In Maltese we commonly make use of the phrase “U ija”. It loosely means to take the situation lightly, to relax and stop worrying, or to leave everything up to chance. Over the past few years, however, this sort of expression of light-hearted carelessness has taken a more sinister meaning as we are seeing our country fall into slumber, forgetting our long-term goals while stumbling towards some imaginary finish line.
This apathy (telqa) can be seen dangerously creeping into most aspects of our society. The government seems to be doing things half-heartedly or, perhaps, doing something just for the sake of doing something.
Our traffic management and road infrastructure, for example, is a clear example of a lack of planning and doing just the bare minimum; to delay the problem long enough for the next person to come in and attempt to fix it.
The problem of traffic has now developed into a full-blown crisis. Figures over the past few years show an unsustainable, constant increase in the number of cars on our roads. Road infrastructure projects are being planned with the aim of allowing more cars on the road while, at the same time, moving traffic bottlenecks from one area to another. The lack of forethought is clear and the management by crisis is worrying.
The efforts made to cater for and promote other modes of transport in new projects are minimal, with bike lanes leading to nowhere. “U ija” as long as a new road was built.
Earlier this week, the closure of the Pietà main road caused gridlock, as the slow-moving traffic resulted in severe delays all over the island. The situation is only made worse by the number of different projects that are simultaneously ongoing. “U ija” who cares if you were stuck for hours in your car.
Another example is the Żebbuġ – Siġġiewi junction project. Residents and the local council were only informed of this project a few days prior to works starting. There was no consultation and the plans were only presented to the local council at the start of the project simply as a matter of fact. As a result, the local council and many residents rightfully voiced their objections to a project they were clearly not comfortable with. “U ija” who cares what the local residents think.
Another issue which we are seeing more and more of lately is the lack of security in both Malta and Gozo. Our police force is going through a tough period. There is a shortage of policemen, leaving the current force overworked and demotivated. This is being reflected in the lack of proper police enforcement in many areas of the country. “U ija” who cares about that old lady and man who were assaulted.
More and more people are complaining about the increasing amounts of litter and garbage in our roads. It is sad to see that overflowing piles of rubbish, torn garbage bags, dust and abandoned machinery have become regular sightings as one takes a quick stroll through their neighbourhood. “U ija” who cares that rats are roaming our streets.
The management of municipal waste is an important matter, affecting the quality of life and health of the public and a lack of proper upkeep and enforcement is a major disservice to our country and its citizens.
It seems that every day we are watching our last few open spaces being stolen from us- Rebekah Cilia
Our overdependence on the construction industry has led us down a narrow alley. While we acknowledge that the construction industry is part of our economic life, this does not mean that we should build without any forethought.
We are lucky to be blessed with quintessential, Mediterranean, quaint villages but we are not doing our best to protect them with proper policies. An aesthetic policy is long overdue to safeguard our villages from some of the grotesque buildings that would not look out of place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. “U ija” who cares about the proposed hotel in the middle of Żebbuġ.
It seems that every day we are watching our last few open spaces being stolen from us. This constant battle has undoubtedly contributed heavily to this sense of apathy. It is as if someone, somewhere, always has a plan for some gargantuan development on our green spaces in the middle of our cities, our untouched garigue habitats and our seaside areas. “U ija” who cares if our children no longer have where to play.
The consequences of this apathy has resulted in youths leaving our islands in search of a place where people in government are not riding on the high of their electoral success and, as a result, feel they can do anything they please. As a result of this bulldozing attitude, corruption has become rife but it has also become so normalised that more “U ijas” are uttered even in the regard of big scandals. “U ija” if side agreements were signed with the Jordanians.
We are facing an identity crisis at large. Our beloved gem of a country is slowly but surely losing its charm due to the government’s laissez-faire attitude in the way things are done.
Projects should not be carried out for the sake of saying they have been done but must be done with foresight and planning. The government must act but when it does act, it should do so in the interest of citizens.
Rebekah Cilia is the Nationalist Party’s spokesperson on lands and consumer rights.
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