Editorial | Sunday, 15 March 2009

Small wonder such big confusion...

The results of our survey this week, speak volumes about the intense panic and confusion that seems that have gripped the entire country in recent months.
At face value, the most conspicuous statistic is a fourfold increase in the number of respondents citing “immigration” as their main cause for concern. Hardly surprising, when one considers that the arrival of boatloads of immigrants – a phenomenon we normally associate with the warmer spring and summer months – appears to have gained in momentum even during this year’s particular wet and cold winter.
Sadly, on both sides of the House our politicians appear keen to stoke the flames of this popular disgruntlement; and oddly enough, it had to be the supposedly Socialist Joseph Muscat to force the issue onto the national agenda... even though, to date, the Labour Party has stopped short of suggesting any policy of its own which differs from the government’s actual policy in any substantive detail.
Now that the hiatus has been broken, it seems that all our politicians suddenly want to chip in with ideas of their own: starting with Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, and his stark recommendation to “tow them out to sea” – a strategy indistinguishable from that proposed by the Far Right organisation, Imperium Europa.
Meanwhile, nearly all the MEP candidates have included some sort of dubious strategy on immigration in their manifestos for June’s election: often paying little consideration to the viability (in some cases even legality) of their proposals.
For instance, PN candidate Dr Frank Portelli promises to threaten Libya with international isolation... as though “international isolation” were something he himself could dispense at will (though to be fair to Dr Portelli, at least his efforts are aimed in the right direction). Elsewhere, AN’s Josie Muscat has suggested banning visits by UN delegations to Malta’s detention centres: little realising that this initiative is every bit as illegal (and reprehensible) as Mintoff’s notorious Foreign Interference Act in the 1970s.
The latest to add his voice to the growing chorus of immigration-related gibberish was no less than Foreign Minister Tonio Borg, who recently described immigration as the “biggest problem” facing Malta at the moment. One can only wonder if our Foreign Minister is really aware of what is happening in the world right now; and how our country will inevitably be affected when it finally dawns on us that the markets we depend on for our economic survival are all currently in free-fall.
But at the same time, it must be said that if our elected representatives (or would-be representatives) are talking nonsense about the issue, they are only reflecting a far more widespread state of confusion in the entire country.
This much is clear from our survey results, which among other things indicate that immigration is a greater concern for university-educated respondents, than for those with secondary level education or lower.
At a glance this makes no sense whatsoever; even less so, in the context of an ETC survey published by MaltaToday last Wednesday – which revealed how an overwhelming majority of immigrants tend to be employed in either the hotels/hospitality sector, or in construction: two areas which are hardly sought after by university graduates.
If anything it is the other way round: persons with limited education ought to feel far more threatened by immigration than those with university degrees. And with very good reason, too: for in the absence of proper monitoring, it is likely that many of these immigrants may be exploited by unscrupulous employers. This in turn poses a double threat to Maltese workers. Given the option to pay less for people who work much longer hours, employers will be more and more tempted to hire cheap foreign labour at the expense of Maltese workers. And at the same time, the resulting cheap labour will also undercut our country’s already-low salaries, with the lowest income bracket being hardest hit.
And yet, it is not the less qualified workers who are more worried about competition from immigrants; but rather university graduates, whose livelihoods are hardly threatened at all.
There is more: the same less educated sectors of society are (understandably) far more concerned with the cost of living than the more comfortably off tertiary-educated sector. And yet, it is the latter sector which has expressed greater concern at the global economic recession... while only 8% of the former category seems to be concerned by the impending crisis.
This flies in the face of reason and experience, both of which show how it is invariably the working classes which are more at risk of unemployment during times of economic slowdown.
Ultimately, this all seems to point towards a systemic failure of our education system to adequately prepare the country to cope with its real problems, still less to anticipate future ones. Hardly surprising, then, that we have mistaken a serious but manageable problem for a “crisis”... while the country’s real crises go unobserved.

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Small wonder such big confusion...


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