Adapted from McKinsey & Company's latest brief on Getting ahead of coronavirus: Saving lives and livelihoods in India
In scenario 1, the economy could contract by about 10 percent in the first quarter of fiscal year 2021, with GDP growth of 1 to 2 percent in fiscal year 2021. In this scenario, the lockdown would be relaxed after April 15, 2020 (when the 21-day deadline is due to expire), with appropriate protocols put in place for the movement of goods and people after that. Our economic modeling suggests that even in this scenario of relatively quick rebound, the livelihoods of eight million workers, including many who are in the informal workforce, could be affected. In other words, eight million people could have their ability to subsist and afford basic necessities, such as food, housing, and clothing, put at severe risk. And with corporate and micro-, small-, and medium-size-enterprise (MSME) failure, nonperforming loans (NPLs) in the financial system could rise by three to four percentage points of loans. The amount of government spending required to protect and revive households, companies, and lenders could therefore be in the region of 6 lakh crore Indian rupees (around $79 billion), or 3 percent of GDP.In scenario 2, the economy could contract sharply by around 20 percent in the first quarter of fiscal year 2021, with –2 to –3 percent growth for fiscal year 2021. Here, the lockdown would continue in roughly its current form until mid-May 2020, followed by a very gradual restarting of supply chains. This could put 32 million livelihoods at risk and swell NPLs by seven percentage points. The cost of stabilizing and protecting households, companies, and lenders could exceed 10 lakh crore Indian rupees (exceeding $130 billion), or more than 5 percent of GDP.Scenario 3 could mean an even deeper economic contraction of around 8 to 10 percent for fiscal year 2021. This could occur if the virus flares up a few times over the rest of the year, necessitating more lockdowns, causing even greater reluctance among migrants to resume work, and ensuring a much slower rate of recovery.
What policy measures are required?
[...]Several measures have already been announced to provide liquidity, limit the immediate NPL impact, and ease personal distress for needy households in India. These amount to around 0.8 percent of GDP. Additional measures could be considered to the tune of 10 lakh crore Indian rupees, or more than 5 percent of GDP in fiscal year 2021. All the estimated requirements may not necessarily be reflected in the fiscal deficit of the current year—for example, some support may be structured as contingent liabilities that only get reflected when they devolve. However, a package of this order of magnitude may be essential in supporting those dealing with the possible steep declines in aggregate demand and in protecting the financial system from the possible solvency and liquidity risks arising from stressed companies if scenario 2 or scenario 3 plays out.[...]Consideration could be given to an income-support program in which the government both pays for a share of the payroll for the 60 million informal contractual and permanent workers linked to companies and provides direct income support for the 135 million informal workers who are not on any form of company payroll. India’s foundational digital-identity infrastructure, Aadhaar, enables effective mechanisms for direct support, including through the Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) and Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) programs and to landless Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) beneficiaries. Concessions for home buyers, such as tax rebates for a time-bound period, could stimulate the housing market and unlock the job multiplier.For bankruptcy protection and liquidity support, MSMEs could receive liquidity lines from their banks, refinanced by the Reserve Bank of India and a loan program for first-time borrowers could be administered through SIDBI.3 Substantial credit backstops from the government could be instituted for likely new NPLs Timely payments to MSMEs by large companies and governments could be encouraged by promoting bill discounting on existing platforms.For large corporations, banks could be allowed to restructure the debt on their balance sheets, and procedural requirements for raising capital could be made less onerous. The Indian government could consider infusing capital through a temporary Troubled Asset Relief (TARP)-type program (such as through preferred equity) in a few distressed sectors (such as travel, logistics, auto, textiles, construction, and power), with appropriate conditions to safeguard workers and MSMEs in their value chains. Banks and nonbanks may also require similar measures to help strengthen their capital, along with measures to step up their liquidity and the liquidity in corporate-bond and government-securities markets.
How to finance?
Given that India’s fiscal resources are constrained, the Reserve Bank of India may need to finance a portion of such incremental government spending. The spending could be tracked as a COVID-19 portion of the budget to boost transparency. The inflationary effects may be low, as lockdowns severely constrict demand and the fiscal support provided would be a substitute for expenditure rather than additional stimulus. Price increases could, however, occur in some sectors, such as food, so appropriate steps would be needed to maintain harvests and keep the food supply chain operating smoothly.Overall, devising a credible, systemwide, stabilization package would benefit from being executed in a timely fashion so it can influence the pace of recovery and help avoid severe damage to livelihoods, the economy, the financial sector, and society.Following the first wave of stabilization measures, attention could shift to implementing the structural reforms needed to increase investment and productivity, create jobs quickly, and improve fiscal health. This could mean introducing further reforms in infrastructure and construction and accelerating investments in health, affordable housing, and other urban infrastructure. States could accelerate spending, and institutions such as NIIF4 could deploy domestic and long-term foreign capital faster. Such reforms could also enable Make in India sectors to become globally competitive and boost exports (such as electronics, textiles, electric vehicles, and food processing), strengthen the financial sector, deepen household financial savings and capital markets, and accelerate asset monetization and privatization to raise resources.