The Malta Independent 4 June 2020, Thursday

TMID Editorial: Economic measures - A great improvement, but some sectors require more

Thursday, 26 March 2020, 09:06 Last update: about 3 months ago

The third round of economic measures announced by the government on Tuesday are a step in the right direction as far as the ‘critical’ category is concerned, but still fall a bit short when it comes to sectors that will not be given the same level of assistance and for those that have been completely left out.

The government has identified the business sectors that have been hit particularly hard by the Covid-19 crisis, namely the tourism, catering and retail industries, which have seen revenues plummet as a result of the suspension of flights and the forced shutdown, and has stepped in to pay €800 for each worker in the sector. It will be forking out some €44 million a month for over 60,000 workers.

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The social partners, who, the government said, have unanimously agreed to these proposals, have also pledged to pay out a minimum €400 over and above what the government is paying.

In the second category, however, the government will only be paying out one day’s salary a week to people working in areas that have been affected to a lesser degree. These include certain shops that have not yet been forced to close down and the information sector, which includes IT companies and such.

While it is true that these sectors have not been affected to the same extent as those in the critical category, they are still experiencing a significant decrease in sales, and the government ought to do more to help them.

We understand that the government cannot spend every penny it has in one single broadside – this crisis will not go away anytime soon, after all, and it is very likely that these measures will have to be reviewed and strengthened as time passes.  But at the same time, the priority remains to save all existing jobs. As Prime Minister Robert Abela said on Tuesday, the country needs to be up and running the minute this crisis is over. Demand for products and services will go up again, and we cannot afford a situation where there are not enough workers to cater for that demand.

We have also noted that certain sectors do not feature on either list. These include, for example, the sports sector, which has also ground to a halt as a result of the partial lockdown. There are many people employed or working as professionals in this field, and the government must think about them too.

The media sector is also in limbo. While we understand that discussions are underway for this sector to receive some form of assistance too, we must stress the importance that such measures will not only be a one-off form of assistance to combat this temporary crisis but rather come in the form of a permanent structure to help the ailing media sector, which is a crucial part of democracy.

Revenues have gone down fast as many traditional advertisers have suddenly found themselves out of business. This has had a very negative effect on media houses, which provide news content for free and rely solely on advertising revenue. The media has a very important role to play not just in this crisis but also in general in a healthy democracy. Many countries in the Western world have had systems in place where the media is helped through specially set-up and administered funds, and there has never been a greater need for such a system to be introduced in Malta.

 

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