Gozitan business owners have dismissed a financial aid package announced this week as a “total non-starter” and say they feel they have been “left alone” by the government as they struggle to stay afloat. 

In a joint statement, the Gozo Business Chamber and Gozo Tourism Association said Gozo had been dealt a “mortal blow” by an almost-total halt in business caused by measures to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. 

The associations reiterated their call, made earlier this week, for Gozo-specific measures to help businesses on Malta’s sister island. On Wednesday, prime minister Robert Abela had said he saw no need to have special arrangements for Gozo and said he was confident Gozitan business owners would be pleased with the financial aid on offer. 

That prediction does not appear to have materialised.

“The incentives announced are a non-starter and will not contribute in any way to make up for the business lost through the pandemic that has hit the islands,” the two associations said. 

They made a series of proposals: 

• Government to pay “at least” the minimum wage for every private sector employee forced to stop working due to the coronavirus pandemic;

• Find ways of reducing its oil, gas and electricity costs to better reflect current global prices;
• A moratorium on utility bills, rents and dues owed to government entities;

• Coordination with local banks to ensure access to international funds;

• Clearer explanation of how loan guarantees will be structured;

• Accelerated payment of government dues owed to businesses;

• A clear explanation of how businesses can access incentives and measures announced. 

“This is the moment of truth for businesses on the islands,” the associations said. 

“If government does not act with expeditiousness we risk losing what many people have been building up strenuously over the last decades, against all odds.”

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