Budget 2018 was described as Government’s vision for a prosperous nation, despite the rising concern over the sustainability of the island’s infrastructure and development. But what does Opposition leader Adrian Delia believe Malta’s priorities should actually be, in terms of ensuring continued responsible growth?
“We need to create serenity in our country. Business people already in Malta need to know they can keep on growing in areas which Government has laid down. Governments do not create wealth; governments do not create business, or money themselves, but they create opportunities. They draft and craft legislation, they lay down a vision. Then it is up to our business people to be inspired, to follow that vision and create wealth for the country,” he asserts.
Dr Delia points to the necessity of investing in clean energy with the aim of turning Malta into a zero-carbon or carbon neutral country. “Why are we not talking about, not only trying to reach the Kyoto’s emission targets, as reduced by half, but actually trying to be ambitious and exceed them? We should be trying to give our children a cleaner country, not merely a country which is now dependent on energy coming from elsewhere.”
According to Dr Delia, this all depends on innovation. “There were proposals and ideas being floated about for Malta to become a clean energy hub. Those are feasible ideas. There were proposals on how to harness a mixture between wind and wave energy.” He criticises Government for the lack of progress in this sector. “We’ve heard nothing in five years about clean energy from this Government. Nothing. Not interested.”
A cleaner Malta requires a greener, more efficient transport system. But, Dr Delia points to the challenge which lies ahead to reach that target. “We need to seriously recognise and acknowledge that we have a massive issue on our hands, which has been postponed for years. A thousand cars a month are being registered in our country and in a few years, if not months, we’re going to get stuck in a gridlock. We need to at least acknowledge it and talk about it.”
But what does he suggest? “Start consulting with planners, and not only with politicians, but with people who have experience in traffic planning in island states, rather than in city centres, because the whole perspective changes completely in those cases.”
He emphasises the social psychological problems which arise from intense traffic congestion. “When you get stuck in traffic for two hours a day to travel for 4km, you stop thinking straight. The key solution here is to get to a mass transportation system which works. We need to look at things, not in an ad hoc manner or propose singular initiatives, but in a wholesome comprehensive way to try to really come to terms with this massive problem.”
Under Simon Busuttil, before the previous election, the Nationalist Party had proposed a €2.3 billion multi-modal Metro system, deliverable over 20 years, as well as a car reduction scheme. Does Dr Delia believe this to be the solution? “We need to talk about that kind of solution. From my point of view, I have not looked at any comparative options but we need to look at mass transportation 20 to 30 years ahead.”
Dr Delia emphasises that a vision for the future is imperative. Indeed, he had previously stated that the lack of long-term planning was leading to haphazard development, as evidenced by the state of some industrial zones and tourist centres. “The key is planning ahead. What does our country need in 20 years’ time?” he asks.
“Where are our children going to run about? Where are they going to enjoy themselves? Which are the parks, the green spaces, the green lungs? I have heard talk about construction and environment for years. I have no knowledge of any forested area in Malta which has grown by at least a metre. The issue is not whether you build higher, but whether you grow greener. There is a way to do this and there are intelligent methods we can identify,” he continues.
He stresses that “the Nationalist Party is not against development; it is not against businesses, and it is not against businesses in construction, but it is against haphazard construction and development. It is against development which is not sustainable.” Short term solutions are “ones of political convenience” and “we need to give comfort to our business people that Malta will remain a thriving business community in a structured manner; that we will continue developing, but in a planned manner.”
His vision for Malta is one focusing on the various sectors and industries. Education is one of his priorities, as is the need to distribute the country’s wealth. “The problem is we are creating too much for too few and not enough for the many. Business is not the economy of numbers alone. We need to ascertain the new sectors to be created by Government, and then actually establish that we are able to disseminate the benefits we reap to the widest possible sector of our population.”
A version of this interview appeared in the latest edition of Business Agenda