Wedding blues

▪️ Wedding blues ▪️ Stable prices ▪️ Swift votes

Post-wedding blues are well-known and commonly talked about. After all, planning the happiest day of a woman’s life is like a time of floating on air for her. It is not as well-known that pre-wedding blues are also common. Weddings can bring extra pressure, family tension, financial worries, and an endless to-do list. Planning one doesn’t always make the bride happy and can indeed feel extremely lonely.

I dread to think what will happen to the frequency of pre-wedding blues once would-be brides in Gozo realise what the Bishop of Gozo is planning for them.  His diocese published rules on brides’ what-not-to-wear in Church weddings and others regarding music and flower choices.

Out are all outfits that show any form of cleavage and those that have transparent sections revealing the back, shoulders and anything upward from the knees.  The rules apply to the bride, the bridesmaids, and guests.  In unveiling (excuse the pun) the new rules, Bishop Theuma said that, much like dress codes apply in certain public places such as in court, school, or hospital, there is a dress code for “the House of God”.

Imagine the deflating effect (another pun) this is going to have on brides who have just spent a couple of thousand euros on an implant to have breasts like Kim Kardashian’s or Penelope Cruz’s and cannot now have boob-window cut-outs in their wedding dresses. And what about those who were planning on emulating Jennifer Lopez or Dua Lipa with an eye-catching bare large oval cut-out exposing most of their back?  This is positively a disaster.  Wasn’t Eve nude in the Garden of Eden?  Do brides have to look like nuns?  

Bishop Theuma also took the chill out of the music played at the church ceremony. It has to be sacred, not sexual, he decreed.  Oh God, say the brides, we can’t play Ariana Grande’s 34+35, with those suggestive lines “You might think I’m crazy / The way I’ve been cravin’ / If I put it quite plainly / Just gimme them babies”, or Justin Bieber’s Yummy, with the erotic “I’m elated that you are my lady / You got the yum, yum, yum, yum.”  Are you kidding?  Must we now play Gounod’s Ave Maria from 1853?

Oh, I almost forgot the flowers.  The new rules say they must not be such as to draw attention to themselves.  And to think of the plight of those brides who were planning to order a container-full of tulips, orchids, and Birds of Paradise from Holland.

I pity all those Gozitan brides who had dreams of their perfect day straight out of a fairy tale and will now be disappointed. I know that many women suffer from post-natal depression, but here we’re upping the ante in risking pre-wedding blues. Mind you, this could have a positive outcome in terms of Gozitan brides having their wedding ceremony in Malta, where Archbishop Scicluna is not yet as strict as Bishop Theuma.

Stable prices

Eurozone consumers have slashed their inflation expectations, according to a recent European Central Bank (ECB) survey.  It is comforting news for governments grappling with the economic and political impact of the recent bout of high inflation which may affect wage demands and attitudes towards saving and spending.  The survey is used by policymakers to gauge whether households have faith in the ECB’s ability to hit its 2% inflation goal.

The median household expects prices to grow by 3.2% in the next 12 months, down from 4.0% a month earlier.  Expectations for inflation three years ahead have also come down, to 2.2% from 2.5%.  This appears to mirror a sharp fall in inflation as well as the contraction in lending caused by the ECB’s steep increases in interest rates.

Photo: Kampus Production

A friend of mine recently asked me what to make of claims by various politicians regarding the causes of inflation and their impact in Malta.  My advice was not to listen so much to them, but to listen to the economists.  I referred him to a number of surveys by the ECB which shed light on this topic.  I couldn’t possibly mention all of them here, but just so my readers could get an informed view, here are some of the more important ones.

Most firms say that their prices vary by geographical market and by type of customer, which are seen as necessary in order to adapt to local demand and supply conditions.  Differences in locally-supplied inputs can also affect product quality. Different customer preferences across geographical regions require different branding and/or service levels.  In business-to-business sales, the sales volume has a significant import for prices, with the imperative to attract and retain strategic customers.  Implications for Malta: mainly negative due to our small market and insignificant volumes, making us non-strategic customers.

