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Constructing Babylon

Joseph FX Zahra  -  22/06/2017 09:15

I can imagine what Mr Muscat, the Prime Minister, has in mind when he says that his vision of Malta is that of a cosmopolitan country. This triggers in our mind, wealth, growth, economic well-being besides high-rise buildings, promenades, shopping malls, office blocks etc. Imagine the extension of Sliema, St Julians and St Georges onto B’ Kara and Qormi being bridged by Mriehel as the modern business centre of Malta; and then from Sliema to Gzira, Msida, again towards B’ Kara. A big spend on infrastructure on roads, flyovers, energy, telecommunications, water and drainage systems. Expanding the airport comes next. A hub of entertainment and fun with clubs and parties for all. Let us envisage Malta’s population with the influx of Europeans and foreigners living here growing to half a million by 2025 and nearly three quarters of a million by 2030. This will be the new Dubai, the new Singapore of the Mediterranean with economic activity being attracted here by an advantageous tax regime, a growing financial and international business services sector, and increased sales of European passports.

Is there an alternative vision to cosmopolitan Malta? The country can be a centre of constructive and positive globalisation which attracts business and investors not because of tax advantages but because of the inherent value of our people and the quality of our life. Imagine Malta as a centre of research and development, innovation and entrepreneurship. An attraction to new industries in AI and robotics. A centre for pan- Mediterranean NGOs and social investment. This can only be made possible if we invest in an education system that targets an integrated human person, with Maltese who are tolerant, respectful and courteous. It can only happen if we really promote and practice governance and rule of law. A truly workable separation of powers between the legislative, executive and judicial. It will only happen if we mature politically and sustain our social stability. It can only happen if we invest in culture and the arts. These are the lifeline of a society, where children are exposed to art museums and theatre and to prose and poetry, besides physics and science.  A new culture will emerge when we can understand the real meaning of merit and start decrying favouritism, victimisation and clientilism.

We are still far away from this. The recent debate during the election campaign reflects an insular society which is limited in reason and long-sightedness, where money takes precedence over values which are abstract and alien to our thinking.

It is strange when we speak of a cosmopolitan country when we have not yet remedied our insularity and misplaced nationalism. Our teaching of English in schools is deteriorating. The tribalism in the villages manifested in extreme rivalry is alive and kicking. Our writing skills in our own language are outrageous. Now imagine in our cosmopolitan country to have an English or a German banker as governor of our Central Bank. The governor of the Bank of England is Canadian. Imagine a Moslem being the mayor of Valletta. London’s mayor is Moslem. What a long, long bridge to cross culturally. Meanwhile we are busily constructing our own Babylon.