Sociologist from Malta

Monday, March 19, 2018

A post-electoral incinerator - Michael Briguglio

A 5,000-square-metre incinerator with a 70-metre chimney will be developed in Magħtab by 2023. It will gobble up 40 per cent of Malta’s waste and will produce 69,000 mega watt/hour of electricity, electricity from non-recyclable waste.
According to the technical report of British company Frith Resource Management, the technology used for this ‘moving grate combustion’, is the “best, most efficient method of incineration used around the world!” A total €100 million will be invested in the project through a public-private partnership to design, finance and build and its emissions will be covered by the EU industrial emissions directive.
The above is the government’s narrative on its incineration policy. In the meantime, residents in the Magħtab area are concerned that the government has abandoned previous plans and decided to opt for incineration prior to engaging in wide consultation. One major issue is that plastic will be burned in the proposed plant and that this can have negative impacts on people’s health.
Sure,  the government can insist that it is engaging with experts in the field on this matter. Indeed, Environment Minister José Herrera recently told a newspaper that he has informally met experts, various potential investors, NGOs and politicians from all sides of the political sphere. He also said that experts and NGO representatives who form part of his technical committee gave “unanimous” advice that Malta needs a waste-to-energy plant.
Would he courteously bother to publish minutes on such meetings? Can he also inform the public how the representatives of his technical committee were chosen, and which forms of expertise were considered?
Herrera also said that he did not meet the residents’ association as he did not know where the plant was to be placed. Well, what is stopping him from meeting them now? And why not meet representatives of other localities including local councillors, given Malta’s small size?
Local councils’ already limited authority is being gobbled up by an increasingly hungry State that centralises power in the hands of ministers
The minister is also justifying his pro-incineration stance by insisting that Malta is running out of space and time on waste management. Here he has a point, especially since at current rates, Malta’s landfill will be full up in around two years.
But surely, the government’s lack of commitment to various aspects of waste management does not help. Indeed, one can safely say that following Malta’s EU accession, Malta adopted a number of positive waste management initiatives and even though the country was a European laggard, things were improving. But this was not sustained in the past years.
Government-owned Wasteserv has some very dedicated and professional people. But it is also serving as an employment agency especially for workers from ministerial constituencies. Public sector initiatives that were being developed in the past, such as the Green Leaders scheme were abandoned, and green public procurement is way too basic to be taken seriously.
Government action on the three ‘Rs’ – reduce, reuse, recycle – is very poor, and rhetoric on the circular economy is not implemented. Suffice to say that construction waste – which accounts for around 85 per cent of waste in the islands – is not re-used. Business waste is largely unaccounted for.
Huge public institutions and huge areas such as beaches have very rudimental waste management operations. Local councils’ already limited authority is being gobbled up by an increasingly hungry State that centralises power in the hands of ministers.
In short, the government is failing to keep up the momentum on waste management. Should such inefficiency persist, the government’s mantra of ‘there is no alternative’ could well become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In the meantime, the Labour government should be challenged on what it means by a public-private partnership. Will it be another Vitals? Will there be dubious links as is the case with other privatisation projects? Will government commission independent reports regarding pollution and other environmental, economic and social impacts? Do such reports already exist?
Finally, why is the government planning to have the incinerator ready after the next general election and not before it? And why was it announced after last year’s general election?

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Voti tad-deheb - Michael Briguglio

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Ftit tal-granet ilu l-Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) ippublikat ivestigazzjonijiet dwar il-bejgh tal-passaporti minn tmien pajjizi fl-Unjoni Ewropea.

Bhal ma nafu, dawn l-iskemi gibdu l-attenzjoni tal-Parlament Ewropew u ta’ l-ghaqda internazzjonali Transparency International, li qed jappellaw lill-UE sabiex ikun hemm skrutinju fuq dawn l-iskemi minhabba l-possibilita’ ta’ korruzzjoni, hasil ta’ flus u theddid ghas-sigurta’.

Il-Kummissjoni Ewropea ser tippubblika rapport dwar dan iktar tard din is-sena. Nawgura li dan ma jkunx karatterizzat minn diskors vag u burokratiku z-zejjed li ma jmur imkien.

L-investigazzjoni ta’ l-OCCRP tkopri lil Malta flimkien ma’ s-seba’ pajjizi l-ohra. Tghid li l-ikbar numru ta’ xerrejja ta’ passaporti gejjin mir-Russja u li xerreja ohra gejjin minn pajjizi fosthom l-Arabja Sawdita. 78 fil-mija tal-propjetajiet li inxtraw minn dawn in-nies jinsabu fiz-zona ta’ Tas-Sliema.

