Editorial | Judicious timing is necessary for COVID vouchers rollout

Rather than have businesses, unions and government bickering between them on the timing, a more co-operative approach would be more than welcome


A second round of COVID vouchers worth €50 million will undoubtedly provide a much-needed cash injection into the economy.

Pledged in the last budget, every person aged 16 and over will receive €100 in vouchers - €60 could be spent on restaurants and accommodation and €40 on retail and other services.

It is so far unclear whether all retail outlets will be able to accept vouchers in the second round, or whether the scheme will only apply to shops and services that were forcibly shut down as part of health directives to limit the spread of COVID-19.

No decision has been taken yet as to when the scheme will be rolled out despite earlier indications that this would happen around mid-January.

It appears government is adopting a more cautious and judicious approach that keeps in mind health concerns as much as economic considerations.

Operators in hard-hit sectors are understandably pushing for an immediate injection to help their cash flow at a time when the ordinarily slow winter months have been made worse by the pandemic.

The first voucher scheme created a substantial spin-off during the summer months that enabled businesses to claw back some of their losses.

But the decision when to roll out the second tranche cannot be taken on the spur of the moment.

This leader agrees with the position adopted by the Economy Ministry that a decision will only be taken after consultation with the health authorities and economic operators.

Rolling out the vouchers now will only send mixed messages at a time when the number of COVID-19 infections has spiked as a result of carefree behaviour over the holidays.

Before people are encouraged to go out and eat or enjoy long weekend breaks, the rate of infection has to be brought down.

Any positive economic spin-off from the voucher scheme could be killed off if infections continue to rise and more restrictive measures become necessary in subsequent weeks.

This leader concurs with the Chamber of Commerce that taking into account the health aspect is of primary importance at this stage.

The voucher scheme is a targeted economic tool and not simply a cash splurge. It should be used diligently to create the largest and most effective economic impact.

After taking into account the health implications, government must consult not only with business operators but also economic experts to determine when the best timing for the scheme to be rolled out is.

The decision has to be taken from a macro-economic perspective, keeping in mind what will benefit the country most.

This is not a moment for rushed decisions, knee-jerk reactions or electoral considerations. A judicious approach is necessary to ensure that a €50 million injection reverberates wide enough.

Rather than have businesses, unions and government bickering between them on the timing, a more co-operative approach would be more than welcome.

These are uncertain times and only unity will enable the country to come out of this in the best possible state.

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