The Malta Independent 24 September 2020, Thursday

Arts, entertainment industry should qualify for highest wage supplement aid - MEIA

Giulia Magri Tuesday, 15 September 2020, 14:20 Last update: about 8 days ago

The Arts and Entertainment industry should qualify for the highest category of wage supplement aid – Annex A – while taxes on artists and musicians should be reduced, the Malta Entertainment Industry and Arts Association proposed after publishing the results of a survey.

73% of people employed in the arts and entertainment industry benefitted from the Covid-19 wage supplement according to the MEIA’s survey.

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The survey was discussed during an online press conference, where MEIA’s President Howard Keith Debono and Vice President Toni Attard discussed the current situation being faced by the arts and entertainment industry.

Alongside them was the Malta Chamber of Commerce President David Xuereb, who also commented on the importance the Arts and Entertainment sector has on the Maltese economy.

The conference was held at The Malta Chamber in Valletta.

Presenting the MEIA members survey, Attard reflected that the numbers were somewhat concerning, especially since a large number of employees in the industry are self-employed.

4,924 people employed in Arts and Entertainment sector; 2,868 are full-time

4,924 people are employed in the art and entertainment, publishing activities, motion picture, TV, sound recording, music publishing, broadcasting, libraries and museums. “When we speak about the employees in this industry we are looking at a diverse number of people and companies. From 4,924 people, 2,868 are full-time, whilst 917 are part time and 1,139 are part time as a secondary job.”

He noted that those who work full time, 616 are self-employed and 414 are in the creative, arts and entertainment. 23% of them work in the public sector.

“We need to emphasise how many people work in this sector and how many individuals and families are dependent on the future of this sector,” Attard said.

He explained that in the past 25 years the Entertainment industry has taken huge steps forward and made significant investment, which is evident on both a local and global scale. Just asother sectors have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic; this sector too has been affected greatly.

“It is necessary that we give the help needed to all stakeholders and people in the industry and implement incentives that are aimed at the creation of a long term plan to benefit the employees in this sector.”

A recent NSO statistic shows that motion pictures, television programme activities, creative arts activities and other cultural activities have been hit hard during the past six months. “In the past six months, the Gross Value Added (GVA) decreased greatly, and can be on par with the negative impact the hotels sector and retail received during these months.”

He said that due to this impact the Arts and Entertainment sector is in need of more financial aid and a secure and sustainable plan for the months to come. “The growth of this sector has taken a drastic pause due to the pandemic. As we all know, this sector was one of the first to close and one of the last to re-open; as we know, for cultural services to grow we need the public to consume our products and shows, so now is the time to work hard for our industry to bounce back.”

Attard also commented on the use of government vouchers and explained that most individuals spent their vouchers on restaurants and hotels, whilst cultural services had little benefit from the voucher scheme.

76% think that their business is at risk

Discussing the MEIA member survey, Attard stated that a large majority of MEIA members are concerned about their future. 27% are likely to quit the sector if the current situation remains as it is until December 2020, and 49% are likely to quit the sector if the current situation remains as is until June 2021.

He said that 58.6% had most of their events cancelled and 33% postponed. “76% agree that their business is at risk and not only are concerned about their business, but 82% are concerned about their wellbeing.”

Industry most hit by the current economic crisis - Howard Keith Debono

“We need to remind the public that the arts and entertainment industry is extremely important and plays a vital part in our economy,” MEIA President Howard Keith Debono explained. He explained that MEIA proposed a number of specific guidelines that safe guarded the interest of the people in the industry as well as the general wellbeing of society. “We are pleased to see that the government and health officials have implemented such measures, but it is to our disappointment that the measures came too late,” said Debono.

Debono announced a set of 10 points which, the MEIA's view, would help the Entertainment and Arts industry:

1)  Being listed under Annex A for the wage supplement, which is the highest grade. MEIA also proposed that the wage supplement issued by the Maltese Government should be extended until this sector is fully operational.

2)  Introducing a ‘cancellation subsidy’. 

3)  Investing in entertainment venues in order to be ready for re-opening when the time is right. 

4)  Implementing a guarantee/facility that is aimed at incentivising the private sector to start planning events for the coming months, keeping their minds at rest should a Covid/ pandemic related cancellation happen. 

5)  Digitising the industry. 

6)  Financing of new projects from professional individuals and entities. 

7)  The creation of a fund that would enable the buying of arts. 

8)  Reduction of taxes for companies that want to invest in the arts and entertainment industry. 

9)  Reduction of tax rates for artists and musicians. 

10)  The birth of a scheme that injects funds directly into Malta’s cultural sector. 

“If nothing is done then all the hard work done in the past 25 years would be for nothing; we will lose talent and people as they would leave the sector to find work elsewhere.”

Addressing the conference, Malta Chamber President David Xuereb highlighted that the creative sector is integral to the design of a new economy for a modern Malta.

“The re-engineering of business models which need to take place in the near future to guarantee a sustainable and resilient economy requires the talent of the creative sector to be at its core.”

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