Some things never change – Ralph Cassar

New candidates, whether running for PL or PN are just nice wrapping, there to dupe people into thinking that something has changed within the catch-all parties they are standing for. It is the same strategy used by the PN in European Parliament elections: fielding candidates who are supposed to appeal to voters with opposing interests. When push comes to shove, it is those who have the other parties in their pockets who call the shots. Those who have organised their events for free, those who have provided ‘free’ security services and those who prop up their heavily-in-debt television stations will queue up to demand payment – from public funds. Those whose abuse has been ignored for years – from the land-grabbers at Armier to the speculator whose fines or buildings on public land have been written off or ‘sanctioned’ will continue in their old ways.

An interview with Joseph Muscat in the ‘Sunday Times’ (17/06/2012) just goes to prove, if any proof were needed, that there isn’t much of a difference between PL and PN: they are both beholden to the land speculation lobby, not to mention the usual arrogant lobbies of hunters and Armier squatters, with whom agreements both PL and PN have signed over the years. The mess created by George Pullicino and Lawrence Gonzi’s cabinet with the so called ‘rationalization scheme’ which turned whole areas of Malta into a construction site again should be fresh on everyone’s mind – we are still and will continue to suffer the consequences of this government’s or party’s (no difference really) love affair with its funders for years to come. Not a whimper from Labour – in parliament its MPs were suggesting additional parcels of land to be included in the scheme. Serving as a councillor in H’Attard I cannot but mention the disaster this building spree has caused.

Do you remember Labour actively lobbying for a golf course in Ta’ Cenc in Gozo? And what about Gonzi’s statements that he’ll see to it that a golf course will be built in Xaghra l-Hamra? ‘Different’ parties, same logic. Now we have Joseph whizzing off to Dubai and coming back excited about land reclamation – obviously, as usual without the details. Typical.

As regards land reclamation per se – this is nothing new – thousands of square metres of land were reclaimed from the sea for specific projects – from theFreeport, to roads along the coast, Msida and Qormi have areas reclaimed from the sea, whole quays are built on what was once sea. What Joseph means is a re-hash of what PN dreamt up as far back as the early 2000s. Pushed by their funders they waxed lyrical about more construction – flats, flats and more flats on artificial islands. As if we need more of that. A MEPA report had concluded that the cost is so high that it can only be recovered by real estate on scale of SmartCity. The misleading statements by the Nationalists about SmartCity–who are addicted to the “construction = growth” mantra are joined by Labour’s promises, basing its economic proposals on the same mantra. It’s nothing new – they sing the same tunes, the Muscat Sunday Times interview is further confirmation of their lack of vision.

When asked if he thinks that in the past 30-40 years too much damage has been inflicted on the environment and someone needs to say ‘that’s enough’, Joseph Muscat chirps that “We’ve gone from one extreme to the other. Nowadays, we need to be realistic. If MEPA was set up during the Knights’ time, it would have probably barred them from building the President’s Palace. We need common sense. We can’t hide behind bureaucracy.”

Incredible but true. It just confirms who is behind his phoney movement – the same people who fund or maybe used to fund PN. They are now hedging their bets on Muscat. Muscat is either living in cuckoo land or is copying straight out of PN’s pro-speculation and speculators’ phrase book. The development process is still skewed in favour of the developer – just look at the resources afforded to ‘planning’ in MEPA and the resources afforded to its environment protection directorate.

What developers must be told is that the industry can flourish in restoring and refitting the tens of thousands of empty buildings all overMalta. There is also a killing to be made in the regeneration of run down areas in the harbour region from Marsa to Cottonera to Kordin – industrial wasteland which can be put to productive use.

The energy sector is another area where both PL and PN lack the vision necessary to move Malta to the forefront of new, renewable and cleaner energy production – creating jobs in new and innovative areas in the process. Unkept promises have characterised the Nationalist party’s ‘reign’. Heavy fuel oil, whose stench, reportedly, can be smelt from Marsaxlokk to Birzebbuga is their legacy. Labour promises a reduction in tariffs and at the same time sings the praises of a 1 billion Euro experiment – again using, coal, the dirtiest fuel of all, with a few olive pits thrown in for good measure – and calls the process ‘clean’. The only way to control the price of energy is first an foremost to continuously increase the efficiency of power plants and distribution, make solar water heaters mandatory on all buildings, invest massively in thousands of small clean energy generating units – be they PV or other sources like micro-wind turbines, coupled with larger renewable energy generating plants.

Labour or Nationalist – a vote for any of them won’t make any difference, if you vote based on principles, that is. The strongest message is in your vote – it will leave an impact and influence decision makers whatever happens. If you want to send a message against the status quo the only choice is Green.

Ralph Cassar is AD secretary general and spokesperson on energy, transport and IT.