Changing face of my country

The €1.8 billion aimed at invigorating Africa is really a drop in the ocean... 34 newly constructed and duplicated Bahar ic- Caghaq roads
The €1.8 billion aimed at invigorating Africa is really a drop in the ocean... 34 newly constructed and duplicated Bahar ic- Caghaq roads

There has been little doubt in my mind that the Valletta Summit did little to excite public interest, and the traffic on websites reporting the summit was normal to low. The Maltese in general were not clear whether this was part of (the coming) CHOGM or not. The very fact that there were no major traffic problems, in spite of predictions of mayhem, highlights the silly decision to impose a day off for all schools, to take school traffic off the roads.

But nonetheless the Valletta Summit was a showcase for Malta and a high-profile opportunity for Joseph Muscat, and beyond the silly reports about Maltese who do not have the Queen’s English but speak a strong Maltese dialect, it was more than useful publicity for Malta.

The few foreign journalists I met in the last two days shared the same deadpan and cynical view of the outcome of this summit.  

The €1.8 billion fund aimed at invigorating Africa – at 30,065,000 sq kms being the second largest of the seven continents – is really a minute drop in the ocean, big enough to perhaps shake up a small province in one forgotten corner of Africa and make it look slightly more humane. €1.8 billion is equivalent to 34 newly constructed and duplicated Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq roads. Put together those roads would hardly take you anywhere in the vastness of Africa.

What Africa needs first and foremost is for the West to start understanding the different cultures and politics of the continent. The very fact that the European Commission had chosen to organise a summit on Africa, only to be superseded by the migration phenomenon making its way through the Middle East, shows that migration issues are not about Africa alone.

Rather it is about which countries have been so messed up by ages-old Western policies that they have transformed themselves into pariah States or are run by pocket dictators.

The first step to a solution is understanding the culture of these countries.

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A lot has been said about the plight of the environment. But the real issue is all about the way the building and construction lobby is being given the green light.

I have nothing against the green NGOs. I rather take their side, but they lack the leadership to act, which, needless to say, is why Michael Briguglio et al stood up to be counted. And most of the NGOs are led by people who live in comfortable large homes with big gardens and are in no position to preach.

The real noteworthiness is that MEPA is churning up new policies that will allow for more development. They are new quirky policies that will weaken height limitations, turn ruins into new buildings in the countryside and include other particular, subtle and not-so-subtle changes that developers and architects are picking up and working on, to keep their wheel turning.

Malta in the next year will change into one big building block. There is nothing wrong in developing this country, but it is entirely wrong to rape and shaft this country beyond recognition. We will wake up one day and find we have gone too far. Is that what we want? It is certainly where we are heading.

To blame is Joseph Muscat and his notion that development is positive and that the economy needs to go this way. Is he so bereft of ideas?

Muscat has not learnt his lesson, and he still cannot quite understand that this country, with its seriously limited acreage, cannot be changed and transformed the way he is allowing, simply because it makes economic sense. The economic sense he is seeing is transitory; he is killing the proverbial goose that lays the golden eggs.

I do not share the view of duped environmentalists who talk of sustainable development. Development is development and there is no way you can call sustainable a road which sweeps through a valley and opens up for apartments, with the resultant utility needs.

Muscat seems unable to comprehend that open spaces, green belts, and unadulterated green pastures should be preserved for us and future generations. They are vitally important. We just do not have the luxury of Australia’s wide expanses.

Protecting open space, in the case of Malta, does not need any scientific or economic argument, it is about a moral objective. And if you ask me, it is about an aesthetic reason too.

We should be mature and cultured enough to say to everyone’s face, including Joseph Muscat and Simon Busuttil, that for example Tigné Point, with its towering apartments, is dreadful and downright hideous.

Yes, ugly.  

The same applies to the suburbs around our old villages and towns which are under threat from the cornucopia of sardine apartments, stacked one on each other and adorned in the same style with white aluminium and glass borders.

We have a pagan political class that measures the success of this country not by how much time we have on our hands, not by how healthy the population is, not by how much time they have to recreate themselves, not by many books they read, or how many languages they speak.

Rather, the measurement is the purchasing power, the opulence of homes, the savings in the bank, the designer clothes, the uncultivated clamour for more possessions.

I want to leave my children a country where they can live healthily, which they can be proud of. But we are now in the process of turning our country into a dump.

We do not want a poor imitation of a characterless Dubai. I want to think that this nation will be remembered not for its excesses: tax avoidance, bird killing, conspicuous home and car ownership culture, but by its virtues. A beautiful, calm, invigorating, tranquil and cultured country.

Perhaps it’s wishful thinking. But it is something that will bring many people together and gain support.

The need to say no to the irreverent policies of MEPA, that are mapping the destruction of Malta, is growing more urgent.

I do not give a flying hoot if the political masters before us did a fine mess before this day. I never recall the Prime Minister or Michael Falzon (the junior minister for MEPA) protesting against the excesses of Lorry Sant and George Pullicino.

They had good reason not to be there.

Because when you think of it, the political culture has no real empathy for the need to invest in the aesthetics of this country. Once we lose our Island, and transform it into a character-less overbuilt corner of the world, where you cannot escape anywhere and not see any buildings, we will have nothing else. Malta and the Maltese will not be represented by the towering apartments at Tigné or the sprawling franka.

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Next Friday, Gordon Cordina will be addressing the Gozitan business bureau to present his studies on the feasibility of a tunnel to Gozo. In the long list of priorities I do not need to emphasise the capital investment needed to construct this pig brained idea.

If we have to invest millions, perhaps over a billion, we should get our transport system in place. Building such a tunnel would be like turning to your partner at home and letting him or her know that you are installing a Jacuzzi when the toilet bowl is cracked and you do not even have a kitchen in place.

When the Prime Minister posed with the EU and African leaders he did so against the backdrop of the stunning Auberge de Castille, which has now been irreversibly damaged, and the Knights of Malta’s graceful Valletta, not the stacks of towering masses of homes in St Julian’s and Sliema.