The Government has announced a five-pronged approach in order to ease the economic pressure faced by Macao residents and local businesses as a result of the novel coronavirus pneumonia (also known as COVID-19).
The new measures were announced on Thursday (13 February) by the Secretary for Economy and Finance, Mr Lei Wai Nong, during a press conference held by Macao’s Novel Coronavirus Coordination and Response Centre.
The first of the prongs was to offer a combination of tax-relief and tax-exemption measures with a view to minimising the financial burden shouldered by Macao residents and local businesses. The tax-related measures were as follows:
1. to deduct from tax liabilities any profit tax otherwise payable for 2019, up to a maximum of 300,000 patacas. The tax measure covered commercial enterprises including local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). A total of 2,970 companies would benefit from the measure.
2. to rebate 70 percent of the personal income tax for the fiscal year 2018 paid by each Macao resident liable for such tax. The ceiling of such rebate would be increased to 20,000 patacas. The measure would benefit 170,000 local employees.
3. to raise the starting point for deduction of salary tax for the year 2020, from the current base of 25 percent of salary to 30 percent. The measure would benefit 180,000 local employees.
4. to waive property tax levied on all housing units of Macao residents for the year 2019. The measure covered a total of 180,000 units. There would also be a waiving of 25 percent property tax charged on commercial establishments. The latter measure covered 25,000 establishments.
5. to waive – for a period of six months – the 5-percent tourism tax payable by establishments providing services such as hotels, bars, gym rooms and karaoke venues. The measure would cover 854 such establishments;
6. to rebate the vehicle circulation tax payable on each commercial vehicle used in the city; and
7. to waive or rebate those fees and stamp duties paid in 2020 that were levied by public departments for the issuing of administrative licences.
The second prong mentioned by Secretary Lei related specifically to support for local SMEs. The initiatives under it were as follows:
1. to launch a provisional scheme regarding an interest-subsidy scheme for SMEs, in a bid to support those businesses in resumption of trading after the novel coronavirus episode. Eligible businesses would be granted a subsidy on any payable interest linked to bank loan liabilities involving a maximum interest rate of 4 percent. Such subsidy would be up to a maximum amount of 2 million patacas, for a maximum period of 3 years.
2. to launch a special support scheme for SMEs. SMEs in operation for fewer than two years would be able to apply for an interest-free loan to a maximum of 600,000 patacas, with a maximum repayment term of eight years.
The third prong would focus on efforts to support the well-being of local residents, including support for families in vulnerable situations. The measures were:
1. to provide an additional 600-pataca Heath Voucher to each Macao permanent resident, to be spent on an aspect of their personal health;
2. to subsidise for a period of three months all electricity and water tariffs for the housing units of Macao residents; and
3.to grant an additional two months-worth of subsidies to families receiving subsidies from the Social Welfare Bureau.
The fourth prong was about how to improve vocational training for local employees; to help them seize employment opportunities to be made available under the Government’s planned expansion of investment in infrastructure projects. Such training schemes would aim to produce locally a greater number of: electricians; plumbers; welders; carpenters; plasterers; ironworkers; refrigeration and air conditioning technicians; technicians for assembling prefabricated items; and foremen for construction sites.
The fifth prong concerned the launch of electronic vouchers for local consumers. The aim was to spur domestic consumption and boost the local economy. Once the situation regarding the novel coronavirus episode was improved, the Government would allocate an e-voucher – with a value of 3,000 patacas – to each resident. Such e-vouchers would have to be used within a three-month period and would be accepted only in certain restaurants, retail outlets and shopping centres.
The schedule for implementing some of the measures announced today would be dependent on relevant legislative procedures. The Government would announce in a timely manner more details regarding each measure.
The Government expressed gratitude for the understanding and support shown to it by local people, businesses, and non-governmental organisations in relation to current events, and for their cooperation with initiatives taken by the Government.
The Government issued a reminder to members of the public to stay home, to avoid gathering in groups and to refrain where possible from travelling out of Macao, in order to prevent the risk of an outbreak of disease in the community.