Traffic and parking problems, too much construction, air and noise pollution and lack of green spaces are impacting the well-being of people who live in the east of the island, according to a new regional study. 

The study, carried out by the University of Malta’s Faculty for Social Well-being and commissioned by the Eastern Regional Council, aimed to assess the eastern region’s residents’ perceived quality of life, liveability and social integration of their locality and their awareness and knowledge of their local and regional councils.

The region’s 12 localities include Birkirkara, Għargħur, Lija, Gżira, Swieqi, Iklin, Msida, Pembroke, St Julian’s, Ta’ Xbiex, Pietà and Sliema. As at November 2021 the region had a resident population of 115,908 of which 37.7% were non-Maltese.

During the quantitative part of the research, 414 residents responded via telephone interview. They were asked to rank their perception on a five-point scale where one was ‘very dissatisfied’ and five was ‘very satisfied’.

The study showed that residents were particularly dissatisfied with traffic and parking issues (77.7% ‘very’ or ‘fairly dissatisfied’), urban development and air and noise pollution (both at 71.4% ‘very’ or ‘fairly dissatisfied’) and public and green spaces (59.1% ‘very’ or ‘fairly dissatisfied’).

Factors which could lead to better quality of life includedmore cleanliness, less construction, better traffic and parking management, more recreation and green spaces and more law enforcement.

Community feel and clipped wings

Only 37.9% felt that there was a ‘high’ or ‘very high’ sense of community, with a substantial 35.5% choosing, ‘neither high nor low’. Limited participation in civic life transpired with 45.5% mentioning that this was ‘neither high nor low’ and only 27.6% choosing ‘high’ or ‘very high participation’.

When asked about their locality, less than half (46.5%), of the residents expressed being ‘very’ or ‘fairly satisfied’ with their locality with a substantial 25.9% being ‘neither satisfied nor dissatisfied’.

When asked if the local council meets their expectations, 41% answered in the positive, yet, 54.2% answered ‘no’.

Respondents mentioned that to meet their expectations, local councils should communicate, listen and act more, have better upkeep of the locality and have more law enforcement.

But when it came to law enforcement, the councils spoke about their lack of power. During a qualitative part of the research focus groups were held with councilors and mayors. 

They spoke about how they felt that their wings were being clipped, with a lack of funds and human resources, and little power to enforce within their own locality and due to the gap in communication with the central governments.

Foreigners

Mayors also outlined that the influx of foreign nationals into the region “created a dividing line between Maltese and foreigners”, with often clear demarcation lines in relationships, whereby the two groups rarely mixed.

The study included data collection from representatives of the top 10 nationalities residing in this region, which make up the top 51% of foreign communities in the region – Italy, India, UK, Philippines, Libya, Serbia, Turkey, Spain, Bulgaria, and Sweden. Twelve community leaders participated in interviews.

Research showed that the biggest pull factors for foreigners were having other people from the same country living there already, the favourable rental rates and being close to amenities.

Concerns included traffic and parking issues and cleanliness and garbage problems. Other issues which were mentioned included “not enough buses,” “lack of prayers spaces for the Muslim community,” and “high rent rates.”

Half of the foreign representatives mentioned they feel integrated in the community, mostly mentioning language as an enabler.

“While having a close-knit community of people from the same nationality can serve as a support system for these individuals, it is crucial for the Local and Regional Councils to ensure proper integration. Failing to do so may result in the formation of isolated groups or the emergence of ‘ghetto like’ communities.

“It is evident that other foreign communities, such as Libyans and Serbians, either feel completely excluded and subjected to racism or only partially integrated in certain aspects of their lives. For instance, the Filipino community may feel more integrated within specific groups, such as TCNs among themselves. It is imperative for the Regional and Local Councils to actively pursue a comprehensive and inclusive integration process,” the report said.

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