COVID-19: India to provide additional relief, economic stimulus soon, says FM

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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday said India will soon announce fresh relief measures and economic stimulus to help the poor and industry fight the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Participating in the 101st meeting of the Development Committee Plenary of the World Bank through video conference, Sitharaman also assured the global community that India would continue to supply critical medicines to needy countries for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

Sharing details of welfare measures announced by the government last month, the finance minister said support measures worth USD 23 billion (Rs 1.70 lakh crore) were provided, comprising free health insurance to health workers; cash transfers, free food and gas distribution; and social security measures for affected workers.

To help companies, especially SME firms, cope with the sudden loss of economic opportunity, the government has provided relief in statutory and regulatory compliance matters related to income tax, GST, customs, financial services, and corporate affairs, she said.

The central bank has also been accommodative, she said, adding regulators are taking steps to reduce market volatility.

“Government is working extensively with stakeholders for providing additional relief in the form of humanitarian aid and to provide economic stimulus in the coming days,” she said.

In her intervention at the session, Sitharaman stated that given the size of the population, India could have become a major COVID hotspot.

Taking no chances, the government launched massive efforts to assist the health system to respond effectively to the outbreak, she said.

Important measures included social distancing, travel restrictions, work from and stay at home in public and private sectors, and direct health interventions centered on scaled-up testing, screening and treatment have helped contain the impact of the pandemic, she added.

As responsible citizens of the global community, she said: “We are supplying critical medicines to the needy countries and will continue to do so if the situation demands.”

India started shipment of critical drug hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of coronavirus to various countries, including the US after a bit of diplomatic tussle between the two nations.

She also commended the speedy response and efficiency of the World Bank Group is rolling out the Fast Track COVID-19 Response Facility.

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