Over centuries, with the establishment of guilds and chambers of commerce and industry, economic activities have been regulated. These regulations serve to protect the members of the guild or the chamber from intrusion of gangsters and criminals into the honest circle of practitioners.

The rules and internal governance of the guilds and chambers also ensure protection for customers and the public and they also ensure proper collection of fees, taxes and dues that the state is entitled to collect from all human activities.

These arrangements exist in all civilised countries but do not exist or are not followed in failed states where mafias and criminal gangs take over.

Our general landscape of industrial activity in Malta over the centuries has been, in its majority, very much ruled by these laws and regulations, which were self-regulated by the guilds and chambers, and society flourished.

Is this the case of our construction so-called industry? Since the “make hay while the sun shines” policy announced by their representative, Sandro Chetcuti, they call themselves developers but some of them clearly do not follow any rules.

How can they call themselves a civilised industry when the innumerable examples of unregulated unqualified operators mushroomed all over the place? Many instances have hit the press when the damage is so great as to involve loss of life of workers, innocent neighbours and bystanders alike  but everybody in Malta knows through experience in their own neighbourhood that constant breach of all regulations is the norm.

In such a situation, contractors without a licence or any formal education in the principles of civil engineering, architecture, machinery or electrical engineering suddenly get bank financing to purchase earth-moving machinery, cranes, cement mixers, jackhammers and other machinery, usually second-hand from China or from throwaways by continental civil engineering firms in Europe.

Without a licence or even with one, without a formal architectural plan and supervision or even with one, without a properly educated civil engineer permanently on site or even with one, these cowboys, pseudo contractors, get a contract by a property owner or by a developer to destroy existing buildings and to construct a block of flats in the fastest and cheapest way.

Who is to blame for how certain contractors are allowed to start their business? The bank that lends them money, the property owners who contract them to do the work knowing they are unqualified or the government overseeing authorities that are abysmally absent at all stages of the process?

Shame on the government. It is letting us all down- John Vassallo

Once the contract is entered into, then comes the more obscene part of the contractors’ activity into play. A drive past the Marsa collection of human slave labour in the early morning to pick up what appears to them to be the strongest and ablest foreign unlicensed unqualified and illegally present- in-Malta men and offer them between €1 and €4 an hour for a 12 hour work day.

That activity known to the police and to all Maltese who drive past or take a bus from or to Marsa every morning has been going on for years and no one stops it. Who is the criminal here? The state for not stopping this and the contractor are both to blame. But so is the property owner, the architect who designed and is supposed to oversee the construction and the site engineer who turns a blind eye.

Then, on the work site, the cowboy contractor brings his second-hand jackhammers and lousy noisy Komatsu or caterpillar earth movers, and, without any protective clothing, hard hats, metal toe-protecting shoes, gloves, harnesses at heights above 10 feet, he puts his slave labourers to work. The site is never properly enclosed and the noise, dust and shuddering of the rocky land beneath the house that is pulled apart is felt by all neighbours.

With no care to save any of the fantastic features that even the poorest older Maltese houses always contain, they disturb all the neighbourhood from 7am and sometimes carry on also to late at night. They dig too close to the dividing walls, they do not water down the dust that flies all over the place and do not clean up the area as they work.

They start to build using terrible cheap blockrete that is sometimes produced in illegal quarry-based cement plants that also have no licence most of the time. The old well beneath the house and the small or even large back gardens that served as the lung of Malta have all vanished under this savage imprudent destruction.

The house then turns into a terrible block of chicken coops without any redeeming features, sometimes built by illegal labour paid in cash, without any payment of social security, PAYE or any slips that can be provided later to estimate the real cost of the building thus built.

The number of rules and Maltese laws broken during this process that happens every day in many building sites around all Malta and Gozo leads me to conclude that, not only should the contractor go to prison and be banned from continuing the building he is engaged in, but also that the state is responsible too for not applying the law.

It is a similar situation to that described by the Daphne Caruana Galizia board of inquiry that found the inaction of Joseph Muscat’s cabinet had led to a climate of impunity in Malta.

Shame on the government. It is letting us all down.

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