S’issa, il-bejgh tal-passaporti minn pajjizna iggenerat iktar minn €850 miljun fl-ekonomija, u hi raguni principali li tispjega kif il-finanzi pubblici qed jirregistraw surpus. Dan ta’ l-ahhar gie kkonfermat mill-Fondi Monetarju Dinji.

Sa’ Dicembru tal-2017, €363 miljun gew depozitati fil-fond nazzjonali li fetah il-gvern ghal zvilupp u affarijiiet socjali. Dan il-fond jircievi 70 fil-mija tad-dhul mill-bejgh tal-passaporti.

Il-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat dan l-ahhar habbar li €27 miljun s’issa gew investiti, u rapport iktar ricenti fuq TVM zvela li iktar minn €80 miljun intefqu sa l-ahhar ta’ Jannar. Tajjeb ikun hemm rapport awditjat li jelenka u jivverifika din l-ispiza.

Sa dan it-tant, l-aptit tal-Gvern li jkun dipendenti fuq dan id-dhul ‘facli’ qed jikber. Skond Identity Malta, fil-gimghat li gejjin, ser jigu ppublikati ir-rizultati tal-process ta’ konsultazzjoni biex l-iskema titwessa ghal iktar minn 1,800 applikant.

Jien ktibt lill-Gvern dwar din il-konsultazzjoni u ssuggerejt li din tkun wahda miftuha u wiesgha li tinkludi dibattiti pubblici u deliberazzjoni serja, u mhux 8 mistoqsijiet ikkontrollati li ppublika l-gvern permezz ta’ formula fuq l-internet. Izda ma jidhirx li l-iktar gvern ‘progressiv, trasparenti u feminista’ huwa interessat f’din it-tip ta’ konsultazzjoni.

Tajjeb li l-oppozizzjoni, is-socjeta’ civili u l-istampa ikomplu jiskrutinjaw lill-Gvern dwar il-bejgh tal-passaporti. Per ezempju, qed isir social impact assessment li jivverifika l-impatti ta’ din l-iskema fuq id-demografija u komunitajiet lokali? Il-vizjoni tal-Gvern hi wahda li thares fit-tul jew li tiffoka fuq il-htigijiet ta’ Joseph Muscat u c-cirku ta’ madwaru?

Id-dipendenza fuq il-bejgh tal-passaporti u l-propjeta’ qed taffettwa investiment f’setturi iktar sostenibbli u innovattivi? Il-Gvern Laburista qed jippjana li jonfoq flus iggenerati mill-iskema ghal skopijiet partiggjani fix-xhur ta’ qabel l-elezzjoni generali li jmiss? Il-Partit Laburista qed johloq kostitwenza politika gdida ta’ xerreja ta’ passaporti? Ix-‘xiri’ ta’ voti huwa gustifikat f’demokrazija liberali?

Dan l-artiklu deher fil-Mument, 18 ta' Marzu 2018.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Those golden votes - Michael Briguglio

Last week the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) published investigations it carried out on citizenship – and residence-by-investment schemes, also known as ‘Golden Visa’ or ‘cash-for-citizenship’ programmes – which are available in eight EU countries including Malta.
Such schemes have also captured the attention of the European Parliament and of transnational NGO Transparency International, which is appealing to the EU to pay close attention to such schemes so as to safeguard the bloc’s borders from corruption, dirty money and threats to security.
Indeed, the major concern on this programme by such organisations and institutions is that it makes life too easy for persons involved in organised crime, tax evasion and other illicit activities compared to the life of honest and legitimate business people.
Now this is not to say that all those who buy citizenship are involved in illicit activities. I personally am against this scheme, but I am ready to accept that some people buy citizenship for legitimate reasons. But surely, more transparency on such schemes would be most welcome. Let us hope the European Commission report due to be published this year will not be a mishmash of illegible bureaucratic discourse that goes nowhere.
Let us come back to Malta. The OCCRP investigation suggested that the highest number of buyers are from Russia and that others come from countries including Saudi Arabia. Seventy-eight per cent of properties purchased by citizenship buyers are in the Sliema area. Information is otherwise scarce as the government of Malta is trying to reveal as little information as possible on the purchases.
What we also know is that so far Malta’s Individual Investment Programme has generated more than €850 million for the Maltese economy, and that it is a main reason why the country’s national budget has moved from deficit to surplus. This was also highlighted by the International Monetary Fund.
By December 2017, €363 million from the IIP scheme were deposited into the National Development and Social Fund, which received 70 per cent of IIP contributions.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat recently said that €27 million of this amount was invested by December 31, 2017, and that €335 million remained in the balance. More recently, a report by TVM said that over €80 million were spent by the end of January. One expects a comprehensive and audited report which details and verifies such expenditure.
In the meantime, the government’s appetite for being dependent on such easy money is growing. Its consultation process on whether to extend the programme beyond the original promise of 1,800 applicants has closed and results are due to come out in the coming weeks, according to Identity Malta.
I myself wrote to the government about the process and suggested that consultation should also include public debates to enable proper deliberation, and not just eight controlled questions which government suggested through an online form.
The concern of organisations like OCCRP and Transparency International has to do with the governance and transparency aspects of schemes like Malta’s IIP. As a Maltese national, I am also very much concerned about its social, economic and political aspects.
Does the government’s consultation process include a social impact assessment that verifies the longer term impacts of demographic changes on local communities? Is the government’s economic vision tied to its electoral cycles and to the fortunes of Joseph Muscat and his inner circle?
Is Malta becoming too dependent on this scheme and its offshoots such as real estate at the expense of other economic sectors that may be more sustainable? And does the Labour government aim to use funds generated from the scheme to ‘buy’ votes through the power of incumbency in the upcoming general election? Is Labour also creating a new constituency of passport buyers? Are these fair campaigning methods in a liberal democracy?

