The government is applauding itself for a relatively good Eurobarometer result in terms of people’s perceptions on their quality of life. True, life satisfaction is high in Malta. Whether it is because or despite the government is subject to debate.
But let us say that Joseph Muscat’s government is a chief cause of Malta’s Eurobarometer results. In this case I remind our Prime Minister that as he himself told us recently, you cannot have meat without the bone. So, let’s look at some of the major concerns of Maltese respondents.
The major ones, according to Eurobarometer, are migration, followed by housing, the environment, climate and energy issues, crime, rising prices and inflation.
Maybe the government should reflect whether its economic model, largely based on the importation of thousands of workers is the right way forward. Not only because this encourages the depression of wages, but also because of other impacts.
These include impacts on the price of housing which has exploded upwards. Evictions are on the increase, social housing queues are growing while Malta keeps being built up, sometimes by workers who paradoxically live in containers.
Today, more young workers are discovering that their dreams of having or renting their own property must be shelved, as they simply cannot afford brave new prices. What a difference from just a few years ago!
There are impacts on the quality of life of elderly persons, who were recently told by the Prime Minister that their pensions depend on imported workers, and not on their own hard-paid contributions over the years. Indeed, many pensioners are finding it too hard to cope with the prices of medicines, utility bills, foodstuffs and the services and goods that define their quality of life.
In a way Malta’s real inflation can be analysed in terms of growing demand for the supply of Malta’s goods and services, pushing prices upwards.
There are impacts on the environment. Our quality of air is one of the worst in Europe, mainly courtesy of a car-addicted economy, and other forms of pollution are spreading across the islands. The tentacles of urban sprawl are robbing our children of greenery as our townscapes become ever-more congested. Incidentally, some children now must accommodate themselves in containers for classrooms. A surplus of containers in the best of times.
We should say things as they are, without fear or obligation and we should aim to build bridges rather than entrench ourselves in hatred
These problems transcend party politics. Pollution is democratic, as it affects most people. Everyone receives utility bills, and estate agents do not discriminate in prices. So, it is imperative that we face today’s challenges beyond petty politics.
In my own activist and political journey, so far lasting 25 years, I have met many people, red, blue, green, orange and of no colour who have goodwill and who want a better Malta. Such goodwill resulted in successful campaigns spanning from Malta’s EU membership to the extension of civil rights, as well as some successful environmental battles against a tide of overdevelopment.
And today, the clarion call politics of goodwill remains to keep speaking up for people, the environment and just causes. We should say things as they are, without fear or obligation and we should aim to build bridges rather than entrench ourselves in hatred. We should refuse sponsors to finance electoral campaign goodies in return for behind-the-scenes deals.
We should aim to make the EU more relevant to our daily lives. We should ensure that voices in Malta are heard in the EU and that the positives of EU membership are experienced across the board.
We should speak up for the forgotten persons, the silent majority which transverses partisan boundaries. We should advocate politics that comes from the ground and which is based on research, listening and acting on people’s concerns.
With this article comes an end to my role as weekly op-ed columnist in the Times of Malta. I was asked to stop this column by the editor, in line with the newspaper’s policy, in view of my candidacy in next May’s European elections. I thank the Times of Malta for the wonderful opportunity that was given to me in the past years, something which I will always treasure.
I will occasionally keep writing in the newspaper. Special thanks to you, dear reader.
This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece