Ralph Cassar, Secretary General, AD
The problem with government’s spending plans is not usually the rhetoric in the budget speech itself, but the lack of money voted for the so called new initiatives or projects. The ‘xi haga ghal kulhadd’ mentality and PL and PN’s penchant for tokenism, coupled with a lack of focus and above all meagre financing means that even the nicest sounding ideas will end up fizzling out, be badly implemented and probably without any long lasting effect.
I will focus on renewable energy, the ‘green economy’ and fuel.
According to government we are on track to reach the minimum 10% target of energy from renewable sources by 2020. However, the real conversion to a ‘green economy’ will only happen if the country sets its sight on the long-term, with much more ambitious targets than the bare minimum.
Incentives for the industry to encourage energy efficiency and renewables are all well and good. I would go further, if there are to be any tax incentives, these should be tied to clear targets on things from the use of energy, the conservation of water, the reduction and reuse of resources to clear and binding targets for zero-waste.
And for heaven’s sake let’s call a spade a spade. Taxes on fuels have since time immemorial provided a sure and steady source of revenue, which finances anything from expensive national health care, to education and social welfare programmes. It is obvious that the controversy on fuel prices is manufactured – the fact that no government ever revised tax on fuels downwards speaks volumes of the sincerity of those who call – depending whether in government or in opposition, for cheap fuel.
It is also patently obvious that when the rates of income tax were reduced by the Nationalist administration, with Labour continuing the planned reduction, the lost revenue would have to be made up for.
Of course the kazin-faithful don’t really get it. It also shows how cut off Simon Busuttil is from what’s going on in the rest of the world when in the same breath he calls for the respect for the environment and for cheap, polluting, cancer causing fuels. His understanding of “l-ambjent” is out-of-date by decades. Mind you, the arguments are the same Labour and Muscat used prior to the election. They sing from the same hymnbook most of the time.
Chris Said is all over Facebook reminding us that the underwater Malta-Gozo tunnel was his and the Nationalists’ idea after all. Labour and Nationalists are competing on who has the looniest ideas. Great!
It is not the 20-minute ferry crossing which is the bottleneck when crossing from Gozo to Malta and back. The longest journey is making your way from Cirkewwa through traffic-clogged roads to destination – usually the commercial centres of the island. People complain of having to rush to catch a bus. Somebody told me of Gozitan nurses arriving late for work at Mater Dei and late back home. Is it too much for government to organise transport for its Gozitan employees working at Mater Dei, and elsewhere, for that matter? Is it too much to have buses leaving from somewhere central in Gozo, boarding the ferry, passengers and all and continuing the journey to Msida, Sliema, Valletta or wherever there is demand?
It is also ironic that a few years ago a fast ferry service between Gozo and Pieta was seen as unsustainable at Lm2 million (€4.6 million) a year – yet the billions of euros needed to build a tunnel seem to be ok. Whatever they say, it will not be €250 million. I might as well stop writing about the tunnel – mark my words, it will never happen. In the meantime the real and difficult solutions to sustainable mobility are ignored.
The respect of diversity and otherness should be the hallmark of a democratic society, and schools are also there to promote good citizenship and democratic values. Manufactured controversies affecting social cohesion and inclusion, especially those dragging in young children and their teachers, most of whom try their best to instill very basic and fundamental values such as respect, acceptance and ‘love thy neighbour’ in their charges are extremely harmful, demoralising and downright irresponsible.
A couple of books per primary school (amongst the hundreds of other resources and books available to teachers) showing in an age-appropriate manner, that some children live in different types of families, created a fuss by ill-informed fundamentalists. Their antics are reprehensible. Putting teachers on the spot for trying their best to do their work is not on. Teachers know best how to use resources provided to them, they know their classes and their students well enough to tackle issues such as different family structures, and yes, the diversity in their classrooms. Above all, they know when to let children be children – loving, accepting and caring. Let us not let the good work already being carried out in schools be undermined. Let us not let ourselves be drawn into useless controversies and let teachers do their work serenely, see where they need more resources and support and just let them get on with their job.
(Article first published on maltatoday.com.mt 23/10/2015)