Our collective commitment has to be based and focused on one direction – higher standards in the construction industry.

We can only achieve this if we collectively understand that the upgrade of this sector is not simply about better designs or better implementation during the constructions phase of the building but we must also plan and achieve higher quality in the functioning of the buildings we construct, utilise and occupy.

Adopting a fire standard in buildings is not only about the drafting and approval of a document which will acquire legal enforceability.  It is an important task that must be undertaken in a timely manner that evaluates the current situation as well as forges a way foreword in order that the new standards are adopted in a seamless manner.

These standards need to address two important aspects. On the one hand the standards will guide professionals in the design of buildings with particular reference to the construction of a building as well as the design of fittings that will be included in the building. On the other hand the standard must define the level of upkeep in a building to ensure that the required levels of safety are adhered to during the lifetime of a building.

This standard is therefore about people’s safety and people’s lives. The drafting of the standard has to be the result of a solid interface between the Building & Construction Authority which is responsible for building codes together with the Civil Protection Department that has various important responsibilities in relation to this specific topic.

I cannot stress enough the need to create awareness with regard to fire safety. The process of change cannot simply be based on a technical discussion of a document that shall establish the legally enforceable standards. We need to make the public as well as all interested parties in the sector aware for the need of improvement in this particular aspect. Sometimes I get the impression that people in Malta think that fire does not pose risks to Maltese buildings. This is completely untrue.

Recent experiences have shown the risks our various buildings have and how a timely intervention by using safety equipment on site coupled with an efficient and effective Civil Protection Department can save people’s lives. We are facing new challenges resulting from taller buildings, car parking spaces under residences, the new realities of electric cars as well as the presence of more potentially flammable materials in the various buildings we occupy. All these matters confirm the need for a structured process towards more fire safety.

The implementation of Fire Standards is not simply a law enforcement process. It has to be coupled with the presence and availability of recognised trained and qualified professionals and technical personnel who can carry out the Works that are needed within buildings to ensure that these standards can be achieved.

We need to undertake a widespread process that bolsters the certifying processes that are currently available. This shall require a wide discussion with the Chamber of Architects, the Chamber of Engineers as well as other institutions and stakeholders to ensure the availability of the necessary framework.

As Government we are committed to spearhead more reforms towards higher standards in the contruction and real-estate industries. The Contractors’ Licensing process is a concrete example of our commitment towards this change. This change can be carried out if it continues to find the support of stakeholders, professionals and all involved parties in this sector, particularly the general public that utilises all forms of buildings. As a country we need to undertake one solid commitment: Let us do things better.


“Engineers have a unique ability to identify opportunities.”

Engineering the future – that is our collective responsibility. The choices we make today shall forge the quality of the future. The effects of tomorrow’s world are the results of what we decide to achieve and how we act from now.

Over and above the legal definition of an engineer – which today I will avoid going into the snare of discussing here as it has raised enough controversy within the profession – I will seize this opportunity to express and share with you my humble opinion and own experience of the engineering profession.

In my view, engineers are not just cliché problem solvers.  Prior to solving difficulties, I strongly believe that engineers have a unique ability to identify opportunities. Continuously showing their tenacity as catalysts of innovation.

The distinct attribute of being able to apply scientific knowledge, technical expertise, and creativity to design, develop and implement new solutions to improve people’s lives is what defines my view of an engineer. In short, engineers are innovators.

In a world where our economies are being challenged by post-pandemic realities and by complex geopolitical issues within our own continent, innovation is of key importance to remain relevant.

To achieve this, our modern society relies on the value that engineers are able to bring forward, be they new manufacturing processes, novel infrastructure materials, cutting-edge medical devices, reliable and dependable utilities, IT and so many more.

Innovation, however, does not necessarily take the form of extraordinary technological breakthroughs. With growing environmental concerns, the ability to find and develop solutions to complex challenges, taking small but progressive improvements to the ultimate goal of decarbonization, is a matter of equal importance.

I see the crucial role of our engineers being innovative for this country to reach its sustainability goals. Beyond generation of renewable energy, which is already challenging considering our geographical limitations and environment, the intelligent and efficient use of energy and other limited resources is paramount.

We need good engineering skills, breaking traditional boundaries and venturing beyond our customary comfort zones to design energy-efficient buildings and low-carbon transportation. This can be achieved in collaboration with other professions too. Furthermore, sustainable but affordable efforts towards the reduction of the impact of human activities on the environment, shall not come at the expense of comfort or being prohibitively unreachable.

Another very important facet of innovation is digitalisation. We have all witnessed, during the pandemic, how digital communications, remote purchasing platforms and a plethora of new services suddenly transformed what was our normal way of life and became essential commodities. Beyond those specific uses, to mention a few other openings, I believe that digitalisation can contribute towards better manufacturing processes, more comfortable homes and buildings, reliable and secure financial services, optimized supply chains and efficient transportation and communication. The list of possible prospects is endless, and I am sure that there are other openings yet to be realised.

Here is where we need to be clever – to make these achievements without adding unnecessary burdens on our economies and on the environment using digital technologies. Engineers have the academic training and the necessary aptitude to make this possible.

Complementing this, our role as government is to foster the right conditions for this to happen.

Energy efficiency in buildings is a priority and a commitment for this Government. It is a key peg to reach our ambitious 2050 decarbonisation goals.  In this year’s budget, we have extended the assistance for the installation of renewables in residences and for renovations in private sector buildings.

We cannot and we will not only focus on new buildings. I strongly believe that we must be innovative to find effective and affordable solutions to retrofit our existing buildings so that they achieve a better performance whilst respecting the local heritage.

It is true that some commercial engineering solutions are universally adaptable.  But there are several others that require local knowledge so that they can be adapted to suit our climate, our building materials and the constructions methods of our existing building stock. The Chamber of Engineers can serve as a catalyst for discussion and evolution of best practices.

A similar situation prevails in various other sectors of our economy.  This administration has been characterized by constant and robust economic growth driven by numerous sectors. We all agree that we need to continue to nurture economic growth.

In this setting, it is imperative that innovation, sustainability, and digital transformation should continue to be the central drivers for further development of our future economy. We acknowledge the need to focus on these drivers to deliver the much-desired results whilst minimizing the impact of economic growth and reducing disruptions on our society in the process.

By embracing digital technologies, engineers can drive innovation, rethink existing solutions, improve efficiency, and deliver solutions that meet the evolving needs of today’s world. Engineers can provide new tools to design, analyze and manage our projects differently.

The critical role of the engineering profession to contribute towards technological advancements, infrastructure development, sustainability efforts, manufacturing and industrial innovations, and research and development is unparalleled.

This is an opportunity to shape the future by both identifying opportunities to do things differently and creating transformative solutions that improve our lives and drive societal progress.

During the past year my ministry together with the Engineering Profession Board has taken a number of steps to ensure measurable improvements. Several administrative issues that have been brought to my attention have been addressed conclusively.

