Shock and horror on Freeport expansion: more PN greenwash

Simon Busuttil’s third-time-lucky ODZ policy would mean that he would get his way in government and continue eating into Birżebbuġa

Simon Busuttil visits the Malta Freeport (file photo)
Simon Busuttil visits the Malta Freeport (file photo)

In a recently published document that goes round and round in circles without leading anywhere, the  Nationalist Party declared that the economy must be at the service of people and not the other way round.

In yet another proposal about the environment they spoke about the three shots parliament gets to approve ‘ODZ’ development. These statements have been blown to smithereens by Simon Busuttil’s ‘shock and horror’ at an extremely late admission by PM Joseph Muscat that the Freeport cannot expand anymore.

Simon Busuttil and the PN’s grandiose statements got contradicted by the kap before the ink on the paper had dried. An economy at the service of people means economic development which respects communities, the environment – which encompasses everything, from people’s health and wellbeing, to recognising that there are limits to so called ‘growth’.

It is patently obvious that the Freeport has contributed to job creation and economic prosperity. The problem is that at the planning stage, it seems that only one aspect was kept in mind, how to get things up and running quickly without, or with very little, regard for the community hosting the project. No buffer zone. No facilities to provide electricity to ships, enabling them – or indeed requiring them – to switch of their huge humming engines while berthed. And this was an expansion which over the years ate up community spaces, with the Freeport ending up literally on the doorsteps of Birżebbuġa residents.

Obviously in the time honoured fashion of so called politics in Malta such statements may be seen as some heinous attack on workers at what has been sometimes dubbed PN’s own drydocks. An economy at the service of people in this case means making sure that the Freeport takes steps to minimise the effect on its neighbours. It means managing their facilities in the most efficient and profitable way to keep on providing a decent living to its employees and contribute to our economy. It means accepting that there can be too much of a ‘good thing’ – bigger does not necessarily mean better. When companies become too big, they become dangerous for the economy, not to mention for democracy.

The third-time-lucky ODZ policy would mean that Simon Busuttil would get his way in government and continue eating into Birżebbuġa. What is needed is an analysis of the country’s needs – not just its economic needs – over the next 20 years or so, with clear zoning policies which reflect the needs of communities – including the need for agriculture, open spaces and nature parks. At the end of the day what policies get through depends on who you elect to Parliament – and that is how it should be and should remain. Perpetuate the PL/PN duopoly and you know what you will get.

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