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Saviour Balzan | Wednesday, 05 November 2008

Green Gonzi has lost the plot

I am not impressed, even though the Federation of Industry and Chamber of Commerce have applauded the budget. Really, I am not quite surprised that the business community would have welcomed Budget 2009.
However, if you still want to the see the real Chamber of Commerce and FOI in action, just imagine for a minute that this particularly bland budget had been presented by a Labour government.
Years ago, when people were being told about the importance of green issues, they were dismissed as “tree-huggers”, laughed at and ridiculed. I have to say, listening to Dr Gonzi talk about green issues reminds me of Columbus seeing land for the first time.
So, we are told, we will pay more taxes for plastic bags because they cause harm to the environment. It is all part of Gonzi’s way of introducing small taxes and raising the prices of commodities.
Plastics bags are like hearts in the human body. There are replacements for them. You can run retail outlets without disposable plastic bags. They have done this in other countries, so why not in Malta?
Taxing the plastic bag was first excogitated by George Pullicino some three years back. As always, il-Pullicin created a system which was full of loopholes and more importantly, it allowed the producers of plastic bags to create new sizes of bags that avoided the eco-tax.
This eco-tax is an immense amount of rubbish: none of the revenue goes back to the environment, it just goes into a kitty and there it is used for the general needs of the State.
If taxing a plastic bag is a mess, then what should we say about the recycling of waste created by Pullicino, and which turned into a veritable mess?
Now Dr Gonzi has come out with a new tax that will cover all plastic bags. Of course, it would have been much simpler to just ban disposable plastic bags outright, and encourage the use of paper or carton, or better still, plastic bags with a longer half-life.
The green budget we were presented with was powered by new EU obligations: without them we would not have had a word of green in Fenech’s speech.
You may not have noticed, but Gonzi is a prisoner of Brussels, a veritable inmate of the EU’s technocracy; and the MLP led by Muscat is so scared of being accused of being anti-EU that it says nothing.
The green issues raised in the budget are in reality a far cry from the real environmental needs of this country.
When we talk of carbon dioxide emissions, reducing ozone and other gaseous controls, we are really participating in a worldwide joke: believing that control of these gases will make a better world and alter climate change. When we talk of energy conservation, we are really talking about saving money.
The fundamental green issues, such as saving my carob tree from the land speculators, appear to be a totally different matter which does not concern our politicians.
If Malta implodes into a trillion small particulates, no one in this world will notice, let alone will the climate change.
But if l-Ibragg joins with Swieqi, and Swieqi with San Gwann and San Gwann with Naxxar and Naxxar with Mosta, then we all sort of notice that something has been lost forever.
I am not saying that we should not control emissions; just that it should not be done for the silly and daft reason that we want to appear better than everyone else, each time our Prime Minister lands in a Brussels meeting hall with other European leaders.
And we all know that Malta’s contribution to these emissions is completely irrelevant.
The more important environmental decisions are the ones which concern us today. The green belts, sprawling building sites, dirty beaches, the polluted shores, hunting and trapping, the dumping of illegal waste, the preservation of our countryside, and so many other small things which are not underlined in any budget proposal, but which all remain items for tomorrow.
The proposals for extending photovoltaic usage are at best limited, and really will not change anything. Unless there is a full-blown investment in this sector, the savings will be overridden by the increase in consumption of energy by an ever-increasing and demanding consumer.
Ten years ago we had fewer air conditioners, smaller homes, fewer appliances and, God knows, a more Henry Thoreau way of doing things.
But beyond the green tinge in Gonzi’s vision, this budget has confirmed one thing: Gonzi has lost the plot.
His predictions last year were wrong, despite the fact that he had been told that they were grossly incorrect.
Significantly, Gonzi blames his errant budget on the subsidies to Enemalta, although – as Vince Farrugia pointed out – these have been going on for years.
And Gonzi blamed the international crisis for his financial miscalculations, when we all know that the fall of the financial giants happened at the beginning of October.
I started off with the FOI and the Chamber of Commerce, and I chastised them for their docile approach to the budget. But they had this to say in a press release issued yesterday: ‘Considering that the Government is embarking on the Vision 2015 to achieve a number of Centres of Excellence, there was no mention of what existing as well as new growth sectors the Government intends to target. Coupled with this, there is an absence of new access to finance tools, such as micro credits, proof of concept funds and venture financing that go hand-in-hand with such developments …’
Conservative and reserved as always, the Chamber of Commerce and Federation probably wanted to say: “What is all this about a centre of excellence in 2015, when we cannot really see any growth potential?”
The long and short of it that this budget reduces purchasing power and has no ideas for creating new business on a local level. And if you are thinking of being successful and entering into the realm of the rich, forget it. If you are rich and successful you are bad, and you should be taxed dry. Stay poor and start looking like a Nationalist socialist (not a national socialist)!
For more on this successful budget, read MaltaToday next Sunday.


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