The authorities are drafting a broad range of financial incentives to boost the competitiveness of computer software and integrated-circuit companies before the mainland's entry to the World Trade Organisation. The State Council has authorised steep tax rebates, government seed money and preferential access to capital markets for these key sectors, industry executives said. 'This is a big step. It could give a big push to development in this sector,' said an executive at Genius, a Tianjin-based producer of financial software. The Ministry of Information Industry, which directs policy for the information technology sector, said details of the incentives were still being worked out. However, industry executives said the State Council had circulated a document that identified the policy objectives and some of the stimulative measures to be implemented. 'These policy measures are unprecedented,' said Wang Zidong, secretary to the board at Shenyang Neu Alpine Software, a software developer for the telecommunications sector as well as corporate management. 'As we look towards entry into the WTO, the business environment is changing. 'These are two areas that need encouragement, and this policy reflects the hopes of the government.' Beijing already has a handful of projects aimed at strengthening the mainland's ability to design and produce integrated circuits. Unlike software development, these are usually capital-intensive and require long periods before investments can be recovered. Qualified companies could be entitled to a rebate of most of the 17 per cent value added tax and could be granted an extended reduction in business income tax. Customs duties would also be cut on certain imports, according to a report in the Shanghai Securities newspaper. Industry officials said that qualified companies, regardless of whether they were private or state-owned, would have priority in offering shares to the public. Mainland authorities have vowed to make it easier for private firms to offer stock but so far most listed companies are state-owned. Other incentives would cover recruitment of skilled workers from overseas, the industry officials said. Beijing has been reviewing a wide range of policies to make its domestic companies more competitive as entry into the WTO draws near.