I bode that the engineering community at large finds its means to come together and present itself as a coordinated body of society to ensure that this nation continues to be a forerunner in its most challenging aspects.

I will conclude by sharing my concern that this profession is in dire need to attract more members of the younger generation.  I do not subscribe to the idea that the profession is less appealing than it used to be a decade ago. Technology has continued to make significant strides of which people speak about on a daily basis. Innovation is, in itself, an alluring prospect.

This is a collective interest. I believe that we should team up as Government, the engineering community, and academic stakeholders to draw more people towards engineering, if we do want to determine the shape tomorrow’s world.

Is-saħħa u s-sigurtà trid tiġi osservata f’kull post tax-xogħol irrispettivament mit-tip ta’ xogħol li jkun qed isir.

Ix-xogħol huwa parti integrali minn ħajjitna fejn inqattgħu parti sostanzjali mill-ħin tal-ġurnata tagħna. Għalhekk kull min iħaddem għandu l-obbligu li joffri ambjent ta’ xogħol sigur lill-ħaddiema tiegħu. Mill-banda l-oħra, kull ħaddiem għandu d-dmir jissalvagwardja s-saħħa u s-sigurtà tiegħu nnifsu kif ukoll ta’ persuni oħra li jistgħu jiġu affettwati bix-xogħol li jkun qiegħed isir.

Ħafna drabi nassoċċjaw ir-regolamenti tas-saħħa u s-sigurtà fuq il-post tax-xogħol max-xogħol fiżiku, partikolarment ix-xogħol tal-kostruzzjoni peress li dan iġib miegħu aktar perikli u riskji minn xogħlijiet oħra. Madanakollu, jeħtieġ li wieħed jifhem li s-saħħa u s-sigurtà trid tiġi osservata f’kull post tax-xogħol irrispettivament mit-tip ta’ xogħol li jkun qed isir. Illum il-ġurnata pereżempju qed issir enfasi kbira fuq l-importanza tas-saħħa mentali fuq il-post tax-xogħol minħabba li n-nies qed jaħdmu ħinjijiet itwal u minħabba l-istress tax-xogħol fost raġunijiet oħra. Marbut ma’ dan is-suġġett, din il-ġimgħa attendejt summit fi Stokkolma, l-Isvezja organizzat mill-Presidenza Svediża tal-Kunsill tal-Unjoni Ewropea bit-tema “Occupational Safety and Health Stocktaking Summit”.

Dan is-Summit laqqa’ madwar 300 delegat fosthom politiċi u uffiċjali mill-Istati Membri kollha u esperti tas-sigurtà u s-saħħa fuq il-post tax-xogħol. Is-Summit Ewropew dwar is-Saħħa u s-Sigurtà organizzat mill-Presidenza Svediża tal-Unjoni Ewropea kellu bħala waħda mit-temi ewlenin is-Saħħa Mentali tal-ħaddiema. Matulu sħaqt fost l-oħrajn dwar l-importanza li għandha tingħata lis-saħħa mentali tal-ħaddiema kollha u li każijiet bħal dawn għandhom ikunu ttrattati minn min iħaddem bl-akbar urġenza. Barra minn hekk, enfasizzajt li meta sid ta’ post tax-xogħol ikollu indikazzjoni ta’ problema ta’ saħħa mentali fost l-impjegati tiegħu, għandu jieħu azzjoni mill-ewwel u jkun hemm mezzi ta’ għarfien biex il-problema tiġi indirizzata. Fl-istess waqt, l-impjegati għandhom jitrawwmu fihom ħiliet ta’ kif għandhom jiffaċċjaw dawn is-sitwazzjonijiet fil-postijiet fejn jaħdmu.

F’pajjiżna jeħtieġ li l-Gvern flimkien mas-sħab soċjali naħdmu flimkien għal aktar prattiċi tajba fil-ħarsien tas-saħħa u sigurtà fuq il-post tax-xogħol għaliex b’dan il-mod nistgħu inaqqsu r-riskji u l-inċidenti fuq il-post tax-xogħol. Kemm min iħaddem kif ukoll il-ħaddiema jeħtieġ li filwaqt li jkunu konxji ta’ dawn il-prattiċi, jimxu b’mod konformi magħhom.

Sa mit-twaqqif tagħha 20 sena ilu l-Awtorità għas-Saħħa u s-Sigurtà fuq il-Post tax-Xogħol, l-OHSA, ħadmet qatigħ biex toħloq kampanji ta’ għarfien biex tedduka lill-ħaddiema u l-pubbliku inġenerali dwar is-saħħa u s-sigurtà fuq il-post tax-xogħol. Fl-aħħar xhur il-Ministeru għax-Xogħlijiet Pubbliċi u l-Ippjanar b’kollaborazzjoni mal-Awtorità għas-Saħħa u s-Sigurtà fuq il-Post tax-Xogħol għamlu numru ta’ laqgħat ma’ numru ta’ ħaddiema barranin biex jingħataw aktar għarfien dwar is-saħħa u s-sigurtà fuq il-post tax-xogħol. Dan apparti laqgħat oħra li jsiru matul is-sena mill-istess Awtorità. Barra l-importanza tal-edukazzjoni u l-kollaborazzjoni f’dan il-qasam hemm ukoll l-aspett importanti l-ieħor, dak tal-infurzar li huwa ċentrali u kruċjali fid-dinja tax-xogħol. Fis-sena 2022 saru madwar 4,387 spezzjoni fuq il-post tax-xogħol, medja ta’ 84 spezzjoni fil-ġimgħa.

Fit-28 ta’ April, fil-jum internazzjonali għas-Saħħa u s-Sigurtà fuq il-Post tax-Xogħol nedejna konsultazzjoni pubblika dwar White Paper li qed tipproponi tiġdid tal-Liġi tal-Awtorità dwar is-saħħa u s-sigurtà fuq il-post tax-xogħol. Il-liġi attwali dwar l-Awtorità għas-Saħħa u s-Sigurtà fuq il-Post tax-Xogħol ilha fis-seħħ għoxrin sena. Għaldaqstant, wasal iż-żmien li din il-liġi tkun aġġornata biex tirrifleti aħjar ir-realtajiet tal-lum fid-dinja tax-xogħol u twassal biex jissaħħaħ il-qasam leġislattiv u t-tħaddim tiegħu. B’dan il-mod ser tingħata vuċi aktar b’saħħitha lill-imsieħba soċjali biex tinkoraġġixxi parteċipazzjoni aktar attiva u l-OHSA ser titħalla tirreaġġixxi b’mod aktar effiċjenti għall-bidliet kontinwi fid-dinja tax-xogħol. Il-bidla tas-sistema ta’ pieni amministrattivi ser twassal biex l-Awtorità ikollha aktar għodod ta’ infurzar permezz tat-twaqqif ta’ Tribunal Amministrattiv relatat ma’ kwistjonijiet tas-saħħa u s-sigurtà.

Dan il-proċess ta’ tiġdid fil-qafas leġislattiv tal-OHSA irrid ikun akkumpanjat minn ħidma kbira biex indaħħlu kultura favur aktar saħħa u sigurtà fuq il-post tax-xogħol.

