USISPF Briefing with Sanjeev Sanyal, Principal Economic Advisor to the Government of India

USISPF Briefing with Sanjeev Sanyal, Principal Economic Advisor to the Government of India

On April 29, Sunjeev Sanyal, principal economic advisor to the Government of India’s Ministry of Finance, briefed USISPF members on the state of the Indian economy and what is in store as the country reopens from its COVID-19 lockdown.

In a discussion moderated by Kaku Nakhate, President and Country Head, India, for Bank of America, Sanyal highlighted that India – and the rest of the world – should not imagine that economic recovery will mean a return to the pre-coronavirus world, but a ‘fundamental reset.’ He also said that India will play an active role in this post-coronavirus round of ‘rule-setting,’ pointing to the recent G20 endorsement of an action plan formed by the framework working group co-chaired by India and the UK. On the possibility of India playing a larger role in the restructuring of global supply chains, he said that the country has to be flexible and work with industry and partners as the situation continues to evolve.

In terms of the Government of India’s policy response to the economic impacts of COVID-19, he characterized this approach as having three steps. The initial step was to cushion the economic impact of COVID-19 through efforts such as the stimulus package targeting India’s most vulnerable citizens and pushing back financial deadlines. It is now shifting into the ‘opening up’ stage, as the staggered relaxation of India’s lockdown has allowed many areas to resume manufacturing and the movement of goods. At some point, the approach will ramp up for the ‘rebuild’ stage. Sanyal also noted that India has been successful in not expending its resources too quickly, giving it the monetary and fiscal space needed to respond as recovery efforts continue.

In a Q&A session with USISPF members, Sanyal provided updates on and insight into topics such as India’s new FDI rules, the current low oil prices, India’s fiscal deficit post COVID-19, and calls for increased spending on medical infrastructure, which he warned must include funding for public health and sanitation as well as hospitals. When asked on what economic reforms India should prioritize as it reopens, Sanyal noted that it depends on feedback from companies, but a lot of action will have to happen at the state, rather than the federal, level— pointing to Uttar Pradesh as a state which has already risen to the occasion.

Tackling the Pandemic: How Governments Are Supporting Businesses – Views From the US, Europe and India

Tackling the Pandemic: How Governments Are Supporting Businesses – Views From the US, Europe and India

USISPF and Squire Patton Boggs co-hosted a webinar briefing members on the latest policy responses to COVID-19 from a U.S., European, and Indian perspective. Speakers included Frank Samolis, Partner at Squire Patton Boggs; Ambassador Frank Wisner, International Affairs Advisor at Squire Patton Boggs; former U.S. Representative Joe Crowley; Matthew Kirk, International Affairs Advisor at Squire Patton Boggs; David Stewart, Principal at Squire Patton Boggs; and Dharmakirti Joshi, Chief Economist at CRISIL.

David Stewart, Matthew Kirk, and Dharmakirti Joshi spoke on the respective government efforts of the U.S., Europe, and India to reopen their economies while continuing to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. David Stewart opened the discussion by highlighting the U.S. government’s economic stimulus efforts in response to COVID-19, including the CARES Act, the Paycheck Protection Program, and the Main Street Lending program. In Europe, different countries have different in their impact and response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but across countries, efforts to reopen the economy largely involve adhering to social distancing measures, using track-and-trace systems to contain the further spread of the coronavirus, and financial packages. Dharmakirti Joshi stated that, while India has a limited fiscal space in which to organize its response, the country has several options to finance its response. He also noted that India has not “front-loaded” its response, and the next phase of its policy response should be aimed at support for small and medium businesses.

In a Q&A session with USISPF President and CEO Mukesh Aghi, Joe Crowley, Frank Wisner, and Frank Samolis shared their perspectives on the relationship between the U.S. and India. Rep. Crowley shared his insight into how the relationship between the U.S. and India has grown over the past few decades, and Frank Samolis spoke on the possibility of future trade negotiations between the U.S. and India. Amb. Wisner stated that cooperation between the U.S., Europe, and India is vital to containing COVID-19 and bringing back their economies, especially given the shifts occurring in the global economy as a result of COVID-19. He also highlighted the importance of India presenting a competitive and attractive market for foreign investment, to take advantage of global interest in diversifying supply chains.

Alert: India Coronavirus Update

April 24, 2020

Alert: India Coronavirus Update

Today [April 24], the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has issued an order to all States/UTs, to allow opening of all shops registered under Shops & Establishment Act of respective States/ UTs, including shops in residential complexes, neighborhood & standalone shops. It would be mandatory for all permitted shops to open only with 50% strength of workers, ensure compulsory wearing of masks and strict adherence to social distancing norms. It is important to note that these relaxations in lockdown restrictions would not applicable in hotspots/containment zones. See announcement here.

