By Nitin Mittal

The need of the hour is clarity in policy communication by making it simple for the MSMEs, without leaving any room for subjectivity.

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the economy. Taking steps to protect our industries and commerce is an immediate and critical need of the hour. To this end, the government recently announced its intention to spend almost 10 percent of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) in the fiscal year 2020 on economic relief measures towards reviving economic growth.

A sector that is reeling under the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak is the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME), which contributes to around 35 percent of India’s manufacturing output. The MSME sector, which is also the second-largest employment generator in the country after agriculture, needs special attention from the government.

The stimulus package announced is a mix of fiscal support, monetary support, ease of conducting business processes, as well as some fundamental reforms. The need of the hour is clarity in policy communication by making it simple for the end beneficiaries, the MSMEs, without leaving any room for subjectivity, which needs to be urgently taken up by the central and state governments. For instance, the Finance Ministry’s notification in May, amending the General Finance Rules (GFR) 2017, disallows global tenders to encourage MSMEs to take part in tenders below INR 200 crores, but has bestowed power to respective departments in ‘exceptional case’ scenarios to consider global tender enquiry (GTE). Policies cannot be left to individual inference when a critical step in economic progress like quality sourcing is being sought from domestic players, especially the MSME sector which is gearing to be a major supply chain player for domestic and global markets.

To make this a reality, certain measures with respect to limiting imports may be a necessary step, at least for the foreseeable future. China, for example, is one of our top three trading partners and the trade deficit with the country has increased manifold over the last few years. To stem this, the Government of India proposed amendments in the Customs Act which gives it the power to ban import and export of certain items, “under exceptional circumstances”. These measures are intended to make our supply chains more self-reliant and less dependent on imports, but it is also important to remember the unparalleled scale and capability of manufacturing-driven countries like China; it will take significant policy interventions and drastic structural changes to match their scale, expertise and skills, to be globally competitive.

This is a feat that India is not new to; the challenge has previously been overcome successfully by the likes of the textile industry in India, which is the second largest exporter of textiles in the world. As a country, we must collectively find ways to extrapolate the success stories of the textile industry to other import-heavy industries, while also learning from its failures to kickstart growth in the new normal.

Here are some of the essential steps needed to get the manufacturing MSMEs back on track.

Financial incentives

  • RBI needs to immediately issue guidelines for higher provisioning revisions to banks, in the absence of which liquidity injection into the system is getting delayed
  • Instant availability of subsidies, with simplified processes for getting them without hindrance
  • Speedy cashflow issue resolution through GST refunds and short-term collateral free, low-interest loans to both large corporates and MSMEs

Article first published on: www.moneycontrol.com/