The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) yesterday proposed a program to assist small and medium-sized enterprises facing financial difficulties from an outbreak of COVID-19 in China.
With an estimated NT$16 billion (US$532.68 million) funded by a special budget allocation from the Executive Yuan, the ministry said it plans to subsidize interest on loans to small and medium-sized businesses, while setting aside NT$10 billion for the Small and Medium Enterprise Credit Guarantee Fund of Taiwan.
“We would allocate about NT$2.5 billion to help companies with their loan interest ... through an estimated 1.06 percent reduction in the interest rate,” Small and Medium Enterprise Administration (SMEA) Director-General Ho Chin-tsang (何晉滄) said by telephone.
A similar offer would be made to companies looking to take out new loans, Ho said.
“With Chinese tourists banned and most people staying home to avoid catching the virus, restaurants, shops and other tourist venues are having to resort to taking out new loans as they struggle to pay their bills and employees,” he said.
The Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics on Wednesday trimmed its forecast for GDP growth to 2.37 percent this year, down from its previous estimate of 2.72 percent, citing the outbreak’s effects on domestic consumption and exports.
Meanwhile, the SMEA would also help companies renegotiate loan terms with their creditors to extend the loan period with lower payments, he added.
The remaining funds would then be used to further stimulate the economy through government-issued coupons and various food and drink festivals, Ho said, adding that they aim to boost consumer spending.
“We would also set up education camps for professional training, help companies digitally transform and promote environmentally friendly business practices,” Ho said.
Meanwhile, Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Wang Mei-hua (王美花) said that a ban on mask exports would be extended from Feb. 23 until the end of April.
The same would apply for the government’s centralized mask distribution policy to ensure a steady domestic supply amid the outbreak, Wang said.
If the virus situation improves, those measures might be lifted earlier, she said.
The ministry has since last week increased production of masks to more than 4.2 million per day as it added an additional 60 production lines, seeking to produce 10 million masks per day by the end of next month.
Separately yesterday, the ministry approved Hushan Autoparts Inc’s (虎山實業) application to join a government-subsidized plan to invest in Taiwan.
Hushan, the world’s largest auto handle manufacturer, is to invest NT$1.2 billion to establish a fifth production plant in New Taipei City’s Rueifang Industrial Park (瑞芳工業區).
The company would use automated production lines at the plant, where it plans to hire 152 workers, the ministry said.
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