This week, the Deloitte-MHRA report gave Maltese a snapshot of hotel room availability, whether all approved or pending applications for new hotels were coming on board. As MHRA boss Tony Zahra explains, assuming all pending applications are approved, Malta would have doubled the number of rooms it had in 2019, when the island had just over 80% occupancy of rooms available at the time. In short, the total number of tourists that these hotels can accommodate is almost 5 million tourists.
It’s a brutal scenario to consider. Just this week, the Home Secretary was dispatching ‘cleaning service’ officers to clean up illegal structures inside the Marsa and Hamrun geographies, alongside police action to evict overstayers. residence permit – namely asylum seekers from Italy – in a show of force. against “illegal” African nationals from third countries. Yet Malta’s planning authority has carte blanche, thanks to Labour’s expansionist planning policies, to add more floors to high-rise hotels and add new hotels to the mix for millions of tourists.
It’s open season for shameless building wealth and paying tourists, as a silent war is waged against the dispossessed who suffer the consequences of the street brawl in Hamrun which has gone viral (Minister of L interior seems incapable of considering better policing of our streets as a solution to anti-social behavior…).
But back to the Deloitte report, because the report identified the real pitfalls of this formula for unfettered economic growth “at all costs”: overdevelopment; overcrowding of sensitive sites, impact on public services such as energy supply and waste water.
Malta cannot cope with today’s tourism figures – let alone the 4.7 million it would take to satisfy the insatiable thirst of the hotel and construction industry seeking planning permission.
The MHRA says this report paints a clear picture of Malta’s future. It’s time for the government to take heed – to make the policy decisions it feels it needs to make.
But does the government have the courage to redefine its growth formula? In 2019, the success of the national protest of the Moviment Graffitti against “excessive and anarchic construction” – under the rallying cry “Iż-żejjed kollu żejjed” (“Enough”) – was already a reminder that economic growth cannot take the step on people’s right to live in safety; and that it cannot ignore people’s real concerns about their environment, their health and their quality of life.
We already knew that even the government’s own consultants warned that widening the roads would only increase traffic congestion further down the line. Yet the government persists regardless: raising legitimate questions about why it is disregarding its own advice, to favor a particular industry above all else.
And the similar pattern appears in other areas: the speed with which the planning authority approves new projects, or turns a blind eye to existing planning failures, strongly suggests that the motives are still entirely economic rather than environmental. .
Limiting growth is not a defeatist position, but a radical choice to achieve sustainability. Indeed, the Deloitte report explores the possibility that the population in Malta is reaching a point where the numbers may begin to negatively affect residents’ attitudes towards tourists, similar to what happened in Barcelona or Venice.
Indeed, there is no doubt that this has already started to happen in Malta. Take Sliema, where a transient population of foreign workers, tourists and short-stayers treats the town like personal trash; where the lack of policing on the ground means people unconnected to the community are found committing random acts of vandalism; and where constant construction and soaring real estate prices are driving residents out of the city.
This is why unrealizable projects like that of a tunnel from Malta to Gozo betray a lack of coherence of which even the Labor ministers are aware, but unable to speak out against the tunnel project they abhor.
It is clear that the addiction to real estate projects is so entrenched that the government is not willing to pull the plug. In reality, there is no hope of saving what remains of our Malta, if the power remains a slave to an economic model which is based on the multiplier effect of the construction and sale of apartments to wealthy foreigners , in this case subsidized by the availability of public land distributed by a docile government.