MEA calls for revision in utility rates for households and businesses

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The Malta Employers’ Association has called on the government to review utility rates for both businesses and households with immediate effect.

In a statement on Tuesday, the MEA put forward a number of measures which could be adopted in view of the international economic crisis sparked by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. The measures put forward include waiving of rent for factories experiencing difficulties, reduction of salaries for public employees who are idle and a call to extend the wage supplement to cover more sectors and employees.

US oil prices turned negative for the first time after oil producers ran out of space to store the oversupply of crude oil left by the crisis. This has triggered a historic market collapse. The price of US crude oil crashed from $18 a barrel to -$38 in a matter of hours. The coronavirus pandemic has crushed the demand in global energy markets. Several countries have implemented lockdowns in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus and bring the situation under control.

MEA noted that the international price of oil stood less than $5 a barrel and is the lowest in decades. It said that the current oil price was not reflected in the current rates. While shops offering non-essential services have been closed down, many companies have asked their employees to work from home. This is leading to households consuming more energy since they are spending time at home.

The MEA also suggested that training grants should be more flexible and enhanced. The 21 day notification for application acceptance needs to be shortened for companies to be more motivated to train their people, the association underlined. It also suggested that specific grants for online training can be introduced.

The association called on the government to extend the wage supplements to cover more employees and sectors. In some cases, there is an anomaly whereby employees are applying pressure on their employer to be made redundant since the unemployment benefit exceeds the supplement they will get if they remain in employment.

Another proposal includes a temporary waiving of rent for factories facing difficulties and the reduction of salaries of employees in the public sector who are idle. The MEA said that on the other hand, employees in the health sector should be awarded a special bonus.

The MEA said that employers have done their utmost to prevent mass redundancies. It underlined that employers are aware that the economic and social consequences of the coronavirus crisis have the potential of being as devastating as the health aspect, and are postponing layoffs as much as possible.

The government has announced various schemes to assist businesses during this unprecedented crisis. However businesses expect that the negative effects of the outbreak will be felt for months to come in certain sectors.

The MEA said that the classification of companies by NACE codes in two groups has worked as an immediate measure, yet numerous companies that fall in Appendix B category have also had their operations at a standstill, perhaps even more so than those others who are eligible for the benefits offered to those falling under Appendix A. The association urged that the schemes are rethought and to adopt a case by case approach in order to mitigate the impact of the economic crisis on businesses and families.

PN calls for an immediate decrease in electricity, water and fuel tariffs

Partit Nazzjonalista stated that the government had no more excuses to keep it from lowering the utility bills after international oil prices crashed.

The Opposition has called on to government for an immediate decrease in electricity, water and fuel tariffs in the light of the health department instructions to stay at home during the coronavirus outbreak and the lowest international oil prices since 1983.

In a statement signed by the Opposition spokesperson for Energy, Ryan Callus, Partit Nazzjonalista noted that the oil prices have slumped to a record low after oil producers ran out of space to store the oversupply of crude left by the coronavirus crisis.

The Opposition reiterated its call urging the government to slash utility by half.

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