Chamber study says coronavirus measures 'positive' but more support needed

The Chamber of Commerce says that businesses should plan appropriately for a long period of economic closure, even beyond summer

File photo
File photo

The latest study commissioned by the Chamber of Commerce found that the government measures to mitigate the COVID-19 crisis were "positive" but more support is needed to sustain businesses and employment.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Chamber said that it had reached out to its members to obtain feedback on the effects of the coronavirus on their businesses while gauging the suitability or otherwise of the latest support measures announced by government on 24 March.

"Compared to a previous survey conducted between 20 and 23 March, the forecasts for redundancies as extrapolated on a national level appear to have been attenuated by almost one half. In fact, the latest forecast now stands at around 23,000 workers as compared to 45,000 two weeks ago," the Chamber said.

It added that this outcome would seem to indicate that the measures put in place so far have had a positive impact on businesses, especially those operating in the hospitality sector, restaurants and non-essential retail segments but that it simultaneously indicated that more support is needed in other sectors.

"It’s also clear that around one quarter of survey respondents were eligible for the maximum amount of support under the Malta Enterprise Covid-19 wage supplement, also known as Annex A, and these reported less redundancies than two weeks ago. The remaining three-quarters of respondents either do not qualify for the wage subsidy scheme or currently fall under the so-called Annex B, which covers up to €160 of an employee's monthly salary.

"It is clear that a number of operators in these last two categories need similar assistance to that covered by Annex A. Otherwise, these companies will have no choice but to let their employees go or risk folding up. The largest number of redundancies are forecast in the Wholesale and Retail Trade followed by Manufacturing, Education, Construction and Real Estate, Accommodation and Food Service, Transport and Logistics, Professional Services, and Other Services."

As a result, the Chamber said that it has made fresh proposals for support to be provided to all businesses irrespective of the economic sector they operate in.

"The Chamber has maintained that any support given should be based on the loss of turnover they are currently experiencing when compared to the corresponding period last year. There is reason to believe that the reported decline in redundancy expectations may be influenced by an imprudent assumption that business will return back to normality before summer."

The Chamber said that it was duty bound to inform its member that this would most likely not be the case and that they should plan appropriately for a long period of economic closure by reaching out for the support available.

"They should also be innovative in adapting their businesses to ensure relevance during and after the Covid-19 pandemic," it said.