Saturday, 30 June 2007

The Capitalist System Strikes Again!

Unfortunately, the capitalist system has reared its ugly head once again...over 500 employees working at a factory in Malta had to face the bitter reality that job security is not guaranteed in a capitalist society. I had once read somewhere that in such a society, the right to work has been replaced by the right to seek work!

The following article was written by Ms Ariadne Massa and published in The Times of Malta on the 26/06/2007:

Jobless status hits home for VF workers

Getting married over the weekend was a bitter-sweet affair for a machine operator who has been with VF Malta for 13 years, as she knew her honeymoon would be spent job hunting. The 29-year-old's marital bliss has been overshadowed by the fact that her husband, a foreigner, cannot work for now and she has to pay Lm70 a month on her car loan and another Lm170 on rent."It hasn't been much of a honeymoon. I spent the past few days knocking on doors, but everybody has a waiting list. What am I expected to do, go to Gzira?" the woman, who did not wish to be named, said laughing in hysterics.She was referring to that part of Gzira which is a haven for prostitutes.She was prepared to work as a waitress and cleaner, she said, but many were looking for people to work night shifts, which she felt did not bode well for a newly married woman."Whatever is left of my salary every month I spend on food. What's going to happen now? How will I cope? The situation is frightening," she told The Times yesterday soon after finishing her shift at 2 p.m.

She is just one of the 570 casualties of VF, the last remaining denim manufacturing company on the island, which has announced it will be relocating to Asia where labour is much cheaper.The workers, who had been forced to take a few days off to avoid disruption, returned to work yesterday to face the situation.Roberto Cristiano, General Workers' Union section secretary, together with the company's management, went round every department explaining the process and the termination package.Overall, the people who spoke to this newspaper were happy with the package, which includes two-and-a-half weeks' pay for every year of service and payment for the notification period."People are obviously down because they lost their job, but at least the package has helped soften the blow and they were satisfied with what was negotiated," Mr Cristiano claimed.

The union has scheduled a meeting with the two main banks to discuss how to ease the burden on those who had loan repayments to make.The Employment and Training Corporation will be visiting the company today to discuss the options of retraining and job opportunities.Rachella Schembri, 27, who has been working in the sewing room for 10 years, is happy with the package negotiated, though she has no idea where to start looking for a job."I'll miss my friends more than the actual job... I mean you can always find a machine elsewhere. I don't think we have realised what hit us yet," she said, smiling shyly.

The decision by VF Corporation to close its plant was an unexpected blow to everyone, and though a few realised there was a lack of overtime and work was slowing down, they never suspected such a drastic measure. Jeffrey Grech, 23, a sorter with the company for five years, is hoping to move out of the textile industry completely because he realises that factories in the Western world are seeking cheaper labour in less developed countries."This is not a matter of politics. We simply cannot compete with these countries," he said. Asked if he felt confident of finding alternative employment soon, he shrugged his shoulders: "Many ask you for experience, but then they're not ready to provide you with the training to learn". Clinton Azzopardi, 24, has been scraping jeans for six years and though he was happy, he wishes to leave the textile sector for the same reasons as Mr Grech.Waiting under the shade of a tree to start his shift, Mr Azzopardi said he had been leafing through the newspapers in the hope of finding a job, but has had no luck so far.It's a similar story with Oliver Brincat, 31, who joined the company eight months ago. Having left his carpentry job, when he realised that work was dwindling following EU membership, he was settling down at VF."Luckily I have no loan, but everybody has a certain quality of life they wish to maintain. I have been knocking on factory doors, but it's not easy," he said.

Bryan Adams in Malta: A Great Concert!!!

Last Thursday, one of my directors called me and asked whether I was interested in attending the Bryan Adams concert at the Luxol Grounds in the Pembroke area. After answering affirmatively, he said that he had a couple of tickets and since he was not going, he was willing to give them to me and to my wife so that we could go to have a good time! I must say that he is a very kind-hearted man!

