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

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Are you feeling the growth in GDP? Michael Briguglio

You probably know that Malta’s gross domestic product went up by 7.5 per cent in real terms during the third quarter of 2018. You might have read this in the newspapers or heard it on the news. If you are part of the growing group which gets its news from the social media, you might have encountered government propaganda reminding you about the best of times.

The statistic is correct. It represents GDP growth in real terms as per National Statistics Office figures. This is an inflation-adjusted figure that quantifies the value of all goods and services produced within the economy during the year.

This figure was mainly the result of an increase in both domestic and external demand through consumption expenditure, household expenditure, government expenditure, exports and other forms of expenditure.

Indeed, GDP at current prices went up by €281 million, which were distributed into a €64.5 million increase in compensation of employees, a €162.9 million increase in gross operating surplus of enterprises and a €53.5 million increase in net taxation on production and imports.

During the same period, Malta’s gross value added increased by €218.4 million when compared to the same quarter last year. This represents the difference between output at basic prices and intermediate consumption valued at purchasers’ prices.

Judging by these figures and Malta’s respective top position within EU classification, it looks like Malta’s economy is soaring. But this figure alone cannot explain Malta’s socio-economic situation.

An example that may help explain this is the following.

A cursory look at countries around the world currently experiencing high GDP growth rates mostly includes developing countries and not the most developed ones. Their economic growth must be seen together with other indicators to get a valid picture of people’s quality of life.

As regards Malta, I think it is high time that the National Statistics Office introduces additional indicators which look into the quality of life and standard of living of different social groups.
It should be in a position to inform the public sphere how the prices affect different social groups. Food prices tend to have a much greater weight on low income earners, as the latter spend a higher percentage of their income to buy basic products, compared with higher income earners. The same can be said on other basic products and services such as rent, utility bills and medicinal products.

When official figures on the cost of living are published, they do not distinguish between different levels of income, but in the real world it is clear that cost of living compensation given to workers and pensioners are not realistic.

To give a basic example. A basic food stuff costing €1 eats up one per cent of the income of someone who earns €100. But it eats up only 0.1 per cent of someone earning €1,000. The food stuff is essential for both persons, but the latter is paying proportionately much less of her or his income to buy it.

Last July, President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca said the following in relation to a study by the National Observatory for Living With Dignity and the National Centre for Family Research, both of which are research entities within her Foundation for the Well-being of Society:

“...Food constitutes the highest expenditure being made by four-person families in Malta and Gozo. However, it is alarming to recognise that, in order for the food that they consume to be considered healthy and clean, such families have to spend in excess of €500 a month. This is a prohibitively high figure for many families, which means that individuals suffering from vulnerability or precarity of any kind are finding it almost impossible to access adequate food.”

In addition to this one should also take into account the increasing number of people who are being evicted and/or who cannot afford a bank loan or to rent property. This also includes middle-income earners from different age cohorts.

Add the €500 expense mentioned by the President to other expenses including rent, utility bills and medicinal products and compare it to Malta’s wages. The math is clear.


This article appears in Times of Malta as 'Feeling the growth in GDP' - 10 December 2018.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Publication of paper on civil society perspectives on green jobs in sustainable energy: The case of European Malta

Image result for SAGE ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT
My co-authored research article with Maria Brown 'Civil society perspectives on green jobs in sustainable energy: The case of European Malta ' has been published in peer-reviewed journal Energy & Environment (SAGE). 

The objective of this paper is to analyse the perspectives of civil society actors in Malta about the country’s sustainable energy policy and its impact on green jobs. Perspectives of 11 civil society actors comprising employers, trade unions and non-governmental organisations are analysed to provide a broad reflexive analysis of the policy process in question. Findings illuminate a broad consensus within civil society that the policymaking process in the field of sustainable energy should incorporate different voices from civil society – such as employers, trade unions and environmental non-governmental organisations – apart from experts in energy, economics and other areas. Indeed, this study’s findings include civil society’s reviews on how commercial viability, workers’ rights, environmental protection and sustainability interact with and within the sustainable energy sector and related green jobs. Nonetheless, this study signals that within Maltese civil society, sharing of knowledge and good practice and effort coordination lack. Different interests and sectarianism testify to inconsistently interacting and competing human local networks. This broadens the discourse on effective sustainable energy policy and creation of related green jobs, also making it more complex. Indeed, the direction of such discourse bears potential for sporadic development. Whilst challenging vertical trajectories, institutionally centred and technical transitions in the area of environmental sustainability, the primary data gained from this study highlight need for policy to address the identified challenges through projects, funding and incentives that foster coordination between different types of civil society organisations.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Rimedji għall-problemi fil-qasam tad-djar - Michael Briguglio



Fl-aħħar żewġ artikli tiegħi ddiskutejt diversi realtajiet, problemi, inugwaljanzi u sfidi fis-sitwazzjoni fil-qasam tad-djar f'Malta.



