Last Updated on Sunday, 9 January, 2022 at 5:42 pm by Andre Camilleri
The Covid-19 wage supplement will, for some sectors, be extended beyond January, Abela announced during the interview.
He dedicated the first chunk of his interview to speaking about how the government has an economic plan, as presented during the Budget last October, to sustain Malta’s recovery from the virus.
“Last year we started the road to recovery, and this year we need to sustain it,” Abela said.
He mentioned how prices across Europe, particularly on energy, have exploded and have increased pressure on families and pensioners.
Others used the international scene as a pretext to put more pressure on people, Abela said in a not so veiled reference to the PN.
We try to do as much as possible to protect our people from the negative effects – and the principles from March 2020 were a protective layer around our people so not to increase economic pressures, Abela said.
He said that Malta has the lowest fuel and electricity prices in Europe and that they remained low of the government’s aggressive intervention, such as on fuel by reducing customs duties on it to keep the price where it is.
He said that there are certain sectors which are still facing tough circumstances due to the pandemic. The tourism sector, he said, is amongst those as it is facing a more difficult shoulder period than usual owing to disruptions to travel as a result of the pandemic’s resurgence, meaning that the necessary decision is to extend the wage supplement beyond the end of this month.
“It doesn’t make sense to withdraw aid at such a crucial moment,” he said.
“However, we do not want to encourage dependence on the wage supplement; so we need to incentivise innovation,” he added.
It was either emphasis on the booster, or more restrictive measures – PM
Turning to Covid-19, Abela admitted that the choice was between placing more emphasis on the Covid-19 vaccine booster shot or increasing the amount of restrictive measures to curb the spread of the virus, which has intensified in past weeks owing to the Omicron variant.
He praised all those who were coming forward to take the booster shot, parents who have taken their children to be vaccinated, and all those still coming forward to get vaccinated for the first time. Abela also reserved special praise for health staff who have kept the country going in the past months.
Abela said that the number of people in intensive care is much lower than it was in situations where there was no vaccine yet available, showing unequivocally that the vaccine is working as intended.
He said that a conscious decision had been taken to, as from the 17th January, place more emphasis on the booster shot.
“The probability was that we would have had to add restrictive measures otherwise. It was either that or emphasising on the vaccine. It makes no sense to protect people with restrictive measures when we have the scientific tool to protect people with instead,” Abela said.