Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Acting on the State of the Environment Report - Michael Briguglio

The Environment and Resources Authority recently published the State of Environment Report which provides scientific data on the status of the environment in Malta between 2009-2015.
Some important findings in the report include that Malta’s population density is significantly higher than the EU average, which stand at 1,450.2/km2 and 118/km2 respectively and that despite a 49% increase in environmental expenditure between 2008-2015, the country is still finding it hard to decouple economic growth from waste generation.

Indeed, in 2015, Malta's production of waste was at an all-time high, which is very worrying when one considers that Malta only recycles 7% of all its waste.

Malta also saw an all-time high in the consumption of billed electricity in 2015. During the same year, 35.6% of the development permits were granted on virgin land, thus increasing the cumulative impact of such development over the years. In the meantime, the stock of licensed motor vehicles reached almost 350,000 by the same year.

The State of the Environment Report reveals that while some progress has been made on biodiversity between 2009 and 2015, the other areas of the environment highlighted show a negative state of affairs.  

One must keep in mind that in the recent years, Government has intensified its economic model. This is resulting in significant environmental impacts which will likely feature in the next State of Environment Report.

In particular, one should refer to the rapid population growth through the importation of workers, excessive dependency on construction and lack of foresight on economic, social and environmental impacts beyond the current political cycle. Whilst the Nationalist Party welcomes the contribution of workers and their families to the Maltese economy and society, we believe that there should be a rethink of Government’s fast-lane economic model to one which is based on sustainability: Social, environmental and economic needs should be reconciled through an evidence-based policy method that looks at short-term, medium-term and long-term opportunities, impacts and risks.

Partit Nazzjonalista is therefore highlighting a number of proposals related to the greening of government, more community involvement in environmental protection, and a European Union that listen’s to the environmental needs of small islands.

For example, we are proposing incentives for start-ups in the circular economy and a green innovation fund to adapt and innovate green technologies specific to the Maltese context.
We are proposing better environmental enforcement and green community officers. We are proposing that residents should be incentivised to participate in green activities, such as local funds for tree planting schemes and community activities. We are also proposing the increased availability of academic opportunities at tertiary level for research and education.
Government should be less bureaucratic and should have less top-down requirements for environmental NGOs and other civil society exponents (e.g. artists, academics) for green funding opportunities. Concurrently, environmental NGOs and local councils should be assisted through funds for appeals against major projects.
Partit Nazzjonalista agrees with the proposal of the Church Environment Commission to transform the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development into the Malta Council for Sustainable Development. We also agree that sustainable development should be mainstreamed in all the public sector, under the responsibility of the Prime Minister.
Partit Nazzjonalista is proposing clear implementation so that all government run entities and buildings should be zero carbon. We also believe that mandatory greening should form part of public sector development projects. The Green Leaders initiative should be effectively in place: All government entities should have an officer responsible for green initiatives, and the green procurement clause in public contracts should be strengthened.  

As regards Malta’s EU membership, we believe that there should be better monitoring and reporting of environmental standards to ensure better application of directives. We also believe that small islands should have special clauses to protect the environment and to enhance sustainability. For example, Environment Impact Assessments should also be applicable to small-scale development with cumulative impacts on localities.

In the near future, specific policy proposals in areas such as land development, transport, pollution and waste management will also be announced by Partit Nazzjonalista. We are consulting with stakeholders through an ongoing process so as to have the best evidence-based policies possible.

