The Malta Independent 22 January 2022, Saturday

Watch - Coronavirus: €1.8 billion package to safeguard business, employment - PM Abela

Wednesday, 18 March 2020, 19:28 Last update: about 3 years ago

The Prime Minister this evening announced a 1.8 billion euro package to aid business in the wake of the Coronovirus spread.

The package includes €700 million in tax deferrals, €900 million in loan guarantees, a €210 million injection to assist the economy and €35 million to the health sector to fight the disease.

Addressing the media, Robert Abela said that the aim is to sustain business at a time of crisis. The PM said that the aim is for the measures to be sustainable, and were possible because over the past years the country was doing so well from an economic point of view.

One of the measures is a 350 euro payment per employee the government will be making to cover the costs of having people on quarantine because of the virus. The government also announced that it will be shouldering between one and three days of salary per week to people working for industries, including the self-employed, that have been harshly hit, in different ways, by the Coronavirus crisis.

At the start of the press conference, Abela said that he was not going to order a lockdown; the situation is still under control and there is no need to panic.

The priority at this stage remains the health sector but the government understands that the situation has had a negative impact on business.

"We are offering an ambitious package aimed to help business and families during this period of uncertainty and guarantee stability," Abela said.

We are aiming to protect business without making distinctions, the PM said. The plan is to overcome this situation with the least repercussions for the economy to kickstart again as soon as the crisis is over,

All the measures have been costed and take into consideration the eventuality that this particular period takes longer than anticipated to pass, Abela said.

He said that the government had a choice, that of seeing the country registering more budget surpluses, or taking care of people who were genuinely fearing for their health and their economic situation.

Finance Minister Edward Scicluna said that what the government is proposing will entail 700 million euros in tax deferrals and 900 million euros in loan guarantees.

Local banks can accept all requests for a moratorium of up to three months on personal and business loans, he said.

There are up to 12,000 families with children where both parents work in the private sector. If neither parent can telework, the government will fund an additional two months of leave for one of the parents. This measure is expected to cost around €16 million.

He announced a €210 million injection to assist the economy and €35 million to health authorities to fight covid-19. This will be used to buy beds, protective clothing, ventilators and other necessary equipment. There is no capping, Scicluna said. Whatever the health sector needs, we will provide.

Scicluna said it is to be expected that the rate of economic growth will slow down. "Right now the fundamentals are strong," he said. "We left from a very strong position were the growth rate was 7 per cent and this year we were expecting growth of 4.3 per cent."

Economy Minister Silvio Schembri said that self-employed who have had to shut down operations completely will receive two days’ worth of revenue every week, capped at €800 a month. Those who have employees will receive three days’ worth. 

Businesses who have experienced a decrease in trade of at least 25% will be given the equivalent of one day's work a week per employee, capped at €800 per month.

The same applies for self-employed who experienced a decrease of 25%. In the case of self-employed who have employees, the government will cover two days a week. 

There will be an unemployment benefit of €800 a month for those who lost their employment as at 8 March. Disabled persons who cannot work from home will also get a benefit of €800 a month. 

Those whose employment was terminated but who did not benefit from the rent subsidy will now be eligible for it.

Schembri said that this might not be the last package to be provided. If the circumstances change, the government is ready to revise its position and be able to help more.

During the conference, Schembri also announced that Malta will no longer accept applications for work from third-country nationals "with immediate effect".

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