I wish to thank the Swedish Presidency for this opportunity to discuss occupational health and safety. It is indeed my pleasure to participate in this roundtable discussion, which provides an opportunity for us decision-makers to meet and exchange our views and ideals, while exploring ways that may lead towards a common vision and a shared political framework to address the dual transitions and the challenges they produce in the remit of occupational health and safety.

The existence of a safe and healthy working conditions is a precondition for a healthy and productive workforce.

Here we are talking about people’s lives and workers’ health. The existence of a safe and healthy working conditions is a precondition for a healthy and productive workforce. During the last three decades, we have made significant progress in the field of OSH: Fatal accidents at work in the EU fell by around 7% between 1994 and 2018. Nonetheless, more than 3,300 fatal accidents have occurred in the EU in 2020, and more than 200,000 workers die each year from occupational diseases. Maintaining and improving workers’ protection standards remains a challenge and constant necessity.

We are now at the beginning of two powerful transition processes, the innovation-driven digital transformation, and the policy-driven climate transition. At the same time, we are now facing a pandemic-driven restructuring of important sectors of our economies. During Covid-19, OSH policy and legislation had a crucial role in helping workers, businesses, and governments to protect lives and manage well-being risks, business continuity, and sustainability. It is thus essential to draw the lessons of the pandemic and increase preparedness for future health crises by improving not only the physical health, but also the mental health of our workers.

With the green and digital transition, the nature of the workplace and the pattern of work is changing. Within this context, our governments need to find innovative and creative solutions to anticipate and manage such changes.

Primarily, many of the challenges being anticipated because of green and digital transitions can be easily addressed by the correct application of existing European occupational health and safety Directives, and the direction given in the strategic Framework.  To name a few examples, Member States can ensure the integration of actions in the national health and safety inspectorates’ work plans, placing these challenges on the agenda of the meetings between Government and Social Partners; or for instance, by launching national inspection and awareness raising campaigns that address such challenges.

At an implementation level it is essential that  the respective stakeholders  work together to effectively integrate occupational safety and health measures into green and digital initiatives, the collaboration of all the parties involved is imperative, not only on these issues, but on all safety and health matters at work. It is essential that we recognise that we are here also dealing with important social impacts that have considerable effects on our citizens. It is therefore essential to adopt a bottom-up approach in order to ensure that all voices are heard.

At a local level, the Ministry responsible for Public Works and Planning, together with the national Occupational Health and Safety Authority, have been stressing  this point for several years. We need to move away from a situation where Government dictates what needs to be done, and instead embrace a philosophy that we are all in this together. A healthy and safe workforce is the fundamental basis of a strong and resilient economy and society. At Social Partners’ level, there should be meaningful initiatives to support the efforts being taken by Government. Employers should strive towards self-regulation where they act on the risks they are creating and, at the same time, committing themselves to do more than the law requires.

When it comes to addressing mental health aspects at work in the context of the dual transitions, the key is finding ways to develop the skills, competence and resources at an enterprise level to address such challenges; for example, by ensuring that the employers’ protective and preventive services and measures are aligned towards this challenge.

Effective help in the early stages can help prevent long-term problems both for individuals and for the organisation.

It is also important that situations involving issues of mental health are addressed as early as possible, and that the employer takes the appropriate, early action when faced with warning signs in support of the wellbeing of its employees. Effective help in the early stages can help prevent long-term problems both for individuals and for the organisation. Likewise, it is crucial to highlight the importance of teaching healthy coping skills, which can also be described as dynamic responses to psychological stress. These should in fact be considered as important life skills; the relevance of which transcends the working environment.

It also seems to be a common experience to find that psychosocial hazards are generally neglected by duty-holders and at times not even considered. This may partly be due to the fact that most national workplace health and safety campaigns tend to focus on key “physical” hazards, while the subject of psychological health is addressed through ad-hoc campaigns. This is why psychosocial risks need to be mainstreamed into all information and inspection campaigns so that mental health stops being considered as an afterthought.

Organisations shall also ensure that they have policies or programmes to prevent, anticipate and address these problems at the workplace from a very early stage. Existing tools such as the online and interactive risk assessments and guidance on these subjects will thus be of utmost importance. By way of example, guidance to employers and workers may cover those situations which are associated with these challenges, such as work arrangements, workloads, working hours or remote working. These challenges will also affect the national inspectorates, and hence, assistance in this regard will also be needed. It is also important to highlight the actions that may be needed by the Social Partners to help their members, both at EU and local levels.   

Meanwhile, Governments must take a common approach across the EU. While, in the long term, some form of legislation and enforcement will be warranted, in the short term, there is more scope for education and promotion.

In addressing the occupational safety and health improvement, while minimising the psychosocial risks at work in the context of these dual transitions through collaboration and knowledge-sharing among stakeholders, it must be noted that for small Member States like Malta, one cannot overstate the wealth of information that is already available at EU level, such as that being prepared and disseminated by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work. Social partners are advised to make use of this already available information for the benefit of their members.

Unfortunately, and despite the magnitude of the problem and its impact on workers, the economy and society in general, psychosocial health remains the Cinderella of occupational health and safety. Even in the years to come, everybody’s focus and attention will be on reducing asbestos risks, lowering the exposure limit values for carcinogens, mutagens and reprotoxic substances, musculo-skeletal disorders, problems associated with display screen equipment and so on. These are also important issues, but they cannot remain at the forefront of action at the expense of psychosocial health.

Greater awareness raising and promotion are the least to expect, as would be the promulgation of guidance and the development of employee support programmes. I am proud to say that an initiative taken by the Maltese Government to establish a mental health support unit and make it accessible to all Government employees has been a huge success. This Employee Support Programme was also commended by the European Agency for Safety and Health as an example of good practice. But we need to do more, although a cautionary approach to developing new legislative instruments in this field may be indicated, practical solutions based on exchanges of best practice may be the best way forward.

Thank you very much for your attention.

No worker, in any sector, field or firm, should go to work and have his or her life or health placed at a level of unacceptable risk.

This cardinal principle ties in perfectly with our economic view built on full and quality employment as a cornerstone of levelling up and the route to unlocking better quality of life. Injuries and ill-health have an unquantifiable impact on the livelihood of the workers concerned, their dependents, and the reputation of the organization involved.

Leaps made in health and safety standards over the past two decades, since the Occupational Health and Safety Authority has been constituted yet more work is necessary to continue to strive in the correct direction. The world of work and the technology which enables it, is in constant development meaning that our legislative and enforcement tools ought to maintain the pace.

In view of this, the Ministry for Public Works and Planning launched a public consultation on a white paper concerning amendments to the existing Act on occupational health and safety. The underlying aim of the legislative process is to bring about a cross-sectoral compliance culture and to provide effective deterrents.

