Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman. (HT)
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman. (HT)

Sitharaman promises to take steps to control impact of coronavirus

  • FM to chair a meeting of secretaries on Wednesday to chart out a course of action which will be finalized after consulting the PMO
  • Sitharaman says sectors like pharmaceuticals, chemicals and solar equipment are increasingly experiencing disruption because of delay in arrival of raw materials or papers

The government went on an overdrive on Tuesday with finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman meeting a cross section of sectors to assess the impact of novel coronavirus outbreak on India, promising to announce a set of measures at the earliest.

Sitharaman said she will chair a meeting of secretaries on Wednesday afternoon to chart out a course of action which will be finalized after consulting the prime minister’s office.

Finance minister said sectors like pharmaceuticals, chemicals and solar equipment are increasingly experiencing disruption because of delay in arrival of raw materials or papers.

“Manufacturing sector which depends on raw materials to come from China is worried that some of them are receiving the stocks but because necessary paper work is not coming from China, their stocks are being held in Indian ports. Their request was can customs take a self-declaration from them and release the stocks. Others also raised the issue of looking at other sources for raw materials," Sitharaman said.

However, Sitharaman said nobody raised worries about price rise or immediate shortage of raw materials in the meeting.

“Shipping lines are still arriving and raw materials will be coming for next week or so. So stocking of raw material is not really being projected like there is a shortage today or there is a problem tomorrow. It’s more a question of remaining prepared for any developing situation in next few weeks," Sitharaman said.

The meeting was attended by senior officials from finance, commerce, customs, representatives from banking, insurance, automobiles, paper, electronics, petroleum, chemical, energy, renewable energy, power, pharma sectors and leaders from industry chambers.

Representatives of MSME sector pointed out that receipt of payments is taking time because of staggered supply of raw materials and requested banks to be flexible about guarantees.

“It might be that in next few months after the virus effect diminishes, there could be a rush of all the materials coming to our ports which have been delayed in last few months and therefore industry also wanted us to be alert to the fact that if today it is getting staggered, sooner there will be a time when all of it will come almost at the same time. Our ports should be in a position to handle that congestion," Sitharaman said.

Some sectors also raised the issue of using the opportunity for capacity building in India. “Many of them said the capacity to manufacture the item exists in India, because of cost competitiveness probably we lost out. Today, can this be used as an opportunity to revive those manufacturing so that we don’t have this kind of a dependence on one source. Manufacturers of medical devices wanted to remove ban on certain items for exports," Sitharaman said.

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