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MALTATODAY 12 December 2021

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2 maltatoday EXECUTIVE EDITOR Matthew Vella Letters to the Editor, MaltaToday, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 9016 E-mail: Letters must be concise, no pen names accepted, include full name and address maltatoday | SUNDAY • 12 DECEMBER 2021 Pipeline: a sober discussion on our energy future Editorial IN a country where issues are so often politicised before they have time to be properly discussed, the appeal made by the Malta Chamber of Commerce this week to "keep in mind the national interest in matters related to energy provision" provided a so- bering response to a very specific controversy sur- rounding the Electrogas contract: in particular, the questions surrounding EU funding for a gas pipeline to Sicily. In a press conference on Wednesday, Matthew Caruana Galizia, son of slain journalist Daphne Caru- ana Galizia, insisted that Electrogas – as owners of the Delimara plant – would be the net beneficiaries from an EU-funded pipeline. Along with two MEPs, he argued that EU funds should not be used to fund a company in which magnate Yorgen Fenech, who is charged with his mother's murder, is also a share- holder. The same view was soon echoed by the Nationalist Party, which opined that: "The Labour government should not expect the EU to finance a man accused of murdering a journalist who exposed corruption relat- ed to this very deal. It is unacceptable for any funds to go towards compensating Electrogas shareholders on a contract that should have been scrapped long ago because it is tainted by corruption and blood." These are, of course, powerful arguments which appeal directly to our emotive demands to justice and fair-play. They are also eminently understanda- ble, coming from the family of a murder victim. Not only, but today we now that the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia is likely connected to the nefarious business interests she was close to reveal: the con- nection between a secret Dubai company owned by Fenech, and the network of Panama offshore compa- nies opened by people inside the Muscat administra- tion. There is no doubt that Labour's major electoral pledge in 2013, is connected via a secret plan of en- richment, to the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. But as the Chamber of Commerce rightly pointed out, there are other considerations in this particular equation. Truth be told, this controversy has erupted at a deeply inauspicious time for Malta, which is al- ready bracing itself for a sharp increase in fuel prices, expected for early next year. Government has already indicated that it will be absorbing any cost-increase itself, to avoid passing on the expense to the consumer. Its ability to do so, however, will surely be impacted by the sudden, un- expected loss of hundreds of millions in EU funding. On top of that, the original plans for the Malta-Sic- ily pipeline were limited only to the importation of gas; a strategy which had to be suddenly revised last July, when the European Commission announced – with no warning whatsoever – that it would only provide funding for infrastructure that is also capable of running on hydrogen. As a result, Malta was initially refused the €200 million it had applied for in EU funding; that decision, however, was later reversed on the basis of new plans for a 'hydrogen-ready' pipeline instead, and then only thanks to a derogation obtained during the COV- ID-19 pandemic. Effectively, then, the funding for this project could be within reach; but if the above demands are met, and that funding is withheld, it would result in the loss of half the €400 million required for an infra- structural project that is – for better or worse – indis- pensable to guarantee a reliable provision of energy for the foreseeable future, one beyond the need of Electrogas to run the LNG plant. As the Chamber put it: "It is therefore imperative that we find ways of addressing concerns related to the existing agreements, independently of proposed projects that could provide us with more options for energy generation in future. For the benefit of our country and the business community, no one should try to jeopardize EU funding for Malta's energy tran- sition." Matters are further complicated by the fact that Electrogas's current, 10-year agreement for the sup- ply of gas expires in 2027/8: by which time, the gas pipeline would have to be in place, if Malta is to have any form of dependable – and affordable – supply of fuel at all. This, incidentally, applies also in the case of an fu- ture switch-over to hydrogen (although that technol- ogy is in its infancy) which would also be impossible, without a pipeline to connect Malta to the European grid. One must also take into account our European commitments to reduce CO2 emissions by 2050, a transition which, as the Chamber warns, "will require countries to be very careful with managing their en- ergy supply options to minimise the risk of spikes in energy prices." In view of this, one can only concur with the Chamber's assessment that: "Irrespective of the re- quirements of the existing energy and fuel supply agreements, which should of course be questioned on their own merits, we cannot risk putting in danger the country's energy supply for the future." 11 December 2011 Businesses talk of 'waste of time' in tendering for projects THE selection of Zaren Vassallo's company to construct new oncology hospital causes es- tablished construction companies to lament on tender procedures. Established construction companies have lamented over the sheer "waste of time and money" in tendering for major projects, in comments of the surprise decision to select Nazzareno Vassallo's company in the con- struction of the new oncology hospital next to Mater Dei. MaltaToday has discovered that Vassallo's bid was €5 million less than the other two bidders. Talking to experts versed in the workings of bills of quantities for such complex projects, MaltaToday was told that the 16% to 17% variance is staggering, and suspicious. "Variations do take place, but not variations of this kind," one expert in the field, who in- sisted on not being named, said. The two other companies tendered €40 mil- lion and €40.5 million, and each spent around €100,000 in preparing the tender. Vassallo's companies have been gobbling up tenders in recent years, but this last tender raises the question whether the project, at the very end, will have to be revisited to respect the budget restrictions. The same expert said that the €35 mil- lion that Vassallo offered in a tender in fact amounted to €25 million. The tender details that €40 million will be budgeted for the project, but €5 million will go towards VAT while €4.7 million will be allocated to medical equipment which will be contracted under a separate contract. Another €12 million contract for the supply of medical equipment has already been won by a foreign company. The same expert described that in this par- ticular case, the government asked Vassallo to commit himself and confirm that he could carry out the project with that figure. All tenderers were asked to reconfirm the tender issued by 'formulating' a lump sum. ... Quote of the Week "As a person and as a doctor, I always encourage people not to drink or smoke, but at the end of the day, it is their decision to make, and the same principle applies to cannabis" Health Minister Chris Fearne when asked whether he shared concerns of other doctors on the cannabis reform MaltaToday 10 years ago

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