An upcoming set of measures to help Maltese businesses out must also include a plan on how to boost the economy once the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis is over, Economy Minister Silvio Schembri said.
“We need to take decisions wisely and we can react to this economic fallout from a position of strength,” Schembri said in Parliament tonight. “We must also understand that this situation isn’t the end of the world and that life must go once the coronavirus situation ends.”
“The economy won’t automatically return to the state it was in last month as soon as the situation ends so we must see how we can give it a boost just as we did seven years ago.”
Several businesses have urged the government to provide them immediate relief, warning that they will otherwise be forced to fire several employees or close down entirely.
Major entrepreneur Ian De Cesare today warned that if the government doesn’t spend its reserves on saving businesses now, it will have to use them on social benefits once mass unemployment kicks in.
However, Schembri argued that it wouldn’t be wise for the government to use all its reserves on saving businesses over the next few months, particularly as it is still unclear when the crisis will end.
“Very detailed discussions are ongoing about a plan for the coming months, as well as the aftermath to boost the economy. The measures we will announce this week are mainly intended to safeguard jobs.”
Schembri offered no words of solace to third-country nationals who are facing deportation after their employers informed them that their work permits won’t be renewed.
“I might get criticised for this but I want to be clear that charity begins at home and our main goal must be to safeguard the jobs of Maltese workers,” he said. “Discussions are ongoing with the Home Affairs Ministry for [third country nationals] to return to their country once their work permit expires.”
Without going into much detail, Schembri said the economic plan will apply a principle of ‘burden sharing’, whereby both the government and employers will shoulder some form of responsibility.
He also pledged full transparency, arguing that taxpayers have a right to know how the government is spending their money.