Sunday, March 11, 2018

L-ghaqda fid-diversita' - Michael Briguglio

Stharrig xjentifiku ta’ gazzetti differenti qed juri bic-car li hemm distakk konsiderevoli bejn il-Partit Laburista u l-Partit Nazzjonalista.

Hemm min sahansitra qed jispekula li tant hemm distakk kbir li Joseph Muscat irid jghaggel bir-riformi kostituzzjonali sabiex eventwalment ikun jista’ jahkem iktar poter taht idejh.

Izda l-istharrig juri ukoll li l-unika alternattiva politika ghall-Gvern Laburista hi dik ta’ Gvern Nazzjonalista, anke jekk il-figuri jaghtu vantagg kbir lill-Partit Laburista. Il-partiti z-zghar huma pratikament invizibbli u dan jikkonferma li meta jikkontestaw wahedhom, dawn il-partiti m’ghandhomx cans jigu eletti fil-parlament.

Jidher li maggoranza kbira tal-poplu Malti tippreferi l-istil ta’ governanza ta’ Joseph Muscat u t-tkabbir ekonomiku minn fatturi ohra bhall-governanza tajba, is-sigurta’, l-ambjent u jekk il-mudell ekonomiku li qabad pajjizna huwiex wiehed sostenibbli. L-istess haseb il-poplu Malti fl-elezzjoni tal-2017.

Dan kollu ghandu jhasseb lil min jixtieq jara Gvern nadif mibni fuq il-governanza tajba. Personalment nemmen li biex dan isehh, jehtieg li jkun hemm iktar ghaqda mill-forzi varji li jezistu fl-oppozizjoni. Dan jehtieg sforz genwin u matur minn kull naha. Inkella ser jibqa jkun hemm lok ghal iktar sahha ghal Joseph Muscat.

Ma nara xejn hazin li fil-Partit Nazzjonalista hemm min hu iktar liberali u min hu iktar konservattiv. Din id-diverista’ kienet tezisti taht Eddie Fenech Adami u din il-koalizzjoni gabet bidliet storici f’pajjizna. Lanqas ma’ nara xejn hazin li gruppi ta’ attivisti ikunu iktar vicin ta’ xulxin jew li hemm ucuh bi stili differenti. Huwa fatt socjologiku li f’kull organizazzjoni ikun hemm dawn l-affarijiet.

Li hu importanti hu li meta jkun hemm decizzjonijiet demokratici dawn jigu accettati minn kulhadd.  Huwa daqstant important li r-rebbieha jizguraw li l-minoranzi jhossuhom parti mill-organizazzjoni, u li l-minoranzi ghandhom jirrispettaw ir-rieda tal-maggoranza. Id-djalogu, l-immanigjar ta’ interessi u vucijiet differenti, u regoli cari huma essenzjali biex dan isehh. Fi ftit kliem, partit irid ikun unversali bizzejjed li jinkorpora fih elementi u identitajiet partikolari li lesti jahmdu flimkien u li jirrispettaw id-diversita’ ta’ bejniethom.

