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States should come forward with Rs 20 lakh crore to battle COVID-19 disruptions: Nitin Gadkari

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More liquidity is needed to boost economic activity following the coronavirus pandemic and states should come forward with Rs 20 lakh crore, while another Rs 10 lakh crore can be harnessed from public-private investment to fight the COVID-19 disruptions, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said on Wednesday.

Gadkari said the economy is facing serious problems, businesses are being closed and unemployment is growing. All sections of the society, whether migrants, media, business persons or employees, are facing problems, but ultimately "we will win the economic war" and the "corona war", he said.

"More liquidity needs to be pumped in the market to boost the coronavirus-hit economy and states should come forward with Rs 20 lakh crore, while another Rs 10 lakh crore can be harnessed from public-private investment," Road Transport, Highways and MSME Minister Gadkari told PTI.

He further noted that "these funds together with the Rs 20 lakh crore package already announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi would result in Rs 50 lakh crore liquidity in the market to battle the adverse impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic on the economy".

The Centre had announced Rs 20 lakh crore economic stimulus package, including Rs 8.01 lakh crore of liquidity measures announced by the Reserve Bank since March.

The five-part stimulus package comprised Rs 5.94 lakh crore in the first tranche that provided credit line to small businesses, and support to shadow banks and electricity distribution companies, while, the second tranche included free foodgrain to the stranded migrant workers for two months and credit to farmers, totalling Rs 3.10 lakh crore.

Spending on agriculture infrastructure and other measures for agriculture and allied sectors in the third tranche totalled to Rs 1.5 lakh crore, while the fourth and fifth tranches dealt mostly with structural reforms and totalled to Rs 48,100 crore.

He further noted that work on national highways has been started on war-footing and the government plans to build highways worth Rs 15 lakh crore in the next two years.

He said work has been resumed on almost 80 percent of the projects.

Meanwhile, in order to keep the national highways entrusted to NHAI in patchless and traffic-worthy condition, National Highway Authority of India has directed its Regional Officers and Project Directors to undertake maintenance of the National Highways on top priority-basis considering ensuing monsoon season.

The aim is to facilitate timely action and keep the highway stretches traffic-worthy ahead of the monsoon season, latest by June 30, 2020, he said.

'More rate cuts seen but won't be effective unless credit, economic activity picks up substantially'

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While it is positive sentimentally, the reverse repo rate is the effective policy rate right now, and thus, more effective and relevant than the repo rate. More cuts may come but won't be really effective unless credit and economic activity pick up substantially, Nikhil Gupta, Chief Economist at Motilal Oswal Institutional Equities said in an interview to Moneycontrol's Sunil Shankar Matkar.

Q: What are your thoughts on RBI policy move and was it a need of the hour given the measures announced by RBI?

The cuts in policy rates are a welcome move. We believe that the reduction in reverse repo rate is more effective than the repo rate because the credit off-take and related economic activity are almost negligible right now. Further, the extension of moratorium by another three months is also on expected lines. What caught our attention in this policy was the relief to states amounting to Rs 13,300 crore, which we believe is extremely useful at this stage.

Q: Most experts feel there could be more pressure on banks after six months moratorium. Do you agree, why and how much could be the impact?

Yes. This is unchartered territory and there could be more pressure on banks in H2 FY21. However, not everything will be lost. With the opening up of the economy and resurgence of business activities, banks can also hope to get back their loans. It will be definitely complex and very difficult to estimate anything at this stage.

Q: Experts, as well as corporates, prefer one-time loan restructuring of sectors which are under stress like real estates, hospitality etc. But bankers disagree and they want to wait till the opening of the full economy to get the actual picture. What are your overall thoughts on this topic?

We broadly agree with this. Although the RBI has not announced one-time restructuring so far, it can announce it anytime. And it would definitely make more sense when there is more clarity on the economic recovery. It will, however, need to be seen who will bear the burden of such forbearance.

Q: Do you think deposits and savings rate will decline significantly after the hefty repo rate cut seen since last year? Also, is the rate transmission happening on the ground?

Yes. With a sharp reduction in policy rates, both deposit and lending rates could also come down.

Q: Do you think another repo rate cut is needed as RBI stays accommodative till the sign of revival in the economy?

As we mentioned earlier, while it is positive sentimentally, the reverse repo rate is the effective policy rate right now, and thus, more effective and relevant than the repo rate. More cuts may come but won't be really effective unless credit and economy activity pick up substantially.

Q: Do you think the RBI needs to remove the risk aversion as there is substantial liquidity in the banking sector?

