The wood from the trees

It seems incredible that someone like Iosif Galea, a gaming broker known to enjoy playing with fire and already in some bad books since the Dalligate scandal, could be treated with kid gloves

Iosif Galea
Iosif Galea

Do not be fooled into thinking that behind the normality of certain news items that seem to lack substance, there are no other sinister stories that should be making us think twice about the society we’re living in.

It’s not really a paradise, not even when you think that what made the news this week were the views of the animal welfare commissioner on dairy farming, or Iosif Galea’s arrest while on an Italy trip with former prime minister Joseph Muscat.

Take Malta’s serious human resource problem for starters. Our complete dependence on third country nationals as well as cheap labour, is the biggest indicator of the expanding economy that requires yet more foreign worker to keep it going. And that means, a good deal of Maltese are no longer coming forward for certain jobs done by foreign workers, in building, housekeeping, catering or hospitality, or skilled vocations. The supply of foreign workers ensured salaries could be kept or more less level considering the resultant economic growth from a larger workforce (and consumer society).

All the while, it remains normal for foreign workers to reach Malta by an Italian ferry; but the minority of asylum seekers and sans papiers who hope that providence will lead the Maltese Armed forces to save them from imminent death, are now considered the extreme exception. Saving migrants is not a political priority.

In the meantime, the government cushions fuel prices and eats away at the nation’s savings, thanks to an electoral, multi-million pledge to prevent the war’s impact on gas prices at home. Yet everyone knows this cushioning cannot last forever.

Today Malta’s lower-middle class is finding it harder to make ends meet. The growth of the civil service and the government wage bill only makes taxpayers think the State is financing mediocrity for its own political convenience. The pressure from high population growth on society, with resultant infrastructural costs, pressure for land development, and effects on the environment and air quality issues from increased transport, is driving people mad. The urban footprint has grown massively, and with it, the shabbiness of our towns.

The challenges of the future are many: the need to radically reform our educational system to reflect the future needs of a changing economy; electoral reform and party financing; government’s unfettered powers and the lack of a strong opposition; and the complete un-willingness of a political class to instil compassion and morality in its electorate. Few are willing to stand up and confront the decisions being taken, or the ones that are not... especially when Labour’s power goes unmet by the weakness of the PN.

In the meantime, we are now facing a police force under serious pressure in the Iosif Galea EAW saga. There is egg on the face of the police, and the demands of Repubblika for heads to roll are not going to be ignored by the reading public. Malta’s police are not exactly the most efficient of forces in the world, but I still think that with the likes of Angelo Gafà and Alexandra Mamo at the helm, the force is better off today than without them.

Still, it seems incredible that someone like Iosif Galea, a gaming broker known to enjoy playing with fire and already in some bad books since the Dalligate scandal, could be treated with kid gloves. It seems these people are always orbiting around controversy and conflict of interest. Now that he was arrested on holiday in Italy on his way to join a group that included former prime minister Joseph Muscat, only serves to raise more antennae.

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Lightening the mood, earlier in the week the animal welfare commissioner Alison Bezzina reminded her public that there was no need for humans to drink cow milk. Her post for World Milk Day, on the artificial impregnation of cows, the separation of their calves, and their constant live as a milking cow, was greeted enthusiastically by vegan activists. Farmers were having none of it.

Perhaps Bezzina needs to learn the fine art of political rhetoric. Even in her position, she must always remember to never let the scientific facts hurt her position – even because as it happens, there are far more cow milk drinkers than those who buy plant-based alternatives. She should have started off with a little bit of praise for the high standards of dairy farmers. And then... she could have reminded consumers of cow milk, that there are also plant-based alternatives given that there is no scientific basis for humans to necessarily consume cow milk. Sometimes, we all have to be politicians even in our small worlds.