Sociologist, Local Councillor, Activist from Malta

Monday, August 13, 2018

Towards a politics of conversation - Michael Briguglio

Picture: The Conversation - Vanessa Bell (1916)
I find it particularly sad that objectivity and politeness is becoming scarcer among some sections of the commentariat. In a post-truth context, sometimes facts only serve to entrench some commentators in their positions, in a zero-sum game where rational dialogue becomes difficult.

This is not novel in Maltese culture. Our binary divide in politics, festa, language and other facets has been around for some time. To a certain extent, this is healthy because it gives one the motivation to improve. What worries me is that tools of communication, such as Facebook and online newspaper comment sections, are often polluted with toxic comments.

This toxicity sometimes extends to opinion articles, blogs and various forms of political intervention. By political I do not exclusively mean red or blue. I am referring more to a mindset of ‘us’ and ‘them’, where ‘we’ are always right and ‘they’ are always wrong, even if facts prove otherwise. A sort of flat-earth conspiracy in Maltese politics, if you may. This toxicity crosses colours, boundaries, groups, parties and factions.
The protagonists of such toxicity also include trolls: persons who may use their real or false identities (or both) and who often resort to insults, degrading language and, at times, even untruths against their perceived enemies. Such communication only impoverishes dialogue. The middle-ground is thrown out of the window, compromise is seen as weak and blaming becomes king.

This type of behaviour is another form of bullying. And it must be said that online bullying can be just as bad as the bullying that we are becoming increasingly aware of, for example in schools and at the workplace.

I believe that those of us who are in politics, journalism, business, policymaking and activism have a duty to discourage such behaviour and instead do our utmost for productive dialogue. However, such responsibility should also be extended across society: each one of us should ideally do our part for a speech situation that is not distorted by insults, falsities, fabrications and fundamentalism.

To move towards such a situation, certain steps could be taken. Here I mention some of them.

To begin with, one should acknowledge that there are different points of view that may converse with each other. For this to happen, humility is imperative. Some of us may have more expertise on certain subjects than others. For example, a dentist most probably has more expertise on the cause of a tooth ache than a three-minute google search. Similarly, a town planner may know more about what causes traffic problems than a casual commentator with a bad mood after a traffic jam. And a judge usually carries out more evidence-based research on a case than a random vox pop respondent would.

Humility also means that we all have a lot to learn and that no one has all the right answers on all the topics of the world: expertise in one area does not necessarily mean expertise in other areas.

It is also very important to actively listen. Listening means really giving importance to other points of view and not having a ready-made answer up one’s sleeve whatever the other person may say. Or, even worse, crucifying a messenger just because he does not happen to belong to one’s group. Thus, keeping an open mind on an issue before deciding in advance is key.

Style of communication is also very important. It is fine to disagree and this may be done without resorting to insults or to denigrating comments. I find it amazing that we are so conscious about political correctness but then have no trouble insulting political adversaries, for example, through classist elitism or opposite antics such as anti-intellectualism. Maybe, we all need some lessons in basic communication and ethics.

One may also seek to be constructive, to find common ground and to acknowledge that some problems and issues are very complex and multifaceted. Sometimes questions do not have simple answers.

Maybe we can all start the upcoming political season by trying to be courteous and reasonable. Let’s build bridges, not walls. But let’s not feed the trolls.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

In-nazzjonaliżmu u l-migrazzjoni – Michael Briguglio



Ir-riżultati elettorali fil-Punent juru biċ-ċar li n-nazzjonaliżmu hu sors ewlieni għall-identità ta’ bosta votanti. Iżda t-terminu ‘nazzjonaliżmu’ ma għandux tifsira waħdanija: jista’ jkun ispirazzjoni daqstant għal dawk li jemmnu f’soċjetà msejsa fuq is-solidarjetà u l-ġid komuni daqskemm hu għal dawk li jemmnu f’soċjetà allinjata ma’ identità waħda, sew jekk reliġjuża, kulturali jew ideoloġika.

Bla dubju, il-migrazzjoni hija kwistjoni soċjali u politika ewlenija madwar l-Ewropa. Stħarriġ xjentifiku soċjali wara ieħor jikkonferma li n-nies madwar il-kontinent huma mħassbin dwar din il-kwistjoni. Ikun irresponsabbli jekk il-politiċi u dawk li jfasslu l-politika jinjoraw dan, għalkemm dan ma jfissirx li hemm biss mod wieħed kif tiġi indirizzata l-kwistjoni. Barra minn hekk, ma nemminx li teżisti soluzzjoni maġika sempliċi għal kwistjonijiet kumplessi bħal dawn.

