So there’s a new party on the block. Headed by the professional thorn-in-JM’s-side Marlene Farrugia, the imaginatively named Democratic Party could mark a turning point in local politics. Or it could be more of the same.
Either way, here are a few things we would like to see addressed by the new political party.
A coherent plan for traffic management
Whatever we’re doing, it’s not working. Gridlock is still a daily occurrence, parking is still rarer than a Sliema girl that can point to Qrendi on a map and the environment is suffering throughout the whole ordeal. Whether it takes reinventing the wheel or just making some unpopular decisions, someone needs to tackle this problem with more than just weak proposals and a hopeful prayer to Saint Christopher.
Separation of Church and State
Another issue that has been swept under the rug for as long as there have been rugs and Vileda is the issue of the constitution. This states that a) the religion of Malta is Roman Catholic, b) “The authorities of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church have the duty and the right to teach which principles are right and which are wrong” and c) religious teachings will be compulsory in state schools.
There are circa a million things wrong with this situation, not least because Malta is becoming increasingly diverse and because religious belief has no business dictating how a state should function.
Full decriminalization or gtfo
Enough with the loopholes and the tribunals and what have you. Fully decriminalizing marijuana will not only please the 420 enthusiasts and save teenagers carrying minute quantities of the drug from having a criminal record, but will free up our courts and police force to focus on actual crimes.
A word on reproductive rights
Comprehensive sex education, better access to contraception, the provision of emergency contraception and… here it comes…. abortion. We need someone to actually have the balls (metaphorical or otherwise) to talk about these issues without coming over with a case of the vapours. Think about it – better sex ed and free condoms everywhere you can offer them means less need for Plan B and abortion. It’s a good investment.
Focus on sustainability
Every new proposal, every new discussion should centre around sustainable solutions to problems, across all sectors. There’s no point coming up with a short-term plan, only to have to overhaul the process in a few years’ time, conveniently right around a general election. Renewable energy, a reduction in pollution, a plan for the cultural sector that goes beyond V18 and beyond Valletta – it’s time our politicians started thinking about solutions that are both an efficient use of our budget and will go on to be relevant 10, 20 or 50 years down the line.
Stand up for green spaces and our built heritage
Start from scratch or drastically reform the present system – something has to be done about the Planning Authority. Or, as many of us know it, the Dudes Unconcerned by Mass Brutalization of Architectural and Safeguarded Spaces. DUMBASS for short.
The rampant development on the island a) destroys valuable natural and open public spaces that can never be brought back, b) wipes out our built heritage, a crucial element of our communities’ identity and c) contributes to the growing housing bubble…
Talk about The Bust
Right now things are going swimmingly for the fellas brokering the sale and purchase of property – plenty of buyers, just enough sellers. Basic supply and demand economics. But for how long? Supply is increasing at a heart-stopping rate and eventually, the island is going to reach capacity for IIP candidates and iGaming employees.
With apartment blocks going up on every vacant lot on the island, how long before that glut of real estate begins to lose value? Time to start talking about it before it gets worse.
Protect our communities
Those who cannot afford their own property are facing a precarious situation of another sort.
Already there is a very real issue of people being priced out of their communities by sky-rocketing rent demands – It’s already happening in Sliema and you can bet your last Jordanian dinar the same will start happening in the Three Cities soon enough.
In the near future, many people on an average wage will struggle to pay the extortionate rent property owners will need to charge to recoup their investment. What comes next are ghettos, marginalized communities and an uptick in homelessness. Rent caps may not be popular but a discussion on the topic is sorely needed.
Corruption isn’t just a catchy buzzword
You want the kids today to take politics seriously? Give them something solid to believe in. The big wigs who misbehave should be punished, not allowed to fade harmlessly into the background. If I have to pay taxes on everything I earn and face fines if I don’t, then why should the people running the country on our behalf be exempt from that kind of sanction?
Make transparency the rule, instead of the extraordinary exception. There will be less and less trust in the political class unless the tax-evading, direct-order-enjoying fat cats are held to same standards as everyone else. We are their bosses after all.
Create better citizens
Have you ever trained a puppy? Unless you set some boundaries early on, you risk raising a fuzzy, adorable terrorist who wrecks your house and can’t be taken out in public.
In the absence of a sense of civic duty, we need consistent reinforcement of the rules. Big fines for people who use their phones while driving. Big fines for people who occupy public land or put their garbage out at night or park their cars wrong.
People do the stupid shit they do mostly because they know they can get away with it. Eventually, the threat of real, actual punishment will help the stubborn make a little more of an effort not to be doucheweasels. And that’s how you train your people and make our island a better place to live. Unpopular, perhaps, but effective.
Make government services customer-centred
Ever had to schlep down to Transport Malta to get some license plates or replace a lost tax disc? Unless you have a really nice boss, that usually means taking a morning off because the opening hours are ridiculous.
The civil service needs some serious attention. For starters, put as much of it online as possible. For services that necessitate actually meeting with a government employee, make it so that people who work can be there without having to eat away into their leave and their productivity.
Oh and just in case it’s not perfectly clear – those gov.mt websites are the public online face of our country. Hire a developer and sit down a web designer so they don’t look like some teenager’s abandoned Geocities coding project from the 90s.