We collected the tickets from Jessie's Bar and went to find our seats. To our delight, we were seated in the VIP area! We also noticed that the tickets cost Lm40.00 each!!!

I cannot say that I have ever been a big fan of Bryan Adams, but the concert was absolutely wonderful! The sound was great and we really enjoyed his willingness to invite members from the audience to sing or dance with him!

Bryan Adams stated that this was his first visit to Malta. He also added that he has Maltese relatives!!!

Anyway, it was surely a night to remember!!! :)

The Importance of Politics

It is very, very sad to see so many people nowadays who describe themselves as "apolitical"! It is sad to see this because should you have to ask these same individuals what they think about various issues, you will immediately realise that their views reflect one or more political orientations without their being aware of this!!! At this stage, I ask myself, is it really possible to be "apolitical"?
A person might be totally apathetic about the nature of politics or about which party is governing the country, but politics encompasses numerous sets of beliefs. Whether one likes it or not, a set of beliefs could easily be related to a political doctrine. Imagine if I had to ask you whether you agree that an individual should be obliged to work for 18 hours a day, that prostitution should be legalised, that you should spend a year in the army as soon as you are eighteen years old, what would you say? Regardless of the specific answer you give, whatever you say has probably already been voiced in perhaps slighty different ways in the political arena. And, whether you are aware of this or not, the dominant beliefs have ended up affecting the lives of thousands of people living in a particular country. Your current lifestyle, the choices that are available to you today, are largely a result of a series of political twists and turns.
To the person who is happy to go through life without attaching any importance to politics, my message is: WAKE UP!!! Open your eyes because some, if not most, of the big decisions you are going to make are probably going to be highly determined by what has been decided in your country's parliament. Furthermore, do not support a particular political party simply because your family has always done so; ask the appropriate questions, do your research, analyse what is said and done, and let your findings guide you! By taking an interest as well as participating in politics, you will be equipping yourself to be able to make a number of positive differences in this world! Of course, politicians will make mistakes, but that is unfortunately inevitable once we acknowledge the fallibility of human beings.
In my case, even though I have been interested in politics from a very early age, I only started appreciating its incredibly strong and pervasive impact when I moved to Spain in 2003. When I ended up working without paid sick leave, with a salary that varied almost every month and most of which was spent on rent and survival, when I sometimes started working at 8AM and returned home at 0930PM, when I saw countless individuals begging in the streets or trying to earn a few Euros by getting involved in black market activities, I initially thought that such things happened because of bad luck. After a while, when my Spanish was sufficiently good to allow me to read the newspapers and to watch the news on TV, I realised that such situations had much more to do with politics than with luck!!! I will not go into all the details of how I moved from being a right-wing person to becoming a left-wing one since the story is quite long; at this stage, I am only sharing this personal testimony with the hope that other people might also appreciate the importance of politics in the effort to live a better life in a more peaceful world.
This post was originally written on 07/01/2007.

Sunday, 24 June 2007


When it comes to Michael Moore, it seems that most people either love or hate him! I cannot say that I agree with ALL his views (are there any two human beings who share identical views about life and the universe??), but I support many of his ideas.

I had read two of his books and watched "Bowling For Columbine" as well as "Fahrenheit 9/11". I strongly believe that the world needs more people like him who have the courage to investigate, to go beyond what various politicians tell the people, and to struggle in favour of those who are suffering. I also admire him because he dares to criticise the US administration at a time when it seems that if you say anything against President Bush's policies, you are almost immediately branded as a terrorist or something similar!
At the moment, I am really looking forward to watching Mr Moore's next documentary "Sicko". For all those of you who are interested, I am copying the link below so that you can watch the trailer:

After watching the trailer, I suggest watching the documentary because, as Mr Moore himself stated, "I think one movie can make a difference." If you also share my view that a society that favours profit over human welfare has some deep-seated problems, I am very confident that you will enjoy watching Mr Moore's latest work. Hopefully, after watching this documentary, an increasing number of individuals will realise that capitalism will never lead us to lasting peace and happiness.