This is more easily said than done. The RBI could help bring back risk appetite by either interfering directly or by forcing banks. Both these measures come with their own set of problems. If RBI buys long-dated G-secs, it is a difficult task to know how much to do, when to stop and more importantly, when to reverse. If banks are forced to buy G-secs, the free market hypothesis is questioned. Therefore, while we all want the RBI to do something, it is not an easy task.

Q: Are these measures from RBI as well as the government enough to revive the economy and what are more measures needed to be taken by both?

It is not easy to revive the economy, which is under lockdown. Even if free money is given to all citizens, that won't revive the economy under lockdown. So, the first thing to track carefully is the re-opening of economic activity and to ensure that there is no second wave of COVID-19 cases. If that's achieved, it will be a meaningful feat in itself to celebrate.

Q: What are your thoughts on inflation and economy growth for FY21 as most of the experts feel it could be negative or flat growth and RBI also said FY21 GDP growth is seen in negative territory. Also, does it mean there would be a strong revival in FY22 considering current conditions?

We expect real GDP to decline 4-5 percent in FY21, with as much as 20 percent fall in Q1 FY21. Since food items account for 40 percent of CPI basket, notwithstanding lower GDP, we expect headline inflation to be around 5 percent this year vis-a-vis 4.8 percent last year. Notably, though core inflation could be only about 2-2.5 percent this year reflecting weak demand.

Q: What is the impact on bonds and yield in short to medium term?

The 10-year bond yield could fall to 5.5 percent over the next few months. We maintain our call.

George Soros says EU may not survive coronavirus crisis

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Billionaire financier George Soros said the European Union could break apart in the wake of the new coronavirus pandemic unless the block issued perpetual bonds to help weak members such as Italy.

The novel coronavirus, which emerged in China last year, has stalled swathes of the global economy while governments have ramped up borrowing to levels not seen in peacetime history.

Soros, 89, said the damage to the euro zone economy from the new coronavirus would last "longer than most people think", adding that the rapid evolution of the virus meant that a reliable vaccine would be hard to develop.

The hedge-fund veteran and chairman of Soros Fund Management LLC said perpetual bonds, used by the British to finance wars against Napoleon, would allow the European Union - itself created out of the ashes of World War Two - to survive.

"If the EU is unable to consider it now, it may not be able to survive the challenges it currently confronts," Soros said in a transcript of a question-and-answer session emailed to reporters. "This is not a theoretical possibility; it may be the tragic reality."

The comments were approved by Soros for publication on Friday, a spokesman said.

Soros, who earned fame by betting against the pound in 1992, said that with major countries such as Germany selling bonds with a negative yield, perpetual bonds would ease a looming budget crunch across the bloc.

He said the EU would have to maintain its 'AAA' credit rating to issue such debt - and thus have to have tax-raising powers to cover the cost of the bonds - so suggested it could simply authorise the taxes rather than imposing them.

"There is a solution," said Soros. "The taxes only have to be authorized; they don't need to be implemented."

Asked about Brexit, Soros said he was particularly worried about Italy: "What would be left of Europe without Italy?"

"The relaxation of state aid rules, which favour Germany, has been particularly unfair to Italy, which was already the sick man of Europe and then the hardest hit by COVID-19," Soros said.

Soros fled Hungary when the communists consolidated power in 1947 and ended up at the London School of Economics. His Quantum Fund made huge profits in 1992 betting that sterling was overvalued against the Deutsche Mark, forcing the British to pull the pound out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism.

COVID-19 impact | Banks knock on MCA's doors, seek speedy approval for 40 resolved IBC cases

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With uncertainty looming large, banks have approached the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) seeking a fast-tracking of 40 resolved, high-value insolvency cases in which a decision from the bankruptcy courts is pending, 

The extremely low recovery prospects in the imminent months have bankers worried sick as they fear they may lose buyers due to delay in pending approvals in the aforementioned cases, the report noted. A fall in the value of these deals due to the lack of movement in the economy may dissuade buyers from going ahead with these deals.

Additionally, companies that have been admitted for insolvency and are awaiting hearings also featured on the list that was sent to the MCA.

The ongoing lockdown has hit economic activity in the country, with a deterioration in the state of backlogs at bankruptcy tribunals across India. That these accounts awaiting approvals are likely to face additional challenges due to the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, crisis is another cause of concern for bankers, who want the ministry to look at laying down guidelines to help them deal with the upcoming troubles.

This comes even as Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a blanket ban on fresh insolvency admissions for up to a year, while also exempting COVID-19-related debts from the definition of 'defaults' under the Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code (IBC).

