Everyone accepts that the Covid-19 problem is not going to be over by April 14. When we were all anticipating an economy package, the PM asked us to hold candles and lights. To revive the economy, it is going to take long and we don’t know when the corona virus will go away. When will we reach herd immunity? – we don’t know. The FM announced a package for Rs.1.70 Lakh Cr which amounts to $22.5 billion. World Bank has announced loan of $1 billion and it appears we are asking another $6 billion from multilateral agencies like ADB & AIIB. FICCI has demanded $2 billion. Economists like the Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee say we need more. NDTV said atleast another Rs.7 lakh crores.
Let us see what the other countries have done so far.
USA (Pop-33.10 Cr) has announced $3.5 trillion package which is Rs.2,67,46,650 Crores. Each adult american is provided with $1200 (91200) and each child $500 (Rs.38000/-) if their income is below $99000. Jobless persons are provided additional $600 per week. Those affected with the virus are given extra 3 months leave with salary. Hospitals have been given $127 billion as first trench. More to follow. Special package for business by the Central Bank is also provided.
In Germany (Pop-8.37Cr) KfW the German Central Bank has allowed companies to avail $610 billion. Businesses and others who need can get $5000 to 15000 online in 24 hours.
UK (Pop-6.78 Cr) has announced $424 billion package. The government has announced a loan Guarantee to business. Three-month mortgage payment holiday is announced. 20-billion-pound tax cut is also announced.
France (Pop-6.52Cr) has suspended Rent and utility bills for small companies. It has also announced $335 billion new loans and $50.22 billion to help companies.
Spain (Pop-4.67 Cr) has announced $220 billion relief out of which $117 billion will be by the government and rest by the private sector. It has also announced a loan guarantee of 100 billion Euros.
Australia (2.54 Cr) has announced $11.4 billion relief and $2.4 billion for health. It has also announced deferred payment for 6 million small businesses.
Canada (Pop-3.77 Cr) has announced $52 billion direct support and $55 billion tax relief. It has also settled one million jobless claims and $2000 for workers for 4 months.
UAE (Pop-9.89 Lakhs) has announced $61.4 billion package with tax refund, SME guarantee and bank assistance.
Saudi Arabia (Pop-3.4 Cr) has announced $32 billion. Italy (Pop-6.2 Cr) has announced $28 billion. Thailand (Pop-6.98 Cr) has announced $20.6 billion and soft loan at 2 % interest.
China (Pop-140.8 Cr) changed its repo and reverse repo rate on February 4 itself and released $174 +$71 billion. The Central Bank and People’s Bank of China have announced stimulus for firms.
Japan (Pop12.64 Cr) has announced 0% loan though they are not affected much.
Indonesia (Pop-27.35 Cr), South Korea (Pop-5.12 Cr), New Zeeland (Pop-48.22 Lakhs) Denmark and Malaysia (3.23 Crores) have also announced relief packages.
Full particulars of all countries will emerge as everyday new announcements are coming.
The Chinese efforts give us a lesson as China is also a developing nation (Though far ahead of us) and their population is only little more than our 133.92 Crores (China 140.8 Cr) China strengthened the public health system which is already robust. China’s social security system for poor, unemployed, workers, students and old aged is also much superior and ours is negligible. 70% of the workers have already resumed work and industries are in full swing. They are exporting masks, PPEs and ventilators in huge numbers.
The success is attributed to 3 important efforts.
1. Timely intervention
2. Information Transparency and
3. Macro-Economic Policies.
The government improved the social security system and everything was delivered at home including alcohol. Work from home worked. To the SMEs lots of concessions were provided. VAT which is 6% only was exempted to small industries. Supply chain finance was done online. Credit limits were enhanced. The Central Bank and the People’s Bank of China intervened. Liquidity was made available. The Capital requirements of banks were relaxed. Concessional loans were given. Fintech platforms disbursed quick loans. The saving of SMEs is lauded which has restored the economy of China. A supply chain credit was extended.
