COVID-19: India PM Modi offers $270 billion as economic relief for labourers, small businesses

PM Modi

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled on Tuesday a $270 billion stimulus package for laborers and small businesses to boost flagging growth as the country grapples with the impact of the coronavirus and weeks-long lockdown.

The package worth about 10 per cent of India’s GDP, came as the country was set to mark its 50th day in the world’s biggest lockdown as the number of virus cases topped 70,000 with 2,200 deaths.

“This economic package is for India’s self-reliant movement. It is for the cottage, small and medium scale industries,” Modi said in a televised address.

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The funding includes a $2 billion relief package announced at the start of the lockdown in late March and stimulus efforts by the central bank, Modi said.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman would unveil further details in the next few days, he added.

The government credits its strict shutdown of almost all activity in the country of 1.3 billion people for limiting the number of virus cases and deaths.

But the livelihoods of tens of millions of people have been badly hit, particularly the poor and migrant workers, many of whom have lost their jobs.

“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 said the next stage of the lockdown, which is due to be lifted on May 18 after being extended twice, “will be different in many ways.”

“It will be based on suggestions received from states,” he said, adding that an announcement would be also made in coming days.