Sadanittant, il-partiti politiċi li qed jużaw lingwaġġ qawwi ta’ esklużjoni f’dan il-qasam qed jieħdu vantaġġ minn mewġa ta’ skuntentizza f’pajjiżi madwar l-Ewropa. Saħansitra fl-Iżvezja, sikwit meqjusa bħala l-aktar pajjiż favorevoli għar-refuġjati fid-dinja, il-Partit Demokratiku populista bħalissa qiegħed fil-quċċata ta’ kull stħarriġ li qed isir. Ir-riżultati tal-elezzjonijiet nazzjonali li saru dan l-aħħar fl-Italja, l-Awstrija, l-Ungerija u pajjiżi oħrajn jagħtuna idea ċara ta’ x’għandna nistennew fl-elezzjonijiet Ewropej li ġejjin sakemm ma jitfasslux strateġiji politiċi aktar effettivi elettoralment.

Madankollu hemm eċċezzjonijiet għal din ix-xejra: Emmanuel Macron u Angela Merkel  huma l-eżempji li wieħed minnufih jaħseb fihom, avolja Merkel il-ħin kollu qed tħabbat wiċċha ma’ appelli għal politika aktar iebsa dwar il-migrazzjoni. Il-loġika tan-numri parlamentari tfisser li sikwit ikollha tilħaq kompromess dwar il-pożizzjonijiet tagħha, pożizzjonijiet li oriġinarjament ikunu orjentati aktar lejn is-solidarjetà.

Fl-istess waqt , xi esperti fix-xjenza politika sabu li meta partiti moderati taċ-ċentru f’pajjiżi bħall-Italja u l-Ġermanja adottaw pożizzjoni aktar iebsa dwar il-migrazzjoni meta mqabbla mal-pożizzjonijiet li kellhom qabel, dan xorta waħda ma waqqafx lill-partiti populisti milli jmorru tajjeb fl-elezzjonijiet. Iżda dan ifisser li l-partiti taċ-ċentru għandhom jagħmlu bil-kontra u sempliċement jinjoraw it-tħassib tan-nies dwar il-migrazzjoni? Nemmen li dan kieku jagħti opportunitajiet saħansitra akbar lill-populisti.

Għalija, ix-xenarju attwali jfisser li n-nazzjonaliżmu għandu jiġi artikolat b’mod politikament produttiv li jagħti valur lis-solidarjetà u lid-dinjità tal-bniedem. Naħseb li dak li għandu jsir hu li jintuża lingwaġġ li jesprimi tfittxija għal-libertà u l-ġid komuni kemm permezz ta’ jeddijiet kif ukoll permezz ta’ responsabbiltajiet fi ħdan in-nazzjon b’mod partikolari u l-UE b’mod ġenerali. Dan in-nazzjonaliżmu ma għandux ikun assoċjat esklużivament ma’ identità waħda bl-esklużjoni ta’ oħrajn: għall-kuntrarju għandu jiddefinixxi l-ġid komuni b’mod li jippermetti li persuni ġejjin minn ambjenti differenti jistgħu jkunu parti mis-soċjetà jekk in-normi bażiċi jitħarsu.

Din l-għamla ta’ patrijottiżmu għalhekk ma tkunx marbuta ma’ kulur, razza jew twemmin. Tkun marbuta ma’ valuri bażiċi li jgħaqqdu lill-bnedmin, bħar-rispett u t-tolleranza. Tenfasizza l-ħtieġa li jkollna lingwaġġ komuni sabiex in-nies ilkoll ikunu jistgħu jikkomunikaw bejniethom.

Tkun tagħti valur lil tradizzjonijiet tal-post filwaqt li tilqa’ t-tradizzjonijiet tal-persuni li jaslu fil-pajjiż, sakemm ikun hemm rispett miż-żewġ naħat u d-drittijiet stabbiliti tal-individwi ma jinkisrux.

Stili ta’ ħajja u kulturi li jippromwovu l-intolleranza, il-vjolenza u l-oppressjoni ma għandhomx jiffurmaw parti minn xenarju bħal dan.

