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FM Nirmala Sitharaman HIGHLIGHTS: Economic packages not adding to Rs 20 lakh crore, alleges Congress

FM Nirmala Sitharaman Press Conference Today Live Updates: The Congress, however, alleged that all the five economic packages announced by Sitharaman did not amount to Rs 20 lakh crore as promised by the Prime Minister.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: May 18, 2020 11:00:08 am
nirmala sitharaman press conference, nirmala sitharaman press conference live, top news in india, nirmala sitharaman press conference live updates, nirmala sitharaman press conference updates, nirmala sitharaman press conference today, nirmala sitharaman press meet today, finance minister, finance minister speech, finance minister latest news Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the fifth tranche of the COVID package on Sunday. (PTI)

FM Nirmala Sitharaman Press Conference Live Updates: An increased borrowing by states, an additional allocation of Rs 40,000 crore for MNGREGA workers and the inclusion of private players in public sectors were among the seven announcements made by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman as part of the last tranche of the Rs 20 lakh crore COVID package on Sunday.

Also read | Govt to decriminalise minor violations of Companies Act

While addressing reporters this morning, the minister also said “debts related to the virus will be excluded from default under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code”. No fresh insolvency proceedings will be registered for a year, she added. The minister also said that during the coronavirus-induced lockdown, Rs 16,394 crore has been paid to 8.19 crore farmers under the Rs 2,000 free cash dole scheme of PM Kisan.

Also read | Rahul Gandhi’s act of speaking for migrant labourers is drama: Nirmala Sitharaman

The Congress, however, alleged that all the five economic packages announced by Sitharaman did not amount to Rs 20 lakh crore as promised by the Prime Minister. “I am questioning the finance minister, disputing the Prime Minister and challenging the government to disprove me on numbers. I am ready for a debate with the finance minister in this regard,” Congress leader Anand Sharma said.

Live Blog

Nirmala Sitharaman announces fifth tranche of Covid-19 economic package; Centre raises borrowing limit for states; debts excluded from default; no insolvency proceedings for a year; more. Follow LIVE updates here. Read in Bangla, Malayalam and Tamil here

15:25 (IST)17 May 2020
'Thank you for acknowledging that additional expenditure can be met by borrowing'

Former finance minister P Chidambaram tweeted: "Thank you Honourable FM @nsitharaman for acknowledging that the Additional Expenditure can be met only by Additional Borrowing. Thank you for confirming what I said in my column today."

15:11 (IST)17 May 2020
PM Modi must 'walk the talk now': Congress

Congress leader Anand Sharma added: The Finance Minister should answer, not question; the government has to answer on the plight of migrants forced to walk on the roads due to lack of planning. The government is misleading people of country in the name of economic package. The Prime Minister must walk the talk now. The government must apologise to the poor citizens left abandoned by it; their fundamental and legal rights have been violated." 

15:02 (IST)17 May 2020
Figures not adding to Rs 20 lakh crore, ready to debate with Finance Minister: Congress' Anand Sharma

Hours after Nirmala Sitharaman's briefing, Congress leader Anand Sharma alleged that the government's packages did not amount to Rs 20 lakh crore as promised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "The government's package is only worth Rs 3.22 lakh crore and is only 1.6% of GDP; it's not Rs 20 lakh crore as announced by PM Modi. I'm questioning the finance minister, disputing the PM and challenging the government to disprove me on numbers. I am ready for a debate with the finance minister in this regard," he said. "We expect seriousness and gravitas from the finance minister; what she has said against the Congress is frivolous," he added while referring to Sitharaman's remarks on Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's meeting with the migrants.

12:54 (IST)17 May 2020
Sitharaman lashes out at Congress, asks 'Why politicise the issue of migrants?'

The Finance Minister also took a swipe at Congress leader Rahul Gandhi over his meeting with migrants in the national capital on Saturday. She said: "Why politicise the issue of migrants? I want to tell the opposition party that we must work all together. We are working with all states on this issue. With folded hands, I ask Sonia Gandhi ji that we must speak and deal with our migrants more responsibly."

12:38 (IST)17 May 2020
Nirmala Sitharaman concludes announcements on COVID package

Concluding her announcements, the Finance Minister is now responding to queries from journalists.

12:25 (IST)17 May 2020
Borrowing by states to be linked to specific reforms: Finance Minister

"Part of the borrowing (by states) will be linked to specific reforms. From 0-3%, it will be unconditional. Upto 4.5%, it will be released in four tranches. The last 0.5 will be given as soon as the milestones are reached in at least three of the conditions," Nirmala Sitharaman announced.

12:18 (IST)17 May 2020
Centre allows states to borrow up to 5% of GSDP for 2020-21

Sitharaman added: "While the borrowing sealing of the states were increased, they have only borrowed 14% of the limit authorised to them; 86% remain unutilised as of now. We have now allowed them to borrow up to 5% of GSDP from the earlier 3%. This means, the states can now borrow an additional amount of Rs 4.28 lakh crore." 

12:16 (IST)17 May 2020
Reserve Bank of India hikes borrowing limit for states by 60%

Speaking on the support which has been extended to state governments, Nirmala Sitharaman said, "Like the Centre, the state is also witnessing a sharp drop in revenues. Over Rs 46,038 crore were devolved as tax revenue to states. Over Rs 12,000 crore were also dispensed on time. The Health Ministry has also released over Rs 14,000 crore. The RBI in a very timely step has increased ways of advancing limits for states by 60%. The number of days a state can be in an overdraft situation in a quarter have been raised."

