Coronavirus rescue package is a work-in-progress, Evarist Bartolo says

Foreign Affairs Minister Evarist Bartolo says government's rescue package will continue to evolve as he sounds the ominous warning that Malta's open economy will be greatly impacted by the Covid-19 epidemic

 Foreign Affairs Minister Evarist Bartolo
Foreign Affairs Minister Evarist Bartolo

Government's coronavirus aid package to businesses is still a work-in-progress and will continue to evolve, Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo said, acknowledging that Malta's economy will take a massive beating because of its open nature.

Bartolo was aked to comment about the financial rescue package announced last week to mitigate the effects of the crisis. Not all businesses and workers will benefit from the highest level of aid - €800 per employee per month - a prospect that could see layoffs in certain sectors.

“Our package is an evolving package, it’s not a static thing. All the countries in the world have developed strategies to help their economies; we’re doing the same and we will continue to do so. There is no sector that hasn’t been affected. We have a tough job, and an even tougher job than most countries because we depend on other nations for our economic wellbeing,” he said.

The Covid-19 epidemic will greatly impact Malta’s economy and the island stands to be the hardest hit at this time, he added.

Bartolo said Malta’s fate is tied to what the rest of the world is doing. “We are the most affected country in terms of the economy because our fate is tied to whatever the rest of the world is doing. We are completely open to exportation and importation. We cannot live without exports and imports," he said.

The Foreign Minister noted that Malta never produced enough food for all its people, a situation that could become problematic if other countries introduce export restrictions.

"We risk isolation. For us, globalisation isn’t an ideology but a necessity and that whatever other countries decide to do will have a lasting effect on Malta’s economy," Bartolo said.

He compared the coronavirus crisis to the last world war and said that the economy now would probably take longer to resuscitate. 

He added that Malta was doing its bit to help other countries by repatriating a number of citizens to Spain, Italy, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Egypt and others. 

Thousands, he said, had already been repatriated but there were thousands more that were stranded on foreign soil. 

“Germany is currently helping us so that Maltese people stranded in other parts of the world where Lufthansa operates are being brought back. Solidarity is important at this time, especially when 199 countries have had cases of this deadly virus,” he said, lamenting that most countries in the EU had already proved too thrifty by refusing to export certain medical equipment

Bartolo appealed for the Maltese to stay at home and was disappointed to see that many were still out and about and not heeding the advice of the health authorities.

“It’s not OK to not take this seriously and to go out as if nothing’s happening. This is the biggest threat to our health. All one has to do is to look at Spain and Italy. If that doesn’t make us cautious, I don’t know what will,” he said.