Letters: 11 January 2015

The environment and us

I don’t know if you feel the same as I do, but I am having the subjective perception that our quality of air has seriously degraded during the last few years.

Every morning when I drive back from Rabat to Qormi, I can visualise a brown layer of air covering most parts of the island, stretching from Mosta to Naxxar, from Sliema to Marsa. It scares me to think that we all breathe these fumes without much realising it. The other day, I was searching for some figures on air pollution on MEPA’s website. It clearly shows that their statistics site has been designed by some IT gurus, showing fancy charts and numbers, without really giving a clear picture.

I finally figured out that during eight days in December 2014, the concentration of nitrogene dioxine and carbon monoxide was clearly above the European Air Quality Standards. 

Humans can be adversely affected by exposure to air pollutants in ambient air. In response, the European Union has developed an extensive body of legislation which establishes health based standards and objectives for a number of pollutants in air. These rules should all have been transposed to national laws.

Air pollution originates from many sources: traffic, electricity generation, combustion. My subjective impression is that traffic is the main reason for the poor quality of air we have. One does not need to have a PhD to realise that the sheer number of cars, trucks and buses contribute to this.

I am still amazed that in the times of mankind flying to the moon, collecting stones on Mars, the different Maltese governments have failed to introduce an alternative to private transport, that the Maltese still need to rely on their private cars to commute. Despite the privatisation of public transport, the introduction of fancy colored oversized buses, no alternatives have been delivered.

My recent bus trip from Qormi to St Julians lasted 100 minutes. Miracles are once again expected from the new public transport operator after the first failed revolution – the Spaniards will bring the “smooth” change. Honestly, I cannot see how: these buses will be once again stuck in traffic, thus not being able to respect any schedules and ultimately not being able to convince private car drivers to use public transport.

I clearly don’t see any vision on transport from the actual government. I have not seen any public transport policy papers or visions, only monorail studies, bridges and road network extensions.

Simple immediate and “free” solutions exist to solve road congestion: all dual carriage roads only need to have one lane reserved for public transport, the introduction of heavy fines for drivers using bus lanes, the increase of car taxation and price of petrol to increase the public transport subsidy, and finally let the public bus operator design and operate the network without government intervention (you surely remember well when Transport Malta people who never travelled by bus imposed the routes on Arriva and on Tumas Group the purchase of clearly oversized buses).

I am also failing to see materialise any alternatives to public transport, maybe the introduction of “velo-lib”, a bicycle rental system used in many European towns, cheaper collective transports like Uber or car pooling would certainly do the trick. I really hope that I will see the day when my bus trip from Qormi to St Julians will only last a maximum 20 minutes, the bus departing at its scheduled time...

Henrik Piski, Qormi

Scoring cheap political points

I am writing with reference to an article published in your newspaper that quotes Dr Jason Azzopardi, a Nationalist MP, as stating that Dr Joseph Muscat had no right to question the Hibs Football Club’s decision to hire a convicted rapist, when he had hired me as a consultant to Malta Enterprise.

I have always had the greatest respect for Dr Azzopardi’s capabilities as an opposition spokesman and a credible and intelligent politician. I am therefore extremely surprised by his correlating me to a convicted rapist.

For the past year and a half, I have been the whipping boy of certain sections of the local media which have, sometimes incorrectly, associated me with the introduction of foreign direct investment to Malta. Much has also been made of the fact that 17 years ago I was accused by the World Bank of operating a cartel with other companies on bank-funded projects – an accusation that has never ever. been tested in a court of law, in spite of several attempts made by me. I have no civil or criminal accusations against me in any courts anywhere in the world, and even if I had been convicted of something, by now, after 17 years, the slate would have been wiped clean.

Yet in Malta, a country that I consider my home, where I live with my family and from where I run my businesses, I am attacked day in and day out by people like Jason Azzopardi who appear to feel that only they have the wherewithal to bring development to this country. I believe that any legitimate investment in Malta’s infrastructure can only lead to an improvement in the quality of life for all of us living on this island, Maltese and non-Maltese alike. The terms on which such development comes is ultimately the responsibility of the government of the day, which rules on the strength of a mandate given to it by the majority of the people.

By equating my appointment as a Malta Enterprise consultant with the signing of a convicted rapist by a local football club, Dr Azzopardi is not only insulting a vast majority of his constituents, by trivialising rape and violence against women, but also showing how low he is willing to stoop in order to score cheap political points.

Dr Azzopardi claims that the footballer in question, after serving six months in prison, has repaid his debt to society. He is however happy to attack Dr Muscat for authorising my appointment even though the events that I was accused of, took place 17 years ago. Surely what is good for the goose is good for the gander?

Shiv Nair, St Julian’s

The worst country in the world?

Way back in May of last year (15 May, 2014) I had quoted Simon Busuttil’s words: “Under the Nationalists we were proud to be Maltese. Under the Labour government, one is ashamed to be Maltese”.

 Recently, the leader of the opposition has more or less said the same thing but changed the words. This time Simon Busuttil said:  “They have made our country the worst country in the world”  (“Ghamluna l-aghar pajjiz fid-dinja”) !!!  I am sure that no one would be proud to be a citizen of “ the worst country in the world “. So Simon Busuttil is again showing that he feels ashamed to be a citizen of Malta, which for him is “the worst country of the world “ !

 Or should we all be ashamed to have such a leader of the opposition? 

Eddy Privitera, Mosta

The strongest are hardest hit

There is an extremely small percentage of leaders and individuals who are not affected by stress. They worry only when they don’t have anything to worry about. However, by far the greatest percentage of leaders and individuals are affected by stress. We have seen throughout history, leaders succumbing to illnesses brought about by stress such as ulcers, strokes and so on.

However there are very few leaders and individuals who keep fighting stress and give an order to their subconscious not to allow stress to manifest itself by disabling some organ or other.

These leaders and individuals keep going regardless of the enormity of stress and then catastrophe happens, the brain will not be able to resist any more and it breaks and a mental illness develops. So those who succumb to certain mental illnesses are really the strongest as they kept stress from manifesting itself in some other organ.

Therefore we should not look negatively at people who suffer from certain mental illnesses.

Josephine Gatt-Ciancio, Kalkara