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‘Economic recovery from next year itself’, says FM Nirmala Sitharaman

India can see a proper recovery next year on the back of positivity and confidence due to Covid-19 vaccines, Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Friday, arguing that steady growth and capacity expansion in the past two months had pulled the economy out of its pandemic trough.

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Nirmala Sitharaman

India can see a proper recovery next year on the back of positivity and confidence due to Covid-19 vaccines, Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Friday, arguing that steady growth and capacity expansion in the past two months had pulled the economy out of its pandemic trough.

Speaking at the 18th Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, Sitharaman also defended the Centre’s controversial farm reform laws, said she is not worried about food inflation and hailed the spirit of cooperation that steers the running of the GST Council.

The finance minister’s comments came days after UK became the first country in the world to approve a vaccine made by Pfizer-BioNTech, with the United States and European Union expected to grant regulatory clearances later this month to stave off a disease that has killed 1.5 million worldwide.

So far, four vaccine candidates – including one that is being manufactured in India — have declared encouraging late-stage trial results. Hours before the summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India is set to get a vaccine within weeks.

“The vaccine coming brings in a certain positivity. A vaccine efficiently delivered…will only bring in confidence among the people, both the workers, employers and also people who are engaged in some or the other economic activity,” Sitharaman said at the 18th Hindustan Times Leadership Summit.

“The vaccine will bring in optimism and positivity. With the vaccine, economic activity will get traction.”

With 2020-21 being seen as when large numbers of Indians will get inoculated, with frontline workers and vulnerable populations prioritised, the finance minister also pointed towards the importance of logistics and distribution networks. She refused to specify how much money would be set aside for Covid-19 immunisation in next year’s Union budget.

“We don’t know what will be the details which come with the vaccine. Will it be one dose or two doses? Will it be two doses with two or three weeks in between? Will two doses be sufficient? Unless we get all these details, I really cannot work towards a number.”

At the HT Summit two weeks ago, Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla had said that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine which is being manufactured in India — could become available for the general public by April-May next year and is likely to cost around Rs 500-600 for a dose.

Sitharaman acknowledged that the current situation in the country was drastically different from when she presented the budget in February but added that the government had steered the country through the pandemic with a judicious mixture of fiscal and monetary measures.

The finance minister also touched upon the recovery in the second quarter of 2020-21, when the economy shrank by 7.5, outperforming most expectations and registering is a sharp improvement from the 23.9% contraction in the previous quarter.

Sitharaman attributed this showing to an expansion in the core sectors and said that just pent-up demand and the festive season could not have driven this recovery alone. She also pointed to revenue from the Goods and Services Tax (GST) exceeding Rs 1 lakh crore for the second consecutive month in November, as a clear indication that economic activity was returning to normal.

“Recovery is consistently happening in the last two months…you hear core sector industries, cement, iron and steel, integrated plants are all going in for expansion, not just in one unit but across the country, you’re hearing of expansion,” she said.

“There is an indication that additional demand coming in. It is not pent up or festival demand. It is likely to sustain.”

Sitharaman contested the assumption that private sector investment continued to be weak, and said core sector expansion couldn’t happen without additional private buy in.

“Banks are also seeing industry approach for additional expansion-related funding requests. You are seeing expansion in capacities and it cannot be without private investment,” she said, adding that one may have to wait for a month to see if credit is also equally expanding.

When asked about inflation – hours after the Reserve Bank of India held rates, indicating inflationary anxieties – Sitharaman said she was not worried by what she termed as seasonal fluctuations.

“There are seasonal ups and downs in prices and the commodities about which we are seeing clear hike in prices are largely seasonal. If you take foodgrains and edible commodities, there are seasonal fluctuations. The government, through inter-ministerial group, has been very frequently looking at changes and taking conscious calls to fill in any supply level shortages through imports and logistical constraints are getting sorted.”

“This blip in inflation, particularly of food items, will ease out.” Hours before, RBI governor Shaktikanta Das said retail inflation is likely to remain elevated and pegged it at 6.8% for the third quarter.

Sitharaman defended the government’s relief measures for the middle class, and said 300 million people received cash transfers during the pandemic lockdown period but acknowledged that the fiscal deficit will certainly be higher than the 3.5% of GDP target set in the 2020 Union budget.

“What has given me most strength is that people of India, given the challenges and difficulties, have still kept going and today, that’s the reason for the revival… It’s the virus and related matters were more of a worry than the economy,” she added.

Business

Mi India’s Republic Day Sale: List of TVs, Smart Bands, and Smartphones available at Huge discounts

Flipkart VIP, Amazon Prime, and Mi VIP Club members will be able to take advantage of this sale from January 19, a day before.

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Amazon Flipkart

Mi India has announced the Republic Day offer. The sale offers huge discount offers on a variety of products including smartphones, smart TVs, and Smart Bands.

Mi India’s Republic Days offer sale will start from 12 noon on January 20, 2021, which will continue till 11.59 PM on the night of January 24, 2021.

This offer can be enjoyed on the e-commerce sites Amazon, Flipkart, and Mi.com. Flipkart VIP, Amazon Prime, and Mi VIP Club members will be able to take advantage of this sale from January 19, a day before.

