Lack of discipline will kill businesses faster – David Xuereb

The President of the Malta Camber Perit David Xuereb stressed the need for discipline from businesses and customers alike if the recent relaxation steps taken by the government are to work. Speaking to Newsbook.com.mt, Xuereb was emphatic: lack of discipline at this crucial stage will mean that the recent (and current) sacrifices would possibly have to be repeated. He emphasised also that the Malta Chamber was all for the economic wheel turning again but cautioned that this needs to be made to happen in small steps. ” Re-entry needs to be in bite-sized steps and that all actions need to be responsible and carried through with high doses of discipline from businesses and customers alike,” said Perit Xuereb.

Not an excuse for price orders

In a statement issued Monday morning, the Malta Chamber described the Minister’s move to revert to price orders as unacceptable. “This clearly sets an unnecessary dangerous precedent in the wake of reportedly sufficient stocks of protective masks in the country. The Chamber will strongly oppose price orders issued in times of extraordinary crisis especially when other alternatives available to the Government to support customers and the public at large would have been discounted,” stated the Chamber.

The Chamber said that it is prepared to consult appropriately with the competent authorities in order to give its views and recommendations on the matter with immediate effect but asked for the draconian measure announced yesterday to be withdrawn. Meanwhile, the president of the pharmaceutical section of the Malta Chamber of SMEs, Mario Debono, told Newsbook.com.mt that the price order was based on a 1972 legislation relating to Rationing. He said that EU legislation had made this piece of legislation obsolete but could be re-activated in times of national emergency. Echoing the Malta Chamber, Debono added that price orders are unacceptable.

A healthy economy is based on healthy people

Perit Xuereb said that there is no healthy economy without a healthy population. He acknowledged that the government, like the Malta Chamber, was facing pressures from entrepreneurs to open and re-ignite the economy. “Nonetheless, public health has to take precedence,” insisted Perit Xuereb. On this note, Xuereb also expressed concern on the parameters given by the government for shops to open. He said that the one person per 10 sq m (1:10) has two major defects: several shops are less than 10 sqm (3m x 3m) and secondly, this is far below the threshold recommended by the Malta Chamber at 1:20 and that used abroad of 1:25. He added that there is also a very natural concern that, in this proximity, contagion risk for staff is much higher.

For the smaller shops indeed, say a normal shop of 16 sqm (4m x 4m) this would mean that two people would be within the less than 10m proximity since the salesperson has to be in the shop with the customer. He added that to this cost one should also add that the government had been requested to give businesses 1 clear week to make preparations before relaxing restrictions. This, said Perit Xuereb was not done.

Risk Assessment time

The president of the Malta Chamber said that in the present circumstances, many shops will be assessing their risks and cost with a view to avoiding a potentially bigger blow to their survival if the proximity of staff and clients is perilously close. He added that, in any case, the vast majority of business owners in Malta feel that the ‘feel-good factor’ among the Maltese public has evaporated completely and will take at least months but probably years to recoup.

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