Listen: 'Valletta is dead, the economy is zero'
Protests and a pandemic leave Malta's capital city's businesses 'desperate'
June 18, 2020|Vanessa Conneely|121
3 min read
Cafes in Valletta remain quiet more than a month after reopening PHOTO: Chris Sant Fournier
Many business owners in Valletta say they are extremely concerned after six months of weak sales, with some saying revenue is down by as much as 90 per cent.
Shops, cafes and hotels have faced a litany of forced closures since November, brought on by protests, electricity blackouts and the coronavirus.
"I have never experienced anything like it in 26 years of business," says Kevin Gauci, owner of The Capital Souvenir shop, located directly opposite Parliament. "The truth is I'm making about €120 - €130 a day."
Gauci is one of several shop owners interviewed in the latest episode of the #TimesTalk podcast.  
He reopened his doors on May 4 after restrictions to control COVID-19 were lifted. He was able to keep his staff employed thanks to a government wage supplement scheme, but things are not picking up quickly enough.
"We get five or six customers in the morning maybe, usually to buy cigarettes, but that's about it."
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Gauci's experience is reflected in that of other shop owners, who say the capital is now virtually dead after 2pm.
"It's like the way it used to be five or six years ago," says Kida Mintoff Rama, manager of Roseberry Cosmetics.
"People come in to do their errands in the morning and then leave in the afternoon. We're desperate for people to start coming in."
Mintoff Rama says that since Valletta's 2018 European Capital of Culture year ended, there hasn't been enough done to draw people to the capital.
Clothing, toy shops, cafes and restaurants are also feeling the strain. "Valletta is dead, the economy is zero" says Santo Bruno, the manager of Amorino ice-cream parlour on Republic Street.
He believes a huge problem in the capital is its over-dependency on tourism, unlike other parts of the islands - such as Sliema - which has a more balanced mix of visitors and residents.
Finding solutions
The CEO of Malta's Chamber of SMEs, Abigail Mamo, agrees. "It's something we're hearing from a lot of our members," she says.
"Around 70 per cent of businesses in Valletta depend on cruise liners and they have stopped coming. Other sources of local income include the courts and office workers, but of course they have not been operating for three months either."
Mamo says her organisation is working with the likes of Valletta local council to try and stimulate the economy and encourage the public to come back. Ideas include hosting more events in the capital and working with shops to offer discounts to people attending these events.
A former police commissioner, investigated
In part two of the #TimesTalk episode, Times of Malta reporter Ivan Martin discusses former police chief Lawrence Cutajar and his involvement in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder case. 
Cutajar sat down for an exclusive interview with Times of Malta just hours before he was placed under investigation following allegations that he tipped off murder middleman Melvin Theuma about his impending arrest. 
Subscribe to #TimesTalk on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple iTunes, Castbox or your favourite podcast app. 
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