Toni Bezzina tight­ens the nuts

Lately, the Na­tion­al­ist Party Shadow Min­is­ter for Agri­cul­ture and Fish­eries, Toni Bezzina, asked Joe Mizzi, Min­is­ter for Trans­port and the In­fra­struc­ture, a mil­lion-euro ques­tion.

Malta Independent - - GEJTU ON TUESDAY -

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In the House, the Min­is­ter re­vealed that, out of our pock­ets, we have contributed €97mil­lion in sub­si­dies since 2012 to keep the pub­lic trans­port run­ning. The €8 mil­lion sub­sidy granted to Ar­riva in 2012 has now rock­eted to €27mil­lion this year. Roughly, so far, this year the work­ing pop­u­la­tion contributed €141 to ser­vice the trans­port sub­sidy.

By the way, the sub­si­dies are made up of hard earned tax­payer monies.

The sub­sidy that Au­to­buses de Leon is re­ceiv­ing has reached stag­ger­ing, if not alarm­ing, fig­ures. This sub­sidy is day­light rob­bery which needs to be rec­ti­fied within a rea­son­able time­frame. Throw­ing our money at an in­ef­fi­cient ser­vice is po­lit­i­cal dis­hon­esty.

What strikes me in this sad sit­u­a­tion is the fact that, not­with­stand­ing this as­tro­nom­i­cal ex­pen­di­ture, so­ci­ety has re­mained silent, de­spite sec­tions of the me­dia re­port­ing in some de­tail the news. Oth­ers, sadly, for ob­vi­ous rea­sons, just glossed over it. To my knowl­edge, not even the PN has delved into the neg­a­tive mul­ti­plier ef­fect of this hefty yearly pay­out to Au­to­buses de Leon. It seems that no-one in our so­ci­ety is pre­pared to take the lead­er­ship role and make a com­mit­ment to putting an end to th­ese ex­or­bi­tant sub­si­dies.

I am not sure whether so­ci­ety is record­ing th­ese po­lit­i­cal blem­ishes, or whether our com­mu­nity has com­pletely given up that some­day, some­body, will address the prob­lem of pub­lic trans­port ad­e­quately. In this re­gard, Ed­ward Mur­row, the late Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist, tele­vi­sion and ra­dio pi­o­neer who had distin­guished him­self with mil­lions of view­ers and lis­ten­ers, once stated: “A na­tion of sheep will beget a govern­ment of wolves.” A per­ti­nent quote which is very fit­ting to the cur­rent lo­cal po­lit­i­cal sce­nario.

I dread to think that our so­ci­ety is grow­ing into a swarm of wood-bor­ing in­sects that spend most of their lives as lar­vae, tun­nelling below the sur­face of the tim­ber. Hope­fully, I am wrong and so­ci­ety will wake up and take the chal­lenge, even if it is as late as the prover­bial eleventh hour.

That our so­ci­ety is fast be­com­ing self-cen­tred, ego­is­tic and un­re­spon­sive to so­cial in­jus­tices is not an im­pres­sion. It is a fact. If not in my back­yard, then it is not my prob­lem. Re­vers­ing this at­ti­tude is the most dif­fi­cult task for any or­gan­i­sa­tion or po­lit­i­cal party. So­cial in­jus­tices take dif­fer­ent forms and will con­tinue to mush­room un­less peo­ple put their foot down. Many as­so­ciate in­jus­tices with the place of work, but there are other so­cial in­jus­tices which take place else­where and need to be ad­dressed.

The squan­der­ing of mil­lions of eu­ros on the pub­lic trans­port sub­sidy is one of them. This money could have been spent wisely to as­sist the grow­ing num­ber of vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple in our so­ci­ety.

I pen a cou­ple of so­cial in­jus­tices in no par­tic­u­lar order, some of which are rather fresh. The bank guar­an­tee to the con­sor­tium en­trusted to build a gas-fired power sta­tion, the Panama scandal, the bo­nanza prize of mil­lions of eu­ros to the selected few, the en­vi­ron­ment which is con­stantly un­der siege, al­leged cases of cor­rup­tion and the novel ex­am­ple wherein the Prime Min­is­ter hired his own car for of­fi­cial pur­poses. Th­ese are all cases of so­cial in­jus­tices. So­cial in­jus­tices know of no bound­aries. Only good lead­er­ship can address such in­jus­tices.

All the cur­rent talk and opin­ions penned about lib­er­als, con­ser­va­tives and other po­lit­i­cal the­o­ries, slo­gans and catch­phrases which have mush­roomed lately boils down to po­lit­i­cal par­ties turn­ing their back on the needs of the elec­torate. Malta is not any dif­fer­ent.

Thanks to Mr Bezzina, it is now in the pub­lic arena that pub­lic trans­port sub­si­dies are cost­ing the tax­pay­ers mil­lions of eu­ros ev­ery year, for a ser­vice which, at best, can be clas­si­fied as medi­ocre. This ex­trav­a­ganza can­not be sus­tained year on year. A con­certed ef­fort should be staged to address pub­lic trans­port ad­e­quately. Here, I share Min­is­ter Mizzi’s point of view: “there are no quick fixes.” Po­lit­i­cal dilly dal­ly­ing and bo­gus panaceas have short shelf lives so, if I may, I take this op­por­tu­nity to sug­gest that the ex­perts are called in. Please keep at bay the self-ap­pointed pub­lic trans­port ex­perts, of which we have had too many dim-wit­ted ones.

It would be a pity if what Mr Bezzina un­cov­ered in the House is not taken up to fire hearts, minds and souls to bring back proper so­cial jus­tice on the na­tional agenda.

The Malta In­de­pen­dent Tues­day 22 Novem­ber 2016

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