The novel coronavirus has spread like wildfire ever since its unfortunate inception in Wuhan, China. Countries like Italy, Spain, Iran and the USA have already hit phase 3 and are scrambling to keep the disease at bay. India too is following suit in taking every precautionary measure to put a stop to the looming menace. With the onset of a 21-day lockdown, the government is gearing up to prevent the effect of COVID-19 on the economy. Recently, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman addressed the possibility of a financial crisis in the coming months. The Ministry of Finance has taken certain fiscal measures to prevent the country’s economic difficulties during the pandemic. Here’s a list of key issues tackled by the body:
Relief packages for the underprivileged
The Finance Ministry has announced that relief packages shall be disbursed to the underprivileged sector, with main focus on daily wage labourers, rural workers, senior citizens, disabled persons and women. An amount of Rs 1.7 crore has been allocated for providing essential food items, home utilities and cash funds to those falling under the BPL. “These announcements will be implemented immediately”, assured Nirmala Sitharaman.
Facilitation of essential services
The Ministry has also announced that essential services shall continue to remain open to facilitate the basic functioning of the country. To prevent panic and hysteria amongst the masses, it was immediately announced and published in the Gazette that pharmacies, grocery stores, ATMs, banks, and hospitals, among others, shall continue to function. However, people serving in the various public fields have been directed to practice extra precaution at all times.
Relaxation in tax and company rules
For companies and SMEs, the Ministry has relaxed certain regulations, including extending the time for filing financial year returns, cutting back interest rates from 12% to 9% and relaxing the penalty in the event of failure to file GST returns. There have been certain relaxations for citizens as well. For instance, there shall be no charge on debit card transactions and the minimum balance requirement in a savings account has been waived.
Provision of medical resources
The medical and health industry is the backbone of the country and the Finance Ministry is leaving no stone unturned in prioritizing the health and security of the diligent professionals serving in the field. An insurance cover of an estimated amount of Rs 50 lakhs has been allocated to every member of the field, covering doctors, nurses, ward persons, paramedics, and allied hospital staff for a period of 3 months. The Ministry has also directed state governments to increase the provision of medical equipment to ensure the maximum protection of medical professionals.
With the Finance Ministry’s quick response in times of crisis, the country can hope to avert the onset of a massive public health disaster and simultaneously cushion the blow of a falling economy. However, it is also crucial that every citizen of the country remains responsible and adheres to the directives of the state.