One of the key phrases which, while not uttered explicitly, seemed to be on the forefront of many participants’ minds was ‘Let’s put our money where our mouth is’. This came across in several interventions in the first Business Breakfast entitled ‘Economy vs Environment?’ organised by Newsbook.com.mt. The leit motif was the unabashed rape of the land.
Perit Simone Vella Lenicker, president of the Kamra tal-Periti said that architects are partly to blame in the rape of the land. Vella Lenicker said that if policies do not incentivise the more environmental use of the land, the environment will always come out as loser. She suggested that for planning to assume a truly strategic role, all stakeholders should come together and the SPED must be upgraded as an OPM responsibility.
Darrin Stevens Deputy Director ERA, while not so bleak in his evaluation reminded those present that “Everything has a cost, even the fact that we let flood waters go into the sea”. He said that quality of life needs to be balance out with financial gain.
Prof Alex Torpiano, a seasoned architect and president of Din l-Art Ħelwa took this thought to another level. In Dubrovnik, he said, a decision was taken not to give planning permission to more restaurants. “Are we prepared to do the same?” asked the veteran Professor. There is a cost to everything even for the lack of open spaces for recreation, he added. Impacts, said Prof Torpiano, need to be computed and evaluated.
Prof Maryann Lauri, in her expertise as social psychologist said that if a workforce is not healthy, physically and mentally, the economy will falter. She took to task PA chair Perit Elizabeth Ellul for what she described as the wrong decision taken in the planning sector which hare impacting negatively the country’s open spaces.
Marika Mizzi from Caritas expressed concern that the lack of planning was resulting in widespread frustration. She warned that all studies show that the gap between the haves and the have-nots is growing with garages which have now become acceptable as habitable spaces. “The cohort of people who are living in garages because that is all they can afford is growing: garages, with no ventilation and meagre if any sanitation” sad Mizzi, adding that while the economy may be doing well, it would be pertinent to ask who was benefitting.