The term “Political Correctness” is used to describe language, policies or measures that are intended to avoid offense or disadvantage to members of particular groups in society. So people who are short are “vertically challenged”, people who are blind or myopic are “visually impaired”, people who are hard of hearing or deaf are “hearing impaired”, prostitutes are “sex workers”, people who demolish and construct buildings are euphemistically termed “developers”.
I say euphemistically because the definition of a developer is “a person or firm that improves raw land with labour and capital and arranges for utilities and essential services in order to sell sub-divided parcels of land or to build structures for rent and/or for sale”. The operative word being “improves”. I cannot see how demolishing elegant traditional Maltese houses and replacing them with featureless, soulless, blocks of apartments that in some cases are so small that people have to go outside to breathe can be called an improvement.
Originally developers were known as building contractors, (kuntratturi in Maltese), however kuntratturi had over the years earned the unenviable reputation of being obnoxious, destructive, arrogant, rude, crude and uncouth. They clogged up traffic with their cranes, concrete mixers and equipment, created havoc, noise and dust, caved in road surfaces and pavements with their heavy equipment and left an unholy mess wherever they worked.
In 2010 when the construction industry was going through a recession, kuntratturi put on suits and ties, and rebranded themselves as real estate developers. They set up an association to “regularize” the building and construction industry, appointed a former PN minister of public works (who should have known better than to embolden them), as president, reinvented themselves as a lobby group and called themselves the Malta Developers Association.
They are still obnoxious, destructive, arrogant, rude, crude and uncouth. They still clog up traffic with their cranes, concrete mixers and equipment. They still create havoc, noise and dust, cave in road surfaces and pavements with their heavy equipment and leave an unholy mess wherever they work. However, most (not all) bother to obtain a permit and submit paperwork for whatever works they are carrying out at the time, thereby legitimizing the aggravation and frustration that they cause to motorists and commuters and the damage to properties adjacent to properties being torn down and developed.
A case in point is the block of apartments that collapsed in Guardamangia. According to butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth Sandro Chetcuti, president of the MDA, the developer and architect of the site in question “had followed all procedures and had filed all the documentation required” and “another point is that accidents do happen”. So hey, it’s okay. Everything is fine. No worries.
Everything was done by the book. So what if residents escaped death by the skin of their teeth. So what if they’ve lost all their belongings and are now homeless. The safety of properties adjacent to properties being developed falls under the remit of the Buildings Regulations Office, who will pass on the buck to the police, who will in turn pass on the buck to someone else. In the meantime, the prime minister has magnanimously declared that “impacted residents will be offered assistance” from our taxes.
The construction activity involves assembling materials and components designed and produced by a multitude of suppliers, working in a diversity of disciplines and technologies. It includes civil engineering, planning, regulation, design, manufacture, construction, electrical and plumbing works, tilers, decorators etc. It embraces the efforts of contracting firms, specialist contractors, consulting architects and engineers, quantity surveyors, suppliers of plant and building materials and of course suppliers of the ubiquitous tower cranes and furniture lifters.
In addition, the construction industry also stimulates other services such as estate agents, lawyers and notaries as well as associated industries, such as suppliers of carpets, curtains, furniture, white goods etc.
The MDA morphed into an umbrella organisation that grouped together all of the above and anybody who in one way or another could make hay while the sun shines and to hell with the environment and to hell with people who live in what developers consider under-optimised properties in economically stagnant neighborhoods
Construction, by its nature as a system integrator and a stimulus for other parts of the economy, can therefore be regarded as a basic economic multiplier. From a macroeconomic perspective, the industry requires the three classic factors of input of land, labour and capital, all of which, especially land, can be affected by government policy.
Money talks and bullshit walks.