In a bid to tackle the potential impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak on the domestic economy, the Executive Yuan announced Thursday a NT$60 billion (US$2 billion) bailout plan to help hard-hit local sectors.
According to Cabinet spokesperson Kolas Yotaka, it was decided by Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) during a weekly Cabinet meeting that the restaurant/beverage, retail sales and trade fair sectors, as well as business districts, traditional markets and night markets, will be the first areas to be targeted by the one-year package.
Part of the package includes the issuance of NT$2 billion-worth of discount coupons by the Ministry of Economic Affairs for the public once the epidemic is over to help boost consumption in the tourism, transportation and agriculture sectors, she said.
All spending on the auxiliary measures will come from the NT$60 billion package to be budgeted by the relevant government agencies in line with a set of special provisions that will be put forth by the Executive Yuan within the next week, she explained.
According to Kolas, NT$42 billion will be earmarked for the transportation, tourism and agriculture industries to offer them low-interest loans and subsidies, and to help them improve their digital technology, make environmental improvements and cultivate talent.
In terms of the discount coupons to be issued after the epidemic is declared to be at an end, Economic Affairs Vice Minister Wang Mei-hua (王美花) said they are initially designated to stimulate local consumption by offering consumers a discount, for example, of NT$100 on every NT$1,000 spent, although she added that their face values and other details have yet to be decided.
So far, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications has alloted NT$14.23 billion to subsidize tourism agencies that are feeling the brunt of the epidemic, along with airports and airlines, as well as fuel costs and license expenses of tourist buses and taxis. The ministry has also budgeted NT$5.45 billion to fund 11 projects aimed at bolstering local tourism.
To date, COVID-19 has claimed 1,369 lives globally, 1,368 of which have been in China, according to the World Health Organization. There have been 60,373 confirmed cases, with China accounting for 59,865.
On Wednesday, the Cabinet-level Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics slashed its forecast for Taiwan's 2020 economic growth to 2.37 percent, down from a November forecast of 2.72 percent, due to the spread of the novel coronavirus since December that has cast a shadow over economies around the world.