Our clarion call - Michael Briguglio

Times of Malta, 25 February 2019

The government is applauding itself for a relatively good Eurobarometer result in terms of people’s perceptions on their quality of life. True, life satisfaction is high in Malta. Whether it is because or despite the government is subject to debate. 
But let us say that Joseph Muscat’s government is a chief cause of Malta’s Eurobarometer results. In this case I remind our Prime Minister that as he himself told us recently, you cannot have meat without the bone. So, let’s look at some of the major concerns of Maltese respondents.
The major ones, according to Eurobarometer, are migration, followed by housing, the environment, climate and energy issues, crime, rising prices and inflation. 
Maybe the government should reflect whether its economic model, largely based on the importation of thousands of workers is the right way forward. Not only because this encourages the depression of wages, but also because of other impacts.  
These include impacts on the price of housing which has exploded upwards. Evictions are on the increase, social housing queues are growing while Malta keeps being built up, sometimes by workers who paradoxically live in containers. 
Today, more young workers are discovering that their dreams of having or renting their own property must be shelved, as they simply cannot afford brave new prices. What a difference from just a few years ago!
There are impacts on the quality of life of elderly persons, who were recently told by the Prime Minister that their pensions depend on imported workers, and not on their own hard-paid contributions over the years. Indeed, many pensioners are finding it too hard to cope with the prices of medicines, utility bills, foodstuffs and the services and goods that define their quality of life. 
In a way Malta’s real inflation can be analysed in terms of growing demand for the supply of Malta’s goods and services, pushing prices upwards. 
There are impacts on the environment. Our quality of air is one of the worst in Europe, mainly courtesy of a car-addicted economy, and other forms of pollution are spreading across the islands. The tentacles of urban sprawl are robbing our children of greenery as our townscapes become ever-more congested. Incidentally, some children now must accommodate themselves in containers for classrooms. A surplus of containers in the best of times. 
These problems transcend party politics. Pollution is democratic, as it affects most people. Everyone receives utility bills, and estate agents do not discriminate in prices. So, it is imperative that we face today’s challenges beyond petty politics. 
In my own activist and political journey, so far lasting 25 years, I have met many people, red, blue, green, orange and of no colour who have goodwill and who want a better Malta. Such goodwill resulted in successful campaigns spanning from Malta’s EU membership to the extension of civil rights, as well as some successful environmental battles against a tide of overdevelopment. 
And today, the clarion call politics of goodwill remains to keep speaking up for people, the environment and just causes. We should say things as they are, without fear or obligation and we should aim to build bridges rather than entrench ourselves in hatred. We should refuse sponsors to finance electoral campaign goodies in return for behind-the-scenes deals. 
We should aim to make the EU more relevant to our daily lives. We should ensure that voices in Malta are heard in the EU and that the positives of EU membership are experienced across the board. 
We should speak up for the forgotten persons, the silent majority which transverses partisan boundaries. We should advocate politics that comes from the ground and which is based on research, listening and acting on people’s concerns.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Tnaqqis fil-pensjonijiet fl-aqwa żmien – Michael Briguglio

Ftit ġimgħat ilu, il-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat wissa li jekk il-Maltin ma jridux aktar barranin, jistgħu jinsew il-pensjonijiet. Żied li, kieku Malta kellha tmur lura għas-sitwazzjoni li kienet fiha qabel, il-pajjiż ma jkunx jista’ jħallas għall-pensjonijiet u jkollu jiżdied il-piż fuq min iħallas it-taxxa.

Kien hemm reazzjonijiet negattivi għal din l-istqarrija minn kull naħa: l-Oppożizzjoni, is-soċjetà ċivili u l-mezzi tax-xandir. Fit-Times of Malta tal-11 ta’ Frar, Carmel Mallia, il-president tal-Alleanza tal-Organizzazzjonijiet tal-Pensjonanti, qal li l-organizzazzjonijiet tal-pensjonanti huma mweġġgħin ħafna minn din l-istqarrija u mħassbin ferm dwarha għaliex, għal darb’oħra, il-pensjonanti qed jingħataw it-tort għall-qagħda soċjali u ekonomika preżenti.

Żied li, f’dawn l-aħħar ħames snin, il-pensjonanti saru dejjem ifqar hekk kif il-prezzijiet tal-prodotti, is-servizzi, il-kera u s-saħħa, fost oħrajn, sparaw ‘il fuq. Fakkar lill-qarrejja tiegħu li, skont il-Eurostat, wieħed minn kull erba’ pensjonanti f’Malta uffiċjalment jinsab f’riskju ta’ faqar minkejja l-boom ekonomiku tal-pajjiż.

