Think of tomorrow - Frank Psaila

The construction industry is on a high. The gaming and the financial services industry are doing well. But not one new economic sector has been created since Joseph Muscat swept to victory in 2013. That’s should set us thinking, and worrying.

For the boom in the construction industry shall, eventually, lose momentum; within the financial services industry, there is no thinking outside the box, and should other European countries get their way, our gaming industry will be in jeopardy and that will have a disastrous ripple effect on the country and its people.

The government needs to pull up its socks and create new economic sectors, which in 10 to 15 years will create hundreds of jobs for today’s younger generation.

Instead of planning for the long-term, the Labour government opted for the easy way out: short-term measures which in the present generate economic activity but cannot be sustained in the long-term.

The selling of the Maltese passport cannot and should not (should have never been in the first place) be sustained in the long term. There are only so many passports you can sell, and given the shady nature of this activity it’s a matter of time before the proverbial mud (for want of a better word) hits the fan.

Other EU countries provide the same scheme – for the EU, unashamedly, allowed it – which means a more ‘attractive’ one would drive business out of Malta.

Nor can the current construction boom be sustained. For Malta cannot afford this crazy construction activity in the long run.

Should gaming go bust, hundreds, if not thousands, of apartments shall become vacant, with hundreds of small-time investors – many of whom put their life savings in buying and renting out a small apartment – hitting rock bottom.

The construction industry does generate economic activity.

Admittedly, under recent Nationalist Party administrations, bureaucracy – despite the efforts made ­– was the order of the day at Mepa. That slowed down the construction industry. Today, all sense of proportion has been lost. Malta has become one big mess of a construction site.

Instead of conducting a ‘carrying capacity’ exercise to know what is needed, and where, it’s a free-for-all situation. Unfortunately, it is the small investor who will carry the can should things go awry.

Photos are emerging on social media of hundreds of Pakistani nationals lining up at Transport Malta to drive our buses

And amid this serious lack of long-term economic planning, thousands of foreigners are being brought to Malta to work within the construction and services industries. As I write, photos are emerging on social media of hundreds of Pakistani nationals lining up at Transport Malta to drive our buses.

It is often said that ‘the Maltese do not want to work in these sectors’ – but that’s often a lame excuse for, truth be told, foreign workers lowering the wages and the standard of living of Maltese workers.

It’s no secret that when a Maltese employee, working within the services industry mostly, asks for better pay, he or she is met with the customary, “If you don’t like it, cheese off – we’ll get a foreigner to do your job, at a lower salary.” This is not to suggest that foreign employees are not necessary, but as is commonly the case, there is no sense of proportion.

No fewer than 30,000 foreigners have made Malta their home in the last three years – a significant number of people.

There was a time when the government planned for the long term. That long-term planning gave us the financial services and the gaming industries. Then the aviation sector was created, and Mcast set up specialised courses to prepare young people for it. The pharmaceutical sector, too, gained ground in Malta – today employing hundreds of people.

That is no longer the case.

Long-term planning has been substituted with short-term economic gain, which in the immediate term gives you the results that you seek but in the long term causes pain and grief.

For today’s younger generation depends on today’s long-term planning for tomorrow’s economic and financial success.

Fresh ideas are badly needed.

Economic policy must be one which is not artificial. It cannot be boosted by property booms, but sustained by developing an economic strategy which gives Malta an edge over its competitors: pharmaceuticals, the manufacturing of microchips, health and educational services, and exploring innovative ways to alleviate internal land transport – for the widening of roads and reducing the size of roundabouts, while being welcome initiatives, are often short-term ones.

It will be back to square one in five to 10 years when the number of cars on our roads continues to mushroom.

It’s time for government to pull up its socks and think of tomorrow.

Frank Psaila is a lawyer and anchors Iswed fuq l-Abjad on NET TV.

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