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Historical context

Karl Flores’s letter (‘Malta independence’, October 8) contains inaccurately quoted figures and disregards context, the key to historic assessment. He compares apples to pears.

As correctly stated, in 1964 Malta remained economically dependent on British defence spending. It could hardly be otherwise. In 1962, 23 per cent of the 89,000 workers, a third of the Maltese national income, 56 per cent of Malta’s foreign exchange earnings and a substantial part of government revenue depended on British Services’ expenditure.

The British government’s plans to rundown its forces threatened the island’s future.

The joint Maltese-British economic study group estimated that within five years Malta’s national income would plummet by a third, as would foreign earnings; 10,000 jobs would be lost and unemployment hover between 20,000 and 29,000.

A UN economic mission led by Wolfgang Stolper added that, assuming an annual emigration rate of 10,000, Malta might stand on its feet within 15 to 25 years, that by 1969 employment would shrink by 2,490 and GDP by £3 to £4 million. Industrialisation and tourism were in their infancy.

Sovereignty in 1964 was achieved in this bleak context. Ġorġ Borg Olivier aimed at an independent Malta free from economic, social and political upheaval, thus promoting economic progress and an improved standard of living. What is more, he succeeded for, by 1971, when Dom Mintoff came to power, the economic picture was rosier.

Employment in industry had reached 32,100 from 17,400 in 1962; the gainfully occupied had increased by 16,700; GDP and GNP had doubled. Employment in hotels had more than tripled and tourist arrivals had grown nearly eightfold.

Mintoff negotiated with the British as the prime minister of a sovereign state whose economy, though still not robust, was much healthier condition than in 1964. However, though Services employment was down to 6,100 from the 14,700 in 1962, Mintoff still rightly felt the need to retain British forces on the island.

Borg Olivier declared, in 1964, that he had reached the best deal in the pertaining circumstances. So did Mintoff in the different circumstances of 1971.

Mintoff held stronger cards, not least because of thesovereignty achieved seven years earlier.

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