The Malta Independent 18 October 2021, Monday

Malta experiencing strong recovery from pandemic's economic shock – Prime Minister

Sunday, 12 September 2021, 12:33 Last update: about 2 months ago

Malta is recovering from the economic shock caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Robert Abela said on Sunday.

"Why is the country experiencing a strong recovery from this economic shock," he asked rhetorically. "As we believed in progressive economic policy rather than moving towards austerity measures."

During an interview on One Radio on Sunday, the Prime Minister spoke about the government's investment in supporting businesses and the economy. As an example, he brought up the Covid vouchers' scheme, which was recently extended. "Through both rounds of the vouchers' scheme, we invested over €90 million," Abela said. These vouchers also had a multiplier effect, he added,

Asked about the government's decision to extend this scheme until the end of October, he said that as is the case with such schemes, there is a strong uptake at the beginning, which then begins to drop off. The government wants to ensure that everyone benefits from this incentive, he added.

"Until last week we had €33 million that was spent from these vouchers, €2.4 million of which was spent in Gozo."

The Prime Minister said that the government kept on incentivising businesses to invest. "That policy has led to this strong economic recovery and the low rate of unemployment."

Abela spoke about a number of schemes. He said that 6,000 businesses over the past few days have benefitted from financial support of €1.6 million divided among them, to help pay for their rent.

"By the end of the month we will also provide support to businesses, through the payment of half of their electricity bills for the months June-August."

"This is how we must keep moving forward, through the principle of standing alongside businesses and the people to safeguard growth and jobs." He went on to mention a number of schemes that had been introduced by Malta Enterprise.

"We will soon see an announcement made regarding the manufacturing sector, where a big local company will make an investment resulting in the creation of 100 new quality manufacturing jobs."

Turning to the Opposition, he said that they lost their credibility when speaking about the economy. He mentioned a proposal that was made by a PN spokesperson, regarding the increase in price of sea transport due to the pandemic, who had mentioned the idea of creating a €40 million fund to tackle this problem. "One can speak about this concept. But when you look at what they said after that, regarding the effects of such a fund, you realise how they don't have a basic idea as to how the economy works. They said that the investment would result in a value added and GDP increase of 10%, which is absurd. To say that a €40 million investment would have value added of 35% more, is not realistic."

Abela turned to job creation, and said that during the pandemic, Malta managed to create 9,000 new jobs. "Be sure that the PN will say that they were all government jobs, that will be their narrative. But the numbers don't lie, and they show that for every job in the public sector, we had 8 in the private sector, during a pandemic year. So it was mainly the private sector that led to the creation of so many jobs."

"If analysing the creation of public sector jobs, we see that for every 10 people brought into the public sector, nine went to the education and health sectors."

Abela spoke about the meeting he held with the Prime Minister of Libya.

While they did speak about irregular migration, Abela said that other themes were given more prominence, such as healthcare, the Covid vaccine, education, investment, and how Malta can contribute and help train Libyan professionals.

 "The fact that irregular immigration was not a main discussion point is the fruit of the work we have done in this sector."

He said that consistent work led to a substantial reduction in irregular migration arrivals this summer. "The work with the Libyan authorities was positive and left the results we wanted."

He said that the main discussion with the Libyan PM was over the way Malta views Libya. "Firstly, there was the common principle of stability in the country." He said that if there isn't stability in Libya, there will be problems, not only for Libya.

Abela said that to have peace and stability in Europe, you must have peace and stability in the Mediterranean and North Africa.

Abela said that Malta is sending this message consistently in European fora. "A crucial factor will be how the Libyan elections are held." He said that there must be stability, and that the process that leads to elections and reforms in Libya must be Libyan owned and led. "They cannot be the fruit of foreign interference, but must be a Libyan led process."

Another message Malta sent within the EU fora is not to view Libya as just part of the migration phenomenon. "Let us also see it as the country of opportunities." He said that Malta will be one of the first countries to again open the doors for Libyan businesses and students to come and invest in Malta. There are reciprocal opportunities." He mentioned two particular sectors that are of interest for Maltese companies in Libya - health and renewable energy.

"In order for there to be reciprocal investment, you need connectivity. There is no point in speaking about direct investment if connectivity is not restored."

"Our Aviation authorities signed an MoU so that, as quickly as possible, we would see direct flights between the two countries resume."

He said that the Libyan PM chose Malta as one of the first countries he visited. "Months ago we promised the Libyan authorities that we will be their voice in the EU and we kept that promise, which as appreciated by Libya."


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