Coronavirus crisis: Financial package and relief measures to be announced soon, says Nirmala Sitharaman

New Delhi: An economic package and other relief measures for the areas affected by the corona virus will be announced as soon as possible, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Friday. However, she did not give any timeline about when the packages will be released.  Sitharaman spoke about the package while meeting reporters and after talking to ministers and officials of civil aviation, animal husbandry, tourism and MSME ministries to take stock of the situation following Covid-19 outbreak.

“I had a meeting with tourism, MSME, civil aviation, animal husbandry sectors. These ministries presented assessment of their sector after consultation with their stakeholders.

“We had a detailed discussion in the presence of the Finance Secretary and Economic Affairs Secretary. We are compiling their suggestions,” she said after the four-hour meeting here.

She added that the ministry will hold an internal meeting on Saturday to firm up the action plan to deal with the crisis, she added.

When asked about when the details of the package will be announced, she said “it will be difficult to give a timeline but it will be done as soon as possible.”

The FM also said that it will take time to constitute the task force as announced by our Prime Minister.

On Thursday, while addressing the nation, the PM said that the government has chalked out plans to set up a ‘Covid-19 Economic Response Task Force’ that will decide on the relief packages for sectors and areas hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

“Task force is not yet constituted but keeping in mind the sense of urgency, the ministry was holding this meeting. Of course when the task force is constituted it will also get the benefit of these meetings. Other ministries are also sending us their suggestions,” said Sitharaman.

Asked about relief measures for the financial sector, Sitharaman said, “SEBI has come up with a list of regulations which will also sort of keep the markets a bit stable. But I can’t say what I am doing for the markets. At the moment, we are at a critical stage of collecting everybody’s inputs and also the ministry is working in detail about all the inputs which have come.”

After the meeting, Tourism Minister, Prahlad Singh Patel said the ministry has been assessing the situation. “We all know that the tourism sector has been impacted. The finance minister is already concerned about the impact of coronavirus on all the sectors. We will properly assess the losses to the sector and then decide if any package has to be granted for the industry,” he said.

Minister of Animal Husbandry, Fisheries and Dairying Giriraj Singh said, “Livestock industry has been hit badly because of the coronavirus outbreak. We discussed various kinds of measures; including loan restructuring that can help people engaged in this sector.”

The Indian poultry industry alone is worth Rs. 1.5 lakh crore and more than 10 lakh small farmers are directly engaged in it and crores of people are indirectly dependent on the sector, he said.

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said the Central government is “addressing all these problems” constructively.

Puri said he discussed the matters related to the virus’ impact on the Indian aviation sector with the finance minister.

“We are addressing all these problems. We are addressing them constructively,” the minister replied when asked about the layoffs by private airlines.