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FM Nirmala Sitharaman briefing media. (ANI)
FM Nirmala Sitharaman briefing media. (ANI)

FM Nirmala Sitharaman takes stock of economic fallout of Coronavirus outbreak

  • Government is considering a relief package for airlines to help tide over a squeeze in cash flows and severe business disruptions caused by Covid-19
  • After meeting Sitharaman, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri said the government will address the layoffs by private airlines at an appropriate time

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday reviewed the economic fallout of the Covid-19 outbreak with the ministers and officials of civil aviation, MSME, tourism and animal husbandry to announce a package for the distressed sectors.

However, Sitharaman clarified that this was not a meeting of the Covid-19 economic task response force announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his address to the nation on Thursday evening.

“The task force is yet to be constituted. But keeping in mind the urgency of the situation, we are holding the meetings. Of course, the task force when it is constituted, will also get the benefit of these discussions," Sitharaman told reporters, refusing to commit a deadline for the response package to be announced by the government.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to the nation on Thursday evening said he has constituted the task force under Sitharaman to finalise a set of measures needed to reduce the economic difficulties.

“This global pandemic is also going to have a wide-ranging impact on the economy. This Task Force will take decisions in the near future, based on regular interactions and feedback from all stakeholders, and analysis of all situations and dimensions. This Task Force will also ensure that all steps taken to reduce the economic difficulties are effectively implemented," Modi added.

After meeting Sitharaman, civil aviation minister Hardeep Puri said the government will address the layoffs by private airlines at an appropriate time.

On Thursday, IndiGo announced a pay cut to a section of its staff to contain costs amid flight suspensions and curbs on operations while India banned all commercial international flights to and from the country for a week starting 22 March. The government also advised its citizens to avoid all non-essential travel and banned passengers from certain Covid-19-affected nations.

Government is also considering a relief package for airlines to help tide over a squeeze in cash flows and severe business disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Mint reported on Thursday. The steps being considered include staggered payments for jet fuel to state-run oil marketing companies, as well as for parking and other charges at airports.

Animal husbandry minister Giriraj Singh said he demanded loan restructuring for poultry, fisheries sectors which have been badly impacted due to a fall in demand.

A MSME ministry official said a slew of measures were discussed with the finance minister to reduce pressure on MSMEs. “We have asked deferment of various payments like GST returns, electricity bills for MSMEs. We have also sought state firms to clear outstanding dues to small and medium firms expeditiously. Government will announce measures for MSMEs very soon," he said under condition of anonymity.

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