Finance minister’s ominous coronavirus warning: Everybody will suffer

Finance Minister Edward Scicluna says country’s GDP is likely to fall by 10%

The country’s gross domestic product is expected to decrease by 10%, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna said.

Scicluna opened a parliamentary debate on the government’s financial aid package announced on Tuesday.

“There is no doubt that everyone in the country will suffer,” he stated.

The finance minister said that due to the ongoing pandemic situation, whatever decisions the government chooses to pursue, income will decrease.

The budget allocated to 2020 has become “irrelevant” in light of the Covid-19 pandemic Scicluna said, stating that the country needs a supplementary budget.

The finance minister said that through the supplementary budget, over €100 million will be allocated to the health sector.

Edward Scicluna opened his parliamentary speech by stating that no crisis is like the other, and while countries caught with large debts will be on the brink of failure, Malta is not in such a situation.

“Those who laughed at the surplus, have now been given an answer,” he said.

The country’s debt-to GDP ratio currently stands at around 45% according to the minister.

Due to the novelty of the virus, predictions will be carried out on a quarterly basis, with all quarters presenting a different scenario.

On the financial aid package announced on Tuesday, Scicluna reacted to criticism directed at the government for the lack of measures covering employees.

Scicluna said that the first package is what is called “knee-jerk” aid, where the government, in a bid to react swiftly, rolls out measures without consulting experts in a bid to not let the situation get out of hand.

“This was also done by France, Germany and Italy,” he said.

The second and third packages are then issued after consultation with experts.

He also compared Malta’s financial aid package to that of other European countries, with Scicluna insisting that proportionally the country’s assistance is on par with Denmark, whose package is considered to currently be the best.

Scicluna also said that a technical committee will be launched by the government, with the committee analysing the critical situation businesses find themselves in.

Government actions reactive and selective – Opposition leader

Opposition leader Adrian Delia said that the package announced by government on Tuesday was a reactive one.

“Last week the government boasted about its economic package, then after a flurry of negative reactions, issued a new one,” Delia said.

Delia said that because the government was late to react, people have already started losing their jobs, and business have already closed down.

“This shows in how aspects from the measures announced are backdated,” he said.

He compared what he called the late decision, with the government’s hesitation to close down airports.

“Had you taken our suggestion onboard, international transmission would have been much less,” he said.

Delia also called the government’s decisions as selective, stating that out of 25,000 self-employed individuals, only 7,000 will be affected positively by the measures.

He also called out the Prime Minister for bashing a Net News journalist after asking him if the government would opt to lower water and electricity bills.

“So, I ask you here again, why don’t you lower them? Are you not doing it because your hands are tied?” he told the PM.

On the health sector, Delia the hospitals deal with Steward is “not only corruption but immorality”.

“You are letting down the people’s health with that deal,” he said.

Nindirizza il-Parlament.

Posted by Adrian Delia on Wednesday, 25 March 2020

More in National