Why did the Prime Minister feel he should say that stakeholders should ‘not spit in the same well they drink from’ when speaking about the property market?

Frank Psaila, Nationalist Party MEP candidate

I cannot speak for the Prime Minister. Neither can I assume what he had in mind. However, one thing I know for a fact - there is certainly no forward planning, no long-term plan. The Prime Minister is against it. He said so himself at the developers’ annual general meeting. He was a lone voice there.

 It jarred, especially when you have the developers’ chief arguing, and rightly so, for long-term planning. Perhaps, Joseph Muscat wanted to please his audience who, and you can’t blame them, want their business to flourish - although it won’t unless sustained in the long term.

We’ve all heard of property bubbles - fingers crossed this won’t happen in Malta. It would deal a fatal blow to small investors and the country at large.

The Malta Developers Association president Sandro Chetcuti and Opposition leader Adrian Delia insisted that there should be long-term planning. The Nationalist Party is not against the construction industry - it makes no sense to be, but it wants the industry to flourish, and for investors to carry the benefits in the long-term.

We’re also depending heavily on the construction industry. That’s putting all eggs in one basket, and that’s risky

This won’t happen unless there is long-term planning. The Prime Minister disagrees. And he proves it every day. He’s very consistent on this matter.

I’m often told that under the last Nationalist administration, building permits took time to be issued - that may well be the case, admittedly. However, things have now spiralled out of control. Permits are being issued as if there’s no tomorrow.

Building permits are being dished out with no decent planning in sight. There’s no tomorrow. The construction industry is going through a strong patch - but that needs to be sustained. Many are worried that it won’t. In the short term, construction generates robust economic activity.

If well planned, it can also be sustained in the long term - but it’s not, for there is no long-term plan. This is having a negative affect on our localities across Malta and Gozo. I encounter its negative effects during my house visits - and I can vouch for that for I’ve been campaigning for a year-and-a-half now, and conducted no less than 7,000 house visits across Malta and Gozo.

A survey conducted by Misco for The Sunday Times of Malta identified excessive construction as one of people’s primary concerns.

I am all for a robust construction industry, for this generates a ripple effect in our economy. However, it needs to be well planned, and sustained in the long term. 

We’re also depending heavily on the construction industry. That’s putting all eggs in one basket, and that’s risky. Instead of creating new industries, as successive PN administrations did over the years, this government has a straightforward strategy - flood the job market with foreign employees, and build sporadically with no plan in sight to boost the economy in the short term and accommodate thousands of foreign workers in Malta.

Now, that’s risky.

Marcus Lauri, PRO, Democratic Party

While our Prime Minister’s choice of words leaves much to be desired, sadly, he is correct in his appeal to the many stakeholders in this very important sector of the Maltese economy.

The sector has seen unprecedented growth year on year coupled with unfortunate easing of enforcement and regulation. Idolising economic growth as the ultimate goal while discounting all other considerations is terrible public policy in action, and with innumerable negative consequences.

The daily negative publicity in the press is testament to this. To mention a few: unaffordability of housing on the market is increasingly affecting more families; dust; noise; careless and outdated methods of construction; toxic fume pollution from construction vehicles, which are past their use-by date;

  The uglification of our towns and townscapes; overcrowding; severe traffic congestion due to wholesale disregard for the highway code and lack of standardised and logical traffic diversion arrangements; unsafe and unsecure building sites and practices; and improperly trained and equipped construction workers. The list is endless.

More and more families and expats are being made to suffer collateral consequences mainly due to unaffordability

Crucial entities such as the Building Regulation Office whose raison d’être is to monitor and regulate construction malpractices has ‘conveniently’ been left without adequate manpower to perform its functions and has been left exasperated and overwhelmed by the sheer number of construction projects and the increasing number and gravity of bad practices.

We are also witnessing non-regulation in the rental market. While the pricing for rental properties has been left to the determination of the forces of demand and supply, more and more families and expats are being made to suffer collateral consequences mainly due to unaffordability.

Reports of foreign workers coming to Malta to work in the services industries and leaving after a few months due to all-round unaffordability abound. Maltese families unable to afford market residential rates are fast becoming an alarming social problem on a national scale.

A White Paper on Rent Reform was launched by the government last year, however, it was criticised by Democratic Party and other concerned groups as being too little, too late. PD’s own Marlene Farrugia had publicly offered free lodging to a Gozitan student who had been priced out of her rented apartment overnight.

Our Prime Minister may make all the statements he deems fit. However, the reality on the ground tells a very different tale. Publicly wishing for self-regulation in a sector which is driven by profits and super-profits is wishful thinking.

The Democratic Party appeals to the government to bite the bullet and regulate and enforce where both are sorely needed.

The Labour Party failed to send their contribution in time for publication.

If you would like to put any questions to the parties in Parliament send an e-mail marked clearly Question Time to editor@timesofmalta.com.

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

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