Do as I tell you, not like I do

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 June, 2020 at 12:42 pm by Andre Camilleri

When on Monday he announced the latest batch of help to restart the economy, Prime Minister Robert Abela and the two other ministers who flanked him duly observed the correct two-metre distancing from each other as enjoined by the health authorities in these pandemic days.

But right behind them the audience, composed of ministers, MPs and others did not observe any social distancing at all. They sat in rows of chairs next to each other.

This is not the only case where the top levels of the country were cavalier in their non-observance of the rules that they themselves had enacted. When the Leader of the Opposition on Saturday invited the Prime Minister for coffee after the Sette Giugno ceremony, they all huddled around the same table – no social distancing, nor wearing of masks in sight.

This has become endemic: any news bulletin on television every day shows a number of press conferences usually by ministers but only in rare cases are the rules observed.

The people see this and draw their own conclusions. The end result is the complete mockery of rules we see around us all the time. Nevertheless, our infection rates remain low.

This paper has chosen to begin with this preamble to discuss the latest offering by the government to help the stricken parts of the economy overcome the crisis. Health considerations must be paramount. If the rules are played around with we are risking everything.

We give an overview of the fourth package on page 6 in today’s issue. We also included, on the facing page, some of the generally positive reactions by the constituted bodies.

One important aspect of this package is to not just offer an immediate help in the crisis but also offer incentives to help enterprises plan ahead. This is the tenor of the suggestions made by Claudio Grech MP also in this issue.

Having said all this, we must also point at the sad story we have on our front page which speaks of the complete absence of Maltese SMEs from an EU offer in this regard.

This will not do. It is good that the government comes up with package after package to help the economy restart after the pandemic but the enterprises must do their bit too. We lack innovation and we lack above all the courage to venture.

It galls to see that SMEs even from non-member states like Israel or Switzerland get EU funds while we, a member state, do not even apply.

This package has been criticized as being almost exclusively aimed at enterprises and not so much at individuals. We tend to disagree with this analysis as we believe that helping enterprises regain their feet ultimately helps individuals as well. The social assistance network is there and functions reasonably well.

The main thing at this juncture is to infuse courage and optimism instead of to discourage people. To those who are finding the going rough after reopening we must remind them that with the airport still closed our economy is still

gunning at half its cylinders. And even after the airport reopens and flights start coming in, things will take time to get some traction.

Meantime however we can plan how to get even better.

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