How India’s economy can gain from opportunities thrown up after Covid Editorial 1st Jun’20 LiveMint

Covid-19 impacted the economy hard:

  • Given India’s population density and modest health infrastructure, the government had no option but to order a complete lockdown when coronavirus reached India’s shores.
  • As the country stayed indoors, the economy was dealt a crushing blow.

Preparing for post-Covid world:

  • While both the central government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) have announced mega stimulus packages to revitalize the economy, their impact will only be knows later. 
  • It is clear that the world will not be the same post covid-19 and even on the economic front there will be a “new normal”.
  • Like every crisis, this will also create opportunities and open new horizons, which if leveraged can help strengthen our economy.

Utilizing the Covid crisis to create new opportunities

Impetus for our domestic manufacturing through conducive business climate:

  • The Prime Minister’s call for Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India), can be just the right impetus for our domestic manufacturing.
  • The world including India is currently overly dependent on China for raw materials.
  • With companies now looking for alternative manufacturing hubs in their bid to de-risk, India could be their destination of choice, provided we offer a conducive environment.
  • A conducive business climate with better infrastructure and logistics, simplified land and labour laws and single window clearances can enable India to develop a robust manufacturing ecosystem.
  • This will help attract foreign capital, latest technology, create jobs and boost our exports.
  • We must also focus on Skill and Scale to be both quality and cost competitive and serve a global customer base.
  • Huge scope exists in sectors such as pharma, electronics, automobiles and defence machinery, not only to be self-reliant but also capture a decent slice of the global supply chain.

Move to regime of empowerment by shifting fully to DBT:

  • The government announced some useful economic reforms like amendments to the Essential Commodities Act.
  • We should also consider phasing out fertilizer and power subsidies that distort the market.
  • It is time to move to a direct benefit transfer (DBT) model instead of the appeasement tools like various farm and non-farm subsidies.
  • We should utilize this momentum to shift to a regime of empowerment rather than entitlement, as this will bring about a fundamental change for the better.

Use of technology and digitized lending models to boost credit growth:

  • With the financial sector reeling under the burden of bad loans, it is time to introduce new digitized lending models using artificial intelligence (AI).
  • For example, it could disburse credit basis business flows such as invoices of Goods and Services Tax (GST) and not assets.
  • This will be a boon for many startups and small enterprises who would otherwise be denied funding due to lack of collaterals.
  • Technology will also enable a more accurate determination of credit risk leading to more realistic pricing of loans, for our banks.

Scale up digital services:

  • The current crisis underlines the tremendous utility of social security programmes such as Jan Dhan accounts, Ayushman Bharat and insurance scheme in India, where migrant labourers, daily wage earners and other vulnerable sections form a significant chunk of the population.
  • The Jan Dhan scheme in particular enables them to get cash directly from the government bypassing any middlemen or red tape.
    • This has tremendous potential to empower the marginalized and bring them under a safety net, especially women and senior citizens.
    • The government must scale up the Jan Dhan programme by shifting focus from an account for every household to an account for every adult.
  • To help holders derive maximum benefit, along with accounts, we need financial literacy drives, introduction to mobile and digital banking, account linked insurance, custom financial products etc through a seamless integration with Aadhar.

Expand healthcare infrastructure with public-private partnership:

  • This pandemic has highlighted the pressing need to expand our healthcare infrastructure to be able to handle emergencies.
  • We need:
    • Improved coordination between the Centre and different states
    • Strong disease surveillance systems
    • A ready stock of critical lifesaving drugs and medical equipment
    • More diagnostic labs and modern hospitals in every district
    • Fast tracking of telemedicine/e-consultations
  • In health, the private sector needs to step up and partner with the Government more actively so that basic healthcare is accessible and affordable for all.
  • The Government’s decision to provide Viability Gap Funding (VGF) could facilitate their entry.

Digital boom:

  • Covid-19 will also induce some long term changes in consumption patterns that will help drive expansion and diversification of various digital business channels.
  • This could be a boon for e-retailers, online education services, home broadband and virtual private network (VPN) services, digital entertainment etc.
  • As the economy reboots, we may see the emergence of a new generation of entrepreneurs.
  • This is also the time for the economy to go cash light as digital payments may become the norm, creating a boom for fintech payment companies.

Sustainable development:

  • We may also see some softer benefits, post the Covid crisis.
  • As work-from-home increases, it is an excellent opportunity for us to narrow down the economic gender gap.
  • As remote working and flexible schedules become the norm in corporates, it can now welcome more women and mothers planning to resume their careers.
  • With reduced international travel, as more video conferences and virtual meetings replace physical events and seminars, the carbon footprint could be reduced.
  • More “home-offices” will lead to lesser public commute and huge energy savings and hence less emissions.
  • This could be just the push our businesses needed to advance the sustainability agenda.

Conclusion:

  • Winston Churchill famously said after World War II, “Never let a good crisis go to waste”.
  • The current pandemic will test the resilience and agility of the Indian economy, but it will also throw up some new opportunities.
  • It is up to us to capitalize on them and emerge stronger on the other side of this pandemic.

Importance:

GS Paper III: Indian Economy

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