2021: a year of redemption

But for all intents and purposes, the economic drivers on the island remain resilient and will likely assist the nation in making a swift economic recovery in autumn 2021


Imagine, if we were to wake up this time next year to enjoy the brisk autumn air when leaves blanket the ground and Chadwick lakes brim with water, giving space to a coterie of children without face masks enjoying picnics and flying kites on its banks.

After the March election, a new political leader is elected. He promises heaven and earth saying that the time is ripe to catch up on lost opportunities and plan new ventures and exploit the new AI world of fantasies. The new leader emphasises the imperative to kickstart the green economy which can translate into quality jobs and a healthier environment for all to enjoy.

Notte Bianca proves to be the most successful ever: folks from all corners of the island congregate at the walled city of Valletta singing songs of liberation from the ghastly pandemic (which is now in its dying phases on the development of three effective vaccines).

Gone are the weekly medical bulletins sadly informing us of Covid cases and the number of mortalities. The elderly and pregnant mothers can once again go out on countryside trips to Wardija, Delimara and roam Rabat valleys to enjoy each other in a healthy and carefree atmosphere.

Government pompously announces that the Marsa seven-lane super highway is fully functional and motorists can now enjoy a Sunday ride with specially discounted electric cars (thanks to a 2021 generous budget).

Hotels for the Christmas season are slowly picking up numbers and rack rates for accommodation have become more competitive since VAT was reduced to 5%.

A new drive by a reconstituted board at MTA has taken to actively promote the island as a place for serene enjoyment of clean air and improved ecological attributes.

A smart move to pull down a number of under-performing hotels spread around the best parts of the habitat has been planned to convert them into car parks and recreational parks decked with elaborate water fountains.

This was the brainchild of the new Leader (a paradigm shift), which set up an SPV in collaboration with hotel owners and banks, and which in turn contributed to a government-sponsored fund to embellish the island in a five-year plan to seriously upgrade the touristic product.

No more youth rave parties and cheap Ibiza style revelries that cheapen our image but enrich the pockets of a few hackneyed promoters. The mantra of quality first has finally permeated in the new energetic tourism minister (with 25 years’ experience in the industry) and nothing will interfere with their purge of cheap sea, sand and beer hordes that glorified the numbers in the past.

Our air quality has started to improve with a lower influx of visitors but hotels and restaurants must start to upgrade premises and quality standards embolden with the projected ITS new building in SmartCity. As if in a scene from Macbeth, there is a collective guilt feeling that we have sinned against Mother Nature and allowed corruption to be dressed as virtuous when the rot had serendipitously taken root and tarred our collective conscience.

Woe behold that the Titans in Castille run away with graft and the police turn a blind eye to the gifted cronies that enjoy patronage. The dichotomy falls like Damocles’ sword - why should the plebs pay taxes to the last cent when their masters gorge at the taxpayers’ banquet? The tax evasion of the country is deemed to be the highest in Europe and little has been done by Caesar to collect its dues and urge Thomas (tax collector) to do his duty.

Laissez faire has penetrated the bureaucracy and corruption was camouflaged as virtuous - remember “The Fable of the bees” by Mandeville (1714)?  Such damages can be costly when the market environment is unstable and changing fast.  Even worse, such populous leadership did result in crisis management which was halted by civil protests pre-Covid pandemic.

The political body is sick and needs to be fed ample doses of contrite feelings and a sense of retribution towards past sins. A streak of hope lies in the acknowledgement of a global economy which welcomed 2021 on its knees. This calls for bold decisions by the Commission to wisely allocate a €750 billion recovery fund. As can be expected, due to weak economic growth, state debt has risen exponentially over the past decade.

The lockdown in Europe has earned us some protection from the ravages of the Corona virus but it comes at a cost of mental stress and in certain cases loss of jobs exacerbating family tensions.

The only consolation is that most governments have retained civil servants on full pay while working from home since the outbreak of the pandemic in early March.

This means that government has honoured its pledge not to touch the salaries and benefits of its employees while seeing its own tax revenue dwindling as each factory and private enterprise continue to drop export orders.

Some resorted to a four-day week. On the other hand, one may concede that Malta, now with a new leader in 2021, still faces threats in all aspects of human existence - be this in terms of inequality in global distribution of wealth, corrupt governments, avarice in public procurement, rapidity in depletion of natural resources, and decadence within State governance.

Notice the displacement of millions of miserable migrants in Middle East and in a host of other countries. Is Malta full up and cannot help them? But it is not all doom and gloom. Pandemics breed innovation and accelerate change by providing an environment for launching and testing new ideas, the business community is briskly changing cultural and business norms.

Shaking to the core those norms that we conveniently have taken for granted for decades.

One can mention two key areas where introducing innovation has already borne fruit. Consider how intensive the use of tele-health and teleconferencing facilities are becoming critical operations to maintain a higher productive level.  Remote workers in government offices were already on the rise, but “working from home” is now the new normal.

This is 2021 survival methodology. It will lead to changes in the traditional workplace impacting teamwork, productivity, collaboration, human interaction and communication. In conclusion, there is still a way to go before Maltese businesses are able to fully restore operations, and the country is able to welcome quality visitors.

But for all intents and purposes, the economic drivers on the island remain resilient and will likely assist the nation in making a swift economic recovery in autumn 2021.

Readers are now kindly requested to jump off the dream wagon that took the girl on a stroll in a future Alice in Wonderland tour of fantasies.

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