Every human being should have free access to education, health care, a safe home, and many other things that ensure a decent quality of life. The whole world benefits when every person can educate himself/herself freely, when every person can have a proper roof over his/head without worrying about rent or about ending up in the streets...

When is humanity going to learn to live in a world without money and in which the welfare of EVERY person is given top priority?


I have always really enoyed listening to John Lennon's "Imagine" song. No matter how many faults the singer had, the song is just breathtaking, especially when accompanied with various pictures that inspire one to work towards a more peaceful world!

I highly recommend watching the following video clip while you ponder the words of this beautiful song...

Saturday, 16 June 2007

A Socialist Malta Today, A Socialist World Tomorrow!

Next year, the Maltese electorate will be asked to participate in the general election. Although the Nationalist Party has often been labelled as being leftist because of its support for various social schemes, I believe that it is only a matter of time before the Party starts adopting harsher neo-liberal policies that would eventually create huge gaps between the very rich and those who face immsense difficulties in order to survive and to have a decent quality of life.
I hope that the Malta Labour Party will win the next election. In that way, Malta will be able to taste the fruits of socialism and the country would serve as an example to other nations that the socialist path is the best one if we are truly interested in human welfare.

Girls of the Playboy Mansion

Many people have probably heard about or watched an episode of the "Girls of the Playboy Mansion" reality TV show. Although I will express my views about such shows in another diary entry, I would like to devote this post to this particular programme.
Numerous girls might not really fancy the idea of having Hugh Hefner as a boyfriend, but I am very confident that countless individuals watching the show would love to be able to share the several opportunities that the three main stars of the programme have. The mansion itself is impressive and how many people would turn down the opportunity to be able to go abroad quite regularly, indulge in a number of leisure activities, and pursue one's studies while not having to worry about struggling from 8am to, at least, 5pm in order to ensure that the survival expenses are covered?
Hugh Hefner might have struggled to build his business empire, but what have those three girls done to have so many opportunities while millions of other world citizens cannot afford to study because they are working from dawn till dusk to earn enough money to survive? Of course, we have all heard of certain people who have two jobs and then attend evening classes, but even though such efforts are surely remarkable, they are not really recommendable if one is interested in living healthily. If numerous socialists, talk about this matter, it is not because they favour laziness; it is because they value healthy living and a decent quality of life. According to Work Psychology: Understanding Human Behaviour in the Workplace, "The long working hours required by many jobs appear to take a toll on employee health." (Arnold et al., 1998, p. 431). After analysing the work of Sparks and Cooper (1997), the same authors also reported that "It is now commonly recognised that beyond 40 hours a week, time spent working is increasingly unproductive and can create ill health." (Arnold et al., 1998, p. 431).
For those people who are familiar with Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs, once your basic needs are covered, it is possible to engage in various activities that go beyond the quest to survive. Spared from worrying about having a decent roof over one's head, sufficient nutrition, presentable clothing, and the other basic things, a person is free to pursue an educational course, go swimming, attend various social activities, and so on.
I have no problem with the girls of the Playboy Mansion as they continue to improve and enjoy their lives in Mr Hefner's company. What bothers me a great deal is the question: when we look at the many opportunities that those girls have, why are such possibilities confined to a relatively small proportion of the world's population? This world is the home of all human beings and I believe that every person should be allowed to enjoy its fruits without having to face numerous obstacles which create injustice and a huge amount of pain. As is the case with those three girls, I believe that every person should be able to wake up in the morning, enjoy the day, and be able to improve oneself without worrying about being able to survive and to live decently from one month to the other. Unfortunately, capitalism does not appear to be interested in achieving this goal for everybody; that is why socialism is necessary!

Thursday, 14 June 2007

The Desire to Change the World

Broadly speaking, human beings could be divided into two main groups: those who do not mind leaving the world as it is and those who would like to change it into a better place for ALL people. I see myself as a member of the second category. I do not expect to perform any miracles, but I will do my utmost to ensure that I can make some positive differences, changing a number of frowns and pouts into smiles!