The first necessary step is to restructure the Occupational Health and Safety Authority at the heart of the efforts to attain such a compliance culture. The proposed amendments will establish a Board of Governance and a Health and Safety Executive, both of which will have specific and well demarcated roles. The proposed amendments also envisage a Health and Safety Council which shall provide social partners with a stronger voice in the field and with which the law will henceforth necessitate consultation on health and safety matters.

The second most important aim of the reform is to provide the Authority with more effective tangible enforcement powers, including the possibility of OHSA to issue Administrative Instruments when urgent action is required. Such instruments will carry the force of law. The new Act imposes several important duties upon the employer. Employers will have the ability to appoint a Health and Safety Responsible Offer, who will be responsible to ensure the fulfilment of the enterprise’ health and safety policy as well as the implementation of the necessary measures. Such an appointment, however, will be without prejudice to the employer’s liability under the act.

One of the main proposed amendments concerns the setting up of the Health and Safety Tribunal which will hear cases relating to infringements which are of an administrative nature and because of which an administrative fine can be imposed. This is an objectively fairer and more efficient alternative to the current system which empowers the Authority to issue an administrative fine with no possibility of appeal, which process ends up before the Criminal Court when such fines are left unpaid. The new Act shall lay down the procedure of the tribunal which shall be empowered to issue fines of between €1,000 and €50,000 which could be appealed in the Court of Appeal (Inferior Jurisdiction). Yet, it should be emphasized that the administrative fines will not replace criminal proceedings for major breaches of the law, but their overarching objective is to serve as an additional enforcement tool.

Engagement with key internal and external stakeholders is at the heart of this public consultation and is central to Government’s objective of attaining further improvements in the field. All stakeholders have a joint resposibility to instigate a culture for more health and satefy in the place of work. At the same time, we want and we need to have more robust systems that provide adequate deterrents while bringing about a compliance culture.This White Paper has set the basis of a widespread discussion on Health and Safety legislation. It is imperative that we forge a collective way forward to ensure that all sectors in the economy invest in the correct and necessary systems that guarantee each worker’s health and safety at work.



Il-kredu tagħna huwa wieħed soċjalista li jistrieħ fuq il-pedament sod tal-ġustizzja soċjali. Għalina, l-ħaddiem, bhal Malta, dejjem jiġi l-ewwel u qabel kollox.

Jumejn ilu, fakkarna l-65 anniversarju minn meta, fil-28 ta’ April 1958, il-ħaddiema Maltin ipprotestaw kontra l-ħakma tal-gvern kolonjali Ingliż fil-ġlieda tagħhom għall-ħobż u l-ħelsien. Għada niċċelebraw Jum il-Ħaddiem.

Fil-qofol ta’ dawn l-avvenimenti kbar fl-istorja politika ta’ Malta, u fiċ-ċelebrazzjoni ta’ Jum il-Ħaddiem, hemm il-Partit Laburista. 65 sena ilu, l-Maltin, immexxija mill-Perit Duminku Mintoff, niżlu fit-toroq u semmgħu leħinhom kontra l-prattiċi ħżiena, u degradanti tal-gvern kolonjali Ingliż fil-konfront tal-ħaddiem Malti li wasslu għat-tkasbir tad-drittijiet tal-ħaddiema.

Fil-65 sena li għaddew, il-ħaddiem Malti wettaq kisbiet kbar. Xpruna ħafna minn dawn il-kisbiet il-Partit Laburista. Il-paga minima, l-pensjonijiet, il-benefiċċji soċjali, d-dritt li tissieħeb f’union, il-housing soċjali, l-benefiċċji tal-mard u ħafna kisbiet ohra. Dawn kollha kisbiet li taw dinjità lill-ħaddiema Maltin, huma kollha kisbiet imwettqa mill-Partit Laburista.

Kienet triq twila u diffiċli. Ma’ kull pass li l-ħaddiem ipprova jagħmel, sab il-forzi konservattivi f’pajjiżna jippruvaw iżommuh lura. Mal-milja taż-żmien, il-ħaddiem, l-attivist Laburista u l-mexxejja tiegħu, ġie impost fuqhom l-interdett, żmien ikraħ ħafna fl-istorja politika ta’ pajjiżna, li iżda lanqas dan ma qata’ qalb il-ħaddiem – niftakru fil-51,000 suldat tal-azzar li, b’kuraġġ kbir, baqa’ jġorr it-torċa tal-libertà u l-ħelsien.

Iż-żminijiet inbidlu, iżda l-forzi politiċi konservattivi baqgħu jagħmlu ħilitihom biex jitfgħu il-piż fuq il-addiema. Anke fi żmien riċenti, l-ħaddiem ftit li xejn sab appoġġ minn politiċi li, meta kienu fil-poter, serqulu l-btajjel pubbliċi; ntaxxawlu l-paga minima, għollewlu l-kontijiet tad-dawl u l-ilma, u ffriżaw il-pensjonijiet. Kellu jkun Gvern Laburista li jindirizza dan kollu, u radd lura lill-ħaddiem dak li hu tiegħu.

Illum għandna l-anqas rata ta’ qagħad li qatt kellhu pajjiżna; tkabbir ekonomiku fost l-akbar fl-UE; l-paga minima ma għadhiex tiġi ntaxxata; l-pensjonijiet żdiedu u se jkomplu jiżdiedu; l-gvern refa’ hu l-piż taż-żieda fil-prezzijiet tal-enerġija – bil-kontra ta’ dak li seħħ fl-Ewropa; il-btajjel pubbliċi ngħataw lura; d-dritt ta’ sħubija f’union huwa garantit u ngħata wkoll lill-forzi dixxiplinati, u ħafna aktar drittijiet li l-ħaddiem qed igawdi grazzi għall-ħidma tal-Gvern Laburista.

Sfidi għad hemm, anke jekk ta’ bixra differenti. Illum, l-għafsa hi fuq il-ħtiega li jinstab bilanċ bejn ix-xogħol u l-ħajja personali tal-ħaddiem. Ghalhekk l-impenn biex ikollna ambjent aktar b’saħħtu, ħalli l-ħaddiem ikun jista’ jgawdi l-mistrieħ mistħoqq wara ġimgħa ta’ ħidma. Is-sitwazzjoni internazzjonali wasslet għal żieda fil-prezzijiet tal-affarijiet bażiċi, u oħrajn li mhumiex. L-għafsa ta’ din iż-żieda l-ewwel ma jħossha l-ħaddiem. Iżda anke hawn, Gvern Laburista qed jagħmel ħiltu kollha biex itaffi l-impatt ta’ dawn iż-żidiet: Ghalhekk li se jkompli jissussidja l-prezzijiet tal-enerġija; għalhekk li fl-eqqel tal-pandemija, u wara, sostna l-pagi tal-ħaddiema u n-negozji.

