Sociologist from Malta

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Il-komunità bħala ċelebrazzjoni- Michael Briguglio

Ftit jiem ilu, l-iskola primarja tal-Kulleġġ Santa Klara f’Tas-Sliema kellha l-avveniment annwali tagħha tal-Jum ta’ Ċelebrazzjoni tal-Kisbiet. Meta kont tifel, dan kien jissejjaħ il-Kunċert tal-Milied u Jum il-Premjazzjoni, iżda l-isem il-ġdid hu maħsub biex jirrifletti ċ-ċelebrazzjoni u t-tħaddin tad-diversità.
Jien attendejt l-avveniment bħala ġenitur, u kont impressjonat mill-ħidma tal-iskola biex tibni komunità ta’ tagħlim, u b’hekk ikkonfermajt l-impressjoni pożittiva li ngħatajt tul is-snin li fihom ibni ilu jmur din l-iskola.
Fid-diskors ta’ merħba tagħha, il-Kap tal-Iskola Claudine Muscat tkellmet bl-Ingliż biex tiżgura li l-ġenituri kollha mill-għexieren ta’ nazzjonalitajiet differenti jifhmu u jħossu li huma parti mill-komunità, iżda tkellmet ukoll għal ftit ħin bil-Malti biex tiċċelebra l-wirt nazzjonali tagħna.
L-avveniment bilingwi nnifsu kien sintesi tal-popolazzjoni multinazzjonali tal-iskola u l-identità Maltija tagħha. It-tema tal-kunċert kienet ‘Il-Milied madwar id-Dinja’ – it-tfal ta’ nazzjonalitajiet differenti taw ix-xewqat għall-Milied b’lingwi differenti, u ntwerew id-drawwiet ta’ pajjiżi differenti lill-udjenza. Ġie ppreżentat ukoll proġett tal-arti tal-iskola dwar l-għaqda u d-diversità.
Dawk li ngħataw premju rriflettew abbiltajiet, nazzjonalitajiet u sessi differenti, u fi tmiem l-avveniment, tkanta l-innu nazzjonali Malti, li kien għeluq xieraq.
Nistgħu nqisu l-esperjenza pożittiva f’din l-iskola bħala mikrokożmu ta’ dak li s-soċjetà kontemporanja Maltija tista’ tkun qalb il-bidliet li għaddejja minnhom: magħquda fid-diversità, tħaddan kulturi differenti filwaqt li taqsam valuri u normi komuni.
L-għeruq Kattoliċi ta’ Malta jiġu ċċelebrati, iżda studenti bi twemmin differenti jew li jagħżlu s-suġġett tal-etika minflok dak tar-reliġjon ukoll jieħdu sehem attiv fl-iskola tagħhom. L-għalliema jagħtu attenzjoni individwali lit-tfal, u l-ġenituri jistennew lit-tfal tagħhom f’armonija wara l-iskola minkejja l-ambjenti soċjali, nazzjonali u oħrajn differenti. Barra minn hekk, l-iskola toffri servizzi barra mill-ħin tal-iskola għal dawk it-tfal li l-ġenituri tagħhom ikunu x-xogħol qabel jew wara l-ħinijiet formali tal-iskola.
Issa li ibni David jinsab fl-aħħar sena tiegħu f’din l-iskola, nixtieq nirringrazzja lil dawk kollha li jaħdmu fl-iskola għall-għajnuna, il-ġenerożità u l-flessibilità tagħhom. Għax mhuwiex faċli li tkun flessibbli f’ambjent ta’ diversità kulturali. Iżda l-iskola turi li b’rieda tajba, pedagoġija professjonali u tmexxija dinamika, sfidi bħal dawn jinbidlu f’opportunitajiet ta’ bini ta’ komunità.
Tabilħaqq, l-iskola primarja ta’ Tas-Sliema tista’ titqies bħala każ li juri x’inhu l-kapital soċjali. Dan il-kunċett sar popolari permezz ta’ soċjologi bħal Robert Putnam li segwew l-istudju dwar il-komunità ta’ Amitai Etzioni, Emile Durkheim u oħrajn.
Hawnhekk, il-persuna tiġi maħsuba bħala entità bi drittijiet kif ukoll responsabbiltajiet fix-xibka ta’ relazzjonijiet u interazzjonijiet soċjali. Fost dawn hemm il-familja, il-ħbieb, l-iskola, l-assoċjazzjonijiet volontarji, il-knejjes, u l-ġirien. Il-persuna tinsab fi ħdan il-komunità u l-komunità tinsab fi ħdan il-persuna.
Din ix-xorta ta’ ħsieb tmur lil hinn mill-ideoloġiji tax-xellug u tal-lemin. Tikkonċentra fuq il-bini ta’ komunitajiet, fejn il-kooperazzjoni, in-networking u r-reċiproċità jgħinu biex tinbena fiduċja mifruxa u ċittadini aħjar. Din hi l-essenza tal-kapital soċjali: soċjetà b’sens ċiviku u bi spirtu pubbliku fejn kulħadd iħossu parti mill-komunità.
Ovvjament, irridu nistabbilixxu ċerti regoli biex approċċ bħal dan jirnexxi, iżda dawn ma għandhomx ikunu msejsa fuq l-ambjent, it-twemmin jew l-identità tal-persuna. Identitajiet differenti jistgħu jirrikonċiljaw jekk jaqsmu valuri bażiċi komuni bħar-rispett u t-tolleranza.
Jien nara dan kuljum fit-tifel tiegħi, li l-ikbar ħbieb tiegħu ġejjin minn ambjenti soċjali, nazzjonali u reliġjużi differenti. Għal dan infaħħar lill-iskola primarja ta’ Tas-Sliema.
F’Malta likwida moderna, il-politiċi u dawk li jfasslu l-politika jistgħu jitgħallmu minn eżempji bħal dawn. Ma nistgħux nerġgħu lura għan-nostalġija għal soċjetà idillika ineżistenti li jista’ jkun li anqas biss qatt eżistiet. Iżda nistgħu ninvestu f’politika li taħdem biex tirrikonċilja identitajiet differenti fi ħdan qafas ta’ valuri bażiċi.
Huwa veru li dejjem ser ikun hemm sfidi, inugwaljanzi u forom ta’ esklużjoni, iżda nuqqas ta’ investiment fil-kapital soċjali iwassal għal individwaliżmu bla rażan, għal nuqqas egoist ta’ perspettiva, għal intolleranza u għal ghettos soċjali.
Dan l-artiklu deher fil-Mument, 30 ta' Diċembru 2018


Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Community as celebration - Michael Briguglio


Times of Malta, 24 December 2018

A few days ago, St Clare College primary school in Sliema held its yearly Celebration of Achievements Day event. When I was a kid, this used to be referred to as the Christmas Concert and Prize Day, but the new moniker is intended to reflect celebration and the embracing of diversity.
I attended the event as a parent, and I must say that I was impressed by the school’s efforts to build a learning community, thus confirming the positive impression I built throughout the years my son has been attending.
In her introductory address, Head of School Claudine Muscat spoke in English to ensure that all parents from the scores of different nationalities understand and feel a sense of belonging, but she also made sure to say some words in Maltese to celebrate our national heritage.
The bilingual event itself was a synthesis of the school’s multinational student population and its Maltese identity. The concert theme was ‘Christmas around the world’ - students of different nationalities gave their greetings in different languages and different countries were showcased to the audience. The audience was also presented with a unity and diversity art project which the school is conducting.
Prizewinners reflected different abilities, nationalities and genders, and Malta’s national anthem at the end summed it all up.
In a way, the positive experience in this school could be seen as a microcosm of what contemporary Maltese society could be amid the changes it is experiencing: united in diversity, embracing different cultures while sharing common values and norms.
Malta’s Catholic roots are celebrated, but students with other faiths or who choose the ethics subject are active participants in their school. Teachers give individual attention, and parents wait for their children after school in harmony despite the different class, national and other backgrounds. Furthermore, the school offers after-school services for children whose parents would be at work before or after formal hours.
Now that my son David is at his final year in this school, I want to thank all the staff for their assistance, kindness and flexibility. For it is not easy to be flexible in a setting of cultural diversity. But the school shows that with goodwill, professional pedagogy and dynamic management such challenges are transformed into opportunities for community building.
Indeed, Sliema primary school can be seen as a case study of what social capital is all about. This concept was popularised by sociologists such as Robert Putnam who followed the erstwhile communitarian scholarship of Amitai Etzioni, Emile Durkheim and others.
Here, the person is conceptualised as having both rights and responsibilities within the web of social relationships and interaction.  These include family, friends, school, voluntary associations, churches and neighbourhoods. The person is situated within the community and vice versa.
This type of thinking goes beyond the ideological left and right. It focuses on community-building, where cooperation, networking and reciprocity help build a generalised trust and better citizens. This is the essence of social-capital: a civic-minded and public-spirited society with a sense of belonging.
Of course, lines must be drawn for such an approach to succeed, but these should not be based on one’s background, creed or identity. Different identities can reconcile if they share basic common values such as respect and tolerance.
I see this everyday through my son, whose best friends come from different social, national and religious backgrounds. Hats off to the Sliema primary school for this.
In modern liquid Malta, politicians and policymakers can learn through such examples. We cannot go back to an inexistent idyllic nostalgia of a society that might never even have existed. But we can invest in policies which aim to reconcile different identities within a basic framework of values.
Sure, there will always be challenges, inequalities and forms of exclusion, but a lack of social capital investment can fuel rampant individualism, self-centred short-sightedness, intolerance and social ghettos.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Is-solitudni u l-ansjetà fil-Milied - Michael Briguglio