Il-maġġoranzi kulturali, ideoloġiċi u politiċi jeħtieġ li jirrispettaw id-drittijiet tal-minoranzi, hekk kif il-minoranzi jeħtieġ li jirrispettaw id-drittijiet tal-maġġoranzi. Il-kuntrarju ta’ din l-għamla ta’ nazzjonaliżmu jkun sitwazzjoni fejn ikun hemm diversi forom ta’ fundamentaliżmu li jkunu wisq esklużivi jew ikunu jridu sitwazzjoni ta’ libertinaġġ mingħajr ebda normi u valuri li jorbtu lin-nies.

Ovvjament, l-implimentazzjoni ta’ politika bħal din mhijiex faċli. Fil-kuntest tal-UE, hu tassew diffiċli li jintlaħaq qbil dwar il-qsim tar-responsabbiltà għar-refuġjati, u kif inhuma l-affarijiet ma nistax nimmaġina soluzzjoni oħra għajr il-qsim volontarju tar-responsabbiltà permezz ta’ koalizzjonijiet ta’ pajjiżi ta’ rieda tajba.

Dan jitlob li l-istati membri jagħrfu li jridu jagħtu u mhux biss jieħdu mingħand xulxin, u li dawn ikunu lesti jgħinu lil xulxin u jimxu mal-valuri bażiċi Ewropej. Dan jeħtieġ ukoll approċċ ta’ aktar solidarjetà u ta’ għajnuna reċiproka ma’ pajjiżi terzi li jkunu għaddejjin minn kriżijiet umanitarji. Eżempju ta’ dan ikun assistenza b’riżorsi  u għajnuna bħala kumpens għall-irfigħ tar-responsabbiltà u r-rispett tad-drittijiet tal-bniedem.
Dan l-artiklu deher fil-Mument, 12 ta' Awissu 2018


Wednesday, August 08, 2018

After Egrant… a lesson to be learnt – Michael Briguglio







“During the (2017) elector l campaign, the Nationalist Party’s main message was against corruption, stating that in a normal European democracy the institutions would long have taken action against those involved in Panama Papers. The independent media also focused very much on governance, in what turned out to be one of the most controversial general elections in recent Maltese political history. There were high expectations that more information would be published on Egrant, but this did not materialize. Yet remarkably, Labour won comfortably.  The Egrant political liability was turned into an asset, with Labour’s narrative of ‘where’s the proof’ becoming stronger and stronger. Whereas Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi’s involvement in Panama Papers was crystal clear, the ownership of Egrant was subject to debate. An example of the post-truth society, if Malta ever needed one. 


“Surely, Egrant alone cannot explain Labour’s electoral victory. But it does show that governance and corruption, important as they are, are not necessarily the most important issues for certain electorates, such as that of Southern European Malta. An immediate question comes to mind: How can a political party that believes in transparency and good governance reconcile this with the main aspirations of the electorate? This is surely a question that Malta’s opposition will have to face in the immediate future.”  

The text above is from my article ‘Panama Papers and Malta’, published in the European Atlas of Democratic Deficit 2017. 


From day one, Egrant was based on allegation, whereas Hearnville and Tillgate were based on admission of ownership by Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi. Malta eagerly awaits the outcome of upcoming inquires on the matter. 


True, the Egrant allegations were too strong to dismiss, and one should also keep in mind that when the anti-corruption protests started the Egrant story had not yet erupted. The question is whether Egrant should have then been given equivalent importance to Hearnville and Tillgate. Clearly not, and the benefit of hindsight confirms this.


Fast forward to a few weeks ago, some of the findings of Aaron Bugeja’s inquiry –such as the forged signatures and the CCTV footage on the Pilatus Bank chairman are very difficult to ignore.


Unlike Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri 's involvement in Panama papers, no one has admitted he/she owns Egrant. The inquiry proved that no proof of ownership has been found yet and that allegations to date have not been proven. So it raises various questions... like who falsified the signatures and why? What can Nexia BT tell us about the ownership of Egrant? 

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat still has a lot to answer for, particularly on the involvement of Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi in the Panama Papers scandal, and for his chief of staff owning a bank account in Pilatus Bank.


I feel that Muscat probably called the enquiry on Egrant as he knew legal proof would never come out – he consequently rode the political wave through the 2017 general election which his party won convincingly. On the other hand, Hearnville and Tillgate had proof but Labour 's strong majority and the power of Schembri and Mizzi in the triumvirate made them untouchable, as they are not being held to the same standards that Joseph Muscat held for himself.