Huwa ċar li ż-żieda msejsa fuq politika fil-popolazzjoni ta' Malta wasslet għal żieda kemm fid-domanda għad-djar kif ukoll fil-prezzijiet. B'konsegwenza ta' dan, dawk li setgħu jlaħħqu biss mal-orħos prezzijiet tal-kera qegħdin jiġu mbuttati barra mis-suq.



Dawk l-individwi u l-familji li mhumiex sidien ta' proprjetà u li l-pagi tagħhom iżommuhom milli jixtru jew jikru għaldaqstant qed iħabbtu wiċċhom ma' għażliet xejn sbieħ.



Dawn il-persuni jeħtieġu interventi immedjati ta' politika li jiżguraw il-provvista ta' biżżejjed akkomodazzjoni soċjali u/jew postijiet mikrija bi prezz irħis bil-possibilità li jinxtraw.



Bħalissa hemm madwar 3,300 applikazzjoni għal akkomodazzjoni soċjali u madwar 600 applikazzjoni għal tibdil fl-akkomodazzjoni soċjali minħabba kundizzjonijiet inadegwati. Biż-żieda li qed naraw bħalissa fit-tkeċċijiet minn postijiet mikrija, fl-akkomodazzjoni substandard u fil-persuni li jkollhom jgħixu mal-qraba għax ma għandhomx għażla oħra, huwa essenzjali li ma jinħeliex aktar ħin sabiex jiġu pprovduti stokkijiet ġodda ta' akkomodazzjoni soċjali u sabiex jittieħdu inizjattivi oħrajn bħal sħubijiet bejn is-settur pubbliku u dak privat biex tiġi pprovduta akkomodazzjoni deċenti bi prezz irħis.



Minħabba li ż-żidiet fis-salarji u l-pensjonijiet huma ferm imbiegħda minn dak li hu meħtieġ biex in-nies ilaħħqu mal-inflazzjoni, il-gvern għandu joħloq ukoll mekkaniżmu biex jiġi żgurat li s-sussidji għal dawk bi dħul baxx ma jkunux magħrufa minn sidien il-kera biex jiġu evitati aktar pressjonijiet ta' inflazzjoni fuq il-kirjiet.



B'rabta mas-sħubijiet bejn is-settur pubbliku u dak privat, forsi wasal iż-żmien li niddiskutu jekk Malta għandhiex tippermetti forom iżgħar ta' żvilupp deċenti u sikur li jkun bi prezz li jistgħu jlaħħqu miegħu persuni bi dħul baxx u medju. L-introduzzjoni ta' akkomodazzjoni bħal din tista' żżid il-provvista u tgħin biex tittaffa l-inflazzjoni. Inkella, l-uniċi proprjetajiet li jistgħu jħallsu għalihom dawn in-nies ikunu forom ta' akkomodazzjoni substandard u sikwit mhux sanitarji.



Fl-istess waqt, u kif spjegajt fl-aħħar artiklu tiegħi, il-gvern għandu jieħu ħsieb li ma jintroduċix riformi li b'mod mhux intenzjonat iħeġġu lis-sidien tal-proprjetà jneħħu l-proprjetajiet tagħhom mis-suq. Dan għaliex b'hekk titnaqqas il-provvista u tiġi inkoraġġuta aktar żieda fil-prezzijiet sakemm ma jkunx hemm introduzzjoni korrispondenti ta' proprjetajiet ġodda fis-suq.



B'rabta ma' dan, inħeġġeġ lill-gvern jikkonsulta evidenza ekonomika, psikoloġika u soċjoloġika biex jiżgura li l-bidliet fil-politika jkunu kemm jista' tkun ekwi, effiċjenti u razzjonali.



Riforma oħra li l-gvern jista' jikkunsidra hi li jnaqqas ir-rati tat-taxxa għal sidien il-kera li jintrabtu għal kirjiet itwal. Naturalment, riforma bħal din tkun titlob ukoll inizjattivi mill-gvern kontra kiri mhux iddikjarat u illegali ta' proprjetà.