Hu aktar diffiċli li persuna tkampa mad-dipressjoni jew l-ansjetà fi żmien il-festi. Paradossalment, fi żmien meta l-familji u l-ħbieb jiltaqgħu biex jifirħu, xi persuni ikollhom sens ikbar ta’ iżolament soċjali u jħossuhom saħansitra aktar waħedhom.



Kif spjega s-soċjologu Max Weber mitt sena ilu, hu importanti li nifhmu t-tifsiriet li l-persuni jagħtu lid-dinja soċjali tagħhom. U s-solitudni u s-saħħa mentali huma żewġ temi li jistħoqqilhom li nifhmuhom aħjar.



Pereżempju, hu importanti li nifhmu li s-soċjetà mhijiex magħmula biss mill-persuni u l-identitajiet li aħna mdorrijin naqraw dwarhom u naraw fil-mezzi tax-xandir iżda wkoll minn firxa wiesgħa ta’ oħrajn li jistgħu jkunu aktar vulnerabbli għas-solitudni u għal

sfidi ta’ saħħa mentali.



Fost dawn jista’ jkun hemm pensjonanti ġodda li ma jħossuhomx lesti jħabbtu wiċċhom ma’ ħajja ġdida wara għexieren ta’ snin ta’ xogħol; persuni barranin mingħajr familja jew ħbieb; persuni ansjużi fuq il-bidliet personali, fil-familja tagħhom u soċjali li jkunu qed iseħħu madwarhom; vittmi ta’ bullying, razziżmu, tgħajjir, sessiżmu u forom oħra ta’ diskriminazzjoni; persuni li jħossuhom esklużi, u persuni li jista’ jkun li qas ikunu konxji mill-qagħda mentali tagħhom.



Il-lista tista’ tkompli.



Nuża l-kelma ‘persuni’ bi ħsieb għax inħoss id-dmir soċjoloġiku li nisħaq li kultant anke dawk assoċjati mas-saħħa u s-setgħa jistgħu jkunu dgħajfa, waħedhom u fraġli, u fost dawn jista’ jkun hemm ukoll irġiel eterosesswali li spiss jiġu deskritti bħala l-oppost ta’ dan.



It-tfassil tal-politika għall-ugwaljanza bejn is-sessi jeħtieġ li jqis dan fl-isforz għal soċjetà aktar inklużiva.



Tabilħaqq, it-tfassil ta’ politika għandu jibni fuq stejjer ta’ suċċess f’oqsma oħrajn u jipprova jintegra kwistjonijiet bħas-solitudni u s-saħħa mentali. Iż-żewġ suġġetti sikwit jiġu ttrattati bħala tabù, pereżempju meta persuna ma tfittixx għajnuna professjonali jew ma titkellimx dwar l-ansjetà u s-solitudni tagħha minħabba l-mistħija.



Iżda l-istatus ta’ tabù wkoll kien ta’ xkiel f’oqsma oħra bħad-drittijiet ta’ persuni LGBTIQ, u Malta tassew imxiet ‘il quddiem f’dan il-qasam.



L-edukazzjoni, il-mezzi tax-xandir, il-politiċi u s-soċjetà ċivili lkoll għandhom rwol x’jaqdu biex dawn il-kwistjonijiet isiru aktar viżibbli. Xi wħud diġà qed jagħmlu dan u jistħoqqilhom aktar appoġġ.



