What sense does state aid make in the pandemic?
The lockdowns and partial lockdowns imposed by most European governments amid the second wave of the pandemic threaten to leave companies and individuals on the brink of financial collapse. This has reignited the discussion about what measures should be taken to help them. The press debates who needs support most urgently and whether state aid is at all the right approach.
New times require new instruments
Financial aid should not be used to maintain existing outdated structures, Der Standard argues:
“ Is the state preserving an economic structure that is already in decline with this aid? Is it preventing the dynamic economy of tomorrow from emerging? It is clear that coronavirus will change economic life forever. We will probably be left with depopulated office buildings on our hands. ... It is clear that many restaurants in business districts will no longer have a place on the market. On the other hand, other business areas will boom, such as delivery services. ... It is time to think about how to accompany the change: Do we need more support for new investments and venture capital? Is it time to replace short-time work with a significantly higher unemployment benefit for a limited period of time so that employees are not chained to companies without a future?”
Not every job should be protected
State aid generally delays structural change, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung believes:
“Hard-hit economic sectors such as tourism, hospitality and events are outbidding each other with their demands. ... The following conviction is implicit in such requests: every company and every job must be saved. They want to preserve the structures of the past. But many people are now realizing that the past will not simply come back. During the first lockdown in the spring, one could still take the view that the state could and should simply carry all companies through the recession for a few months with short-time work and loans. After that, they would continue as before. The second wave has exposed this as an illusion. ... Businesses will probably change permanently.”
Help companies to be successful online
Before the pandemic e-commerce hardly played a role in Malta. Now the authorities are doing too little to prepare companies for the new challenge, columnist Peter Agius complains in The Malta Independent:
“While a good number of businesses have tried different ways to reach consumers online, success has been limited due to the lack of any coordinated efforts in training our businesses to rise to the challenge. ... Have you seen any training offers for online marketing sponsored or encouraged by our public authorities? I have not. The existing schemes of website development are very good and have helped Maltese businesses be present online, but there is a long way to go from being present to securing sales online. That is the gap that we need to fill, especially during this pandemic period.”
Tourists won't come to Greece's rescue
Athens must now take the plunge, Proto Thema demands:
“Especially in Greece, which is confronted with a new and multifaceted crisis - health, economic, fiscal and perhaps even national - workers and small and medium-sized businesses should receive support first so that the social fabric does not collapse. ... And beyond that we need a national restructuring plan, similar to those required after a war, to which everyone should contribute, not just the government and a few technocrats. Because if anyone believes that this evil will pass and the tourists will come to our rescue in the summer they are mistaken.”