Can’t see the fu­ture for the dust

We at the In­de­pen­dent now can­not say we are ex­empt from the prob­lems of the coun­try.

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - NEWS -

Over the past weeks, they de­mol­ished two one-storey homes (on top of Bal­sons). For some months, they have been dig­ging up the small park­ing space un­der­neath the Re­gional Road bridge to build a petrol sta­tion.

Now, yes­ter­day, sud­denly, work­ers turned up and pro­ceeded to pull down the two vil­las across the road in a cloud of dust. The cor­ner villa was an im­pos­ing res­i­dence once the home of the for­mer Di­rec­tor of Agri­cul­ture. The next villa used to house Rus­sian ladies. At one point, the empty res­i­dence sud­denly be­came full of Filipinos who dis­ap­peared as sud­denly as they had come.

I have no doubt that in time the petrol sta­tion will be a gleam­ing af­fair, far bet­ter than the old shoddy one across the road. And I have no doubt ei­ther that the Bal­sons site, as well as the for­mer res­i­dence and the villa next door will be­come gleam­ing apart­ment build­ings just like the one that has been built next door.

For now, we will be lumped with the dust, the noise, the traf­fic and park­ing chaos.

Peo­ple who live in Sliema, Mel­lieha and any­where taken over by the con­struc­tion in­dus­try know what we are in for. Wel­come to the Brave New Malta.

It is not just the (hope­fully) tem­po­rary in­con­ve­niences that ought to worry us but the longterm ef­fects. These new flats add to the many that are be­ing built across the is­land. Each week, the Gov­ern­ment Gazette pub­lishes a sup­ple­ment list­ing all the new ap­pli­ca­tions and per­mits that are be­ing is­sued. This sup­ple­ment has been grow­ing and grow­ing ever since the flood­gates were opened and per­mits started to rain down from heaven.

With all this con­struc­tion go­ing on, it is in­evitable that we will need fur­ther and fur­ther im­mi­grants to live in these apart­ments. There will be no stop­ping the flood and we will have no say on the colour, the race, the na­tion­al­ity, even the re­li­gion of who­ever comes in. We need them more pos­si­bly than they need us. With­out them, our econ­omy will col­lapse. And our econ­omy will be led not by what is best suited for our needs but by fear that if we do not do this or that, the econ­omy will col­lapse. It will be an econ­omy built on fears.

There is no stop­ping the con­struc­tion in­dus­try and its an­cil­lary trades – un­til we hit the wall. On the con­trary, we are see­ing the emer­gence of new com­pa­nies on the scene.

Peo­ple glibly speak of new gam­ing com­pa­nies flood­ing in with­out re­al­iz­ing these are flyby-night ven­tures. And even all the new gam­ing com­pa­nies will be un­able to take up all the new apart­ments that are be­ing built. The Mal­tese, it is now clear, will be un­able to af­ford the new rents that will be asked –in fact the gov­ern­ment has ac­knowl­edged this by be­lat­edly promis­ing to build gov­ern­ment hous­ing even though the promised units amount to around half of what is be­ing ap­plied for.

This, in turn, is only one as­pect of the econ­omy that we re­peat­edly hear is the ninth won­der of the world – an econ­omy based on fast growth that does not know where it is go­ing. It is based on a frag­ile foun­da­tion that can eas­ily hit a sub­merged rock and that, as the ex­pe­ri­ence of Greece, Ire­land and Spain teaches us, can quickly turn into a re­ces­sion.

The driv­ers of the econ­omy are too un­sus­tain­able on which to risk our fu­ture– and mean­while we are con­stantly eat­ing into our very lim­ited coun­try­side and Out­side De­vel­op­ment Zones. This type of growth is good, maybe, for the first five years but then risks turn­ing upon it­self. And what will hap­pen then to the bud­ding con­struc­tion mag­nates and their gleam­ing tow­ers?

Get it into your heads; we can­not be­come a Frank­furt with­out the hin­ter­land, nor a Sin­ga­pore or any other model that is too facilely bandied around. With our third world roads, our mas­sive traf­fic jams and our bloated gov­ern­ment sec­tor we can at most aspire to be­come a Cara­cas sub­urb.

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