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MALTATODAY 18 December 2022

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8 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 18 DECEMBER 2022 NEWS JAMES DEBONO INEQUALITY among Maltese taxpayers appears to have in- creased in the first Labour ad- ministration, before starting a decrease during the 2017-2020 period. In 2020, the median net wealth for the lowest fifth of the popula- tion stood at €14,800, while that of the wealthiest 10% of house- holds stood at just under €1.2 million: 80 times richer than those living just above the bot- tom 20% but below the top 60% earners. In an indication that inequali- ty has decreased, the wealthiest 10% had been 95 times wealthier than households in the 20-40% bracket in 2017. This emerges from an anal- ysis of the European Central Bank's Household Finance and Consumption Survey (HFCS) by Central Bank economists Valentina Antonaroli, Warren Deguara and Aleandra Muscat. Inequality is measured using the Gini coefficient, in which a value of zero denotes perfect equality, indicating that wealth is distributed equally amongst all households, while a coeffi- cient of 1 would denote perfect inequality, where all the wealth is held by one household. In Malta, the HFCS's Gini co- efficient increased from 0.56 to 0.60 between 2014 and 2017, but decreased to 0.55 in 2020. This suggests that while accelerated economic growth between 2014 and 2017 fuelled greater inequal- ity, this was not the case in the next three years. Between 2017 and 2020, the value of net wealth increased across all quintiles of income, with that of the top 20% increas- ing from just over €1 million in 2017 to nearly €1.2 million in 2020. But the study suggests that wealth increased at a higher rate for the lower income brackets. While wealth inequality, which includes assets like property owned by households, decreased between 2014 and 2017, income inequality remained stable. The Gini coefficient for income in 2020 stood at 0.40, only slightly decreasing from 0.41 in 2017. The annual household gross median income for Malta in 2020 stood at €29,716, up from €25,417 in 2017. Households in the top 20% of the income distribution had a median income of €71,291, im- plying that they hold on aver- age more than twice the overall median value, and almost eight times that of households in the bottom 20%. Tuna farms eyeing growth to move 4.6km off Qala JAMES DEBONO A north aquaculture zone 4.6km from Qala could host two tuna pens belonging to AJD Tuna and Malta Mariculture, a public hearing on 19 January will determine. Formerly located in St Paul's Bay and off the Comino coats, the pens had already been relo- cated to a nearby area – 7.6km off Qala – in 2017 to minimise coastal impact after their per- mits were revoked in 2016 over environmental infringements. The present plans will locate the new fish-farm zone off Qa- la and 5.7km from Mellieħa, at a distance within the limits of an agreement between the En- vironment and Resources Au- thority and the Department of Fisheries. The latest proposal will now establish a permanent aquacul- ture zone in the north of Malta, in line with country policy. The pens will house a total bi- omass of 6,000 tonnes of tuna, but the amount of cages may vary according to caging re- quirements by ICCAT (Inter- national Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna). The two companies howev- er have permits from the De- partment of Fisheries to house 3,300 tonnes in the two pens, meaning the new zone will ac- commodate future growth of the tuna – something also dic- tated by ICCAT quotas. The Planning Authority's case officer report anticipates that these plans will "further reduce the concentration of aquacul- ture activities in inshore waters, relocate potential polluting ac- tivities and reduce the conflicts with other maritime and tourist uses." An Environment Impact As- sessment for an aquaculture zone around Sikka l-Bajda was carried out in 2019, but in 2020 the agriculture ministry had started a review of the fish-farm relocation off Gozo. "The min- istry is concerned with both the location chosen which is close to touristic and environmen- tally sensitive areas, principally Ħondoq Bay in Qala and the is- land of Comino, and also with the increase in size of the area indicated," a spokesperson had said. "The current fish farming zones already serve the indus- try well and a further expan- sion does not seem justified. Once the review is complete the ministry will be making a fi- nal determination as to wheth- er amend the application as it stands or withdraw it complete- ly." The ERA's clearance carried conditions for regular monitor- ing by the authorities and avi- fauna experts, and controls on the individual operations. Birdlife Malta had expressed concern on locating fish-farms in a marine protection area (MPA) which includes impor- tant bird colonies. One of the major concerns identified in the EIA was the uncertain impact on bird populations, although the operations "are restricted to a small portion" of the MPA. ERA concluded that the pro- posed development is unlike- ly to have significant residual impacts on the environment, especially when considering the distance from the nearest shore and the depth of the seabed. Study suggests inequality increased in first Labour administration between 2014 and 2017 but decreased between 2017 and 2020 Top 10% earners had median net wealth of €1.2 million in 2020 Closer to Gozo and further away from Mellieħa, new fish-farm zone will house up to 6,000 tonnes of tuna The pens had already been relocated to a nearby area – 7.6km off Qala – in 2017 to minimise coastal impact after their permits were revoked in 2016 over environmental infringements

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