Watch: Government not committed to launch a fresh voucher scheme – Abela

Online conference: Supporting SMEs - The Backbone of Malta’s Future

Online conference: Supporting SMEs - The Backbone of Malta’s Future

Posted by Malta Chamber of SMEs on Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The government is not committed to relaunching the voucher scheme in the upcoming budget, Prime Minister Robert Abela said on Thursday.

Abela was interviewed by Malta Chamber of SMEs CEO Abigail Mamo during ‘Supporting SMEs – The Backbone of Malta’s Future’ online conference.

During the interview, Abela hailed the success of the voucher scheme, noting that under some 60% of the vouchers generated the same expenditure as 40,000 tourists did in August 2019. He remarked that the government was neither committed nor excluding the possibility of having vouchers distributed to the population.

Reopening of schools is an important milestone

Among other topics discussed during the interview, Abela also spoke about the reopening of schools, saying that he considered it as an important milestone.

Schools were closed down at the beginning of the pandemic and teaching has subsequently moved online. The prime minister maintained that the months lost are irreplaceable and would not recovered.

He underlined that the educational development of children is important as much as safeguarding their health.

‘We cannot afford to lose a generation,’ he said, adding that by adjusting to the new reality and following the necessary protocols schools will operate in this new context.

Budget: An opportunity to introduce new schemes and modify existing ones

New schemes will be introduced in the next budget, while existing ones will be modified in order to adapt to this new era, Economy Minister Silvio Schembri said as he described the upcoming budget as an opportunity.

Addressing the conference on Thursday morning, Schembri compared the local situation to that experienced abroad. He remarked that unlike the global trend, Malta’s unemployment has resumed a downward trend since June.

The minister said that the government is committed to continue assisting SMEs, noting that they have managed to increase their share in the country’s value added.

Schembri also highlighted the need to re-engineer businesses making them greener and moving more towards a digital business. He stressed that this was a time to reskill the workforce and upgrade its competences.

€200 million spent on Covid-19 Wage Supplement

€200 million were spent on the Covid-19 Wage Supplement, Malta Enterprise CEO Kurt Farrugia said during an online conference organised by Malta Chamber of SMEs in conjunction with Business 1st on Thursday.

In an interview hosted by Fabian Demicoli as part of ‘Supporting SMEs – The Backbone of Malta’s Future’ online conference, Farrugia and Business 1st CEO Marika Tonna were interviewed on the impact coronavirus had on businesses.

During the interview, Farrugia noted that a government would normally have a €300 million budget spend on various measures for the whole year. he added that instead, with the outbreak of the coronavirus, the government spent €200 million on the Covid-19 Wage Supplement alone. Some 85% of those who benefited from the scheme were micro, small and medium enterprises, the Malta Enterprise CEO observed.

The scheme was launched to help businesses retain their employees and prevent redundancies.

“The major positive outcome of the scheme was that we managed to keep people in employment,” Farrugia said.

By remaining in employment, people had the spending power to re-invest the money into our economy, he maintained.

Speaking about the businesses participating in the scheme, Farrugia noted that some businesses only requested the wage supplement for a few months and informed the Malta Enterprise that they did not require it any longer.

It also emerged that more than 3,600 individuals benefited from the quarantine leave.

Farrugia hailed the teleworking scheme as being very successful with over 500 businesses benefiting from the scheme.

Time to rethink our economic model

Farrugia said that the pause offered by the coronavirus pandemic should be turned into an opportunity.

Is the mass tourism model enough to go forward, he asked, adding that maybe this was a time to re-think the economic model and move to a more sustainable and greener economic model.

Farrugia remarked that Malta Enterprise would be diverting its schemes and focusing on re-engineering of businesses.

Uncertainty is bad for businesses – Chamber President

Uncertainty is bad for businesses, the Malta Chamber of SMEs President Paul Abela said in his opening address.

Commenting on the format of the conference, Abela said that he missed having an audience, adding that such conferences usually served as a networking opportunity.

Abela spoke about how coronavirus has wreaked havoc on businesses saying that the impact exceeded that of the 2008 global financial crisis.

The public health emergency has also given rise to a lot of uncertainty, as it remains unclear when we will be able to turn the page, Abela remarked.

‘We know that the economy is not doing well. We need to take stock of the current situation, and devise plans in the short and medium term,’ the Chamber’s president said.

He urged businesses to use this time of uncertainty to re-think their business strategies, as he urged businesses to come together and work as a whole.

Abela also noted that Malta has suffered from the impact that coronavirus had on tourism and on which Malta is heavily dependent on. Everyone benefits from tourism, whether directly or indirectly, he remarked.

A new holistic online portal

Works on a holistic online portal aimed at businesses and bringing together all government entities on one platform are underway, Business 1st CEO Marika Tonna said during the interview.

Speaking about the main challenges businesses faced during the first outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Tonna said that these were associated with uncertainty – as no one knows how long the pandemic will last – and the lack of cash flow since businesses were previously experiencing a boom and were focused on re-investing their profit. She also noted that coronavirus pandemic affected business owners psychologically.

Chamber gets new website

The Malta Chamber of SMEs launched a new online platform, which was partly financed through funds from the European Social Funds.

The new website was launched by the Chamber’s vice president Marcel Mizzi. It will contain an area for its members who will have access to more resources.