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India's GDP growth likely to range up to 1.5% in FY21: CII

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India's GDP is likely to range between a decline of 0.9 percent and a growth of 1.5 percent in the current financial year, with the economy undergoing a "turbulent" phase caused by the coronavirus-induced lockdown, according to a report.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in a paper - A plan for economic recovery - has laid out its growth expectation under three os and suggested "urgent" fiscal interventions.

In the baseline scenario, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is expected to grow at just 0.6 percent on an annual basis as economic activity is expected to remain constrained due to continuing restrictions on the free movement of goods and people beyond the lockdown period.

This will lead to disruption in supply chains, slow pick-up in investment activity, labour shortages in the short-run and muted consumption demand on account of reduced household incomes, the industry body said.

In the optimistic scenario, which envisages a faster pick-up post the lockdown period, the GDP is forecast to register a growth of 1.5 percent in the best case.

In case of a more prolonged outbreak, where the restrictions in existing hot-spot regions get extended, while new regions are identified as ‘hot-spots' leading to intermittent stop and start in economic activity, GDP is likely to decline by -0.9 percent.

The urgent fiscal interventions, as suggested by CII should include cash transfers amounting to Rs 2 lakh crore to JAM account holders, in addition to the Rs 1.7 lakh stimulus already announced.

CII has also suggested additional working capital limits to be provided by banks, equivalent to April-June wage bill of the borrowers, backed by a government guarantee, at 4-5 percent interest.

In addition, the CII paper has suggested the creation of a fund or SPV with a corpus of Rs 1.5 lakh crore which will subscribe to NCDs/Bonds of corporates rated A and above.

The fund can be seeded by the government contributing a corpus of Rs 10,000-20,000 crore, with further investments from banks and financial institutions such as LIC, PFC, EPF, NIIF, IIFCL et al.

This will limit Government exposure while providing adequate liquidity to industry.

For MSMEs, CII has suggested a credit protection scheme whereby 75-80 percent of the loan should be guaranteed by RBI, i.e. if the borrower defaults, RBI should buy the loan and repay the bank upto 75-80 percent of the loan, so the risk to the lender is limited.

SIDBI could provide the guarantee for loans to industry and trade while NABARD could provide the guarantee for loans to agro-processing sectors.

“There is no doubt that the economy is going through turbulent times, and India will have to spend, for navigating its way out of the current crisis.

At this stage, the government must do whatever it takes to tide over the crisis," CII Director General Chandrajit Banerjee said.

“Given the extent of the damage to the economy from the disruption to business, the GDP growth in FY21 will likely be the lowest in many decades," he added.

According to him, without an increase in government spending in the near-term to drive an economic recovery, government revenue will dwindle, and high deficits will continue to be a problem in future.

Any significant revival in investment activity is unlikely as capacity utilization levels may remain suboptimal.

Consumption demand is likely to remain lacklustre as people's incomes have been impacted, CII said.

On the external front, as economies across the globe continue to struggle with the pandemic, global trade may decline by 13 to 32 percent in 2020, as estimated by the World Trade Organisation.

“Given the situation, government intervention becomes critical not only to sustain the economy but also to prevent any humanitarian crisis,” observed Banerjee.

Gold smuggling rises as COVID-19 crisis pushes up prices to all-time high

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With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic disrupting economies and markets, safe-haven options such as gold have increasingly become the choice of investment. Gold prices continue to soar, touching as high as Rs 47,000 per 10 gram last week, even as other sectors take a hit amid lockdowns employed by various countries to combat COVID-19.

But this increased interest in the precious metal has also fuelled another sector – smuggling, the Hindu BussinessLine 

The Customs Office at Chennai International Airport in Tamil Nadu, in particular, has recorded an all-time high in smuggling activity during FY20. As much as 375 kg of gold valuing Rs 134 crore was seized compared to 271 kg of gold valuing Rs 87 crore in FY19, the report noted.

Total 924 cases of smuggling were booked, compared to 461 in FY19 – a 100 percent jump. The number of arrested also increased from 56 to 136 year-on-year (YoY), data from Chennai Customs showed.

Another factor that can be attributed to the spike in smuggling is the increase in customs duty from 10 percent to 12.5 percent, and increase in GST from 1 percent to 3 percent. There is also the 5 percent additional GST charge on making of gold ornaments.

All these, coupled with the rupee depreciation against the US dollar and the already high price of the metal, have pushed up the cost of legal import, N Anantha Padmanaban, Chairman, All India Gem and Jewellery Domestic Council (GJC) told the paper.