As for future instances of corruption, I will keep being active for justice and truth with my colleagues. But I also believe that Egrant has taught a lesson to politicians, activists and journalists to double check before crusading on an issue.


I also subscribe to the view that the Nationalist opposition should articulate inclusive, non-patronising discourse that focuses on the myriad of everyday issues which people experience and which are in synch with party core beliefs such as solidarity, dignity and subsidiarity.


The latest MaltaToday survey also clearly confirms the need for democratic unity within the Nationalist Party: this highlights the need to respect the will of its members and the need to keep reaching out to the people by listening to their grieviances and aspirations.




Monday, August 06, 2018

The Tourist Gaze - Michael Briguglio


Times of Malta, 6 August 2018

Malta is not the only country witnessing an increase in tourists. The increase is happening all around the world. During 2017, there were 1.3 billion tourist arrivals around the world, and 51 per cent chose European countries as their destinations. Different countries witnessed increases, but Iceland’s was the most spectacular. It experienced a 230 per cent increase in tourists between 2012 and 2017.
Let’s have a look at some of Malta’s figures provided by the Tourism Authority. A total 2.3 million tourists visited the islands in 2017, an increase of 16 per cent over 2016 and almost double the 1.2 million tourists in 2009. Tourist expenditure and nights increased by 14 per cent and 10 per cent respectively over 2016, with the largest number of tourists coming from the UK, Italy, Germany and France respectively.
Seventy-three per cent of tourists were first-time visitors, and the distribution of package and non-package tourists was evenly spread. On the other hand, 67 per cent of tourists chose collective accommodation such as hotels, whereas 33 per cent chose private accommodation.
The main motives for choosing Malta were sun and culture respectively and most tourists gave a positive feedback on their Maltese experience. Here one may add that tourism can also help foster a sense of openness and pride in local societies.
In 2017, about 11,000 workers were directly employed full-time in tourist services and about 6,000 worked in tourism on a part-time basis as their primary job. Many others were employed indirectly such as in public administration and banks.
Economists disagree on the contribution of tourism to the Maltese economy, but one can safely say that it is in the region of around 12 per cent of gross domestic product. This can be measured by first finding out how much tourists spend and then deducting what is imported and what remains is the contribution to GDP. 
In 2017 total tourism expenditure surpassed €1.9 billion of which about 30 per cent was spent on imports of goods and services, leaving about €1.3 billion in the economy.
By now however, we know that one cannot measure the impact of an economic sector simply by looking at financial figures. Tourist destinations such as Barcelona, Mallorca and Venice have witnessed public outcry against the tourist gaze which is rendering localities to theme parks, often resulting in social and environmental problems for residents and in higher prices for goods and services. 
Perhaps Malta should introduce a ħobża biż-żejt indicator to measure and compare the prices of this food item across time and space.
In Malta, we know that tourism is a very important economic sector, but on the other hand residents often have to bear the brunt of matters such as littering and overcrowding. In localities such as Sliema, Gżira, St Julian’s, Swieqi and St Paul’s Bay residents often report rowdy behaviour, late night noise pollution and excessive littering.
Walking on some promenades and pavements has become very challenging, and this is even more the case for persons with disabilities, elderly persons and parents with young children and pushchairs. Local councils often cannot cope with such matters, and the government’s taking over of various local council functions often does not help matters.
The low-cost airlines phenomenon has helped increase the quantity of tourists, and this has made travelling more affordable for millions around the world. But are host countries and localities equipped for such increases? Some cities and countries are introducing measures to regulate tourism in a more sustainable manner.
Back home, our planning models are not holistic. The doubling of tourists over a decade has been superimposed over infrastructure catering for much smaller numbers. Here I am not only referring to roads and pavements but also to sewage treatment, hospital services, public transport and other essential public goods and services.
Besides, Malta’s current economic model is based on population growth fuelled by the importation of workers. Again, it is clear that we are giving primacy to numbers and acceleration over quality and caution.
By all means, let us value our tourist product, but let us not allow its negative impacts overcome the positive ones.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Ideoloġiji u kalkoli politiċi – Michael Briguglio