12:04 (IST)17 May 2020
All sectors to be opened to private players: Nirmala Sitharaman

Speaking of a public enterprise policy, she said, "All sectors will be opened to private sectors also. Public sectors will continue to play an important role in defined areas. We shall defined the areas or categories. The strategic sectors in which public private sector enterprises will be present will be notified. Not more than four enterprises will be present in each sector." 

11:58 (IST)17 May 2020
Centre to decriminalise sections of Companies Act

Under the Companies Act, Sitharaman said the government is trying to decriminalise most of the sections. Compoundable offences can now be tried under internal adjudicating mechanisms, she said.

11:54 (IST)17 May 2020
Debt due to COVID excluded from default

On matters concerning the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), Sitharaman said, 'Debts related to COVID shall be excluded from default under the IBC. No fresh insolvency proceedings will be made for a year. For MSMEs, a special insolvency framework will be notified under Section 42A of IBC, the minimum threshold has increased from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 1 crore.' 

11:45 (IST)17 May 2020
Centre increases expenditure for public health care

The government also increased its expenditure for public healthcare. Sitharaman said: "All districts will have an infectious diseases' block. Public health labs will be set up at all block levels."

11:42 (IST)17 May 2020
Additional Rs 40,000 crore for MGNREGA workers

Making her first announcement for the day, Nirmala Sitharaman said, "The budget estimate for MGNREGA was Rs 61,000 crores. The government will now allocate an additional Rs 40,000 crore."

11:39 (IST)17 May 2020
Centre provides Rs 15,000 crore to states, PPEs for health care workers

The government, Sitharaman said, has also taken a number of health-related steps to contain the spread of Covid-19 - Rs 15,000 crore announced for states, essential items, testing labs and kits along with rolling out of teleconsultation services, launch of Arogya Setu app and protection to health care workers with adequate PPEs. 

11:36 (IST)17 May 2020
Provision made for live telecast of classes for students: Nirmala Sitharaman

On the steps taken for the education sector, the finance minister said, "The direct telecast mode use by schools will now get 12 more channels. This will also help in the rural areas. Provision has been made for live telecast of teachings. We have also tied up with private operators such as Tata Sky and DTH to air educational content."

11:33 (IST)17 May 2020
Rs 3,950 crore for 2.2 crore construction workers from states: Sitharaman

Around 2.2 crore building and construction workers received Rs 3,950 crore from the Building and Construction Workers Cess Welfare Fund distributed by states, the Finance Minister said.

11:26 (IST)17 May 2020
What will Nirmala Sitharaman's speech focus on today?

The Finance Minister will make announcements for the following sectors today: MNREGA, health (rural and urban) and education, business, de-criminalisation of Companies Act, Ease of Doing Business, Public Sector Enterprises, state govts and resources to them.

11:21 (IST)17 May 2020
85% of train travel taken care of by Centre: Nirmala Sitharaman

Providing more details on the government's efforts, the Finance Minister said, "At least 85% of the train travel costs were borned by the government. Food was also provided to the travellers. When it was possible to have workers to travel from camps to their hometowns, trains were allowed." 

11:19 (IST)17 May 2020
Several benefited through Direct Benefit Transfer: Nirmala Sitharaman

"Rs 16,394 crorehas reached 8.19 crore farmers. Twenty crore women were benefited after Rs 10,025 crore were deposited in their accounts. The building and construction workers also received their financial support due to Direct Benefit Transfer. We immediately responded to cash transfers and provided cooking gas to those in need," Sitharaman said.

11:12 (IST)17 May 2020
Nirmala Sitharaman begins addressing reporters

Quoting Prime Minister Narendra Modi while addressing reporters today, Sitharaman said: "In order to prove the resolve of the self-reliant India, land, labour, liquidity and laws, all have been emphasised in this package." She added, "We have announced several reforms in this regard and shall continue with the same today."

Finance Minister is announcing the economic packages as part of the “Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan (Self-reliant India campaign). (PTI)

Most of the measures for eight sectors announced Saturday under the fourth tranche of Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s Covid economic package were either a new push to old reforms proposals or an aggregation of earlier decisions.

The latter includes: commercial coal mining; coal gasification projects; building a hub for aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO); privatisation of airports, and optimisation of Indian airspace.

The renewed push for commercial mining is a proposal over two years old. A way to auction coal mines/blocks for sale of coal under the provisions of the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015, and the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, it was approved by the government in early 2018 and an order was issued on February 27, 2018. Subsequently, the Coal Ministry said it had identified “15 large coal blocks” for the pilot round of bidding in December that year.

The government said coal gasification and liquefaction will be incentivised through rebate in revenue share but project rollouts have already begun.

A revival of Talcher unit of Fertilizer Corporation of India Limited via a Joint Venture/ Special Purpose Vehicles of nominated PSUs for manufacturing of urea through Coal Gasification route was cleared in December last year.

Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers Limited (RCF), Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) and Coal India Limited (CIL) entrusted PDIL to carry out a feasibility report for production of ammonia through coal gasification route.

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