Il-kwistjoni tas-solitudni u s-saħħa mentali tmur lil hinn mill-firdiet ideoloġiċi u partiġġjani u tista’ tiġi indirizzata wkoll b’għamliet differenti ta’ governanza.



Dawn jistgħu jinkludu l-kontribut tas-settur pubbliku, dak privat u dak tal-volontarjat kif ukoll l-għoti ta' setgħa lill-persuni nfushom billi titrawwem l-etika tal-importanza li persuna tieħu ħsieb tagħha nnifisha. Il-mezzi soċjali, l-iskejjel, il-kunsilli lokali u opportunitajiet ta’ tagħlim tul il-ħajja jistgħu jagħmlu possibbli l-bini ta’ komunitajiet aktar b’saħħithom li jkunu aktar sensittivi għal dawn l-isfidi.



Barra minn hekk, dixxiplini bħas-soċjoloġija, il-lingwistika, l-istudji tat-traduzzjoni, il-psikoloġija, il-psikjatrija, il-ħidma soċjali u l-counselling huma essenzjali biex ikun hemm professjonisti soċjali li jkunu jistgħu jaħdmu f’dawn l-oqsma.



Forsi tkun riżoluzzjoni tajba tal-Ewwel tas-Sena għall-partijiet interessati fl-isfera pubblika ta’ Malta li jibdew iħarsu lil hinn minn kwistjonijiet sensazzjonali li jaqilgħu l-iktar likes u l-akbar għadd ta’ kummenti sensazzjonalisti.



Dan l-artiklu deher fil-Mument, 23 ta' Diċembru 2018

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Homeless at Christmas – Michael Briguglio


I was contacted to meet a family a few weeks ago. I duly visited their home in St Julian’s. I entered and was shocked. Belongings were packed, basic household appliances were missing, and poverty was screaming in silence at me. An eerie atmosphere haunted the house, despite its good natural light.

This was not in some peripheral forgotten far away land: This was bang in the heart of St Julian’s, just a few metres away from the parish church.

The son, 50 years old, and his mother, 75, told me their situation. They are both sick, and he will soon be operated upon. He cannot work, she was widowed some years ago. They did not have enough money to bury the husband and father, so she had to sell her wedding ring and other stuff to do so. They have been living here for 37 years, after the Housing Authority gave them this house instead of anther one which had structural damage.

This house in St Julian’s had damages too. This and various legal cases about the property left them impoverished, and the Court of Justice recently said that they must be evacuated whilst Government must provide alternative housing for them. So far this has not been forthcoming, and they are afraid they will end up in the street unless urgent action is taken by the Authorities.

The Authorities: The two leaders in this sector are Parliamentary Secretary Roderick Galdes and Housing Chief Leonid Mackay. Both are gentlemen, and I have no doubts about their genuine commitment to the sector. The problem is elsewhere.

The problem is that Government is so happy congratulating itself about the best of times that it is downplaying the realities being faced by many people on the ground. There currently is a waiting list of around 3,300 people for social housing and another 600 who desperately need to change their social housing. The former includes persons suffering in silence, some of whom I met and who need security in their precarious lives. The latter include people I visited, for example elderly persons who live high up and have no lift. To these one must add the increasing number of people who are being evicted from their homes due prohibitive rent costs and the many young middle-class and working-class youth who keep living with their parents because they cannot afford a house loan or rent.

In such a situation, one must agree that it is the duty of Government, and not of property owners to assist persons in need. The current Government knows how to speed things up when it wants to: The introduction of the sale of passports and the widening of roads are just two cases in point. But when it comes to social housing, so far five years have been wasted. And while the price of property has become prohibitive for many, the risk of homelessness or substandard housing is real and rising.  

The Nationalist Party is doing its utmost to help such persons in need even from its role within opposition. Being in politics gives you the privilege to meet people with a myriad of different realities, some of which are very different from what we see on our screens. Spokesperson Ivan Bartolo, myself and others refer cases to the authorities, as we believe that solidarity should not succumb to pique. But as Malta’s alternative government we also promise to ensure that everyone will have decent housing once we are entrusted to power.

