Barring 5 hotspots in Maharashtra, other areas should open for business, says state government

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Mumbai: In a serious bid to kickstart economic activity, the state government appointed 11-member expert committee has made a strong case for lifting of the lockdown, except in 5 hotspots and containment zones in Maharashtra.

The committee, comprising working and retired bureaucrats and formed a fortnight ago to make recommendations on the revival of the economy, at its meeting on Thursday, said of the 43,000 villages in the state the coronavirus pandemic is confined to merely 50 villages. Therefore, the rural and semi-urban economy needs to be made functional at the earliest.

The committee has recommended that the state government, whose revenue collection has practically come to a halt due to the lockdown, should immediately seek liquidity of Rs 50,000 crore from the Government of India or the Reserve Bank of India on a priority basis, as there is already a shortfall of more than Rs 50,000 crore in March and April.

The government will immediately need money to pay salaries, pension, procurement of medical equipment and other emergencies, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. The committee has suggested that the government will have to raise Rs 60,000 crore debt through open market borrowing.

The FPJ reported two days ago that the government has little headroom as its public debt is expected to be Rs 5.20 lakh crore, which will be around 16% of the gross state domestic product and below 20% GSDP, as required by the Fiscal Responsibility and Budgetary Management Act.

A committee member told FPJ: “There was unanimous view among the committee members that the lockdown should be lifted in areas excluding containment zones and hotspots.

The government may negotiate with the GoI and RBI the terms and structure of the loan in the course of time. One of the options is that it could be considered as stabilisation adjustment.”

He further said that considering the number of COVID-19 cases reported so far, 90% of them are from Mumbai and Pune Metropolitan Regions, Nagpur, Nashik and Malegaon and a few local bodies. Of the 43,000 villages, 42,950 are unnecessarily living under fear psychosis. There is a need to immediately lift the lockdown and get the economy rolling.

The committee also recommended that the access to kharif inputs will have to be smoothened and bottlenecks in the movement of trucks removed. “This is not the time for government to contract its activities but to give confidence that it has capacity of active interventionist,” said the committee member.

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