Coronavirus Will Be Challenge If Issues Not Resolved In 3 Weeks: Nirmala Sitharaman

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday said the Coronavirus outbreak would emerge as a challenge for India if issues were not resolved in the coming three weeks. The statement comes on a day when the BSE Sensex crashed 1,448 points, or 3.64 percent, over previous close to end the session at 38,297, mainly on concerns related to Coronavirus. All 30 constituents ended in the red.

“No need to press the panic button because of Coronovirus epidemic, the outbreak will be a challenge if issues do not get resolved in three weeks,” Sitharaman said while speaking at the CNBCTV18 IBL Awards event.

Several industries, including electronics, pharmaceuticals and others had raised red flags over likely shortage of raw materials and derailing of distribution. “The electronics and pharma sectors have suggested airlifting of materials from China,” the minister said. Earlier, the finance minister had held a meeting with about 23 industries and said that they had not expressed any anxieties about raw material supplies or exports being disturbed.

“However, some of them felt that if after two months if the situation does not improve regarding containing the virus they may start having some problems of raw material availability. We are trying to see how we can help them out,” she added.

The logistics of the same, like aggregating the goods and getting them to a single place will have to be done by the industry itself, she said, promising help from the government through the consular staff. Sitharaman said the government is “pushing the banks like never before” to lend as much as possible across all categories, including retail, home and agriculture segments.

Meanwhile, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal has called a meeting of exporters and industry on March 3 to discuss export and import opportunities emerging on account of the Coronavirus outbreak in China. “This outbreak has reflected that depending completely on one country for goods is not a good idea and, in such a situation, India is best placed to fill this global supply chain gap,” PTI quoted a ministry official as saying.

According to a commerce ministry analysis, there are as many as 550 products where Indian exporters can plug global supply gaps. These identified products accounted for about 75 percent of India’s exports in 2018. Currently, exports of these items are estimated at $243 billion.

World markets have sunk deeper into the red, posting their worst week since the 2008 financial crisis, on fears that the virus outbreak could push the global economy into a recession. The list of countries hit by Covid-19 grew to 57, with New Zealand, Nigeria, Azerbaijan and the Netherlands reporting their first cases. During the week, Sensex plunged 2,872.83 points or 6.97 percent, and the Nifty tumbled 879.10 or 7.27 percent.

“The outbreak is getting bigger,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told a news briefing in Geneva. “The scenario of the coronavirus reaching multiple countries, if not all countries around the world, is something we have been looking at and warning against since quite a while.”―Business Standard

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