar kieku jkollna gvern iżgħar u soċjetà akbar u b'aktar setgħa?



 Dan l-artiklu deher fil-Mument, 21 ta' Ottubru 2018