China pledges more fiscal support

18 February, 2020 12:00 AM printer

Beijing: China pledged to roll out more effective stimulus measures despite a widening fiscal gap as the novel coronavirus hits an already slowing economy, highlighting the challenges the epidemic is imposing as the death toll stacks up and thousands of new cases are reported each day.

The country will further perfect and implement measures this year to reduce corporate taxes and cut unnecessary government expenses as the virus takes a toll on production, Finance Minister Liu Kun wrote on Sunday in Qiushi, the Communist Party of China’s flagship magazine, report agencies.

The outbreak of the virus and widening dislocation has dealt a shock to Asia’s largest economy that will burden the budget in Beijing, as well as in other economies across the region. On the same day that Mr Liu’s remarks were issued, Hong Kong Financial Secretary Paul Chan warned that the territory may incur a record deficit next fiscal year. On Tuesday, Singapore will present its annual budget, with analysts predicting the biggest deficit in almost two decades.

China’s government faced slowing revenue growth even before efforts to contain the virus led to the shutdown of most business. The majority of local governments expect income to grow at a slower pace this year than the provincial average in 2019, according to local budgets compiled by Bloomberg.

With production yet to regain its full pace in all but a few pockets of the economy, increased stimulus to ensure steady growth may widen the fiscal gap and make policy fine-tuning more complicated. Still, authorities are stressing the need to step up spending and ensure funds to contain the disease, regardless of heightened fiscal pressure, the finance minister wrote.

There would continue to be “targeted and phased” measures in cutting taxes and expenses to help companies, he said. Policies include reducing or exempting value-added taxes for firms providing essential goods or logistics, and more funds for provincial authorities, according to Mr Liu.

“While large-scale rolling back of taxes and fees may increase short-term challenges, the nation must take a longer-term view and make resolute steps to implement tax and fee cuts,” wrote Mr Liu.