Infra spending, MSME package on the cards: Nitin Gadkari

Economy


An extended lockdown was vital to rein in the Covid-19 outbreak but the government is trying to restore normalcy within the constraints, minister for road transport, highways and MSMEs Nitin Gadkari told Nishtha Saluja and Deepshikha Sikarwar in an interview. The minister said he has suggested providing low-cost capital to MSMEs through NBFCs and called for speedy payment of their outstanding dues. He expressed the hope that with economic activity resuming, workers will stay put and not go back to their villages. Edited excerpts:

Do you think the lockdown has stretched too long and will have big economic consequences?

We do not have any other option. We need to fight coronavirus. You have to compare with what is happening in the US, UK, France and Germany. India’s situation is still under control. There is lockdown, but at the same time some relaxations have been given. All national highways are now open and are witnessing 65-70% traffic flow. All our ports are functional. Now industry has also started working. There are issues only in red zones. There is no contradiction. This war is very important and at the same time, we need to fight our economic war. Day by day, we are helping normalise things with relaxations.

‘Pressure on China, Boost for India’

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The MSME sector has been worst hit with some estimates suggesting that 15-20% may not be able to recover. Has the ministry made any assessment?

I am not sure that this assessment is credible. We had already started the process of restructuring loans of MSMEs and till March 31, nearly 6 lakh MSME loans have been restructured. Their loan repayments have been deferred and working capital limit has been raised by 20%. We have examined several suggestions pertaining to MSMEs. Our recommendations have been sent to the finance ministry and PMO (Prime Minister’s Office). There are concerns today, but we have advantages as well. For the first time in the world, there is a growing view to move supply chains out of China. Japan has unveiled a special package to help Japanese companies exit China. This is a blessing in disguise for us. This is why we need to upgrade our technology. We have started working to bring in foreign investment, technology and are coordinating with state governments. We are working to ensure how we can reduce capital, land acquisition, power and labour costs to increase exports.

What is holding up the package?

The finance ministry is considering proposals very seriously. We are hopeful it should come soon.

Is there any thinking to raise increase the turnover limit for MSMEs?

We are looking at different ways to help MSMEs. Different policies are also in the works. Capital should be made available from banks, MSME stock exchange can help bring in equity. I have also suggested that through NBFCs (nonbanking finance companies) we can bring in low-cost interest capital.

Pending MSME dues continue to be an issue. What is the ministry doing about this?

We are framing a scheme for this too. A large amount of MSME dues are with major industry, state and central government undertakings. We have also suggested a mechanism regarding that to finance ministry. This is a serious situation, and these dues should reach them since it is crucial for their survival. I have also asked major industries to release payments to MSMEs.



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