Times of Malta

Be careful what you wish for…

- THOMAS WELCH Tom Welch is a writer and former UK regional newspaper publisher, living on Gozo.

The prime minister gazed out of his window while sipping the finest Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. His home was quite spectacula­r. From afar, it looked like a huge, glass and metal half globe clinging to the high cliffs overlookin­g Mġarr ix-Xini bay.

It was a Monday morning and he would be leaving shortly for his weekly meeting with the president. He placed his empty cup on a low table, tapped his palm to check the time and stepped out of his front door and walked to the end of his smooth drive.

Almost immediatel­y, his official driverless vehicle arrived and a door slid open. Within a matter of minutes, the car took him along the Gozo Central Highway and began crossing the breathtaki­ng double-decker bridge which linked the island to Malta. The bridge was the first of many grand, capital projects under the new regime.

He glanced left and caught sight of the small island in the middle of the channel. A 12-storey tower with security fencing, armed guards and several gunboats in the water. He was just too young to remember what it was like before it became a prison island. Even he did not know how many extremists were incarcerat­ed there for crimes of insurrecti­on, speech not in accordance with national objectives and unlawful public gatherings. For the latter, a licence was required from the Department for Political Stability (DPS) but he was unaware of any such licence which had ever been granted. All of this was worthwhile, though.

In fact, crime rates had dropped to zero according to official statistics since the old ID cards were scrapped and replaced with MaltaDot; an almost invisible chip under the skin which traced the movements of every inhabitant and monitored purchases and conversati­ons.

This was now where most of the police force were deployed, monitoring and reporting movements of those targeted by the DPS.

There was now no need for, the ‘old school’ security cameras – it was said there was one for every 500 of the population – for the MalaDot system was linked to a satellite in a static orbit, enabling police to see where anyone was at any given time.

There had been significan­t changes to the islands in his 40-year life. He could not recall all of these of course, but he believed they were for the better.

The disastrous series of general elections in the 2030s had been the catalyst for the almost unbelievab­le changes ever seen on these islands with an already chequered history.

He understood that tourists once visited our islands. He had heard the tales of grand, five-star hotels bulging with visitors and beaches and clubs thronged by people from Europe and beyond but it really made for an inefficien­t economy.

The new factories churning out consumer products and sending them the short distance to mainland Europe delivered many benefits for us all. The purpose-built towns for local workers and those from the East were inspired. Rent free with every possible facility. A cinema, supermarke­t, a mall, medical services and bars, although alcohol is prohibited and no gambling whatsoever is allowed.

It started well. The two-party system had collapsed amid the massive debts incurred during the energy price crisis of the 2020s. Malta had the highest debt in Europe and had defied instructio­ns from the EU to tackle the problem. Successive government­s of both colours were reluctant to try to pay down the immense debts by passing on increased charges to consumers for they knew that by doing so, they would be out of office for a generation.

The ‘National Alliance Party’ emerged as a centre and coalition party elected by a landslide in the late 2030s. They traded as a ‘Coalition of Sense’ but once in power were faced by the same insolvable issues. In short, the country was bankrupt.

Within weeks, we were offered a lifeline. Our friends wanted our deepwater harbours and we invited them in. They offered generous loans to entreprene­urs to start up businesses and before long we were importing labour to meet the demands of our production. The swish factories were soon nationalis­ed along with other large businesses as they were deemed inefficien­t.

General elections are held every 10 years and workers choose their preferred candidate from a pre-selected list. All electoral hopefuls represent the single, ‘Aħmar’ Party.

Our capital city is a delight. It is completely covered by a glass dome and it is temperatur­e controlled. Our mass transit system, a maze of undergroun­d routes, is capable of moving people quickly and convenient­ly to and from all points in our islands.

I say, “mass” but it is used very little as most workers are billeted in their towns. Except on our two public holidays per year, workers take to one of our two massive sandy beaches, both reclaimed by the sea to swim and enjoy each other’s company. It is said that the atmosphere on the trains resembles “old times”. People coming together, laughing and joking with each other. Just for the day.

The prime minister’s car arrived at the presidenti­al palace quickly and as his vehicle came to a standstill, an aide greeted him. Without missing a step, he was led to the president’s official office. As the door closed quietly behind him with a soft swish, he walked towards His Excellency and said, “Good morning, President Zhang.”

Our capital city is a delight. It is completely covered by a glass dome and it is temperatur­e controlled

 ?? IMAGE: DALL-E AI IMAGE GENERATOR ?? Malta in 2063. This image was generated using artificial intelligen­ce.
IMAGE: DALL-E AI IMAGE GENERATOR Malta in 2063. This image was generated using artificial intelligen­ce.
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