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Challenges Continue for India’s Economy with No Sure-Shot Vaccine in Sight, Finance Minister Says

© REUTERS / Dado RuvicA woman holds a small bottle labeled with a "Vaccine COVID-19" sticker and a medical syringe in this illustration
A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a Vaccine COVID-19 sticker and a medical syringe in this illustration - Sputnik International
Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a $266 billion stimulus package on 12 May to help the economy and industries tide over the disruption caused by the COVID -19 pandemic. The country’s top bank, RBI, also pumped in liquidity worth $125 billion to maintain stability in the domestic financial markets.

India's Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said the country’s economy will continue to face "challenges of different nature" with no clear-cut end date for the pandemic and no sure-shot vaccine against the coronavirus in sight.

In an interview with The Indian Express, Sitharaman said uncertainty is laying in the mind of big and small entrepreneurs.

“You don’t have a sure-shot vaccine; you don’t have a clear cut end date. And with reports from some places that people who have been cured are getting it back, big uncertainties are playing in the minds of the entrepreneurs, big and small”, Sitharaman said in her interaction with The Indian Express.

The minister added that the services sector, which accounts for 55 percent of India's gross domestic product (GDP), has been “adversely impacted”.

She maintained, however, that the manufacturing sector is bouncing back, with several industries reverting to the pre-pandemic capacity utilisation.  

In India, a nationwide lockdown was imposed beginning 25 March to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The lockdown continued until the end of May, after which the government announced phased relaxations. Restrictions still continue on domestic air and rail travel despite the country being under the fourth phase of relaxations.   

Due to the impact of the lockdown, India's GDP contracted by a whopping 23.9 percent in the April – June period of the current financial year (April 2020–March 2021).

In the January–March period this year, the Indian economy witnessed growth of 3.1 percent.

A man walks inside a conference room used for meetings between military commanders of China and India, at the Indian side of the Indo-China border at Bumla, in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, November 11, 2009 - Sputnik International
Infrastructure Push Helps Chinese Economy Revive As Fiscal Constraints Choke Indian Growth - Experts
After the country reported the growth numbers for the April–June period, global ratings agencies revised their Indian growth estimates downwards from earlier projections predicting a deeper contraction for the entire financial year.

Goldman Sachs, for example, said in its revised estimates that the Indian economy will witness a 14.8 percent contraction, compared with the earlier projection of an 11 percent contraction.

India Ratings said the economy will see negative growth of 11.8 percent, down from earlier estimates of a 5.30 percent contraction.

Nomura, Fitch, and ICRA also downgraded their growth projections for India against earlier estimates.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) said earlier this month that the Indian economy will witness a contraction of 9 percent due to the difficulties caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 Vaccine

On the COVID-19 vaccine front, pharmaceutical companies like Bharat Biotech, Zydus Cadila, and the Serum Institute of India (SII) are working on vaccines against COVID-19.

While Bharat Biotech and Zydus Cadila are conducting human trials of their domestically-produced vaccines, the SII has collaborated with Oxford University, which is jointly working on a vaccine with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.  

Meanwhile, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which funds the development of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, has agreed to deliver 100 million doses of the vaccine to Dr Reddy's Laboratories, a pharmaceutical company in India.

The Indian Health Ministry on Monday reported 82,170 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, with the overall number of infected reaching 6,074,703.

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