I have always been someone who promoted the need for foreigners to come and settle in Malta and Gozo.
They would buy or rent nice properties and bring into Malta millions of euros each year to greatly assist our economy. A few thousand couples would suffice and wouldn’t disrupt the general feeling and character of the country. This has always been my objective, both as a businessman and as someone who wants my country to remain beautiful while retaining its Maltese characteristics.
However, other business people had their own agendas as well, and these also entailed bringing foreigners over to Malta who would spend much money here – so much so that our economy is really booming.
Tourism, especially mass tourism, brings to Malta millions of people each year. Indeed, cruise liner passengers endow Malta with myriad visitors and language schools attract thousands of youngsters annually.
Businesses from the gaming industry and other similar companies bring to Malta thousands of young people, all of whom bring much-needed money into our country. But all these thousands of people visiting our islands need places to live, restaurants where they can eat and entertainment places to relax and enjoy themselves. All these visitors also use (and sometimes misuse) the country and its environment, and these people are found all over the island.
To accommodate and service these people, there comes a need for a lot of workers in the construction, maintenance and service industries. These people are brought in from abroad and work in restaurants, shops and building sites, collect rubbish, drive buses, work in hospitals and do any other job the Maltese can’t or won’t do.
There are hundreds of vacancies in all sectors and there aren’t enough Maltese to do them. In fact, this brings about quite an interesting question: where have all the Maltese workers gone, and where do they work?
Our economy is booming, but at the expense of Malta losing its identity.
Since our islands are full of foreigners living and working here, there is much more wear and tear to our environment, especially in the urban sphere.
The sad thing is that very little effort is made to address this problem, and so, our towns – especially those which are supposed to welcome our foreign visitors – are getting more and more unkempt and tatty looking.
There should be an authoritative committee that takes a good look at Malta to decide what should be done to remedy the situation
I feel that it could be time to take a deep breath and look around us to see the damage that is being done to Malta.
Are we defeating our own objective? Are we are losing our attractiveness? Are we hosting more visitors that our country can really cope with? Are we becoming a less and less attractive place to live and work?
I think there should be an authoritative, serious committee that takes a good look at Malta and Gozo to decide what should be done to remedy the situation.
I don’t mean a committee of members of Parliament from both sides. I am talking about a committee composed of a wide selection of active people with a public conscience, male and female, who can formulate a plan that will be carried out for the benefit of everyone.
That being said, I am not proposing a committee that will veto any project which will help the economy just for the sheer hell of it, but a practical committee that will get things done for the good and benefit of all – for Malta and all the people residing in it.
We need a plan that will not hinder our economy, but a plan that will also think of the Maltese residents who are, after all, the backbone of our economy.
We can no longer let people do whatever they want. Everything that people do must be for the benefit of all of Malta, not just for the benefit of a few individuals.
Now, please don’t get me wrong. I love Malta as much as anyone else, and I love progress, but I hate to see Malta deteriorate due to excessive use and neglect. It shouldn’t be this way.
In Singapore, they impose heavy fines for people who throw their chewing gum on public walkways.
Why can’t we have stricter laws in place to keep our lovely country maintained well and to a high standard that is acceptable both to the Maltese and their visitors?
This is something we can actually do. It just takes leadership and determination: leadership to move the country forward but with responsibility and common sense, and determination to make sure that all regulations are enforced to ensure that our country is as beautiful as we all know it can be.
Frank Salt is founder and non-executive chairman of Frank Salt Real Estate.