Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman while addressing a press meet on Monday announced a slew of measures to provide relief to diverse sectors affected by the 2nd wave of COVID 19 such as Rs 1.5lakh crore of additional credit for small and medium businesses, more funds for the healthcare sector, loans to tourism agencies and guides, and waiver of visa fee for foreign tourists.
Together with previously announced Rs 93,869 crore spending on providing free foodgrains to the poor till November and additional Rs 14,775 crore fertilizer subsidy, the stimulus package mostly made up of government gave a guarantee to banks and microfinance institutions for loans they extend to COVID –hit sectors – totalled up to Rs 6.29 lakh crore.
Addressing a press conference Sitharaman said, “Economic Relief measures are being announced.” For setting up additional funding for Children and Paediatric care/paediatric beds at hospitals to prepare healthcare infrastructure to deal with any emergency that may arise if the 2nd wave of COVID 19 hits children.
To incentivize job creation, the government committed to paying the employer and employee’s share to provident fund (PF) for all new recruitments done till March 2022. Previously, the government paid Rs 902 crore for 21.42 lakh beneficiaries of 79,577 establishments.
With the tourism sector being hit hard by the pandemic, she announced up to Rs 10 lakh loan to tourist agencies and Rs. 1 lakh loan to Tourist guides, besides a wavier of visa-free for the first five lakh foreign tourists visiting India after travel restrictions ease. Tourist visa fee waiver will cost the government Rs. 100 Crore.
Other announcements included an additional Rs. 19,041 crore for providing broadband internet cover to all village panchayats, an extension of tenure of production linked incentive (PLI) scheme for large scale electronics manufacturing by a year and Rs. 88,000 crore of insurance cover for goods exporters.
From Rs. 3 lakh crore to Rs. 4.5 lakh crore Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS) is being expanded.
Another Rs. 1.1 lakh crore loan guarantee scheme for COVID-affected sectors was announced. This included Rs. 50,000 crore for the health sector, with a three–year single loan of Rs. 100 crore carrying an interest of 7.95 per cent. Loans to other sectors such as tourism and hospitality would come at an 8.25 percent per annum interest rate.
Also, microfinance institutions will extend 25 lakh small borrowers loans of up to Rs 1.25lakh at an interest rate that is 2 per cent lower than the benchmark lending rate, the union finance minister said.