“Today, if anyone brings 1 kg of gold (through smuggling), they earn more than Rs 6 lakh. Unfortunately, people who were not willing earlier have also started doing it and that’s the reason why you see news about smuggling every one or two hours,” Padmanaban added.

Among the methods used are concealing the gold in laptops, hard-disks, skateboards, packed food tins or even in the rectum. On February 14, Chennai Customs caught a passenger smuggling 1,164 gm of gold worth Rs 44.33 lakh in a meat cleaver, it added.

Coronavirus pandemic: Moody's says loan moratorium may lead to greater build-up of credit losses for banks

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The loan moratorium extended by banking regulators in countries like India and China to deal with the liquidity crunch amid COVID-19 crisis will provide temporary relief to borrowers, but will constrain banks from taking proactive recovery actions and could lead to an even greater build-up of credit losses once the moratoriums are lifted, according to Moody's.

In a report on Asia Pacific region, Moody's on Tuesday said while policy stimulus will shore up credit quality for larger companies in sectors, including airline and oil and gas, Asia's banking sector profitability will also decline from deteriorating asset quality and lower net interest margins.

"Financial regulators in China, Australia, Malaysia, India and some other Asian economies have enacted debt moratoriums to soften the liquidity crunch for businesses and households. While repayment delays will provide temporary relief to borrowers, these directives will also constrain banks' abilities to take proactive restructuring and recovery actions. These measures also could lead to an even greater build-up of credit losses once the moratoriums are lifted," Moody's said.

Moody's Investors Service further said this risk will increase substantially if the economic downturn, and measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus, persist for longer than expected.

The loan moratorium extended by banking regulators in countries like India and China to deal with the liquidity crunch amid COVID-19 crisis will provide temporary relief to borrowers, but will constrain banks from taking proactive recovery actions and could lead to an even greater build-up of credit losses once the moratoriums are lifted, according to Moody's.

In a report on Asia Pacific region, Moody's on Tuesday said while policy stimulus will shore up credit quality for larger companies in sectors, including airline and oil and gas, Asia's banking sector profitability will also decline from deteriorating asset quality and lower net interest margins.

"Financial regulators in China, Australia, Malaysia, India and some other Asian economies have enacted debt moratoriums to soften the liquidity crunch for businesses and households. While repayment delays will provide temporary relief to borrowers, these directives will also constrain banks' abilities to take proactive restructuring and recovery actions. These measures also could lead to an even greater build-up of credit losses once the moratoriums are lifted," Moody's said.

Moody's Investors Service further said this risk will increase substantially if the economic downturn, and measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus, persist for longer than expected.


COVID-19 impact | Highway builders in a bind over force majeure notification

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Even though the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has declared COVID-19 as a force majeure event and informed National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) accordingly on March 25, NHAI has not issued a similar notification, leading to confusion at the ground level.

This has resulted in local field officers and independent engineers acting according to their discretion, to the extent of rejecting COVID-19 as a force majeure event in certain cases, according to the National Highway Builders Federation (NHBF).

The force majeure clause in a contract provides temporary reprieve to a party from performing its obligations upon occurrence of a force majeure event. This typically includes war, terrorism, earthquakes, hurricanes, acts of government, explosions, fire, plagues or epidemics or a list of events as agreed by both parties.

Rejection of COVID-19 as force majeure event has serious implications on the rights available to highway builders under the concession or contract agreement and may further affect the projects.

Even though the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has declared COVID-19 as a force majeure event and informed National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) accordingly on March 25, NHAI has not issued a similar notification, leading to confusion at the ground level.

This has resulted in local field officers and independent engineers acting according to their discretion, to the extent of rejecting COVID-19 as a force majeure event in certain cases, according to the National Highway Builders Federation (NHBF).

The force majeure clause in a contract provides temporary reprieve to a party from performing its obligations upon occurrence of a force majeure event. This typically includes war, terrorism, earthquakes, hurricanes, acts of government, explosions, fire, plagues or epidemics or a list of events as agreed by both parties.

Rejection of COVID-19 as force majeure event has serious implications on the rights available to highway builders under the concession or contract agreement and may further affect the projects.

For the BOT Toll and TOT projects, under force majeure event, the revenue loss is compensated in the form of extension in concession period.

In addition, 100 per cent of operations and maintenance (O&M) and interest costs are reimbursed for the BOT Toll projects for the affected period. This would amount to 50-55 per cent of loss of revenue incurred by these projects.

For projects that are public-funded (currently being tolled by NHAI through toll contractors), the suspension would result in a direct revenue loss for NHAI.

Fresh exemptions for lockdown period, construction allowed in rural areas

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The government on Friday gave exemptions to a few more areas from the purview of the ongoing lockdown including construction activities in rural areas, water supply, sanitation works and functioning of non-banking financial institutions and cooperative credit societies across India.

