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










Monday, October 15, 2018

Daphne, a year later - Michael Briguglio


Times of Malta, 15 October 2018

On October 16, 2017, I was giving a lecture in environmental sociology at the University of Malta. As is the case with my two-hour lectures, I gave my students a 15-minute break halfway through it.
I duly scrolled though my smartphone during the break, and I read the news headline. Daphne Caruana Galizia had been killed in a car explosion. I froze. Contacted loved ones. Had to go back to give my lecture. Told my students.
A surreal hour followed. Some students had to leave the classroom out of shock. I had to go on giving my lecture, but was obviously not concentrating. Then I walked through the University campus. It had become a ghost town. A solitary student came up to me, exclaiming that we must do something.
That same evening I joined hundreds in a vigil along the Sliema promenade, and was overwhelmed to see that very week Malta’s biggest ever civil society protest, a 15,000-strong demonstration in Valletta, urgently organised by the civil society network. As a network we were all shaken but at the same time violently moved into action to gather fellow shocked citizens in a series of mass demonstrations, sit-ins and vigils. The demonstrations led to the formation of other activist groups such as Occupy Justice, Kenniesa and Awturi.
Like many others, I remained in a state of shock for many weeks. How could it be that Daphne, Malta’s most widely read journalist and blogger, had been blown up?
This was not the time to nitpick on what Daphne had been all about. This was about the brutal murder of a mother, a journalist, a human being. We had to demand justice. We organised sit-ins, appealed for the protection of whistleblowers and spoke to journalists and politicians from around the world.
A year later, we still do not know who ordered Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder. The government seems to be doing its best to bury her memory and to make us forget that the investigation is stalling.
What is there left for us to do in the dark shadow of this unsolved murder, when everything seems to have failed? I endorse the call for an independent judicial public inquiry, led by both Maltese and international judges. This can be carried out within the remit of the European Convention on Human Rights. The legal framework for such an inquiry is already there – the Inquiries Act.
Such an inquiry can help exclude that the State could have avoided Daphne’s death but failed to do so. It can help exclude the State’s complicity and help avoid a similar assassination in the future. The Attorney General showed consideration of the possibility of a public inquiry in his letter of October 5, which is a departure from the Prime Minister’s position on BBC’s Today programme.
As 24 international free-speech and media organisations have insisted, the government has nothing to fear from such an inquiry but the truth.
We cannot permit that journalists act in fear of retribution for their investigations. Let us remember that Daphne was systematically dehumanised, insulted and threatened over many years, even by people in power, even after her death.
Let us not allow this to happen again. Neither to her family, nor to journalists who are doing their job. And let us remember that last week we heard of another assassination of a journalist in the EU: Viktoria Marinova.
In the face of a political climate that has become increasingly hateful, in the midst of a democracy that has been shaken, our voice needs to stay decent and steadfast so that justice is done, and so that no journalist is murdered like this ever again.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Proposti għall-baġit 2 - Michael Briguglio



Il-ġimgħa li għaddiet ippreżentajt għadd ta' proposti għall-Baġit li jmiss. Fil-biċċa l-kbira tagħhom dawn kienu marbutin mal-isfidi relatati mal-inflazzjoni li qed iħabbtu wiċċhom magħhom persuni li qegħdin f'riskju ta' faqar kif ukoll relatati mal-pensjonijiet u l-proprjetà mikrija rispettivament.



Għaldaqstant, semmejt it-talba tal-għaqdiet tal-ħaddiema għal mekkaniżmu tal-COLA (aġġustament għall-għoli tal-ħajja) rivedut u realistiku. L-argument tiegħi kien li ħwejjeġ bażiċi bħall-ikel għandhom jingħataw aktar importanza fil-ġabra ta' prodotti għax jammontaw għal perċentwal akbar min-nefqa ta' persuni bi dħul baxx. Enfasizzajt ukoll il-bżonn li jitħallsu lura l-eluf ta' persuni li qed jaslulhom kontijiet tad-dawl u l-ilma ogħla minħabba mekkaniżmu illegali.



Fl-artiklu tiegħi semmejt ukoll il-ħtieġa għal żidiet deċenti fil-pensjonijiet u l-bżonn ta' dibattitu nazzjonali xieraq dwar pensjonijiet sostenibbli.



Fl-aħħar nett, sħaqt dwar il-ħtieġa li tiġi inkluża assistenza xierqa għal persuni li bħalissa jikru proprjetà jew li biħsiebhom jikru u li ma jistgħux ilaħħqu mal-prezzijiet tal-kera, mingħajr ma ssir distorsjoni tas-suq. Din il-proposta hi saħansitra aktar urġenti milli kienet is-sena l-oħra.



