“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” — Khalil Gibran
Till mid-April, as many as 10,453 novel coronavirus cases were reported across India, with 358 fatalities. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to extend the lockdown imposed on March 24 till May 3 therefore, did not come as a surprise at all. In his address to the nation on April 14, the Prime Minister praised his countrymen for their resilience and said India had been able to combat the pandemic much better than other nations.
Lockdowns and restrictions on movement have stifled economies across the globe, disrupting supply chains and creating shortages of labour. An Asian Development Bank report estimates that regional growth in Asia will decline from 5.2 per cent in 2019 to 2.2 per cent in 2020. In India the pandemic chokes an economy that had already turned sluggish. A recent report by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) emphasises that the pandemic could derail India’s growth story.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has announced a Rs 1.7 lakh crore relief package for the poor. A package for the MSMEs is expected soon. Meanwhile, the losses of the aviation sector mounted to $4-5 billion in the first three weeks of the lockdown, while those of the automotive industry were at $2-3 billion. Losses of trucks and other logistics businesses are in the region of $5 billion. The textile and apparel industry has lost $12-15 billion in earnings, while travel, tourism and the hospitality sector saw losses magnify to $60-65 billion .
Yet India still has the strength to rise from the ashes and reach for the stars. It still has the potential to be a super power. Prime Minister Modi is a genuine leader of global stature, who has enhanced India’s reputation by reaching out to other nations in this hour of need. In a sense, he has turned this adversity into an opportunity, as always. The Prime Minister is no doubt, aware of the UK government’s blank cheque for its workforce, SMEs, businesses and entrepreneurs, Canada’s support to its entrepreneurs, business and economy, Japan’s $1 trillion package and the United States’ $3 trillion package – of which $2 trillion has been announced already.
The Indian business community, which creates employment, contributes to the country’s GDP and to nation-building, is looking to PM Modi’s leadership now for a panacea to the crisis that grips the country. A FICCI report says a Rs 9 lakh crore to Rs 10 lakh crore relief package (amounting to almost five per cent of the country’s GDP) will be needed immediately to revive the economy and keep it going. Our report on agriculture talks of how the agrarian economy could move back in time, without the immediate intervention of the government.
In this issue, we once again focus on how Covid-19 will impact specific sectors of the Indian economy, weaving in the viewpoints of industry in columns. Of course, we also have our regular columns that you look forward to. I do hope you enjoy reading this issue, as much as we did compiling it. As Benjamin Disraeli said, “There is no education like adversity”.