A surprising result from the survey was that most firms’ prices did not depend on the sales platform, charging the same price for online sales as for sales in the store or over the phone. However, the prices of some products differed from prices of equivalent products sold on other platforms, simply because they were only available online. Compared to equivalent products available on other platforms, costs for these online products were lower, warranted by the fact that that they involved fewer services.  Implications for Malta: negative because on-line sales are still not a large enough part of the market; positive where it concerns access by consumers to foreign sales platforms.

The typical frequency of price reviews and changes varies across sectors of the economy.  Firms said that their price changes ranged from “daily” to “less than every three years”.  Firms pay most attention to their competitors’ prices, closely followed by supply costs (raw materials, logistics costs, and labour) and product demand.  The importance of competitors’ prices appears greater the closer the business is to the consumer, whereas further upstream, cost and demand considerations play a more significant role.  Implications for Malta: mainly negative because of distance from the main sources of supply, more complex logistics in delivery of goods to Malta.

Firms’ pricing strategies are consistent with a range of theories concerning “sticky prices”.  For firms overall, the roles of cost-based pricing, contracts (either explicit or implicit) and coordination failure would appear to be the main causes of price stickiness. For more consumer-oriented firms, an understanding that customers expect prices to remain roughly the same (implicit contracts) and the targeting of psychological price thresholds are likely to be important causes of sluggish price adjustment.  Implications for Malta: mainly negative; our market’s peripherality makes us less able to participate in short-term price changes while suppliers’ sales costs in contracting with Maltese importers for less-than-optimal volumes reinforce price stickiness.  

The upshot of these findings is that we are price-takers and unable to influence the behaviour of suppliers.  No government, whether PL or PN, can do much about it.   

Swift votes

In three consecutive MaltaToday surveys carried out last autumn, a third of respondents said that they would not vote if an election were held then, reducing the turnout from 86% in 2022 to a historic low of 69%.  Just over 40% of the non-voters would be persons aged 16-35.  More or less similar results were produced by surveys in the Times of Malta and The Malta Independent.

The two major parties are extremely worried, though they still express confidence in young people  ̶  on a scale from 0 for pessimismto 10 for optimism, I would rate my confidence at 4They’re scrambling like mad for candidates for the local council and European Parliament elections in early June.  What can they do?  The PL thought lowering the age at which one could become a mayor would do the trick.  Frankly, I doubt that there are hundreds of young people who will forego partying to sweat it out in a local council writing to authorities to please fix that bulb or patch up that road.

They need to think out of the box.  I may have the answer.  Being a good citizen, I’m not about to ask a high fee for revealing my idea.  I simply give it away.  Too good to be true?  I leave it to you to decide.

My idea is that the Malta Tourism Authority, which has a penchant for spending hundreds of thousands on concerts, would invite pop superstar Taylor Swift a couple of days before the elections and, during her youths-only concert, get her to appeal to them to go to the polls.  It doesn’t matter whom they would vote for.

Photo: AP

Fancy thought?  Absolutely not.   Swift helped register enough voters in a single day last September to swing close races in multiple states in the USA, with turnout experts predicting a strong youth vote for the 2024 presidential election.  After an Instagram post by Swift, a record of more than 30,000 people signed up through non-partisan vote.org during National Voter Registration Day, many of them teens who will be eligible to vote in November’s election.

Swift’s fanbase tends to be younger and more liberal (that would please the PL) than the country overall and could make the difference in a close race.  Andrea Hailey, the CEO of vote.org, which registered 279,400 new voters last year, said that “when you have someone registering 30,000 votes at a time it absolutely can have an impact.”

Of course, it won’t come cheap.  Reportedly, Swift charges between $3.7 – $7.4 million for a concert.  That would be between 43% – 87% more expensive than a normal general election but works out at between €26 – €52 per potential non-voter.  Who cares, provided that the two parties can scrape up a few thousand votes?  Swift results are what count.

Main photo: Leah Newhouse

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