Fl-aħħar nett, stieden lill-Prim Ministru jkun trasparenti dwar is-sitwazzjoni preżenti u jiddikjara li l-eżempju tiegħu meta semma l-pensjonijiet ma għandu qatt jitqies bħala theddida għall-pensjonijiet u l-pensjonanti.

Iċ-ċifri uffiċjali b’rabta mal-Att dwar is-Sigurtà Soċjali jistgħu jagħtuna tagħrif siewi. Jekk inħarsu lejn iċ-ċifri l-aktar reċenti, ippubblikati fid-29 ta’ Marzu 2018 fil-Gazzetta tal-Gvern ta’ Malta, insibu li l-fondi mill-kontribuzzjonijiet għas-sigurtà soċjali u l-kontribuzzjoni diretta tal-Istat jammontaw għal €875,053,633. In-nefqa totali għall-pensjonijiet taħt l-iskemi kontributorji tilħaq €749,667,709, u b’hekk tindika bilanċ pożittiv bejn il-kontribuzzjonijiet u n-nefqa fuq il-pensjonijiet. Huwa biss meta jitnaqqsu l-ispejjeż amministrattivi (€8,132,555) u s-servizzi rikorrenti tas-saħħa (€670,074,218) li tirriżulta diskrepanza ta’ €544,688,294 fis-sigurtà soċjali.

Dawn iċ-ċifri juru li kieku l-gvern juża l-kontribuzzjonijiet għall-pensjonijiet, ma jkunx hemm defiċit fil-pensjonijiet. Għalhekk, mhuwiex ġust li t-tort għall-problema li hemm fil-pensjonijiet bħalissa jingħata lill-pensjonanti.

Tabilħaqq, kif xi wħud kitbu tul is-snin li għaddew, il-leġiżlazzjoni ta’ Malta (L-Att dwar is-Sigurtà Soċjali, Kap. 318) ma tawtorizzax li s-servizzi rikorrenti tas-saħħa jitħallsu mis-sigurtà soċjali. Tassew li f’Malta hawn kunsens nazzjonali biex din in-nefqa tiġi ffinanzjata mill-fondi tal-Istat, iżda għaliex għandha tiġi ffinanzjata minn dħul allokat għall-pensjonijiet?

B’rabta ma’ dan, fl-1979, il-prim ministru ta’ dak iż-żmien, Dom Mintoff, neħħa l-Fond għall-Assigurazzjoni Nazzjonali, u l-kontribuzzjonijiet kollha għas-sigurtà soċjali minn min iħaddem, l-impjegati u l-gvern ġew inklużi fil-Fond Konsolidat ta’ Malta, fejn setgħu jintużaw għal spejjeż oħrajn. Barra minn hekk, ir-riformi ta’ Mintoff kienu jfissru wkoll li l-pensjonijiet il-ġodda ‘taż-żewġ terzi’ kienu limitati minkejja l-kontribuzzjonijiet tal-persuna, u li parti min-nefqa tal-gvern kienet titħallas minn dawk li kienu intitolati għal pensjoni mingħand min kien iħaddimhom, kif inhu l-każ tal-pensjonanti tas-servizz li ġew imċaħħda parti mill-pensjoni tal-Istat tagħhom li kemm huma kif ukoll min kien iħaddimhom ikkontribwixxew għaliha.

Qabel l-1979, dawk li kienu ħaddiema taċ-ċivil kienu jirċievu din il-pensjoni tal-assigurazzjoni nazzjonali flimkien ma’ pensjoni tas-servizz mit-Teżor. Il-valur reali ta’ din tal-aħħar ikompli jonqos kull sena. Il-pensjonanti f’din is-sitwazzjoni ilhom iħallsu l-kontribuzzjoni kollha kemm hi għal aktar minn 40 sena iżda jirċievu biss ammont żgħir għal dan. Qiegħdin jikkofinanzjaw pensjonijiet oħrajn permezz tal-kontribuzzjonijiet tagħhom, allura għaliex qed jiġu mċaħħda dak li hu tagħhom bi dritt?

