The Envy of the World

Ac­cord­ing to re­cent me­dia re­ports, “a study of Malta’s sewage sys­tem showed that about 10 grams of co­caine were flushed down the toilet ev­ery day”. Drug ex­pert God­win Sam­mut said he too had noted an in­crease in the sub­stance in re­cent months.

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - DEBATE & ANALYSIS - Mark A. Sam­mut

And Prime Min­is­ter Mus­cat, in his New Year Mes­sage to the na­tion, claimed that ‘We can be­come the envy of the world’. In­su­lar­ity and pe­riph­er­al­ity Apart from the lin­guis­tic er­rors which jar on the ears (for in­stance, legat to mean legacy, when the proper word in this con­text is wirt), the Prime Min­is­ter’s New Year Mes­sage was mas­ter­fully shot. The def­i­ni­tion was su­perb and the cam­era pans were breath-tak­ing. Does this mean that the mes­sage it­self is ex­empt from pan­ning?

By no means. The New Year Mes­sage was a mas­ter­ful ex­er­cise in ob­fus­ca­tion and se­lec­tiv­ity but mostly, hy­per­bole. The ex­ag­ger­a­tions were stom­achchurn­ing: mak­ing you end up with in­di­ges­tion of gi­gan­tic pro­por­tions.

The prob­lem is that the mes­sage was a pro­fes­sional con ex­er­cise, in­tended to take the peo­ple for a ride. Its de­vi­ous­ness and abuse of mass psy­chol­ogy should be the sub­ject of in-depth anal­y­sis. Un­for­tu­nately, I have nei­ther the space here, nor the method­olog­i­cal and pro­fes­sional prepa­ra­tion to carry out such an ex­er­cise.

This is some­thing that the ap­po­site or­gans of a well-or­gan­ised Op­po­si­tion would carry out, by en­gag­ing ex­perts in the field to dis­sect the pro­pa­ganda and ex­plain how the Gov­ern­ment is tak­ing the elec­torate for a ride and mak­ing it, the elec­torate, foot the bill, to boot. At the mo­ment, the Op­po­si­tion is un­for­tu­nately ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a hia­tus, which it would do well to get out of with­out fur­ther de­lay and ado.

In the mean­time, the Prime Min­is­ter is sur­feit­ing us with hy­per­bole. Had Malta re­ally reached the level about which the Prime Min­is­ter is brag­ging, we would have suc­ceeded in at­tract­ing a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of big names that have moved out of Bri­tain (or in­tend do­ing so) be­cause of Brexit. In­stead, the vast ma­jor­ity have gone to Dublin or Frank­furt.

I want to zero in on trans­port by men­tion­ing three points, all re­lat­ing to the prob­lems of in­su­lar­ity and pe­riph­er­al­ity, which the Prime Min­is­ter wants us to for­get about as his ad­min­is­tra­tion seems ei­ther un­aware of, or un­able to solve, them.

Go­ing to the air­port

De­spite all the hype, get­ting to the air­port dur­ing the day, com­ing from the Ħal Qormi side, is night­mar­ish, to say the least. It’s a one-lane trib­u­tary flow­ing into a river of cars com­ing from the di­rec­tion of the Freeport. The air­port is the prin­ci­pal and only exit out of the Is­lands. Why is it such an ag­o­nis­ing trip to get there?

Let us make a brief anal­y­sis by con­sid­er­ing two an­gles: busi­ness and tourism.

For the tourist (be s/he out­bound or in­bound), the stress is more or less part of the ad­ven­ture. You wake up early, you leave early, you get to the air­port early, you are psy­chologi- cally ready to wait, you are in re­lax­ation mode – it’s all part of the ex­pe­ri­ence. So a de­lay on your way to the air­port is no big deal.

But if you are trav­el­ling on busi­ness, it’s an­other story. And, do keep in mind that Joseph Mus­cat is all the time pitch­ing about busi­ness busi­ness busi­ness (artificial in­tel­li­gence, bit­coin, crypto-cur­rency, and all this lat­est new-econ­omy mumbo jumbo, as well as pass­port-sell­ing and so on).

Let’s com­pare The Envy of the World Repub­lic with two se­ri­ously ef­fi­cient fi­nan­cial ser­vices ju­ris­dic­tions: London and Lux­em­bourg. In London, you take a small plane (a Bom­bardier, say) which, de­spite its di­men­sions, is ex­cep­tion­ally com­fort­able and you land at London City Air­port. Ten min­utes later you are on the DLR and a fur­ther 10 min­utes later you’re in The City. No traf­fic jams, no stress, no night­mares. It’s all ex­tremely ef­fi­cient and time­sav­ing.

In Lux­em­bourg, you land at Lux­em­bourg In­ter­na­tional Air­port, you ei­ther take a taxi and, 19 min­utes later, you’re down­town or else you take the bus and, 20 min­utes later, you stop at the tram sta­tion, take the tram and six more min­utes later you’re in the com­mer­cial cen­tre.

Now, the Envy of the World: you land at The Envy of the World In­ter­na­tional Air­port and you take a taxi and get stuck in a traf­fic jam. Al­ter­na­tively, you opt for pub­lic trans­port and it takes you for­ever to get any­where. On your way out of The Envy of World, you get stuck in a traf­fic jam, fi­nally get to the air­port and board a Ryanair plane, with no leg space but fully aware that you will be get­ting the un­for­get­table Third-Class-Pas­sen­ger ex­pe­ri­ence.

Go­ing to Si­cily

Si­cily is the clos­est land to us, yet get­ting there can be quite a fi­nan­cial and lo­gis­ti­cal chal­lenge. I had a look at the Air­malta and Virtù Fer­ries web­sites the other day, to see what it takes to book two tick­ets for the fol­low­ing day. On Air­malta it would have cost €330 to spend one day in Cata­nia; Virtù Fer­ries did not have the space for any more cars.

Now this is a prob­lem re­lated to in­su­lar­ity. For the Mal­tese, in­su­lar­ity is not a choice but an im­po­si­tion. Apart from Cyprus, Malta is the only is­land-state in the Mediter­ranean, which means that other is­lan­ders have the choice of liv­ing on the main­land, should they wish to do so. Thanks to our his­tory, we do not have that ‘lux­ury’: for us be­ing is­lan­ders is not a choice, it’s an im­po­si­tion.

On the main­land, and thanks to the Schen­gen Agree­ment, it is easy to jump into your car and drive else­where, with lit­tle or no plan­ning. You just need to fill up the tank (in­ci­den­tally it would cost less – Malta has the most ex­pen­sive fu­els in Europe), and drive. The Mal­tese can­not do that. They do not have the ‘lux­ury’ of go­ing any-

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