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Do You Want to Move to the US?? Think Twice!!!

There was a time in my life, in 2003, when I really yearned to move to the US. I started reading several articles about finding a job there and I also educated myself about numerous other issues related to the day-to-day life in the States. There came a point, however, when I kept stumbling upon the difficulties encountered by countless individuals who also wanted to move to the US in order to live just like any other law-abiding North American citizen. I eventually delved into the legal mechanics of the US immigration policies as I started reading about visas, permanent residency, and the risk of deportation. The more I read about how difficult it was for a foreigner to move to start a new life in the US, the more gloomy I felt about translating my dream into reality. I could not believe that a country that is, by and large, made up of the descendants of immigrants would be so hostile towards individuals from other countries who also wanted to live in that part of the world.
After spending several hours browsing various immigration sites on the Internet, I realised that my only options were to either participate in the Green Card Lottery or to go to the US as a tourist and then, once I overstayed and became an illegal immigrant, attempt to survive until I somehow managed to legalise my status. Unfortunately, unlike many other Maltese individuals, I could not count on any family connections to help me through the immigration process. I eventually chose the Green-Card-Lottery option.
When one participates in the Green Card Lottery, one has to follow a certain number of rules for the application to be accepted. For instance, the photos on the application form have to be of a particular size. There is also a fee that must be paid.
In spite of the fact that I complied with all the rules, my name was not among the 55,000 or so people who are drawn from the pool of millions who participate every year. My heart sank. Well, since I had selected the option whereby my application would remain active for future lotteries, I thought that there was still hope of being chosen. This hope was thrown out of the window when I received a note saying that a number of changes had been introduced and I had to submit the application once again and pay more money. At that stage, I decided to shelf the idea of moving to the US.
Although I no longer fancy the notion of settling down in the US, I am aware that there are still millions of individuals around the world who would love to do so. It saddens me when I see the desperate measures taken by several people to be able to achieve the goal of living as US citizens. Moving to the US is definitely far from easy for most people! Unfortunately, the US government remains committed to a fortress mentality whereby only a small fraction of the many who want to live as US citizens are able to do so. For more information about the new points-system that is being discussed by numerous politicians and immigration scholars, I am posting the following article from The New York Times:

A Point System for Immigrants Incites Passions

By ROBERT PEAR (June 5, 2007)

