The Malta Independent 20 February 2019, Wednesday

Economic trouble?

Alfred Sant Monday, 4 February 2019, 07:47 Last update: about 17 days ago

Up to not so long ago, I believed that some forecasters were exagerrating the disquiet they started to express at the economic situation in Europe and elsewhere. After all, economic growth in the euro zone had been solid for quite a while. Despite all the claims made against President Trump, since he’s been in charge the US economy has rolled forward.

Yet now too many voices have gone negative. One cannot just ignore them. They come from institutions that carry clout and that do not always see eye to eye.They include the European Central bank, the IMF, the European Commission and the ministry that oversees the German economy... The latter drastically downscaled its economic growth forecast even as Italy entered a recession.

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Taken together, the factors that are contributingto this economic malaise are impressive: among which: Brexit; an economic slowdown in China; a spreading protectionism, particularly since the US has converted to this doctrine; the uncertainties created byconfusion over efforts to counter climate change...

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More people

The existing and expected increase in Malta’s population is unprecedented. I am not among those who consider the development as no problem.

However even those who have no worries about the matter would agree that it carries consequences for the manner by which our community is organised.This goes beyond the factor that is most frequently mentioned – accomodation and rental levels...

For instance one consequence is bound to be an increasing usage of the public infrastructure, which then generates a greater need for maintenance and cleaning services. To a large extent, the impact will be felt by local councils. Their workload will increase and to cope, they will need an increase in their budgets.

Public reference has also been made to the greater demands being placed on the educational infrastructure with the arrival in the same classes of children with varied cultural and lingusitic backgrounds.

It is not enough to consider and evaluate the current population growth only in terms of labour market effects. We need to carefully take into account the impact of this population increase on a wide range of social sectors in order to get ready the appropriate financial and organizational responses.

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Religious practice                  

Recently publicity was given to a survey which looked at whether and how the people of Malta and Gozo have retained the religious practice of attending mass at the weekend.

Personally I was not surprised by the results. They reflect tendencies similar to those that have occurred in other European countries, though with a lag.

What I find more revealing is the change in personal attitudes that now allows us to declare without any complexes what we believe in. Some thirty years ago or more, it was not such an easy matter to ask a person outright whether he/she believed in God. Even a high calibre intellectual then could feel embarrassed by such a question and avoid a reply. Today the question is asked in a brief newspaper profile to an equally high calibre individual and the reply is quickfire, clear and honest.

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