Covid-19 Coronavirus

Treasury Minister Statement - 20 May 2020

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Good afternoon 

The total number of tests undertaken is 4262 

We have had 4244 tests back 

Which means there are 18 outstanding Tests 

There have been 336 confirmed cases 

Meaning today we have 1 new case 

And total active cases is 10 

As you are all fully aware, the Coronavirus has not only presented a serious and significant health challenge to our Island but also a serious economic and fiscal challenge. 

Ten weeks ago, we set out to equip the Island as best as we could to meet the requirements needed to suppress the threat of coronavirus to our health and that of our families. 

We brought about a number of fiscal support schemes and initiatives designed to provide businesses and individuals with as many options as possible to keep themselves going through the pandemic and to save jobs. 

Key amongst these initiatives are the Salary Support Scheme and the Manx Earnings Replacement Allowance and both these schemes were brought forward for an initial twelve weeks period. 

We expect that the Salary Support Scheme will pay out up to around £30m for the first twelve week period, protecting we estimate some 11,000 jobs and 1,500 businesses.  In a similar vein, we expect that the MERA will pay out some £5m supporting around 2,000 claimants. 

Of course, I am pleased that the suppression of the virus has meant that some sectors of our economy are starting to return to work and we expect to see some reduction in the level of claims both for Salary Support and for MERA over the coming weeks.   

Nevertheless, I have to accept that it is far too early at this stage to expect these businesses to resume normal levels of activities and profitability and in any case, many will have considerable ground to make up having been closed down for a significant period of time.  There are also of course those businesses that as at today not been allowed to open and the financial pressure on them will continue to grow. 

It is simply not right therefore that we start to close these schemes down at this present time and yesterday Tynwald approved the extension of Salary Support and the MERA for a further twelve weeks.  I very much hope that extending the salary support in this manner will provide a platform for those re-opening their businesses to do so successfully, knowing that this vital support mechanism remains with them as they start to adjust to new working arrangements and establish their revenue and income streams. 

I must caution and indeed urge that businesses who are reopening now seek to move forward as quickly as possible.  I am sure that we will all recognise and acknowledge that these support schemes cannot go on indefinitely and indeed flexibility is built in to the schemes to allow the Treasury to determine when and if support should be curtailed for certain sectors. 

But to do that we need data and we need to be confident that businesses are operating as fairly and equally as possible in the circumstances.  We do not have that data yet and it is right that we continue to extend support to protect jobs and the economy. 

Ten weeks ago, there was a widespread acknowledgement that we needed to think local, act local and buy local – and the Island has responded well.  Now we need to keep going with this mantra as our businesses open up.  Your support now for local businesses will help stabilise our economy, it will help maintain jobs and it will create opportunity.  Please, I ask, if you are going to spend your money think local, act local and buy local. 

As we approach the summer season, we all hope that the virus will remain suppressed and we can open up more of our businesses and industries.  Given all the uncertainty, it is likely that many of you may choose to spend your summer breaks and holidays on the Island.  A well planned staycation this year will be an added bonus to the domestic economy and I know that my colleagues in the Department for Enterprise will be considering how this opportunity can be maximised within the framework of Government rules and regulations on Coronavirus. 

Of course more broadly the Government must also play its part in regaining momentum in our economy.  We are working on developing our plan to push vital Government spending programs forward and assessing how specific support can be delivered to those sectors who may continue to struggle.  Yesterday, Laurence Skelly confirmed our plans for high speed fibre to be rolled out across the Island by Manx Telecom and we need to get on with this as fast as we reasonably can.  We will review our capital spending programme to bring forward relevant and prioritised investment in our key assets and infrastructure, we will reenergise our initiatives to attract businesses to the Island and we will re-examine our financial support schemes that will be vital in aiding and developing our existing businesses. 

We will bring this together in a short to medium term economic strategy which will be brought before Tynwald at the earliest opportunity.  We need to support new business opportunities, help existing business adapt business models and create new jobs. 

I do not want to underestimate that there is a significant challenge ahead of us.  We all know that - but there is no reason not to be optimistic that the Island can pull together in bringing our economy back to life.  It will be tough but as much as we have relied on each other to suppress and contain the virus and protect health, we now need to rely on each other to get back to work and to rebuild the economy.  At some point we have to let go of fear and start to embrace the new living and working with Coronavirus.  However you choose to do that, we need to all play our part in supporting our local economy, supporting local businesses and supporting local jobs. 

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