[WATCH] Robert Abela announces €1.8 billion rescue package to mitigate coronavirus crisis

The Prime Minister has announced several measures to help improve liquidity for companies and sustain worker wages to help companies retain people in employment

Prime Minister Robert Abela
Prime Minister Robert Abela

A rescue package worth €1.8 billion has been unveiled to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on the economy.

The package was announced by Prime Minister Robert Abela, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna and Economy Minister Silvio Schembri during a press conference at Castille on Wednesday night.

Abela said that though these were generous measures, anyone who is able to attend work should do so until the Superintendence of Public Health said otherwise.

"This isn't the time for a holiday. Anyone who could report to work should do so. This is a time for discipline," he said.

During the conference, Schembri also announced that Malta will no longer accept applications for work from unskilled third-country nationals "with immediate effect."

The key measures are:

  • €1.6 billion in liquidity for companies: €700 million in tax deferrals and €900 million in guarantees
  • The €900 million in government guarantees to companies are expected to open up the availability of credit and loans to the tune of €4.5 billion that would give companies additional liquidity
  • Health authorities allocated additional budget of €35 million to combat Covid-19.
  • Quarantine leave: Government to pay companies €350 per employee on quarantine leave.
  • Government will cover additional two months leave for parent who has to stay at home to take care of the children as a result of school closures with an €800 per month benefit.
  • A company registering 25% less sales will benefit from 1 day per week per employee. This amounts to around €37 per week, equivalent to around €147 per month per employee. Measure is capped at €800 per month.
  • A business that was asked to close as part of the Covid-19 measures will get 2 days of assistance per week per employee. This is equivalent to €300 per month per employee.
  • A self-employed person will get the same amount.
  • A self-employed person who also employs others will get 3 days per week of assistance for himself and 2 days per week for every employee.
  • A Maltese or EU citizen who becomes redundant will get €800 per month as unemployment benefit.
  • A third country national who becomes unemployed will get no financial assistance but JobsPlus will help to find alternative work.
  • People in rental property and who lose their job and did not qualify for rent subsidy, will now benefit from the scheme.
  • Foreign workers: A company that makes anybody redundant cannot apply for a work permit for a third country national. Malta will stop accepting new third country national work permit applications.

Opposition Leader Adrian Delia had a brusque response to the measures announced by the government. On Twitter, he wrote: "This is not a mini-budget but a minimum budget."

He went on to say that the government was paying more money to American healthcare network, Steward, than on increasing protection against the coronavirus. 

The audited accounts of the healthcare company that runs three hospitals - Karin Grech, St Luke's hospital and Gozo General Hospital - show that the company's directors received €6 million in remuneration, and that there were also "other expenses" of €24 million.