Fabian Demicoli

Importance of Schemes in Support of Employment for SMEs

 GRTU has the week written to the Prime Minister following the meetings he held with the GRTU National Executive Counci. Mr Vincent Farrugia GRTU Director General stated that he specifically raised the issue of the importance of retaining the employment generating schemes, specifically the Training Aid Framework (TAF) (€8.9M) and Employment Aid Programme (TAP) (€8 million each). GRTU has learned that these two Schemes that together generated more than 2,000 jobs are now being temporarily withdrawn due to oversubscription. GRTU strongly protests against this decision.

GRTU stresses that this is a very bad message issued at a very difficult period as these Schemes have been very successful in sustaining the level of employment in Malta and have been of particular stimulus to the retaining and expansion of employment in the micro and small business sector. Indeed, our main concern until now has been the excessively delayed system of wage refunds on these schemes to small employers. Unfortunately this delay, which causes cash flow problems to many small businesses, owes its responsibility to OPM itself due to the excessive bureaucratic demands the PPCD has practiced.

GRTU has stressed with the Prime Minister, and consistently with Minister Tonio Fenech, to implement without further delay and with complete banking choice to applicants the MicroGuarantee Scheme. The aim of the Scheme is specifically to further sustain regeneration of a whole cross section of micro, small and medium sized businesses, who with the full support of TAF and EAP will surely create enough jobs to absorb most available unemployed especially youth unemployed and school leavers.

It is important that one Scheme roles over into another Scheme so that no support gaps are created during periods of increased economic pressure coming from the rest of the European Union. The situation in the European Union economies is not getting better. We are seriously concerned that, rather than continuing to sustain important schemes like the TAF and EAP, and implement as fast as possible the MicroGuarantee Scheme, Government at these important economic junction is drastically curtailing its support to small businesses.

We do understand the issue of funding from the European Union's end, however, it is important, even if we had to suffer the use of internal Government funds, that no withholding of support is affected. The second European Semester programme clearly distinguishes between public financing of employment generation scheme and other non-growth supporting schemes. Government should send out a clear message that small enterprises will continue to be supported no matter what.

GRTU has asked the Prime Minister for an urgent round table meeting with all those concerned to decide on this matter as this is too important for our members.

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