WASHINGTON, June 4 — Ekaterina D. Atanasova, a civil engineer from Bulgaria who lives in southern Maine, wants to bring her husband to the United States. Under the Senate immigration bill, he would get high marks — at least 74 points — because he too is a civil engineer, has a master’s degree and is fluent in English.
But Herminia Licona Sandoval, a cleaning woman from Honduras, would have no hope of bringing her 30-year-old son to the United States. He works as a driver at an oil refinery, lacks a high school diploma, speaks little English and would fare poorly under the Senate bill, earning fewer than 15 of a possible 100 points.
The point system, one of the most significant features of the Senate immigration bill, will be at the heart of the debate as Congress resumes work on the legislation after a weeklong recess. It has already stirred passions because it would profoundly change the criteria for picking future immigrants.
President Bush and some senators champion the point system as a way to select immigrants most likely to make long-term economic contributions to the United States. Supporters say it would be the most systematic effort in the nation’s history to evaluate would-be immigrants, using objective criteria to measure job skills, education and other attributes.
But the plan is provoking strong opposition from leading Democrats, who say it smacks of social engineering and reflects a class bias.
Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, said, “The point system would have prevented my own parents, a carpenter and a seamstress, from coming to this country.”
This week, the Senate is expected to vote on an amendment offered by Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois, to end the point system after five years. Senators will also vote on a Republican proposal to eliminate “bonus points” that could be given to many illegal immigrants who gain legal status and then seek green cards.
The bill, written by the White House and a bipartisan group of a dozen senators, would establish “a merit-based system” to evaluate people seeking the green cards, as permanent-residence visas are known.
An applicant could receive a maximum of 100 points. Up to 75 points would be allocated for job skills and education, with 15 for English-language proficiency and 10 for family ties.
The criteria favor professionals with graduate degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. But the point system would also reward people who work in 30 “high demand” occupations, like home health care and food service.
Spouses and minor children of United States citizens would still be allowed to immigrate without limits. But siblings and adult children of citizens and lawful permanent residents would be subject to the point system. They could get a maximum of 10 points for family ties, provided they had already earned 55 points for job skills, education and English language ability.
Under the bill, Congress would set the number of points for each attribute. The selection criteria could not be changed for 14 years. Decisions on individual cases would be within the “sole and unreviewable discretion” of the secretary of homeland security.
Supporters of the point system say it would make the United States more competitive in a global economy by admitting people with skills needed in the American workplace — people who might otherwise go to work for foreign companies.
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said: “America needs an immigration system that can compete for the best minds that exist in the world. The new system does it better than the old system.”
But Representative Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat who is chairwoman of the Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, said she had found no one in her Silicon Valley district who thought it was a good idea.
“The point system is like the Soviet Union,” Ms. Lofgren said. “The government is saying, in effect, ‘We have a five-year plan for the economy, and we will decide with this point system what mix of skills is needed.’ That is not the way a market-based capitalist economy works best.”
The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has also expressed “serious objection to the point system,” saying it could split families.
As the Senate resumed debate Monday on the point system and other features of the immigration measure, the leadership explored whether to try to force a final vote by the end of the week or let lawmakers continue to propose changes.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, said, “We need to have the maximum opportunity for the largest number of amendments to be considered before we entertain the notion of shutting down debate on this important measure.”
But prolonging debate provides opponents of the measure more opportunity to win changes that could shatter the bipartisan coalition behind it. Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, a chief Republican architect of the bill, warned of looming “killer amendments” on issues like guest workers and family migration that, if adopted, would lead him to oppose the bill.
Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, the majority leader, said he and Mr. McConnell were still trying to devise an end game for the legislation. “Everyone has been home and has been barraged on all sides of this issue,” Mr. Reid said Monday.
The debate has major implications for the economy. About 23 million workers — one in seven — were born abroad. In the last decade, foreign-born workers accounted for half of the growth in the labor force. The Labor Department says the nation will need immigrants to meet looming labor shortages.
Stephen W. Yale-Loehr, who teaches immigration law at Cornell University, said: “A key theoretical advantage of a point system is the ability to respond to changing economic needs. Unfortunately, the Senate bill would lock in the criteria for at least 14 years. The economy changes much faster than that.”
The Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research center, analyzed the likely effects of the Senate bill by examining Census Bureau data. It reached these conclusions:
¶Immigrants from many Asian countries would do well. In the last 15 years, more than three-fourths of immigrants from India, and more than half of those from China, the Philippines and South Korea had bachelor’s degrees or higher. Most immigrants from India and the Philippines report speaking English well.
¶Immigrants from Latin America would “face more difficulties” in getting green cards. More than 40 percent of recent immigrants from this region are in the preferred age range, 25 to 39, but many lack educational credentials and English language skills. More than 60 percent of adult immigrants from Mexico have not completed high school. Just 5 percent have college degrees. Only 15 percent of recent Mexican immigrants are proficient in English.
¶The United States has received comparatively few immigrants from Africa, but many of them have characteristics that would help them earn points.
About two-fifths of recent African immigrants are in the preferred age group. Two-thirds are proficient in English. And 38 percent have a bachelor’s or higher degree.
The proposed point system would help people like Ms. Atanasova, who is not yet a citizen, and her husband, Nikola K. Nikolov, both 29 years old.
Mr. Nikolov could get 20 points because he has a specialty occupation, an additional 8 points because he is an engineer, 28 points because he has a master’s degree in engineering, 3 points because he is in the preferred age group and 15 points because he is fluent in English.
Reached at his home in Bulgaria, Mr. Nikolov said he believed he could “manage quite well” in the United States.
But the point system would adversely affect people like Ms. Licona Sandoval, the Honduran who cleans government offices at night. “It will be impossible to bring my son, Jose Lionel Duron Licona,” she said.
Australia, Britain and Canada use point systems. But experts in Australia and Canada said the United States was ignoring lessons that could be learned from their experience.
Arnold J. Conyer, a lawyer who is president of the Migration Institute of Australia, said it was important to accept some immigrants specifically sponsored by employers, a feature of current law that would be largely replaced by the point system.
“Employers with an immediate need can sponsor a particular person for a particular job opening,” Mr. Conyer said. “On the other hand, the point system is used to build up a supply of good-quality stock that will be available to Australian employers in the future.”
Howard D. Greenberg, an immigration lawyer in Toronto, said Canada’s experience showed the risks of relying too heavily on a point system.
“A candidate can succeed under the Canadian point system without having a job offer,” Mr. Greenberg said. “As a result, we have some professionals, like doctors, who perform low-skill occupations such as driving taxis until they can find more appropriate work.”