Stampa: The redundancy of ideology - Peter Davies, 2008
Kemm huma importanti t-tikketti ideoloġiċi? Xi wħud jargumentaw li fis-soċjetajiet likwidi tal-lum, l-ideoloġiji huma inutli daqs it-typewriters. Oħrajn jemmnu li l-pożizzjoni politika tagħhom hija dik oġġettiva u tajba, bil-kontra ta' pożizzjonijiet oħrajn li jsejħulhom ideoloġiċi, suġġettivi, u parzjali, fost l-oħrajn. Aġġettivi bħal dawn xi kultant jintużaw kemm minn liberali estremi li l-liberaliżmu tagħhom jinbidel f'awtoritarjaniżmu dogmatiku kif ukoll minn ultrakonservattivi li jonqsu milli jifhmu l-bidliet soċjali ta' żminijietna.



Billi jien eqreb tan-naħa liberali, ninsab kemxejn imħasseb minn dogmatiżmu ġdid li qed jiġi artikolat minn liberali estremi li jemmnu fi 'progress' inevitabbli li jeqred it-tradizzjonijiet li x'aktarx jistmerru. Huma jemmnu li l-istorja għandha tgħaġġel lejn id-direzzjoni ppreferuta tagħhom u li l-kritiċi huma sempliċement reazzjonarji li ma jridux jitilqu l-preġudizzji tagħhom.



Liberaliżmu estrem ta' din ix-xorta jiġi artikolat b'diversi modi. Pereżempju, il-progress ekonomiku jitqies inevitabbli jkunu x'ikunu l-konsegwenzi soċjali u ambjentali tiegħu. Il-politika dwar il-ġisem tissejjaħ ir-rebħa tal-identità u tat-teknoloġija anke jekk kritiċi jqajmu dubji dwar karatteristiċi naturali li ma jistgħux sempliċement jitħassru permezz ta' kostruzzjoni soċjali.



Bħal estremiżmu ieħor ta' kull xorta, il-liberaliżmu estrem jista' wkoll jiċħad il-kompromess, il-moderazzjoni u r-reqqa għax dawn jistgħu jfixklu l-"verità" assoluta tiegħu.



Dawk li jikkritikaw approċċ bħal dan jinkludu moderati kemm fuq in-naħa liberali kif ukoll fuq dik konservattiva. X'aktarx jargumentaw li s-soċjetà hija wisq imqanqla biex tqatta' ħin fuq djalogu riflessiv u biex tgħożż l-għerf li jista' jintiret mit-tradizzjoni. Fl-istess waqt, mhux it-tradizzjonijiet kollha għandhom jitqiesu siewja. Imma dan ma jfissirx li t-tradizzjoni għandha tiġi mistkerrha sempliċement għax tippromwovi kontinwità kostruttiva.



Fil-verità, hu min ikollu s-setgħa li jimplimenta pożizzjonijiet ideoloġiċi, minkejja li sikwit jiġi influwenzat minn fatturi oħrajn u konsegwenzi mhux intenzjonati. Jekk dawn l-ideoloġiji jkunux appoġġati minn evidenza jew minn konsultazzjoni olistika hija kwistjoni separata.



L-argument tiegħi ser nirfdu b'eżempji minn Malta. Il-gvern Laburista ġie elett demokratikament b'mandat ta' twettiq ta' bidliet soċjali, u l-maġġoranza parlamentari kbira tiegħu tagħtih il-kumdità li jibqa' jagħfas il-gass f'dan il-qasam. Aspett ewlieni tal-istrateġija tal-Partit Laburista hi li jħares l-impenji elettorali li għamel ma' gruppi speċifiċi anke jekk ikun hemm riperkussjonijiet fuq is-sostenibbiltà u l-ġid komuni.



Iżda sakemm dawn l-impenji ma' jolqtux l-interessi immedjati jew it-tħassib ta' gruppi oħrajn, jew jekk gruppi oħrajn jitqiesu anqas sinifikanti elettoralment mill-gruppi li jkunu qed igawdu mill-impenji tal-Partit Laburista, allura l-bidliet ikkonċernati jseħħu.



Jista' jingħad li din hi l-essenza tal-politika demokratika, u sa ċertu punt dan huwa veru. Iżda politika bħal din titlob ir-responsabbiltà, u r-responsabbiltà tfisser li jiġu evalwati l-forom differenti tal-impatt tat-tfassil tal-politika.



