The arrogance of dilettantism

In the Corradino case, the quacks left their signature all over the rubble that crushed and killed Jean Paul Sofia. People registered as ‘carpenters’ suddenly became construction workers. How’s that for dilettantism?

A court-appointed expert reporting to the magistrate conducting the inquiry on the death of Jean Paul Sofia found a litany of failings at the Corradino building site where the accident happened.

To the trained professional, this was evident from the way the building collapsed, but, even so, the report of the expert appointed by the magistrate makes shocking reading. It embodies the superficial mentality of those who think that everything is easy and professionalism is a sham. It is this type of people that are, in fact, a sham.

Workers said they got their orders from one of the project’s developers who was indicated as a supervisor and who has no background or qualifications in construction. He also appears to have falsified the signature of the listed builder on the project's commencement notice. The other partner appeared to handle issues related to project permits and official applications, due to ‘his contacts’.

I need not go on to quote a lot from the court expert’s report: it is a horrible tale of woe.

The main reason for the collapse was the structural design of the building, which failed to consider aspects of wall stability, according to applicable standards, as well as resilience or ties of the structure against a catastrophic collapse in the case of an incident. ‘The configuration of the walls, big apertures, on two sides, resulted in a lack of structural capacity of the long side wall that carries the weight on it. The failure to tie changed this failure into a total and catastrophic collapse.’

What bugs me is the arrogance of people who are dilettantes and who think that professionalism is a waste of time or a ruse to grant a monopoly to certain ‘privileged’ people.

Many moons ago, when referring to an issue about a Maltese who graduated in architecture abroad, Alfred Sant in Parliament argued that the refusal of the authorities to grant him a warrant solely on the basis of his studies was simply a result of an ‘elite club’ designed to give an advantage to those who are granted a warrant. I had to reply that the need of a warrant was necessary to protect the ordinary citizen from quacks and not to give some unfair advantage to the warrant holder.

In the Corradino case, the quacks left their signature all over the rubble that crushed and killed Jean Paul Sofia. People registered as ‘carpenters’ suddenly became construction workers. How’s that for dilettantism?

This trait that was openly fomented in the Mintoff era has again resurfaced under the current regime. It seems to be a ‘Labour Party’ problem. People who think that the necessity of doing things in a professional way is just a mantra to give an unfair advantage over people who think they know it all while most of them are, in fact, just arrogant dabblers.

Much before the magisterial inquiry was finalised and published, INDIS Malta, the government company operating industrial parks, started court proceedings for the termination of the emphyteutical concession awarded to Kurt Buhagiar and Matthew Schembri. It seems that INDIS realised it had made a mistake and sought to cover it up by getting back the land it had granted as an aid to ‘Maltese industry’. What else could be the motivation of this decision? By then it was too late, of course.

It is also interesting to note that in her report, the magistrate also stated that the magisterial inquiry is not able to examine whether there were administrative or legislative deficiencies in the situation... She added that the evidence she collected indicates institutional, systemic and even legislative deficiencies, and that these deficiencies can form the merit of other investigations by the competent authorities according to law; thus giving the lie to the official line that a public enquiry was not needed.

A terrible heatwave

As I write, it seems that the terrible heatwave that hit Malta in the last two weeks or so has lifted and it is not as hot as it was a few days ago.

This heatwave has uncovered the serious deficiencies in our electricity distribution system, parts of which are over 60 years old. Konrad Mizzi’s efforts to increase the production of electricity forgot all about the efficiency of the distribution system that is needed for this electric power to arrive in our homes. Meanwhile, we kept on building more residential units and increasing the resident population as if this would have no impact on the electricity distribution system.

Now, we have even had a number of deaths related to the heatwave.

Enemalta needs to go back to the drawing board.

Taking a minister’s advice to read while the electric power is off, I came across an interesting leader and a book review in a recent issue of The Economist on the subject.

According to the leader ‘The best thing that has happened in Phoenix, Arizona, since the beginning of July is that the electricity grid has kept functioning’. Tell that to Miriam Dalli!

Actually, there is a spate of heatwaves all over the world, including in the Mediterranean area with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees. In cities, it is worse: less vegetation, more sunlight-absorbing tarmac and more waste heat produced. In the long term, the things one can do to cater for these situations are possible only in the developed world that can afford them.

Statistically, the average global air temperature in July broke three records in a week and records were broken in both America and Europe.

The reviewer of the book titled The Heat will kill you first written by Jeff Goodell says that it ‘reads like an anthology of horror stories.’

The review goes on to say that the book ‘is a remarkable exploration of the deadly consequences of rising temperatures wrought by humans pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Unlike wildfires and hurricanes - which create whirls of flames, paint skies an apocalyptic orange and drown cities - heatwaves cannot be captured on film. Heat slaughters silently, snuffing out more American lives each year than any type of weather’.

The author of the book asks: ‘How do you make visible the story of an invisible killer?’