The wage subsidy for the sectors most affected by the economic impact of COVID-19 will be retained up to September, Prime Minister Robert Abela announced on Monday.

He also unveiled a series of measures to help affected businesses overcome their current difficulties, including halving electricity tariffs for three months, tax deferrals and a waiving of most trade and tourism licences for a year.

A series of measures to boost public spending, including cheaper fuel and distribution of cash vouchers was also announced (See separate story here).

Abela said the government’s plan for economic regeneration is focused on three areas - keeping businesses going at a time when external demand is down, boosting consumption (encouraging people to spend) and boosting the supply side of the economy by substantial investment to enable Malta to better handle investment once it starts to flow.

“Over the coming years we will be investing €400 million or 3% of GDP on modernisation and development of the infrastructure for tomorrow’s industry, such as by improving or extending industrial estates,” he said. 

The new infrastructure will include a new business industrial sector at the former Marsa landfill. 

Wage subsidy for certain sectors extended

Abela said the €800 per worker per month wage subsidy will be retained till September for sectors worst affected by the consequences of COVID-19: tourist accommodation, travel agencies, language schools, organisers of mass events and air transport.

From July, other sectors currently receiving the €800 a month subsidy will see it reduced to €600 and retained until the end of September.

Businesses which have seen their doors reopened will drop to the so-called Annexe B of eligible companies, receiving a wage subsidy of €160 per worker per month between July and September.  

Abela said that pensioners who also worked, as well as students who also had a job affected by the virus crisis, would also be eligible for a wage supplement till September. 

Cheaper electricity, rents for affected businesses for three months

Electricity tariffs for businesses affected by the impact of COVID-19 will be cut by 50% in July, August and September through a reduction of excise duty up to a maximum of €1,500 per applicant in a measure which will cost the government €30 million.

Rents for the same businesses will be subsidised up to €2,500 over the same three months for the same businesses. The schemes will apply for businesses currently listed in what are known as Annexes A and B of the wage subsidy scheme operated by Malta Enterprise.

Other measures to benefit businesses

  • Until July, there will be deferrals of social security and income tax deductions made by employers from workers’ pay.
  • Payment of other due taxes not deferred is being put off to May.
  • The payment of trade and MTA licences is being waived for this year, a measure which will especially benefit hawkers, shop owners, bars, restaurants, hotels and tourist guides.  
  • 30% of credits by businesses in the micro-invest scheme operated by Malta Enterprise will be converted to grants up to €2,000. That cap rises to €2,500 for Gozitan businesses. 
  • Companies can also receive up to €5,000 in government grants to re-engineer their business model.
  • Malta Enterprise will allocate €5m on the Skills Development Scheme used mainly for the in-house training of employees.   
  • In order to reassure the capital markets, when there is a roll-over of bonds, the Malta Investment Bank will underwrite any balance of the bonds which is not taken up once more.
  • For six months, importers will enjoy a 33% reduction of port charges and a 10% refund on container discharge fees, excluding transshipment.
  • The Trade Malta agency will also help companies with grants of up to €10,000 for the digital promotion of their products in overseas markets.
  • There will also be a €5m allocation to be used by businesses to advertise their product locally and abroad.
  • Businesses will get an 80% refund of the costs of cancelled overseas trade fair participation.
  • The Malta Investment Bank will also allocate €10 million on export credit guarantees for the development of new markets, mostly in Africa.
  • A measure originally announced in the Budget but now improved, will see contractors receive up to €200,000 for new, more environment-friendly equipment.

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