Ippermettuli nagħti xi eżempji. Għadd ġmielu ta' persuni qed jaqilgħu ħafna flus mill-politika laxka tal-ippjanar tal-gvern Laburista. Sulari żejda jistgħu jinkrew jew jinbiegħu, żvilupp fuq art ODZ jista' jwassal għal qligħ enormi, u standards baxxi fil-kostruzzjoni jnaqqsu l-ispejjeż. Dan kollu mbagħad jissarraf f'voti għall-Partit Laburista.



Il-persuni li huma kontra dawn il-prattiki jistgħu jisfaw rassenjati, jiġu konvinti jieħdu sehem fihom jew jista' jkun li huma parti mid-demografika ta' votanti li diġà ma jappoġġawx lill-Partit Laburista. Iżda politika bħal din hija responsabbli, meta l-pajsaġġ ta' Malta qed isir dejjem aktar imniġġes urbanizzat u ffullat?



Il-proċess ta' tfassil ta' politika tal-gvern Laburista dwar l-IVF u s-surrogacy huma każijiet oħra bħal dawn. Huwa veru li hemm fehmiet differenti dwar dawn il-kwistjonijiet, fosthom pożizzjonijiet esperti kontra xulxin, u hu veru wkoll li s-surrogacy ma ġietx inkluża fir-riformi reċenti tal-IVF.



Iżda l-gvern tassew qed jisma' ilħna u rakkomandazzjonijiet differenti? Meta wieħed jiftakar li kien il-Partit Nazzjonalista fil-gvern li introduċa l-IVF fl-2012, il-Partit Laburista seta' għamel aktar biex jintlaħaq qbil, jew minflok ta prijorità assoluta lill-pożizzjoni ideoloġika u l-kalkoli elettorali tiegħu?



Nemmen li hu normali li jkun hemm pożizzjonijiet ideoloġiċi differenti f'demokrazija liberali, u hija din id-diversità li tagħti l-ħajja lill-proċess demokratiku nnifsu. Iżda meta dawn il-pożizzjonijiet ma jinbidlux, minħabba kalkoli politiċi jew dogmatiżmu, ilkoll nifqaru minħabba nuqqas ta' djalogu.



Iva, il-Partit Laburista għandu maġġoranza parlamentari kbira u mandat b'saħħtu għal diversi riformi. Imma dan għandu jagħti aktar lok għal djalogu xieraq, konsultazzjoni komprensiva u analiżi bir-reqqa tal-evidenza, u mhux politika għaġġelija u supperva.



Dan l-artiklu deher fil-Mument, 5 ta' Awissu 2018. 












Saturday, August 04, 2018

Utility bills, ARMS and consumers - Michael Briguglio


Why should ARMS not issue bills on a more regular basis, allowing consumers to benefit from favourable rates provided by law?

Question Time - Times of Malta, 4 August 2018

In the past months the Nationalist Party, the independent media, academics and a new civil society group called Up in Arms showed how Government is sending higher and more frequent utility bills to many people. Some may not have noticed small increases, but others were shocked to see that they have to pay heftier bills. This further increased challenges for people who already have to content with a higher cost of living on items such as foodstuffs.

In theory there is no problem with ARMS issuing frequent bills as long as these do not result in higher bills. Consumers should be able to pay ARMS even more often if they wish to.
The problem is that the way in which ARMS is estimating these shorter bills results in consumers paying MORE at the end of the year (when they add up their bills), than they would have paid had they paid it all in 1 bill of 6 or 12 months.
Moreover, some people are still paying the cheaper (longer period) bills because ARMS allowed them to stay on a long billing period!
This is what the law states:
Residential Premises Service shall be subject to the following Consumption Tariff based on a cumulative consumption per annum and which may be billed on a pro-rata basis.