Il-Partit Laburista minn dejjem kellhu qalb soċjali b’saħħitha. Il-kredu tagħna huwa wieħed soċjalista li jistrieħ fuq il-pedament sod tal-ġustizzja soċjali. Għalina, l-ħaddiem, bhal Malta, dejjem jiġi l-ewwel u qabel kollox. Meta ngħidu li għandna fiduċja fil-ħaddiema ma nkunux qegħdin nilgħabu għall-gallarija. L-aħħar 65 sena taw prova ċara ta’ dan. Il-martirju li għex il-ħaddiem, kawża tal-oppressjoni mill-forzi konservattivi, ċaħdu lill-Partit Laburista milli jiggverna. Il-moviment tal-ħaddiem minn dejjem kien it-tarka tan-nies tax-xogħol.

Dan l-aħħar nidejna l-akbar riforma fl-industrija tal-kostruzzjoni. L-għan ewlieni ta’ din ir-riforma hi li ndaħħlu aktar serjetà f’din  l-industrija u li fuq kollox, ngħollu l-kwalita u nħarsu s-saħħa u s-sigurtà ta’ kull min jaħdem f’dan is-settur.

Il-kisbiet kbar li għamel il-ħaddiem Malti, taħt gvernijiet Laburisti, saru minkejja Oppożizzjoni distruttiva li ma titlifx opportunità waħda biex tipprova issawwat lil Malta u lill-ħaddiema. Dan l-aħħar nidejna l-akbar riforma fl-industrija tal-kostruzzjoni. L-għan ewlieni ta’ din ir-riforma hi li ndaħħlu aktar serjetà f’din  l-industrija u li fuq kollox, ngħollu l-kwalita u nħarsu s-saħħa u s-sigurtà ta’ kull min jaħdem f’dan is-settur. Tal-Partit Nazzjonalista ma pparteċipawx fil-konsultazzjoni pubblika u wisq anqas ressqu proposti. Dan l-episodju, u ħafna episodji oħra, passat u riċenti, huma xhieda ta’ oppożizzjoni bla sustanza politika u negattiva.

Meta għada niltaqgħu fil-Belt Valletta ser niċċelebraw il-kisbiet tal-ħaddiem Malti u se nispjegaw, permezz tad-diskors tal-Prim Ministru u Mexxej Laburista Robert Abela, kif pajjiżna se jkompli jagħmel suċċess. Suċċess li, l-Partit Laburista huwa determinat li minnu jgawdi kulħadd iżda b’mod partikolari  l-ħaddiema li dejjem kienu f’qalbna f’kull ma wettaqna biex intejbu l-għajxien tal-familji Maltin u Għawdxin.

Meta l-elettorat jafda t-tmexxija tal-pajjiż f’idejn partit politiku ikun qed jistenna li jkollu Gvern li jieħu d-deċizjonijiet fl-aħjar interess tal-pajjiż. Kull politiku li jkun fdat bit-tmexxija ta’ settur partikolari fl-amministrazzjoni pubblika jkollu quddiemu deċiżjonijiet li jrid jieħu ta’ kuljum. Wara kull bidla li trid isseħħ ikun hemm il-ħsieb, ir-riċerka, il-konsultazzjoni u t-tfittxija għal dak li huwa ta’ ġid għall-poplu. Imma d-deċiżjonijiet iridu jittieħdu u n-nuqqas ta’ deċiżjonijiet iwassal għal staġnar u xi kultant anke tbatija għal min ikun qed jintlaqat minn sitwazzjonijiet partikolari.

Il-Gvern Laburista fl-aħħar għaxar snin jibqa’ magħruf għall-bidla pożittiva kbira li ġab fil-pajjiż sforz il-bidliet importanti li ttieħdu biex bidlu d-direzzjoni tal-pajjiż minn wieħed staġnat b’ekonomija ffriżata, tkabbir ekonomiku minimu, dejn u deficit ‘il fuq mil-limiti imposti mill-Unjoni Ewropea u qagħad li fi tmiem l-2012 kien qabeż it-8,000 persuna. Il-bidla fil-Gvern fl-2013 ġabet magħha dinamiżmu ġdid, deċiżjonijiet kuraġġużi bħal dik tat-traħħis tal-kontijiet, li tat spinta kbira lill-ekonomija. Dan wassal biex ir-rota ekonomika reġgħet bdiet iddur u bis-saħħa t’hekk, Gvern Laburista kien f’pożizzjoni li jibda jtejjeb il-livell tal-għixien tan-nies b’żjidiet fil-benefiċċji soċjali, l-in-work benefits, ic-childcare b’xejn, żjidiet kbar fil-pensjonijiet u eventwalment anke t-trasport pubbliku b’xejn għal kulħadd.

Sa mill-ewwel amministrazzjoni tal-Prim Ministru Robert Abela f’Jannar tal-2020, il-Gvern kellu quddiemu deċiżjonijiet diffiċli u importanti x’jieħu l-ewwel minħabba l-imxija tal-Covid-19 u aktar tard sena ilu, meta bdiet l-invażjoni Russa ta’ l-Ukranja. Kienu deċiżjonijiet iebsin li salvaw l-impjieg u l-għixien ta’ eluf ta’ persuni b’miżuri bħas-sussidji ta’ miljuni kbar ta’ Ewro biex negozji setgħu jibqgħu jeżistu u ma jfallux. Anke meta faqqgħet il-kriżi tal-prezzijiet tal-enerġija rġajna ħadna d-deċiżjonijiet li kien hemm bżonn biex żammejna l-prezzijiet tal-fuels u tad-dawl u l-ilma fl-istess livell li kienu qabel il-gwerra.

Il-bidla mportanti tal-Liċenzjar tal-Kuntratturi

Id-dekasteru li fdali f’idejja l-Prim Ministru Robert Abela wara r-rebħa storika tas-sena l-oħra kien jitlob minni li jittieħdu deċiżjonijiet importanti fil-qasam tal-kostruzzjoni, deċiżjonijiet li qatt ma ttieħdu qabel. Deċiżjonijiet biex insaħħu l-liġijiet li jirregolaw dan is-settur. Ilna snin twal inħossu l-ħtieġa li ssir xi forma ta’ regolamentazzjoni li tirregola dan il-qasam importanti, pilastru ewlieni ieħor għall-ekonomija tal-pajjiż. Bħalma wegħdna fil-Manifest Elettorali, ridna nirregolaw dan il-qasam bl-introduzzjoni tal-Liċenzjar tal-Kuntratturi. Sal-lum kienet teżisti biss regola dwar il-Liċenzja tal-Bennej, regolamenti li kienu ilhom li nkitbu mill-bidu tas-seklu l-ieħor.

Ħadna d-deċiżjoni importanti li nibdew nimxu fid-direzzjoni li kull min hu involut fil-Kostruzzjoni irid ikun liċenzjat biex ikun jista’ jaħdem. Ikkonsultajna ma’ bosta partijiet involuti f’dan il-qasam u ddeċidejna li għandna nibdew din il-bidla billi nirregolaw tliet setturi importanti fil-kostruzzjoni, dawk tat-twaqqiegħ, l-iskavar u l-bini. Qegħdin niffissaw terminu ta’ żmien li fih il-kuntratturi li qed jaħdmu f’dawn l-oqsma iridu japplikaw biex ikunu jistgħu ikomplu joperaw. Imbagħad iddeċidejna li wara perjodu ta’ tranżizzjoni ta’ madwar sena u nofs, mill-1 ta’ Jannar 2025 ħadd ma jkun jista’ jaħdem fis-settur jekk ma jkollux liċenzja.

