The Malta Independent 30 May 2020, Saturday

Chamber of Commerce suggests blanket approach to government wage supplement scheme

Albert Galea Thursday, 21 May 2020, 12:47 Last update: about 8 days ago

The Chamber of Commerce has suggested the implementation of a blanket approach tied to a business’ loss in turnover to replace the current system for the eligibility for the government’s wage supplement scheme.

The suggestion, one of 39 proposals for the restarting of Malta’s economy, put forward by the Chamber comes as different sectors start to feel the economic pinch brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Currently, the government’s wage supplement scheme – which sees those most affected receive €800 per month per employee – ties its eligibility parameters to a business’ NACE code, which is based on the industry or sector that it is in.

The 39 proposals are based on a few over-arching principles: the continuity of liquidity, the mobilization of the workforce; the incentivization of businesses; jumpstarting the economy; and a shift in mindset.

Explaining the key measures in a press conference on Thursday, the Chamber’s Head of Policy Andre Fenech said that one such measure to ensure business liquidity should be a blanket approach to the wage subsidy scheme replacing the current approach which is tied to a business’ NACE code.

This is owing to the fact, he said, that a number of sectors which were not immediately impacted by the virus, such as suppliers and the logistics and transport sector, are now feeling the pinch as well.

A blanket approach tying the aid scheme to a loss in turnover would eliminate this, he said. To be eligible for Annex A, a company would have to report a decline in 50% of their turnover in the April-June period, while to be eligible for Annex B – which should be increased to €400 per month per employee – a company would have to register a loss in turnover of between 25% and 49%.

Other key proposals include maintaining teleworking where possible, the temporary introduction of tiered corporate tax rate instead of the current single 35% rate for income tax, the safeguarding of third country workers, a PR campaign to promote local products, and a renewed emphasis on research and innovation through grants for projects which increase productivity of companies, help them restructure their operations, or help them shift towards online means.

Chamber President David Xuereb said that with these measures, the Chamber wanted to shift its mindset from crisis management to crisis leadership.

The focus, he said, will be on suggesting to the government for how to channel public funds judiciously and not spread them thinly only to prevent employment, but also to incentivize creative and entrepreneurial minds to take the country out of this situation. 

Asked by The Malta Independent what economic effect the potential re-closure of outlets which have been recently opened as a result of a second wave, should it hit, would be, Xuereb said that the Chamber’s measures are based on the fact that the government is making its decisions on its own mathematical modelling.

He said that the discipline of business owners and the general public is very important, noting that until a vaccine is found “in a year or maybe even two”, then Covid-19 will remain with us.

He said that the Chamber is not pushing for the re-opening of all businesses at all costs.  He added that the Chamber is calling for an economy which is fully aware of the fact that Covid-19 remains around us, and understanding the risks associated with that.

Xuereb once again called for the government to allow the Chamber access to the mathematical models being utilized by the government so that they can continue to have a conversation over how to re-open.

Asked about the fact that a number of restaurants have chosen not to reopen tomorrow, Xuereb drew positives out of it, noting that it shows that business owners are taking a serious approach to the matter.

“It’s good that we don’t have a cowboy attitude where we open at all costs. That is good news for Malta”, he said.

“This will show that Malta is truly disciplined. The worst thing we can have is to start the re-opening process and maybe having to backtrack or sanction operators,” Xuereb added.

Restaurants are among the latest set of outlets which can re-open as from tomorrow, after the government announced its latest set of relaxation measures earlier this week.

 

 

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