Former prime minister Joseph Muscat is among a small team of advisors being consulted to help draft Malta’s post-COVID-19 economic recovery plan. 

Muscat, who is now a backbench Labour MP, was seen leaving the Auberge de Castille on Monday night, and sources told Times of Malta on Tuesday that the former prime minister had been in an “hours-long” meeting with his successor Robert Abela. 

Kurt Farrugia, the head of Malta Enterprise and Muscat's former spokesman was also at the meeting along with Economy Minister Silvio Schembri and OPM chief  of staff Clyde Caruana - the former head of Malta’s employment agency. 

Government sources told Times of Malta that over the past two weeks, a group of advisors have been hashing out a series of possible measures to help the country get back on its feet after the Coronavirus pandemic has been snubbed out. 

Industry stakeholders in a number of fields have also been consulted.

A 'mini-budget' and possible tax break for property sales

The recovery plan, sources said, will include a suite of measures described as “a mini-budget”, that will be rolled out in stages over the coming months. 

Among the long list of potential measures on the table, for instance, is a possible tax holiday on property sales and purchases intended to stimulate the housing market, sources said. 

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Advisors, however, are split on the idea - which is being pushed by developers and investors - as some in the government fear the repercussions of over-stimulating the property market too soon after the virus has been contained. 

Conspicuous by his absence from Monday’s meeting, sources said, was veteran Finance Minister Edward Scicluna who was described as “very worried” about the impact of the pandemic on the country’s economy. 

Further relaxation of restrictions

Meanwhile, the government is also weighing the possibility of relaxing further COVID-19 containment measures in the coming weeks. 

On Friday Prime Minister Abela announced the first round of eased measures which came into effect on Monday. Those new measures allowed a batch of non-essential businesses reopen their doors, but with social distancing enforced.

Sources say that a further relaxation of measures is likely to be announced before the end of May. Reopening restaurants and other catering establishments is expected to feature among the next batch of measures. 

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Bars and restaurants have only been allowed to offer take-away and delivery services in recent weeks, however, the government is considering reopening indoor and outdoor dining and whether to impose limitations on covers - the number of people allowed to be seated at any given time.

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