Ta’ min niftakru wkoll li, kif qal Albert Cilia-Vincenti, il-president tal-Assoċjazzjoni Nazzjonali tal- Pensjonanti tas-Servizz, fit-Times of Malta (28 ta’ Jannar), il-gvern ta’ Malta jnaqqas ukoll il-pensjoni kontributorja tas-sigurtà soċjali ta’ Malta għal dawk li jirċievu wkoll pensjoni tas-servizz minn pajjiż ieħor tal-Unjoni Ewropea. Ftit ġimgħat ilu, ktibt lil-Ministru għas-Solidarjetà Soċjali Michael Falzon dwar dan iżda, sa issa, ma ngħatat ebda tweġiba.

Inħoss li l-gvern qiegħed jikkalkula b’mod kliniku li din id-demografika qiegħda tonqos u għaldaqstant qiegħda progressivament titlef l-impatt elettorali tagħha. Għall-kuntrarju, għandna nuru solidarjetà bejn il-ġenerazzjonijiet u niżguraw li l-pensjonanti jgħixu f’dinjità.

Dan l-artiklu deher fil-Mument, 24 ta' Frar 2019

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Pension cuts in best of times - Michael Briguglio

Times of Malta, 18 February 2019

A few weeks ago, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat warned that if Malta does not want more foreigners it can say goodbye to pensions. He added that if Malta had to go to back to its previous situation, it would not be able to pay for pensions and would have to increase the burden on the taxpayer.
There were negative reactions to this statement from all quarters: the Opposition, civil society and the media. Writing in the Times of Malta (February 11), Carmel Mallia, president of the Alliance of Pensioners Organisations, said pensioners’ organisations are “very much hurt and concerned by this statement because, once again, pensioners are the scapegoats of the prevailing social and economic situation”.
He added that, in the last five years, “pensioners got poorer and poorer as prices of goods, services, rent, health etc. went sky-high”. He reminded his readers that, according to Eurostat, one out of four pensioners in Malta is officially at risk of poverty in spite of the island’s economic boom.
Finally, he invited the Prime Minister “to be transparent on the prevailing situation and declare that his example referring to pensions should never be considered as a threat to pensions and pensioners”.
Official figures in terms of the Social Security Act can provide some valuable information. If one looks at the most recent figures, published on March 29, 2018 in The Malta Government Gazette, one finds that funds through social security contributions and the direct contribution of the State amount to €875,053,633. Total expenditure for pensions under the contributory schemes amounts to €749,667,709, thus indicating a surplus between contributions and expenditure on pensions. It is when administration expenses (€8,132,555) and health recurrent services (€670,074,218) are deducted that a welfare gap of €544,688,294 results.
These figures show that if the government used contributions for pensions, there would not be a pensions deficit. So, it is not fair to blame pensioners for the current pensions issue.
Indeed, as some have been writing during past years, Malta’s legislation (The Social Security Act, Cap. 318) does not authorise the charging of health recurrent services to social security. Sure, Malta has a national consensus to finance such expenditure from State funds but why should revenue earmarked for pensions finance this?
In this regard, back in 1979, then prime minister Dom Mintoff removed the National Insurance Fund and all social security contributions by employers, employees and the government were included in Malta’s Consolidated Fund, where they could be used for other expenses. Besides, Mintoff’s reforms also meant that the new ‘two-thirds’ pensions were capped despite one’s contributions and that part of the government’s expenditure was paid by those who were entitled to a pension from former employers, as is the case with service pensioners who were denied a portion of their State pension to which both they and their employers had contributed.
Pre-1979, former civil servants receive this national insurance pension together with a service pension from the Treasury. The real value of the latter keeps decreasing every year. Pensioners in this situation have been paying national insurance in full for over 40 years but they only receive a pittance in return. They have been co-financing other pensions through their contributions, so why are they being denied what is theirs by right?
Let us also keep in mind that, as Albert Cilia-Vincenti, president of the National Association of Service Pensioners, remarked in the Times of Malta (January 28), Malta’s government also “deducts the Malta contributory social security pension of those who also receive a service pension from another EU country”. A few weeks ago, I wrote to Social Solidarity Minister Michael Falzon about this but, to date, no reply has been forthcoming.
My feeling is that the government is coldly calculating that this demograph is decreasing and will, thus, progressively lose its electoral impact. To the contrary, we should show cross-generational solidarity and ensure that pensioners live in dignity.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Is the economy improving your quality of life? - Michael Briguglio

