Tuesday 17 September 2019

Someone’s knockin’ at your door

This article first appeared in Malta Today

It’s that time of the year again when a flurry of activity suddenly strikes previously lethargic or indifferent entities, and what should have been done gradually in a planned, systematic way is attempted all at once.

A month from today we will be voting in the MEP and local council elections – in fact, the billboards should have been your first clue, some of which, judging by their message, did not seem to get the memo that this is not a national election. Since when does an MEP decide on pensions?  As for the responsibilities of local councils, that is still shrouded in mystery because no one seems to know exactly what falls under their remit or not.  The relationship of the councils with the central Government is also dysfunctional and as residents look on in frustration it just seems that they are always at war with each other. When something is not done no one wants the blame, but when it is done, everyone wants the credit. 

Politicians need to realise that the majority of the electorate is really not that complicated. They vote for you based on what you promise, they get you elected, and they expect you to deliver.

Sounds simple enough, but somewhere between the first flush of victory and a year or two down the line (and sometimes even the very next day), the eager earnestness of the potential candidate begging for your vote is thrown out the window and someone else takes over.  Unfortunately, it’s not usually the new and improved version, but the hard-nosed, cynical and self-absorbed version of the person who was thumping on your door just the other day.   

Of course, there will invariably be those who will justify or make allowances for politicians who are only it for themselves (usually because they too stand to benefit in one way or the other), but if my reading of the public mood is correct, many are fast losing patience with being hoodwinked year after year, one election and one administration after another.

We were promised meritocracy in public appointments, a Government which makes the environment its priority and a Malta which belongs to everyone.  You do not even need to read the news every day to know that what we have ended up with is diametrically opposite to all this.  Instead, we have people like the former Parliamentary Secretary Deborah Schembri, who lost her seat in 2017, being appointed to so many boards and awarded so many consultancies that I wonder how she can keep her diary straight. The environment is not only not a priority but it has been trampled and eradicated beyond recognition. As to whom Malta belongs to, well no need for any wild guesses there, just take a peek at the names on the signs attached to your friendly neighbourhood scaffolding. Another development project by…  

And while in some areas this administration has delivered, we do not need daily doses of reminders with an avalanche of press releases boasting about this as if they are trying to forcibly bury in us in feel good vibes.  Frankly, I have had enough of this PR and spin wrapped up in what appear to be news stories but is really just propaganda which is supposed to impress us.  Every time I see a Minister standing by some project for a photo op, I feel like sending him a photo of myself next to my laptop – just to show him that I, too, desire public recognition for doing what I am being paid to do. 

The thing is, even though few politicians have enough moral fibre to tell us the truth, we find out about it anyway because you cannot really hide these things any more in the age of the Internet. 

Water and electricity bills?  The people at the top tell us they have gone down, but ordinary people are posting their bills online, proving otherwise. 

Attempts were made to “sell” us the idea that all this construction and high-rise development is necessary to attract high-quality tourists. But now the MHRA President himself has confirmed what Joe Public has been saying all along: what high-quality tourist wants to book a holiday smack in the middle of a building site?  Oh, and by the way, it’s not exactly a barrel of laughs for us permanent residents either and certainly not the way we had planned to live out our days. 

Meanwhile, in the frenzy to build, build, build, but with not enough skilled workers who know what they are doing, things have started to literally collapse. Last night, three apartments in G’Magnia collapsed and earlier yesterday, a wall in Swieqi fell, burying a poor man underneath the rubble. 

The current advice being shared on ex-pat groups is that Malta is a nice place to live but forget it if you worry about health and safety.   Does that upset you? Well, it should, and not because a ‘foreigner’ is saying it but because it is, uncomfortably, the truth.

Ah, that much-maligned concept, the truth : more politicians should try it.

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