The rapidly intensifying Covid-19 pandemic has had devastating impacts across the global economy, stalling businesses operations and economic activity. The economic impact of the outbreak has been unprecedented, with the crisis seen as one of the worst ever.
While the Indian economy was very well cushioned during the financial crisis of 2008, largely on account of its sound financial system and strong growth, the current situation is different. As India was already in the middle of a growth slowdown, the Indian economy is particularly hard hit due to the outbreak.
As India went on a 21-day historic lockdown to contain the spread of the virus, the economy faces widespread disruptions, posing perhaps some of the biggest challenges to Indian policymakers. Therefore, the present situation calls for urgent measures from the Government and decisionmakers to set a strong course of action that leads to a safe and sustained revival post lockdown.
In view of the current situation, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has undertaken a massive contact programme with its members, to take stock of the issues faced by them and to assess the overall impact of the pandemic and the consequent lockdown on the economy.
CII has submitted its recommendations to the Government that focus on safeguarding the macro fundamentals of the economy through a comprehensive package that would help in restarting the economy in a safe, sustainable and calibrated manner.
Besides a fiscal package, the recommendations also pertain to critical areas such as health and safety, logistics, migrant workers and coordination.
Health and Safety
CII has recommended that the Government can create a dashboard to monitor curves of various states and cities. The restart calendar across the states and cities along with the progressive ramp up, in terms of the proportion of manpower allowed to get back to work, must be based on the movement of the respective curves on the dashboard.
Secondly, extreme caution must be exercised when facilities re-open, ensuring that social distancing, screening, sanitization norms are fulfilled on a self-certification basis by all firms and shops. Penalties and closures must be in place for all violating units. Adoption of these activities could be monitored by the states.
Further, the Government must ensure the adequate availability of masks, testing and protective gear.
The logistics sector will have a key role to play in the restart of the economy, specifically in terms of seamless transportation of goods and services along with the harvest across India.
Suggested interventions include ensuring no harassment at borders and various check posts through clear and uniform instructions to police personnel; facilitating movement of truck drivers and others willing to come back by making necessary transport arrangements; allowing the opening of dhabas, diesel/petrol stations and repair shops on highways to ensure availability of basic amenities to truck drivers; extension of insurance cover to workers and families by logistic service providers, to the tune of INR 10-15 lakh for 3 months.
CII recommendations focus on two aspects of getting the migrant workers back – the willingness of workers to come back and logistical facilitation for willing workers.
Suggested measures for the first aspect include undertaking an aggressive ‘messaging’ campaign on the preparedness of the Government and the industry for a restart; facilitating tripartite dialogue between the Government, worker associations/unions and industry to address their concerns; announcing a COVID insurance scheme for the workers, with the cost borne partly by the Government and partly by industry.
For the second aspect, CII recommends issuing of e-passes to workers by local authorities ensuring smooth travel to workplaces; special transport for large clusters with safety protocols in place, among others.
Coordination between Centre and States
Effective coordination and speedy implementation between Centre and States is a crucial aspect for restarting the economy.
Setting up of an empowered group of Ministers at the central level and an interdepartmental task force led by the Chief Secretary at the state level is recommended, for planning, reviewing and addressing implementation challenges. These groups can address on-ground challenges daily basis through frequent consultations with industry.
The Centre and the States must work cohesively to ensure complete alignment between notifications/advisories and their interpretation, issued by centre and states. This could be further facilitated by templatising the notifications/advisories.