The Labour Government is taking the easy route to economic growth: One that is based on the sale of passports, importation of cheap labour and overdependence on construction projects.  These methods are reflected in Malta’s high level of economic growth, but people’s quality of life is being affected negatively in various other respects: From an increase in the cost of living to a deterioration of the environment.

Indeed, the situation on the ground in Malta confirms the paradox that while GDP may be increasing, the quality of life may be deteriorating. The Sustainable Development Vision for 2050 published by the Church’s Environment Commission exemplifies this hypothesis.

Official EU data shows us that Malta tops European levels of built-up areas and pollution. In the meantime, registration of cars keeps increasing, and Government’s main mitigation measure is to widen roads. EU funding in this regard was obtained by the previous Nationalist administration. Surely, it can be used in a more sustainable manner than is currently the case by Labour. In the current scenario, it seems to be the case that Labour’s policies are based on electoral cycles, thus postponing today’s problems and irresponsibly handing them over to tomorrow’s administration and society.

For example, the upgrading of the Kappara junction ignored recommendations by stakeholders such as bicycle users, rendering it unsafe for cyclists and pedestrians. Subsequent projects by Infrastructure Malta are side-lining local councils, experts and civil society. Here one asks whether it is wise to focus entirely on satisfying the appetite for more cars and ignoring erstwhile modal shift methods such as an underground rail system. The fact that government is not even considering alternatives justifies the concerns of the Church Environment Commission.

The same Commission also rightly points out that Malta is overdependent on construction projects. Again, these may inflate economic growth figures, but society is paying the cost of its negative impacts. People around Malta and Gozo are witnessing a deterioration of quality of life courtesy of dust and noise pollution, shadowing, uglification and crumbling infrastructure. Roads and pavements are being left in a very bad state. Urban sprawl is eating up green areas, and permits are not being subjected to proper analysis of their cumulative impacts.

In the meantime, Malta is crying out for a more sustainable vision, and the Nationalist Party promises to implement it. A vision that does not simply look at GDP growth rates but that also factors in people’s quality of life. One that balances economic, social and environmental considerations: Policy making based on evidence, impact assessments and economic diversification rather than overdependence on quick fix methods.

This article appears in the Times of Malta under a different title. 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Valutazzjonijiet tal-impatt soċjali – Michael Briguglio

Ir-residenti jibbenefikaw minn proġetti ta’ żvilupp enormi li jikkummerċjalizzaw art pubblika? Il-bilanċ pożittiv baġitarju ta’ Malta qed jolqot lil gruppi soċjali differenti bl-istess mod? Il-koeżjoni soċjali qiegħda tingħata l-importanza li jistħoqqilha fil-proċess ta’ politika f’Malta? Dawn huma xi wħud mill-mistoqsijiet li jixirqilhom riċerka msejsa fuq l-evidenza permezz ta’ valutazzjonijiet tal-impatt soċjali (social impact assessments).

F’artikli oħra f’din il-gazzetta semmejt il-bżonn li jiġu evalwati l-impatti soċjali ta’ proġetti ta’ żvilupp. Fid-dawl tal-mudell ekonomiku Malti bħalissa, inħoss li llum il-ġurnata l-ħtieġa għal evidenza bħal din hija akbar minn qatt qabel f’oqsma ta’ politika differenti.

Qabelxejn, jista’ jkun li xi qarrejja mhumiex familjari ma’ dan it-terminu. Valutazzjoni tal-impatt soċjali tanalizza l-effetti soċjali tal-iżvilupp u l-bidla soċjali, kemm dawk maħsubin kif ukoll dawk li ma jkunux.

