India Says Stake Sale, Reforms on Track Amid Local Lockdowns
(Bloomberg) -- India is on course to sell assets and implement its Feb. 1 budget announcements despite a fresh wave of coronavirus infections and provincial lockdowns disrupting activity, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said.
“That may not affect our disinvestment program or the plan to set up development finance institutions or any other institutional reforms that we have announced in the budget,” Sitharaman said at an event by the Financial Times and the Indian Express newspapers on Thursday. “Everything is on course. We are going as it was before.”
India plans to raise 1.75 trillion rupees ($23 billion) selling stakes in state-run companies in the financial year that started April 1. This includes its flagship carrier Air India Ltd. and refiner Bharat Petroleum Corp. as it attempts to raise funds to revive Asia’s third-largest economy from the pandemic shock.
A fresh wave of infections has led to localized lockdowns in some parts of the country that are affecting the movement of people and goods. The finance minister said it was too early to say if the restrictions are going to affect India beyond this week.
“We have to wait and watch a bit and then we have to take a call,” Sitharaman said. “But at the moment activities are all happening, industry is still on its recovery mode, and therefore, I won’t rush to think that this will hurt us if we are able to coordinate better.”
India saw the world’s biggest one-day jump in coronavirus cases ever on Thursday, overwhelming hospitals and crematoriums. The surge is leading to a downgrade of growth projections for the economy. Care Ratings Ltd. on Wednesday lowered the country’s gross domestic product growth forecast for the current fiscal year to 10.2% from as much as 11.2% last month.
Sitharaman said she is monitoring the economy in a “very detailed fashion” on an everyday basis, but doesn’t have any plans yet beyond what the government has already announced.
“Even this year we have announced a borrowing calender. I have made it clear that I will not hesitate to frontload as much is required,” she said. “In fact, that facility is being extended even to the states.”
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