The Malta Independent 20 February 2019, Wednesday

TMID Editorial: Number problems - New challenges as population grows

Saturday, 14 July 2018, 10:48 Last update: about 8 months ago

Official statistics published this week show an exponential growth in the population of Malta, the highest per capita enlargement within the European Union in 2017.

The number of people living in Malta has grown to 475,000, a sharp rise of nearly 16,000 when compared to 2016. It is clear that the past years have seen an aggressive augmentation of the population – in 2006, the total was 405,616, meaning that Malta’s inhabitants increased by 70,000 in just 11 years, or a staggering 17 per cent.


There was a time when the half million point was too far away to be contemplated, but if the population continues to grow at the current rate then we will get there in a couple of years.

Taking things further, if one were to eliminate the number of Maltese who are away on holiday or work (an average of 45,345 per month in 2017) and then adding the number of tourists in Malta on holiday or business (189,486 per month in 2017), the total number of people on this small island of ours was, on average, 619,141 during 2017.

Nearly 620,000 on an island which is just 316 square kilometres in size is something that should make us think. Can a country of this small dimension sustain so many people? Are we growing too fast? Is there a limit somewhere?

We can see the overall effects of this population growth with our own eyes. The traffic issues continue to mount day after day, week after week, and any government project aimed to counter the impact is not enough to meet with the demand. The public transport system is still too weak to manage the influx of so many people.

Apart from this, any infrastructural work continues to create environmental controversy, as new roads mean arable land is taken over by tarmac and trees are uprooted, while the widening of existing ones also mean a negative effect the little greenery that we enjoy.

The presence of so many people is also leading to the need to construct higher buildings to meet the growing demand for accommodation, with the resulting protests by environmentalists. The cost of renting out property has inevitably increased and, while this may not be an issue for big companies bringing over foreigners to work in Malta, it is a cause of concern for people in the lower rungs of the social scale.

More people mean a bigger need for energy and water, a larger volume of drainage and waste generated, and more pollution. What needs to be taken into consideration as well is that most of the population – both resident and touristic – is concentrated around the Grand Harbour region and the surrounding areas, meaning that this zone is literally choking.

What is problematic is that Malta did not plan for such a fast growth, and the consequences of this lack of planning are being felt more and more. We are now trying to patch things up for our lack of preparation and many times we are getting important decisions wrong.

The time has come for the government to seriously consider the implications of this unexpected increase, and plan accordingly.

We may already be too late.

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