Cremation was legalised in Malta some three months ago but the details are still being ironed out, specifically whether the island should have a single crematorium or open the market up.
A proposal by Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar, who spearheaded the cremation, for the government to grant a concession to a single crematorium caused quite a stir on social media in recent days. Several people warned such a move will create a monopoly and questioned whether a politically well-connected business has already been handpicked.
However, Cutajar has maintained that a single crematorium is the most viable option and has used basic maths to back up her argument.
Malta naturally has a relatively low population and just under 4,000 people died last year, an average of between ten to 11 people a day.
However, a recent survey commissioned ahead of the cremation law has showed that only a third of the Maltese population will consider getting cremated.
If a third of the 4,000 people who died last year opted for cremation, that would have meant 1,333 bodies would have got cremated, an average of around 3-4 bodies a day. Therefore, if there are two crematoria, it will mean each of them can only expect to receive between one to two bodies a day and, if they switch on their machines weekly, burn 12 to 14 bodies a week. If there are three crematoria, there may well be days when one of them doesn’t receive a single body.
This situation will likely only be financially sustainable if the operators impose high prices or if the government subsidises them.
“As things stand, it would make no sense to have more than one crematorium,” Cutajar argued. “If, in the future, the demand for cremation grows (due to an increase in population or popularity of the practice itself), I would naturally support the growth of the industry.”
Should the government grant a concession to a single crematorium, a policy it has implemented with the public transport system and the Gozo ferry, it will negotiate the cremation prices in advance, with reports stating it could cost anywhere between €550 and €750, cheaper than a traditional burial.
Cover photo: Great Yarmouth Crematorium