This article appeared in The Malta Independent 






Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Liquid Modern Malta - Michael Briguglio


Times of Malta, 17 December 2018

In a recent speech on Malta’s current economic situation, Central Bank governor Mario Vella referred to ‘liquid modernity’, the sociological concept attributed to Zygmunt Bauman.
This concept refers to freedom and precariousness in contemporary society, where individuals face uncertainty and ambivalence in fluid contexts. Here, people are modern nomads who flow through changing sites, situations and identities, having no choice but to make choices.
Vella quoted Bauman’s statement that: “The growing conviction that change is the only permanence, and uncertainty the only certainty. A hundred years ago ‘to be modern’ meant to chase ‘the final state of perfection’ – now it means an infinity of improvement, with no ‘final state’ in sight and none desired.”
In this regard, the Central Bank governor warned that unless there are more females in employment, Malta risks increased reliance on automated workers and artificial intelligence. He also referred to impacts concerning Malta’s growing population amid an influx of foreign workers. These include a myriad of realities such as unaffordable housing for many people.
Vella also argued that the current situation cannot be amended by going to some form of unrealistic nostalgia. Instead, we should be aware and able to navigate in the complex realities of our time.
Here, Vella reminded me of two other influential sociologists: Anthony Giddens and Ulrich Beck, both of whom emphasise the risks and opportunities of our times.
I subscribe to the point of view that there is no such thing as a risk-free society and there is no such thing as a be-all-end-all solution for the challenges we face. There are things we can do, however.
We can strive to have economic and social policies that equip us to cope well with the ambiguities of a liquid modern society, but which also retain a central place for mechanisms that protect people from falling into poverty.
Our insecurities and anxieties can be pooled through policy systems and mechanisms provided by both public and private sectors. Pensions is a case in point. Indeed, I believe that currently Malta is giving too little importance to the sustainability of the pensions of tomorrow and at the same time is failing to ensure adequate pensions today.
Policy institutions should be more proactive and flexible, reinventing themselves within a changing society, rather than being ossified in bureaucratic hurdles, ideological rigidity and tribal mentalities that add risks to persons experiencing precariousness.
The latter require various forms of policymaking, and these are not always a question of economic incentives and financial assistance, important as they are. Policies may also include emotional, moral and communitarian initiatives that enable persons to construct their personal biographies, build social networks and integrate within society.
In the field of social policy, there are areas where Malta is coping well in this regard. Welfare-to-work policies, childcare and in-work benefits enable people to empower themselves through employment. But at the same time, there are many people who are increasingly facing social exclusion for one reason or another.
Some simply cannot cope with cost of living increases, and thus can be categorised to be within the working poor. Others do not own their housing and are facing a brave new world of unaffordable rent or loans.
Others experience ‘invisible’ social problems such as mental health, loneliness, lack of social integration, breakdown of social links and lack of online connectivity. And others may be employed in low-quality jobs.
Such situations can be identified through research methods that go beyond and add value to quantitative statistics. Social impact assessments and qualitative research methods can help provide valuable evidence to policymakers on risks and opportunities being faced today.  And a range of short-term and long-term policies can help tackle them.
Amid the liquid context we are experiencing, I believe that Malta requires a policy set-up that comprises political, policy, scholarly, civil society and other representatives that can engage in constructive dialogue and proposals.
Malta owes this to itself and especially to the groups of people who engage in their liquid lives in silence, but whose realities are as real as those of more vociferous groups.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Int qed tħoss it-tkabbir fil-prodott gross domestiku? – Michael Briguglio


Probabbli taf li l-prodott gross domestiku ta' Malta żdied b'7.5 fil-mija f'termini reali tul it-tielet kwart tal-2018. Jista' jkun li qrajt din l-aħbar fil-gazzetti jew smajtha fuq il-mezzi tax-xandir. Jekk int parti mill-grupp dejjem jikber ta' nies li jisimgħu l-aħbarijiet mill-mezzi soċjali, jista' jkun li ltqajt ma' propaganda mill-gvern li fakkritek li dan huwa l-aqwa żmien.

L-istatistika hi korretta. Tirrappreżenta t-tkabbir tal-prodott gross domestiku f'termini reali skont iċ-ċifri tal-Uffiċċju Nazzjonali tal-Istatistika. Din hi ċifra aġġustata għall-inflazzjoni li tikkwantifika l-valur tal-oġġetti u s-servizzi kollha prodotti fl-ekonomija matul is-sena.

Din iċ-ċifra kienet primarjament ir-riżultat ta' żieda fid-domanda kemm domestika kif ukoll esterna permezz tan-nefqa fuq il-konsum, in-nefqa tad-djar, in-nefqa tal-gvern, l-esportazzjonijiet u għamliet oħrajn ta' nfiq.

