Employers should have the right to demand to know whether employees have been vaccinated and whether they’ve travelled to high-risk countries, the chamber of SMEs has proposed in its annual budget proposals.
This morning the chamber put forward a list of 26 proposals covering various aspects of the Maltese economy, including COVID-19 restrictions, including one for employees choosing not to get vaccinated to be unable to benefit from paid quarantine leave.
Similarly, the chamber said that employees that choose to travel to high risk countries should not be entitled to paid quarantine leave.
It also proposed incentives for companies to be able to organise socially distanced professional team building activities to increase employee morale, as well as using funds collected from companies who choose not to employ persons with a disability as a result of the pandemic to be reinvested in improving accessibility for people with disabilities.
The chamber also called for COVID-19 assistance, including bank loan moratoria and wage supplements, to be extended for businesses hit hardest by the pandemic, especially those that are still unable to operate at their full capacity.
Lowering of income tax
On the tax front, the chamber is proposing increasing the cap for the middle income bracket in which employees pay 25% tax to be increased from €60,000 to €100,000.
Moreover, it is being recommended that excise duty be removed from products which do not have an identifier mark, such as cosmetic and clearing products.
Banking task force
In the banking sector, the chamber is proposing the setting up a task force to draw up a charter for local banking services, as well as a board to which business could turn for redress in cases whether they have been the victim of disproportionate action on the part of Maltese banks.
Another suggestion was for Malta Enterprise to issue more soft loans in order to facilitate access to finance to businesses, as well as a centralised Know Your Client system to avoid duplication of work.
Centre for accredited training institutions
The chamber stressed the need for more incentives for the training of Malta’s workforce, including the extension of the government’s existing Get Qualified scheme, as well as the launch of schemes tailored to employers’ specific needs.
In this regard, the chamber said that Malta would do well to attract more accredited training institutions in order to make this a new pillar of the Maltese economy.
While many businesses had succeeded in shifting their operations online during the pandemic, this did not mean that Malta’s digital transformation was complete.
Small and medium enterprises were in need of further assistance in order to ensure they are prepared to operate online, especially in the eventuality of other pandemics.
This included incentives to help businesses increase their cybersecurity, given the increased threats this presented to their business. More assistance for businesses to subscribe to cloud-based services was also needed, it said.
Cost of importing goods
The chamber said it agreed with the Nationalist Party’s proposal for Malta to request an exemption to state aid regulations in order to assist businesses whose model has been crippled by the increased cost of importation.
It also called for Malta to look to other countries to learn how they had dealt with the same problem, as well as to set up bilateral agreements to mitigate its effect.
The chamber is also calling for Malta to ask the EU for exemptions from Brexit procedures which are leaving a disproportionately large impact on the Maltese economy.
The government should also provide assistance to companies willing to take the added risk of exporting to Africa, which it said had been identified as a potentially lucrative market for Malta.
No ODZ development in Gozo
In proposals drawn up specifically for Gozo, the chamber proposed that no more Outside Development Zone development be allowed to continue in Gozo. Moreover, the chamber said it wanted to see schemes launched for the restoration of old houses, as well as packages of incentives for digital companies to relocate to the island.
Another proposal is for reduced Gozo ferry ticket fares for people using electric cars, as well as the resumption of the air link between the two islands.
A multi-storey car park should also be constructed in the capital Victoria, the chamber proposed.
Do you agree with these proposals?