Economics minister introduces ‘stimulus coupon’ plan

TAIPEI (CNA) — A government plan to issue travel-based “stimulus coupons” as part of ongoing efforts to mitigate the economic effects of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) could benefit up to 350,000 businesses around Taiwan, the economic affairs minister said Wednesday.

Shen Jong-chin (沈榮津) introduced the consumption-focused coupons at the Legislative Yuan as a “stimulus” plan that has a budget of NT$2 billion (US$66.86 million) from the Cabinet’s NT$60 billion special budget bill.

The Cabinet approved the budget bill on Feb. 27 to finance strategies to combat the highly contagious coronavirus spread that has infected more than 40 people in Taiwan with one death. It was proposed to help the local industrial and commercial sectors hit hardest by the epidemic.

In the initial planning stage, Shen said, about NT$600-NT$800 worth of “stimulus coupons” will be issued in both paper and electronic forms.

The coupons will be accepted at an estimated 140,000 restaurants and diners around Taiwan, as well as 280,000 businesses in shopping centers, 10,000 night markets, and 1,700 arts and culture spots, he anticipated, citing data from the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA).

After adjusting for double-counting, the coupons can be used at about 350,000 businesses around Taiwan once they are issued, Shen noted.

Under the MOEA plan, the “stimulus coupons” will be tied to domestic travel, and issued in four categories — food and drink, night markets, shopping centers, and art and culture.

However, it has not yet been decided who will receive the coupons, whether it will be only Taiwan nationals or also foreign travelers, or how they will be used, according to the ministry.

Asked if the coupons will be issued before the Tomb-Sweeping Festival holiday from April 2-5 as some people have suggested, to boost consumption during the spring break, Shen said it was unlikely.

He said the “stimulus coupons” would likely be issued in between six and 12 months after the spread of COVID-19 slows down, to help hard-hit small and medium catering businesses.

“With the viral spread crisis still growing, we should concentrate on outbreak prevention and control,” he said.

On Feb. 27, the Cabinet approved a NT$60 billion “bail-out” budget bill, under which the MOEA will use more than NT$20.4 billion to provide subsidies and loans to the business sectors most affected by the COVID-19 outbreak and to boost domestic demand, which is flagging due to the drop in the number of foreign travelers arriving in Taiwan.

The MOEA budget will also be used to build new mask production lines, buy surgical masks from local manufacturers and help them export masks overseas when that becomes possible.

The special budget bill is currently being reviewed by the Legislature.

Economics Minister Shen Jong-chin (CNA)
Economics Minister Shen Jong-chin (CNA)