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Third economic measures package gets first nod by Chamber of SMEs

Opposition says circa 100,000 people are being treated as “second-class workers”.

Following scrutiny of the government’s last two business assistance packages, on Tuesday the Chamber of Small and Medium Enterprises welcomed the “positive” third package of economic measures announced by the government.

“We welcome today’s announcement in principle as a very good first step that fulfilled part of the request that we have presented to the Prime Minister,” the Chamber of SMEs said in a statement.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Robert Abela announced that all employed workers in industries that are being forced to close because of the COVID-19 situation will be guaranteed €1,200 per month following an agreement between the government and private industries.

The State would provide each full time worker in critical industries with €800 while private industries will get at least another €400. Part timers will be given €500 by the government. This package accounts for approximately 60,000 workers and includes industries such as wholesalers, hospitality, retail, transport, travel, security, beauty, arts and entertainment.

The Chamber had slammed the first measures and strongly voiced its concern that they were “in no way close to what businesses need to sustain jobs”.  The second measures in the form of a €1.8 billion rescue package were slammed by the Chamber as being “very ill-fitting” and “flashy figures” but adding up to “little once you work it out”, especially when compared to other countries.

The Chamber said the majority of sectors have suffered a close to complete drop in business overnight. The measures should give the necessary lifeline for the coming months for businesses which are in desperate need.

It added that it was fully aware that there were other organisations and individuals that needed help and it would continue to voice concerns.

The Chamber went on to list other measures which now need focus, including support from banks for general moratoria and revision of interest rates and tackling problems associated with rents and other running costs.

During Tuesday’s announcement, measures revealed also included those to help other industries which were impacted but did not stop working in light of COVID-19, in which one-fifth of the €800 benefit would be allocated, while self-employed people are entitled to €800 per month. Workers in Gozo will be entitled to a two-fifth benefit.

Meanwhile, some 94,000 workers who work in a number of industries such as IT, construction or gaming will so far not be receiving benefits.

The agreement was reached together with the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development (MCESD).

In a reaction, the Nationalist Party said that approximately 100,000 people were being treated as “second-class workers” by the government. It said a number of workers would not be covered by the measures, despite also suffering as a result of the crisis.

“The government can and do so much more,” the Opposition said in a statement following the press conference.

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