Ir-rispons għal dan il-proċess huwa pożittiv għal dak li qed nipproponu. Qed nirrealiżżaw kemm in-nies tassew trid li tiddaħħal is-serjeta u titjib fil-kwalita f’dan is-settur. Huwa ta’ sodisfazzjoni li naraw kemm huwa qawwi l-interess f’dak li qed nipproponu. Qed nagħmlu kull mezz biex nisimgħu lil kulħadd. Kellna l-ewwel laqgħa ta’ konsultazzjoni pubblika fil-Mosta fl-aħħar jiem u l-konkorrenza kienet tassew sabiħa. Se nkomplu nisimgħu lil kulħadd, inkluż lir-rappreżentanti ta’ kuntratturi, ta’ żviluppaturi, tal-intrapriżi żgħar u medji, tal-Periti, tal-Kamra tal-Kummerċ u oħrajn għax irridu li r-regolamenti li jridu jidħlu fis-seħħ ikunu regolamenti li tassew iġibu l-bidla li tant neħtieġu f’dan il-qasam. Għal darb’oħra qed nuru li aħna Gvern li jieħu d-deċiżjonijiet biex itejjeb il-ħajja tan-nies f’kull qasam.

Din hija l-ewwel darba li qed inniedu qafas lejn liċenzjar sħiħ ta’ dawk kollha li jaħdmu fis-settur tal-kostruzzjoni biex naġġornaw il-mod kif jaħdem. Proċess ġdid u meħtieġ li se jkun pass importanti għall-pajjiż, għas-settur innifsu u n-nies inġenerali.

Qed ngħaddu messaġġ ċar u b’saħħtu li min mhux lest li jaħdem kif suppost mhux se jkun postu fis-settur tal-kostruzzjoni.

Il-Gvern Laburista qed jerġa’ juri biċ-ċar li huwa Gvern li meta jiġi għall-mument tal-prova ma jkaxkarx saqajh biex jieħu d-deċiżjonijiet u jwettaq ir-riformi. Il-Gvern Laburista kien u għadu katalist tal-bidla u għalhekk ninsabu kommessi li nibqgħu nagħmlu riformi u bidliet li tant huma meħtieġa inkluż fis-settur tal-kostruzzjoni.

Is-settur tal-kostruzzjoni huwa settur li matul is-snin il-metodi li bih jitħaddem inbidlu u evolvew. Il-bini li konna nibnu tletin, erbgħin sena ilu huwa differenti minn dak li qed nibnu llum il-ġurnata. In-nies attwalment qed jistennew li jkollna settur tal-kostruzzjoni li jitħaddem b’mod responsabbli u bl-aqwa standards. Dan il-gvern qed jifhem u huwa konxju ta’ dak li jridu n-nies u dak li jeħtieġ il-pajjiż bħalissa. Huwa għalhekk li għall-ewwel darba ser nintroduċu liċenzja għall-kuntratturi tal-kostruzzjoni biex din tirregola lil min jaħdem f’dan is-settur. It-twaqqigħ, l-iskavar u l-bini huma l-ewwel tliet attivitajiet li se jkollhom il-ħtieġa tal-liċenzja għax huma it-tliet oqsma ewlenin f’dan is-settur.

Bid-dħul ta’ dawn ir-regolamenti qed nwasslu messaġġ b’saħħtu favur kwalità ogħla u aktar serjetà fit-tħaddim f’dan is-settur. M’għadux żmien li jkun hemm kuntratturi li jaħdmu b’metodi inaċċettabbli u ta’ kwalità skadenti. Huwa għalhekk li ser naċċertaw li min jaħdem ikollu l-ħiliet meħtieġa u japplika standards kif jixraq ta’ kostruzzjoni. Fuq kollox qed jiġi aċċentwat li x-xogħol ta’ kostruzzjoni isir b’rispett sħiħ lejn id-drittijiet ta’ terzi persuni u bl-inqas impatt fuq il-madwar u bl-inqas inkonvenjent possibbli.

Filwaqt li ser naċċertaw li l-kuntratturi jkunu aktar serji u dedikati u l-ħaddiema jkunu aktar mħarrġa f’dan is-settur, bir-regolamenti li ser nintroduċu se nżidu aktar l-infurzar fuq siti ta’ kostruzzjoni min-naħa tal-Awtorità għall-Bini u l-Kostruzzjoni (BCA). Fil-preżent, l-Awtorità għall-Bini u l-Kostruzzjoni timpjega magħha 16-il spettur. Minn meta twaqqfet, l-Awtorità għall-Bini u l-Kostruzzjoni wettqet ‘il fuq minn 20,500 spezzjoni u ħarġet ‘il fuq minn 573 notifika biex jitwaqqfu x-xogħlijiet. Bl-introduzzjoni tar-regolamenti li ser ndaħħlu se nkunu nistgħu nsaħħu l-infurzar billi ningaġġaw spetturi ġodda fi ħdan l-awtorità u fuq kollox billi nagħtu setgħa akbar lill-istess Awtorità tal-Bini u l-Kostruzzjoni biex din tkun tista’ tagħmel sospensjoni jew revoka ta’ liċenzja. B’dan il-mod il-kuntrattur mhux biss ma jkunx jista’ jaħdem f’dak is-sit fejn hemm in-nuqqas iżda ma jkun jista’ jaħdem fl-ebda sit.

Fl-aħħar mill-aħħar, l-aspett u l-għan ewlieni huwa li jkollna responsabiliazzazzjoni ta’ dan is-settur. Aħna rridu settur li jifhem u japprezza li hemm metodi aħjar kif isiru l-affarijiet, hemm metodi aħjar kif inti tista’ tagħmel proġetti mingħajr ma jkollok inċidenti, hemm metodi aħjar mingħajr jew bl-inqas konvenjent possibli. Din hija l-bidla radikali li rridu nkomplu nsaħħu f’din it-triq il-quddiem, f’dan l-avvanz, f’dan is-settur. Dak li qed nħabbru huwa bla preċedent u għalija dan huwa żgur bidla fid-direzzjoni lejn aktar serjetà u kwalità ogħla f’dan is-settur.

Insaħħu r-regolamentazzjoni fis-settur tal-kostruzzjoni biex ikollna kwalità ogħola, jissaħħaħ l-infurzar u jkollna aktar serjetà fit-tħaddim ta’ dan is-settur. Għall-ewwel darba, se tkun qed tiġi introdotta liċenzja għall-kuntratturi tal-kostruzzjoni. Dan huwa proċess ġdid li huwa meħtieġ u li se jirregola lil min jopera f’dan is-settur lil hinn mil-liġijiet ċivili u kriminali li għandna fis-seħħ diġà.

