On effect of COVID second wave on growth, he says it is not likely to be very large
The government is open to coming out with more measures to boost the economy, hit by the second wave of coronavirus pandemic, says Chief Economic Adviser (CEA) K.V. Subramanian. He, however, added that the demand for a fresh stimulus package had to be considered against the backdrop of a host of initiatives taken by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her Budget for 2021-22 presented in February.The CEA was responding to a suggestion made by some industry bodies that the government needed to come out with a ₹3 lakh crore stimulus package to boost the economy which was badly hit by COVID-19 second wave in April-May. According to an assessment by the Reserve Bank of India, the second wave has cost the nation about ₹2 lakh crore in terms of output lost.“Like last year, we do remain very open to coming up with more measures as well … but I think it is really important to take into account the big differences between last year and this year when we talk about stimulus,” he told PTI in an interview. Elaborating his point, the CEA said that unlike the previous Budget which was framed before the pandemic, the 2021 Budget was presented amid the pandemic and had already incorporated significant fiscal expansion.Infra spendingThe focus was particularly on infrastructure spending which would lead to construction activity and subsequently creation of jobs in the informal sector and demand generation, he said. It was witnessed during the January-March quarter of the last financial year, he added. The significant capital spending by the government led to a 15% increase in the construction sector in the fourth quarter and the gross fixed capital formation to GDP surged to 34%, the highest in the last six years.Emphasising that the final objective was to ensure that the economic recovery gathered pace, he said the government would do whatever was necessary to ensure that.Food securityWith regard to food security for the poor, he said the government had already extended the free food programme for 80 crore population till November. The extension of PM Garib Kalayan Yojana would cost about ₹70,000 crore, he said, adding free vaccination for all was another important economic measure.“Vaccine as you would appreciate is by far the most important from the perspective to get back into the path of economic recovery,” he said. On the effect of the second wave on growth, Mr. Subramanian said there would be some impact but it was not likely to be very large. The Economic Survey 2020-21 released in January this year had projected a GDP growth of 11% during the current financial year ending March 2022. India’s economy contracted by less-than-expected 7.3% in the fiscal year ended in March 2021 after growth rate picked up in the fourth quarter, just before the world’s worst outbreak of coronavirus infection hit the country. The GDP print was better than expected contraction of 8% for 2020-21 as projected by the Economic Survey.