The Malta Independent 4 December 2021, Saturday

The worrying trendlines

Noel Grima Sunday, 21 November 2021, 09:00 Last update: about 15 days ago

Many times we speak about varying situations around us, more to condemn than to praise. At most, we may go for a historical analysis and show how today's events are the result of what happened in the past.

What I intend to do today, or rather try to, is to try and see what today's events may turn out to be in the future, especially if today's trend is continued.

Of course, many trends may change direction but in many areas of our lives today's trend will continue, sometimes despite changes at the top. And that, I intend to argue, can be worrying.

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I can start from a number of issues but today I begin with the construction industry in our country. The trendline is easily seen. For the past half century we have been building and building like never in our past.

Entire towns are the result - Bugibba, Marsascala, Pembroke, Paceville itself. We can see the results around us and in any locality any day. No over-enhancing plan. No open spaces for the population. No over-all plan. There is, I would say, no street without a development taking place.

That is as regards to what is happening today. But if we extrapolate into the coming years, what do we see happening in 10, 20 years' time?

The explosion of development has brought with it a corresponding increase in the number of builders which we today are calling developers. There has been a corresponding increase in a number of ancillary businesses - plasterers, carpenters, interior designers, etc.

There are at least two problems here: Malta is finite, very finite and we are fast running out of space. And for all the units that have been built there are not enough buyers.

On the one hand, therefore, the industry is in expansion mode while on the other hand the possibilities are decreasing.

That's the trend - two lines going against each other. My point today is that no government or possible government can do anything about this. Certainly not the present one which made reducing the Mepa rules a cardinal part of its electoral appeal. Nor the Opposition which doesn't dare upset the developers. The construction industry is set to continue developing more and more of our depleted country.

Let's take another trendline. The economy. Some analysts say the economy is booming. They quote international analysts and companies and compare with other countries.

But this trendline clashes with the reality at ground level. The number of people at the risk of poverty is always rising. And the number of people employed in one way or another with the government is at an all-time high. So the people employed in manufacturing and in other revenue-enhancing industries are correspondingly fewer.

More. Along with other countries inflation is galloping ahead. And in our case the deficit has shot up to an unsustainable level.

This government may be blamed for allowing people to be recruited without any curb. Such was also done under a PN administration, though not in such a blatant way. And in 1987 when PN was returned to power it found it had to somehow absorb the thousands employed at that white elephant called Malta Shipbuilding.

And all this is happening while the world, we included, is facing wave after wave of coronavirus with all the blockages that means for travel and trade.

So the trendline here is a long uphill struggle to put the economy on a more even keel, to help the poor and to create work and wealth.

But this contrasts with the reality down at ground level. Whatever the government, any government, might think of doing will be limited by the economic reality of less revenue and increased pressure by other governments to balance the books. And we are in the midst of an international trade war.

The above are just two trendlines as I have described them. There are many others. The fight against corruption, to begin with. The fight for a more equitable system of justice. The fight for a better system of education. The fight for a road system that enables people to get from point A to B in the shortest time possible. The struggle to reform party politics from this eyeball to eyeball version of children's playground bullies. Etc.

I can only come to the same conclusion, whatever subject I think of.  Rather than a continuity that will leave us just as we are, what is needed is a drastic change of direction. A fundamental correction.

But right now I cannot see anyone delivering this. This government is hindered by its links to Joseph Muscat and his corrupt core. And the Opposition, for all its declarations, does not give me enough confidence yet that something drastic will be done.

It does look like we are in for more of the same, though maybe with different actors. And this, I firmly believe, is the worst future possible.

 

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