50% of Gozo businesses fear closing down over Covid-19 – GBC survey

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Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

50% of those who responded to a survey by the Gozo Business Chamber said that they will have to close down when asked what measures are being planned if the outbreak of the Covid-19 persists.

On Tuesday, the number of individuals found to be infected with coronavirus stood at 38 with the youngest among the group being a 3-year-old boy. Since the first case, only two individuals have completely recovered and tested twice negative in two separate tests carried out 24 hours apart.

In a statement, the Gozo Business Chamber said that it held a short survey to analyse the situation among Gozitan entrepreneurs given the current situation in Malta. The Chamber called on the government to consult with Gozitan institutions so that a specific package is drawn up to aid businesses on the sister island with immediate effect.

Earlier on Tuesday Partit Nazzjonalista in a press conference called on the government to ensure that jobs are safeguarded and warned that mass layoffs could transform a public health crisis into an economic one.

Survey

The entrepreneurs who took the survey, work in different industries including tourism (37%), importing / wholesaling / retailing (23%), construction (6%), financial / insurance / legal / health and other professional services (13%), manufacturing / exporting (4%), transport (2%) and other (15%).

70.8% of the respondents said that the coronavirus outbreak has affected them very negatively. When asked about the measures they plan to take if the outbreak persists 8.3% of the respondents highlighted that there were no measures planned, 41.7% said that if it persists they would have to scale down their operations, 33.3% said that they would have to downsize their workforce and 50% said that they will have to close down.

Reacting to the measures announced by the government last Saturday, 6% said that the measures were enough. 63% said that the measures were insufficient and had no impact on the businesses while 31% of the respondents said that more could be done.

62.5% of the Gozitan entrepreneurs said that shouldering quarantine leave by the employer will have a very negative effect on their business while 12.5% said that this will have no impact on their businesses.

A specific aid package for Gozitan businesses

93.8% of those who took the survey said a specific aid package for Gozitan businesses should be formulated.

The main challenges being faced by the Gozitan businesses include cash flow and the ability to retain employees. Tourism has already been impacted as bookings dipped instantly. Operators in the importation and distribution sectors highlighted the negative effects on the sector, given the challenges already being faced due to Gozo’s double insularity.

The Gozo Business Chamber put forward a number of proposals to ensure that SMEs and operators in Gozo remain viable during this difficult period. The proposals include:

  • Wages subsidized to ensure that they retain their workforce
  • Quarantine leave should be paid by the government
  • From March onward and for long as this situation subsists, employers are only bound to pay 50% of NI contributions
  • Grants and loans at subsidized rates should be offered to businesses to remain afloat
  • A specific incentive package for Gozitan businesses should be formulated to make up for the extra difficulties and disadvantages being faced by Gozitan operators
  • VAT on invoices charged should be payable, when the amount is actually received from the client

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