Mi Smart Band 4

Selling Price – 2,299

Sale price – 1,899

Mi TV Stick

Selling Price – 2,799

Sale price -2,299

Mi Box 4K

Selling Price – 3,499

Sale price – 3,299

Mi LED TV 4A PRO 108 cm (43)

Selling Price – 24,999

Sale Price – 23,999

Mi LED TV 4X 50

Selling Price – 34,999

Sale Price – 33,999

Mi Watch Revolve Midnight Black & Silver

Selling Price – 10,999

Sale price – 8,999

Earphones (TWS) – Mi True Wireless Earphones 2C

Selling Price – 2,499

Sale Price – 1,999

Earphones (TWS) – Mi True Wireless Earphones 2

Selling Price – 3,999

Sale price – 2,499

Mi Beard Trimmer 1C

Selling Price – 999

Sale Price – 799

Mi Smart Water Purifier (RO+UV)

Selling Price – 12,999

Sale price – 9,999

Redmi Earbuds S

Selling Price – 1,799

Sale price – 1,499

Redmi Smart Band

Selling Price – 1,599

Sale price – 1,299

Redmi 9i (4+ 64GB)

Selling Price – 8,299

Sale price – 7,999

Redmi 9 Prime (4+64GB)

Selling Price – 9,999

Sale price – 9,499

Redmi Note 9 (6+128GB)

Selling Price – 14,999

Sale price – 13,999

Redmi Note 9 Pro (4+128GB)

Selling Price – 15,999

Sale price – 13,999

Redmi Note 9 Pro Max (6+64GB)

Selling Price – 16,999

Sale Price – 14,999

Mi LED TV 4A PRO 80 cm (32)

Selling Price – 14,999

Sale Price – 14,499

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Dogfight: Airlines unleash deep discounts to dominate the sky

IndiGo’s Chief Strategy and Revenue Officer Sanjay Kumar said: “Low fares always helps stimulate the demand for the travel period far out and works as a part of airline strategy.”

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Preparing for Landing

New Delhi, Jan 19 : Fare wars induced deep discounting has reappeared in India’s aviation sector, as airlines seek to augment cash reserves, consolidate market share and bring back more capacity.

The first shot in this war of extremely low prices was fired recently with most airlines commencing their sales offers.

The development comes around a year since Covid-19 lockdown devastated the sector.

Industry insiders, however, now believe that the roll-out of anti-Covid-19 vaccination programme will give a boost to air travel.

Besides, some of the travel period offered under these schemes are beyond the current expiry of the fare cap imposed by the Centre.

IndiGo’s Chief Strategy and Revenue Officer Sanjay Kumar said: “Low fares always helps stimulate the demand for the travel period far out and works as a part of airline strategy.”

“These sales stimulate traffic among extremely price sensitive customers and helps airlines meet overall objectives.”

The latest passenger traffic data from the sector regulator DGCA indicate that the growth in passenger volumes is not yet adequate enough for a revival in the airline sector.

The aggregate passenger traffic in December 2020 at 73.27 lakh was still 43.7 per cent lower on a year-on-year basis.

“Lack of adequate demand in the post festive season along with higher available capacity has therefore, led a drop in passenger load factor for some of the airlines in December 2020 on a sequential basis vis-a-vis Nov 2020,” said Suman Chowdhury, Chief Analytical Officer at Acuite Ratings & Research.

“Such a scenario is possibly leading to a deep discounting strategy from airline companies. This involves sale of seats over the next few months through an attractive discount or add ons to ensure higher PLF over the next 1-2 quarters.”

Nevertheless, deep discounts are expected to hurt the already fragile financial condition of the sector.

“It will have an impact on the profitability of airline operations which has already been under losses in the last few quarters. In our opinion, however, passenger demand will witness a significant improvement in the next few months with the tapering of the Covid infection rate as well as the progress on the vaccination,” Chowdhury said.

Apart from ensuring a minimum PLF in the coming months, experts contend that deep discounts will trigger liquidity enhancement for airlines.

“Low airfares this month indicate the expected dip in travel post holiday season in December. Airfares in Jan across key routes have decreased 15-20 per cent MoM,” said Rajnish Kumar, Co-founder & CTO, ixigo.

“Heavy discounts being rolled out by major domestic and international airlines will definitely woo travellers who are planning vacations this year. With government caps ending on March 31, the discounts will attract flyers to plan their trips in advance and accelerate recovery in bookings to pre-Covid levels this year.”

On the other hand, the government has till now permitted the industry players to operate at 80 per cent of their pre-Covid capacity.

The operational capacity deployment level is expected to reach pre-Covid mark by the end of calendar year’s first quarter.

“In the current scenario of impact on demand due to the pandemic, while some aircraft continue to be grounded, the passenger load factors (PLFs) of airlines have also been impacted despite the lower capacity,” said Kinjal Shah, Vice President, ICRA.

“Thus, airlines have to take a calculated call on fares and its impact on demand.”

(Rohit Vaid can be contacted at [email protected])

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Azim Premji and Dr Devi Shetty chosen for PCB awards

Besides them 25 senior journalists have been selected for the ‘Press Club Annual Awards’, a release said.

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Azim Premji Wipro

Bengaluru, Jan 19: The chairman of Wipro Limited Azim Premji and the founder chairman of Narayana Health Dr Devi Prasad Shetty are among those who have been selected for the annual awards given by the Press Club of Bangalore.

Premji has been chosen for ‘Press Club Person of the Year’, while Dr Shetty and actor-Director Sudeep Sanjeev have been selected for the ‘Press Club Special Award.’

Besides them 25 senior journalists have been selected for the ‘Press Club Annual Awards’, a release said.

Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa will facilitate the awardees at a function scheduled for the third week of February, it said.

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