Bernard’s call | Peter Agius

I think more of us should keep an eye on Bernard Grech’s call for a country which can dare for more than the better evil. 

Somehow in Malta we tend to oscillate between extremes. This week’s draconian handling of government’s self-inflicted panic on the pandemic is a case in point. We went from a €300 voucher to attract partying teenagers to closing down language schools and travel to most tourists. Striking the golden mean between extreme solutions seem to be as elusive as finding common ground between political parties. 

In this context, I believe that Bernard Grech hit the right chord in his call last week for a country which moves from a sum of extremes to working for balanced solutions to the issues afflicting society right now. The natural and urban environment is a main battleground for this. It is evident that right now we are on the extreme side of development. The widening of the road to Marsalforn is a clear example for this. I go to Marsalforn pretty regularly since ages. I cannot remember of one time when I was stuck in traffic on the road to this idyllic seaside village. And yet, the government decides to widen the road, taking up 10,000 metres of natural habitat and good farmland. Still, per se, development can be a good thing. There are a hundred other projects which deserve better concrete and asphalt like a better access to Mġarr in Gozo or the mentioned bypass around Victoria. 

Government’s policy of extremes leads to the radicalisation of public opinion, which is now largely set against development in general. The matter can be seen from a macro as well as from a micro-perspective. In a home visit in Attard last week, a couple in their fifties showed me their anguish with the development next door. Their neighbour’s house was pulled down and a four-storey behemoth took its place. They have no objection to the four storeys. They know that it’s the policy and can accept that – however they cannot fathom how the authorities accepted a design which sees their neighbour’s main door entrance at eye-level from their front door. Now they will have to admire the neighbour’s shoes each time they cross each other. Is it so hard to think of a planning policy with basic respect of neighbours and street aesthetics?  

And how about migration extremes? Once again we oscillate between stopping the vulnerable at sea to giving easy permits for thousands to enter the labour market without much consideration of their impact on Maltese workers. Is it so hard to devise a migration policy tailored to our needs, keeping a firm eye on the working conditions of the Maltese worker? It is not that hard really, if you seek the compromise with good will. This is to me, the main message that Bernard Grech conveyed last Saturday. A call for all those of good will to strive for a new Malta which needs to steer away from extremes and find the middle ground. 

I believe we need this especially in the challenging times ahead. Labour’s extremes led us to the greylist. Abela’s extreme radicalisation led him to refuse all collaboration with the Opposition, having the cheek to antagonise the business community in his MCESD address. His message to businesses about FATF greylisting was basically, do your bit to catch businesses red-handed in tax evasion. Did we hear that well? Is the government which played business as usual on Panama Papers and 17 Black now putting the blame on business, expecting them to snoop on each other like in a communist state? You have to see it to believe it. 

An election is round the corner. In this country we have had too many elections with the choice of the lesser evil. Most times it is the lesser evil between the incompetent and the corrupt. This time round, Abela is demonstrating that Labour is a dangerous blend of both the said quantities. I believe we deserve better. I think more of us should keep an eye on Bernard Grech’s call for a country which can dare for more than the better evil.