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 must go outside to change their minds can be called an improvement.

Originally developers were known as building contractors, (kuntratturi in Maltese). 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.

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.

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 as president, reinvented themselves as a lobby group and called themselves the Malta Developers Association – a name that conjures up images of progress, prosperity, and innovation. At least that’s what they want us to think.

But let’s cut through the smoke and mirrors and look at the “association” that has been instrumental in shaping the Maltese islands’ urban landscape.

First and foremost, the MDA is not a charitable organisation. It is not a group of benevolent individuals coming together to improve the lives of Maltese and Gozitan citizens. It is a trade association primarily focused on one thing: the interests of property developers.

Now there is nothing inherently wrong with advocating for the interests of any industry. However, it is when those interests start trampling over the well-being of a nation that we should all start raising an eyebrow. The MDA’s relentless push for more and more development in Malta and Gozo has come at a considerable cost.

Our once pristine coastline is rapidly being transformed into a concrete jungle of high-rise apartments and hotels. The MDA has been at the forefront of lobbying for relaxed planning regulations which has led to an alarming loss of open spaces, greenery, and heritage sites. Our cultural and natural heritage is being bulldozed in the name of profit. And the MDA is cheering it on, every step of the way.

The association’s influence in political circles is also a matter of great concern. The MDA has managed to infiltrate the corridors of power, effectively turning politicians into puppets, dancing to the tune of developers. This cosy relationship has led to questionable decisions that always prioritise the interests of developers over the needs of the general population. The rapid increase in property prices and the strain on the country’s infrastructure – power cuts, drainage overflow – are just two examples of the fallout from this ungodly alliance.

But perhaps the most cynical aspect of the MDA is its relentless pursuit of tax breaks and incentives for its members. While we ordinary mortals continue to shoulder the burden of taxation, property developers enjoy generous incentives that further swell their already bulging coffers. It is a classic case of the rich getting richer, while the rest of us struggle to make ends meet.

The MDA’s propaganda machine is also something to behold. They paint themselves as benevolent job creators, arguing that their developments are essential for economic growth. While it is true that construction can provide employment, the MDA conveniently ignores the negative side effects, such as increased traffic congestion, overcrowding and the erosion of the Islands’ unique character.

In essence, the MDA operates with a singular focus – profit. They care little for the environmental, social, or cultural consequences of their actions. They are a powerful and influential lobby group that has managed to put their interests above those of the people they are supposed to serve.

So, the next time you hear about a new mega-development or a relaxation of planning regulations, remember who most likely is pulling the strings behind the scenes. The MDA may present itself as a force for progress, and the harbinger of prosperity, but scratch the surface and you will find a cynical organisation driven by greed and self-interest disregarding the interests and concerns of ordinary citizens, leaving our fragile eco-systems and the environment to bear the brunt of unchecked development and environmental degradation.

When money talks, nobody checks the grammar.