Chamber of Commerce urges government to issue assistance measures for companies

A woman wears a mask as she walks through the international terminal at LAX airport in Los Angeles
A woman wears a mask as she walks through the international terminal at LAX airport in Los Angeles, California, U.S., amid reports of the coronavirus, March 11, 2020. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry has called on the Government to launch a set of assistance measures for companies in a statement on Thursday. The Chamber said that such measures should come in immediately and without further delay, in order for the companies to weather the initial storm which the coronavirus pandemic is bringing on the Maltese economy.

Two more patients tested positive to coronavirus on Thursday. Prime Minister Robert Abela announced a week closure of all educational institutions starting from Friday.

The Chamber has put forward six proposals. It is understood that these proposals were already put forward by the Chamber during meetings held this week with Prime Minister Robert Abela.

These include:

1) Introducing tax breaks or tax deferrals (in the form or corporate, VAT or excise duties) for companies;

2) Delay payments of commercial utility bills;

3) That Government launches extensive discussions with the major commercial banks in Malta to either suspend commercial loan repayments for those segments affected or that Government offers to act as a guarantor for private enterprise through, for example, the involvement of the Malta Development Bank or any other entities;

4) Any late payments owed to private enterprises involved in public procurement contracts should be paid without any further delay;

5) That a national emergency fund is established to offer state aid to companies which are already facing difficulties in terms of liquidity such as English Language Teaching, hospitality, restaurants and all food and beverage suppliers to these segments amongst others.

6) That some form of assistance to companies similar to the ones offered during the 2008/09 economic crisis and 2011 Libyan crisis should be offered to companies which will not be able to retain their employees on a 40-hour week if the situation persists. This is important in order for companies to retain the employees for the foreseeable future.

“No single country has the necessary resources to deal with this pandemic on its own”

The Chamber called on the Government to push for a concerted effort at a European level with the President of the Commission committing itself to establish a so called Corona Response Investment Initiative to the tune of €25 billion to offer assistance to EU member states in relation to their public health system, vulnerable groups and small and medium enterprises.

“In case, the situation worsens the Government, should be able to tap into these funds to maintain the economy going. The response for COVID-19 cannot be a national prerogative. No single country has the necessary resources to deal with this pandemic on its own. This requires an effort on an international scale,” the Chamber said.

‘Economic measures to support businesses which are being impacted by economic slowdown’

The Economy Ministry said that the government is working to launch significant economic measures to support those businesses which are impacted by economic slowdown.

Speaking during the launch of the 10th edition of the National Enterprise Support Awards (NESA), Economy Minister Silvio Schembri said that Malta is set to face challenges brought about by the novel coronavirus from a “strong” starting point.

“It is challenging times like these that put the government to the test on the ability to devise and support effective economic measures. Malta stands at a strong economic position to do this,” he said.

“The measures that will soon be announced are possible thanks to a mindset which fosters the creation of a surplus that this government has generated over the years, as well as a thriving economy. The decisions taken and those that shall be taken are in the best interest of our country and nation,” the Economy Minister explained.

The supportive economic measures will be in three stages – short-term measures aimed at addressing those businesses with cash-flow problems, as well as medium-term measures and long-term measures to assist those businesses which will be facing decreasing orders for their products and services due to a global economic slowdown emanating from the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as to train their workers and improve competitiveness.

Launch of NESA 2020

Permanent Secretary for the Economy Ministry Nancy Caruana said that the NESA are aimed at promoting entrepreneurship amongst government entities, private entities and NGOs, with a €50,000 fund.

Those eligible to submit their projects which in some way boosted the entrepreneurial spirit include – government ministries and departments, local councils, public authorities and entities, public-private partnerships, NGOs, trade unions, professional associations, public and church schools, public educational institutions, the University of Malta and business organisations.

For more details, one can visit the website.

The deadline to submit applications is Friday, the 17th of April.

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