Rent, the economy, and society – why the voices of foreigners matter
owners. He is of course stating that it is not a crisis because it does not affect Maltese people, as the majority of foreigners do not own their own properties. One would think that the finance minister would have a little more sense to realise that such comments are completely and utterly nonsensical. It is also apparent that his comments just reflect and smack of the laissez-faire attitude that members of the government have to the rapidly deteriorating quality of life of many people (locals included) on this island.
Of course, I cannot write about the rental crisis without mentioning Sandro Chetcuti, the president of the Malta Developers Association, and an individual who is totally opposed to any kind of rent regulation. I wonder why?
When it comes to people that have power to improve the dire situation regarding the rental market, I must wonder how many of them are landlords themselves. Sandro Chetcuti, Chris Grech, do any of you privately rent residential accommodation? Do you declare tax? Do you sign Form H? Have any of your tenants contacted the EU Advisory Group regarding your rentals? Perhaps I should investigate it in a bit more detail as I suspect that those in a position of influence have something of a vested interest.
There is a rental crisis in this country, and unless steps are taken soon, it will continue to get worse. Although it does have a big effect on foreigners living here, the people whose lives it really devastates are young Maltese families, Maltese on minimum wage, single mothers, and those living on social security. The lack of social housing coupled with the average rent exceeding the minimum wage means that those on a restricted budget find themselves in an impossible situation. They are trapped in a cycle where they struggle to pay their bills and, due to the ever-increasing cost of living, they are unlikely to ever be in a situation where they can afford to buy a home.
For us foreigners it is an inconvenience. Those that don’t like it will eventually leave and take their wage packets and active social lives with them, and those that must, or choose to stay will be living hand to mouth and struggling to make ends meet. Either way, there is a crisis and this government and individuals like Mr Grech, Mr Chetcuti, and Professor Scicluna, need to acknowledge it.
The fact of the matter is that foreigners are treated as second-class citizens in this country. Rent prices increase the moment the landlord or agent knows they are dealing with a foreigner; we usually pay more for our utilities, on occasion we wait longer at the hospital, and of course we take it on the chin when being referred to as “the foreigner” or “il-barrani” in our faces. Whether the Maltese like us being here or not is beside the point. We are here, we pay (high) taxes, employ locals, contribute to social security, are a part of the community, shop in your family businesses, drink in your bars, eat in your restaurants, and shop in your shops, so we deserve to be treated with respect and most of all, equality.
In response to this dire situation, a new initiative has popped up on Facebook, the brainchild of Patricia Graham from Up in Arms EU Advisory Group, and Craig Willmott from Rental Rip Off Malta – Mhux Veru, it is called simply “I Matter”. Fed up of being treated like second class citizens, paying more for everything, and having no say in the way the country is run despite contributing as much as a Maltese citizen, they are calling for change.
They have created a logo and are asking individuals to attach it to a selfie and post it in the group ‘I Matter’, and to set it as their profile picture, should they so desire. They are also calling for foreign residents in Malta to down tools for 24 hours in protest to show the government that while we may be outsiders, we do matter and our presence here is a large and important part of your economy. If enough people get involved in this “strike” of sorts, perhaps those in the higher echelons of power may realise just what us lowly foreigners contribute to this country. It is a fantastic idea, and one that people should support wholeheartedly; we contribute to this island’s economy, society, and community in a huge number of ways and, as such, we deserve to have our voices heard. We should never have to hear “go back to your own country” when we voice an opinion, be it constructive or not.
I expect to receive the usual amount of abuse from my everreliable fan club, but this is a situation that affects you all. Maltese history is a mass of foreign influence – both invited and uninvited – and the presence of outsiders is something that has helped shape your country to what it is today. The levels of resentment between locals and foreigners in Malta are reaching epic proportions, but the truth is that the things we foreigners are complaining about are things that affect you as well. The sooner we remove the barrier between the us v them mentality, the sooner changes can happen here for the benefit of all of society– and no I am not talking about the “a” word.