Imporanti ukoll li jkun hemm rispett reciproku bejn l-oppozizzjoni u s-socjeta’ civili. Dan qeghdin narawh f’oqsma bhall-governanza tajba u l-ambjent, izda jehtieg li jkun hemm investiment ikbar dwar dan minn dawk kollha li jixtiequ bidla fit-tmexxija ta’ pajjizna: l-istess tmexxija li qed tahtaf iktar poter taht idejha, li qed izzarma l-istituzzjonijiet u li qed tbiegh il-wirt komuni permezz ta’ politika bla ruh.

L-istharrig jista’ jaqta qalb dawk li jixtiequ jaraw governanza tajba f’pajjizna. Jista’ jwassal ghal settarjanimzu li jaghti iktar sahha lill-Partit Laburista. Izda stharrig ma jistax jipprevedi mumenti storici li jistghu igibu bidliet kbar. U fost dawk li jwiegbu l-istharrig hemm dawk li ma jaghtux opinjoni: Tajjeb li wiehed jinterpeta l-messagg taghhom ukoll.

Dan l-artiklu deher fil-Mument, 11 ta' Marzu 2018.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Towards a one-party system? Michael Briguglio

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Current talk of town is that Joseph Muscat’s Labour Party is so popular that we are heading towards a one-party system. Some are speculating that Labour is heading towards two-thirds parliamentary majority, which would practically guarantee a quasi-monopoly on political power, including constitutional reform.
This conspiracy concludes that Muscat wants a presidential system which thus make him supreme leader after he quits as Prime Minister.
What does evidence tell us? Public social scientific surveys carried out after the 2017 general election show that Labour initially further increased its share of the vote but this difference has narrowed slightly. And as any social scientist worth his mettle would know, the interpretation of surveys also includes the interpretation of gaps, voids and abstentions.
The latest survey in this regard was published by GWU paper It-Torċa on February 25. Its take-home points include that Joseph Muscat is ahead of Adrian Delia by 24 percentage points and that the former enjoys trust by all Labour voters while the latter enjoys trust by 72.5 per cent of Nationalist voters. Thus, Muscat enjoys trust of 47 per cent of respondents while Delia enjoys 23 per cent. A similar survey carried out by Malta Today a few weeks earlier showed that Muscat enjoys 41 per cent trust compared with Delia’s 15 per cent. In this case, Muscat had experienced a drop of nine points while Delia experienced an increase of eight points.
It-Torċa’s survey also found that 47 per cent of respondents would vote Labour while 29 per cent would vote Nationalist. Four per cent were undecided, 12 per cent refused to reply, 6.5 per cent said they would not be voting and 1.5 per cent said they would vote for other parties.
It-Torċa’s pollster Vincent Marmarà, a statistician with an excellent reputation, used a particular scientific research method to interpret the choices of undecideds and non-responders – this is the same method he used for his famous survey before the 2017 general election.
Last Sunday Marmarà’s method concluded that were an election to be held today, 58 per cent would vote Labour, 40 per cent would vote Nationalist and 1.6 per cent would vote for other parties. Comparatively, the last Malta Today survey concluded that 42 per cent would vote Labour, 29 per cent Nationalist and one per cent Alternattiva Demokratika.
The Malta Today survey also showed a non-vote response of 10 per cent and an undecided percentage of 17. These surveys clearly show that a comfortable majority of the population prefers Joseph Muscat and his style of governance to Adrian Delia’s alternative, and they seem to favour economic growth to other policy concerns such as good governance, security, transport, environment and sustainability of the current economic model. Here there is little difference to what the electorate preferred in the 2017 general election, when the Nationalist Party was headed by Simon Busuttil through its Forza Nazzjonali coalition.
However, there is a difference within the Nationalist Party today. Its current leader enjoys a democratic mandate – the most democratic one to date in view of party members’ right to vote – but paradoxically the same leader is experiencing a trust-deficit among some PN activists and voters. To me it is clear that this phenomenon is working to Labour’s advantage and is a major challenge for different sides within the PN camp. This is even clearer when all recent general elections and scientific surveys clearly show that third parties contesting on their own steam remain practically inexistent in Malta’s political map.
Upcoming surveys will confirm or otherwise whether Delia’s small inroads since officially becoming PN leader represent an upward trend and whether this will be sustained. One also has to look into the possible leadership contest within Labour.
The non-voting and non-declared respondents within such surveys could be giving different messages. They might not be trusting the pollsters or they may simply not be bothered to reply. They might also wish to send a message to their respective parties or feel unrepresented by all. Amid such mixed messages, Marmarà’s method provides a reliable interpretation.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Analizi ta' partit - Michael Briguglio

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Jezistu differsi forom ta’ analizi ta’ partit politiku. Tezisti analizi esperta, analizi ibbazata fuq l-esperjenza u anke tahlita tat-tnejn. Din ta’ l-ewwel tinvolvi dixxiplini bhas-socjologija, ix-xjenza politika u l-kommunikazzjoni, u dik ta’ l-ahhar tinkludi esperjenza politika fuq livelli varji.