Tabilħaqq, fl-analiżi tiegħi tal-Baġit tas-sena l-oħra fit-Times of Malta (16 ta' Ottubru 2017), kont osservajt li ż-żieda fil-ħaddiema barranin kienet qed twassal għal domanda akbar għal proprjetà mikrija u b'hekk kienet qed tgħolli l-prezzijiet tal-kiri, u bħal ħafna oħrajn kont ħerqan għall-pubblikazzjoni ta' white paper dwar il-kera. Sena wara, dan il-white paper għadha ma dehritx.



Illum huwa ċar daqs il-kristall li persuni li qed jgħixu fil-faqar, kif ukoll pensjonanti li mhumiex sidien ta' proprjetà u ħaddiema żgħażagħ għaddejjin minn diffikultajiet kbar biex jixtru jew jikru proprjetà.



Fil-fehma tiegħi, il-gvern għandu jipprova jfassal assistenza lil persuni bħal dawn b'modi li ma jinkoraġġixxux inflazzjoni fil-prezzijiet tal-proprjetà. Għandu jibda jsir tfassil ta' politika msejjes fuq l-evidenza, u nistenna li l-gvern jikkonsulta partijiet ikkonċernati esperti dwar dan. Il-gvern għandu wkoll jgħin indirettament lil persuni li jikru li għandhom dħul baxx billi jappoġġa żidiet fil-pagi u billi jippermetti għamliet iżgħar ta' żvilupp li jħarsu r-regoli u l-istandards tal-ippjanar. Għandhom jiġu infurzati regolamenti sabiex jiġu ddikjarati kirjiet fuq perjodi qosra lil turisti, biex b'hekk, minflok, jiġu inkoraġġiti indirettament kirjiet fit-tul lil residenti regolari.



Barra minn hekk, il-gvern jista' jintroduċi mudelli ta' ftehimiet tal-kiri biex iħeġġeġ prattika tajba, indiċi tal-prezzjiet tal-NSO li juri l-prezzijiet tal-kiri, u mekkaniżmi oħrajn proposti minn esperti tal-politika sabiex għajnuniet lill-inkwilini ma jwasslux għal kirjiet iktar għoljin. Għandhom jiġu introdotti ukoll faċilitajiet sempliċi biex persuni li jikru jkunu jistgħu jikkalkulaw il-kontijiet tad-dawl u l-ilma tagħhom biex jiġi evitat li jkollhom iħallsu żżejjed, u d-djar soċjali għandhom finalment isiru prijorità nazzjonali.



Il-Baġit għandu wkoll jindirizza tassew il-problemi ambjentali kbar ta' Malta: l-istħarriġ juri li n-nies jaqblu ma' multi ogħla għall-abbużi, u l-gvern għandu d-dmir morali li jiżgura li titħares il-kwalità tal-ħajja tan-nies.



B'rabta ma' dan, huwa importanti li niftakru li filwaqt li jeżistu xi regolamenti ta' infurzar ambjentali f'Malta, dawn jew qatt ma jiġu infurzati jew inkella jistipulaw multi ridikoli, b'tali mod li xi drabi jkun jaqbel lil min iwettaq abbuż li jħallas il-multa u jibqa' jagħmel l-abbuż, bi ħsara għall-ambjent u għall-kwalità tal-ħajja ta' persuni oħra.



Għalhekk, wasal iż-żmien li naraw li Malta jkollha multi xierqa u effettivi li jiġu infurzati għal abbużi ambjentali f'oqsma bħall-kostruzzjoni, l-istorbju, it-tniġġis tal-baħar u s-serq tal-ilma. Il-gvern għandu wkoll jippremja prattika ambjentali tajba bħat-tisbiħ u t-tħawwil ta' siġar u għandu jagħti aktar setgħa lill-kunsilli lokali biex jieħdu ħsieb l-art pubblika.



Il-kwalità tal-ħajja tan-nies tista' titjieb ukoll jekk il-gvern jiddikjara strateġija nazzjonali ta' investiment f'bankini aċċessibbli fi sħubija mal-kunsilli lokali, kif ukoll jekk jiżgura li l-investiment relattivament għoli fit-trasport pubbliku (madwar €30 miljun kull sena, tliet darbiet daqs l-ammont li kien jitħallas lill-Arriva) jiġi rifless f'servizz aħjar, u mhux f'karozzi tal-linja ffullati u vjaġġi li ma tistax toqgħod fuqhom.



Persuni bi dħul baxx jistgħu jiġu megħjuna wkoll billi titneħħa t-taxxa fuq l-overtime, u negozji ta' persuni li jaħdmu għal rashom għandhom igawdu minn rati ta' taxxa aktar baxxi fid-dawl tal-kompetizzjoni sikwit impossibbli ma' kumpaniji akbar li spiss joqogħdu fuq pagi baxxi għall-ħaddiema tagħhom.