L-Assoċjazzjoni Internazzjonali għall-Valutazzjoni tal-Impatt tiddefinixxi valutazzjoni tal-impatt soċjali bħala l-proċess ta’ analiżi, monitoraġġ u mmaniġġar tal-konsegwenzi soċjali intenzjonati u mhux intenzjonati, kemm pożittivi kif ukoll negattivi, ta’ interventi ppjanati u kull proċess ta’ bidla soċjali mibdi minn dawk l-interventi.

Dawn il-bidliet jistgħu jvarjaw minn diżastri naturali sa tkabbir fil-popolazzjoni u minn interventi ta’ politika sa proġetti waħdanin ta’ żvilupp. Meta jseħħu bidliet bħal dawn, il-valutazzjonijiet tal-impatt soċjali jinvestigaw l-effetti fuq il-ħajja ta’ kuljum tan-nies f’termini ta’ kultura, politika, komunità, saħħa, kuntentizza, aspirazzjonijiet, ħtiġijiet, jeddijiet u responsabbiltajiet, fost oħrajn. Jipprovdu d-data għal tfassil ta’ politika li jkun imsejjes fuq l-evidenza.

Jistgħu jintużaw diversi metodi, kemm kwantitattivi kif ukoll kwalitattivi, fil-valutazzjonijiet tal-impatt soċjali. Il-metodi kwantitattivi jirreferu għal data ġeneralizzabbli speċjalment fl-għamla ta’ numri, filwaqt li dawk kwalitattivi jipproduċu data aktar fil-fond dwar kwistjonijiet partikolari.

Fost il-metodi ta’ riċerka fil-valutazzjonijiet tal-impatt soċjali għaldaqstant jista’ jkun hemm stħarriġ tal-popolazzjonijiet ikkonċernati li jsirulhom mistoqsijiet dwar kif huma jipperċepixxu l-bidla involuta. Metodi etnografiċi jistgħu jinvolvu ħarsa aktar fil-fond lejn il-prattiki ta’ kuljum tan-nies, filwaqt li intervisti jistgħu jivverifikaw il-pariri, it-tħassib u l-interpretazzjonijiet ta’ persuni li għandhom għarfien espert jew esperjenza fil-qasam rispettiv li jkun qed jiġi analizzat.

Il-metodi jistgħu jinvolvu wkoll l-analiżi tad-diskors fuq is-suġġett involut, pereżempju billi jitqies dak li jkun qiegħed jingħad fl-isfera pubblika, sew mill-pubbliku, is-soċjetà ċivili, atturi politiċi, il-mezzi tax-xandir u minn oħrajn .

Il-valutazzjonijiet tal-impatt soċjali għaldaqstant għandhom jinvolvu s-sehem ta’ partijiet interessati differenti, idealment billi titħaddem taħlita ta’ metodi ta’ riċerka.

Aktar milli jkunu eżerċizzji ta’ darba, il-valutazzjonijiet tal-impatt soċjali għandhom ikunu kontinwi, u idealment iwasslu għal politika li tkun aktar xierqa għall-kwistjoni involuta. B’hekk jistgħu jitwettqu rakkomandazzjonijiet u miżuri li jtaffu effetti negattivi, u dawn ikunu msejsa fuq evidenza soċjali xjentifika.

Huwa importanti wkoll li l-valutazzjonijiet tal-impatt soċjali jiġu eżaminati minn persuni bl-istess livell ta’ għarfien espert tal-esperti li jkunu wettquhom. Dan ifisser li jekk ikun qed isir studju minn grupp ta’ esperti fix-xjenzi soċjali, dan l-istudju għandhom jagħmlu skrutinju tiegħu esperti indipendenti oħrajn fix-xjenza soċjali. Dan jista’ jgħin biex jiġu identifikati dgħufijiet, kunflitti u titjib possibbli fl-istess valutazzjoni tal-impatt soċjali.

Kif inhuma l-affarijiet, ma hemm ebda linji gwida nazzjonali dwar il-ħtieġa ta’ valutazzjonijiet tal-impatt soċjali f’Malta. It-twettiq ta’ studji bħal dawn fuq proġetti ta’ żvilupp jiddependi mid-diskrezzjoni tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar.

