Eco­nomic feel-good fac­tor trans­lates into lack of con­cerns

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE - He­lena Grech

When asked what is­sue is presently of great­est con­cern, ‘noth­ing, there are no con­cerns’ was given the high­est pro­por­tion of men­tions, the Novem­ber edi­tion of the iSur­vey com­mis­sioned by The Malta In­de­pen­dent shows.

Re­spon­dents were asked: What is­sue is of great­est con­cern to you right now? No an­swers were pro­vided to re­spon­dents, in­stead they had to come up with an is­sue, if any, that was of great­est con­cern to them presently. In other words, re­spon­dents were not prompted in any way.

In­ter­est­ingly, the top men­tion was that of ‘noth­ing, there are no con­cerns’, at 20.9%. It could be that the cur­rent lo­cal pos­i­tive eco­nomic cli­mate has led to a feel­good fac­tor, lead­ing peo­ple to an­swer that way when asked of their is­sues of great­est con­cern. Un­em­ploy­ment is at an all-time low and the econ­omy is grow­ing at the fastest pace com­pared to the other EU mem­ber states. Eco­nomic sta­bil­ity and fewer peo­ple de­pen­dent on the state are sure to con­trib­ute to peo­ple fail­ing to come up with an is­sue when asked.

Next in line was traf­fic at 15.4%, don’t know at 10.5%, Cor­rup­tion at 10.3%, Im­mi­gra­tion (il­le­gal)/mi­grants tak­ing our work 5.4%, Cost of liv­ing 5.2%, En­vi­ron­ment is­sues (high-rise/many build­ings/ pol­lu­tion) 4%, Ter­ror­ism/ se­cu­rity 3%, Low salaries/ min­i­mum wage 2%, New power sta­tion/ LNG tanker 1.8%, Pub­lic trans­port 1.6%, Lack of jobs/poor/un­cer­tain work­ing con­di­tions 1.5%, Lack of good governance 1.4%, Lack of agree­ment be­tween po­lit­i­cal par­ties 1.4%, low pen­sions/ stipend 1.3%, world in­sta­bil­ity (Brexit/US elec­tion) 1% and Lack of trans­parency 1%. The re­main­der of is­sues men­tioned by re­spon­dents, as can be seen from the info graphic (on page 4) un­der ‘other is­sues’ were all given a men­tion of less than 1%.

As can be seen from pre­vi­ous edi­tions of the sur­vey, the same is­sues of im­mi­gra­tion, traf­fic, pub­lic trans­port, en­vi­ron­ment and cor­rup­tion are re­peat­edly men­tioned by re­spon­dents. It can there­fore be said that such is­sues have failed to be ad­dressed prop­erly, and con­tinue to per­sist.

In the April edi­tion of the iSur­vey, ‘cor­rup­tion’ and ‘Panama scan­dal’ were men­tioned by 30.8% of re­spon­dents. This time round, the pro­por­tion of men­tions of cor­rup­tion went down by 9.1 per­cent­age points, while the Panama scan­dal did not fea­ture at all.

In this edi­tion of the iSur­vey, the is­sue of cor­rup­tion was awarded its own ques­tion, and re­spon­dents were asked: Do you think that the govern­ment is cor­rupt? A pro­por­tion of 47% be­lieve so, how­ever when asked to list an is­sue of great­est con­cern this ranked third rather than the num­ber one rank­ing it re­ceived in April.

This fur­ther un­der­scores the ar­gu­ment that an eco­nomic feel­good fac­tor could be con­tribut­ing to the high pro­por­tion of those who say there are no is­sues of great­est con­cern. This is fur­ther sup­ported by the fewer men­tions of ‘lack of jobs’.

That be­ing said, the cost of liv­ing went from be­ing men­tioned by 1.8% of re­spon­dents, to 5.2% presently – a dif­fer­ence of 3.4 per­cent­age points. It could be said, there­fore, that while peo­ple ap­pear to be con­tent with the eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion Malta is cur­rently ex­pe­ri­enc­ing, there is grow­ing con­cern that the pace at which the econ­omy is grow­ing could be lead­ing ris­ing costs with­out the abil­ity of the pub­lic to keep up with those costs.

In fact, ‘low salaries/min­i­mum wage’ was men­tioned by 2% of re­spon­dents, up from the April iSur­vey. Var­i­ous stake­hold­ers as well as the Op­po­si­tion have called for the min­i­mum wage to be in­creased, and for a se­ri­ous dis­cus­sion to take place. Prime Min­is­ter Joseph Mus­cat, fol­low­ing

The same is­sues of im­mi­gra­tion, traf­fic, pub­lic trans­port, en­vi­ron­ment and cor­rup­tion are re­peat­edly men­tioned by re­spon­dents

the pre­sen­ta­tion of the 2017 bud­get, has re­peat­edly said that now is the time for a se­ri­ous dis­cus­sion on the min­i­mum wages.

Com­pared with the last sur­vey, a fewer pro­por­tion of re­spon­dents, by eight per­cent­age points, said they ‘don’t know’.

One of the big­gest changes is the way peo­ple per­ceive the is­sue of traf­fic. The is­sue was men­tioned as a great­est con­cern by just 3.6% of re­spon­dents in April, to 15.4% of re­spon­dents now. This trans­lates into a dif­fer­ence of 11.8 per­cent­age points. De­spite ef­forts by the au­thor­i­ties to have traf­fic war­dens and po­lice­men sta­tioned at grid­locked ar­eas dur­ing peak times, and the in­fras­truc­tural projects tak­ing place to mit­i­gate the prob­lem, the in­crease of cars per ev­ery day – roughly at 38 – ap­pears to not be enough to tackle the prob­lem head on. Dif­fer­ent sec­tions of so­ci­ety have called on govern­ment to take rad­i­cal de­ci­sions, how­ever when such ac­tion has been merely men­tioned to the pub­lic, this tends to be fol­lowed by out­rage. A good ex­am­ple of this is the me­dia re­ports, which were de­nied, of the pos­si­ble in­tro­duc­tion of a con­ges­tion tax.

While there have been rel­a­tively fewer re­ports of il­le­gal mi­grants ar­riv­ing on Mal­tese shores in 2016, this is­sue was still men­tioned 0.7 per­cent­age points more from April to Novem­ber. ‘Im­mi­gra­tion (il­le­gal)/mi­grants tak­ing our work’ re­ceived a men­tion by 5.4% of re­spon­dents.

In­ter­est­ingly, the is­sue of ter­ror­ism/se­cu­rity has also gone down by 1.5 per­cent­age points, from 4.5% to 3%. Ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Paris were fresh in the mind of the peo­ple around April, which could be why it was given a slightly higher pro­por­tion of men­tions, how­ever 2016 has been con­sis­tently pep­pered with such at­tacks all over Europe.

When look­ing at the top men­tion by PL vot­ers and PN vot­ers, un­sur­pris­ingly it was found that PL vot­ers men­tioned ‘noth­ing, there are no is­sues’ more than any other, at 30.5%. On the other hand, PN vot­ers men­tioned ‘cor­rup­tion’ more than any other is­sue, at 22%.

The Novem­ber 2016 iSur­vey – the sixth of its kind – was com­mis­sioned to Busi­ness Lead­ers Malta on be­half of The Malta In­de­pen­dent. A to­tal of 600 re­spon­dents were used, rep­re­sen­ta­tive of age, gen­der and spread of lo­cal­i­ties. With such a sam­ple size, the mar­gin of er­ror is +/- 4%. More info from the iSur­vey will con­tinue to emerge through­out this week.

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