After 76 days of total lockdown, the residents of Wuhan are now being encouraged to leave their homes and shop. In fact, the local government is paying out tens of millions of dollars to get them to do just that.
Around $71m-worth of discount “consumption coupons” are being pumped into the city’s economy, issued to consumers digitally via platforms such as WeChat, Meituan-Dianping, and Alipay. The coupons, which are valid for a week, offer a range of discounts and can be redeemed in the city’s supermarkets, malls and convenience stores, Global Times reports.
Wuhan was at the epicentre of China’s COVID-19 outbreak, and the lockdown that followed in a bid to halt the spread of the virus has battered the city’s economy. Authorities say retail sales, a major part of the local economy, plummeted by more than 42% in the first two months of the year, China.org.cn reports.
It is now hoped that the coupon scheme will provide the shot in the arm the economy needs by encouraging consumers to resume normal spending habits.
Other Chinese cities and provinces have already launched similar schemes with the same aim of boosting spending in restaurants, shops and in tourism centres.
Ecns.cn reports that stats from Alipay show that so far over 40 cities have issued coupons to encourage consumption, and that the move has already driven spending of over 10 billion yuan ($1.41 billion).
Experts say the coupon schemes are better suited to the Chinese consumer than direct cash handouts, as people have high levels of savings and need a stimulus to go out and spend. Associate professor at the Central University of Finance and Economics, Liu Chunsheng, said cash subsidies have a limited effect on driving consumption, as not all the money gets spent. In contrast, coupons can be targeted and allocated to retail sectors.
“Following scores of Wuhan factories getting back up to speed, the recovery of consumer-focused business is vital for Wuhan, where people remain cautious to go out,” Dong Dengxin, director of the Finance and Securities Institute at Wuhan University of Science and Technology, told the Global Times.
Sourced from Global Times, China,org.cn, CHinanews; additional content by WARC staff