SMEs hardest hit by coronavirus outbreak in China

A raft of measures to aid small and medium businesses in China have been announced since March. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING - China's small, medium and micro businesses have been hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak, the industry minister said on Wednesday (May 20), as entrepreneurs look to Thursday's (May 21) parliamentary session for some sign of government help.

Among such businesses, food and beverage businesses have been the most badly affected, with only about 80 per cent having restarted after a coronavirus-induced shutdown earlier this year, said Minister for Industry and Information Technology Miao Wei.

With the pandemic still raging worldwide and a looming global recession, China is looking to boost domestic consumption in a bid to make up for the lack of external demand, Mr Miao told a press briefing.

"There are risks that even as companies resume work and production, they would have to reduce capacity or even stop production (due to a lack of demand). But our overall response is to quickly start domestic demand to make up for the negative impact of external demand."

Across China, movie theatres, game halls and even gyms are still shut because of virus control measures, while the tourism industry has been crippled.

"We must pay close attention to the implementation of various policies and measures to benefit enterprises, further increase financial support for small and medium-sized enterprises, and increase the debt repayment ability," Mr Miao said.

But he added that it is necessary to ensure such measures are "regulated" so all small and medium businesses can benefit.

A raft of measures to aid small and medium businesses have been announced since March, including an extension of loan repayment deadlines and tax reliefs. Banks have already delayed loan repayments totalling 1 trillion yuan (S$199.3 billion) by over a million businesses.

More such policies are expected tomorrow.

The National Development and Reform Commission in charge of China's economic planning last week announced it would increase investment in infrastructure projects such as railways and water treatment.

It is also pushing for more new high-tech infrastructure, including more efficient ultra-high voltage power transmission lines and the building and development of a 5G network, as well as high value-add manufacturing.

"Not only are we building, but also applying our new infrastructure such as the 5G optic fibre network, and data centres," said Industry and Information Technology Ministry spokesman Wen Ku.

"We should speed up the process and lay a solid foundation for the advancement of the industrial base and the modernisation of the industrial chain," he added.

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