Regolamenti li jindikaw min jista’ jkun kuntrattur. Jirregolaw min jista’ jwettaq dawn ix-xogħlijiet li lkoll nafu r-riskji u r-responsabilitajiet li jġibu magħhom. Jirregolaw aħjar il-mod kif il-kuntratturi joperaw f’dan il-qasam.

Kull min jaħdem f’dan is-settur huwa diġà suġġett għal obbligi legali mill-aspett ċivili mill-kunċett tal-appalt u r-regoli tad-danni fost oħrajn. Hemm obbligi marbuta ma’ sitwazzjonijiet li jwasslu għal prosekuzzjoni kriminali. Wieħed irid ifakkar wkoll fir-regolamenti tas-saħħa u s-sigurtà fuq il-post tax-xogħol kif wkoll regolamenti li qed jinħarġu mill-Awtorità tal-Bini u l-Kostruzzjoni.

Se nkompli nsaħħu dan il-qafas ta’ regolamentazzjoni b’dawn il-licenzji. Dan se jsir billi jkollna regolamenti li jindikaw sistema ta’ awtorizzazzjoni ta’ min jista’ jwettaq xogħol ta’ twaqqigħ, skavar jew tqattigħ u xogħol ta’ bini.

Dan il-qafas regolatorju, huwa meħtieġ u se jkun mezz importanti fis-sensiela ta’ bidliet li se nkomplu nwettqu biex insaħħu r-regolamentazzjoni fil-qasam tal-kostruzzjoni.

L-għanijiet li jiġu introdotti il-liċenzji tal-kuntratturi huma:

  • Min irid jaħdem f’dawn l-oqsma irid ikun identifika ruħu mal-Awtorità dwar il-Bini u l-Kostruzzjoni u min għandu liċenzja biss ikun jista’ jwettaq dan ix-xogħol
  • Jiġu stabbiliti kriterji li wieħed irid ikollu biex jikseb liċenzja
  • Jiġu definiti aħjar ir-responsabbilitajiet ta’ kuntrattur
  • Jissaħħu l-mezzi tal-infurzar fil-konfront ta’ kuntratturi liċenzjati

B’dawn ir-regolamenti rridu nagħmlu distinzjoni ċara bejn min hu serju u responsabbli fil-mod kif jaħdem minn min iwettaq dan ix-xogħol b’metodi inaċċettabbli, b’nuqqas ta’ responsabbiltà u ta’ kwalità skadenti.

Min mhux lest li jaħdem kif suppost mhux se jkollu aktar postu fis-settur tal-kostruzzjoni.

Pajjiżna u l-pubbliku in ġenerali qed jistenna li jkollna settur tal-kostruzzjoni li jitħaddem minn min ikun serju fil-mod kif jaħdem,  li juża’ l-aqwa standards u li jkun responsabbli f’kull pass li jagħmel.

Ix-xogħol irid isir b’rispett sħiħ lejn id-drittijiet ta’ terzi persuni.

Ix-xogħol irid isir bl-inqas impatt fuq il-madwar u bl-inqas inkonvenjent possibbli.

Ix-xogħol irid isir minn min għandu l-ħiliet meħtieġa.

Din hija l-ewwel darba li qed inniedu qafas lejn liċenzjar sħiħ ta’ dawk kollha li jaħdmu fis-settur tal-kostruzzjoni. It-twaqqigħ, l-iskavar u l-bini huma l-ewwel tliet attivitajiet li se jkollhom il-ħtieġa tal-liċenzja għax huma it-tliet oqsma ewlenin fix-xogħol fis-settur. Irrid ngħid, li dan il-proċess ta’ liċenzjar se jkun segwit minn proċess li jitħabbar fi żmien qasir, biex jibdew jiddaħħlu skill cards għall-ħaddiema li jaħdmu f’dan is-settur b’mod obbligatorju.

Sal-lum, l-unika forma ta’ liċenzja li għandna, hija l-liċenzja ta’ bennej (mason’s license) li ġiet introdotta lejn l-aħħar tas-seklu 19.

Din il-liċenzja qed tintalab bħala rekwiżit fil-qasam tal-liċenzja ta’ kuntrattur tal-bini. Qegħdin nippjanaw li r-regolamenti marbuta ma’ din il-liċenzja jiġu aġġornati fiż-żmien qasir biex inkomplu insaħħu il-qafas regolatorju anke f dan ir-rigward.

Nedejna konsultazzjoni pubblika dwar il-qafas legali li jintroduċi liċenzja ta’ min jaħdem fil-qasam tat-twaqqigħ, skavar u bini. Din hija riforma estensiva li tbiddel il-qafas regolatorju u għalhekk timmerita li jkollha proċess ta’ konsultazzjoni iddedikat esklussivament għaliha.

Proċess ta’ konsultazzjoni li fih nisimgħu id-diversi perspettivi mhux biss ta’ dawk li joperaw f’dan is-settur li m’huwiex numru żgħir, imma rridu nisimgħu x’għandu x’jgħid il-pubbliku b’mod in ġenerali f’dan ir-rigward.

L-Avviż legali li qed inniedu ghall-konsultazzjoni pubblika għandu żewġ għanijiet prinċipali:

  • Jinħatar kumitat ta’ liċenzjar tal-kuntratturi fil-qasam tal-kostruzzjoni
  • Jistipula l-qafas regolatorju li permezz tiegħu tinħareġ liċenzja

Inżid ngħid li fl-aħħar jiem ġie ppubblikat abbozz tal-liġi li permezz tiegħu se nkunu qegħdin nemendaw l-Att dwar l-Awtorità dwar il-Bini u l-Kostruzzjoni biex ikun jista jinħatar kumitat speċjalizzat għall-ipproċessar tal-liċenzji kif wkoll se nkunu qed nitrasferixxu s-setgħa li għandu d-Direttur tad-Dipartiment ghax-Xogħlijiet Pubbliċi biex joħroġ liċenzja tal-bennej u din tgħaddi lil Awtorità tal-Bini u l-Kostruzzjoni.

Ir-regolamenti li qed inniedu jindikaw min jista’ jkollu liċenzja. Jindikaw kif tiġi evalwata applikazzjoni għall-ħruġ ta’ liċenzja. Tispjega wkoll is-setgħat fejn jidħol l-infurzar fil-konfront tal-kuntratturi. Il-konsultazzjoni pubblika tibda’ mil-lum u se tkompli sa nhar il-21 ta’ April 2023.

Determinati li mill-1 ta’ Ġunju 2023, l-Awtorità tal-Bini u l-Kostruzzjoni tibda tilqa’ l-applikazzjonijiet biex mill-1 ta’ Novembru 2023 jibda jitħaddem il-qafas regolatorju l-ġdid.

