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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

India Announces $265 Billion Package to Revive Battered Economy

By Anjana Pasricha May 12, 2020

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a massive package of more than $265 billion to revive an economy battered by a seven-week lockdown enforced to contain the coronavirus pandemic.   

The long-awaited stimulus package amounts to about 10 percent of India's gross domestic product. 

In a televised address to the nation, the prime minister said the country must turn crisis into opportunity and emphasized that the main goal of the package is to build a self-reliant India.

Modi also indicated that India would undertake economic reforms that economists and business leaders have long clamored for to attract investment and give a boost to industry.

The announcement came amid a growing chorus for a monetary stimulus to ease the deep pain inflicted by the shutdown on an economy that was sputtering even before the pandemic.

Economists say unemployment has reached 24.7 percent as millions of jobs have been lost across many fields since the lockdown was enforced March 25. Tens of thousands of migrant workers have fled shuttered cities amid the widespread losses.

Although some restrictions on manufacturing have been lifted, most industries have yet to resume operations, hobbled by a lack of workers and strict new rules aimed at controlling the spread of the coronavirus.

"Day laborers, migrant workers have suffered much in this period. It is our duty now to do something for them," the prime minister said.

Modi also signaled that the country would start to pull back from the lockdown scheduled to end this Sunday, saying it is possible to fight the coronavirus while moving ahead.

"While scientists have said that COVID-19 will be with us for a long time, we cannot let life revolve around it. We have to wear masks and maintain distance but keep sight of our goals," he told the country. "The next stage will be different in many ways."

A signal that India intends to restart economic activity came on Tuesday as it resumed limited rail service. It was a small beginning – the 30 trains that streamed out of cities like New Delhi and Mumbai carrying about 50,000 passengers transported only a fraction of the 23 million passengers carried by one of the world's largest networks before the lockdown.

And in a sign that travel may not be the same any longer, passengers could only book tickets online, had to wear masks and were told to arrive an hour-and-a-half early to undergo health screenings. They were asked to carry their own food and water and follow social distancing norms.

All rail, bus and air services have been shut down since the lockdown, but the federal government has indicated that public transport will also resume in cities.

The prime minister also indicated that it will be up to states to specify what they want to do – many of the country's lesser-affected regions want to resume business while those where the infection rate is rampant want to continue with restrictions.

There has been a spike in infections in recent days with the number of coronavirus cases at close to 74,000. More than 2,400 people have died.

The shutdown is credited with having significantly slowed the spread of the respiratory ailment in the world's second-most-populous nation. Officials say although the count is rising, the lockdown prevented an explosive surge of infections that would have crippled India's unprepared health care system.

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