A staff member wearing a face mask arranges stacks of Chinese yuan banknotes at a bank in Nantong, East China's Jiangsu province, on Jan 30, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]
Premier Li Keqiang reiterated on Monday pledges to channel increased fiscal funds via the raising of fiscal deficits and issuance of government bonds directly to smaller businesses, self-employed individuals and low-income groups to help them ride out the COVID-19 pandemic.
Li spoke in Qingdao, Shandong province, at a symposium through video link with officials from provincial, city and county-level authorities and business leaders.
The premier noted that this year's Government Work Report included measures to raise budget deficits and issue special government bonds for COVID-19 control.
The move, which could increase fiscal funds by 2 trillion yuan ($280.2 billion), is an important step to alleviate businesses' difficulties and stimulate market vitality, he said.
The increased fiscal funds will be mainly used for creating jobs, ensuring people's basic living standards and protecting market players, he said.
As part of special policies adopted at special times, the funds will be directly channeled to primary-level units at city and county levels in order to benefit businesses and the people, he said.
He called it an innovative measure in macro regulation in that it gives more priority to helping businesses and leveraging the strength of market players in stabilizing economic fundamentals.
Li said the groups hit hardest by the pandemic have been micro, small and medium-sized businesses, self-employed individuals, farmers, those on flexible payrolls and workers in the service sector, in addition to those living below the national poverty line, the unemployed and those relying on subsistence allowances and other temporary help.
These people, who could amount to hundreds of millions, will be the main beneficiaries of the newly increased fiscal funds, he said.
The government will establish a special transfer payment mechanism to ensure that the funds will be channeled to city and county-level authorities so that they can arrange for them to be spent as soon as possible, he said.
Li urged financial departments to help with further clarification of the fiscal support policies and with specifying the scope of fund usage. City and county-level authorities should also come up with a list of struggling businesses and individuals while ensuring that the funds are channeled to where they are needed most, he said.
Li underscored the importance of establishing stringent oversight mechanisms to ensure that the funds are put to good use.
Financial authorities at various levels must establish special accounting books for the use of government bonds. Treasury offices at various levels must enable point-to-point appropriation of funds, he said, adding that auditors must prioritize keeping a close eye on newly added fiscal funds.
The benefits of other measures to alleviate corporate burdens－such as those further reducing social security contributions of businesses and encouraging financial institutions to streamline their costs and fees－must also be channeled directly to businesses, he said.
Government at various levels must fully enforce tax cuts and fee reduction policies and refrain from increasing corporate burdens despite budgetary imbalances, he added.