We as Alternattiva Demokratika Zghazagh had several expectations including a rise in minimum wage, more initiatives for alternative transport and measures to address a range of issues relating to the environment and our quality of life. Most initiatives smack of tokenism rather than a result of a longterm vision . We are very disappointed that no plan to revise how the minimum wage is calculated has been announced. Those most vulnerable in the economy deserve to be paid decent wages. A truly progressive government, we feel, would have addressed this issue, as recommended by several including Caritas.
The planned promotion of sports and healthy living through sports facilities in Fgura, a BMX park and the raising of taxes on cigarettes and soft-drinks will go some way in tackling public health issues. There is also an urgent need for the implementation of a sustainable mobility plan, moving from the drawing board to execution. Unfortunately such plans are not courageous enough, and fall short of our vision for sustainable mobility and the move towards a zero-carbon economy.
Students are a major group of commuting citizens. Everyday students must leave their residences and make their way to their college/school. They can walk, take the bus, cycle, use private communal transport or their own cars or motorbikes. As more people use cars as the preferred mode of transport, the islands’ roads are becoming more congested. Major roads do not cater for cyclists, in that they do not have bike lanes. It is important that cycling ‘highways’ are created linking all major educational establishments and built-up areas. The lack of safety on mjor traffic arteries are one major factor which discourages commuting by bicycle or pedelecs. This Budget has not seen any important initiatives to encourage alternative modes of transport.
Although the Budget has some positive measures to reduce individual car use, such as incentives for free communal transport for private and government entities, there is still a long way to go in this regard.
The installation of bike racks as proposed by the budget is in itself a good idea, however this is the bare minimum and far from what would actually encourage people to take up their bikes as a regular mode of commuting. Stricter enforcement of road regulations, a major expansion of bike lanes and significant incentives on electric assisted bikes – pedelecs – which are particularly suitable for longer distances over 8km and hilly routes.
Some people still think that people in rich and developed countries use cars to commute – in fact the opposite is happening – well educated people in developed countries are choosing bicycles and pedelecs to move around and lots of cities in the EU spend money on bicycle infrastructure. The results are less cars on the road, a healthier population, cleaner air and a better quality of life.