AD approves measure to tackle empty properties, criticises lack of traffic and pollution measures

Party not happy about absence of intervention in private property market and lacklustre renewable energy proposals

AD chairman Carmel Cacopardo
AD chairman Carmel Cacopardo

In a statement following the government’s 2018 budget announcements, Alternattiva Demokratika Chairperson Carmel Cacopardo said the party approved of the government’s efforts to finally introduce measures to deal with the issue of uninhabited properties.

“Government is finally heeding AD’s long standing proposals,” Cacopardo said, “however we cannot fail to note that it is postponing the necessary and urgent intervention in the private rental market - the market is failing tremendously and state intervention is absolutely necessary immediately.”

AD was in agreement that the state had to guarantee adequate social housing for those who needed it, and it insisted that it had to be provided in tandem with services to help such people put their and their families’ lives in a good position.

The party said that the country’s financial surplus showed that there was an effort to balance public revenue and spending after years of neglect, but it asked how much was being contributed to the surplus through tax paid by letterbox companies. “The strengthening of laws against tax evasion in other countries, whatever the Maltese Government wants and thinks, will certainly affect such income in the near future. This is income derived from evasion of taxes in other countries. These countries are already working to tackle this issue,” AD said. It maintained that the budget speech ignored this reality.

The minimum wage agreement was something positive, but substantial improvements to make the minimum wage adequate were still lacking, and those on a minimum wage remained at risk of poverty.

“Despite the boasting about the increase in the number of tourists and the competitiveness of this sector, the reality is that many workers in this sector have working poor conditions, and infrastructure and services are not coping with influx of tourists. This sector is notorious for the number of workers on zero hours contracts, an issue which the budget speech ignores completely”, the party maintained.

Furthermore, it said that the policy of increasing the capacity of existing roads, through flyovers and tunnels, would address congestion in the short term but would lead to more traffic. “The government is acting like an overweight person who ‘solves’ his expanding waistline by changing his wardrobe instead of going on a diet. Although the Minister of Finance seems to have realized that the road building policy will not solve the problem, Government is ironically failing to act effectively other than promising more road upgrades,” it said.

AD claimed the government was “afraid to be decisive”, and that its policies would keep increasing air pollution and respiratory diseases. It emphasised that serious and immediate policies were needed to create incentives for cleaner means of transport, prioritise public transport on the roads and make it easier for cyclists to commute safely. In this regard, the AD insisted that “bicycle highways” were needed, and that “it is time for decisions” when it comes to improving the traffic situation.

The party said that while every budget announced token measures on afforestation, “instead of lining streets with trees and increasing space for trees in urban areas, trees are felled in the useless exercise to make space for more traffic and increase pollution.”

It praised the introduction of a deposit system for beverage containers, and noted that it had made the same proposal in 2004.

The party was less positive about the government’s waste management proposals, and said “the Government should admit that is has failed in waste management. Its plan to build an incinerator to burn 40% of waste is testament to its utter failure. Incineration of waste should be the last resort for waste that absolutely cannot be reduced or recycled.”

It was also not complementary of the renewable energy proposals, saying the government was aiming for the minimum possible, and had not acknowledged the importance that such a sector had in the creation of jobs in the country. “It remains our aim to make Malta a ‘net zero carbon’ economy by 2050”, the party added.