20 March 2020 - 12h28
The Sovereign sent a message to the national councilors that read by Marie-Pierre Gramaglia in the absence of the Minister of State, also positive for the coronavirus. Prince Albert II stressed once again that everyone’s health depended on their behavior and that one should stay at home. The state will stand by everyone, he wrote, explaining that exceptional decisions he had approved had been taken by his Government. He asked the National Council to support the action of his Government.
Opening this exceptional meeting, President Stéphane Valeri explained that it did not involve any additional health risk, given the measures taken in particular by distributing the elected members within the hemicycle, including in what is usually the public ranks. Regretting once again that the National Council had not been involved further in Government decisions and recalling the respective roles of the two institutions, he insisted on the necessary unity. He admitted that in the past two days the lines had moved.
The president of CISAD Christophe Robino then read resolution 29, in the middle of this meeting, which all the elected officials approved unanimously. By this resolution, the National Council requests or recalls the measures to be taken in all areas. First of all, in terms of health, by protecting the reception capacities of health establishments and by anticipating the peak of the epidemic, without forgetting the latest antiviral treatments that would be available and protection problems. This resolution also calls for the suspension of construction sites, stricter confinement, but also to ensure the continuity of public services and OIV, the operators of vital importance. In terms of education, it insists on the digital devices to set up and the plan for childcare. It also deals with the creation of the emergency response fund. Regarding salaries, elected officials are delighted that the remuneration of civil servants is maintained, they also insist on telework, ask for free parking to limit public transport and, in terms of compensation, ask the State to ensure that full wages are maintained up to an amount of 2,200 euros while a cap could be envisaged for the highest wages. In the particular case of SBM, support measures are requested as is an allowance equal to the Monegasque minimum wage for self-employed workers. Regarding businesses, the postponement of social and fiscal charges was planned, but the elected members insisted on the need for an exemption. Among other measures, the counter-guarantee of 50 million for credits whose amount is deemed insufficient. Elected officials are also demanding the creation of an emergency fund and want to endow it with 150 million. They also demand the suspension of rents in state premises which are occupied by shopkeepers.
The role of the FRC
In his speech, the chairman of the Finance and National Economy Commission Balthazar Seydoux declared that, facing this extraordinary situation, it was necessary to inject all the resources necessary to avoid a disaster and that effectively this envelope of 50 million seemed insufficient. For his part, Jean-Louis Grinda confirmed of course that the Constitutional Reserve Fund (FRC) should make up for the budget deficit and that, thanks to this mechanism, we avoided both borrowing and tax. He again called for a moratorium on purchases that could be considered under the FRC. For his part, Franck Lobono, president of the Housing Commission, came back to the stoppage of construction sites, the consequences of which the State will assume for the construction of state housing, believing that they should not be maintained. Elected officials in their speeches stressed the need to support low-wage earners and more generally people in difficulty, especially the elderly. Béatrice Fresko-Rolfo came bak to these aspects as well as the conditions for the use of article 6 for dismissals during this period.
Health and social measures
On this exceptional evening, the government advisers recalled or described the measures already taken or envisaged in their respective departments. Didier Gamerdinger, for Social Affairs and Health, insisted on the measures taken from the start of the crisis by explaining the gestures to do, by publishing didactic sheets for individuals and professionals, by putting in places the coordination plan of the CHPG whose intensive care unit number of beds has been multiplied by 4. He described the current situation explaining that, depending on the condition of the patients, they could either be quarantined at home, or treated in the CHPG, and, for the most severe cases, transferred to the infectious diseases department of the Nice University Hospital. For seniors, he underlined the role of the town hall but also of the Lycée Technique et Hôtelier – which prepares meals – the establishment of an hour in mass distribution reserved for the elderly, the disabled people and even health personnel. He also recalled the importance of teleworking but also teleconsultations in the medical field. Twenty people came to reinforce the health and safety inspection teams who are themselves working from home, of course, to answer questions. With regard to wages, the State is studying the possibility of covering the differential between the allowance and the full salary. On article 6, Didier Gamerdinger explained that it cannot be brutally implemented and, in any case, not for economic reasons. Regarding the masks demanded by certain professions, he indicated that there was a pre-emption and that their use should only meet WHO recommendations. Consequently, a rather lively exchange started on this subject between the President of the National Council and Robert Colle, Secretary General of the Government, the latter believing that it was not necessary to go beyond the framework of the discussion on the resolution and that the elected officials would be answered later on certain questions but not during this meeting. Moment of tension then!
Update on quarantine and circulation
Patrice Cellario gave an update on the measures taken in education and digital tools specifying that the teachers worked from their home and that, for the exams, the calendar depended on the rectorate. Regarding quarantine, he believes that the instructions are generally well respected, which does not mean entirely, but that public spaces were going to be closed: parks, gardens, etc. He recalled that the movements have to be brief and for an imperative reason.
As for Marie-Pierre Gramaglia, she confirmed that the public worksites were closed or about to be closed and that, following the cancellation of the Formula 1 Grand Prix, that the construction site on the Quai des Etats-Unis would be stopped and that almost all private construction sites were also going to be. She highlighted the sharp drop in arrivals to the Principality, whether in terms of vehicles or train use. Regarding free parking, she said that a free card would be given to companies that request it.
Jean Castellini spoke of the measures taken or to be taken on the economic level are facing an extremely difficult situation. The deferral of VAT initially planned for two months is increased to three months but the declarations must be made, knowing that obviously the internal VAT is expected to drop sharply. Concerning the improvement of loans, it will no longer benefit only companies that make structuring investments but all businesses in order to resolve cash flow and overdraft problems. The rate will be reduced to zero thanks to Government intervention. In addition, the loan guarantee fund has seen its quota increased from 65 to 100%, the State taking over all of the risk which was previously shared with the banks. Banks will therefore no longer bear the risk. It is about avoiding bankruptcies by providing guarantees for distressed companies. The amount of the counter-guarantee for companies whose operating mode is to be developed today is estimated at 50 million but this figure which will be submitted to the vote of the elected members may be revised upwards, said the Minister. He explained that the situation of the SBM was followed very closely. He and Didier Gamerdinger received its deputy chairman. Concerning the self-employed, an allowance close to the Monegasque minimum wage is provided. A special case which has been dealt with is that of temporary workers who are not entitled to partial unemployment. They could touch the paid vacation but in the construction industry these are paid by the construction industry fund and could not be until the end of April, so there was a cash advance from the state.
The state also has a number of situations to deal with as an owner. Shopkeepers who rent state-owned office space will be exempt from rent and charges for the second quarter of 2020 and will be reimbursed for the March payment if paid. In offices, the problem will be studied with the order of chartered accountants. Finally, Monegasques who exercise an activity in a state-owned apartment will not be liable for an additional amount of rent. This measure responds to the economic situation but will be definitive, thus meeting a wish of the National Council. As for private owners, they are called upon to demonstrate their civic-mindedness. For businesses, Jean Castellini admits that the COMED mechanism is not suitable and that its functioning must be adjusted, hence the creation of a working group with all the professionals concerned. Finally, he proposed to set up a monitoring committee between the National Council and the Government for this situation in which the budget will register its first deficit in eight years. Stéphane Valeri announced that he would participate and wished to associate the presidents of CISAD, the Committee on Finance and the National Economy as well as elected members of the minority, including Jean-Louis Grinda.
The President of the National Council said he was rather satisfied with the measures announced by Jean Castellini. He stressed that the National Council was both “an ally and a resource” for the government. Now that the special session is open, it is not impossible that a new session will take place to take stock of the development of the crisis in the various fields.
© Conseil National
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