Government vouchers designed to stimulate spending within hospitality, catering, and retail amid the COVID-19 pandemic will form part of the next budget, Prime Minister Robert Abela has revealed.
Abela, who was speaking in a highly choreographed Q&A from the public, gave more details on the upcoming budget, which will be presented tomorrow evening. He revealed that over €100 million will be spent on social projects, up from the €35 million spent in previous years.
He said that the budget would cover both pressing issues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and long-term planning for the country, but was coy on most major details. Abela insisted that those hurt most by the pandemic would be covered in the budget.
Abela had only previously hinted that government vouchers could be included. The scheme, which has been extended to the end of October, was a roaring success, helping keep business afloat at a time when tourism has declined significantly due to pandemic restrictions.
In the first round of vouchers, people were given €80 to spend at establishments licensed by the Malta Tourism Authority, such as hotels, restaurants and bars, and €20 to spend at a retail outlet or service that was closed as a result of COVID-19.
Malta’s Chamber of SMEs has called for a second round of vouchers but with more focus on retail outlets, a new entertainment lobby has called for specific ‘culture vouchers’ and the hotel lobby MHRA has proposed free plane tickets for tourists to visit Malta.
Abela was quick to say that issues surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic should not be politicised, insisting that history would look kindly on the measures the government has implemented so far.
“The death toll and level of unemployment could have been much higher,” he said.
Abela said he was not afraid to debate anyone on the matter or any other political subject, but stressed the good of the country should be the priority. Abela is yet to accept an invitation to a debate with newly elected PN Leader Bernard Grech in an episode of Xarabank aired on Lovin Malta.
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