Tabilħaqq, il-prodott gross domestiku bil-prezzijiet attwali żdied b'€281 miljun, li jitqassmu hekk: żieda ta' €64.5 miljun fil-ħlas lill-ħaddiema, żieda ta' €162.9 miljun fil-bilanċ pożittiv gross tal-operat tal-intrapriżi u żieda ta' €53.5 miljun fit-tassazzjoni netta fuq il-produzzjoni u l-importazzjonijiet.

Matul l-istess żmien, il-valur miżjud gross ta' Malta żdied b'€218.4 miljun meta mqabbel mal-istess tliet xhur is-sena li għaddiet. Dan jirrappreżenta d-differenza bejn il-produzzjoni bi prezzijiet bażiċi u l-konsum intermedju bil-valur tal-prezzijiet tax-xerrejja.

Jekk inħarsu lejn dawn iċ-ċifri u l-pożizzjoni rispettiva ta' Malta fil-quċċata tal-klassifika tal-UE, jidher li l-ekonomija ta' Malta qed tmur dejjem għall-aħjar. Imma dawn iċ-ċifri waħedhom ma jistgħux jispjegaw il-qagħda soċjoekonomika ta' Malta.

Hawn taħt nagħti eżempju li jista' jgħin fl-ispjegazzjoni ta' dan.

Ħarsa ta' malajr lejn il-pajjiżi madwar id-dinja li bħalissa qiegħdin jesperjenzaw rati għoljin ta' tkabbir fil-prodott gross domestiku tagħhom turina li, fil-biċċa l-kbira tagħhom, dawn huma pajjiżi li qed jiżviluppaw u mhux dawk l-aktar żviluppati. It-tkabbir ekonomiku tagħhom irid jitqies flimkien ma' indikaturi oħrajn biex ikollna stampa valida tal-kwalità tal-ħajja tan-nies.

B'rabta ma' Malta, naħseb li wasal iż-żmien li l-Uffiċċju Nazzjonali tal-Istatistika jintroduċi indikaturi addizzjonali li jkejlu l-kwalità ta' ħajja u l-livell ta' għajxien ta' gruppi soċjali differenti.

Għandu jkun f'pożizzjoni li jgħarraf lill-pubbliku kif il-prezzijiet jolqtu gruppi soċjali differenti. Il-prezzijiet tal-ikel ġeneralment ikollhom effett ikbar fuq dawk bi dħul baxx, għax dawn jonfqu parti akbar mid-dħul tagħhom biex jixtru prodotti bażiċi, meta mqabbla ma' dawk bi dħul ogħla. L-istess jista' jingħad għal prodotti u servizzi bażiċi oħrajn bħall-kera, il-kontijiet tad-dawl u l-ilma u l-prodotti mediċinali.

Meta jiġu ppubblikati ċ-ċifri uffiċjali dwar l-għoli tal-ħajja, ma ssirx distinzjoni bejn livelli differenti ta' dħul, iżda fid-dinja reali hu ċar li l-kumpens għall-għoli tal-ħajja li ngħata lill-ħaddiema u lill-pensjonanti mhuwiex realistiku.

Biex nagħti eżempju sempliċi ta’ dan: prodott bażiku tal-ikel li jiswa €1 jieħu wieħed fil-mija tad-dħul ta' xi ħadd li jaqla' €100. Iżda jieħu biss 0.1 fil-mija tad-dħul ta' xi ħadd li jaqla' €1,000. Il-prodott tal-ikel hu essenzjali għaż-żewġ persuni, iżda l-persuna li taqla' aktar qed tħallas proporzjonalment ħafna inqas mid-dħul tagħha biex tixtrih.

F'Lulju li għadda, il-President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, b'rabta ma' studju mill-Osservatorju Nazzjonali għal Għajxien b'Dinjità u ċ-Ċentru Nazzjonali għar-Riċerka dwar il-Familji, li t-tnejn huma entitajiet ta' riċerka fi ħdan il-Fondazzjoni tagħha għall-Ġid tas-Soċjetà, qalet li l-ikel jikkostitwixxi l-akbar nefqa ta' familji b'erba' persuni f'Malta u Għawdex. Żiedet li madankollu, hu allarmanti li nagħrfu li, sabiex l-ikel li jikkunsmaw ikun meqjus tajjeb għas-saħħa u nadif, familji bħal dawn ikollhom jonfqu aktar minn €500 fix-xahar. Saħqet li dan hu ammont għoli żżejjed għal bosta familji, li jfisser li individwi li jbatu minn vulnerabbiltà jew prekarjat ta' kull xorta qed isibuha kważi impossibbli li jaċċessaw ikel adegwat.

