The Malta Independent 22 May 2019, Wednesday

Pseudo-environmentalists and industrial investment

Simon Mercieca Saturday, 4 June 2016, 08:01 Last update: about 4 years ago

It seems that my last blog about the shipyard and the tearing up of an invitation by the Labour whip Dr Godfrey Farrugia on Facebook, irked a number of individuals to the extent that the Minister for Transport, Joe Mizzi, felt the need to follow suit and copied Dr Farrugia’s antics. Minister Mizzi declared that he too would be boycotting the Fun Day Events, including the concert that Palumbo organized, which featured Maltese talent, including the National Orchestra, Joseph Calleja and Ira Losco.

Such infantile behaviour from our current Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, together with the rest of the Cabinet and Labour MPs, is proof of how inadequate and unprepared for the job of running our country these officials are. Furthermore, for government to have boycotted such an activity only means that it has little respect for our local talent and could not care less. Before this whole controversy started, I was not aware of this concert.

Anyway, as expected, Ira Losco fleetingly referred to her performance at the Eurovision competition and from the reaction of the audience, it was very clear that quite a number of Labourites were present. The highlight of the concert was the participation of Joseph Calleja. I need not speak here about Calleja but instead I wish to dedicate a few words to the pianist, Charlene Farrugia. I remember her as a student of the Music Division. Well done, Charlene. You are testimony and credit to our University.

But it is government's behaviour, which is cause for concern when one realizes that one of the officials who boycotted this activity happens to be the Transport Minister himself, whose portfolio via Transport Authority embracesthe Shipyards.  As Minister, he should know that he is expected to support those enterprises that are directly affected by this Authority. He ought never to create adverse criticism that could endanger or harm in any way the livelihood of any workforce. Strangely enough, the Minister for the Environment has kept his peace while the Transport Minister chose to voice his environmental concern. Let us for a moment give him credit and applaud him for his environmental credentials. Yet, with such a move, Minister Mizzi has indirectly hit out at his colleague, the Minister for the Environment, for not doing his job.

But if Minister Mizzi expects to be taken seriously, then why does he not take a stand against the Freeport? This too falls partly under his remit through Transport Malta. The residents of Birżebbuga are desperate about the noise generated from the Freeport. But in this case, no serious environmentalist or Minister is complaining or taking any action because the political agenda is all aimed against the shipyard.

My father lives in Tarxien Road, Tarxien. Most probably, this is one of the most polluted streets in the South of Malta. The pollution generated here is unheard of in the whole Cottonera area. Does any environmentalist voice any complaint in defence of the residents of this area? None. Why?  Can we agree that the residents here are exposed to noise and carcinogenic particles more than the inhabitants of Cottonera? Yet, till now, the Honorable Minister for Transport has made no suggestion and has offered no solution for a cleaner environment for the people of Paola/Tarxien.

It is possible that Minister Mizzi is guided by local considerations as he was elected on the Second District. This district is made up of Bormla, Birgu, Senglea, Kalkara and Żabbar. Mizzi is primarily elected by the residents of the first four localities. In the Żabbar area, Minister Helena Dalli is stronger. Therefore, by making such statements, he could be fishing for new votes, which may assure his re-election since his chances of being re-elected are extremely slim.  The Labour diehards will now go for Mr Glenn Bedingfield.

On a national scale, this situation is even more complicated. In a democratic country, it is unheard of that a Minister responsible for a particular sector makes any statement that goes against the interest of the Transport sector. Our Minister does not want to learn from history. Already, he was a protagonist of the Arriva debacle. To substituteArriva, he brought in another company, which is run by a provincial operator and this whole operation is costing the taxpayer more than Arriva.  These new buses have become extremely pollutant. You just need to be behind a bus in a narrow street to realize that they lack maintenance and the engine is running very badly. Their emission is now becoming worse than any of our old buses. But these facts do not seem to worry our environmentalists and the Minister concerned. 

Unlike what a pseudo-environmentalist has recently insinuated, I am not on the payroll of Palumbo. If Palumbo decides to leave or is kicked out, it will be no skin off my nose. But I do think that the people of the area need to know what is going to happen next. For sure, this Labour Government will not be turning the area into a rose garden.  Whether a new operator (should there be one) will be better or worse, only time will tell. And should the new operator not be environmentally friendly, those Labour politicians who are todaywhinging and moaning against Palumbo, will start shifting the blame onto someone else.

On one point we can agree. They will not blame the newly appointed operator with polluting the area. On the contrary, this Government will protecthim from any environmental attacks, as it had already done with the Freeportand will laudthe new operator for the courage shown to invest inCottonera! We already have had the experience of Arriva. The mainstream media has lost all interest in demonizing the new operator, which is what it did to kill Arriva.

Just as serious is the fact that our financial sector is in turbulent waters. The policy of high-rise buildings can work for some time, but it cannot last. Even the Finance Minister has started expressing his concern. What Malta does not need, is useless conflicts provoked by a Minister of Transport that only relay negative messages to foreign entrepreneurs,that Malta is not safe for investment in heavy industry.

If this Government thinks that Malta can continue making economic progress without productive industry, it is greatly mistaken. Even Alfred Sant is publically expressing his worries in the press.

Our Government's behaviour is scaring serious investment away – or as the local politicians say - “tgerrex l-investiment”. Thus, the minister and his cronies, by adopting such actions are serving neither the country nor the people but themselves and possibly their political party.


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