F’dan l-artiklu nixtieq nipproponi xi kuncetti u metodi li jistghu iservu biex partit politiku janalizza lilu nnifsu.

F’dak li ghandu x’jaqsam ma’ kuncetti, tajjeb li partit jaghraf x’inhi l-identita’ tieghu. X’inhi l-ideologija tal-partit? X’diskors ghandu jintuza fuq kwistjonijiet varji? X’inhuma l-ghanijiet, u x’inhi l-vizjoni? Liema valuri ghandhom jiggwidaw il-partit? Dawn kif jistghu jigu applikati ghal suggetti u kwistjonijiet differenti?

F’socjeta’ pluralista u likwida, u f’socjeta’ ikkaratterizzata minn opportunitajiet, riskji u identitajiet differenti, tajjeb li l-principji ta’ partit ma’ jkunux tant monolitici u rigidi li ma jkunux applikabbli ghall-hajja ta’ kuljum. Tajjeb li jkun hemm djalettika hajja bejn il-principju u r-realtajiet socjali tal-mument, minghajr ma’ partit ibigh ruhu akkost ta’ kollox.

L-analizi ghandha ukoll tiffoka fuq min jirraprezenta il-partit. Ghandha tara min huma l-votanti u l-membri rispettivament, minn fejn gejjin, x’inhu l-profil socjali u demokgrafiku taghhom, x’valuri ghandhom. Partit ghandu jara ghalfejn m’huwiex jappella ghal certi gruppi jew demografiji ta’ nies u jekk ghandux jipprova jappella ghalihom. Fl-istess hin, partit ghandu jara x’inhuma l-valuri l-iktar universali u partikolari fis-socjeta’, u kif dawn jistghu jigu rikonciljati mal-principji tieghu.

Tajjeb ukoll li l-partit jara l-profili tar-rapprezentanti parlamentari u lokali, kif  ukoll ta’ l-ufficjali, impjegati, attivisti u volontiera. Ghandu jara jekk hemmx rapprezentanza xierqa ta’ l-identitajiet varji fis-socjeta’ Maltija u jekk hemmx ‘silenzju’ li qed jigi injorat.  Importanti li l-gruppi, il-fora u l-kazini tal-partit ikunu inklussivi u li jservu bhala pjattaforma ghall-ideat u diskussjoni miftuha.

Partit ghandu ukoll jara kif inhuma l-modi varji ta’ kif jistghu jigu mmobilizzati r-rizorsi tieghu, u kif jista’ jahdem ma’ organizazzjonijiet, vucijiet u media ohra fis-socjeta’ civili. Ghandu jizgura li internament jezisti djalogu u li fazzjonijiet jew klikkek jirrispettaw id-differenzi ta’ bejniethom izda li jahdmu ghall-istess ghan.

Partit ghandu ukoll jara kif ikun prezenti fil-komunita’ kemm fizikament izda wkoll fuq il-media socjali. Dawn jinkludu metodi ta’ komunikazzjoni differenti u specjalizzata.

Tajjeb ukoll li partit jaghmel l-ahjar uzu tal-kuntatti internazzjonali tieghu, mhux biss fuq livell ta’ partit, izda ukoll fuq livelli ohra bhall-think tanks, ricerka, komunikazzjoni, edukazzjoni u stharrig.

Kif ghedt hawn fuq, meta partit janalizza materji bhal dawn ghandu jizgura li jigu ingaggati professjonisti u nies ta’ esperjenza politika. Importanti li jintuzaw metodi varji ta’ analizi bhall-sondaggi, servejs, intervisti ma’ esperti, analizi ta’ diskors, analizi partecipattiva, gruppi ta’ diskussjoni u metodi ohra kwantitattivi u kwalitattivi.

Fis-socjeta’ Maltija, partit li jaspira li jkun fil-gvern m’ghandu l-ebda ghazla hlief li jservi ta’ umbrella li tirrikoncilja bl-ahjar mod identitajiet universali u partikolari tas-socjeta’. Biex partit jaghmel dan, tajjeb li jkollu infrastuttura tajba ta’ analizi, kritika kostruttiva, riflessjoni interna, ftuh u djalogu.

Dan l-artiklu deher fil-Mument, 4 ta' Marzu 2018.