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Sharp fall in standards

As the economy keeps doing well, the country is, at the same time, turning a blind eye to the sharp decline in standards rather than demanding better services and higher quality all round. Falling standards are increasingly evident in so many areas of economic activity. The decline, which is lowering the quality of life, also appears to be influencing some of the institutions long held to be bastions of high standards.

This is the impression people get every time the country’s top law enforcement authority, the police, fails to do its duty, as it did, for instance, when it held back from investigating allegations of money laundering involving the Prime Minister’s chief of staff.

Taking political influence and pressure out of the equation, there would appear to be growing indifference over standards generally. To mention law enforcement again, while the Police Commissioner may brag about the increasing number of cases being solved, there have been glaring signs of falling standards in the force.

When, for instance, it started taking recruits with blots in their criminal record, it acted against all norms of acceptable recruitment standards and showed it had also fallen victim to the pervasive “anything goes” mentality. This does not reflect well on the police force.

Moving into the private sector, standards have particularly hit rock bottom in the catering industry where waiters, mostly foreigners, in many restaurants have only rudimentary knowledge, if at all, of what their job entails. Many are even unable to communicate well with clients. If the industry wants to go upmarket, it needs to wake up and get to grips with the sharp downward trend in standards as, if left unchecked, it will, sooner or later, give Malta a bad name.

It looks as if restaurateurs are not worrying about this. Most probably, few Maltese complain about the shoddy service they are getting and complaints by tourists are ignored. In the case of Maltese patrons, the reason for this is simple: most have become used to getting an inferior service. And those who complain are usually told: “So what!” To make matters worse, there appears to be no authority overseeing what is happening in the industry at all.

Should not the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association be concerned about this? Since it must surely be aware of the sharp downfall in standards, it would be interesting to see what it is doing to check the trend.

A modicum level of standard would need to be kept not just in direct services provided to the consumer but in the upkeep of public places too.

Now that summer is approaching fast, greater attention ought to be given to the upkeep of seafronts and beaches. Rubbish bins, even in Valletta, are usually left disgustingly dirty. Most public conveniences are so badly kept few dare use them. Not all restaurants – and that is being very nice to many of them – keep their bathrooms up to an acceptable standard.

After-sales service often falls far short of expectations and it takes a great deal of effort and patience to get through to banks and other big organisations on the telephone.

The country has to seriously think about how to start working for a culture change because mediocrity, in all its facets, is wiping out standards at an alarming rate.

This is a Times of Malta print editorial

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