LOK SABHA ELECTIONS 2019: INDIA DECIDES

Business Other News 22 Jan 2019 PM Modi plans cheap ...

PM Modi plans cheap loans to small businesses

REUTERS
Published Jan 22, 2019, 12:17 am IST
Updated Jan 22, 2019, 12:17 am IST
The move is to win over estranged business community for Lok Sabha elections, say sources.
PM Modi
 PM Modi

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is considering offering cheap loans and free accidental insurance coverage to millions of small businesses, two government sources with direct knowledge of the matter said, as he tries to placate a key voter bloc ahead of a general election due by May.

Small business groups have been critical of the Modi government in the past year after many firms were squeezed by a shock move to ban high-value currency notes in 2016, followed by a hasty implementation of a nation-wide Goods and Services Tax (GST) that raised their compliance costs.

 

In a bid to win them back, and following election losses in five states last month, the government run by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) recently announced GST concessions and tweaked an ecommerce policy in favour of small traders.

More measures are now being planned, said the sources, who declined to be named as the information was not public.

A spokesman for the ministry of finance did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

The sources did not quantify the amount the series of measures would cost the government, as details are still being worked out.

The government is working on offering a discount of two percentage points on loans for businesses with annual sales of less than `5 crore , the sources said, and would compensate banks for costs.

Small businesses with a top credit rating can get loans from banks at about 9-10 per cent, while lower-rated businesses can be charged around 13-14 per cent.

But only about four percent of the 70 million small enterprises in India have access to bank credit, said Praveen Khandelwal, secretary general of the Confederation of All India Traders.

He said 30 per cent of their loans come from the country’s shadow banking sector, while more than half are provided by private money lenders at rates as high as 25 per cent a month.

One of the sources said the government may also ask banks to open a special window for increasing the credit flow to small businesses, which will ensure greater availability of loans.

The government is also planning to provide free accidental insurance coverage of up to `10 lakh to small businesses with annual sales of up to `10 crore, the sources said.

“Employees of small traders may also get discounts on opting for state-backed insurance schemes,” one of the sources said.

The government has not yet decided if the moves would be announced before the interim budget on February 1, the sources said.

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