Damn. Why can’t I enjoy my holiday in peace? I was trying to have a little break from blogging but the Transport Federation’s activity these last days begs many a comment. I doubt many people are out of the loop on this one but for the benefit of the readers still stuck in the Benelux who count on J’accuse for their pill of information, the news in a nutshell is: Government starts liberalise sectors of Public Transporrt, all PT operators group into a Federation, Federation strikes.
Liberalisation is overdue. Even in sectors where liberalisation is questionable (like the hearses – due to market size) we have long had decisions by the local “authority” stating clearly in black on white that the market operators can no longer be exempted from Competition Law (vide Case Ex 1/2001 “Funerali”). Competition law is essentially what most of this is about. The MLPN style of government can no longer afford to ignore the issue – it has sat on, and appeased, the current transport system for too long and now is forced to act. Once again it is not an intelligent, planned move but definitely the rabbit staring at the headlamps and twitching into limited grotesque action. EU laws on competition do not allow the current state of affairs and it was only a matter of time before we would have had another set of cases on our hands.
Hence we are off to liberalising hearses, taxis, minibuses and buses. Music to our ears but this action, courageous as it may be does not win points with the arrogant, intelligent voter. The list of culprits is long. It begins with Mintoff, salvatur ta’ Malta, who gave us roads, hospitals, running water (more not than often) and a peek at Minister’s colour televisions. It was under Mintoff for example that an ingenial solution was found for buses and bus drivers. At some point it was noticed that buses are uninsurable – maybe because they are driven by wreckless oafs and ex-criminals (not all mind you). So what did Salvatur do? He forced the insurance companies to create an insurance fund that would be OBLIGED to insure buses that would otherwise only be considered insurable by an insurance agent on drugs.
The net result is basically that inefficieny and wrecklessness was encouraged. Twenty years into the nationalist government and the fund is still there. So no blaming Mintoff please. Then there were the different sectors. Each given licenses to work, each guaranteed a monopoly and each given assurances that they would be there forever. Evviva l-vot. MLP is the next big culprit. Yes, MLP with its NO Campaign. A ridiculous campaign that led to the PN having to cut deals with the devil and his brother in order to achieve a YES vote for the EU.
These are the truths of the effect of joining the EU. That inefficiencies like our whole transport system would crumble under an effective legal regime. That’s the law… a harsh law. Which is why to the intelligent person, hundreds of blue clad drivers yelling insults at the poor overworked police and army (immigrants, youth in paceville and now bus drivers.. when is their hell going to end?) are just a bunch of cowboys. The drivers are in an ironic situation because their argument that under an efficient competition system they would go bankrupt is true. And it is just because it is true that it is so desperately needed. Because competition is an incentive for getting your act staight – just like in the political party field, so it is in most other markets – competition is healthy because participants need to be at the best in their game to attract business.
And given the choice between a troglodyte driven creaking bus with hopeless routes and a potential new system with educated drivers, clear planning and efficient deliveries… whose side would you be on?
There’s much more to write but the beach beckons. It’s as far from Valletta as I could get… feel free to use J’accuse to vent your frustration at the eejits. The newspaper sites seem to be blocked so I guess one site is as good as any other.