In a communication to all States and Union Territories, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla also said collection, harvesting and processing of minor forest produce, non-timber forest produce by Scheduled Tribes and other forest dwellers in forest areas were also allowed to be carried out during the lockdown which will last till May 3.

Construction activities in rural areas include water supply and sanitation, laying and erection of power transmission lines and laying of telecom optical fibre and cable along with related activities will be allowed, Bhalla said in his communication.

Non-Banking financial institutions, including housing finance companies, and micro finance institutions with bare minimum staff and cooperative credit societies are exempted from the lockdown across India.

Bamboo, coconut, arecanut cocoa, spices plantation and their harvesting, processing, packaging, sale and marketing are also allowed to be carried out during the lockdown.

The lockdown was first announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24 in a bid to combat the Coronavirus endemic.

It was further extended till May 3.

On Wednesday, the Home Ministry had announced a series of exemptions given to different people and services during the lockdown.

Coronavirus pandemic | Lenders to request extension of moratorium beyond June: Report

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Banks will ask for an extension of the moratorium on loan repayments beyond June, as per a report by Business Standard.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had on March 27 announced a moratorium on instalments due between March 1 and May 31. The move is intended to provide depositors some relief during the COVID-19 outbreak.

"There is no way that things will limp back till first week of June," a private banker said as per the report, adding that the moratorium should be extended for three months starting from June.

The three-month moratorium for borrowers seems inadequate, bankers said as per the report.

The matter is expected to be discussed at a meeting of a key panel of the Indian Banks' Association (IBA), and will be taken to the central bank after that, as per a source quoted in the report.

A separate report by Mint said lenders have asked the Centre to guarantee their incremental loans to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) of at least Rs 50,000 crore. The request was made by the IBA and is being evaluated by the government.

India is in a nationwide lockdown till May 3 to contain the spread of COVID-19. The lockdown was initially supposed to be lifted on April 15, but was extended later.

More than 80% of NBFCs sufficiently liquid: Report

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More than 80 percent of the non-bank financial institutions (NBFCs) in the country have sufficient liquidity in terms of assets to survive the coronavirus-induced cash squeeze.

Putting to rest the debate over payment obligations during the three-month moratorium allowed by the Reserve Bank of India to borrowers, the report, citing RBI sources, said about 100 top NBFCs, or 4/5th of the total assets of the shadow banking system, had adequate liquidity for loan repayments.

They qualify for funding from banks if they face stress, said the report, citing unnamed sources.

“Some NBFCs are facing issues and no one is saying that the sector doesn’t face problems,” said one of the people cited in the report. “But many of them are okay. Some of them said that were anyway troubled even before the COVID-19 problem surfaced are the ones that may be facing difficulties.”

Moneycontrol could not independently verify the report.

The RBI on March 27 allowed borrowers to put off repayment of term loans by three months, a move designed to alleviate economic pain brought by the viral outbreak.

A Business Standard report  earlier suggested that moratorium on term loans could impact NBFCs cash flows and put pressure on asset-liability management (ALM).

Some experts told the daily that ALM could be impacted for up to six months if cash flows were hurt.

Sources told ET that such concerns were unfounded and the Rs 65,000-70,000 crore repayment amount due in June "is quite manageable".

Coronavirus pandemic | Parents seek waivers, rollback of fee hikes as schools suspend classes

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Even as schools are struggling to maintain academic continuity due to the coronavirus outbreak, parents are hoping for some fee waivers as regular classes have been suspended.

Across the country, parents of school children are sending appeals to the state governments to seek fee waivers and prohibition of fee hikes during this period.

Though many school are trying to make up partly by online classes, students will lose some part of their academic year. Hence there is a call for a partial fee waiver for March, April and May when schools have moved to virtual classes.

However, sources told Moneycontrol that the department of school education of the human resource development ministry is unlikely to take a decision on this and would leave it to individual states and schools to take a call.

"My employer has announced a 30 percent salary cut till September 2020. While I am not trying to calculate how to handle the monthly expenses, my child's school fees has been increased from this academic session. When the schools are anyway not conducting physical classes, why can’t they be considerate?” said Kolkata-resident Avik Bose.

"My employer has announced a 30 percent salary cut till September 2020. While I am not trying to calculate how to handle the monthly expenses, my child's school fees has been increased from this academic session. When the schools are anyway not conducting physical classes, why can’t they be considerate?” said Kolkata-resident Avik Bose.


