Covid 19 has seriously impacted the Indian economy. Many people have lost their jobs, while some have witnessed reduced payments. Amidst these concerns, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharam came forward to answer some of the most sought queries on the country’s financial situation. Nirmala Sitharaman has faced a downfall in the economy since her second term. The rising fury of the COVID pandemic this year had led to certain expectations from the Annual budget. The budget released in Feb 2021 laid several goals for the Indian economy but mounting COVID-19 cases has made it challenging to implement them. The present situation has once again brought our focus on the shaking economy. Therefore, in this article, we will see how Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman response on COVID 19 and budget schemes and addresses all these concerns.
Impact of COVID on GST and economy as a whole
When the Finance Minister was asked about the impact on GST collection due to the Covid pandemic, she gave a positive response. She said that the GST collections would be better than the collections of last Oct-Nov month. She further clarified that the reduction in GST could come from those states that have imposed short lockdowns as e-way bills will be used. Nirmala Sitharaman also cited the GST collections of April month: Rs. 1.4 Lakh crore.
She is optimistic that in the coming months, this GST collection will improve. She remarked that last month’s GST collection was terrible, but the government expects an improvement in the coming months.
When Nirmala Sitharaman was told that the states expect a higher downfall in GST collections than estimated by the Revenue secretary, she very cleverly said that debates are natural. She further noted that these calculations are also a part of the GST council, focusing on the larger picture. If the GST council gets a high collection this year, they will be used for paying the dues of the last year. This will reduce the government’s borrowings.
She further stated that debates on GST are widespread. It is alleged that after the stopping of cess collection in 2022, the govt. It is likely to be impacted. But Nirmala Sitharaman says that these issues need separate sessions.
Two options in front of the GST committee
The GST committee has two options for ensuring an adequate supply of this equipment:
Zero duty (Import them without any duties to reduce prices)
Zero-rating (applying preferential rates to lower costs of a particular good).
But the committee has not yet decided which one will be chosen. The Finance Minister has said that the GST council is made up of states and centre. So there needs to be a healthy discussion and a consensus before arriving at any decision. She said that zero-rating requires a change in state laws, and an ordinance is a must for the same. Therefore these two options will be taken only after consensus. She clarified that the GST council might be formed of two groups: Centre and state, but they are not opposed to each other. So a decision would be taken only after consensus.
Govt. Committee on COVID equipment rates
Since COVID handling is the priority for the Govt, a group of Ministers has been appointed. They will look into the prices of COvid equipment like oxygen cylinder, masks, vaccine, drugs etc.
Response about Vaccine payments and GST slabs on essential medicines and concentrators
When the Finance minister was asked about payments to the two leading vaccine manufacturers of India, Bharat biotech and Serum Institute of India (SII), She replied that the charges would be made as people get vaccinated. Although the government has announced advance payments till July and that too without any guarantee, the Finance Minister has revealed that they are looking at a holistic situation, including Vaccine imports and decide accordingly.
Also, it was a concern among people whether the GST rate imposed on essential medicines and concentrators will witness a fall? Let’s see how Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman replied to this concern.
Nirmala Sitharaman pointed out that WHO keeps on upgrading the essential medicines list. Therefore one can’t be sure if a medicine on WHO’s priority list will remain there tomorrow or not. Thus a dynamic mechanism and action for the GST council are needed to adjust according to new protocols.
Therefore she clarified that there couldn’t be an instant change in prices and tax rates. When Ms Sitharaman was asked if she will keep essential healthcare items under the lowest GST rates, she gave a thoughtful reply. She said that the decisions are taken according to the consent of the GST council.
She also referred to a comment that she read where people were calling GST councils heartless. To this, she replied that these essential commodities were essential even before the pandemic. So the GST chairman has been under a solid duty to consider all aspects because he/she is representing the people. So one is not heartless, but it is the situation and the majority decision that has to prevail. Therefore she said that if anyone wants a revision in rates, the only way is GST discussion.
What FM said about GST rationalisation?
The next issue that drew the attention of the media was the rationalisation of GST rates. Since GST is about to complete in four years, everyone wants to know when a new rationalisation under GST will be done. Addressing this issue, the worthy Finance Minister replied that this issue is also being discussed. Although she had mentioned about rationalisation of GST rates besides a correction of inverted duties last year, she said that seeing the precarious situation, these critical decisions will be taken after some time.
