So, it is a functioning democracy…

We talk of leaving a legacy to our children and future generations, and if there is one legacy we need to ensure and safeguard it is the limited footprint of our three islands.

I need not read Matteo Salvini’s rants about migrants or about his disregard for international law to convince myself that we have a far more balanced and saner political system in Malta.

I need not read what happens in other EU states to appreciate that things are not as bad as they have been portrayed in certain media.

Beyond the tantrums of a certain grouping of armchair critics who simply pour scorn over anything that is Maltese, nothing beats the undeniable facts.

It is understandable that we do have problems and that Maltese politicians have failings and some are even crooks… But that does not mean that we are at the bottom of the league. Far from it.

It is true that free market economics is running roughshod over communities and ignoring the value of what belongs to the public – such as land.

But let us also see everything in their true perspective. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index for 2018 at least adopts a sane perspective… those who enjoy arguing about the supremacy of the foreign press probably will appreciate this latest example.

In the Economist’s Democracy index Malta ranks 18th place, surpassing Spain, the United States, Estonia, Portugal, France, Israel, Belgium, Italy of course, the Czech Republic and other Western and European nations.

The ranking was worked out on sub-indexes for electoral process, pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, political culture and Civil liberties.

It is no joke to see that in spite of all our perceived problems we score such a high rank.  In some cases, such as the functioning of government, we surpass the United Kingdom, Austria and Ireland and needless to say France and Italy – the latter representing one of the worst bureaucratic administrations in Europe.

Surely many people will be astounded. Walking the corridors of the European Union parliament, you would be led to believe that Malta was a pariah state, led by a pocket dictator who ran the country as a dictatorship where nepotism is rife and the country is sliced off according to the colour of one’s political beliefs. Add to that a media that is dead and not worth taking note.

It is definitely not the case.

The Economist is in no one’s pockets, and the fact is that today we have functioning institutions which are far from being in the firm grip of Castille’s tentacles.

This is a country where it is possible for a judge like Wenzu Mintoff, the nephew of Dom Mintoff, a former Labour whip and candidate, to condemn the present Labour justice minister to compensate a traffic accident victim he accidentally crashed into with €65,000 – the same minister who appointed him judge (before a judicial selection committed was finally approved).

And this is a country where privately-owned businesses competitively win government tenders or are recipients of government funding not on the strength of their political allegiance but on their business projects. And though political patronage is certainly not extinct, those who have the ability and persistence succeed in society irrespective of.

It is hard to believe for some but it is true.

Definitely there are pockets, large and small, within the institutions and structures which can be improved and made to be more transparent. And yes there are cases where eyebrows are raised – and justifiably.

And yes, there are political decisions which are distasteful and situations where more is expected from politicians and society. But on a level playing field compared like with like, it is high time that we put an end to this self-belittlement. Perhaps we should accept the realities of a small, over-populated island state and the success story of this young  nation, imperfect though it is.

Which is why the TV debate on Xtra this week on public land and the way this land should be used and valued is not a futile discussion.

After the debacle over ODZ land, the time has come to revisit our approach to public land, and in terms of what value it has for future generations and why public land should never be parcelled off to the private sector.

I am referring here to St George’s Bay. Of course the developer’s concern on public land is fuelled by their fear that over-supply and undervaluation which will depress the market. Others argue that it will calibrate the market.

Over the last forty years, large tracts of land have been packaged and delivered on a silver tray to private individuals and companies who made a killing at the expense of the public, with land granted to them for a pittance. Every corner of Malta and Gozo offers example of this distorted and shameless policy.

We talk of leaving a legacy to our children and future generations, and if there is one legacy we need to ensure and safeguard it is the limited footprint of our three islands.

If someone thinks that the legacy of cement and concrete and reflective glass and paved shoreline and clinical designs is something to be proud of, they should not be surprised if we accuse them of being ‘short-term’ and ‘blinded’.

The stark truth is that nothing beats the beauty of Mother Nature and the pristine edges of Malta and Gozo. That to me is legacy. And I have feeling it is to so many others too.