A recent popular (perhaps populist) catch word is related to all things being cosmopolitan. This term has been referred to, in different manners, by various politicians.
In all probability I live in the most cosmopolitan locality in Malta, St Paul’s Bay. There are other areas, such as Marsascala, St Julian’s and Sliema, which are also living this experience. However, there is a huge difference between living this reality and preparing for it.
Several years back, while preparing my Masters thesis about the social realities of St Paul’s Bay, I encountered many of the difficulties faced by the residents of the locality, be they Maltese, EU nationals or non-EU nationals.
At the time there were residents coming from 103 countries. Since then, the number of non-Maltese people living in the locality has increased dramatically.
Yet, one has to ask whether there was any type of planning for this influx of people. The simple and blunt answer is that there was no such planning. Besides that, with the increase in population, the challenges became much bigger.
People keep coming in but the only other increase, besides that of population, relates to conflicts. The experience of St Paul’s Bay should serve as an eye-opener for all those who are talking about “cosmopolitan Malta”.
This is, or rather, should be planned. The planning needed does not relate only to whether non-Maltese are the real reason for economic growth. Planning, of a totally different type, relates to the way in which communities live.
Filling spaces with people is one thing. Making sure these people are living a sort of community life is another reality
Whether we like it or not, human beings tend to be interactive.
We are all aware (or rather, should be aware) that our society has changed dramatically. The areas which have already lived “a cosmopolitan life”, should serve as an eye opener.
Filling spaces with people is one thing. Making sure these people are living a sort of community life is another reality.
The number of children born through mixed relationships has increased. It is not that rare that these children have to face daily conflicts. Human beings are not statues. Wherever we go we face the reality that Malta has changed dramatically.
In those localities where cosmopolitanism has developed over a number of years, we can judge the overall effect of such growth. Unfortunately, there is a very huge vacuum when it comes to preparing for this reality.
Maltese people tend to point fingers towards non-Maltese residents for whatever wrong that happens around them. Non-Maltese residents, as opposed to tourists, are, very often, seen in bad light.
On the other hand, these foreign residents have the tendency of trying to live“in their country”, even though their country may be thousands of kilometres away from Malta.
Pressured as they are to earn money (for their own living, for paying the daily expenses and also to send some money back home), no real attempts at integration take place.
The questions that have to be answered here are: Wwho should try to organise any attempt at integration?
Who is prepared to participate in such an attempt?
Who is going to provide the money for the necessary contacts to take place?
There are many other questions that need to be asked in this aspect and answered. So far, experience has shown us that no preparation, or planning, has taken place.
Besides that, reading through the Budget speech for next year, there is no indication that planning for cosmopolitanism is getting a central role.
I would dare say: quite the opposite. With this in mind I hope that planning starts to be taken seriously.
Otherwise, an imposed, unplanned, cosmopolitan society will not be able to live an adequately normal life.
Censu Galea is a former Nationalist Cabinet minister.
This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece
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