The Malta Independent on Sunday
Malta in the silly season
I surfed the net yesterday before I settled down to write.
Aminister split with his girlfriend. A PN candidate remarried and his daughter showed off her dress. The girl who set Malta on fire on Friday with her race at the Olympics came last and was eliminated in the next race. That’s Malta in the silly season.
Otherwise, the media oscillated between the overcrowding on Comino and the five towers that the Planning Authority accepted in one day, and other things in between – the Bishops and the Morning After Pill, Minister Helena Dalli still defending Ronnie Pellegrini.
There will be no political Sunday morning speeches today, I am informed.
And, of course, the Air Malta saga is nearing Zero Hour. The season is not so silly, after all.
And yet people overdose on the Olympics and the festi march on, so far with no hiccups.
Malta, just three months before taking over the the Presidency of the EU and a year and three months before Valletta becomes Capital City of Culture, is having an easy time, as it usually does every year, attracting to its shores thousands and thousands of visitors who somehow all find somewhere to stay.
And we have not mentioned so far the coming US presidential election with its real worries for world peace if Donald Trump is the winner. Nor Brexit, although so far there has not been the catastrophe predicted by Cameron.
Nor terrorism, although I heard a senior State Department officer say on radio this week that terrorism is not as big a danger as periodic Russian sabre-rattling.
Beneath the calm, tomorrow’s crises are germinating. And, 277 words later, we have not mentioned the Panama Papers. At least, thankfully, there is Simon Busuttil who can be counted upon to mention them Sunday after Sunday.
It is also somewhat difficult to gauge popular sentiment right now because we do not know where the next crisis is coming from. When the next survey is carried out, we will see whether national preoccupations have shifted.
Objectively, however, the Air Malta case must take first place, even if it affects its employees more than the rest of the community. It would seem the government plans to conclude its negotiations with Alitalia-Etihad before approaching the various categories of employees, of which the pilots are the most vocal. There also seems to be the question of how to absorb those €60 million in losses that Alitalia refuses to take on.
Next, at least as I see it, come the issues of governance or, as some may call them, issues of law and order. Take the anarchic traffic on our roads, the cause of so many accidents and witnessed every day by us all, even if they do not lead to an accident.
Allied to the foregoing are the manifold manifestations of Malta’s prime hobby – construction – given a fresh impetus by this government with its easing of restrictions and the splitting up, and maybe the defenestration, of MEPA. The four towers at Mrieħel and the skyscraper on top of the Union Club are perhaps the most extreme examples, but not the only ones.
Our columnist, Rachel Borg, yesterday dragged up this snippet from the competition: “On 4 March 2007 the Times of Malta reported: ‘The first phase of the Townsquare Sliema project, Townsquare Seafront, has been completed. All apartments have been handed over to clients and residents are moving into these seafront apartments.’
“According to a spokesman squares with open-air cafés and restaurants, sunken gardens around a restored Villa Drago, create Sliema’s ‘heart’, Sliema’s Townsquare.’” Famous last words. The PN diehards, obviously, do not have this list of priorities. For them, there is only one issue: corruption at all levels of government, and consequently, all they seek is the replacement of this administration as soon as possible. So far, because things can change, the rest of the population does not seem to have this list of priorities.
It is around this clash of national priorities that the coming year and a half will be spent. There was a time, around February and March, at the height of the Panama Papers controversy, that corruption in government circles shot to the top. Since then, mainly by the government’s sleight of hand, this seems to have been eclipsed.
At some point recently, during the Sliema skyscraper controversy when the PN was (understandably) quite muted, it seemed that Civil Society anger could wipe away what was perceived as a tepid Opposition.
The coming months, barring any new crisis, will be quite interesting to watch.