Recession, job losses, another pandemic and protectionism top worries: WEF study

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A prolonged global recession due to COVID-19 pandemic, high unemployment, another outbreak of an infectious disease and increased protectionism are among the biggest near-term worries for companies around the world, a new study showed on Tuesday.

The study conducted by the World Economic Forum (WEF) also flagged that the world is not ready for the knock-on effect of far-reaching environmental, societal and technological risks, but a "green recovery" and more resilient, cohesive, inclusive and equal societies can emerge if leaders act now.

"Economic distress and social discontent will rise over the next 18 months unless world leaders, businesses and policy-makers work together to manage the fallout of the pandemic," according to the report.

As economies restart, there is an opportunity to embed greater societal equality and sustainability into the recovery, which would unleash a new era of prosperity, said Geneva-based WEF, which describes itself as an international organisation for public-private cooperation.

The study, titled 'COVID-19 Risks Outlook: A Preliminary Mapping and Its Implications', has been conducted in partnership with Marsh & McLennan and Zurich Insurance Group. It taps into views of nearly 350 senior risk professionals who were asked to look at the next 18 months and rank their biggest concerns in terms of likelihood and impact for the world and for business.

The immediate economic fallout from COVID-19 dominates companies' risks perceptions and these range from a prolonged recession to the weakening fiscal position of major economies, tighter restrictions on the cross-border movement of goods and people, and the collapse of a major emerging market.

The report also calls on leaders to act now against an avalanche of future systemic shocks such as the climate crisis, geopolitical turbulence, rising inequality, strains on people's mental health, gaps in technology governance and health systems under continued pressure.

"These longer-term risks will have serious and far-reaching implications for societies, the environment and the governance of breakthrough technologies," the WEF said.

As per the study, two-thirds of respondents identified a "prolonged global recession" as a top concern for business. Besides, one-half identified bankruptcies and industry consolidation, failure of industries to recover and a disruption of supply chains as crucial worries.

With the accelerated digitisation of the economy in the midst of the pandemic, cyber attacks and data fraud are also major threats, according to one-half of the respondents, while breakdown of IT infrastructure and networks is also a top concern.

Geopolitical disruptions and tighter restrictions on the movement of people and goods are also high on the worry list.

A second report from WEF, 'Challenges and Opportunities in the Post-COVID-19 World', which was also published on Tuesday, draws on experiences and insights of thought leaders, scientists and researchers to outline emerging opportunities to build a more prosperous, equitable and sustainable world.

WEF's Managing Director Saadia Zahidi said the COVID-19 crisis has devastated lives and livelihoods while triggering an economic crisis with far-reaching implications and revealing the inadequacies of the past.

"As well as managing the immediate impact of the pandemic, leaders must work with each other and with all sectors of society to tackle emerging known risks and build resilience against the unknown. We now have a unique opportunity to use this crisis to do things differently and build back better economies that are more sustainable, resilient and inclusive," she said.

Auditor report piles misery on M&M-owned Korean automaker SsangYong Motor

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KPMG Samjong, the auditor of Mahindra and Mahindra-owned Korean automobile company SsangYong Motor, has issued a 'disclaimer of opinion' on the automaker's quarterly financial results, according to a a report by Yonhap News Agency.

SsangYong's net loss widened in the first quarter of this financial year, making it the 13th consecutive quarter where the company continues to post hefty losses. The auditor said these issues raised a question over the company's ability to remain viable.

As its current debts surpassed its current assets by 576.7 billion won this quarter, SsangYong's shares tumbled on the back of the news.

A 'disclaimer of opinion' is one among the four different types of auditor's opinions issued against a company's financial results.

Indian automaker Mahindra and Mahindra owns around a 74 percent stake in the Korean carmaker. SsangYong has been struggling to keep up its numbers due to declining sales, while the parent firm has yet decided against liquidity infusion.

Earlier this year, M&M had plans of putting in 230 billion won into SsangYong subject to its board's approval. However, the board struck down the plan last month in light of the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak on the domestic automobile industry.

Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana: FM Sitharaman reserves Rs 20,000 crore for welfare of fishermen

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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on May 15 said an amount of Rs 20,000 crore will be reserved for the welfare of fishermen through the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY)

Sitharaman was addressing a press conference to announce the third tranche of the economic stimulus package covering agriculture, fisheries and allied activities.

PMMSY scheme will be launched for integrated sustainable and inclusive development of marine and inland fisheries.

Rs 9,000 crore has been reserved for the development of infrastructure in fishing harbours, cold chains as well as markets.