The MHA has also clarified certain misplaced apprehensions of Industry Associations regarding legal liability on company CEOs, if employees are found COVID-19 positive.  The notification also clarifies that the consolidated revised guidelines do not curtail the exemptions that had already been provided earlier unless the exempted activity falls within a containment zone. Therefore, no fresh approvals are required for industries already permitted to operate prior to April 15.  See announcement here.

The Home Secretary has written to all Chief Secretaries and Administrators to ensure adequate security is provided to healthcare professionals, medical staff & frontline workers to prevent violence against them. See notification here.

EDUCATION:

Ministry of Human Resource Development has e-launched VidyaDaan 2.0 program for inviting e-learning content contributions. The program has been launched due to the increasing requirement for e-learning content for students (both school and higher education) especially in the backdrop of situation arising out of Covid- 19 and also due to the urgent need to integrate digital education with schooling to augment learning. See notification here.

Non-Government Stakeholders in Action

  • Adobe is implementing a number of customer-friendly programs intended to provide continued access to its products as the COVID-19 situation develops. Learn more about the program’s here.
  • RenewPower has committed INR 20 crores to INR 20 Crores to COVID-19 relief in India. They have also distributed dry ration in more than 140 villages around ReNew Power sites, covering the following states: Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka
  • Google India provides features across its products to indicate the locations of hundreds of food and night shelters set up by the government across the country, accessible through Google Maps, Search, and Google Assistant.
  • YouTube has launched a Coronavirus News Shelf on the YouTube Homepage, which provides the latest news from authoritative media outlets regarding the outbreak.
  • PhRMA: New report shows nearly 260 vaccines in development, including dozens for COVID-19. See report here.

USISPF Briefing with Ambassador of India to the United States, Taranjit Sandhu

USISPF Briefing with Ambassador of India to the United States, Taranjit Sandhu

On April 9, Amb. Taranjit Sandhu, the Ambassador of India to the United States, joined USISPF members on a webinar to provide updates on India’s COVID-19 response and what the Embassy of India is doing to assist citizens and businesses at this difficult time.

In terms of India’s response to COVID-19, Ambassador Sandhu emphasized that India’s goal is to minimize the human cost of the pandemic and to contain the virus. He highlighted the $22.5 billion stimulus package the Government of India announced in March, which provides targeted aid to India’s most vulnerable citizens. He also noted the Government of India’s recent decisions to extend tax deadlines and the visas of foreign nationals unable to leave India due to the national lockdown. He spoke of the opportunities for the U.S. and India to collaborate on issues related to COVID-19 in areas ranging from technological transfers to vaccine development, pointing to the recent teleconference and Twitter exchanges between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Donald Trump in which the two leaders reiterate their commitment to working together at this time. He also stated that there will be many opportunities for India and the U.S. to strengthen economic ties in the post-pandemic future, particularly in the energy sector.

Ambassador Sandhu also answered questions from USISPF members related to lockdown exemptions for essential goods and services, the Government of India’s recent decision to ease restrictions on pharmaceutical exports, and where to find updates on pandemic-related policy decisions. The Ambassador encouraged U.S. companies with a presence in India to reach out to the Embassy’s commerce wing for assistance on specific issues.

USISPF Briefing with Sanjay Chadha, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Commerce & Industry

USISPF Briefing with Sanjay Chadha, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Commerce & Industry

On April 16, Sanjay Chadha, Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, joined USISPF members on a webinar to provide updates on the Ministry of Commerce & Industry’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In discussion with USISPF CEO & President Dr. Mukesh Aghi, Secretary Chadha provided insight into the Government of India’s next steps, and highlighted opportunities for the U.S. and India to deepen their economic partnership in the future. 

Secretary Chadha stated that the government of India has two priorities right now, to contain the coronavirus and to address the impact of COVID-19 on the economy. He spoke optimistically about the future of U.S.-India trade, highlighting U.S. companies as playing an important role in reopening India’s economy after the lockdown is lifted. He advised USISPF member companies on procedures for seeking assistance on logistic and operational issues as a result of the national lockdown and, noting that Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) guidelines are interpreted on a state-by-state basis, reiterated the importance of communicating with local authorities. 

Alert: India Coronavirus Update

April 20, 2020

Alert: India Coronavirus Update

The Central Government has constituted six inter-ministerial teams to make assessment of the pandemic and help state efforts to fight and contain spread of COVID-19. The inter-ministerial teams are for West Bengal and Maharashtra and one each for Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan to make assessments on the compliance and implementation of lockdown measures; supply of essential commodities, social distancing, and preparedness of the health infrastructure. The notice can be found here.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has put out a clarification stating that the sale of non-essential goods by e-commerce companies shall remain prohibited during the lockdown. However, e-commerce companies will continue to operate for essential goods as had been allowed earlier. See notification here.

