Rebuilding our reputation: We have been successful but more needs to be done – PM

Prime Minister Robert Abela addresses a press conference Auberge de Castille, Valletta

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Malta has been largely successful in rebuilding its reputation and international image but more needs to be done, Prime Minister Robert Abela said on Thursday.

He was being interviewed by Abigail Mamo, CEO of the Malta Chamber of SMEs.

Mamo asked the PM about efforts to restore Malta’s reputation, also in view of the effects that months of negative headlines have had on the business sector.

“I am fully aware of the need to keep improving, to rebuild our reputation. We have been successful but more needs to be done. It’s an ongoing process. It’s a fluid process where one needs to keep adjusting. It is not an easy issue to tackle but I believe we have been successful so far,” Abela replied.

“It’s not really about Moneyval or GRECO but rather we need to set the tone and make these changes because we truly believe in them.”

Abela pointed out that the issues flagged by  Moneyval date back to 2012. “Back then, nobody took action. Today, we are implementing all the necessary changes to overcome this hurdle in a timely and effective manner. The system we inherited was the legacy of British colonial rule, where all power was centred around the Prime Minister.”

The PM said the country is today much more in line with what is expected of a modern EU Member State. “We left off from talk on whether Article 7 was going to be applied to a situation where we are making the necessary changes, and these have the support of the European Commission.”

Abela referred to changes made to the appointment of the President, the Chief Justice and the Attorney General, among others, noting that the government managed to implement these changes despite the pressures of the pandemic.

The PM was also asked about the wage supplement and voucher scheme, and whether the government has the necessary resources to keep sustaining jobs. “The issue is not whether we have enough resources but that we are investing wisely,” he said.

“There are no liquidity issues. The important thing is that we resort to these savings to increase productivity.”

Mamo asked the PM whether the government would take up its proposal to extend the wage supplement until March 2021, and to reintroduce certain sectors to the full supplement. “Businesses need a bit more predictability,” she noted.

Abela said the measures was successful, having reached over 100,000 employees. “We will not be discontinuing it. We have been there from the start and we will keep being there in the coming months. We must also make sure that assistance is targeted and conducive to the next phase of response, keeping in mind that the pandemic could last longer than expected.”

He also noted that the public has saved over €65 million over recent months. “In 2009, bank deposits fell as families had to dig deep into their savings. Today is a different story.”

Abela said 60% of the vouchers have been used so far, and these have generated the same amount of expenditure as 40,000 tourists did in August of last year. “In the coming budget we shall be injecting even more confidence in our economy and the consumption patterns of our people,” he said.