Monday, 30 March, 2020

Businesses hope for government relief package


By Modnath Dhakal

Kathmandu, Mar. 27: The private sector is hoping for a relief package from the government to support the businesses and industries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic which has severely hit the businesses, primarily tourism, manufacturing and is likely to affect agriculture in the medium term.
Tourism was the first sector hit hard by the pandemic. The outbreak of the novel coronavirus epidemic in China in January had begun to affect tourism industry and created doubts about the Visit Nepal Year 2020. In the last three months, the coronavirus has reached about 200 countries across the globe and most of the human settlements are in lockdown with people shut inside their homes in order to check the spread of the virus.
Recently, the pandemic forced the manufacturing companies and travel and aviation industries to shut their services amidst the growing fear of the spread of the virus.
With the detection of the second case of the COVID-19, the government announced nationwide lockdown, a couple of days after the country went to a semi-lockdown situation.
“Tourism was the first to feel the heat of the virus outbreak. They are out of business for more than a month while manufacturing and other business sectors stopped a week ago. They are expecting support from the government,” said Bhawani Rana, President of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI).
However, the leader of the largest business body in the country said that it was early to talk about the details the business sector needed.
“The FNCCI has adopted a strategy to support the government in maintaining the supply of food and essential goods. We have to serve the people and nation first,” she said. “But the business people are expecting relief programmes from the government. Especially tourism entrepreneurs and daily wage workers are the first ones that need support.”
Vice President of Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI) Krishna Prasad Adhikari said that CNI had already tendered its suggestions regarding the business relief programmes to the government.
“The support should be sector-wise with higher priority to the most affected areas like tourism. But more seriousness is needed for agriculture as the farmers are not getting the inputs and human resources for the plantation, there would be shortage of vegetables after a couple of months,” he said.
It means when the crisis is over after a couple of months as in China, there might be a shortage of vegetables and poultry items. That would create another round of fright.
Vice President of the Nepal Chamber of Commerce Rajendra Malla demanded for government response as manufacturing had gone to zero and wage earners are facing immediate challenges.
Former President of the FNCCI Pashupati Murarka said that it would be early to define the demands in a concrete way but the government must do something.
“We are aware of resource crunch on the part of the government, but there should be some support to the businesses,” he said.
The business people said that there should be short-term and long-term relief packages. Adhikari said that the government should bring refinancing facility and subsidy in bank interest instead of cash incentives.
Finance Secretary Shishir Kumar Dhungana said that the government had begun homework for the relief programme to the business and industry.
India has announced INR 1,700 billion economic stimulus plans with direct cash transfers and food security measures. It has business relief programmes and welfare schemes for the poor and workers.
Similarly, the United States has announced a massive $2000 billion stimulus package to support the economy that is suffering setbacks due to coronavirus outbreak.  

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