by Claire Hollier
Towards end March 2020, when it became blatantly evident that the COVID-19 pandemic will hit hard most economic sectors in Malta, the Prime Minister accompanied by the Minister for the Environment and Planning, and the Parliamentary Secretary for Lands and Construction, met with the Malta Developers Association and Federation of Real Estate Agents. Summing up the meeting, the Prime Minister admitted that the construction industry will play a vital role in the recovery of the economy, post-pandemic.
The timing of such meeting may have raised eyebrows, since the construction industry has been notoriously associated with poor health and safety standards, resulting in several accidents – some of which tragically fatal. Furthermore, construction has had significant negative impact on the environment and social well-being. Increased construction waste and high levels of noise pollution have deteriorated our quality of life.
Notwithstanding, one cannot deny that the construction industry accounts for 3.8% of the economy with a strong multiplier effect. Construction is not solely related to developers, but generates income and employment in professional services, manufacturing, retail and trade. It is thus, unconceivable to envisage a future whereby the construction industry does not play a significant role in the revitalization of the Maltese economy post-pandemic.
If ever there was need to act, it is imperative Malta acts now. It is high time to adopt strategies to reshape the industry into one which promotes environmental sustainability, hence directing economic activity towards achieving environmental targets. Our collective consciousness must enshrine the very essence of environmental sustainability – and as a nation we should commit ourselves to protect our environment and develop in an economic responsible way.
It all stems from public policy. Malta needs now more than ever, government policies committed to implement eco-friendly agendas, aiming to position Malta as leader in green technology innovative systems and eco-friendly solutions. Ideally, a Ministry championing environmental sustainability cross-sectionally within all economic and social sectors. A strategy which brings together various stakeholders – the public and the private sector, knowledge-based research institutions and civil society. Equally important is foreign input, be it in foreign direct investment, collaboration with international universities and the sharing of best practices through diplomatic relations with countries who have embraced environmental sustainability as basis for their development.
With the EU-Singapore trade agreement entering into force in November, 2019, Malta may take this opportunity to intensify trade, knowledge and diplomatic relations with the eco-friendliest country in Asia – Singapore. In 2017, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security highlighted four core principles of environmental sustainability to the attendees of Ecosperity 2017: sustainable economy, sustainable living environment, sustainable development of our people & international collaboration. These are the four pillars summarizing how Singapore has been able to successfully balance the needs of the planet, its people and the economy that supports them.
In conclusion, in recalibrating its economy, revitalizing its construction industry and tackling urbanization, Malta cannot lose this opportunity to bring together industrialists, environmentalists and the government to work jointly to accomplish green strategies as basis for our social and economic well-being.
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