Decisions we should take: Part 2

In the second part of a two-part series Saviour Balzan explores decisions that need to be taken

From restricting mobile phone use to children to making books more financially accessible, the printed word and reading need to be promoted
From restricting mobile phone use to children to making books more financially accessible, the printed word and reading need to be promoted

No. 6: Extending school days and removing half days in the civil service  

Problem: In today’s day and age when the private sector continues to perform and operate normally in the summer months, consecutive governments are conveniently reluctant to follow the trend. Tradition had it that the hot summer months in Malta led schools to close shop for three months and the civil service works half days.   

Nowadays, most office blocks and even some schools have air-conditioning systems which allow for agreeable ambient conditions. Governments have however been reluctant to ruffle the feathers of the teachers’ union and the civil service.  It is high time these age old traditions rooted in colonial times are tackled.  

Solution: Make it mandatory for schools to start from September 1 and restrict half days in the civil service from mid-July until the third week of August.

Public transport has to be attractive to use
Public transport has to be attractive to use

No. 7: Rethinking a public transport system  

Problem:  We must understand why so many individuals remain dependant on using the private car as a preference to the public bus system. The severe problem of a limited footprint makes the construction of more roads difficult apart from the added environmental pressures.   

The biggest challenge to improving the bus service is ensuring that public transport is affordable (it currently is), comfortable and efficient. Commuters want to be able to arrive at a destination in the shortest time possible. As things stand most people still prefer their comfortable private car and survive the traffic jams rather than be cooped up on a bus in the same lock-jam. 

Solution: Public transport has to be attractive to use. Though expensive and challenging to construct, the long-term benefits of a metro or tram to improve connectivity should be considered especially for the inner harbour area. The challenge is to pace the development over a period of years followed by the need to encourage more people to resort to public transport.

No. 8: Greening our cities 

Problem: Not enough is being done to green our cities. We have too many expanses of urban environment covered in cement and tarmac. 

Solution: Encourage people to cultivate their roofs and terraces thus turning our suburbia green. There need to be incentives to allow households and offices to invest in irrigation systems in their restricted space and to construct small rooftop and terrace gardens.

No. 9: Promoting the printed word and reading 

Problem:  The dependence on the digital world has made more and more children detached from the book and from reading.  The need to promote books and the printed media is a must. 

Solution: The State should intervene to restrict the use of mobile phones among younger children and to seek ways of promoting reading.  The State should also make the production, printing, and distribution of books in Maltese and English more financially accessible. It is here that the education authorities and the Arts Council should get actively involved to support creative Maltese writers, easier production of books and printed media at reasonable pricing. More importantly educators need to emphasise reading by pushing school children away from their total dependence on digital sources.

Age does mean offering more wisdom
Age does mean offering more wisdom

No. 10: Fighting ageism 

Problem: With so much emphasis on including younger people in institutional roles and involving them in administrative decisions from the tender age of 16, it is high time to start involving elderly people more.   

As people live longer and continue to be healthy for longer periods as they age, the government should consider means to allow for their participation in the labour market. Not only because of financial considerations but also because elderly people tend to be more mature, experienced, and dedicated. Moreover, in many administrative positions, the serious human resource problem is making managerial replacements difficult and a daunting task. 

Solution: More measures are needed to encourage men and women to work beyond the age of 65 if they wish. In political spheres, the issue of ageism should not be confused with being narrow minded or conservative or lethargic. Age does mean offering more wisdom. 

Political parties, especially the Labour Party, need to take this into consideration when thinking of potential party candidates in the national election.