Carl Hulse contributed reporting.

Picture taken from:

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Poverty in Malta

Living in a material world (Article from The Sunday Circle, January 2007)

In Malta, unlike many other countries, we don’t have beggars on our streets, or people sleeping on benches or in cardboard boxes because they are homeless. But there are a number of people living on the brink of poverty, the only thing keeping them from begging is pride. The Sunday Circle investigates the issue of material poverty.

Trying to research an article about poverty in Malta is far from easy. There are a million definitions of what poverty is or can be, and problems related with poverty in its various forms are complex and often hidden… those living below the poverty line hardly ever willing to speak about their suffering. The Sunday Circle decided to investigate material poverty, because although it is one of the least talked forms of poverty, it becomes intertwined with others. And as the saying goes, when it rains, it pours, at least for Malta’s poor. So you often find material problems compounded with troubles stemming from ill health, old age, disability, unplanned or unwanted pregnancies, not to speak of vices from alcohol and drug addiction to prostitution to becoming a victim of usury. But setting aside the related problems, the question is, in this day and age, can people live on a minimum wage, or worse still, on just social assistance?

The minimum wage is Lm252 a month, or Lm63 a week. A Household Budgetary Survey in 2000 indicated that 10.3 per cent of the Maltese population earn below an estimated poverty line. However, surveys are dull figures in books. To get a better idea, the Sunday Circle spoke to a number of Members of Parliament, and candidates, who are currently doing house visits in preparation for the next general election, whether poverty is a problem in Malta. (MPs and candidates were guaranteed anonymity to protect their constituents.) “You can’t say poverty is common, but in particular areas, it is more rife and visible than other,” one current MP explained. “In parts of the Cottonera area, parts of Valletta and Marsa, one sees incredible things.” “I’ve been to ‘houses’ consisting of two rooms, one overlying another, with a hole in the wall for a toilet and a sink forming the bathroom midway up the stairs. I’ve seen houses like this, if you can call them houses, with up to four or six people living in them. In one particular house I can still visualise, a mother, and three daughters, one of who is handicapped, lives,” a candidate added. “In another, a mother, her two daughters, who are both unmarried mothers, live. These people live off what their mother and daughters make by working as cleaners in the neighbourhood. They are really scraping the barrel to survive.” “You enter houses with very basic furniture: just a table and a few chairs, a cooker and fridge in a room that acts as kitchen, dining, sitting and living room. Some don’t have a TV set. Most have very basic bathrooms, often without a bath. In spite of their situation, many people are surprisingly clean. But some seem to come straight out a Charles Dickens’ novel,” the MP continued. A different MP said she often came face to face with situations that, were it not for cheaper prices of pasta and polpa, those living on, or under the poverty line would be on the verge of starvation. “Today, with a packet of pasta and a tin of polpa you can cook a basic meal for four for under 50 cents. But for how long can you eat like that?,” she said sadly. So how do the poor survive? What’s the typical shopping list for people who have to live on the bare minimum. An MP put us in touch with a woman who explained that for her she could not speak of a shopping list as such. “We can only buy a few things with the limited amount of money that we have for food. A loaf of bread, a carton of milk, some ham and some cheese still costs around Lm2 at the grocer every morning. But you also have to cook something at least once a day, and you have to buy some vegetables, and occasionally some chicken, fish or meat from time to time. “You also have to buy soap and washing powders or liquids. If you also consider your water and electricity bills, the surcharge, your TV licence and bus fares you’d soon realise you have nothing in your purse and a hole in your pocket. And I am not speaking about having to buy clothes for yourself and the children, or expenses related to education, or buying top brand items. But as everyone knows, cheap items don’t last that long either,” she said.
