A government should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.
By Marica Micallef
Foodbanks, entities, and parishes have explained to the media portal Illum that poverty is on the rise and that the number of families who are seeking help, including food aid, is increasing.
Father Hilary Tagliaferro, who oversees the Millenium Chapel, has explained that “Il-faqar żdied. Aktar individwi u familji qed jispiċċaw darahom mal-ħajt.” [Poverty has increased. More individuals and families are ending up cornered.]
He also confirmed that most of the people who are seeking help because they cannot even afford their groceries, medicine, and rent, are Maltese!
He insisted that: “Hemm diversi fatturi li wasslu biex jiżdied il-faqar u biex aktar persuni jersqu għandna għall-għajnuna. L-ewwel nett hemm iż-żieda fil-prezzijiet tal-prodotti essenzjali li qed tinħass. Imbagħad hemm il-mediċini li għolew ħafna wkoll. Fl-aħħar nett jibqgħu jiżdiedu wkoll il-prezzijiet tal-kirjiet. Dawn huma tliet morsi li qed jagħfsu fuq il-familji, l-aktar dawk bi dħul baxx.”
[There are various factors that are contributing to the rise in poverty and for more persons to come forth to us for help. Firstly, there is the increase in the prices of essential items which is being felt. Then there is the fact that the price of medicine has increased too. Finally, the prices of rent are increasing too. These are three factors that are putting pressure on families, especially those with low income.]
Barbara Caruana, manager of Foodbank Lifeline Foundation, told Illum that the number of families has increased when compared to that prior Covid-19. Before the pandemic, the foundation was helping 100 families a week. Now they are helping 300 per week.
I empathise with these families. I also made use of the foodbank when I ended up without a job during Covid-19 and even when Caritas was so Christian-like and inclusive as to fire me when I refused to take the Covid-19 jab [but did not fire another colleague with my same context].
This scenario is also the same in Britain. Food bank use among British families has also risen with food banks reporting an increase in demand for food packages since UK headline inflation surpassed 9% in April 2021 [let alone now with an increase in energy bills and fuel price], the highest level in 40 years.
The Guardian reported that individuals are increasingly turning to food banks as the cost of living rises, increasing the number of people who cannot afford to eat.
Sabine Goodwin of Independent Food Aid Network said that it is so distressing to see people who have never been in this position coming for help for the first time. “We’re seeing people who hadn’t even had to contemplate using a food bank, who might have been donating to a food bank this time last year. And it’s happening in every part of the country.”
Turn2us, a poverty organisation, found that nearly 2.5 million people would be unable to purchase food.
Charlotte White, manager of the Earlsfield food bank, said that what they are witnessing is terrifying and that things have gone wild not only in terms of the number but also in terms of the intricacy of the difficulties and issues individuals are bringing in. Former food bank donors, volunteers, and support staff, as well as an increasing number of families and, for the first time, people with mortgages, are turning to food banks.
And then we have our Prime Minister Robert Abela playing down concerns of an economic downturn and boasting as to how much the economy has improved since the lockdowns. Are we living on the same island?
On ONE Radio on 26th August, he stated that strong statistics and facts filled him with courage because “In the second quarter of this year, sales in the services sector increased by a third when compared to the equivalent period in 2021. Sales in the industry in the second quarter of this year increased by 14%”.
These statistics don’t surely fill those who are resorting to food banks, with courage! Although it is nice to have a prime minister whose message is “one of positivity and that Malta will see good times,” can he tell us how is he going to make sure that those who are resorting to food banks will be part of these good times too? Or aren’t these foodbank statistics part of the economic indicators?
Wouldn’t it be better if he admits that some people have become poorer and uses honesty to tell the nation directly to tighten their belts if I have to use the same noun that Evarist Bartolo described other leaders with?
Thomas Sowell stated that “The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.” Is our government disregarding this lesson?
A government should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but by its lowest ones.
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