I began writing this commentary post on a Gozo Channel ferry ship that is precisely 21 years old. Since I moved to Gozo back in February, these ferry boats have become like a bizarre, time-capsuled second home.
Gozitans have been complaining about the Gozo Channel’s substandard service for decades. By now, the company is basically a bankrupt fiefdom for Labour Party acolytes and workers who just so happen to have voted Gozo minister Clint Camilleri into power. The ferry terminal is ancient, the boats are decrepit, and there is no innovation or any kind of effort to improve the service.
The only notable change was the government’s decision to lease a ferry ship that is even older than the Gozo Channel’s miserable tripartite fleet. The MV Nikolaos, which costs taxpayers at least €10,000 a day excluding fuel, seems to spend more time mooring in Ċirkewwa than it does anything else. This Greek ship is so old that it cannot even be used to its full capacity due to safety concerns.
The Gozo Channel’s woes serve as the perfect anecdote for the most fundamental political problem this country has had to deal with over the last few decades. After Malta’s push to secure its aspirations as an EU member state, not one singular political leader has presented a credible, long-term vision for this country.
Indeed, the political landscape is as dry as recent memory can recall. One needs only to look at what the government is doing to address what the general public perceives as Malta’s most pressing issues to understand just how bad the situation really is.
According to Malta Today’s latest political survey, which was published in October of this year, the top five concerns voiced by survey respondents is the number of foreigners living in Malta, the cost of living, traffic, corruption, and the construction industry. Looking at what the government has done or claims to be doing at the moment to address these concerns is an exercise in restraining the desire to tear your hair out, strand by strand.
The fact that the survey suggests that respondents believe foreigners in Malta are the country’s biggest problem is a major issue in its own regard, and the Labour Party is guilty as sin on this particular matter. Terms like “the invasion” and “we’ve been filled up with trash” are thrown about in casual conversation and in online spats with ease and indifference.
That foreigner sitting uncomfortably on the bus next to you probably has more in common with you than your Maltese boss, who drives a fast car and talks shit even faster, ever possibly could. That foreigner who you swear is giving you the side eye at the bar has dreams, concerns, and an endless list of priorities clambering on top of each other, just like you do. In the words of the immortal character Joe Kenehan in the film Matewan, there are two types of people in this world – them who work, and them who don’t. You work. They – the wealthy scum who run this country – don’t.
After openly promoting and encouraging the practice of using cheap foreign labour to address perennial labour shortages for the past decade (while simultaneously fomenting politics of hate towards migrants), the Labour government is now pretending it will restrict foreign workers from entering the country unless they are needed for a specific sector – in other words, little to no change from policies as they stand presently. Even disgraced former economy minister Chris Cardona decided to get in on the action.
As for the cost of living, it is quite frankly both embarrassing and insulting to hear what once used to be a socialist party describe pitiful increases in the minimum wage and the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) mechanism as “unprecedented” increases that, if you had to take prime minister Robert Abela’s word for it, sound like they’re going to radically alter the fabric of society forever.
Cost of living keeps increasing because of the deep-rooted inequalities in our society, inequalities which are highly correlated with statewide levels of corruption. I recently covered a Global Tax Haven report published by the EU Tax Observatory which precisely highlights how it is the unimaginable wealth of billionaires and their outsized influence which is the real problem.
Instead, we live in a country where business cartels are seriously quoted by the press taking offence at being called out as cartels.
Corruption? We have so much of it I had to create a data library just to keep up. As for traffic and the construction industry, the situation is so obviously terrible that it would probably be superfluous of me to comment any further. All one needs to have to be able to see just how bad it is is just a pair of functional eyes and the ability to walk outside and observe directly. Of course, developers like Michael Stivala are forgiven for having seemingly gouged out their own eyes so they could have more holes to stuff with cash (PS: Matt, you nailed it with this one).
Needless to say, the government has done absolutely nothing that is in any way effective to address corruption, traffic, or the construction industry’s mad rampage.
Even if they wanted to (which they don’t), they wouldn’t even know where to begin. Can you imagine a brainstorming session involving Robert Abela and his merry band of conniving staffers? As Daphne would have probably said, the mere thought is enough to make one want to lie down and weep.
Malta could be such a beautiful place.
We could use our tiny square footage as a unique case study for car-free transport.
We could build sustainably and in a way which honours our architectural heritage.
We could learn so much from equitable exchanges with people from different parts of the world.
We could directly address the cost of living crisis by proportionately taxing the ultra-wealthy individuals who open up shell companies in this country so they can book profits on the cheap and directly redistributing those taxes where they are most needed, by cleverly using our scarce but high-quality resources like our soil to boost local production of key items, by booting out the endless list of parasites which have been firmly planted at the taxpayer trough for the past decade and using that money to heavily subsidise research and development and invest in public well-being.
Instead, we are governed by dim-witted morons who bleat endlessly about their economic fantasies and have about as much vision as a naked mole-rat.
I can’t wait for the day to see them finally booted out. I will work towards it everyday for the next ten years if I must.