But turning back to the minimum wage, when you deduct daily expenses, it seems impossible to make ends meet. Some people try to pull themselves out of these dire straits by working more, but it’s often not easy to get jobs if – which is unfortunately the case for many – they have hardly any education or training. Another candidate added that most of the population equate poverty with laziness and lack of will power. “This may be partly true, but when you are caught in the poverty trap, and especially if you have sick relatives or children, you can’t make ends meet and many people go to sleep night after night hungry. “Sometimes you feel so touched that even though you have gone to speak to people in this situation to basically ask them to remember you when election time comes, you feel compelled to leave a small donation behind. I have no doubt that such people do not beg because of pride,” he said. Another MP argues that people can live with whatever they have and get, albeit wages or social welfare assistance. “If you are living in the middle of nowhere, with nothing better to aspire to, it could be true that people can not dig themselves out of the poverty trap. “But when one is surrounded by wealth, or people living in much better circumstances just a stone’s throw away, and when you are being bombarded with messages to buy and consume more, not to speak about peer pressure, that’s an entirely different story. You can’t miss what you don’t know, but desire unfulfilled breeds discontent, and that’s what most poor people are facing,” he said.
In some areas, people are so hard up for cash that they exchange their social security or pay cheque at the grocer’s shop before the due date. Some people act as a bank and cash such cheques themselves, taking a nibble of it in the process of course. “When you have a Lm100 cheque and someone charges you Lm2 or Lm5 for cashing it a day or two or a week before, it shows you how hard up some people are,” a different MP explained. “To top it all up, you’d often find that these people, though hungry, would still smoke a packet of cigarettes or two a day. Most people in these groups are helpless. They would like to be better, and see others living better than they do, but they can’t get out of their rut. “Their environment seems to dictate it. They live in substandard housing, which is often found clustered in areas which attract more of people also in the poverty trap… these people also don’t have jobs, low levels of education, higher percentages of crime, single parent families, underage pregnancies, drug and alcohol addiction. They are caught in a vicious circle,” he continued. “Were it not for the corner grocer which gives them food items on account, jotting down what they owe him on a copy book and hoping to get paid when they receive their social security or pay cheque, these people would be forced to beg or remain hungry. The copybook in the grocer’s store is like a credit card for these people.”
Social Policy Minister Dolores Cristina recently said there was a great deal of hidden poverty in Malta. “I know what poverty is like in the second district (Birgu, Isla, Bormla, part of Zabbar, Fgura, Kalkara and Xghajra) where people don’t have enough money to buy food, pay electricity bills, or own a car. But I have started seeing just how much there is since I started contesting the tenth district (Pembroke, San Gilijan, Paceville, Sliema, Swieqi, Ibrag and Madliena) which, incidentally, is regarded to be the wealthiest,” she said. Adding that one of the issues is that many of the people considered as poor find it difficult to escape from the poverty trap – and ways and means of doing so are easier said than done. As the saying goes, there is no such thing as a free meal and everyone has to work hard for his daily bread. But it is clear that some have to work harder than others, and even then, it is not certain that there will be no belly rumblings. Very often, the pangs of hunger remain hidden because pride takes precedence.