Centre unveils COVID-19 relief schemes to support tourism, businesses
As India seeks to recover from the devastating impact of the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic, the Centre has unveiled a fresh set of support measures to provide much-needed relief to hard-hit sectors of the economy, including tourism and healthcare.
On Monday, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a slew of steps to boost tourism, strengthen public and private health infrastructure and support small businesses in the country with the aimof securing post-pandemic recovery.
Sitharaman announced an expansion of the credit guarantee scheme, including Rs 50,000 crore to enhance the country’s healthcare infrastructure. In addition, the Centre increased health care spending with a specific focus on children. The FM announced that an outlay of Rs 23,200 crore will be made available to the Health Ministry with a special focus on paediatric health infrastructure in the country.
The scope of the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS) has been expanded from Rs 3 lakh crore to Rs 4.5 lakh crore for small and medium enterprises. Various government incentives have been extended to end-March 2022 with the aim of creating more job opportunities for people in need.
For the tourism sector, the government announced free tourist visas for 500,000 visitors this year which is expected to bring approximately Rs 1 billion worth of income to the country.
“Covid-hit sectors such as tourism will get Rs 60,000 crore loans at a maximum of 8.25%, with the list of sectors to be expanded over time,” the finance minister said.
Credit guarantee loan scheme has also been expanded to the tourism sector to support the revival of stakeholders such as tourists guides and operators. With this move, travel agencies will be able to get upto Rs 10 lakh loan and tourist guides will be able to apply for Rs 1 lakh-worth loan.
The new measures have been announced as states governments are easing their lockdown and curfew measures to resume economic activities. The emergence of the second wave of COVID-19 earlier this year brought post-first wave recovery efforts to a standstill.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed the new measures, stating that they will help in stimulating economic activities, boosting production and exports, and generating employment.
“Measures announced by FM Nirmala Sitharaman today will enhance public health facilities, especially in under-served areas, boost private investment in medical infrastructure and augment critical human resources. Special focus is on strengthening healthcare facilities for our children,” PM Modi tweeted.