TRAVEL: It has been decided to extend the period of providing the following consular services to foreign nationals, presently stranded in India: Regular visa, e-visa or stay stipulation, of foreign nationals who have been stranded in India because of spread of COVID-19 and whose visas have expired or would be expiring during the period from February 1 to May 3, would be extended until midnight of 03.05.2020 on ‘Gratis’ basis, after making online application by the foreigner. See notification here.

UPDATES FROM STATES:

Several States have announced partial relaxation for essential activities like construction, courier services etc. But these activities are not applicable to containment zones. 

States that will continue lockdown without any relaxation:

Delhi : On Sunday, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced that there will be no relaxation in the lockdown as the number of cases continues to rise in the State.  CM also added that the state government will review its decision on April 27th, 2020. See press release here and official tweet here.

Telangana: The cabinet on 19th April, 2020 has decided to extend the lockdown in the state till May 7th, 2020. The state has also decided not to given any relaxation during this period. Additionally,  restaurant e-commerce players like Zomato and Swiggy are also not allowed to operate during this period.   

Punjab: The Punjab government also decided to strictly adhere to lockdown till May 3 without giving any relaxation. 

States that have announced ease in lockdown:

Maharashtra: The state government has issued guidelines for limited relaxation of restrictions from April 20 till May 3 for industrial and commercial activities. These relaxations are not applicable to containment zones and are subject to safety precautionary measures. See press release here.

Kerala: All 14 districts in Kerala will be divided into four zones for implementing the lockdown curbs Green, Orange A, Orange B, and Red. The government has also decided to use the ‘odd & even’ formula for vehicular movement with exemptions for vehicles driven by women. See press release here.

Karnataka: The Karnataka government has announced partial relaxation from April 21 for traffic movements which will include two-wheelers. Construction activities will also be allowed except in red zones.

Haryana: The state has decided to resume economic activities in a phased manner. Few industries that do not come under the containment zones will be allowed to operate. Establishments will have to procure a pass from the government portal SARAL to operate. See press release here

Andhra Pradesh: The Andhra Pradesh government has issued guidelines for the operation of certain industries, both government and private, involved in manufacture of 25 essential items duly following health guidelines and social distancing norms. See press release here

Non-Government Stakeholders in Action

  • Emerson has shifted manufacturing capacity in a key facility to accelerate production of printed circuit boards for ultrasonic welding equipment critical to manufacturing N95 face masks that protect healthcare workers. See Emerson’s response to COVID-19 here.
  • Learning science company McGraw-Hill is supporting faculty, teachers and students as they transition to online delivery of courses during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information and support, click here
  • Uber Provides UberMedic Service To Assist Healthcare Providers in India. See press release here.
  • AWS is working with EdTech companies to provide infrastructure for education ministries, colleges, and schools in India and around the world to quickly deploy remote-learning platforms. Read about the efforts here.
  • HLL Lifecare Ltd., a Government of India enterprise, has floated a global tender for procurement of medical supplies related to COVID-19. The link for the tender is here.

USISPF Briefing with Special Chief Secretary to Government, Industries & Commerce, Government of Andhra Pradesh

USISPF Briefing with Special Chief Secretary to Government, Industries & Commerce, Government of Andhra Pradesh

On April 17, officials from the government of Andhra Pradesh joined USISPF members on a webinar to provide updates on the state’s response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The speakers included Rajat Bhargava, Special Chief Secretary to Government, Industries & Commerce for the Government of Andhra Pradesh; Krishna Giri, Executive Vice Chairman of the AP Economic Development Board and Industrial Promotion Advisor for the Government of Andhra Pradesh; Sasidhar Kona, Principal Secretary of IT and Electronics; and J.V.N. Subramanyam, Director of the Industries & Commerce Department and CEO of the Andhra Pradesh Economic Development Board.

Speaking on the state government’s response to COVID-19, Mr. Subramanyam highlighted that in Andhra Pradesh, the vast majority of administrative districts are classified as “green,” or unaffected by coronavirus, under the three-color classification system for identifying COVID-19 hotspots. He also highlighted the state’s ability to rapidly increase its testing capacity, and for companies in the state to respond to the increased demand for ventilators, testing kits, and other key equipment. He credits the effective use of technology for the success of the state’s response to the crisis, including the use of an E-Pass system for essential workers, GIS technology for mapping hotspots and buffer zones, and the state’s single desk portal to streamline the ease of doing business.

The speakers also highlighted opportunities for U.S. businesses in Andhra Pradesh. Secretary Bhargava stated that the government of Andhra Pradesh will extend “all possible help” to companies interested in coming to the state in the future, and highlighted the state’s work with Korean and Japanese companies to create specialized business parks as an opportunity also available to U.S. companies, as well as existing infrastructure for electronic manufacturing clusters and ‘medical tech zones.’ Secretary Kona also highlighted the state’s system of electronics and IT as both an opportunity for U.S. companies and a key factor in Andhra Pradesh’s coronavirus response strategy.