Coronavirus pandemic | FICCI says economy needs a stimulus package of Rs 9-10 lakh crore

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Apex industry-body, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) has said that India may need an economic stimulus of as much as Rs 9-10 lakh crore to ensure that the economy wrestles through the challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis.

Amid stymied economic activity due to a nationwide lockdown, several key sectors of the Indian economy are experiencing distress such as travel, tourism, entertainment, manufacturing, transport infrastructure, financial services, among others.

According to a Business Continuity Plan report by FICCI, there is an immediate need for a significant stimulus of Rs 9-10 lakh crores, this constitutes around 4-5% of the current GDP.

Other countries affected by the COVID-19 crisis have taken similar steps. For instance, the US has invested as much as 11 percent of its GDP to infuse liquidity into its economy.

The report recommends utilisation of funds for the rehabilitation of informal workers, MSMEs, and large corporates.

To ease the lack of liquidity that borrowers face amid the nationwide lockdown, the Reserve Bank of India on March 27 allowed banks and financial institutions to offer a three-month moratorium on term loans and credit card bills.

The FICCI report recommends extending a similar moratorium for loans taken from mutual funds and insurance companies.

In order to ensure workers resume jobs, the report recommends special transportation to get migration workers back to factories. The lockdown has caused a shortage of labour across sectors as migrant workers left for native places. The report also recommends engaging with trade unions to ensure a smooth transition.

Interest-free and collateral-free loans should be given to MSMEs for a period of upto 12 months to enable them to cover fixed costs, salaries and other operational expenses. This loan may be given with pre-conditions that businesses will continue to run and there would be no layoffs of workers.

Supply-side intervention recommendations

Provide greater regulatory forbearance including change in NPA definition and loan restructuring among other things. NPA recognition period to be extended from 90 days to a minimum of 360 days.

All tax payments including GST payments should be deferred by six months without inviting any penalty.

To ensure MSMEs are not forced to file for bankruptcy, the report recommends suspension of Sec 7, 9 and 10 of IBC with immediate effect instead of April 30. Between April 14-30, IBC may get triggered because of a lack of liquidity within the industry.

There is also a need to ensure all pending payments to the industry are cleared immediately by the government departments and PSUs.

There is a need to accelerate infrastructure spend of Rs 1.7 lakh crore allocated in Budget 2020 to provide immediate impetus to the economy. The report recommends directing the budget towards low cost housing and road construction.

COVID-19 war can't be won by clapping, lighting lamps: Shiv Sena

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The Shiv Sena on Tuesday said the war against coronavirus cannot be won by clapping, clanging of plates or lighting of lamps.

People "misconstrued" Prime Minister Narendra Modi's appeal, an editorial in Sena mouthpiece 'Saamana' said, adding that Modi should clearly spell out what it expected from citizens and those not obeying orders should be punished.

Modi last week appealed to people to defeat the coronavirus by switching off lights in their homes for nine minutes at 9 pm on Sunday amid the nationwide lockdown.

People across the country enthusiastically responded by lighting candles and diyas, and flashing lights of their mobile phones in balconies and in front of their houses.

Modi earlier urged people to observe 'Janta Curfew' on March 22, and come out briefly at their main doors and in balconies to show gratitude to health and other essential service providers, who at the forefront of the battle against coronavirus, with claps, sounds of bells and conches.

Taking a dim view of Modi's appeals, the Shiv Sena said, "Claps, thalis and lights...like this we will lose the war. There are many aspects to how people responded to these appeals. Citizens misconstrued the prime minister's

appeal...either the PM cannot communicate with citizens or he himself wants such a festive atmosphere."

It said Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has been urging people to maintain self-discipline, and communicating with them while ensuring there is no confusion.

"In the fight against coronavirus, you need such a commander. We lost the Panipat battle because of rumours and lack of planning. The war against coronavirus should not end up like that and people of the state shouldn't meet the fate of Sadashivrao bhau (Marathaarmy commander in Panipat

battle)," the Marathi daily said.

It said the prime minister should clearly tell people what is expected from them. "Those who don't obey should be punished. It is not that only Markaz (referring to Tablighi Jamaat's congregation in Delhi last month) breaks rules. Are those blaming the Markaz for the coronavirus spread themselves maintaining discipline and social distancing?" it asked.

The Sena cricitised incidents of people coming out on streets with candles, torches and mobile phones and dancing, and said due to bursting of crackers there was a fire incident in Solapur.

In Wardha, BJP MLA Dadarao Keche celebrated his birthday (during the lockdown) and more than 200 people gathered for the party, it noted.

The Sena also pointed out similar incidents in other parts of the country, including that of a BJP women's wing leader at Balrampur in Uttar Pradesh firing in the air to 'chase away' the coronavirus.

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