When it’s time for budget cuts it is inevitable that we think of all the waste we could have saved for this rainy day. The cuts the university is required to suffer just next year would have been unnecessary had the profligate crony running the Film Commission not been given free rein to spend over a million euros in a self-indulgent waste fest.

Malta’s authorities are subsidising energy consumption extremely heavily in these days of war. Presumably, they are too embarrassed to allow electricity prices to rise at even a fraction of market realities and be constantly reminded of the money creamed off the top by the corrupt politicians who fixed our energy deals.

Of course, the money saved from bribes and kickbacks would never be enough to pay for an explosion in worldwide energy prices. Similarly, Air Malta would not have been saved if Karl Stagno Navarra was not paid a handsome salary by the national airline to go on Labour TV every weekday evening. But a patient dying of cancer will complain about an ingrown toenail as a distasteful insult added to injury.

The only way for the government to politically outlive these embarrassments is to put on a brave face and pretend they don’t exist. Pretence is like lipstick on a rotting corpse. Shiny but pointless. It seeks to cover up an impending reality. The rot cannot be reversed. The future cannot be stopped.

As we rapidly increase in number and grow inexorably towards the population mark of the first million inhabitants, we seem to agree the future will not happen if we don’t think about it.

How else can a government seriously consider slashing to nearly nothing the entire discretionary budget of the country’s only university? While Owen Bonnici makes weekly appearances on pages two to seven of it-Torċa speaking about Malta’s “research and development” spending in space exploration and what not, the government denies the university enough money to buy pens and whiteboard markers. This is not hyperbole. Meanwhile, immeasurable public resources are being sent the way of the so perversely called American University of Malta and all of its 100 students.

Education should be our primary focus, our first priority to change our fate and provide this country with some sort of future. It is simplistic to say we don’t think education is important enough for the future. We just don’t think the future exists.

How else to explain the government’s migration policy? We import thousands of people with a false promise of prosperity. Most, almost all, are single men. They are treated as slaves, overworked, excluded, housed in Dickensian conditions. We make no effort to even ima­gine they aspire to better themselves, as if aspiration is an exclusively white affliction. We create ghettoes for them and imagine they’ll never try to break out, violently if necessary.

The public sector is already bloated with thousands of unskilled people collecting a salary as a gift

Speaking of Dickensian living conditions, the issue of where to house the rapidly growing population is just as grotesquely under-planned for poorer people born here. We have construction everywhere, much of it apparently designed to remain empty. Huge stretches of built-up property remain vacant and neglected. Where will ordinary working families live? Renting a decent place to live is prohibitively expensive and what people can afford to borrow buys suffocating misery cemented in brick walls.

This is a country that bleeds countryside for rapid construction like it’s been cut by knives while Pietà seafront, an urban waterfront that could be a better Croisette, has been abandoned for more than a lifetime. It’s like the future won’t be coming.

It’s not just housing. Infrastructurally we have longer and wider roads than we’ve ever had before but the moment those 80,000 slaves emancipate themselves enough to afford to buy a car, we’ll be falling off cliffs.

What with all the budget slashing at the university, I’m not sure anyone has been working out if we’ll have enough water for a million inhabitants. Likely, we won’t. It is likely we won’t have enough sewage treatment capacity to handle all the waste. It is likely the growing storms of climate change will pour far more disaster than we can absorb. It is likely we’ll generate more rubbish than any amenity site or landfill can take. Who’s counting? Who cares?

There is a way of preparing for the future. There is a way to plan for it. But a low-tax jurisdiction unwilling to kick the habit of easy money generated from baroque financial instruments and gambling habits is not planning for its future. An economy that is stingy with its educational services is not developing a resilient, innovative workforce. It isn’t nurturing capacity for cultural profit, for manufacturing, for sustainable growth and sourcing of food.

The muscles of an economy addicted to slave labour atrophy. Disease is not only metaphorical. A million inhabitants of this country, stuck in traffic, living in tight quarters, will still get sick and need hospitals and medical care. Can our hospital infrastructure handle the growth or do we expect brown and black people to die on the streets to allow white people priority access to hospital beds?

And now for politicians’ favourite reaction to rapid population growth, lack of social cohesion and scarring poverty. How do we keep a country of a million people safe? How do we police the streets? How do we make sure we have enough government to run such a complex, unequal, fragmented society?

We’ll need institutional capacity for that. But the public sector is already bloated with thousands of unskilled people collecting a salary as a gift. We’ll need more and better policemen, judges, administrators and regulators. Where will we find them if we slash our expenditure in education? Where will we find all the teachers we’ll need, all the nurses, all the social workers?

We need to make them. We need to train them. Or we can all pretend the future does not exist.

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