Sociologist, local councillor, activist from Malta

Friday, April 27, 2012

The new progressive

Michael Briguglio

The Times, Friday, April 27, 2012
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20120427/opinion/The-new-progressive.417260


Alternattiva Demokratika’s general meeting, held last Saturday, confirmed that the Greens are Malta’s progressive political force. We have clear positions for social change, giving priority to social justice, environmental protection and sustainability.

Take the divorce issue, for example. AD set the ball rolling for the introduction of divorce in Malta when it took the initiative to write to members of Parliament and present divorce legislation. This eventually led to the formation of the historic Yes movement in which AD played a leading role.

Were it not for the Green party, perhaps nobody would have had the courage to propagate the need for the introduction of this basic civil right. AD was instrumental for such an achievement and we are not in Parliament. Just imagine what more can be done if the Green party has parliamentary representation.

In last Saturday’s general meeting, AD approved three resolutions. In all cases, we are articulating our stands in a way that clearly distinguishes us from others because of their ideological orientations or strategic affiliations. Once again, it will be the Green party that will set the ball rolling on issues of great importance.

The first resolution we approved concerned poverty. In this regard, concrete and realistic measures should be implemented in order to compensate for the extra burden that is being put on people due to the high cost of living.

There should be a realistic evaluation of the cost of living adjustment (COLA) mechanism so that the compensation given annually would really reflect the increase in inflation. As things stand, people can buy less and less for their euro. To this effect, the method used at present, on which COLA is based, should be revised.

AD also insists that the minimum wage should be increased including for part-time and contractual work. The same applies to the disability pension, which, as things stand, amounts to 55 per cent of the minimum wage. Malta also requires a just and sustainable pension reform. As regards the latter, AD has long taken a stand, even making concrete proposals. The second resolution was about energy. AD is insisting that the state should have a primary role in the provision of energy. Energy use should be sustainable, employment should not be precarious and energy poverty should be avoided at all costs. This applies also to energy provided by the private sector.

Indeed, AD believes that if the private sector doesn’t reach these goals, the state should intervene and regulate in the most effective way possible. The gas issue is a clear example of weak governance and of state authorities being subservient to cartels.

AD also believes that the state should subsidise the basic consumption of energy and penalise waste. Social expenditure in this field can be made up for through progressive fiscal measures such as windfall taxes, taxes on environmental damage and on financial speculation.

Last but not least, the third resolution dealt with Manoel Island. A repetition of the overdevelopment at Tignè should be avoided. Given that both the Nationalist and Labour parties support and depend on big business developers, AD has the historical duty to speak up on this issue. The government should make amends for the damage it has caused with the consent of the opposition as a result of their support of unsustainable development.

Consequently, AD believes that the government should reclaim Manoel Island back from Midi and convert it into a recreational park accessible to the public, containing community facilities, freeing the space from speculative development.

This should be done without the payment of any form of compensation to Midi. Malta has already lost too much public land for overdevelopment. It is about time that the state reverses this trend.

In the run up to Malta’s general election, AD will retain its role as the progressive party in the country and as the voice of social justice, protection of the environment and sustainability. Our manifesto will be unequivocal, taking clear sides.

We will also keep proving that our politics are distinct from those of the PN and the PL.
Despite their differences, both parties are financed by big business and are hell-bent on maintaining a political system with an electoral system tailor-made for their needs.

Given that AD’s share of the vote can determine the result of the next general election, the Green vote cannot be taken for granted. This only strengthens our resolve to speak up on issues that keep the other parties paralysed.

As AD chairman, I thank all members of the executive, spokesmen, councillors, candidates, activists, members and supporters for keeping the Green party alive and kicking during the past year.

Mr Briguglio, a sociologist, is chairman and spokesman for economy and finance, Alternattiva Demokratika – the Green party.

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