The Malta Independent 25 March 2019, Monday

Inflation and lower incomes

Alfred Sant Monday, 17 December 2018, 07:39 Last update: about 4 months ago

The latest price index according to the EU’s methodology (HICP) seems to confirm that the pressure of price increases is mainly affecting those with low to lower middle incomes. The highest annual shift in prices up to November 2018 was recorded in the sectors of food and nonalcoholic beverages, and of clothes and footwear with an increase of 3.5 per cent and 2.7 per cent respectively. Close to this level, housing, water and electricity reached a 2 per cent increase. Other sectors showed much lower price increases or even a decrease.

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However, the sectors which recorded the highest price rises have a bigger weight in the budgets of poor and not so rich families... the lower incomes... than they do for families that are doing well. To complicate matters, the EU methodology gives a not insignificant weighting to restaurant and hotel prices – which makes sense for larger populations but less so for a small one like ours. Statistically this contributes to downscale the weighting of food and clothing indices.

Perhaps the time has come for a separate price index to be kept, one thatmeasures price changes as experienced by families with lower income budgets.

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Terrorism?

During the past year or so, the US experienced a number of murderous gun attacks. They were carried out by criminals or people suffering from mental problems; in their majority they were not considered as terrorist attacks in the way we use the expression in Europe.

The Strasbourg attack of last week was carried out by a hardened criminal who was being actively sought by the police. He grasped at the Islamic “call” to “decorate” his criminal and suicidal activity. I doubt whether what he did can be considered as terrorism or that it marks some renewal of organised terrorist initiatives in Europe originated by extreme Islamist sources.

Naturally this last possibility should not be discarded. But it would be counter-productive to assume it is the only one to consider.

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Pottery

The most recent collection of short stories by Joe Friggieri published in “The Pottery Fair” (Il-Fiera tal-Fuħħar) is the best of the three that have appeared in the same format. I remain sceptical about this kind of “anecdotic” short story because it could become too ephemeral. But in this collection a good number of the “anecdotes” carry the degree of ambiguity necessary for this not to happen.

Moreover the quality of the writing... which however is also to be found in the other collections... is excellent, and this applies equally to that part of the output that could be considered ephemeral. Friggieri aims with a few descriptors to create a story that has the characteristics of a poem. Perhaps it is an impossible task to try and translate a gleam of life experience into a short story. An anecdote still needs some kind of plot, which a poem can do without. The two obey different “rules” even if both can end up as straws in the wind.             In this collection, “The Pottery Fair”, “Letters to Marta”, “Pjazza Regina” among others have the narrative momentum to meet these requirements. I still believe that Joe should now face up to the challenge of attempting a narration that takes us into the distance.   

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