Meta jsiru, b’eċċezzjoni, ikunu studji ta’ darba dwar proġetti kbar ta’ żvilupp. Dan effettivament ifisser li proġetti ta’ żvilupp fuq skala iżgħar b’impatti kumulattivi akbar ma ssirilhomx valutazzjoni tal-impatt soċjali.

Jekk inħarsu lejn interventi oħra ta’ politika, il-valutazzjonijiet tal-impatt soċjali huma prattikament ineżistenti. Fost eżempji oħra, nistgħu nsemmu l-importazzjoni ta’ eluf ta’ ħaddiema, il-bejgħ tal-passaporti, id-dinamika tal-agrikoltura, l-għoli tal-ħajja, l-urbanizzazzjoni u l-kummerċjalizzazzjoni ta’ art pubblika.

Tabilħaqq, hemm bosta oqsma fejn jistgħu jiġu introdotti valutazzjonijiet tal-impatt soċjali f’Malta: il-konsultazzjoni tal-gvern dwar leġiżlazzjoni ġdida, proposti għall-baġit nazzjonali, l-adozzjoni ta’ direttivi tal-UE, il-kumitati parlamentari u l-kunsilli lokali huma biss ftit minnhom. Pereżempju, il-kunsilli lokali jistgħu jwettqu valutazzjonijiet tal-impatt soċjali biex jistabbilixxu profili tal-komunitajiet, elementi kulturali komuni u differenzi kulturali, ħtiġijiet soċjali, id-demografika, l-effetti tal-iżvilupp, u affarijiet oħra.

L-Università ta’ Malta u istituzzjonijiet edukattivi oħrajn bħalissa qed jipproduċu gradwati fi xjenzi soċjali differenti li huma mgħammra biex iwettqu valutazzjonijiet tal-impatt soċjali u li huma sensibbli għall-bżonn ta’ tfassil tal-politika msejjes fuq l-evidenza. Ejjew ma naħlux riżorsi tant importanti. Ejjew nilħqu kunsens politiku biex nintegraw il-valutazzjonijiet tal-impatt soċjali f’kull qasam.
Dan l-artiklu deher fil-Mument

Friday, February 15, 2019

Letter to the Ombudsman regarding Utility Bills

To the Ombudsman of Malta
Dear Ombudsman,

In the past years and especially months, the situation with water and electricity billing in Malta has raised concerns about unfair billing practices, abuse of dominance, state-aid, discrimination among consumers and business, and more recently links with offshore business. Individual queries to State bodies such as ARMS, Enemalta, Water Services Corporation, the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority, the Competitions Officer, the Consumers’ Office, and the Regulator for Energy and Water Services are sending customers and journalists in circles. I am therefore asking you to provide answers to the following queries related to the matter:

Is it legal for ARMS ltd to reduce the annual quotas foreseen in the legal notice by bulking prior period consumption into shorter billing periods or by rationing the annual quota into discreet short-period quantities?

Is the ARMS billing procedure clear and understandable to Maltese households?
How many billing queries have ARMS ltd received annually since operation?

Threats of cut off:
Do customers have the right to contest a bill without paying interest or risk of cut-off?
How are they to do this?

Loans, interest rates and ad hoc fees:
At what rate is ARMS entitled to charge interest on loan facilities?
Is Arms entitled to create and impose ad hoc fees that are not foreseen in the law (e.g. 13% to revise a bulking error)

Is ARMS entitled to discriminate between residents on the basis of the type of accommodation they live in (Domestic vs Resident)?
Why do non-residents pay less per unit at higher consumption while residents pay more per unit?
Can ARMS cross-subsidise one group of users by another? 
Is it acceptable that residents are put on different billing periods (2 month vs 6 month) when these result in material differences to the rate applicable?

Ownership and regulation:

Who do Enemalta, the Water Services Corporation belong to?
Who does Arms ltd belong to?
Which entity regulates EneMalta, WSC and ARMS?

Looking forward to your reply,
Dr Michael Briguglio