Union minister Nitin Gadkari on Tuesday admitted that the Centre “owes a big amount” to the micro, small and medium enterprises that are reeling under the severe economic whiplash of the coronavirus pandemic. In an interview with CNBC-TV18, the minister of MSME, and Road Transport and Highways, said the Centre will soon announce an economic package crucial for the sector’s survival. However, he refused to divulge the exact details about it.

“Presently we are facing a very critical problem,” Gadkari told the channel. “The whole world and economy is facing a problem. And the MSMEs are also facing problems.”

He said the government is “with the businesses and industries” and has already taken some decision to help small and medium enterprises to survive the economic fallout of the pandemic. “Up to March 8, the bank has already restructured 6 lakh MSMEs,” he said. “At the same time three month deferred payment is there. We are trying our level best to get a good package to the MSME as early as possible.”

The union minister added that the MSME ministry has been engaging with the Finance Ministry and state governments to release dues payable to these smaller businesses. However, one must realise the states and Centre are also struggling with falling revenues at the moment, he added.

The government is working on an agro MSME policy which will focus on entrepreneurship development in rural, tribal, agricultural and forest areas for manufacturing products using local raw material, he said.

Gadkari said the coronavirus might be a “blessing in disguise” that would steer Indian markets clear of competition from China, where the pandemic originated last year. Citing the example of Japan, he said the government there has offered a special package to its industries to take out Japanese investments from China and moving it elsewhere. India too is working to capitalise on this opportunity, he added.

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