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.
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