The venerated lobbies

The argument remains that the two perceptions are facing each other as if they were two principles: a vibrant economy against a corrupt government

15 May 2017, 7:43am
Cartoon by Mikiel Galea
Cartoon by Mikiel Galea
As we report the electoral campaign, it is evident that the traditional venerated lobbies retain a hold on the main political parties. They include the construction and speculators lobby, the hunters and trappers, the fast cars and motors pressure group, the fireworks interest groups and many others. All have a heavy influence on the parties, and the richer, in money or membership, that they are, the heavier the influence they wield.

And tiny Malta bears the scars of their activities, which need ever scarcer land space where to provide their facilities.

The essence of a democracy is built on the interests of different segments and the ability to reconcile the different interests. It is a conjuring trick to find an acceptable solution, and such solutions are proving ever more elusive. For it is not all about respecting minorities and tolerance.  

The interest groups we are referring to are traditionally self-centred, and only interested in their own little patch. They tend to consider only their narrow interests and their unwavering motivation is to ignore the wider well being of society. They cannot see beyond their nose, sometimes, never considering the reality that they are slowly strangling themselves, and the rest of the country with them.

An evident case in point is the construction industry, powerful in both money and in the number of people who depend on it for their employment. That gives it a big stick. The industry has without doubt contributed in no small way to oiling the economy. But in going about their business, the contractors have influenced planning policies in the wrong way, directly impacting the development in residential zones and environmentally sensitive areas.

So far we have run out of our only natural resource, the stone the industry uses, soon it will be the physical space needed for their activities.

A breather is in sight for the industry – the planned undersea tunnel to Gozo, which would be opened up to destructive development if the tunnel becomes reality. Malta has been practically spoiled beyond redemption, why should Gozo not suffer the same fate, the thinking goes? The two major political parties are wooing the Gozitans, few can hear the death knell sounding for Gozo, and contractors are probably salivating at the future prospects.

The same applies to hunters and trappers, who have continued to be appeased by all governments and continue to receive promises that their blood sport activities, in spite of being looked down upon by most, will be tolerated. Many agree that there is no logical reason to support their destructive pastime, but the many do not, in this case, have influence enough to force policy changes.

And this when Malta has been constantly warned that present hunting and trapping practices as they are carried out in Malta are in breach of EU derogations. The country is offended at what hunters and trappers do, people just have strong repulsive feelings when they see innocent creatures shot out of the sky, or trapped, to satisfy a passion which has no place in modern Malta.

Other pressures are brought to bear by small vocal groups, all clamouring for a corner of dwindling free spaces here to build racetracks or whatever else they fancy. It is not as if Malta is in the Antipodes – a short trip of less than an hour can take them where they can enjoy their activities in friendly countries which have room and the facilities they need.

The interest of the business community most of the time has also overshadowed the needs of local communities. Business communities have far more influence to wield, so long as local communities continue closing their eyes to what is going on around them.

In this highly-strung election campaign, the venerated lobbies are not being questioned. In their last 20 days the leaders have turned to calling on voters to trust them, and adding that their personal record is perhaps the best litmus test for them to decide. The parties have also their own carrots to offer.

But it is not as simple as that. The argument remains that the two perceptions are facing each other as if they were two principles: a vibrant economy against a corrupt government. This war of perceptions highlighted by allegations supported by media stories versus a dynamic economy remain the two fundamental reasons which will help undecided voters to decide.