TheJakartaPost

Please Update your browser

Your browser is out of date, and may not be compatible with our website. A list of the most popular web browsers can be found below.
Just click on the icons to get to the download page.

Jakarta Post

India to provide $266 billion to boost pandemic-hit economy

  • Aftab Ahmed and Nidhi Verma

    Reuters

New Delhi, India   /   Wed, May 13, 2020   /   11:45 am
India to provide $266 billion to boost pandemic-hit economy A man watches India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi's address to the nation on a television announcing the extension of a nationwide lockdown till May 3, to limit the spreading of COVID-19, in in New Delhi, India, April 14, 2020 .Modi said on Tuesday that India would provide 20 trillion rupees ($266 billion) in fiscal and monetary measures to support an economy battered by a sweeping weeks-long lockdown to fight the novel coronavirus. (Reuters/Anushree Fadnavis)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Tuesday that India would provide 20 trillion rupees ($266 billion) in fiscal and monetary measures to support an economy battered by a sweeping weeks-long lockdown to fight the novel coronavirus.

India has more than 70,000 cases among its 1.3 billion population and is set to surpass China, the origin of the outbreak, within a week. Modi said strict stay-at-home orders would be extended beyond May 17 with a new set of rules.

In an address to the nation, he said the package was equivalent to 10% of India's gross domestic product, and was aimed at the multitudes out of work and the businesses reeling under the prolonged shutdown.

In March, the government said it was providing around 1.7 trillion rupees ($2.6 billion) in direct cash transfers and food security measures, mainly for the poor, but was widely accused of doing too little.

Modi said details of the new package, as well as reforms of land and labor markets, would be released within days:

"The package will also focus on land, labor, liquidity and laws. It will cater to various sections including cottage industry, medium and small enterprises, laborers, middle class, industries, among others."

Economists said the new package included the March allocation as well as liquidity measures announced by the central bank worth $6.5 trillion rupees.

"Headline announcement looks positive. Would include around 6.5 trillion rupees already done by RBI [Reserve Bank of India] and the first package. So - additional is 13.5 trillion rupees," said Sandip Sabharwal, a Mumbai-based fund manager.

"It doesn't match the gross borrowing details of the government so we need to look at details. Headline number should, however, excite the markets near-term."

Last week, India increased its borrowing program for the year to 12 trillion rupees from 7.8 trillion to fund some of the expenses.

 

Economy slowing, spending rising 

Even before the pandemic, India's growth was slowing and public finances were strained because of poor tax collection and higher spending.

Last month, the ratings agency Fitch said India's sovereign rating could come under pressure if its fiscal outlook deteriorates further as the government tries to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

Some commentators said it was too early to say how effective the package would prove to be. "Very often, when the government has made these huge, very big announcements ... the figures have often been fudged," Yogendra Yadav, founder of the opposition party Swaraj India, told a television channel.

"What we have right now is a statement of intent. How can you quarrel with intent?"

Modi said the reforms of the land and labor markets were intended to make India more competitive and a big player in global supply chains, some of which could shift away from China after the pandemic.

Business leaders say potential investors often choose Vietnam, Thailand or Bangladesh ahead of India because of the time required to buy land for factories, restrictive labor laws and higher borrowing costs.

"These reforms will promote business, attract investment, and further strengthen 'Made in India'," Modi said.

Governments and central banks around the world have unleashed unprecedented amounts of fiscal and monetary support for economies that are reeling from the pandemic.

"India’s response has so far been tepid compared to other key nations and thus the catch-up is welcome and is also the need of the hour," said Madhavi Arora, lead economist at Edelweiss FX and Rates.

"It needs to be seen how much will be in the form of direct budgetary support to gauge the immediate fiscal hit and the consequent funding sources."