FM's package, final tranche: States' borrowing limit raised to 5% of GSDP

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the fifth and final set of measures to help the economy recover from the impact of COVID crisis on Sunday.

Throughout the week, four tranches of measures were unveiled to see the reformation of four pillars - land, labour, liquidity and law.

On Sunday, finance minister detailed the steps taken by the government in seven key areas: MGNREGA, health & education, business during COVID-19, decriminalization of Companies Act, ease of doing business, public sector enterprises and state govt resources.

Here are the major announcements:

• State's borrowing limit raised: State can now borrow up to 5 per cent of their GSDP for 2021, Sitharaman said. This is to mitigate the threat posed by the coronavirus. States can also get an additional package of Rs 4.28 lakh crore on the condition of meeting certain targets. States have so far borrowed only 14 per cent of the limit which is authorised to them, the finance minister also highlighted. 86 per cent of the limit remains unutilised.

• Stimulus package: The overall stimulus package under the Atmanirbhar (self-reliant) Bharat amounts to Rs 20,97,053, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said.

First tranche of announcements - Rs 5,94,550 crores; Second tranche - Rs 3,10,000 crores; Third tranche - Rs 1,50,000 crores; Fourth and Fifth tranches - Rs 48,100 crores. The package also includes Rs 8.01 lakh crore of liquidity measures announced by the Reserve Bank since March and the immediate stimulus of Rs 1,92,800 crores given by PM, Sitharaman said.

• All sectors now open to Private Sector: All sectors will now be opened to private companies while state-owned enterprises will play an important role in defined areas. Govt to announce a new public sector policy- a list of strategic sectors requiring the presence of PSEs in the public interest will be notified. In strategic sectors, at least one enterprise to remain in the public sector but the private sector to be allowed. In other sectors, PSEs to be privatised, Sitharaman said.

• Digital India efforts paid off: The efforts taken by the government these past years has made it possible that during this time of crisis, we were able to send direct cash transfers to those in need. Rs 2,000 OM Kisan instalment was transferred to 8.19 crore beneficiaries as of May 16, Sitharaman said. Garib Kalyan transfers worth Rs 10,025 crore was sent to 20 crore Jan Dhan accounts. Rs 3,950 crore was given to building and construction workers.

• Push for Digital Education: The government will launch a digital education programme. The existing DIKSHA portal for school education will be improved with online content and QR-coded textbooks. One TV channel each for classes 1 to 12 will be introduced. Top 100 universities will be empowered to start online classes from May 30.

• Boost for MGNREGA: The government will allocate an additional Rs 40,000 crore MGNREGA to provide work to migrants returning home, Sitharaman said. This will help generate 300 crore person days in total employment and is over and above the Rs 61,000 allocated in the budget.

Economic Package: Push for Digital Education

• Higher Spending on Health: The government will increase public expenditure on health, Sitharaman said. This will ramp up health and wellness centres in rural and urban areas, to have infectious diseases hospital blocks and public health labs in all districts.

• Special Framework for MSMEs: Minimum threshold to initiative insolvency proceeding has been raised to Rs 1 crore from Rs 1 lakh to benefit MSMEs, Sitharaman said adding that an Ordinance will be promulgated to bring this change in IBC.

Higher Spending on Health
Health workers wearing special protective suits carry medical waste to dispose of at a government hospital, during the ongoing nationwide COVID-19 lockdown, in New Delhi, Thursday, May 14, 2020. (PTI Photo/Kamal Kishore)

• Relief from Debt Defaults: Debts due to COVID-19 will no longer be included in the category of 'default', Sitharaman said. Initiation of insolvency proceedings will remain suspended up to one year depending on the pandemic situation. This was earlier granted for six months.

• Decriminalisation of Companies Act defaults: Seven compoundable offences were dropped altogether and five are to be dealt with under an alternative framework. The amendment will de-clog the criminal courts and NCLT, Sitaraman said. Some defaults that are included are: Shortcoming in CSR reporting, inadequacies in board report, filing defaults and delay in holding AGM.

• On Listing Securities: Now, Indian public companies can list their securities directly in foreign jurisdictions. Private companies which list Non-Convertible Debentures on stock exchanges will not be regarded as listed companies, Sitharaman said.

• The quick despatch of grains to all: Sitharaman appreciated the concerted efforts of Food Corporation of India, National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India and states that saw the delivery of pulses and grains to those in need despite the logistical challenges posed by the lockdown. Grains and pulses were given for 3 months in advance. 6.81 crore free cylinders were also given to Ujjwala beneficiaries.

• Shramik trains: The Finance Minister also highlighted that 85 per cent of the costs of Shramik special trains were borne by the government.

• Agri-infrastructure development: Rs 1 lakh crore agriculture infrastructure fund to be established. A new scheme worth Rs 10,000 crore aimed at a formalisation of micro food enterprises. Rs 15,000 crore for developing animal husbandry infrastructure to be set up.

Shramik Train for migrants to travel home
Migrants from Jaipur arrive by 'Shramik Special' train at Danapur junction, during the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus, in Patna, Saturday. Photo: PTI

• Amendments to the Essential Commodities Act: Amendments will be brought to the Essential Commodities Act to deregulate foods like cereals, edible oils, oilseeds, pulses, onions and potatoes. Agriculture marketing reforms will be implemented through a new central law that will remove barriers to inter-state trade. Farmers will be given price and quality assurance.

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