Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on May 12th, 2020, announced the Special economic and comprehensive package of Rs. 20 lakh crores – equivalent to 10% of India’s GDP to fight COVID-19 pandemic in India. He gave a clarion call for Aatma Nirbhar Bharat or Self-Reliant India Movement. He also outlined five pillars of Aatma Nirbhar Bharat – Economy, Infrastructure, System, Vibrant Demography, and Demand.
Following the call of the Hon’ble Prime Minister, Minister for Finance & Corporate Affairs Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman laid down the details of the Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Package in a string of press conferences from 13th May to 17th May 2020.
The Ministries of Finance & Corporate Affairs have immediately started the implementation of the announcements related to the Economic Package under Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan. Regular reviews and monitoring of the implementation of the economic package are being overseen by the Finance Minister personally.
In the latest review taken by Smt Nirmala Sitharaman the following progress has been reported so far:
1. Global tenders will be disallowed in Government procurement tenders up to Rs 200 crore
Giving a major relief to the local MSMEs, the Department of Expenditure has amended present Rule 161 (iv) of General Financial Rules, 2017, and GFR Rules relating to Global Tenders. Now, no Global Tender Enquiry (GTE) shall be invited for tenders up to Rs. 200 crore, unless prior approval is obtained from Cabinet Secretariat.
2. Relief to Contractors
It was announced by the Finance Minister that all central agencies like Railways, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and CPWD will give an extension of up to 6 months for completion of contractual obligations, including in respect of EPC and concession agreements.
In this regard, Department of Expenditure has issued instructions that (due to COVID-19 pandemic) on the invocation of Force Majeure Clause (FMC), contract period may be extended for a period not less than three months and not more than six months without the imposition of any cost or penalty on the contractor/concessionaire. Instructions were also issued to return the value of performance security to the contractor/ suppliers proportional to the supplies made/ contract work completed to the total contract value. The same is being implemented by various Departments/Ministries.
3. Supporting State Governments
The Finance Minister announced that the Centre has decided to accede to the request and increase borrowing limits of States from 3% to 5%, for 2020-21 only in view of the unprecedented situation. This will give States extra resources of Rs. 4.28 lakh crore.
In an effort to support the financial position of the State Governments presently suffering from stress on account of revenue losses due to lockdown, Department of Expenditure issued a communication to all the State Governments for additional Borrowing of 2 percent of projected GSDP to the States in 2020-21 subject to the implementation of specific State Level Reforms.
4. Rs 3 lakh crore Collateral-free Automatic Loans for Businesses, including MSMEs
To provide relief to the business, additional working capital finance of 20% of the outstanding credit as on 29th February 2020, in the form of a Term Loan at a concessional rate of interest will be provided. This will be available to units with up to Rs. 25 crores outstanding and turnover of up to Rs. 100 crore whose accounts are standard. The units will not have to provide any guarantee or collateral of their own. The amount will be 100% guaranteed by the Government of India providing total liquidity of Rs. 3 lakh crore to more than 45 lakh MSMEs.
After taking Cabinet approval on 20.05.2020, the Department of Financial Services issued Operational Guidelines for the Scheme on 23.05.2020, and Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS) Fund was registered on 26.05.2020. In a short period of about one and a half months, noticeable progress has been achieved in identifying units, sanctioning as well as disbursing of loans to MSMEs. Following is the progress as on 9th July 2020:
5. Rs 45,000 crore Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme 2.0 for NBFCs
Existing Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme (PCGS) will be revamped and extended to cover the borrowings of lower-rated NBFCs, HFCs, and other Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs). The government of India will provide a 20 percent first loss of sovereign guarantee to Public Sector Banks.
After the Cabinet approval on PCGS on 20.05.2020, the Operational Guidelines for the Scheme were issued on 20.05.2020 itself. Banks have approved the purchase of a portfolio of Rs. 14,000 crore and are currently in process of approval/negotiations for Rs. 6,000 crore as of 3rd July 2020.
6. Rs 30,000 crore Additional Emergency Working Capital Funding for farmers through NABARD
New front loaded special refinance facility of Rs. 30,000 crore sanctioned by NABARD during COVID-19 to RRBs & Cooperative Banks. This special facility to benefit 3 crore farmers, consisting mostly of small and marginal farmers in meeting their credit needs for post-harvest and Kharif sowing requirements. When Kharif sowing is already on its full swing Rs. 24,876.87 crore out of Rs. 30,000 crore has been disbursed as on 06.07.2020, out of this special facility.
7. Rs 50,000 crore liquidity through TDS/TCS rate reduction
The Department of Revenue, vide its Press Release dated 13.05.2020, announced the reduction in TDS rates for specified payments to residents and specified TCS rates by 25% for transactions made from 14th May, 2020 to 31st March, 2021.
8. Other Direct Tax Measures
Between April 8 and June 30, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has issued refunds in more than 20.44 lakh cases amounting to more than Rs. 62,361 crore, as stated in the press release dated July 3, 2020. Remaining refunds are under process. The Department also issued Notification dated 24.6.2020, the due date for the income tax return for FY 2019-20 (Assessment Year 2020-21) has been extended from 31st July, 2020 (for individuals etc.) and 31st October 2020 (for companies etc.) to 30th November 2020. Further, the due date for furnishing of tax audit report has also been extended from existing 30th September 2020 to 31st October, 2020.
The Department of Revenue has extended the time barring date for assessments getting barred by limitation on 30th September, 2020 to 31st March, 2021. In this regard, through the Press Release dated 24.6.2020, it has been already been communicated that making payment without additional amount under the ‘Vivad Se Vishwas’ Scheme will be extended to 31st December 2020 and the legislative amendments for the same in the Vivad Se Vishwas Act, 2020 (VsV Act) shall be moved in due course to time. Further, through the Notifications, compliance dates mentioned under the VSV Act falling during period 20th March, 2020 to 30th December, 2020 have been extended to 31st December, 2020.
9. Further enhancement of Ease of Doing business through IBC related measures
The Ministry of Corporate Affairs has raised the threshold of default under Section 4 of the IBC, 2016 to Rs 1 crore (from the existing threshold of Rs 1 lakh) i.e. “in the exercise of powers conferred under Section 4 of Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (31 of 2016), the Central Government hereby specified Rs 1 crore as the minimum amount of default for the purposes of the said section” vide Notification dated 24.6.2020.
The Ministry of Corporate Affairs is finalizing a special insolvency resolution under section 240A of the Code, to provide relief to the MSMEs and the same would be notified soon.
Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 has been promulgated on 5th June, 2020 thereby provided for insertion of Section 10A in the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code 2016 to temporarily suspend initiation of Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process (CIRP) under Section 7, 9 & 10 of the Code for a period of six months or such further period, not exceeding one year from such date.
10. Rs 30,000 crore Special Liquidity Scheme for NBFCs/HFCs/MFIs
After the Cabinet approval of the Special Liquidity Scheme for NBFCs/HFCs, the Scheme has been launched. RBI has also issued a circular to NBFCs and HFCs on 1st July 2020 itself on the Scheme. SBICAP has received 24 applications requesting about Rs. 9,875 crore of financing as on 7th July 2020 which are being processed. The first application in this regard has received its approval and the remaining are also being considered.
The Press Release can be accessed at: https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1638112