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MALTATODAY 17 April 2022

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6 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 17 APRIL 2022 OPINION 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 • 17 APRIL 2022 Divorcing planning from environment Editorial IN 2020, one of Robert Abela's first key decisions as Prime Minister was to re-integrate the planning and environment portfolios – which had been 'demerged', under Joseph Muscat – in what was seen as a bid to tilt the balance away from the construction lobby. At the time, many felt that Abela was signalling his intention to give the environment more priority in planning decisions. And environment minister Aaron Farrugia started out on a positive note: drafting a new rural policy regulating ODZ developments, among various other steps in the right direction. But the impression would be short-lived. Right up to the electoral campaign itself, the PA was still issuing controversial permits such as Joseph Portelli's gargan- tuan development in Sannat; moreover, Farrugia's ru- ral policy still remains in limbo, two years after it was drafted. Nonetheless, these pitfalls were not caused directly by Abela's decision to remerge environment with plan- ning. It was more the case that Farrugia showed little political will to scrap planning rules facilitating devel- opment in urban areas; or indeed, anything that might hinder more construction on the island, in general. As such, it makes little sense to simply roll back the situation to how it stood before, as Abela seems to have done, by once again separating the planning from envi- ronment portfolios. In Abela's new cabinet, the planning sector will now get its own ministry, headed by Stefan Zrinzo Azzo- pardi, whose portfolio also includes 'public works', but – significantly – not major infrastructural and capital projects, which now fall under the responsibility of Aaron Farrugia himself. On one level, this will ensure that Zrinzo Azzopardi's main focus will indeed be on the planning sector. But while this may be a sign that planning reforms will be a priority for the new administration, Zrinzo Azzopardi himself remains an unknown quantity. The question therefore becomes: will he forge his own identity as the minister who finally revamped the planning sector, and put a stop to abuses once and for all? Or will he simply act as Abela's 'Yes Man', in such a sensitive sector? If it is the former, how will the new minister strike a balance, in a sector where Labour is caught between ev- er-increasing resistance by local communities – even in its own heartlands – and, on the other hand, powerful lobby groups which curry favour in the halls of power? Besides, with no actual environment responsibility to even answer to, Zrinzo Azzopardi himself will be under far less pressure than Aaron Farrugia to rein in the planning sector. Even on a psychological level, it is always easier to pin down an environment minister for planning misdeeds, when that minister is politically responsible for the environment to begin with. But when the minister has no official obligation to deliver on the environmental front at all, the question of direct political culpability becomes much harder to determine. Naturally, it is too early to tell how Zrinzo Azzopardi will acclimatise to the role. But one key issue bound to test Labour's environmental credentials, will surely be that of land reclamation: a decision which has implica- tions not just on planning, but also on marine ecology and infrastructure. Once again, however, the chain of ministerial com- mand is by no means clear. This sector appears to be split between no fewer than three ministries: that of Miriam Dalli, who is now responsible for ERA; Aaron Farrugia, whose portfolio includes Projects Malta; and Zrinzo Azzopardi, as the PA will still have to set the planning parameters for coastal development. Nor is land reclamation the only sector to be spread out between various ministries. Perhaps the most glar- ing change implied by Abela's new Cabinet was the integration of environment, energy and enterprise in- to Miriam Dalli's mega-portfolio: which – on the plus side – ensures a cohesive environmental policy with regards to climate change and Malta's waste commit- ments, all in the capable hand of an experienced poli- tician. Farrugia, on the other hand, must now fill the shoes of former infrastructure minister Ian Borg. Coming fresh from his environment portfolio, he will surely be ex- pected to show more sensitivity than his predecessor, especially with regard to the environmental impact of road and infrastructural projects such as the proposed Gozo tunnel; the new Paceville road network; the pro- posed flyovers in Msida, the proposed metro system; and many more beside. In short, Farrugia now risks finding himself in the un- enviable position of lending a 'green face', to the very projects that environmentalists love to hate. Nonetheless, while Abela's Cabinet choices certainly do raise questions, they suggest that his main priorities will be on delivering urban greening projects, and im- plementing crucial climate and waste targets which are intertwined with strategic choices in the energy and traffic sectors. From that perspective, it remains to be seen whether Abela's decision to have a separate planning minister will truly bring about any meaningful change in Malta's contentious planning regime; or whether it simply be- trays a preference for retaining the status quo. And if, once again, it turns out to be the latter case: the popular disgruntlement that has already started eating into Labour's super-majority, may yet prove to be its Achilles' Heel. 17 April 2012 Titanic telegram found at Kalkara jumble sale ON the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster, MaltaToday came across a startling artefact from the famous maritime tragedy – found right under our noses The telegram – dated 15 April, 1912, the night the Titanic sank – was found by chance among assorted junk and second-hand items at the Kalkara Sunday jumble sale three years ago. It was sold to a woman for €6. It appears to be a genuine telegram receipt from The Marconi International Marine Communication Company – at the time a prominent London-based telecommunica- tions agency – from the Titanic's sister-ship the Olympic to the rescue boat Carpathia. The message from the Olympic's Captain Herbert James Haddock on the telegram reads: 'Carpathia reached Titanic position at day- break found boats and wreckage only Titanic had foundered about 2.20am in 41.16 N 50.14 W all her boats accounted for about 675 souls saved crew and passengers latter nearly all women and children Leyland Line SS Califor- nian remaining and searching position of dis- aster Carpathia returning to New York with survivors please inform Cunard. Haddock.' The telegram was sent to Cape Race, New- foundland, Canada - the closest port of call for the Titanic at the time. It was received at 4.35pm on the same day. The document provides a snapshot of the turbulent disaster, which has captured the popular imagination from the moment it first occurred. ... Quote of the Week "I will start focusing more on my professional life after having sacrificed it for the last years. I will remain at the disposition of all those that genuinely require my help even if I will not remain active as I was in public life" Former PN MP Jason Azzopardi bows out of politics after failing to get elected MaltaToday 10 years ago

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