The registration of the 242 shrimp hatcheries and rearing hatcheries have been extended for the next three months while marine capture fisheries and aquaculture has been relaxed to cover inland fish farming.

The scheme is expected to help with providing employment to over 55 lakh people and increase production to 70 lakh tonnes over the next five years. This is also expected to result in exports doubling to Rs 1 crore.

The FM also said that all COVID-19 related deadline extensions have been honoured including overseas contracts.

RBI sells net $4.05 billion of American currency in March in spot market

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The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) turned net seller of the US dollar after it sold $4.054 billion in March on a net basis in the spot market, recent RBI data showed. In the reporting month, the RBI had bought $3.984 billion of the US currency and sold $8.038 billion in the spot market, RBI data showed.

In March 2019, the central bank was net buyer of the greenback as it had purchased $9.408 billion. It bought $10.306 billion from the spot market and sold $898 million.

In February, the RBI had bought $10.604 billion of the US currency and sold $1.460 billion in the spot market.

In FY19, the apex bank was a net seller of dollars, offloading $15.377 billion in the spot market. It had bought $40.804 billion and sold $56.181 billion in the year to March 2019.

In the forward dollar market, the outstanding sales at the end of March was $4.939 billion, compared to a sale of $2.295 billion in February, the data showed.

FM Sitharaman press conference: Here is what different sectors are expecting

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India Inc will closely watch Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's announcements on May 13.

Sitharaman will address a press conference at 4 pm providing further information on the Rs 20 lakh crore economic package announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 12.

PM Modi said the economic measures earlier announced by the government to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, steps taken by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), and the latest package would come up to a total of Rs 20 lakh crore, nearly 10 percent of India's gross domestic product (GDP).

PM Modi hinted that there might be some measures announced for a large number of sectors.

>> Sectors such as auto and real estate will be looking at resumption of manufacturing and construction, and measures that could help push consumer demand.

Sales of commercial vehicles (CVs) and houses have plunged since the lockdown began on March 25.

>> The power sector, too, has seen a sharp drop in demand during the lockdown and is hoping for measures that could help revive demand and stem losses.

>> Ecommerce companies, which are yet to resume non-essential services in red zones, may see some announcements in this regard.

Online marketplaces were initially allowed to provide only essential items and services during the lockdown. They are now permitted to provide non-essential services as well in orange and green zones.

>> The aviation sector might look for any word on the resumption of commercial flights, which have been suspended since March 25.

This sector is looking out for announcements that could help them deal with the revenue loss faced during the lockdown.

China announces new list of US imports eligible for trade war tariff waivers

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China on Tuesday released a list of 79 American products which will be exempted from the second round of retaliatory tariffs imposed at the peak of the bilateral trade war, as it faced fresh pressure from the US to import more to end the bruising dispute.

This is the second list of American goods to be excluded from the second round of tariff countermeasures against the US Section 301 measure, according to a statement from the Customs Tariff Commission of China's State Council.

The exemption will be valid from May 19, 2020, to May 18, 2021, it said.

There are 79 products in total on the list published on Tuesday by the Ministry of Finance that included rare earth mineral ores, aircraft radar equipment, semiconductor parts, medical disinfectants, and a range of precious metals, chemical and petrochemical products.

well as petrochemical products.

Tariffs that have already been levied will be refunded, the statement said. The remaining US products subject to China's second round of additional tariffs will not be excluded for the time being, it said.

For US products that are not on the first two lists, the commission advised enterprises to apply for the exemption of additional tariffs following a specific product list that applies to domestic firms which plan to sign deals to purchase and import these products from the United States in a market-oriented and commercial fashion, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The US and China signed the phase one deal on January 16 to end the 22-month-long trade war during which two countries slapped tit-for-tat tariff hikes over nearly half a trillion USD worth of products.

Under the January deal, China agreed to increase its purchases of US goods from a 2017 baseline by USD 200 billion over two years.

China's announcement comes at a point when two countries are engaged in fiery exchanges over the origin of the coronavirus pandemic that had cast a shadow over the deal.

US President Donald Trump last week threatened to tear up the phase one trade deal if China did not increase its imports of US goods, as per the purchasing agreement element of the deal.

Trump had launched the trade war with China in 2018 demanding Beijing to reduce the massive trade deficit.

The US goods trade deficit with China was USD 419.2 billion in 2018.

His demands included an intrusive verification mechanism to supervise Beijing's promise to protect intellectual property rights (IPR) technology transfer and more access to American goods to Chinese markets.

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