Government Open To Further Stimulus To Lift Economy, Says  Economic Affairs Secretary
Indian two thousand and five hundred rupee banknotes are arranged for a photograph in Mumbai, India. (Photographer Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Government Open To Further Stimulus To Lift Economy, Says Economic Affairs Secretary

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The government is open to further stimulus measures to boost the coronavirus-hit economy, Economic Affairs Secretary Tarun Bajaj said on Wednesday.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced a slew of measures to spur demand and ramp up capital expenditure earlier this month. This was the third stimulus package since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The government had announced a Rs 1.70 lakh crore Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana in March to protect the poor and vulnerable sections from the impact of Covid-19 crisis.

It was followed by the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan package of Rs 20.97 lakh crore in May, largely focussed on supply side measures and long-term reforms.

"So I think with all these efforts and as I said, as the finance minister said, we are seeing what all other things can be done (to boost economy)," Bajaj said while addressing a virtual event organised by CII.

Earlier this week, Sitharaman had said the option for another stimulus package has not been closed.

"I have not closed the option for another stimulus package if it comes out to be, because every time we announced one, it has been after a lot of consideration of inputs which have come from various sections of society.

"Then we sit and work it out within the ministry and Prime Minister's Office and then take a final call. So, I have not closed the option to come up with one more stimulus," Sitharaman had said.

Also read: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Says Option For Another Stimulus Still Open

Speaking about the capital markets, Bajaj said the government has taken lot of measures to deepen the market.

Citing an example, he said "we have undertaken some reforms and it is an ongoing process. In the last Parliament session, the Bilateral Netting of Qualified Financial Contracts Bill was converted into an Act, after passage of both the houses and the President's assent was received."

As per estimates, it would result in capital saving of Rs 50,000-60,000 crore for banks alone in this whole process.

"I exhort the insurance companies and the regulators in that area to look at credit default swaps now that the netting bill has been passed. And if that happens, I think it should assist the bond markets as well," he said.

Bajaj also said SEBI and the finance ministry are in touch on the 'backstop facility'.

SEBI had earlier said it plans to set up a 'backstop entity' to buy illiquid investment-grade corporate bonds from mutual funds.

On direct listing of Indian companies on overseas exchanges, Bajaj said the Companies Act amendment bill passed by Parliament recently has provisions for this.

"The regulations and the other guidelines are in the process of reaching a finality. I have personally held very extensive discussions with the players in this area..I think this is also another step which was waiting to happen, which will give a fillip to some of our industries and some of our so-called unicorns a chance to actually pick up capital," he said.

He also emphasised that the players should desist from defrauding investors as regulations in the capital market sector are mostly based on disclosure and 'buyer beware' principle.

"I think we really need to acknowledge that and honour that. Time and again, we do see that there are some issues which crop up in the market, which takes the confidence of the people away.

"Obviously, because of these regulations there's flexibility in the design of member-client agreements, especially the agreements of portfolio management, but there is information asymmetry, and we have recently come across a large number (of such cases)," he said.

He said the industry needs to look inwards and see what can be done, besides the steps taken by the stock exchanges and the regulator.

For example, he said the regulator has come up with some stricter regulations on AT1 bonds.

He pointed to some cases of retired citizens being cajoled to buy AT1 bonds or senior citizens being pushed for insurance products which are not conducive for their age and risk profile.

"So, I think these are also issues that are important for the capital market to have a look at," he added.

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