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Take cover! Malta’s sustainability guardian is championing ‘marvellous building boom’

Malta’s ‘Guardian of the Future Generations’ should be railing against the construction boom. Instead, he lauds it...

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella
11 October 2017, 11:45am
Mizzi Organisation chairman Maurice Mizzi: his message to employees praising Malta’s construction bonanza jars with his role as ‘Guardian of Future Generations’
Mizzi Organisation chairman Maurice Mizzi: his message to employees praising Malta’s construction bonanza jars with his role as ‘Guardian of Future Generations’
So what does a ‘Guardian of the Future Generations’ do exactly?

Over 25 years ago, the small island of Malta championed the very concept at the UN conference on sustainable development in Rio de Janeiro, to helm a committee that “mainstreams” the principles of sustainable development into the government’s workings.

The first guardian, appointed in 2012, was fittingly Michael Zammit Cutajar, Malta’s former ambassador to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. He resigned, together with the committee, three years later in 2015, citing a lack of government financial support and resources to carry out “serious analysis and innovative recommendations”.

Labour’s replacement – two years later in 2017 – fits the mould as well: the political mould however, not the one required for the principles of sustainability.

For in a galling commentary penned for his organisation’s in-house magazine, the serial entrepreneur Maurice Mizzi has actually lauded the government’s deregulation in planning and the “benevolent” allowance for higher hotels.

Indeed Mizzi – whose remit at law should be to promote sustainable development at both private and public levels – boasted that his Mizzi Organisation was reaping the benefits of Malta’s “bubbling economy” with planning permits for several construction projects and hotel additions.

The key to this success? The Labour government’s relaxation of planning rules:

“The Authorities have opened their doors and are giving building permits without delving too deeply into the parameters of building regulations they are meant to be upholding.

“Whereas previous administrations were possibly too careful and too strict in granting building permits, the policies of this administration have resulted in an enormous array of lifts and building machinery…” (Mizzi owns Titan Industrial Supplies).

“The present administration has been quite quick in their researches and avoided dotting the Is and crossing the Ts. The most indicative of their benevolence is the granting of the addition of another two floors to most hotels.” (This includes Mizzi’s Waterfront Hotel).

Indeed, Mizzi says, “Mizzi Organisation has not stood by and just stared in awe at this new scenario”, before going on to list how his company has benefited from the relaxation of planning rules and policies.

“Malta is definitely on the crest of a wave,” said the guardian in his concluding remarks: “With a pro-business Prime Minister like Joseph Muscat, the end of this marvellous building boom is nowhere in sight.”

One of the critics who flagged Mizzi’s commentary in his blog was former PN policy advisor Manuel Delia.

“Future generations can live in the squalor and congestion caused by over-development and can forget the natural and historical landscape their ancestors enjoyed (unless they live in Bidnija),” Delia wrote, referring to Mizzi’s home in the rural village.

“The Guardian of Future Generations is right royally shafting his wards for the straight profit he is getting today from a government’s benevolent indifference to our environment.”

Was it just a sardonic take on the construction frenzy Labour ushered in since its election to power from the man who for years penned regular columns on gardening for the Sunday Times and MaltaToday?

Mizzi, contacted on Saturday, suggested that the in-house magazine was not for public consumption when asked about a reaction to his critics.

“I have no comment to make,” he said when asked whether he felt he should resign the guardianship if it is at such odds with his entrepreneurial role.

Responsibility for the appointment of philanthropist Maurice Mizzi (his remuneration is donated to the Spiro Mizzi Foundation, a child poverty charity he administers) ultimately rests with José Herrera, the minister for the environment. For how can the chairman of a conglomerate that is a major player in car importation and construction and real estate, be the guardian of future generations?

When Michael Zammit Cutajar was appointed to the post, he described his role as that of a “look-out post, a sounding board and a source of independent criticism and advice.” Mizzi’s worship of Labour’s pro-business mantra is anything but.

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.
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