Recent events in Malta and Gozo have emphasized just how important the tourism industry is to the islands, both in terms of employment as well as in terms of the economy. Despite its size, however, the islands could offer a more varied itinerary through the many local festivals that are particular to each of the 67 local council zones.
As far as employment is concerned, with an unemployment figure of just 4.8 percent (as of November 2006), a look through the main newspapers over the first two months will reveal an extensive selection of jobs and opportunities, particularly in the tourism field. Over the past fortnight, Ryanair was also looking for airline staff from Malta and the first indications did show that the interest was good. The low-cost airline company had commenced flights to the islands during the final quarter of 2006 and extended its destinations from last month.
The Carnival celebrations got under way this weekend. These celebrations date back to the 16th Century when the significance was a kind of “letting down of one’s hair” before the stringent observance of lent by the Roman Catholic Church. The name derives from the Latin: Carnem Levare, an indication of the abstinence from meat consumption during the forty days before Easter.
Over the years, the Carnem Levare Carnival has become an opportunity for young and old to dress up and parade up and down the streets of the Baroque walled city of Valletta and admire the grotesque floats and masquerades painted in bright colours and prepared with such enthusiasm and passion. These days, costumes are usually taken from the latest blockbuster movies or television characters.
The Malta Carnival is part of the European Cities Carnival, but the very character of the Maltese and Gozitans makes it different from the others. To understand the satire and wit behind the floats and masquerades is to appreciate the social history of the Maltese and there have been various comments made through the media from politicians and organizers of the carnival celebrations to include political satire among the many themes for the floats next year. After all, politics is a very popular sport in Malta and Gozo where some of the highest voter turnouts have been recorded over the past decade. Perhaps the law banning political satire during carnival, that dates back to 1936 could be rescinded.
And finally, with the local council elections one month away and the general elections one year ahead, the heat will be definitely on in the political arena, but the issues will be to keep partisan ideologies out of local council decisions, to create a sense of civic pride and identity and, more importantly, for the voters to decide just who those councilors are who really believe that their localities can offer opportunities for tourism and social well being. that track record is already evidenced through the work carried out over the past years by central government including the 800 million euros that will be allotted to Malta and used, mainly for tourism related projects and education.