The ₹20 trillion package: Five key things to watch out for

  • Analysts will want to know how much of RBI's measures to boost liquidity has been taken into account and how much of the package is fresh expenditure

Asit Ranjan Mishra, Gireesh Chandra Prasad
Updated13 May 2020
PM Narendra Modi, while announcing the package, said reforms will insulate the country from future shocks. (Photo: PTI)
PM Narendra Modi, while announcing the package, said reforms will insulate the country from future shocks. (Photo: PTI)

NEW DELHI: The Center on Tuesday announced a massive 20 trillion stimulus, comprising 10% of India's GDP, to revive the economy that has been brought to its knees by a severe, nearly 50-day lockdown to contain the covid-19 pandemic.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while announcing the stimulus, had said details of the package will be made available beginning Wednesday. Towards this, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman will brief the media later today.

Here are the five key things to watch out for at the press briefing:

PACKAGE DETAILS:

Modi in his speech had said the 20 trillion package includes the previous stimulus of 1.7 trillion as well as the liquidity easing measures announced by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Analysts will want to know how much of the RBI measures--long term repo operations, targeted long term repo operations and repo rate cuts--the government has taken account of while designing the latest package and how much of it is fresh expenditure to boost the economy.

The prime minister had also said the economic package is aimed at labourers, farmers, honest tax-paying middle class, as well as Indian industry including the cottage industry, MSMEs. The details of allocation to the said sectors will be an important takeaway, especially the amount earmarked to bail out ailing companies.

FINANCING THE STIMULUS:

The massive size of the stimulus announced largely took everybody by surprise because of the lack of fiscal space and warnings by rating agencies that deterioration in India’s fiscal outlook could put pressure on its sovereign rating. The government has to resort to either borrowing from the market or monetising the deficit by the RBI to finance the package.

The sources of funding the package and reaction of the market as well as rating agencies will be keenly watched.

FISCAL IMPACT:

The government on 8 May sharply raised its gross borrowing for the current fiscal to 12 trillion, 54% more than budgeted, amid rising pressures on both revenue and expenditure because of the covid-19 pandemic. This is expected to push up fiscal deficit to 5.5% of GDP from the targetted 3.5% of GDP in FY21. It is not clear whether finance ministry will factor in the 4.8 trillion borrowing as part of the stimulus package. However, any additional borrowing this year will strain the fiscal deficit and debt to GDP ratio in FY21.

TIME FRAME:

The most crucial bit is the time frame for implementing the package. If the 20 trillion bounty is spread over two to three years, it may not enthuse the market and industry very much. On the contrary, frontloading the spending in FY21 could boost sentiment and provide a growth impetus to the economy.

THE REFORMS:

While announcing the package, Prime Minister Modi indicated his government's resolve to carry out bold reformsin areas such as land, labour, liquidity, and laws to build a “self-reliant India”. The strength of the reforms could reposition Modi as an economic reformer.

Modi has sought to empower farmers by building supply chains as well as rationalize the tax systems. Several attempts in the past for a new direct tax code to replace the close to six-decade old Income Tax Act have not borne fruit, with the latest recommendations, made by a task force, still under consideration.

Keen on encouraging local manufacturing and businesses globally relying more on technology for delivery of goods and services, streamlining of direct taxation and broadening its coverage of the digital economy will remain a key priority for the Modi administration. The government last year offered investment-linked direct tax incentives for sunrise industries like those involved in the production of semiconductors, electric charging stations and lithium ion batteries which have the potential to boost local production. Further simplifying customs related procedures, a reform area often flagged by the World Bank in its ease of doing business reports is also likely to be a priority.

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