'Difficult to give timeline': Nirmala Sitharaman says coronavirus economic relief plan to be announced 'as soon as possible'

New Delhi: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday said an economic package for the coronavirus-hit sectors will be announced: "as soon as possible". The minister, however, did not give any timeline by when the package will be unveiled.

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Sitharaman was speaking to reporters after meeting ministers and officials of civil aviation, animal husbandry, tourism, and MSME ministries to take stock of the situation following the Covid-19 outbreak.

"I had a meeting with tourism, MSME, civil aviation, animal husbandry sectors. These ministries presented an assessment of their sector after consultation with their stakeholders.

"We had a detailed discussion in the presence of the Finance Secretary and Economic Affairs Secretary. We are compiling their suggestions," she said after the four-hour meeting.

 Difficult to give timeline: Nirmala Sitharaman says coronavirus economic relief plan to be announced as soon as possible

Nirmala Sitharaman. File pic

The ministry will hold an internal meeting on Saturday to firm up the action plan to deal with the crisis, she added.

When asked by when the package will be announced, she said: "it will be difficult to give a timeline but it will be done as soon as possible."

The finance minister also said the task force announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is yet to be constituted.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to the nation had said the government is setting up a ''Covid-19 Economic Response Task Force'' to decide on a relief package for sectors hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

"Taskforce is not yet constituted but keeping in mind the sense of urgency, the ministry was holding this meeting. Of course, when the task force is constituted it will also get the benefit of these meetings. Other ministries are also sending us their suggestions," she said.

Asked about relief measures for the financial sector, Sitharaman said, "SEBI has come up with a list of regulations which will also sort of keep the markets a bit stable. But I can't say what I am doing for the markets. At the moment, we are at a critical stage of collecting everybody's inputs and also the ministry is working in detail about all the inputs which have come."

Speaking after the meeting, Tourism Minister Prahlad Singh Patel said the ministry has been assessing the situation.

"We all know that the tourism sector has been impacted. The finance minister is already concerned about the impact of coronavirus on all the sectors. We will properly assess the losses to the sector and then decide if any package has to be granted for the industry," he said.

Minister of Animal Husbandry, Fisheries and Dairying Giriraj Singh said, "Livestock industry has been hit badly because of the coronavirus outbreak. We discussed various kinds of measures, including loan restructuring, that can help people engaged in this sector."

The Indian poultry industry alone is worth Rs 1.5 lakh crore. More than 10 lakh small farmers are directly engaged in the poultry industry, while crores of people are indirectly dependent on the sector, he said.

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said the Central government is "addressing all these problems" constructively.

Puri said he discussed matters related to the virus'' impact on the Indian aviation sector with the finance minister.

"We are addressing all these problems. We are addressing them constructively," the minister replied when asked about the layoffs by private airlines.

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Updated Date: Mar 21, 2020 13:59:50 IST