i) For every kWh of the first 2,000 kWh ................... €0.1047; and
ii) For every kWh of the next 4,000 kWh ................... €0.1298; and
iii) For every kWh of the next 4,000 kWh ................... €0.1607; and
iv) For every kWh of the next 10,000 kWh ................. €0.3420; and
v) For every kWh of the remaining consumption ....... €0.6076”
This means that we have a quota of cheap electricity and water. This quota is 2000 units a year at 10c5 and 4000 units at year at 12c9. 
Now ARMS cuts up of the quota into smaller bits for every period (e.g. 333 kwh at 10c47), BUT it does NOT let consumers carry forward the allowance they do not use. And next period if you use up all your quota, you pay at higher rates… even if you had left-over quota from the previous period. 
Imagine you buy a top-up card for your phone.  You buy a card for 10 euro and you are told that you can use it over 6 months. Now you are suddenly told that you must use it in 2 months (or less) or you will lose the credit. The way ARMS is billing is very similar to this. It is forcing consumers to use all their quota and only their quota every 2 months or pay more.
Even if the consumer stays within the total annual quota, they do not get a rebate at the end of the year.
Why is this happening?
Obviously to raise revenue without letting the consumer know.
Malta boasts a monopoly (ENEMALTA) which employs another entity (ARMS) to issue bills at higher tariff rates than the law envisages, every 2 months, with a threat of accumulating interest rates and of being cut off the grid (plus fee to re-instate) if they do not pay. Other tenants are paying Domestic rates rather than Residential rates, which means that they have no chance to enjoy the eco-reduction AND they pay at higher rates. Bills are also bulked up into shorter period, once again ensuring that people pay more because they consume their quota quickly.
This abuse by a dominant monopolist and needs to be regulated by Regulator for Energy and Water Services (REWS) , the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority (MCCAA). In the absence of such regulation, further action will be resorted to by the Nationalist Party.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Nationalism and migration - Michael Briguglio

Picture: Adrian Paci (detail) centro di permanenza temporanea, 2007.

Times of Malta, 30 July 2018

Electoral results in the Western world clearly show that nationalism is a key source of identity for many voters. Yet the term nationalism does not have a monolithic meaning: it can be equally inspiring to those who believe in a society based on solidarity and the common good and those who believe in a society that is strictly aligned to one identity, whether religious, cultural or ideological.

Needless to say, migration is a key social and political issue across Europe. One social scientific survey after the other confirms that people across the continent are concerned with the matter. It would be irresponsible for politicians and policymakers to ignore this, although this does not mean that there is one way how to address the issue. I also don’t believe that a simple magic formula exists for such complex matters.

In the meantime, political parties that are articulating strong exclusionary discourse on the matter are currently riding on a wave of discontent in countries across the continent. Even in Sweden, often considered the most refugee-friendly country in the world, the populist Democratic Party is currently topping the polls.  Recent national election results in Italy, Austria, Hungary and other countries are clear tasters of what to expect in upcoming European elections unless more electorally effective political strategies are formulated.

Yet there are exceptions to this trend: Emanuel Macron and Angela Merkel immediately come to mind, even though the latter is constantly facing calls for tougher migration policies. The logic of parliamentary numbers means that often she must compromise on her otherwise solidarity-oriented stances.
At the same time, some political scientists have found that when moderate mainstream parties in countries such as Italy and Germany adopted a tougher stance on migration compared to their previous stances, this still did not stop populist parties from doing well in elections. But does this mean that the such parties should do the opposite and simply ignore people’s concerns on migration? I believe that this will open even bigger windows of opportunity for populists.

To me, the current scenario means that nationalism should be articulated in a politically productive way that values solidarity and the dignity of the person. I think that what should be done is to articulate discourse that seeks freedom and the common good through both rights and responsibilities within the nation in particular and the EU in general.   Such a nationalism should not be exclusively associated with one identity at the exclusion of others: what it can do is to define the common good in a way that people with different backgrounds can be part of society if the basic norms are adhered to. 

This form of patriotism would therefore not be aligned to a colour, race or belief. It would be aligned to basic values that unite people, such as respect and tolerance. It would emphasise the need to have shared language so that people can communicate.

It would value mainstream traditions and welcome traditions of newcomers, as long as there is mutual respect and the established rights of the individual are not trampled upon.

Lifestyles and cultures that promote intolerance, violence and oppression should not form part of such a scenario.

Cultural, ideological and political majorities would need to respect the rights of minorities, but the opposite would have to be in place too. The adversary of this form of nationalism would be the various forms of fundamentalism that are either too exclusive or else which want a free-for-all scenario with no binding norms and values.

Of course, implementing such politics is easier said than done. In an EU context, responsibility sharing for refugees is a tough nut to crack, and as things stand I cannot foresee a solution other than voluntary responsibility sharing through coalitions of willing nations.

This, in turn, requires a give and take approach among member states, which are ready to assist each other and to subscribe to basic European values. It also requires a more solidaristic give and take approach with third countries facing humanitarian crises. An example of this would be to assist with resources and aid in return for accountability and respect of people’s human rights.