PM meets Shah, Sitharaman for second stimulus package as lockdown continues

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday met two senior ministers and civil servants from the economic ministries to prepare a second stimulus package for the economy hit by a nationwide lockdown triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Modi, after his meeting with Home Minister Amit Shah and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, will hold talks with key economic ministries such as Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME), PTI reported quoting unnamed sources. The finance ministry, which deferred on Friday releasing the monthly Goods and Services Tax (GST) collection numbers, will make a presentation to Modi later in the day on the state of economy and initiatives that it plans to undertake to help the economy.

Modi met with aviation, labour and power ministries on Friday. He had detailed deliberation with commerce and MSME ministries among others on Thursday with focus on attracting both domestic and overseas investment and revival of small businesses in the country so that the recovery process is hastened. Shah and Sitharaman were present in these meetings, reported PTI.

Small businesses, farmers, women, poor, migrant workers and other marginalised sections are likely to benefit from the second stimulus, Business Standard reported on April 28. Industries worst hit by the lockdown--aviation, hospitality, automobiles, real estate, and logistics to name a few—will have to wait. Any support for these sectors and big industry will only happen later down the line, once economic activity normalizes to some extent, officials said.

Sitharaman on March 25 announced a stimulus worth Rs 1.7 trillion or around 0.8 per cent of India’s GDP--much smaller compared to most other G-20 nations. The United States’ stimulus package was pegged at 11 per cent of GDP, that of Australia was at 9.7 per cent, Brazil was at 3.5 per cent, as per data portal Statista.

The government said on Friday it would extend its nationwide lockdown for another two weeks after May 4, but would allow “considerable relaxations” in lower-risk districts marked as green and orange zones under a plan to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

The home ministry issued new guidelines to regulate life and work in this period, based on districts divided into red ( coronavirus hotspot), green and orange zones. There will be considerable relaxations in the districts falling in the green and orange zones, the government said.

A number of activities will remain prohibited throughout the country, irrespective of the zone. Travel by air, rail, metro and inter-state movement by road will remain banned.

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