Nixtieq infakkar lill-qarrejja li skont l-Uffiċċju Nazzjonali tal-Istatistika, sidien il-kera f'Malta qalgħu €85 miljun mill-kiri fl-2017, żieda ta' 132 fil-mija fuq l-2014. Din l-istatistika tkopri kirjiet iddikjarati u tista' titqabbel ma' ċifri oħrajn, bħaż-żieda fid-dħul mix-xogħol (17 fil-mija) u ż-żieda fid-dħul mill-imgħax u d-dividendi (tlieta fil-mija).



L-istatistika turi li d-dħul mill-kiri għan-nofs tal-popolazzjoni li jaqla' inqas irdoppja mill-2012.



L-introduzzjoni ta' mudell għall-kuntratti tal-kiri wkoll jista' jinkoraġġixxi prattika tajba, speċjalment jekk ikun akkumpanjat minn kampanji edukattivi għal sidien il-kera u għall-inkwilini, biex il-partijiet interessati jkollhom għarfien aħjar tad-drittijiet u r-responsabilitajiet tagħhom.



Tabilħaqq, dan hu qasam li jeħtieġ li s-soċjeta ċivili tingħata aktar setgħa u tieħu sehem akbar fih biex tiġġieled kontra l-fallimenti tas-suq u tħeġġeġ kundizzjonijiet ġusti għal kulħadd.



Fost politiki oħrajn li jistgħu jiġu kkunsidrati hemm il-ħolqien ta' indiċi nazzjonali tal-prezzijiet li juri l-prezzijiet tal-kera fis-suq u sistemi ta' taxxa armonizzati fis-setturi differenti li jinvolvu l-proprjetà biex jiġi evitat iċ-ċaqliq tal-proprjetà minn settur għal ieħor, għalkemm din tal-aħħar titlob riċerka sfiqa u evidenza qabel tiġi introdotta.



Fl-aħħar nett, huwa importanti wkoll li jiġi aċċertat li l-inkwilini jkollhom aċċess ġust u trasparenti għall-mekkaniżmi tal-kontijiet tad-dawl u l-ilma biex jinqered kull abbuż f'dawn it-tranżazzjonijiet.



Kif għidt fl-artikli tiegħi ta' qabel, huwa pożittiv li l-gvern qiegħed jiddiskuti r-riforma tal-liġi tal-kera, speċjalment peress li l-politika tiegħu wasslet għal inflazzjoni rapida.



Ejjew nistinkaw biex nilħqu kunsens nazzjonali f'dan is-settur, filwaqt li niftakru li kull riforma ta' politika għandha l-opportunitajiet u r-riskji, iżda li ma nistgħux inħallu l-affarijiet kif inhuma għax dan qed iwassal għall-faqar fil-qasam tad-djar.

Dan l-artiklu deher fil-Mument, 9 ta' Diċcembru 2018

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Filmat: Min qed jiddeċiedi dwar il-kontijiet tad-dawl?

F'dan il-vlog għal The Malta Independent nispjega kif ktibt lill-awtoritajiet Maltin u Ewropej dwar il-kontroversja dwar il-kontijiet tad-dawl u ilma f'Malta u nsaqsi xi mistoqsijiet f'dan ir-rigward.

Tista' tara l-filmat hawnhekk:

http://www.independent.com.mt/articles/2018-12-03/blogs-opinions/Water-and-energy-bills-6736200272

Image result for power station malta tanker

Housing Remedies - Michael Briguglio

Picture by www.pellikola.com

Times of Malta 3 December 2018

In my previous two articles I discussed various realities, quandaries, inequalities and challenges in Malta’s housing situation.

It is clearly the case that the policy-driven increase in Malta’s population resulted in an increase in both the demand for housing and prices. Consequently, those who could only afford to rent at the low-cost end are being squeezed out of the market.

Those individuals and families who do not own property or whose salary prohibits them from purchasing or renting are thus facing unpleasant choices. 

Such persons require immediate policy interventions which ensure an adequate supply of social housing and/or low-cost rentals with the possibility to purchase.

Currently there are around 3,300 applications for social housing and around 600 applications for a change in social housing due to inadequate conditions. With the current increase in evictions, sub-standard accommodation and persons living with relatives out of necessity, it is imperative that no more time is wasted for the provision of new social housing stocks and for other initiatives such as public-private partnerships to supply decent low-cost accommodation.

Given that salary and pension increases are a far cry from what is needed to cope with inflation, the government should also create a mechanism to ensure that subsidies to low-income earners are not disclosed to lessors to avoid further inflationary pressures on rents.
In relation to public-private partnerships, perhaps it is time to discuss whether Malta should allow smaller forms of decent and safe development which are affordable for low- and middle-income earners. The introduction of such accommodation could thus increase supply and help combat inflation. Otherwise, the only affordable properties for such persons would be sub-standard and often unsanitary forms of accommodation.

