Delia scoffs at €175m direct aid, ‘Steward paid €70 million alone for hospitals’

Opposition Leader Adrian Delia says that the government will only be injecting a maximum of €175 million in direct assistance to businesses

Opposition Leader Adrian Delia
Opposition Leader Adrian Delia

Opposition Leader Adrian Delia has accused the government of spending just €175 million in direct relief to businesses during the coronavirus crisis, when it will be spending €70 million to pay Steward Healthcare to run three state hospitals. 

Delia latched on to the Steward concession in his criticism of Robert Abela’s relief budget for the COVID-19 crisis, saying the government will be paying the Maltese health sector €35 million as part of its €1.8 billion package. 

“It pales in comparison to what Abela is paying Steward healthcare,” Delia said of the American healthcare company  contracted to operate three hospitals. 

Prime Minister Robert Abela announced a mini-budget to mitigate the coronavirus crisis on Wednesday, a budget of €1.81 billion. “The amount that will be spent on health, in this most dire of times, is meaningless, especially knowing that in 2020 the government will be handing Steward €70 million, more than half of what the government will spend on the entire health sector,” Delia said. 

Delia insisted that the €1.81 billion care package only translated into a maximum of €175 million in direct assistance. 

“This amount is not enough. It’s clear that €700 million are just tax deferrals, a tax moratorium on income… this during a time when most businesses are trying to see how they can remain afloat. This is tax which still has to be paid, it's just postponed. 

“Our companies are not thinking about sales or income at this point but simply how to keep afloat. The tax deferral measure is a measure that will apply to companies that will no longer exist in a few months’ time,” Delia said. 

Speaking on loan guarantees, Delia said that the figure here was also disappointing. 

“The government will also guarantee up to 20% of loans to companies. Who will guarantee the other 80%? Remember that this is the same government that gave one company, Electrogas, a guarantee of €360 million,” he said. 

He urged the government to increase spending, especially in the healthcare sector. 

“The €1.81 billion spend is a joke. It’s not true. The government will only be spending €175 million directly and this is inadequate to save jobs and thousands of employees who work in various economic sectors that have been hit,” Mario de Marco, shadow finance minister, said. 

Delia added that government spending on Maltese businesses at this point should not be considered expenditure, but an investment that will make sure the economy stays afloat. 

He said that the Opposition has asked for Covid-19 measures to be discussed in parliament but that, following discussions, the government announced the economic measures without consulting the Opposition. “We weren’t aware of these measures. What's the point of discussions then?”