Relation between States and centre on GST
The relations between opposition ruled states and centre govt. Often remain sore. Due to this, some people opine that the GST council has turned into a political platform rather than a discussion council. This leads to a considerable distance between the state and central govt. Addressing this concern, Madam Finance Minister said that the centre is constantly trying to bridge this gap. She says that even if the GST council has become a political platform, it encourages healthy discussions, debates where people keep their views and listen to others.
So in this way, the commission tries to promote the best decision. She said that if everyone remains isolated, don’t indulge in discussion and there will be no outcomes. So the need of the hour is not to comment but to discuss freely for solutions in the interest of everyone.
FM’s views on Mini lockdowns imposed by states
As we know that many states have imposed a mini lockdown due to rising COVID cases; let’s see what Finance Minister Ms Sitharaman has to say on these. She believes that it is a correct approach because rather than a macro containment, a micro containment strategy seems better. This is because local authorities know more about the local situation.
How Finance Minister tackled criticism of Govt’s COVID response
The govt. Was criticised for not unveiling considerable funding to tackle COVID-19. But Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman denied all this criticism and said that the budget is yet to reach people because only the first quarter is going on. She scolds those demanding significant stimulus without considering the policies outlined in budget 2021 to deal with covid-19.
The finance minister response on COVID 19 and budget schemes that the budget is designed to fulfil the need for stimulus. Even the Atma Nirbhar schemes like the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee scheme are used and expanded for tackling COVID-19.
Besides ECLG that is still providing money, Swamih Funds are used for funding almost 136 projects. People paying rents and EMIs are also going to benefit from this Atma Nirbhar stimulus. Even the budget for MNREGA Scheme was enhanced besides building up various rural area agricultural infrastructure and wellness centres. All and all, Atmanirbhar Bharat schemes are doing well, and an increased stimulus will only be given if the last year like demand originates.
The finance minister acknowledged the adjustments post lockdown, like negotiation skills of labour which is why the impact of the second wave on the economy is yet to be determined.
She has response on COVID 19 and budget schemes that even after assessing the impact of the second wave on the economy weekly, different results originate due to rising cases. So one can’t comment on the adequacy of funds without looking into the broader picture.
The opposition raises other criticisms and how FM dealt with it
The opposition also criticised the government’s vaccination strategy for not ordering adequate vaccine doses. To this, Ms Sitharaman said she is happy that the opposition is concerned about vaccination because initially, they were criticising the vaccine for side effects. They had even refused to take BJP’s vaccine and doubted Indian vaccine makers. But now, finally, they understood how vital vaccines are. In this way she sidelined the discussion on inadequate vaccine doses.
The opposition also said that the government had not handled the second wave appropriately. The Finance minister said that she is sorry for the loss sustained by people due to these challenging times. But she said that the government is trying to make adequate preparations. All govt hospitals are given funds to ensure the correct number of beds and other facilities. But since no one can estimate the extent of COVID infection, it’s impossible to say which strategy is appropriate.
She also pointed towards countries like Taiwan, where covid infections came again. Therefore she says that instead of pointing towards govt failure, one should work together to help others in these sufferings.
Nirmal Sitharaman says that funds are adequate for COVID handling
Another thing of utmost importance in this COVID pandemic is the govt. Spending on COVID handling. When she was asked about some particular sectors like tourism which have witnessed a high downfall due to COVID-19, she said that the government understands these concerns and has extended ECLG to Hoteliers. Finance Minister further revealed that even after consulting hoteliers, she could not come up with an acceptable policy.
Nirmal Sitharaman response on COVID 19 and budget schemes revealed that the government would have a review in the coming week about funds. She said that the funds are adequate for now. If any need arises, the govt will look into it, but till now, Budget and Atma Nirbhar policies are enough.
Finance Minister talks about Other concerns:
The govt. Has been stressing on disinvestment and privatisation in the budget. This attracted significant criticism. Therefore Nirmala Sitharaman also addressed this criticism and said that investment policy is not followed merely for revenues but as a Cabinet decision to tackle loss-making PSUs. If they are not working efficiently, then this can impact taxpayers’ money. Therefore this decision to privatisation has been taken after much deliberation.
