- China shows that we can stop coronavirus through containment – but at a significant economic cost.
- Globally, the coronavirus shock is severe even compared to the Great Financial Crisis in 2007–08.
- Policymakers must support vulnerable households and smaller businesses to mitigate the impact of this severe shock.
The impact of the coronavirus is having a profound and serious impact on the global economy and has sent policymakers looking for ways to respond. China’s experience so far shows that the right policies make a difference in fighting the disease and mitigating its impact—but some of these policies come with difficult economic tradeoffs.
Success in containing the virus comes at the price of slowing economic activity, no matter whether social distancing and reduced mobility are voluntary or enforced. In China’s case, policymakers implemented strict mobility constraints, both at the national and local level—for example, at the height of the outbreak, many cities enforced strict curfews on their citizens. But the tradeoff was nowhere as devastating as in Hubei province, which, despite much help from the rest of China, suffered heavily while helping to slow down the spread of the disease across the nation.
Mitigating the impact of this severe shock requires providing support to the most vulnerable.
This makes it clear that, as the pandemic takes hold across the world, those hit the hardest—within countries but also across countries—will need support to help contain the virus and delay its spread to others.
The outbreak brought terrible human suffering in China, as it is continuing to do elsewhere, along with significant economic costs. By all indications, China’s slowdown in the first quarter of 2020 will be significant and will leave a deep mark for the year.
What started as a series of sudden stops in economic activity, quickly cascaded through the economy and morphed into a full-blown shock simultaneously impeding supply and demand—as visible in the very weak January-February readings of industrial production and retail sales. The coronavirus shock is severe even compared to the Great Financial Crisis in 2007–08, as it hit households, businesses, financial institutions, and markets all at the same time—first in China and now globally.
Mitigating the impact of this severe shock requires providing support to the most vulnerable. Chinese policymakers have targeted vulnerable households and looked for new ways to reach smaller firms—for example, by waiving social security fees, utility bills, and channeling credit through fintech firms. Other policies can also help. The authorities quickly arranged subsidized credit to support scaling up the production of health equipment and other critical activities involved in the outbreak response.
Safeguarding financial stability requires assertive and well-communicated action. The past weeks have shown how a health crisis, however temporary, can turn into an economic shock where liquidity shortages and market disruptions can amplify and perpetuate. In China, the authorities stepped in early to backstop interbank markets and provide financial support to firms under pressure, while letting the renminbi adjust to external pressures. Among other measures, this included guiding banks to work with borrowers affected by the outbreak; incentivizing banks to lend to smaller firms via special funding from China’s central bank; and providing targeted cuts to reserve requirements for banks. Larger firms, including state-owned enterprises, enjoyed relatively stable credit access throughout—in large part because China’s large state banks continued to lend generously to them.
Of course, some of the relief tools come with their own problems. For example, allowing a broad range of debtors more time to meet their financial obligations can undermine financial soundness later on if it is not aimed at the problem at hand and time-limited; subsidized credit can be misallocated; and keeping already non-viable firms alive could hold back productivity growth later. Clearly, wherever possible, using well-targeted instruments is the way to go.
While there are reassuring signs of economic normalization in China—most larger firms have reported reopening their doors and many local employees are back at their jobs—stark risks remain. This includes new infections rising again as national and international travel resumes. Even in the absence of another outbreak in China, the ongoing pandemic is creating economic risks. For example, as more countries face outbreaks and global financial markets gyrate, consumers and firms may remain wary, depressing global demand for Chinese goods just as the economy is getting back to work. Therefore, Chinese policymakers will have to be ready to support growth and financial stability if needed. Given the global nature of the outbreak, many of these efforts will be most effective if coordinated internationally.
License and Republishing
Quebecers urged to buy local as coronavirus crisis takes toll on economy – Global News
In Quebec, companies and organizations are collaborating to bolster local businesses in the province during the novel coronavirus crisis.
Nineteen companies and organizations are launching the On se serre les coudes initiative, a movement to promote buying local as the pandemic takes a toll on the province’s economy.
The collective campaign aims to help businesses get through the crisis and show the variety and quality of products made in Quebec.
The 19 companies and organizations bought advertising exclusively in Quebec media, which is also suffering from the effects of the pandemic.
Coronavirus: Montreal hospital employees pitch in to help make protective visors
When Premier François Legault announced a $2.5-billion plan on March 19 to help businesses during the pandemic, he also encouraged Quebecers to buy local over the next few months. He said doing so will give companies the chance to survive the crisis.
— With files from Global News’ Kalina Laframboise
© 2020 The Canadian Press
$71B wage subsidy 'appropriate' to keep economy afloat: Morneau – BNNBloomberg.ca
Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the ballooning cost of federal measures being promised to workers impacted by COVID-19 is essential to keeping the Canadian economy afloat.
“I’m worried about the size of the investment, always,” Morneau told BNN Bloomberg in an interview on Wednesday. “I’m also worried about not only the numerator, but the denominator: The size of the economy. That economy is what we’re focused on at the end.”
“These are some of the biggest expenditures that have ever been done in Canadian history. We recognize that. But it’s the appropriate thing to do at this time, and once we’re through this, we will have to make sure that we get ourselves back on an appropriate track.”
Morneau unveiled some crucial details about the federal government’s emergency wage subsidy on Wednesday, pegging the cost of the program that’s meant to cushion the blow from COVID-19 at $71 billion.
In a press conference earlier on Wednesday, Morneau said he expects funds will begin to flow in approximately six weeks, and that employers that apply will have to show their revenue fell at least 30 per cent compared to the same month last year. He confirmed that funds will be sent to employers via direct deposit from the Canada Revenue Agency.
A senior government official said during a technical briefing call that the funds could be delivered as early as three weeks, but it depends on how quick the CRA can launch the system for businesses to apply for the subsidy.
The official added that the CRA will offer some “flexibility” to high-growth businesses that don’t have a full year of operations in place to compare a year’s worth of revenue, suggesting prior monthly sales figures could be used instead.
Morneau said the government’s focus now has to be offering a lifeline to Canadians and Canadian businesses as soon as possible.
“I have been very focused during my time as finance minister to manage our fiscal position, to make sure we reduce our debt as a function of our economy. Well, that’s not where we are today,” he said.
“Where we are today is: I am focused on making sure people have enough money to pay for their groceries and their rent. I’m trying to make sure that we have a process that will get that money out to people rapidly.”
The revised wage subsidy program was unveiled by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Mar. 27 and will subsidize 75 per cent of wages for qualifying businesses up to a period of three months. It will be retroactive to March 15 and will cover the first $58,700 of salary up to a maximum of $847 per week.
The federal government had initially planned a subsidy of 10 per cent, which was quickly panned by small business leaders as insufficient. Nonetheless, the government confirmed Wednesday that the 10 per cent subsidy will still be available to employers that don’t qualify for the 75 per cent subsidy.
Morneau added that there will be “severe penalties” for anyone who seeks to use the funds fraudulently. However, specifics on how businesses will be penalized were not announced on Wednesday.
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