FM meets key ministers over economic impact of Covid-19

New Delhi, March 20 (IANS) Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday set the ball rolling on finalising India's strategy to combat the coronavirus pandemic and prevent its spread from causing big damage to the economy.

The FM held separate meetings with ministers who hold key economic portfolios including Animal Husbandry, Dairy and Fisheries; Civil Aviation; MSMEs; and Tourism at her office in North Block. Officials from thes ministries were also present during the discussions.

Briefing reporters after the meeting, Sitharaman said: “We had to hold these meetings considering the urgency (arising from the coronavirus outbreak)…”

The decisions and recommendations of these meetings will be used as inputs for the economic response taskforce, that has been announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his address to the nation on Thursday evening, to assess sector-wise impact of the pandemic, and suggest measures to mitigate the losses.

The taskforce which is yet to be constituted will also be headed the Finance Minister.

Sitharaman also mentioned the latest steps taken by the security markets regulator SEBI to ensure stability in the financial markets, which have seen a severe bear run in the past couple of weeks.

Tourism Minister Prahlad Singh Patel said that he has informed her about the state of the tourism sector which has taken the maximum hit due to the coronavirus outbreak.

He said that currently assessment is being made for the grant of any relief to the tourism sector.

On the issue of pay cuts and job cuts announced by some private airlines, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri said: “We are addressing all the concerns, constructively.”

Sources said that the MSME ministry has sought deferment of payments liability like goods and services tax, loan repayment and electricity bills. it has also sought a moratorium for repayment of MSME loans.

Some of theses measures may be announced soon, said people in the know.

Addressing the nation on the coronavirus crisis on Thursday, the Prime Minister announced the creation of a Covid-19 economic response task force, which would assess the requirements of various sectors and also oversee implementation of the proposed measures.

The decision comes in the wake of severe impact of Covid-19 on several sectors, including aviation, hospitality and tourism along with the overall economy.

The task force is likely at measures, such as extension of loan tenors for the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and relaxing NPA (non-performing assets) norms, while on the taxation part, GST may be waived on hospitality and tourism sectors.



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