Malta’s economy has proven to be successful over the years, but one must ask whether we have now entered a cycle which, in the long run, will cause problems, unless changes are made.
First of all, the construction sector is a big contributor to the Maltese economy. But even the Finance Minister, Clyde Caruana, had said that possibly the mistake made by politicians, as over the years, was in believing that the easiest way to push the economy forwards was by growing the construction sector. “We need to change the way we think, the way we turn the economic wheel”, he had said back in 2021. He was right then, and he is still right now.
Malta has limited space. Building up has caused other issues, such as traffic and parking, as among other things. Malta has intensified its development without truly planning for the infrastructure needed for such development. We have eaten up our green areas over the years. We have written countless times about the need to consider the aesthetics of Malta, an issue that has been greatly ignored by those developing, as well as those approving, planning applications. We also need to better plan sewage infrastructure.
But there are other issues linked. We have businesses that are in dire need of workers. There are jobs that the Maltese don’t want to work anymore, and there are others that the Maltese don’t have the skills to work. The latter could have easily been solved had we planned ahead and focused on building the skills needed to fill such roles. Then there are instances where there are just too many jobs and not enough local workers, and in such instances there is no option but to hire workers from abroad.
Property prices are also too high, as a result of which young workers tend to struggle to buy property without family support. In certain cases rents are also too high. So what then? Look for smaller apartments, and where are the living standards? It’s not about people choosing not to work, as there are people working full-time jobs whose wages aren’t able to sustain them in today’s world, and it’s a reality.
It is a massive challenge, a situation where when Malta makes economic leaps forward, at the same time we are also expanding upon the problems that we have all around us.
We need to sit down and plan ahead, and see how best to mitigate the effects of everything. What kind of Malta do we want in 30-50 years time? Do we want high rise buildings?… if yes, then we need the infrastructure for it. If we are going to build high, we need a new mass transport system. But do we want to continue moving towards a metropolitan style country? If we do, then we might lose what made Malta, Malta. That is a decision that we need to make.
What sectors do we want to attract and focus on… and do we have the skills for those sectors? If not, let’s focus on developing those skills. Also, how will these sectors affect other aspects of Malta, like construction? Are they labour intensive sectors or not?
What are we truly doing to reduce traffic on the island? This is another question that really does need a long-term vision to answer. How can we ensure the protection of our countryside? Is the Planning Authority effective? We cannot continue to just think about expanding the economy, where we need to look at everything holistically and to plan for the next generation accordingly.