Sleeping with the enemy | Edward Zammit Lewis

This crisis can also be seen as a ‘test’ on all of us to refocus our work and priorities for a new vision of a better society in the future

There’s no doubt that we are passing through unprecedented and very challenging times. We are combating an invisible and somewhat unknown enemy, not knowing when it will leave us, its strength, whom it will hit and whether it is brought to our homes by our loved ones. Literally we are ‘sleeping with the enemy’.

We have inevitably experienced the first deaths in Malta. This ‘battle’ with the enemy is disrupting our daily lives. This is the moment when we must return to our roots, and together evaluate the best response collectively and win this battle together, to continue moving ahead with our respective lives. When this crisis is over, the probability is that not everything will be as we knew it before, but we still have to take all the necessary precautions together with required actions for both short and long terms.

We need to be clear – there will not be a day when we will announce that everything is back to normal, and our lives can go back with the flick of a finger. We will be shaping our lives with new measures, we will start seeing things and do things differently, before we can continue with what we consider ‘normal’.

The economy

We have extensively debated on whether the various positive measures announced by Government, three different financial aid packages, are sufficient or not.

Though encouraging measures were announced by the Prime Minister, there’s no doubt that we cannot address the concerns and losses of every person at once.

It was a moment of national pride to watch all the social partners within the MCESD when Prime Minister, Dr Robert Abela, was introducing a new social pact. We will all be foolish to think that it is appropriate to gain partisan political advantage out of this extraordinary moment. We must all do our part. Instead of being divided, it is now the time to show what we really stand for. People right now don’t care about partisan politics, but are simply interested in when and how we can return to our normal daily lives, and without having to constantly worry about their health, and the health of their loved ones.

When our children will be looking back at us and when history will be written, we must all be remembered as the generation that was united in managing an unprecedented crisis, in defending the health of all the population and in safeguarding, as much as possible, jobs. Now is the moment of truth. One for all and all for one, to overcome this challenge successfully.

I am highly confident that all the enterprises, SMEs, micro-enterprises and the whole business community are able to somewhat weather the crisis in the short term, especially after so many years of wealth creation and economic growth. We have a capable business community who is formidable in adapting to adverse circumstances. Government is helping and will help to overcome this cruel enemy.

The commercial banks must do their part too. While we fully comprehend the rules and restrictions on the banking sector, it is clear that the European Central Bank (ECB) already announced that it will give leeway to commercial banks to support businesses and citizens in such delicate times, something which we are already witnessing. Having such incentives in place should place us back on track when all the COVID-19 is over.

With this in mind, the government published rules providing for credit and financial institutions licensed by the Malta Financial Services Authority to provide a six-month repayment moratorium for borrowers negatively impacted by COVID-19. This will definitely be another initiative towards giving a sigh of relief to Maltese citizens not only concerned about their health, but who are facing financial difficulties.

IIP

It is exactly in these circumstances that we recognise how beneficial such a decision to establish the Individual Investor Programme was way back more than six years ago. This led to the setting up of the National Development & Social Fund and the National Development Bank. We are able to tap into such funds, now that this is required by all. Nonetheless, we still need to ensure that such funds are utilised adequately and at the right time, as it is unwise to go on spending all available funds, when we are not sure how long this situation will last.

Priorities

In the next few months we will probably not be able to resume to the lifestyle we were used to before, but we must still guarantee what is essential to ensure everyone moves forward, albeit adapting to new circumstances. Essential services must continue operating, and we require a collective effort to recognise the ‘new’ priorities and from there continue building consistently.

Now, we need to examine the situation in all its facets and re-tune our national priorities, even for our future generations. This crisis can also be seen as a ‘test’ on all of us to refocus our work and priorities for a new vision of a better society in the future.

Our business community plays an important role. However, we must remember that the backbone of our society is the family. We must and will ensure that the basic needs of each and every family are fulfilled. This is why we the latest set of measures are specifically targeted towards families as they play a key role now, and will post crisis.

Solidarity

These are the times to ensure we support each other as a wide community. Many of us were used to act and think solely in a self-centred manner, but this is the time to reverse this. We need to recognize that we are all on the same boat and need each other now more than ever before.

We need to all work together – government, businesses, unions, families and individuals. In this manner, we can win this battle and furthermore build a better society and community again based on mutual respect and values. From there, we can work together to also resume the economic strength we were used to and ensuring that everyone, absolutely everyone, will enjoy a better quality of life.

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