The Malta Independent 18 August 2019, Sunday

TMIS Editorial: Tunnelling down the rabbit hole

Sunday, 21 April 2019, 11:30 Last update: about 5 months ago

So, our Members of Parliament, in their infinite wisdom, have decided to go ahead and approve the country’s biggest capital project since the construction of the fortifications –one that will forever change the face and sociological composition of the Maltese Islands – and with having seen a single plan or study.

We would have expected government MPs to blindly follow the party whip, but it is more than a little strange for the Opposition to have backed the parliamentary motion four square.

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By ‘Opposition’ we mean the Nationalist Party because there was a very small part of the parliamentary opposition, Partit Demokratiku, which had the wisdom not to foolhardily endorse the plans.

This is not an argument for or against the construction of a tunnel to and from Gozo; it is an outcry against approving a project of this magnitude, in this day and age, without having even seen the necessary studies, some of which have not been published and some of which have been labelled as fundamentally flawed.

And it also comes at a time when the infrastructure ministry has already admitted cutting corners on road projects by forging ahead with projects without permits when certain cases are deemed to be ‘urgent’.

But, in such cases, who decides if a case is urgent or not? Would that be the same minister who assumed the role of an inquiring magistrate to declare that recent road accidents near the sites of roadworks had nothing to do with the roadworks themselves?

The constituted bodies, including the Gozo Business Chamber, have welcomed Parliament’s unanimous agreement but, again without siding with one argument or another, how could otherwise sane business people endorse a project that has not been put through the right checks and balances or the proper procedures before agreeing on its viability? We do not think this is the way they run their businesses, so why would they have their country run in the same way unless there is a vested interest?

For some, it may boil down to a simple question of euros and cents, but the issue is far greater than that. What we are talking about will irreversibly change the country as we know it and its social dynamics forever.

And how short-sighted was it of all Members of the House to have approved the project before the studies are even completed, while others have not been published and when, at least according to the abstaining PD MPs, the Economic Cost Benefit Analysis of Available Strategic Options is ‘flawed’.  Even the preliminary geological studies have so far been kept under lock and key.

PD boycotted the vote, the PN could have done the same and we all know the motion would have still been carried through Parliament. At least, in so doing, the Opposition would have registered its disagreement with this lopsided, rushed and haphazard way of doing things.

Moreover, as Alternattiva Demokratika pointed out yesterday, the very passing of such a motion before the project is run through the regulatory mill undermines the integrity of the decision-making process of the regulatory authorities themselves, through which not just the government, but now Parliament itself, is conditioning the authorities which need to weigh the application and project with a clear mind and without having been given parliamentary marching orders.

The way in which the project is being shoved through Parliament on the very eve of the Easter recess, and with the full complicity of the Nationalist opposition, serves not only the planning process, but the very posterity of the country no good whatsoever. Such decisions by our lawmakers need to be taken in the most educated way possible, and that has failed miserably with this strange complicity on the Gozo tunnel project, where the PN seems to be in cahoots with the PL in their determination to see the project happen at all costs.

We are well and truly tunnelling down the rabbit hole here with the way in which our politicians are behaving, and where we will come out at the other end is just about anybody’s guess.

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