China to introduce strong financial measures to help smaller firms tide over difficulties
Published: Feb 26, 2020 08:29 AM

Workers start manufacturing at a shoe factory in Central China’s Hunan Province on Monday. Workers are required to wear masks and measure their body temperatures twice a day. Photo: cnsphoto

China will roll out a set of strong financial policies, including encouraging financial institutions to provisionally defer loan payments and increasing lending at concessional rates for micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, as part of effort to help them overcome temporary difficulties.

These decisions were made on Tuesday at the State Council's executive meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang.

"Statistics show that only a small percentage of micro-, small- and medium-sized businesses have restarted operation. As these firms are major job providers, we must give them greater support to facilitate their early restart of work and tide them over the tough time. Such support can be further intensified for businesses in Hubei Province," Li said.

The meeting decided on additional financial measures in line with market principles and the law to support micro-, small- and medium-sized companies in restarting operation.

For eligible micro-, small- and medium-sized firms, including household businesses, with temporary liquidity difficulty, financial institutions will be encouraged to provisionally defer their loan principal repayments. Their interest payments can be deferred to June 30, with penalty interest payments exempted. This policy shall apply to all types of businesses in Hubei Province.

"The provisional deferment policy for both principal repayment and interest payment is no small step. Execution of this policy must fully comply with the law and be subject to adequate oversight. This policy should also work in tandem with the fiscal support and banks' re-lending to form synergy and produce holistic effects," Li said.

It was decided at the meeting that the re-lending and re-discount quota will be increased by 500 billion yuan (about 71.2 billion U.S. dollars), with the bulk channeled to small and medium-sized banks to increase their credit support to micro-, small- and medium-sized businesses.

The re-lending rate targeting rural areas, agriculture, farmers and smaller businesses will be lowered by 25 basis points to 2.5 percent.

Before the end of June, local banks (namely, urban and rural commercial banks and rural credit cooperatives) that issue new inclusive loans to micro and small businesses at a rate no higher than 50 basis points above the loan prime rate (LPR) will be able to apply for re-lending funds to the full amount of the loan extended.

It was decided at the meeting that national commercial banks will be encouraged to offer more loans to micro and small firms, and work toward meaningfully lowering the lending rates for such firms from last year's level.

State-owned large banks are urged to increase the balance of their inclusive loans to micro and small businesses by no less than 30 percent year-on-year in the first half of this year. Policy banks will add a 350-billion-yuan special credit quota to be issued to micro-, small- and medium-sized firms at preferential rates. Guidance will be given to financial institutions to issue more low-interest loans targeting household businesses.

"Household businesses, large in number and covering extensive sectors, employ over 200 million people, and are hence vital to the livelihood of tens of millions of families and to the stability of the whole society. They have been hit hard in this outbreak. The central and local governments must act in concert to provide them with support and see all supporting measures targeting these businesses be delivered to the full extent," Li said.