Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced last week that not only is Malta going to bring in 40,000 foreign workers to fulfill its plans for economic growth, but that if it doesn’t do so Maltese citizens could lose out on their pensions.
So, in the Prime Minister’s words, accept the influx of thousands of foreigners on his terms or expect dire consequences for you and your family.
First, let’s question Muscat’s plans for so-called economic growth. Much of the development we have seen over the last few years, and the range of projects planned for the coming years, rely heavily on this narrative of fulfilling a demand from foreigners.
Casinos, luxury penthouses, high end shops and restaurants, petrol stations, hotels and resorts, tunnels to Gozo to cope with an increase in traffic, land reclamation plans – the approval of all of these hinges on the fact that Muscat says Malta is growing and will continue to grow, ergo we need all of these things.
If this influx of foreigners with pockets full of money and well-paying jobs in blockchain or igaming falters, who is going to fill up the offices and apartments that developers are insisting on building like they are going out of fashion?
He needs foreigners to come and live here to continue the justification of building more and more questionable and controversial developments on public land. This is not about pensions, security, and taxes’. This is about making hay while the sun shines – hay that will only be harvested by a select few.
From an expat point of view, his comments smack of desperation. With rising costs of living, lower quality of life, and falling rankings in expat surveys, Malta is no longer the epitome of laid back, Mediterranean island-life that it once was.
But now, after decades of being pushed aside and told ‘to go back to their country’ if they dared raise any criticism, foreigners are in demand. Not for their contribution to society, community or life in Malta, and certainly not for their opinions, but only as a way to line pockets and boost their economic statistics.
Perhaps Muscat should be a little clearer about just who is welcome. Wouldn’t it also be good if Muscat extended his welcoming arms to the thousands that drown every year off Malta’s shores? Refugees and asylum seekers could provide much of the labour that is required to meet the future demands of Malta, but instead they are condemned to drown.
You are welcome if you have lots of money, you will earn lots of money, and you will spend lots of money. You are welcome if you are not an asylum seeker, you are not too brown (unless you are buying a passport of course), you don’t have much of an opinion, you don’t seek to disrupt the status quo, and you don’t demand too much in the way of rights or freedom of expression.
You are here to work, and to make money for the government and locals, to justify over development, and to be quiet and get on with it before leaving after a couple of years to go back to your own country leaving Malta to reap the rewards of your labour.
Recently, Swedish citizen and long-time Malta resident Camilla Appelgren announced she would be running for MEP. EU citizens have the right to run for European Parliament as well as to vote in EU Parliamentary elections. Yet, she has been attacked from all angles for being a foreigner and for daring to think that she has the right to partake in the democratic process in this country.
But this is not just about the reaction of the public, this is about the sentiment stoked by both sides of the political divide. The self-proclaimed “CEO of the country” has a long history of being anti-migrant, anti-asylum seeker, anti-EU, and for propagating xenophobic fear within the country including the suggestion to introduce facial recognition technology in Marsa, a base for migrants.
The government’s stand on immigration is staggeringly hypocritical.