Malta could extend its wage supplement scheme for industries worst impacted by the COVID-19 crisis beyond September, Prime Minister Robert Abela has suggested.
Asked by Lovin Malta during an interview yesterday whether this scheme will be extended, Abela said he is determined to preserve people’s jobs and see Malta’s unemployment rate keep declining.
“We cannot have a strong economy if we don’t care about public health and public health cannot be safeguarded without a strong economy,” he said.
“We launched effective measures to preserve people’s jobs in recent months and in the coming weeks and months we must consider the circumstances and ensure that the situation we worked towards, that of preserving jobs, remains intact.”
“Not only were jobs preserved but unemployment has been declining since June.”
The wage supplement scheme, through which the government is paying businesses up to €800 per worker, was originally set to last till the end of September. However, Malta’s economy, in particular the tourism sector, has since faced a blow after several countries imposed travel restrictions on the island due to a surge in COVID-19 cases. The Nationalist Party has urged the government to extend the wage supplement scheme till the end of March.
Despite countries closing their doors to Malta, Abela defended the government’s overall management of the pandemic since March.
“There were things we could have done better but this was something that hit the whole world all of a sudden and we didn’t have a manual for how to tackle it,” he said.
The Prime Minister urged people to look at the full picture, not only at the recent rise in the infection rate but also at the low mortality and hospitalisation rates, the high testing rate, and the fact that around 100 patients recovered between Friday and Saturday.
“It was inevitable that the numbers were going to rise the moment we opened Malta up from its bubble on 1st July,” he said. “There will be a rise in the infection rate the moment you allow tens of thousands of tourists in the country, but let’s not only talk about the infection rate but about the fact that infections are light and that our healthcare system is strong and resilient.”
Should Malta extend the wage supplement scheme beyond September?