At the same time, and as I explained in my previous article, the government should be wary of introducing reforms that unintentionally encourage property owners to move their properties out of the market. This would reduce supply and encourage further increase in prices unless there is a corresponding introduction of new properties in the market.

In this regard, I encourage the government to consult economic, psychological and sociological evidence to ensure that policy changes are as equitable, efficient and rational as possible.

Another reform which the government can consider is to reduce tax rates to landlords who bind themselves to longer lets. Of course, this would need to be matched with government initiatives against undeclared and illegal rent of property.

May I remind readers that according to the National Statistics Office, households in Malta earned €85 million from rent in 2017, a 132 per cent increase over 2014. This statistic covers declared rents and can be compared with other figures, such as the increase in income from employment (17 per cent) and the increase in income from interest and dividends (three per cent).

Statistics show that rental income for bottom 50 per cent of earners has doubled since 2012.

The introduction of a template for rent agreements could also encourage good practices, especially if this is accompanied by educational campaigns for landlords and tenants, where rights and responsibilities would be better known by stakeholders.

Indeed, this is an area which requires more civil society participation and empowerment to combat market failures and encourage fairness for all.

Other policies which could be considered include the creation of a national price index to show rent prices within the market and harmonised tax regimes across the different sectors involving property to avoid flight from one sector to the other, although the latter requires thorough research and evidence before being introduced.

Finally, it is also important to ensure that tenants have fair and transparent access to utility bill mechanisms to do away with any abuse in such transactions.

As I said in my previous articles, it is positive that the government is discussing rent law reform, especially since its own policies have resulted in runaway inflation.

Let us strive for national consensus in this sector, keeping in mind that any policy reform has opportunities and risks, but that the status quo is no option as it is resulting in housing poverty.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Aktar dwar l-isfida fil-qasam tad-djar – Michael Briguglio


