Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will soon announce an economic package for the coronavirus-affected sectors of the economy. No deadline has been announced for the announcement though. But this is over and above the package for SMEs like easier loans and reduced taxes that Sirf News had reported on the day of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to the nation.
Prime Minister Modi had said in his address to the nation on Thursday that the government had decided to form the COVID-19 Economic Response Task Force. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman heads this task force.
Sitharaman is finalising the financial package, a source in the Ministry of Finance said. She had had a meeting with the finance secretary of the Ministries of Tourism, MSME, Civil Aviation, Animal Husbandry and the secretary of Economic Affairs — who will assist her in the job, said the source.
The minister and the secretaries discussed the economic package for the sectors hit by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID) today in the meeting. Sitharaman informed the press that the ministry would meet on Saturday to prepare an action plan to deal with the crisis.
Giriraj Singh’s meeting with Sitharaman
Sitharaman met with Animal Husbandry, Fisheries and Dairy Minister Giriraj Singh too. Singh said after the meeting that the animal husbandry industry was badly affected due to the COVID epidemic. “We discussed various measures. This includes debt restructuring. This can help people working in the field,” Singh said.
COVID could cost the country’s poultry industry Rs 1.5 lakh crore. More than a million small farmers are directly involved in this vocation while crores of people are indirectly dependent on this area.
Government to help civil aviation
The government is all set to help the aviation sector by Rs 12,000 crores. The finance ministry is considering several proposals in this regard, including several measures like immediate relief from aviation fuel tax.
Aviation advisory company CAPA India has reported that companies except Air India are estimated to incur a loss of $ 500 to $ 600 million in the January-March quarter. If not in demand, about 150 aircraft can be stopped from operating.
Currently, six big domestic airlines have a fleet of about 650 aircraft.
Foreign tourists’ absence risks huge loss
Assessing the impact of the coronavirus epidemic on the tourism industry, the tourism committee of CII has reported that the number of foreign tourists visiting India from October to March is 60% of the annual arrivals and, thus, India may lose much of the $ 28 billion the country earns from foreign tourists.
According to the CII report, news of COVID started emerging from November and that led to the cancellation of travel tickets, hotel bookings etc in hordes.
The cancellation of bookings at several Indian tourist destinations has reached an all-time high of 80% in March.
Ceiling imposed on prices of sanitisers, masks
To prevent surge pricing in the wake of public apprehension over the COVID outbreak, the government has fixed the price of sanitisers and face masks. Union Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said in a tweet on Friday that, since the outbreak of coronavirus, the market has seen a huge rise in the prices of various face masks, ingredients used in its manufacture and hand sanitizer. Therefore, the government, taking the matter seriously, has fixed their prices.
Paswan said that under the Essential Commodities Act, the retail price of two-ply masks would not be more than Rs 8 per mask and the price of three-ply masks would not exceed Rs 10 per mask.
The union minister said that the retail price of a 200 ml bottle of hand sanitiser will not exceed Rs 100. Other sizes of bottles will be priced in the same proportion.
These state-set prices will be applicable throughout the country until 30 June.