The Malta Independent 20 January 2019, Sunday

Free public transport for everyone in the coming years - Joseph Muscat

Rebekah Cilia Sunday, 16 December 2018, 12:36 Last update: about 2 months ago

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that Malta will be amongst the first in Europe to offer free transport for everyone in the coming years, during the last political activity of the year, held in Fgura on Sunday morning.

Already giving free transport to youths and concessions to pensioners, the strategic aim is to include workers who make use of public transport to get to work until in the coming years everyone who resides in Malta will have free public transport, Muscat said.

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He said that public transport has been reformed following the disastrous Arriva system that the PL inherited.

Free public transport is the biggest incentive as an alternative to using a private car. However, for this to work Muscat said that public transport must be effective, been given priority on the roads and be on time.

For this to be achievable, roads cannot have just one lane but part of the road has to be solely used for public transport.

Muscat said that this Government has invested more than ever in the infrastructure of the country.  The investments that are being done will not bear fruit today or tomorrow but will be of benefit in the coming years.

Criticising previous governments, Muscat said they were only patching up when it came to infrastructure and thought only of the present. This government was thinking of the future.

Roads are being built that allow cars to pass easily and with less traffic. Roads that allow for priority lanes for those who have electric cars and buses. “We are preparing our country for the future,” Muscat said.

He noted that by the end of next year there will be a total of 250 new charging points for electric cars, totalling to 450 charging points. Furthermore, there will be more lanes where bicycles will have priority.

Referring to the Malta - Gozo tunnel, Muscat said many were surprised to learn it will actually be done and that a tender will be issued soon. This is because previous governments had always thought about it but never implemented it.

The past five years have been spent doing geological and environmental impact studies for the project but more studies still need to be done. These include studies about where the tunnel will pass from and its economic feasibility.

Muscat mentioned a situation about eight months ago that necessitated a ship to drill between Malta and Comino to examine part of the seabed. As a result, that area of the sea would have needed to be closed off so the study was postponed so as it would not restrict access in the midst of summer.

Also mentioning the waste that will be generated from the project, Muscat said it would amount to three times what Malta creates in one year: three years of construction. He said this is a resource and not a waste and there are several options of what could be done with the waste.

One option was to throw it back into the sea in a space already dedicated for such projects or else to make use of the waste for land reclamation. Muscat said that studies will also need to be done for the latter option but it would be an opportunity for open spaces.

Infrastructural progress was not only in terms of roads but also cultural. Muscat encouraged people to visit the Museum of Art saying that children accompanied by adults can now go in free. “With our past, we are creating the future,” he said.

Muscat also believes that Gozo should be the next capital of culture.

Mentioning health, he said that next year medical specialist will have robots to assist them in surgery resulting in fewer risks. With regards to education, the Government is investing in teachers and in students.

Admitting that it was left out of the budget discourse, Muscat said that in December 14,000 students will receive a €100 euro bonus.

Investment is also being done in the environment, Muscat noted saying that we are each responsible for our waste. Schemes related to wastes have been postponed for many years but now finally it was being implemented.

Although there were difficulties at first in the system to differentiate between organic and general waste it is not working, Muscat said. Many people are not understanding that an effort needs to be made to separate organic waste.

Muscat remarked that 3000 tonnes of organic waste was collected in the past six weeks since the new system has been implemented. This amounts to the total of orange waste collected in 2017.

Commenting that,when compared to the rest of the EU Malta is the country that sends most waste to landfills, he explained that this is why it is important that waste is separated.

Maghtab is nearly full, Muscat explained and should we do nothing another large tract of land would be needed as a landfill. This would, however, only last eight years.

With waste separation, less waste is generated and waste can be turned into energy which puts less stress on other resources, he noted.

He said that not only organic waste needs to be operated but even plastic. From the 200 million bottles only one in four is recycled and exported. Three in four ends up in the landfills or in our seas, Muscat explained.

From the seas, the plastic ends up in the ecosystem which we ingest when eating fish.

The aim now is to collect for recycling 90 per cent of the bottles and this is being done by giving a value of 10c for each bottle. This scheme is the same as the return schemes in the past for glass bottles.

Muscat also made reference to the Venice Commission report which saw a body from the Council of Europe come to Malta to evaluate the rule of law. He said that the report will be published Monday but Government already has an idea what will be published.

He noted that the report does not point fingers at any changes this government has done, saying that no law has been changed for the worse. Furthermore, he said that the report says that the changes made by this government were positive.

Of the changes noted in the report is that the Prime Minister himself has too much power to which Muscat noted, ‘this was not invented by me’.

In fact, he said that Prime Ministers before him could simply appoint magistrates and judges as long as they had seven years of experience. Changes have since been made by this Government so that scrutinises are made by a number of people and a list is then presented to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister can only then select from this list.

The report also called for more balance to which Muscat that this was not a problem as ‘it is what we stand for’.

The system referred to in the report have been there since Malta’s independence, “no one thought of changing them or question them so far but now the time has come to change them,” Muscat noted.

Muscat said that the Council of Europe was invited to Malta by the Government and ‘we generally agree with what they are saying’. He noted that Government is committed to the changes that need to be done to the insinuations but the help of the Opposition is needed.

The reason for this is that two-thirds majority is required and also because many laws were implemented by the Opposition.

“Only with these constitutional changes we can modernise our country,” Muscat said, continuing 'change is what makes us what we are’.

 

PN reaction

In a statement, the Nationalist Party said that if Muscat is not afraid of change, he should remove Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri.

He should also take the Venice Commission’s recommendations seriously so that the rule of law in Malta would truly be safeguarded.

 

These recommendations include truly independent judicial appointments, the separation of the roles of the Attorney General, that the President be given powers to act on government abuse, that MPs are not bough by public appointments and the limitation of positions of trust. Now is the time to walk the talk, the PN said. 

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