Govt assessing eco impact for possible stimulus

New Delhi: With the world's worst outbreak of COVID pandemic stalling a nascent economic recovery, the government has begun assessing the impact of the second wave of infections on different sectors and may look at providing support at an appropriate time to segments requiring fiscal help.

Some of the economic indicators, including the Goods and Services Tax (GST) collections, still provide confidence and incoming data will throw some more light on the state of the economy, sources said.

Services sectors like hospitality, tourism and aviation which had just started recovering were hit hard by the second wave of COVID, the sources said, adding these segments might need some support on an urgent basis from the government. Besides, MSME sector, the second highest employer after agriculture, has been impacted very much and would require financial assistance.

The government might tweak the existing Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme to provide immediate help to the sector, the sources added.

Currently, around 6.5 crore Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) contribute 30 per cent of the GDP.

Recently, the RBI also announced a loan restructuring scheme for small borrowers amid the pandemic.

However, the sources said that fiscal stimulus would be effective only once local lockdowns ease and restrictions on business due to curfews are lifted.

Most of the states have imposed curfews in their states to contain spiralling COVID infections and deaths. Also, the second COVID wave has dealt a blow to both consumer and investor sentiments, which also need to be lifted. The sources said that Niti Aayog is working on the focus areas of economy and what could be done to stimulate demand in sectors that have been impacted the most by COVID.

Once NITI Aayog suggests a plan, the finance ministry would decide on the way forward, they added.

Both monetary and fiscal policies are directed towards boosting the Indian economy which is expected to grow in double digits during the current financial year despite the devastating second wave as per the revised outlook by many organisations, including the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the sources pointed out.

Last month, the RBI retained its growth forecast at 10.5 per cent for the current financial year while ADB projected a growth rate of 11 per cent for this fiscal.

However, rating agencies have lowered growth forecasts for India saying that the second wave of infections will hamper economic recovery. They, however, projected that the negative impact on economic output will be limited to the April-June quarter.

Moody's has projected growth of 9.3 per cent for current fiscal, lower than 13.7 per cent estimated earlier.

S&P Global Ratings has said growth could drop to 9.8 per cent in a 'moderate' scenario of infections, and could be even as low as 8.2 per cent in a 'severe' scenario. S&P had earlier estimated growth of 11 per cent for the current fiscal.

According to Fitch Ratings, India's slow pace of vaccination could mean that the country remains vulnerable to further waves of the pandemic.

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