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MT 18 September 2016

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maltatoday, SUNDAY, 18 SEPTEMBER 2016 11 MIRIAM DALLI THE government will not be tak- ing any action as more protected birds of prey are being illegally shot dead by hunters, with yet an- other case being reported in Gozo – this time almost resulting in the injury of a swimmer. While questions sent to junior minister Roderick Galdes and Ornis Committee chairman Mark Anthony Falzon have remained unanswered, a spokesperson for the Office of the Prime Minister has reiterated that it is up to the Ornis Committee to recommend a suspension of the autumn hunt- ing season, if it feels the need. Earlier this week, the killing of two Black Storks – bringing the number of illegally shot birds to 15 in a span of five days – led to calls by BirdLife Malta to suspend the autumn hunting season until October 15, when the migration of birds of prey is over. However, the Office of the Prime Minister has insisted that updates to the law have now empowered the Ornis Committee to make recommendations concerning the closure or alteration of any pa- rameter of any hunting season. "Through these amendments, decisions are now taken following expert consideration of various technical factors rather than just at the discretion of the politician, in line with good governance prin- ciples," a spokesperson for Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said. Yet, the law also states that the minister may revise the parame- ters of the hunting season "on the basis of […] or any other reason which the Minister deems to be of sufficient gravity". Questions to Galdes asking whether he deemed the current situation to be grievous went un- answered. Yesterday, a swimmer in Gozo recounted how he had been in the water when a hunter started shooting at a Honey Buzzard… and nearly killing him in the pro- cess. Steve Haston said on his blog that hunters nearly killed him and his colleague when they shot three Honey Buzzards while snorkel- ling. Honey Buzzards are protected birds of prey under Maltese law. "A very large band of honey buz- zards flew next to us and we were nearly shot. Two hunters were fir- ing at the buzzards without care for us. Buzzards are protected, but so theoretically are swimmers!" Haston wrote. Haston said that the bullets kept flying despite him shouting at the hunters. After swimming to safety, he re- couped the body of one of the birds hit by the bullets, which however later died. Haston said he saw the poacher riding a dirt bike as he fled the scene, and said that he was part of a large group of "maybe 10 hunters shooting birds over the sea on this section of the cliff." BirdLife Malta later confirmed with the Gozo Police that three protected birds had been killed. "BirdLife Malta remains adamant that this rampant illegal killing will keep going on unless the Govern- ment takes immediate action to- day. Once again we are calling on the Prime Minister to suspend the hunting season till October 15. This is the only way the limited enforcement efforts can give some results," BirdLife Malta said. "It would be surprising to know that the Government does not think this is alarming and we ex- pect the Government to take the bold decision rather than pass the buck to the Ornis Committee." Contacted by MaltaToday, Bird- Life Malta CEO Mark Sultana insisted that there was "enough evidence" for the government to order a suspension of the season. Asked whether BirdLife Malta will be calling for a meeting of the Ornis Committee, Sultana insisted that the government needed to be consistent in its decisions. "We feel that there is no need for the Ornis Committee to meet because the evidence is clear. The government in 2014 took the right decision to suspend the hunt- ing season without any calls from the Ornis Committee. We believe that government has to be con- sistent. What's the difference be- tween what's happening today and 2014?" Sultana said. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had ordered the closure of the au- tumn hunting season following the killing of white storks. It had also preceded the spring hunting ref- erendum, which took place a few months later in 2015. YANNICK PACE A number of trade unions have expressed their frustration at the government not yet having re- leased the results of the Household Budgetary Survey (HBS). When asked about whether or not they felt that the wealth gap was increasing and if they will be putting forward any proposals for increasing the minimum wage in the upcoming budget, many said that they had found it difficult to formulate certain proposals since they did not have the results of the HBS in hand. "With the survey already being three years old, not only is it neces- sary to publish the results but also to carry out a new survey that is more representative of the current state of affairs," said John Bencini, chairman of the Malta Council for Social and Economic Develop- ment. The survey is conducted among private households with the aim of illustrating patterns in household expenditure and how these are dis- tributed among different goods and services. The results are important because they are used to calculate the Consumer Price Index and ul- timately the cost of living. Moreover, the results establish differences between income and expenditure across different seg- ments of society giving an indica- tion of whether or not spending is exceeding income. Dr Philip von Brockdorff, who is Head of the Economics Depart- ment at the University of Malta, explained how basing the cost of living adjustment (COLA) on an out-dated consumption pattern could result in an underestimation of the inflation rate. And an out-of-date inflation rate can affect outcomes from collec- tive bargaining, since unions nor- mally include COLA as part of any increase in negotiated settlements. The results of the HBS also have some effect on the rate of inflation, which despite Malta's strong eco- nomic growth has remained rela- tively low. "The current inflation rate ap- pears incompatible with the strong economic performance, which un- der normal circumstances, would fuel inflation," said von Brockdorff. He added however that this does not necessarily mean that the cur- rent estimation of inflation is in- correct. Earlier this week Union Hadd- iema Maghqudin said that the low rate of inflation is due to the fact that the out-dated figures are be- ing used to calculate the Consumer Price Index. The UHM added that the gov- ernment was purposely dragging its feet in publishing the results in order to keep inflation values low. Finance minister Edward Sci- cluna on his part said this was not the case and that it was even un- clear whether inflation will go up or down once the index is updated with the results of the latest survey. "It is not going to be so signifi- cant that it will change things too much, however, if anything it's theoretically biased towards going down because the new index will introduce new goods which didn't exist before, and these new goods are likely to have a lower cost," said Scicluna. He acknowledged however that it has taken too long for the results to be published adding that he does not know why they have taken this long, but he has demanded that preliminary results be available by December. News Swimmer says he was almost shot by hunters targeting Honey Buzzard Unions concerned about out-dated household budgetary survey Buck passed to Ornis Committee as more illegal killings are recorded Current inflation appears incompatible with the strong economic performance Steve Haston was swimming when hunters started shooting at this Honey Buzzard, which he rescued. But the bird did not survive injuries from the gunshot

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