[WATCH] Silvio Schembri confident economy will return to growth early next year

On TVM’s Xtra, Silvio Schembri shows confidence country will return to growth as early as next year, while Claudio Grech calls for new socio-economic vision for difficult post-COVID reality

Economy Minister Silvio Schembri
Economy Minister Silvio Schembri

The Maltese economy will not only keep afloat but will experience growth next year, Silvio Schembri believes.

The Economy Minister said government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, including the vouchers scheme and the wage supplement, helped save businesses during troubling times.

“We need to look ahead – this pandemic will pass. We will keep the measures, but we need to look forward and I am convinced that we will not just be keeping afloat. Next year we will be seeing economic growth and economic activity again,” Schembri said on TVM’s Xtra last Thursday.

However, Opposition economy spokesperson Claudio Grech painted a far less positive picture of the country’s current economic circumstances.

Opposition economy spokesperson Claudio Grech
Opposition economy spokesperson Claudio Grech

Grech acknowledged that statistical data may give a good impression of the situation but insisted that one cannot look at numbers alone.

“Moving away from numbers and statistics, the truth is that there are a large number of sectors that are going through huge difficulties. We cannot quote statistics to these sectors, we need to see how we’re going to get them through to a post-COVID reality,” he said. 

Grech argued that certain sectors, such as tourism and hospitality, are going through such difficult times that they may not survive the pandemic, even with the aid which the government is currently offering. 

“The aid being given is not sufficient for these sectors… there are a number of sectors that are on the brink of collapse and government has to see if there is additional aid that can be given,” he said.

The Nationalist MP also called for the drafting of a new socio-economic vision for Malta’s future. He argued that the country’s current model is not sustainable, and called for a new framework that prioritises Malta’s international reputation, quality of life, and attracts high-value investment.

“If we want to attract investment of quality – not investment of numbers, not tourism of numbers, but tourism of value within our limitations – we cannot have party tourism, we cannot make of Malta a new Ibiza, because we have our own restrictions of size,” Grech said.

Schembri, on his part, agreed with Grech about the need for further discussion about the state of certain sectors like tourism but dismissed any notions that the government is not thinking about a post-COVID economic framework.

“I initiated an exercise on this very thing the moment that I became economy minister,” he said.

Schembri noted that the first step of this new plan was the €450 million investment in industrial infrastructure that was announced in the economic regeneration plan, which will see an upgrading of all of Malta’s industrial zones so as to attract direct foreign investment of greater quality.

The minister said this exercise is at an advanced stage, and the government will soon be in a position to fully explain its vision with the first details set to be unveiled in Monday’s budget. 

Grech, meanwhile, called for there to be more collaboration between the government and the Opposition in crafting the country’s new socio-economic framework.