Sound policies will help businesses and people's lives return to normal
Thanks to resolute and effective measures taken by the central and local governments to contain the novel coronavirus, we have entered a transitional period where, while efforts to fight the epidemic continue, attention is also turning to the orderly resumption of business operations. The kind of policies we adopt in this respect will directly impact the consolidation of control efforts made so far, and will determine the degrees to which the epidemic will affect the economy and society in general.
On the basis of such considerations, particular efforts should be made to temper expectations, restore business confidence and — by creating an ambience favorable for restoring production, consumption expansion and economic development — lay a solid foundation for building a comprehensively well-off society. The policies enacted should be, first and foremost, informed by an objective assessment of the epidemic.
Although the disease is contagious, generally speaking, it is still mainly in Hubei Province. According to the World Health Organization director general, as of February 7, there were 268 cases outside China in 24 countries and one fatality. These figures are statistically insignificant and there is no cause for alarm.
Viewed from another perspective, although the mortality rate of the novel coronavirus is slightly higher than influenza, it is far lower than SARS, H7N9, MERS or H5N1. Given breakthroughs in drug development, the growing number of confirmed patients cured and discharged should go a long way toward boosting confidence and alleviating irrational fear.
Implementing a range of serious control measures — and taking advantage of the Spring Festival holiday — have helped control the infection. However, as time marches on, businesses might face risks concerning rentals remission, contract changes, uncertainties related to resuming operations and rising labor costs.
Resuming business operations should proceed based on specific local conditions, fully mobilizing business initiatives in terms of self-governance, management and care for workers’ health.
Local workers should be among the first to resume work, and their work schedules should be drawn up with a view to minimizing the risk of cross contagion.
Also important is giving preferential policy and financial support to businesses. Because Spring Festival was extended in order to contain the epidemic, all businesses, particularly small and micro-businesses, have been affected to varying degrees.
Extension of fiscal subsidies and credits could help local businesses overcome temporary difficulties. Local governments should also take proactive steps to help enterprises engaged in international trade cope with disputes concerning fulfilling contracts as a result of the epidemic.
(Wu Xueming is deputy director and associate research professor at the Institute of China Studies, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.)