2. Inflation and rising prices of petrol:
The second concern is about global inflation, for which regular meetings are held to maintain good stocks of essential items so that prices don’t become a burden on a commoner. Talking about the rising petrol prices, she said that petrol related decisions have to pass through several layers including states. So the centre can’t be blamed.
3. Stock market:
The rising stock market indices were also cited to show that Indian companies are doing well even in these challenging times. The PLI scheme, FDI schemes, etc. Have attracted global investments for listed companies. Even investments in mutual funds are boosting. This shows the potential of the Indian stock market.
4. Global liquidity:
Nirmal Sitharaman said that govt. is not paying much attention to global liquidity because it is not worrisome. At this moment, other things need more attention.
Regarding insolvency issues, Ms Raman acknowledged the role of Courts and various judgements in strengthening IBC. She further said that if any need arises, the government will come up with essential amendments.
Final words on COVID impact on financial reforms in India
In this way, the Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharam, tried to response on COVID-19 and budget schemes and address all the finance-related queries amidst the global pandemic. She talked about the role of the GST Council and addressed Opposition claims. But on some issues, she gave an indirect answer without addressing the primary concerns. She put immense faith in the Budget and Atma Nirbhar Bharat package to tackle the COVID-19 second wave. It can be concluded that the Finance Minister has given fancy defences in support of the centre but the way the government. deals with the third wave will decide if the Finance Minister’s strategy is on the right path or only a mirage.
1st Cases In Andhra, Chandigarh; India’s Omicron Count Now 38: 10 Points
Omicron cases are increasing and there are cases of Covid-19 variant in Delhi, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat.
There are fresh Omicron patients risen to 38 as 1 each in Chandigarh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.
Top news related to Omicron
There was the first case in Nagpur, Maharashtra. A 40-year-old man came back from South Africa via Delhi. He was tested positive at the airport on December 6.There was the 18th case of omicron on December 11 and 12.In Kerala’s Ernakulam, a patient returned from the UK via Abu Dhabi and tested positive for Omicron. Till then, he was home quarantined and his family members and other passengers were home quarantined. A 20-year-old who came from Italy tested positive. A man who returned from Ireland to Andhra Pradesh was tested positive for Omicron. Maharashtra has the maximum number of cases.The ICMR unit in Assam has developed a new testing kit to detect Omicron in two hours.The WHO warned the nations of the Asia Pacific region to boost healthcare capacity and full vaccinate their people.
The Omicron strain is considered to be highly transmissible and it has spread to almost 59 nations.
India’s Harnaaz Sandhu crowned Miss Universe 2021
Harnaaz Sandhu, a 21 year old from India, represented India at the 70th Miss Universe 2021 which was held at Eilat, Israel.
In 2000, Lara Dutta won the title of Miss Universe.
She was presented the crown by Andrea Meza, the former Miss Universe of 2020 from Mexico which was live-streamed all across the world.
The first runner up was from Paraguay and second runner up was from South Africa.
About the Miss Universe event
In the top three rounds, the contestants were asked what advice would you give to young women watching on how to deal with the pressures they face today?
Harnaaz Sandhu answered this question amazingly. She said the biggest pressure the youth of today is facing, is to believe in themselves. To know that you are unique makes you beautiful. Stop comparing yourselves with others and let’s talk about more important things that are happening worldwide. Come out and speak for yourself, because you’re the leader of your life. You are the voice of your own. I believed in myself and that is why I am standing here today.
Her powerful answer made the beauty top 3 of calling for less talk and more action.
Farmer union to meet the government to decide on further movement
The proposal from the government which addresses the pending issues has been accepted by farmer unions and the farmer union will be meeting the government on Thursday (9th December 2021) at noon.
Farmer union to meet the government and decide further movement
The farmer union, SKM (Samyukta Kisan Morcha) accepted the government proposal which addresses the pending issues of farmers.
It was on Tuesday (7th December 2021) when the central government sent the draft to the farmer union which is a five-member committee. Sources have indicated that once the final draft of the proposal agreed by both the parties is received by the union, the farmers’ protest which started on 26 November 2020 will end.
The issues listed in the draft were Surety on Minimum Support Price, withdrawal of the draft Electricity Amendments Bill, 2020/2021, withdrawal of criminal cases against the farmers, and also compensation for the families of farmers who died during the protest.
The SKM said that they will be meeting the government at Singhu Border on Thursday at noon to come up with a formal decision and later end the protest.