In a strongly-worded statement, the Malta Entertainment Industry and Arts Association decried the lack of measures specific to the arts and entertainment sectors, while welcoming the overall generic measures announced in Budget 2021.
The Association has been calling for a recovery plan for the sectors since its launch in August 2020. It had also proposed 10 budgetary measures for 2021 to support an industry that employs 5,000 people in arts, entertainment, film and TV, amongst others. 77% of these work in the private sector and contribute to the 7.9% Gross Value Added generated by the cultural and creative sectors to Malta’s economy.
The MEIA noted that this exceeds the direct contribution of the construction sector and the accommodation and food services sector.
While acknowledging the importance of the extension of the wage supplement scheme, the MEIA restated its position in favour of a return to the full wage supplement to operators in the arts and entertainment industries which have been brought to an almost complete standstill.
The reintroduction of the vouchers scheme was given short shrift by the Association, which stressed that “most of our sectors remain shut down with very limited content to provide to audiences”.
On the other hand, it welcomed the measures for a plan to attract the digital and innovative economy such as virtual and augmented reality which underpin new areas of development for the arts and entertainment.
There was precious little else praised by the industry group, which expressed it was “very disappointed that the only sector specific measure announced in Budget 2021 is a €1 million cultural assistance fund to address the multiple challenges resulting from COVID-19”, saying the Budget “does not consider the arts and entertainment sectors as drivers of economic development in a time of recovery.”
Drawing attention to the fact that numerous European countries since April 2020 have announced significant recovery plans and rolled out funds within weeks, the MEIA pointed out that Maltese artists, producers and entertainment organisers have to wait till 2021 for any possible disbursements from the cultural assistance fund. It continued, “This situation continues to extend the period of uncertainty that our sector has experienced since March 2020.”
“Overall government expenditure for the cultural and creative sectors for 2021 has remained at 1.6% of the total Government budget. With only a very small share in additional funding and no new sector specific incentives announced, we believe that government is merely providing lip service to a sector that is currently in difficulty, whilst safeguarding only its own institutions.”
The MEIA called for the introduction of measures promised in the electrocal manifesto, stating that “if Government truly understands the importance of the creative economy, then specific tax incentives such as reduced income tax rate for artists and income averaging mechanisms would have been announced.”
“As a new association safeguarding the interests of hundreds of professionals in the arts and entertainment sectors, we reaffirm our position that the sector will not settle for crumbs.”
The MEIA will be calling an extraordinary general meeting on the 27th of October.
(Right) MEIA President Howard Keith Debono