The Malta Independent 22 July 2019, Monday

New construction regulations expected Monday - Joseph Muscat

Jeremy Micallef Sunday, 16 June 2019, 12:13 Last update: about 2 months ago

Proposed changes to construction regulations will be formally published on Monday, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said.

Speaking in a pre-recorded interview, Muscat said that halting all excavation and demolition works was a "clear and obvious choice to make".

Through an analysis he had asked for, delving into the legal situation, it was clear that the laws exist in Malta and that the main issue is that a minority of people try to find a "ventilator to pass through", he said.

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"I had already decided on Thursday morning, in the meeting with the stakeholders in the development sector, that I was going to make this decision. When the incident happened, where a wall collapsed in Guardiamangia, it was God's will that no one died."

He said that he was "happy to see that all the people around the table who, whilst anyone will find points where to disagree, all agreed when I announced this".

"With the situation as it is, it is important to stop and take a period of reflection to look at the new regulations."

He reiterated a number of times that most people follow the rules, but insisted that there are people who "try pass to through the window as soon as you close the door, and when you close the window they pass through the ventilator".

"The principal point in all this is that we need to remove the scenario where everyone blames each other, and they end up saying that "its because the government has to keep an eye out."

He maintained that the Government cannot be everywhere and check on everything - "there are responsibilities," he said, "that is why warrants are given out and that is why there are professionals."

He did not comment on the case in Guardiamangia specifically, so as not to prejudice the case, however noted that he was informed it was very clear who was responsible.

With regards to the specific changes in regulation, Muscat said that the responsibilities of the architect will be clarified, particularly with regard to the method statements they draw up.

He explained that if the contractor does not follow the method statement, then he will be held responsible.

The site manager or the architect will also be required to be on site when crucial decisions are made, and their presence on-site must be documented.

Another proposed change for site managers will be that they must either have the required qualifications or else the project's architect must certify that he trusts him as a site manager.

Other changes include the drafting of geological surveys, where before it was required to be done if one digs deeper than three meters, and now it must be done by force.

The Prime Minister also pointed out that the coming weeks will cost millions in work, but he will not risk someone dying when he will still end up making the same decisions.

After Brexit, France could be an ally

The Prime Minister explained that after he had a bilateral meeting with the French President Emmanuel Macron on Brexit, France could be another ally within the EU - particularly due to what he called "excellent relations between Malta and France".

The summit which takes place takes place every six months between seven Mediterranean countries - France, Spain, Portugal, Malta, Cyprus, Greece and Italy - is meant to coordinate the various positions held between the countries involved.

"We try to coordinate our positions together for the EU Council meetings and European politics in general."

This was not done for all to "sing that same song", Muscat explained, but to focus on areas where there is agreement.

"The meeting, as the other leaders told me, was fruitful because we find ourselves on the eve of a number of decisions the EU will be making."

"The direction the EU will be taking in the next five years, discussions on the budget for the next seven years, and the leadership of the European institutions."

Immigration, technology and innovation were also discussed.

"For us, as a country, it was another opportunity to show what we are capable of offering with regards to ideas."

Malta Air

Moving on to the recent movements in the aviation sector, the Prime Minister said that through Malta Air, Malta will be able to enter new markets which have we have otherwise not been able to enter.

He noted how Ryan Air has a new European strategy, where instead of having one large company in Ireland, they are spreading out over four companies - one in Ireland, one in Poland, one in Austria, and one in Malta.

From the current six planes, Muscat explained that Ryan Air will be expanding its base in Malta to ten planes, and also remove 50 planes from foreign registers and move them onto Malta's, which he said will lead to an investment of around €1 billion.

He clarified that whilst the company will be created together and that the company will be owned by Ryan Air, the government will have a golden share which will have nominal value but great strength.

He made it clear that this will not affect Air Malta's work, but will expand it in the years to come whereby they will not only be useful for Maltese routes but Mediterranean ones.


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