Minbarra dan, għandna nqisu wkoll l-għadd dejjem jiżdied ta' persuni li qegħdin jiġu żgumbrati mill-postijiet li jkunu qed jikru u/jew li ma jkunux jistgħu jingħataw self mill-bank jew ilaħħqu mal-kera ta' proprjetà. Dan jinkludi wkoll persuni bi dħul medju ta' etajiet differenti.

Jekk mal-ispiża ta' €500 msemmija mill-President inżidu spejjeż oħra, fosthom il-kera, il-kontijiet tad-dawl u l-ilma u l-prodotti mediċinali, u nqabbluhom mal-pagi f'Malta, il-matematika hija ċara daqs il-kristall.

 Dan l-artiklu deher fil-Mument, 16 ta' Diċembru 2018

DB: Reply from European Commission

Reply from the European Commission to my letter dated 22nd October 2018. I am studying and evaluating this accordingly with my team. I am still awaiting a reply to my letter dated 
30th October 2018 to the State Aid Monitoring Board and Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority (MCCAA) .

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Are you feeling the growth in GDP? Michael Briguglio

You probably know that Malta’s gross domestic product went up by 7.5 per cent in real terms during the third quarter of 2018. You might have read this in the newspapers or heard it on the news. If you are part of the growing group which gets its news from the social media, you might have encountered government propaganda reminding you about the best of times.

The statistic is correct. It represents GDP growth in real terms as per National Statistics Office figures. This is an inflation-adjusted figure that quantifies the value of all goods and services produced within the economy during the year.

This figure was mainly the result of an increase in both domestic and external demand through consumption expenditure, household expenditure, government expenditure, exports and other forms of expenditure.

Indeed, GDP at current prices went up by €281 million, which were distributed into a €64.5 million increase in compensation of employees, a €162.9 million increase in gross operating surplus of enterprises and a €53.5 million increase in net taxation on production and imports.

During the same period, Malta’s gross value added increased by €218.4 million when compared to the same quarter last year. This represents the difference between output at basic prices and intermediate consumption valued at purchasers’ prices.

Judging by these figures and Malta’s respective top position within EU classification, it looks like Malta’s economy is soaring. But this figure alone cannot explain Malta’s socio-economic situation.

An example that may help explain this is the following.

A cursory look at countries around the world currently experiencing high GDP growth rates mostly includes developing countries and not the most developed ones. Their economic growth must be seen together with other indicators to get a valid picture of people’s quality of life.

As regards Malta, I think it is high time that the National Statistics Office introduces additional indicators which look into the quality of life and standard of living of different social groups.
It should be in a position to inform the public sphere how the prices affect different social groups. Food prices tend to have a much greater weight on low income earners, as the latter spend a higher percentage of their income to buy basic products, compared with higher income earners. The same can be said on other basic products and services such as rent, utility bills and medicinal products.

When official figures on the cost of living are published, they do not distinguish between different levels of income, but in the real world it is clear that cost of living compensation given to workers and pensioners are not realistic.

To give a basic example. A basic food stuff costing €1 eats up one per cent of the income of someone who earns €100. But it eats up only 0.1 per cent of someone earning €1,000. The food stuff is essential for both persons, but the latter is paying proportionately much less of her or his income to buy it.

Last July, President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca said the following in relation to a study by the National Observatory for Living With Dignity and the National Centre for Family Research, both of which are research entities within her Foundation for the Well-being of Society:

“...Food constitutes the highest expenditure being made by four-person families in Malta and Gozo. However, it is alarming to recognise that, in order for the food that they consume to be considered healthy and clean, such families have to spend in excess of €500 a month. This is a prohibitively high figure for many families, which means that individuals suffering from vulnerability or precarity of any kind are finding it almost impossible to access adequate food.”

In addition to this one should also take into account the increasing number of people who are being evicted and/or who cannot afford a bank loan or to rent property. This also includes middle-income earners from different age cohorts.

Add the €500 expense mentioned by the President to other expenses including rent, utility bills and medicinal products and compare it to Malta’s wages. The math is clear.


This article appears in Times of Malta as 'Feeling the growth in GDP' - 10 December 2018.