The Malta Independent 18 November 2017, Saturday

Smart City

Alfred Sant Monday, 17 July 2017, 07:57 Last update: about 5 months ago

I think it would be a scandal if Smart City is transformed into another zone for residential development. Right from the start, this was a scandalous project – in the way it was promoted and run, as well as in its failure to deliver. True, it was not the first major project where this happened. One needs only mention Chambrai, Mater Dei, Tigne. I admit my share of responsibility regarding the latter, since when I could have let it die a natural death, I helped to keep it alive.

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The promoters of Smart City promised us heaven on earth: they were about to fill it up with enterprises having the highest technology and the highest value. At the time, if you criticised the project or expressed doubts about the promises being made, it was like you were indulging in obscenities. Hardly anything of the promises made materialised.

That now on the back of the imposture that gave rise to the project, new benefits are to be extended seems completely incomprehensible.

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Melita & Vodafone

Those who are warning that the Melita-Vodafone merger could be of disbenefit to consumers are right. Though the merits of the merger were publicly explained in terms of it being in the people’s interest, on close reading such merits turn out to relate more to an added convenience and a better marketing stance for the managers of the two enterprises, than anything else.

As of now, the consumer has a choice between a company that can provide a full telecoms service, and two companies which provide part of this service, but which taken together cover the full service range. If the two companies merge, consumers will have a choice between two full service ranges.

The situation will resemble that in the banking sector, dominated by HSBC and BOV. The experience of duopoly there is hardly enticing. Without needing to have a formal understanding between them, the two parties are in a position to set their practices and tariffs in a way that consumer choice becomes restricted to one between identical twins.

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Construction

The construction sector is experiencing a boom that reflects economic growth in the country as a whole. There is nothing wrong with this. Construction is still part of the main motor in the country’s economic machine, even if it no longer is among the top activities that create value added.

However it is probably still the sector which generates most costs that are not borne by the entrepreneur but are carried by society as a whole. The first such cost which comes to mind is the environmental one – but there are more. Among others, you’ll find the costs associated with the closure of streets – with the inconvenience and waste of time this entails, for private and commercial drivers.  There’s the waste and dust generated by projects, especially if as often happens, building regulations are either ignored or inadequately observed. As a consequence, public and private costs ensue by way of cleansing and health care.

The time is now for a study to be commissioned in order to calculate the cost to the community of these hidden expenses.

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