China will encourage its financial institutions to make interest concessions as appropriate to businesses to help keep economic fundamentals stable, and ensure that all fee-cutting measures are fully executed on the ground in an effort to ease corporate burdens.
A host of policy steps were decided upon at the State Council's executive meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday.
Enterprises, particularly smaller ones, have been hit hard by COVID-19, and the Chinese government pays close attention to helping them overcome the difficulty. Premier Li Keqiang pointed out that fiscal and financial measures should be fully employed to help small and micro businesses survive, and encouraged banks to step up support as companies strive to stay afloat.
"In the past weeks and months, financial departments and institutions have taken effective moves to tackle the economic impact of the coronavirus. Real interest rates have come down, and aggregate financing is expanding," Li said. "Interest concessions by financial institutions are a key measure in supporting the real economy, especially smaller firms, and keeping economic fundamentals stable."
To advance stability on the six fronts and security in the six areas, the Wednesday meeting underlined the need for stronger monetary and financial policy support to the real economy, and help tide smaller businesses over difficulties as financial institutions and the businesses who borrow from them have a stake in each other's success.
By lowering the reserve requirement ratio (RRR), increasing re-lending and re-discount quota and deepening the loan interest reform, the amount of new RMB loans made between January and May has seen significant increase over the same period last year. Overall financing costs faced by companies trended downward.
Stronger efforts were urged to bring down the lending and corporate bond rates, make concessional-rate loans, defer loan repayment for micro, small and medium enterprises, and support the issuance of un-collateralized loans to small and micro companies, reduce fee-charging from banks
The meeting called for better leveraging such policy tools as RRR cuts and re-lending to keep liquidity reasonably sufficient, and intensifying efforts to make financing more accessible for enterprises and help them tackle the financial woes. The goal this year is for both new RMB loans and aggregate financing to expand more than last year.
"Market principles should be followed in making the interest concessions. Financial institutions need to ensure that their measures are well-calibrated with the right focus," Li said.
The newly increased funds should be funneled into manufacturing and the service sector, especially smaller companies therein, to provide the much-needed relief to enterprises in times of hardship. The funds are also expected to make financial institutions more motivated and better equipped in serving the needs of smaller firms.
The capital funds of small and medium banks will be replenished as appropriate. Banks are urged to improve their internal evaluation and incentive mechanisms, and raise the weight of inclusive finance in the performance evaluation.
Non-performing loans will be dealt with more effectively. No unwarranted extra conditions should be imposed in loan extension. Meaningful progress must be achieved to make lending more accessible and affordable for market entities.
"More measures should be taken to facilitate the execution of macro policies. The monetary policy tools that can directly benefit businesses must be fully utilized, and related mechanism established to prevent funds from flowing into unintended areas, or simply circulating in the financial system, and avert financial risks," Li said. "The internal incentive mechanisms within banks should be stepped up, otherwise, they are still reluctant to lend to small firms."
The Wednesday meeting required full delivery of all fee-cutting steps introduced this year. The policy of reducing electricity prices for general industrial and commercial businesses by 5 percent, and reducing or canceling civil aviation development fund contributions and port development fees will be extended to the end of this year. The rates for broadband and dedicated internet access services will be cut by 15 percent on average. Together with the fee cuts made in the first half of this year, these measures will save enterprises over 310 billion yuan (about 43.7 billion U.S. dollars) for the whole year.
"The fee cuts promised must be fully delivered. Firmer steps must be taken to curtail any unauthorized levy of fees. No arbitrary charges should be imposed. The ultimate solution still lies in fostering a market-oriented and world-class business environment governed by a sound legal framework," Li said.