The Malta Independent 22 February 2020, Saturday


Rachel Borg Saturday, 5 October 2019, 10:47 Last update: about 6 months ago

Livability.  This term was used by Boris Johnson in his speech to the Tory Conference last Wednesday.  He was laying out the plans for making more areas and regions livable by building a better transport, technological and housing infrastructure.  Better bus connectivity, high-speed internet and building of new houses on brown fields, which were previously of no value because of their location away from a livable centre. 

The term “livability” goes further than that.  It describes a situation, a mode of living and the possibilities of living there prosperously and healthily or otherwise having to give up on your home and your friends and move away completely or suffer the deprivation around you.

When applied to our country, this term can fit over the whole island of Malta and to Gozo.

How livable are Malta and Gozo today?  Friends debate this topic over a meal, to say good bye to an old ex-pat who has decided to leave and go back to their country, albeit reluctantly.  Reasons for the decision are different and include both personal reasons and external factors.  They say they will miss many good things but jokingly, list also the others they will not miss, like the absence of greenery, the sound of the hunters’ gun in the morning, the excessive fireworks, the polluted air and the heavy traffic.

Due to its small size, we can take the whole island as one contiguous area and judge whether or not it is livable here any longer.  Everywhere, the same scene is being played out amongst old neighbours, under siege from the new hotels and blocks of apartments engulfing them.  They stand on the street and share their frustration at the sleepless nights due to the noise of compressors belting away just across from their own balcony or the frolicking in the Jacuzzi and spa below till all hours or the noisy tourists next door.  They know that they can make a report at the Police Station about the infringements but they hope for some cooperation and common sense to prevail.

Others feel the tension building up when trying to make their way out of their neighbourhood, with streams of side-roads and garages all trying to exit onto the main road, blocked by trucks and cranes and delivery vans.  Shopping is a night-mare.  Public transport is enough to make you head back home to regain some composure.  Even walking is prohibitive due to the poor state of the pavement, the walking around obstacles, the water dripping from the ACs and the fumes.

Livability indicates that there is a time for work, for rest and exercise, for entertainment, for education and means of mobility and connectivity.  It also should be affordable and a healthy place to live.

How much can we say that our country fits the description anymore? 

It also includes the political infrastructure, the social and environmental justice.  The deterioration of our right to freedom of speech and to protest.  Parents who were shocked to see the dilapidation of the kindergarten their little children were expected to start school in.  What impression would that dingy classroom, infested and worse than some earthquake zone, have on the new pupils and their teachers?  What does it describe to them and their parents?  A caring society?  One that values education and respect?  Poor mothers and fathers who had been talking up going to school to their children and then have to lead them into the class they were given.

Is it acceptable to stifle a legitimate and peaceful protest, especially in a University?  The ruling class live in fear these days.  They see danger all around them.  They imagine all sorts of threats to their livability, which they have cultivated at the expense of others, and yet, have no qualms about depriving us of ours.  Their guilt has turned to paranoia.

We are becoming transformed by a state that wants us to be blind and servile, to be obedient and to put money and privilege above all other human considerations.  The continuous manipulation of the truth to accommodate a lie, to perpetuate another and to divide and rule.

Time stops for no-one.  Jazz icon Miles Davis said, “Time isn’t the main thing. It’s the only thing.”  Sustainability will be revealed in time.  Can our towns and villages bear all this construction and can we continue to breathe this air?  Will the fabric of society come apart with all the tension, conflict and cover-ups?  Public organisations are straining under the weight of the conflict of interest of its Head or CEO.  Yet, these are the organisations that are meant to save our island and make it livable. 

The problem of construction waste and waste management is already monstrous.  Token words and actions are meant to give the impression that it is under control when in fact, we all can see that it is abandoned and has overwhelmed the government.  Not even a family outdoor park is kept in a good state.  In a little while, experts warn, the drainage infrastructure will collapse.  How livable an area will be one that has high-rises above ground and toilets that don’t flush?  The energy that will be needed to keep our homes cool in Summer and warm in Winter and the electricity to give us light and power up our apartment lifts and garages had better not keep rising in cost. The water for our swimming pools and the fuel for our cars are all essential commodities nowadays which may no longer be affordable.

Ultimately for a place to be livable, it should also afford you a good standard of living, a good income from employment or business.  Investment needs a safe and secure financial environment not one that is subject to scrutiny on every level and found to be failing.  Citizens need to have the protection of law and order and to see that every citizen is treated fairly and not discriminated against on the basis of political views or the colour of their skin.  They need to know that they are not being robbed and cheated every time they pay their taxes or switch on their light.  That they can talk to their children about a future and that the commitment they make to their education will be well served.

The elderly need their sense of security which they worked for and deserve to enjoy, having their family around them and being able to take part in the community whenever they want to by being mobile and cared for.  They should enjoy good health and have access to the best health service.

Your home is your sanctuary.  You should not be forced to sell or move (to where?) because of the overdevelopment around you.  You are entitled to your rest and privacy at home.  The unsustainability of it all is catching up fast.  Making our country livable again is the challenge for the next government and the current generation of young voters.

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