Board to investigate disability benefits fraud / Malta News Briefing – Saturday 9 September 2023

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Board to investigate disability benefits fraud

A board consisting of three members, with retired judge Antonio Mizzi at its helm, has been appointed to investigate the dispensation of severe disability benefits. This decision comes in response to revelations about a fraudulent scheme involving millions of euros. The announcement of this inquiry board was made by the Social Policy Ministry in a statement released on Saturday. The ministry stated that the board’s primary objective is to assess the existing processes for determining benefit eligibility, with a focus on understanding how these processes may have been circumvented and identifying potential improvements. In response to this development, the Nationalist Party expressed its support for the establishment of the board and its scope but raised questions about the timing, considering that the prime minister had acknowledged knowledge of these allegations two years ago. In a reaction, the PN asserted that the government’s decision to initiate this inquiry appears to be a response to public exposure of the case rather than a genuine belief in its necessity. (Times of Malta)

ADPD wants incentives to addresse empty homes issue

Empty homes occupy an area six times larger than Sliema, according to ADPD. The Green Party criticized the approval of new building permits when there is an abundance of unoccupied or underutilized properties, as revealed in the recent Census report. The report showed that out of 297,304 residences surveyed, 81,613 were considered unused or barely used, amounting to 27.5% of national residential properties. AChairperson Sandra Gauci said that ADPD has been insisting that there should be as many incentives as possible to entice property to be utilised. In the case of a property that, despite the incentives, is left empty for a long time, there should be fiscal disincentives to discourage this behaviour. This will contribute to reducing the price of rents and also more reasonable property prices. (Maltatoday)

EU data shows suicide rate in Malta among lowest

According to Eurostat data released in 2020, Malta had the second lowest suicide rate within the European Union. In 2020, there were 21 recorded suicide cases in Malta. This marked a decline from 25 suicides in 2017, 22 in 2018, and 21 in 2019. To put it into perspective, in 2020, there were 4 suicides per 100,000 inhabitants in Malta. (TVM)

Morning Briefing

Diplomat questions value of neutrality in modern world

A top diplomat has questioned the effectiveness of Malta’s neutral status, especially in light of proposals suggesting that decisions regarding security policy in Europe should be determined by majority votes. Malta’s Ambassador to France, Carmelo Inguanez said in a Victory Day speech that in the current “dangerous and less predictable” global landscape, the European Union finds itself at a critical juncture regarding its identity. It must decide whether to continue as an active participant or merely a passive observer as global superpower rivalries unfold on its doorstep. Inguanez emphasized that while the EU possesses both the responsibility and capability to be a major player on the international stage, achieving this goal is hindered by the existing operational rules. He raised doubts about the effectiveness of Malta’s neutrality within the context of discussions about how the EU can act efficiently and decisively in matters related to common foreign and security policies, potentially by transitioning away from unanimous voting. (Times of Malta)

Met Office notes more rain in 2022-2023
According to the Met Office’s, the meteorological autumn ranked as the second rainiest season of the year, with a total of 229.6 mm of rainfall observed. The month of November 2022 played a significant role in this ranking by contributing 151.2 mm of rain to the overall autumn rainfall, which originally stood at 78.4 mm for September and October combined. November experienced numerous rainy days, leading to nearly double the expected precipitation based on the typical climate patterns. February stood out as the wettest month of the entire year, with a rainfall of 181.6 mm, and it also marked one of the rainiest Februarys on record. The majority of February’s rainfall occurred between February 8 and February 11 when Storm Helios unleashed harsh weather conditions and powerful winds, reaching speeds of up to 49 knots, across the islands. (Maltatoday)

AUM wants two more floors for Cospicua campus

The American University of Malta has submitted a request for an expansion of its campus in Cospicua. They intend to incorporate office spaces into an additional two floors of a historic building that once served as a police station. This contentious educational institution aims to reconfigure the ground and first floor of the current student residence within the building. Simultaneously, they plan to construct two additional floors, aligning it with the rest of their facilities located at Dock 1 on Triq Dom Mintoff and Misraħ Gavino Gulia in Cospicua. Despite grandiose plans to attract thousands of students, the University has only managed to attract a small number of students, despite making tuition free for Maltese and EU students. (Newsbook)

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