Fl-aħħar nett, il-baġit għandu joffri viżjoni ekonomika lil hinn mid-dipendenza dejjem tiżdied ta' Malta fuq il-bejgħ tal-passaporti, fuq kostruzzjoni bla waqfien u fuq strateġiji oħrajn li jistgħu jaħdmu biss għal żmien qasir.



Huma ferm meħtieġa, u mixtieqa, id-diversifikazzjoni, swieq niċċa u investiment akbar fir-riċerka, l-edukazzjoni, it-taħriġ, u t-taħriġ mill-ġdid tal-ħaddiema.

Dan l-artiklu deher fil-Mument, 14 ta' Ottubru 2018

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Filmat: Sena wara l-qtil ta' Daphne - Michael Briguglio


F'dan il-vlog niddiskuti l-ħtieġa ta' inkjesta pubblika dwar jekk il-qtil ta' Daphne Caruana Galizia setax ġie evitat. 

Tista' tara l-filmat permezz ta' dan il-link:

http://www.independent.com.mt/articles/2018-10-12/blogs-opinions/One-year-after-Daphne-s-killing-6736197664

Tista' tara ukoll il-parteċipazzjoni tiegħi fuq Iswed Fuq l-Abjad (it-tieni parti), fejn niddiskuti l-kontroversja fil-parlament din il-ġimgħa relatata mad-Daphne Project. Link minn hawn.


Monday, October 08, 2018

Budgetary Proposals (3) - Michael Briguglio

I have already highlighted a variety of measures that could be implemented in the upcoming Budget for 2019 within the context of a growing economy that is facing challenges related to social exclusion, sustainability and inequality.
I mentioned the need for a revised and realistic mechanism for Malta’s cost-of-living adjustment given to workers and assistance to low-income earners and self-employed businesses, for example through the removal of tax on overtime and lower taxes respectively.
I referred to the need for decent pension increases and a national consensus on pensions’ sustainability. I also highlighted the importance of proper assistance to rent tenants, in view of spiralling prices. Evidence-based policy and holistic consultation with experts and stakeholders are key factors for such reforms.
I also referred to the need for investment in areas that can help improve people’s quality of life. In this regard I referred to the need for enforceable fines on environmental abuses and the need for rewards for environmental good practices. I highlighted the need for a national investment strategy for accessible pavements and the need to ensure that public transport is giving a decent service to customers. The involvement of local councils in such policies is key.
In my previous articles I also highlighted the need for refunds vis-à-vis the illegal utility bills’ mechanism and the need for increased investment in research, education, training and retraining of workers. In this article I would like to elaborate on such proposals.
As regards employment, bad working conditions in various sectors, including the underground economy, are unfortunately present in Malta. Precariousness seems to be most common in sectors ranging from construction to waste collection and from certain ‘massage parlours’ to certain jobs in the entertainment sector. It is also quite clear that various caring jobs are characterised by low pay, the latter not reflecting the responsibilities entailed.
Besides, despite social policy improvements in areas such as childcare, Malta remains a European laggard in terms of gender equality and education, thus pointing towards the need for free childcare access even for kids whose parents are not in employment or education.
As regards the environment, the government should focus on incentivising the circular economy which sees waste management as an opportunity. It should also incentivise green technologies and introduce different incentives that help beautify our localities. The latter should be accessible to individuals, civil society, the private sector and local councils.
Government investment in roads should be matched with infrastructure, corridors and spaces that are truly friendly for bicycle users and pedestrians. This does not seem to be the case in the government’s current road projects.
I would also expect the government to widen the remit of assistance given to individuals who have specific needs in relation to conditions such as, for example, fibromyalgia and ME.
It would also be encouraging if the government reverses the trend of centralising power in ministers’ hands and instead show trust and goodwill towards local councils and civil society through decentralisation, subsidiarity and the devolution of public land.
To mention one example, various areas currently owned by the government can be made of better use to citizens if local councils are entrusted with their administration and ownership. A budgetary item to account for such a process would be most beneficial.
Finally, I think it is about time that Malta’s Minister of Finance provides comprehensive information regarding the sale of citizenship, which I disagree with both in principle and in view of what I deem as its short-sightedness.
In this regard, the public should be informed about the decision-making process related to the allocation and utilisation of IIP funds, whether a business plan exists, whether there is a timeline and so forth. Otherwise, one can only be suspicious that Malta’s public finances are becoming increasingly dependent on a fund that has sustainability issues and that the electoral cycle may be preceding longer-term economic planning.
In this regard it is important to keep in mind that the National Development and Social Fund which accounts for 70 per cent of revenues in this area is not part of the highly regulated EU funding framework and may therefore be more prone to partisan intervention. Would it not be better to have a smaller government and a bigger empowered society?
This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece, where it appears as 'More power to the people'