Irrid infakkar li d-dħul ta’ qafas regolatorju ġdid jeħtieġ żmien ta’ tranżizzjoni iżda f’dan iż-żmien ta’ tranżizzjoni l-Awtorità xorta se jkollha s-setgħa li twaqqaf kuntratturi li jonqsu fit-twettieq tax-xogħol tagħhom. Tidħol fis-seħħ is-setgħa tas-sospensjoni u anke tar-revoka. Infakkar ukoll li llum, l-Awtorità diġà għandha s-setgħa li toħroġ stop notice meta l-affarijiet li jkunux qed jimxu sewwa fuq sit ta’ kostruzzjoni. Bl-istop notice jieqaf ix-xogħol fuq dan is-sit partikolari qabel jiġu regolati l-affarijiet.

Is-sospensjoni tal-liċenzja jew ir-revoka tal-liċenzja tfisser li kuntrattur ma jaħdem fuq l-ebda lant tax-xogħol. Il-liċenzja se jkollha valur importanti għall-kuntrattur. Kull min se jikseb liċenzja jew jimxi sew jew hemm il-konsegwenzi fosthom li tintilef il-licenzja li jkollu kuntrattur. Biex kuntrattur jaħdem f’dan is-settur jew ikollu liċenzja jew l-operat tiegħu jieqaf.

Għall-ewwel darba se nirregolaw dan is-settur bid-dħul ta’ liċenzja għal dawn it-tlett oqsma. Din hija bidla radikali u bidla li se tħalli impatt pożittiv. Bidla fid-direzzjoni t-tajba.

Dan huwa pass importanti ferm lejn kwalità ogħola fis-settur tal-kostruzzjoni. Mezz ieħor biex ikompli jissaħħaħ l-infurzar f’dan is-settur.

Pajjiżna u l-poplu irid aktar serjetà kif jitħaddem dan is-settur.

L-abbozz tal-Avviż Legali issa jinsab għall-Konsultazzjoni Pubblika li tagħlaq fil-21 ta’ April li ġej u jista’ jinkiseb mis-sit elettroniku tal-konsultazzjoni https://www.gov.mt/mt/publicconsultation/Pages/default.aspx

jew mis-sit tal-Awtorità tal-Bini u l-Kostruzzjoni:  https://bca.org.mt/licensing-of-contractors/

Opinjonijiet dwar l-abbozz ta’ regolamenti jistgħu jintbagħtu wkoll b’email fuq [email protected]

We are an island State. Our physical reality means that we are never far away from the coast. For us, coastal areas are key zones, not merely for recreation purposes but also for our economic activity and social life – especially when these intersect with the tourism sector – a pillar of our economy.

We may cherish it, but we did not create our coast. It is the result of ceaseless natural processes, mainly but not exclusively, of erosion. Time has taught us a great deal about such processes, although by nature, they are hardly able to predict. This is truer in the context of Climate Change, as it induces the rise in sea level and increases storm surges. With increasing extremity of such events comes increasing severity of their effects. As elements eat our land’s edges away, the zones which are so central to our economic and social life, become hazardous to public safety with the chances of rock-falling and landslides rising.

The Department of Public Works repeatedly intervened upon such occurrences. However, Helios, the storm which hit our shores this winter reminded us, that such triggering elements are only becoming more frequent and more intense. Helios’ most severe effect was the boulder collapse in Popeye village which could have had more tragic consequences. Five years ago, another storm took away Gozo’s Azure window. Two events that help us understand that there is a three-fold risk: for public safety, for the environment, and for our collective economic and social well-being. It is our responsibility, as the Ministry for Public Works and Planning to mitigate if not annihilate such risks, to the public, and the environment, and we would like to, as much as possible, guarantee the long-term enjoyment of our coastal resources.

A new approach, a break with tradition

Natural and erosion processes may be unpredictable, but we have optimized and refined our ways and our tools to address the area. We have shifted from an ad hoc reactionary approach to risk mitigation to a research-based strategic planning approach of risk assessment. This is in essence what Coastal SAGE (Satellite-Assisted Governance for Erosion) was about – inducing, improving, and refining coastal monitoring and protection. Techniques which help us map high-risk zones and provide the insight to put resources to good effect first to mitigate the risk then to manage them.

In my experience in the public sector, I learned that the best outcomes emerge from collaboration. Here we adopted an inter-disciplinary approach which is yielding results. COASTAL SAGE was indeed one such positive result. The Ministry, teamed with the Geosciences, the Communications and the Computer Engineering Departments at the University of Malta, to initiate the project, as we sought the input of the Malta Council for Science and Technology so that together we drew the project proposal.

The University departments fed the knowledge present locally across different areas, while the MCST enabled us to tap into the wealth of knowledge harboured by the European Space Agency. We also included the Italian National Research Centre to share their knowledge and experiences in the field. Thus SAGE – Satellite Assisted Governance of Erosion – is truly the positive outcome of a fruitful collaboration with a visionary purpose.

This work only initiated the project and we won’t stop here. We want to see to it that there is life after the project. Our vision is to absorb the data, intelligence, and knowledge available, to enable us to develop the tools and techniques to act efficiently and effectively.It was a successful project. We set a few aims including:

  • improving the local techniques for coastal monitoring,
  • to correlate remote sensing measurements with in-situ and drone observations.

Objectives we achieved. What started as a new initiative, uncharted territory for the Department of Public Works, turned out to be a direction the Department intends to follow for the long run. Such monitoring tool has given the Department the necessary equipment to develop innovative coastal governance methods. I say this specifically for the monitoring of coastal changes, and coastal resources both if they are natural or if they are constructed. Such development, may I emphasize, was long overdue.

We are proud of the results. However, a knowledge gap persists. In addressing such gap and the immediate and long-term concerns, we continue to build bridges with academic and research bodies who gained information about the field over the years. Over and above bridges we are gaining access to funding and investment for such research in this policy area which is only enriching Maltese society. I repeat, we have a responsibility to mitigate the risks for public safety; and the environment; and to ensure that we may all enjoy and benefit from our coastal resources for the long-term.

Coastal monitoring enables us to achieve this also in a context characterized by Climate Change. We are literally leaving no stone unturned. The Department is tapping into all the available data and research opportunities to lead a more proactive response to coastal erosion. SAGE thus, fits right in a wider ecosystem of initiatives taken by the Department of Public Works to address coastal erosion. From the sharing of knowledge and practices in the two Mediterranean Coastal Erosion Conferences, to the Coastal Protection Strategy for the Maltese Islands which is being formulated, we have adopted a clear unequivocal strategic proactive approach to address coastal erosion phenomena. The strategy, fully funded by DG Reform, will shortly identify priorities and solutions to current challenges and to future challenges likely to be triggered by the change in climate.

The Coastal Sage project, whose end we mark today, is therefore a part, albeit an important one, in a wide long-term stratagem in coastal risk management. It might have reached its tail end but it is not the end of the road for this strategy.Indeed we plan to turn the SAGE project into the SAGE programme. We plan to continue to build capacity and further our collaborations, to perpetuate optimized coastal monitoring. We plan to continue to grow in knowledge, increase safety and ensure long-term enjoyment of our coastal resources.