A rose with thorns

Malta Independent - - NEWS - Dr An­thony But­tigieg Deputy Leader of Par­tit Demokratiku

To­day I was driv­ing in the rain, stuck in traf­fic and strug­gling to get to work on time, de­spite leav­ing home ear­lier than ever. It gave me time to rem­i­nisce on the state of our na­tion. Statis­tics show that our econ­omy is boom­ing, we have record em­ploy­ment, more women than ever are work­ing, more and more for­eign­ers are com­ing to look for work in this pot-of­gold-at-the-end-of-the-rain­bow. In a nut­shell ev­ery­thing is rosy. But is it?

I am a doc­tor, an em­ployee, like most of you. I work with and come across peo­ple from all walks of life and all lev­els of in­come.

Those who are lucky and al­ready own a prop­erty can con­sider them­selves very lucky in­deed. Rentals are ris­ing due to the pres­sure for ac­com­mo­da­tion from those com­ing to these is­lands. They have dou­bled in five years. With bank in­ter­est rates a joke in a boom­ing econ­omy, peo­ple who al­ready own a prop­erty and who want to get a re­turn on their in­vest­ment are re-mort­gag­ing their homes to buy- to-rent. This phe­nom­e­non is now be­gin­ning to drive prop­erty prices up as well.

So what of those not on the prop­erty lad­der and with mar­ginal in­comes? By that I mean those with a take home pay of less than €1200, not far off the national av­er­age wage. Well, they are now be­com­ing caught in a vi­cious spi­ral of be­ing un­able to bor­row enough to buy a de­cent prop­erty and yet need to spend up to 50% of their in­come just to have a roof over their heads.

No mat­ter, we have mega pro­jects on the draw­ing board with higher and higher sky­scrapers about to dot our land­scape. Surely they will al­le­vi­ate the pres­sure on ac­com­mo­da­tion? Pro­jects in Paceville, Sliema, St Ju­lian’s, Santa Ven­era and God only knows where else are ap­proved, seek­ing ap­proval or on the draw­ing board. But will they ac­tu­ally help? Not at all; they are all aimed at the high end of the market, for for­eign and lo­cal in­vestors look­ing to make a killing. And who will pay? The de­vel­op­ers? Not likely.

All these huge struc­tures will need an even huger in­vest­ment in in­fra­struc­ture to ser­vice them; park­ing, roads, drainage, wa­ter, trans­port and elec­tric­ity. Again, who will pay for them? You guessed it, not the de­vel­op­ers.

It will be you and me, the av­er­age tax pay­ers, who get stuck in the traf­fic ev­ery morn­ing and spend less and less time with our fam­i­lies – traf­fic fur­ther ag­gra­vated by the con­struc­tion process and fur­ther ag­gra­vated by peo­ple ser­vic­ing these struc­tures. It will be those poor res­i­dents liv­ing nearby who will suffer the noise and air pol­lu­tion gen­er­ated by their con­struc­tion, the loss of sun and day­light as they tower over their prop­er­ties, the re­duc­tion in value of their homes as they are swal­lowed up by ever big­ger de­vel­op­ments.

Even worse, in the case of the Paceville Master Plan, res­i­dents’ homes will be sac­ri­ficed on the al­tar of fur­ther devel­op­ment. Res­i­dents who have braved thirty years of dis­rup­tion, noise and ev­ery form of in­con­ve­nience, and stayed put de­spite ev­ery­thing be­cause it is their HOME, are now threat­ened with the prospect of evic­tion be­cause big busi­ness wants to ‘ra­tio­nal­ize’ the use of Paceville.

As the traf­fic crawls along and I re­al­ize I will be late for work once again, I think of the statis­tics and then look at the re­al­ity. What is the point of won­der­ful eco­nomic fig­ures laud­ing the enor­mous progress Malta is mak­ing when our qual­ity of life is go­ing south? We, the vast ma­jor­ity of peo­ple who walk this land; who love, live and die on these tiny sea sur­rounded rocks, are see­ing the very things we love shat­tered by the greed of the few and their po­lit­i­cal cronies. Our her­itage, our way of life, our val­ues, mean noth­ing if they get in the way of ‘progress’.

So I ask you all. Are ris­ing GDP fig­ures and the num­ber of peo­ple in em­ploy­ment mak­ing our lives bet­ter, or worse? Is noth­ing sa­cred if it hin­ders profit? Do we smile more, or less, this year than the last? Should we take a deep breath and as­sess where we are head­ing to? Is it what we re­ally want? A rose is a beau­ti­ful flower, but it does have its thorns. Are we ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the flower or the thorns?

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malta

© PressReader. All rights reserved.