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Gov’t pledges more support to get over virus

Feb 20,2020
The government plans to come up with comprehensive measures to help areas of the economy affected by the coronavirus outbreak, particularly investment and consumer spending, next week.

“Our first overall economic measures will include revitalizing investment and consumer spending by the end of this month,” Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said on Wednesday during an economic ministers’ meeting. “We are mobilizing all available polices,” he added.

President Moon Jae-in raised the situation to a state of emergency after the government wasn’t able to determine Tuesday how the last three patients contracted the virus. He ordered his top officials to come up with aggressive special measures that go beyond expectations.

After the president’s orders, the coronavirus situation got worse after 20 additional patients were confirmed overnight, including the first child, bringing the total number of patients to 51.

To revitalize regional economies affected by the virus, the government will execute 137 trillion won ($115 billion) in spending in the first half of this year.

The spending includes increasing the issuance of regional gift certificates to 3 trillion won while increase the discount rate on purchasing such certificates from the current 5 percent to 10 percent. The gift certificates are issued by local governments and allow consumers to purchase goods in traditional markets and small stores like cash. Purchasers are also given a 40 percent income tax credit.

Local governments will also offer 4.2 trillion won in management stabilization funding for struggling self-employed business people and 2.3 trillion won in special loan guarantees.

The government will help small businesses by closing canteens in public buildings to encourage government employees to eat at private restaurants.

“Public and [private] companies need to actively participate in overcoming Covid-19,” Hong said, using the moniker for the coronavirus coined by the World Health Organization. “The public’s everyday spending and companies’ aggressive investments are the most powerful economic measures.”

Hong urged the public to use restaurants during lunch breaks and have dinner with colleagues at night to support small businesses. He said the government has already spent 36.7 billion won to counter the coronavirus, which includes spending on the sanitation of buildings and areas, the diagnostic agent used to test for infection and protective masks. He added the government plans to execute roughly 100 billion won in additional spending.

“We will aggressively utilize the local government’s financial resources such as disaster relief and management reserve funds for sanitization,” Hong said.

The government plans to announce support measures for Korea’s exports today.

“Exports are being affected by Covid-19,” Hong said. “We will announce this week measures for the export industry including emergency liquidity support, swift support in terms of customs and export marketing,” Hong said.

BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]


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