This article first appeared in Malta Today
When news spreads around a neighbourhood that a property is to be demolished to make way for a new development, the reaction of some people is, ’take this opportunity to sell up and move somewhere else’.
The problem with what appears to be a quick fix solution is three-fold:
(a) what guarantee is there that the new location you move to won’t be similarly stricken by the construction virus?
(b) why should people move out of their homes because they are being forced to, rather than out of choice?
(c) with today’s inflated property prices, what you will get for your current home won’t necessarily buy you something ‘better’
I also find absurdity in the argument that our properties at one point were all construction sites. Obviously, accommodation does not sprout up by itself like a mushroom but has to be built. But I find it preposterous that there are some actually comparing what is happening now – this simultaneous out-of-control bonanza and arrogant cowboy attitude, with the sporadic building which took over many decades. Never have there been so many construction sites everywhere you look, never have there been so many enormous cranes blocking off access to streets and people’s front doors, never have been there been so many gaping holes as diggers excavate the vanishing tracts of land, all happening at the same time.
The development taking place is chaotic and piecemeal and if we needed any further confirmation that the lack of infrastructural planning and the gobbling up of our valleys and green areas is not only destroying our environment but creating havoc to our daily lives, we got proof following the torrential storm this week. Instant gridlock.
Areas which were ostensibly at the receiving end of a 55 million Euro flood relief project completed in 2015 were, you guessed it, still flooded.
Roads which have been widened to accommodate more cars were snarled with the traffic of, you guessed it, even more cars.
Cyclists, who were doing their bit to be a part of the solution, rather than the problem, are giving up on cycling in fear for their lives and due to increased incidents of road rage.
There are those who get very upset because we point out these obvious failings, but excuse me, are we supposed to just grin and bear it? Or try to find 101 reasons to explain the failings away, rather than holding the authorities to account? It is as if the things which have been done well by this administration should somehow be enough to compensate or wash away the failures. But running the country properly does not work like that. Nor should it be a case of either you are all in favour of the party in power or else you are perceived as ‘the enemy’. What do supporters actually think will happen if they criticise their own party? Justified criticism is crucial in a democracy, otherwise we might as well roll over and play dead, telling them ‘thank you’ as they crush our bones in the same way they are trying to crush our spirit.
It is for this reason that I could relate to the Italian man, resident in Malta, who filmed a video of the disastrous flooded roads. He voiced what I often feel as I almost twist my ankle on uneven, shabby pavements or step into a gutter, knee deep in water just to get into my car. What the hell are we paying taxes for? But of course, the knee-jerk reaction of many could not get past the fact that he was not Maltese, so all hell broke loose. Poor man was practically torn apart and he was sent back to his country so many times he probably ended up in China. Oh, and he was also taunted for the collapse of the Genoa bridge, because you know, this man was in charge of building it. Instead of turning our anger towards those in charge, we turn against those who point out the things which are blatantly a mess.
Well, don’t worry folks, because the admonition to “go back to your country” is working – many foreign nationals are taking the advice literally and either going back to their country of origin or to other places where they are not insulted and made to feel unwelcome on a daily basis. I trust that all those who have this phrase permanently attached to their lips are not the same ones who clap thunderously every time Muscat speaks about mega property investments – which will require tens of thousands of more migrant workers to be “imported” to build these high-rise towers.
Of course, I can see why entrepreneurs are happy with Muscat’s economic model. Malta’s small population used to mean their market was limited, but with an influx of thousands more, the sky is the limit. We have given birth to a relentless, insatiable, ruthless, consumer culture. Those with property to rent are also happy to see a turnover of fresh, gullible tenants come and go, and ARMS is equally pleased – by the time they figure out they have been paying on the wrong tariff they will have left. However, those with normal jobs are getting nothing out of all this but stress, over-crowdedness and insane traffic. Little wonder that we are turning on each other, and especially turning against the easy-to-pick-on foreigner.
In the middle of all this, the PM, oops I mean Sandro Chetcuti, was busy schmoozing with the Arab oil sheikhs to try and get them to invest in high rise towers, owned by the business magnates who are controlling Malta. Even more shameful was that the President herself was the one leading this delegation, selling our country and our souls to the highest bidder. I suggest they all stop thinking about the cha ching! long enough to pay attention to what is happening “on the ground” instead. If the fierce backlash I saw on FB against the Italian resident who made the video is anything to go by, we are at risk of having a real uprising on our hands and that will really be the last straw for this country.
Meanwhile, what are the Maltese who are against the direction Malta has taken supposed to do? They cannot “go back to their country” so many, especially those still young enough to uproot themselves, are taking the decision to emigrate. So not only are we being driven out of our homes, but it seems we are also being driven out of our own homeland.