The Malta Independent 5 December 2020, Saturday

TMID Editorial: Covid-19 - Wage supplement continuation

Saturday, 24 October 2020, 09:41 Last update: about 2 months ago

The continuation of the wage supplement until March 2021 and possibly beyond is the right move by the government, to help businesses stay on their feet and remain in a strong position.

Earlier this week, Economy Minister Silvio Schembri highlighted that over €230 million has been paid to workers through the wage supplement so far, with another €200 million being freed up for this scheme as it is expected to run till March 2021. It was said that the wage supplement had helped some 85,000 workers across almost 17,000 businesses. 

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Without this scheme, there is little doubt that many businesses, especially those in the hospitality industry, would have had to completely close down.

Indeed the supplement however, was not without its own issues. Some argued that it was not properly distributed and that some businesses that were in need of aid were not receiving the support they required.

Thankfully, it seems that the government has heard the complaints and is now going to change the way the supplement is given to businesses. The government said that it will look at modifying the supplement to ensure that the most aid is given to those who need it, through clear criteria mainly based on a company’s turnover.

Indeed this would be most welcome by many, especially businesses in Valletta, given that they have lost so many customers since catering to cruise ship passengers is no longer really an option.

At the same time, businesses need to start adapting to the new reality. Government’s support is welcome and is to be praised, but at the same time businesses need to start thinking outside the box.

Businesses and companies need to invest in online technology for example, and focus on different methods of operation. One perfect example of this is online food deliveries. Throughout this entire pandemic, more and more restaurants have begun offering a delivery service, more often than not through third party apps. This has helped restaurants continue operating, and while it might not make up for the loss in tables, it most definitely helps.

In addition to this, online shopping is also something which more people could make use of.

When it comes to banking, the sector was already shifting towards online services, and so could continue exploring offering more of their services online or over the phone.

Indeed Malta has the telecommunications infrastructure to make all this possible. The government should continue to promote schemes that can help businesses reshape and reconfigure themselves to operate in this new era.

Covid-19 is still with us, but many hope things will return to ‘normal’ once a vaccine emerges. This is doubtful. People would remain wary of travelling for example, at least for many months after if not more. So businesses need to adapt and change their models.

Teleworking, for instance, could become something more of a permanent option. This also has additional benefits, such as having fewer cars on the road. But of course it also has negatives, such as possibly affecting productivity, or leading to employees being overworked. A balance would need to be found.

 

 

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