Alibaba’s Jack Ma also jumped in. Alibaba’s virtual bank named MYbank disbursed huge credits online at zero or minimum Interest.
All the above are lessons for us.
We are striving for a 5 trillion economy. So, we can’t say we are a poor country. The role of government is to provide services for the people for which they collect direct and indirect taxes like GST. They can avail credit from RBI and other banks. But not from IMF and World Bank who are responsible for ruining the economy and who put conditions which is not good for the country. Even now they are directing online courses instead of health infrastructure to Pakistan.
What the Central government should do?
Implement atleast Rs.10 Lakh crore package. ($133.52 billion) This should be in the form of
1. Direct Benefit Transfer to all who need. The Govt has already stated that there are 80 crore poor. They should be provided with cash, all grocery items and medicines. The homeless require special attention. Unemployed should be given unemployment allowance.
2. Reduce GST and return GST collected excess from people, especially MSME immediately.
3. Provide 6 months tax holiday to MSMEs.
4. Provide 3 months free transport to migrant labourers to resume work.
5. Provide cash allowance to agriculture labourers, migrant labourers, fishermen and women unorganized workers.
6. Provide 3 months’ rent to the poor.
7. Provide 3 months free electricity to MSMEs.
8. Provide education loan waiver for study in India.
9. Procure all agriculture commodities and distribute through a supply chain.
10. Provide assistance to all small traders for the lock down period.
What the RBI should do?
RBI as Central Bank has to play a major role though they are starved of reserves.
1. Revise NPA norms
2. Provide restructuring of loans
3. Cancel all bank charges for 6 months.
4. Strengthen UPI security
5. Encourage banks to lend more by strengthening the Credit Guarantee schemes.
6. Expand bank branches in rural and semi urban areas.
7. Strengthen regional rural banks, co-operatives including primary agriculture co-op societies.
8. Come up with new instruments for small finance.
9. Ensure the 1% DRI loans are given by all banks all over the country.
10. Ensure 18% of credit to agriculture excluding contribution to RIDF and participation certificates.
What the Govt should do for the Banking Sector?
Banking and financial sector are going to play a major role in reviving the economy.
1. Strengthen NABARD, SIDBI, IFC with more funds and more staff.
2. Create few Development Finance Institutions immediately sector wise like housing, infrastructure, industry finance etc.
3. Convert the customer service points into micro branches with 2 staff by converting business correspondents as Permanent employees who will work under one officer and provide small credits also.
4. Strengthen SHGs (Self Help Groups) by increasing direct linkage loans (not MFI’s). Ask banks to double their credit to SHGs which is easy.
5. Nationalise some more private banks so that government schemes are implemented better.
6. Drop the idea of listing LIC which contributes a lot to the Economy.
7. Through RBI double credit to agriculture and MSMEs with strengthening of the Credit Guarantee Fund by the government and adopting schemes to strengthen them.
8. Provide Interest subsidy to all small loans through an interest subvention scheme.
9. For the 3 month deferred loans, waive Interest and provide the interest to the banks from government.
10. Strengthen district credit committees by involving local self-governments, co-operatives and even non-banking financial companies.
11. Expand the Kudumbashree model of Kerala government throughout the country to provide more opportunities to women.
What is to be done for the bankers?
Bankers are doing a yeoman service under difficult circumstances.
1. Appoint officer and Employee Directors immediately as per law and bring in transparency.
2. Conclude Wage Revision with 25% wage increase (which is still lower than government employees), announce 5-day banking, work from home, crèche facility as per law and provide regulated working hours.
3. For the pensioners who have contributed a lot while in service, updation of pension, revision of pension as done to RBI, standardize family pension as 30% of last drawn pay.
4. Involve the associations and unions in the planning and execution.
5. Double the bank officers and employees strength with expansion of branches in rural and semi urban areas.
Let us use the crisis as an opportunity. Strengthen the public banking and financial system. This will restore the economy in quick time.
Thomas Franco is former General Secretary of All India Bank Officers’ Confederation.