Schembri overshadowed by Muscat’s new economic role: ‘I consult with many people’

Economy Minister Silvio Schembri downplays Joseph Muscat's role in drawing up Malta's post-COVID strategy, insisting the government is consulting with several parties

Economy Minister Silvio Schembri was speaking during a press conference on COVID-19 financial measures
Economy Minister Silvio Schembri was speaking during a press conference on COVID-19 financial measures

Silvio Schembri has downplayed the role Joseph Muscat is playing in mapping out a strategy for Malta's economy to emerge from the situation caused by COVID-19.

The Economy Minster said that Muscat was just one of many people, including representatives of the social partners and the Opposition, with whom he had been holding discussions in the past days on the economic way forward.

In a nine-page report compiled by “the office of Dr Joseph Muscat”, the former prime minister, who resigned in the wake of investigations into Daphne Caruana Galizia's assassination, gave Cabinet ministers a note on the possible evolution of the Maltese economy in 2020 and 2021. 

Asked by MaltaToday whether Muscat's involvement was subverting his own role as a minister responsible for the economy, Schembri insisted this was not so, as he stressed that the government was open to listening to the advice of those who wanted to contribute with a view towards overcoming the coronavirus challenge.

"We have always said that ours is a party which is open for everyone. Joseph Muscat is like the many others with whom I've held discussions. We can't doubt Muscat's attributes... like other economists, one keep giving their contribution," he said.

Pressed on the matter, Schembri - who was speaking during a press conference on Friday in which he gave an update on COVID-19 measures, reiterated that the country, like all others across the world, was currently facing a major challenge, and that the focus should not be on a meeting held with Muscat but on dealing with the situation.

"I met over 40 people yesterday, including the SMEs Chamber and Chamber of Commerce... does this mean these are all government consultants? Let's surpass this level of politics..." he said.

"The fact the press is so worried about a meeting with Muscat means we really don't have much to worry about in this country."

No public funds used to boost social media promotions

In a reaction to a report by Standards Commissioner George Hyzler, which concluded that the use of public resources by ministers to boost their social media post was abusive, Schembri said that he had personally not used any public funds for such reasons.

"I have no problem with refunding the money for Facebook posts, because I did not spend a cent on this. I did not use public funds to boost any Facebook post," he said.

€33.6 million disbursed to date in COVID-19 full wage supplements

Schembri said that, to date, €33.6 million in government funds had been disbursed to employees receiving the full COVID-19 wage supplement.

Workers falling under Annex A of the government's financial aid package are entitled to a five days' salary based on a monthly wage of €800 or €500 if they are part-timers.

(Source: Malta Enterprise)
(Source: Malta Enterprise)

An additional €1.5 million have been so far disbursed in terms of the partial wage supplement for employees falling under Annex B

Appeals process for financial aid evaluation

Malta Enterprise CEO Kurt Farrugia said that those employers who were not happy with the evaluation of their application for financial aid would be entitled to an appeals process

"In the comings days we will announce in greater detail how companies can appeal from a decision about financial aid," he said.