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Measures counter impact of pandemic

Xu Wei
Updated: Jul 28,2020 09:22 AM    China Daily

The State Council has adopted a package of measures to facilitate investment and widen market access to improve the business environment and help counter the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key policies include the removal of unreasonable market access barriers in the construction, education, healthcare and sports sectors, improving the efficiency of customs clearance and encouraging the growth of new business models.

The 20 measures, unveiled in a guideline released by the General Office of the State Council on July 21, are the central government's latest effort to slash corporate burdens and energize market players after the COVID-19 pandemic caused the economy to contract by 1.6 percent in the first half of the year.

The office pledged to continue with prudent and accommodating oversight of new business models, including measures to phase out unreasonable administrative policies.

To better facilitate investment, the government highlighted the need to cut licensing red tape to expedite the approval of projects, including those in the construction sector, and to enable easier production and sale of industrial products, including automobiles and secondhand vehicles.

Sellers of secondhand vehicles will receive a boost as the authorities are set to abolish restrictions on the location of registration and simplify registration procedures for purchasers.

China added about 20,000 new businesses a day in the first half of the year despite the impact of the pandemic, Yang Hongcan, head of the State Administration of Market Regulation's Business Registration Bureau, told a news briefing on July 22.

Yang said one-stop online services for starting a business will be offered across the country by the end of this year, and the approval period will be shortened to a maximum of four days.

The application of electronic business certificates and seals will be further promoted, and restrictions on the business venues of smaller businesses and self-employed individuals will be reduced, he said.

The guideline includes specific measures to scale up aid for exporters and importers, many of whom are reeling from the downturn in international trade caused by the pandemic, with the country's foreign trade down by 3.2 percent year-on-year in the first half of the year.

The government will expand one-stop services in international trade to logistics at ports and trading services and reduce barriers to investment by foreign trading businesses and their operations.

Products already certified as meeting foreign standards that are higher than domestic standards will be able to be sold directly in the domestic market after their producers provide a written pledge on standard compliance. The registration of foreign trading businesses will also be delegated to prefecture-level cities.

A key focus of the guideline is to promote the development of health services, especially those provided online. To expand the supply of medical services, the government will consider allowing suitably qualified businesses and individuals to open clinics and practice medicine after filing credentials.

Providers of online health services will be allowed to expand areas of diagnosis and treatment, with eligible services to be covered by government health insurance, the guideline said, adding that the government will come up with a unified approval standard for the opening of online health service businesses.

Wang Hang, founder and CEO of Haodf.com, one of the largest online healthcare companies in China, said the guideline will give the sector a significant boost.

The importance of the online healthcare sector was highlighted during the peak of the pandemic in China as it helped alleviate the pressure on brick-and-mortar hospitals.

The company's online platform received 6.72 million orders for medical diagnoses from patients from Jan 20 to April 12, when the pandemic was at its most severe and travel restrictions were in place, with daily demand for services up more than sixfold from December.

However, Wang said, a pressing challenge for third-party online healthcare providers was that they had not been listed as designated institutions in the health insurance system.

"A prerequisite for internet healthcare to be included in public health insurance is that the platforms must provide high-quality services at a good price," he said. "It (the guideline) will spur us to provide better services at lower cost."

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