Last Updated on Thursday, 17 August, 2023 at 9:45 pm by Andre Camilleri
One day last week, the mayors of three localities which are at the heart of the tourism industry took journalists on a tour to show them the waste problem that they are experiencing.
The media could see garbage bags of any shape and size piling up against walls, on pavements and in other open spaces. The media tour was in the afternoon, which meant that the waste would have remained uncollected until the next day.
It gave the areas in question such a shabby, unclean and unattractive look.
The localities we are speaking about are Sliema, St Julian’s and Swieqi, all of them part of the region where most of our hotels are and where most of the tourists spend their time. The accumulating garbage is what these tourists see too.
While the government continues to boast about numbers and saying that we are fast picking up where we left off before the Covid pandemic, the image that Malta is portraying is not appealing. The tourists who witness this will go back and tell their relatives and friends that Malta is a dirty place.
They might have even seen a few rats roaming about, as many of us have done, and as footage that has been posted on the social media has shown.
Now, one may say that the three mayors in question were all elected on behalf of the Nationalist Party, and what they did could easily be described as a stunt. True, it may have been one, and the PN needs more of these to do what is ultimately its job – that of being a strong opposition. But it is also true that what the PN mayors showed the journalists is happening on a daily basis in these localities.
The government and the Labour Party did not reply to the PN’s press tour. Usually, they are both quick to respond when they think they have an argument to make. But, on this occasion, they both remained silent, a tacit acceptance that what the mayors were saying was correct.
The PN did the right thing in highlighting this issue. But it should not stop there. While councils have their own responsibilities in maintaining their localities in good order, the government has the over-riding role to supply them with the funds they need to carry out their duties. Secondly, the other authorities responsible for law enforcement should also be doing their part.
It would be wrong to assume that the tourism industry will not suffer from this. Tourists want to enjoy themselves in a clean environment, but what is happening in Malta will push them away.
A few days ago, a UK tabloid newspaper wrote at length about how Malta was attracting cheap tourists with cheap alcohol and legal cannabis. Some argued that such an article did harm to Malta; others countered that it was not so negative.
But we will all be in agreement that if some other British newspaper had to run a piece about how dirty Malta has become, that article would be doing great damage.