Malta’s economy is booming, but beneath the positive sheen of record employment lies a darker reality that often goes ignored.
“Our economy is built on cheap labour and precarious work,” says Yana Mintoff. “It’s not healthy. It’s not good for the workers and it’s not good for society as a whole”.
Dr Mintoff drafted a 10-year anti-poverty strategy for the government some years back and has since campaigned for social justice as part of Alleanza Kontra l-Faqar. What she sees is a growing social class which is being squeezed on two fronts.
“The crux of the problem is having low income work on one side and rising rental, property and food prices on the other,” she tells Times Talk.
Those income pressures are often missed by statistics, Dr Mintoff says, because inflation indices are based on a basket of goods put together with the average person in mind, not those on society’s lower rungs.
Regulating the rental market would help mitigate some of those pressures by putting a stop to some of the exorbitant rent price increases Malta has witnessed in the past years, she believes.
“The housing market is not flexible or efficient in any sense,” Dr Mintoff says as she dismisses arguments to let market forces determine rental prices. “Supply is slow to come and people don’t want to move home whenever a better deal comes by. So some intervention is healthy.”
As for those in need of more direct state intervention, Dr Mintoff acknowledges that this Labour government has been somewhat slow to act.
“I’m very impatient about the fact that we haven’t had investment in government housing,” she said. “Now there is, which we’re grateful for. But meanwhile the situation has deteriorated for many people.”
Would her father – the man who, for all intents and purposes, created Malta’s welfare state – have approved?
“My father’s last words were ‘everyone needs a decent life’,” she recalls. “He’d seen so much poverty as a child...he believed very strongly in equality and social justice.”
Watch the full Times Talk interview with Yana Mintoff in the above video.
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