Fl-artiklu tiegħi l-ġimgħa l-oħra spjegajt li filwaqt li Malta għandha rata għolja ta’ persuni li huma sidien ta’ djarhom, il-pajjiż bħalissa qed jesperjenza wkoll prezzijiet projbittivi tad-djar, li qed iwasslu għal għadd dejjem jikber ta’ tkeċċijiet minn proprjetajiet mikrija, żgħażagħ li jibqgħu jgħixu mal-ġenituri tagħhom u persuni li jgħixu f’kundizzjonijiet subumani.
Fl-istess ħin il-pagi ta’ bosta persuni għadhom baxxi u ma jistgħux ilaħħqu maż-żieda fil-prezzijiet tad-djar.
Barra minn hekk, irrikonoxxejt li l-gvern fetaħ id-diskussjoni għal bidliet permezz tal-White Paper tiegħu dwar il-kera tal-proprjetà, iżda enfasizzajt li Malta teħtieġ ukoll soluzzjonijiet immedjati biex jiġu megħjuna n-numru dejjem jikber ta’ persuni li qed iħabbtu wiċċhom ma’ tbatijiet fil-ħajja ta’ kuljum tagħhom bħalissa.
Tabilħaqq, jidher li f’Malta qed tinħoloq struttura ta’ klassijiet prevalenti msejsa fuq jekk persuna tkux sid ta’ darha jew le.
Nistgħu nagħmlu l-argument li d-disparità li teżisti fil-qasam tad-djar f’Malta bħalissa hija ħsara kollaterali minn gvern li ġera żżejjed bil-politika ekonomika tiegħu mingħajr pjan sostenibbli. Li niftħu l-bibien beraħ għal tkabbir ekonomiku mgħaġġel jitlob ippjanar, għax inkella nkunu qisna qed insuqu karozza mingħajr brejkijiet bl-ogħla veloċità.
Anke jekk il-gvern kellu l-aħjar intenzjonijiet b’rabta mal-politika ekonomika tiegħu, ma kienx għaqli li ma qiesx il-possibbiltà ta’ konsegwenzi mhux maħsuba bħal dawk li semmejt hawn fuq.
Waqt is-seminar, ta’ min ifaħħru, li sar dan l-aħħar dwar il-White Paper, organizzat fl-Università ta’ Malta flimkien mas-Segretarjat Parlamentari għad-Djar, saru għadd ta’ mistoqsijiet minn dawk preżenti li jistħoqqilhom analiżi bir-reqqa u tweġibiet mill-gvern.
Fost oħrajn, ir-ri ċerka kollha li ġiet ikkonsultata mill-awturi tal-White Paper tista’ tiġi ppubblikata? Dan hu essenzjali biex issir evalwazzjoni minn akkademiċi li ma kinux involuti fit-tfassil tal-White Paper.
Ma għandi ebda dubju li l-awturi tal-White Paper għandhom il-kwalifiki meħtieġa u intenzjonijiet tajbin, iżda l-isfera tal-politika titlob li jsir eżami oġġettiv, minn pari, tal-evidenza biex jiġi aċċertat li dak li qed jiġi analizzat hu validu u ta’ min joqgħod fuqu, u biex jiġu indikati nuqqasijiet possibbli.
Mistoqsija oħra indirizzat in-numri tal-popolazzjoni ta’ Malta. Il-White Paper hi bbażata fuq numri attwali reali? Jista’ jkun il-każ li kemm in-numri tal-popolazzjoni kif ukoll in-numri tal-persuni li għaddejjin minn diffikultajiet marbutin mal-akkomodazzjoni huma ikbar minn dawk ippubblikati uffiċjalment?
Inċidentalment, l-istqarrija reċenti tal-Uffiċċju Nazzjonali tal-Istatistika li tgħid li kien għadd 20,000 ruħ inqas milli fil-fatt kienet il-popolazzjoni ta’ Malta waslet f’mument pjuttost xieraq. Għal darb’oħra nisħaq li ma niddubitax ir-reqqa tal-professjonisti ta’ dan l-Uffiċċju, iżda nistieden lill-gvern biex jagħmel ukoll forom oħra ta’ riċerka – fosthom riċerka kwalitattiva – biex jivverifika r-realtajiet tal-popolazzjoni.
It-tielet, il-gvern bħalissa qed isostni li l-prezzijiet tal-kera stabbilizzaw rwieħhom. Jista’ jagħtina aktar dettalji dwar dan? Għax dan mhuwiex dak li qed jgħidu n-nies.
Ir-raba’, x’inhu jagħmel il-gvern għall-għadd dejjem jiżdied ta’ persuni li qed jitkeċċew mill-postijiet li qed jikru u li ma għandhom ebda alternattiva dinjituża? Ma’ dawn irridu nżidu dawk kollha li għadhom ma tkeċċewx iżda li jinsabu mħassba ferm li dalwaqt imiss lilhom għax sempliċiment ma jistgħux ilaħħqu mal-prezzijiet projbittivi li qegħdin jintalbu jħallsu.
Dawn in-nies żgur mhumiex għaddejjin mill-aqwa żmien. U milli qiegħed nara, l-Awtorità tad-Djar ma għandhiex biżżejjed riżorsi biex tkampa ma’ dawn il-każijiet kollha, minkejja l-aħjar intenzjonijiet tal-ħaddiema tagħha.
Barra minn hekk, x’inhu jagħmel il-gvern għaż-żgħażagħ kollha bi dħul medju li ma jistgħux ilaħħqu mal-prezzijiet tal-kera u li mhumiex ser jingħataw self mill-banek? In-numri tagħhom huma moħbija fl-istatistika tas-sjieda tad-djar, iżda l-fatt hu li m’għandhom ebda għażla ħlief li jibqgħu jgħixu mal-ġenituri tagħhom biex jevitaw akkomodazzjoni substandard bħal kmamar maqsuma bejn għadd ta’ persuni.
Mistoqsija oħra li saret waqt is-seminar kienet dwar limiti fuq il-prezzijiet għall-proprjetà mikrija. Għall-ewwel jistgħu jidhru pożittivi għal min jikri, iżda għal darb’oħra, jista’ jkollhom konsegwenzi mhux maħsuba.
Jekk jiġu introdotti limiti bħal dawn, is-sidien tal-proprjetà jistgħu jiddeċiedu li jneħħu l-proprjetà tagħhom mis-suq tal-kera, u b’hekk tonqos il-provvista u b’konsegwenza ta’ dan jiżdiedu l-prezzijiet tal-proprjetajiet disponibbli, sakemm ma jiddaħħlux proprjetajiet ġodda fis-suq biex jikkumpensaw għal dan it-tnaqqis. B’rabta ma’ dan, huwa importanti wkoll li jitħarsu s-sidien li jikru l-proprjetà tagħhom – dawn mhux kollha huma sinjuri.
Għalhekk, x’jista’ jsir biex jiġu megħjuna persuni foqra, u dawk bi dħul baxx u medju li mhumiex sidien ta’ proprjetà u li qed isibuha impossibbli li jixtru jew jikru akkomodazzjoni deċenti? Ser niddiskuti dan fl-artiklu li jmiss tiegħi.

Dan l-artiklu deher fil-Mument, 2 ta' Diċembru 2018