USISPF Briefing with Sanjeev Sanyal, Principal Economic Advisor to the Government of India

On April 29, Sunjeev Sanyal, principal economic advisor to the Government of India’s Ministry of Finance, briefed USISPF members on the state of the Indian economy and what is in store as the country reopens from its COVID-19 lockdown.

In a discussion moderated by Kaku Nakhate, President and Country Head, India, for Bank of America, Sanyal highlighted that India – and the rest of the world – should not imagine that economic recovery will mean a return to the pre-coronavirus world, but a ‘fundamental reset.’ He also said that India will play an active role in this post-coronavirus round of ‘rule-setting,’ pointing to the recent G20 endorsement of an action plan formed by the framework working group co-chaired by India and the UK. On the possibility of India playing a larger role in the restructuring of global supply chains, he said that the country has to be flexible and work with industry and partners as the situation continues to evolve.

In terms of the Government of India’s policy response to the economic impacts of COVID-19, he characterized this approach as having three steps. The initial step was to cushion the economic impact of COVID-19 through efforts such as the stimulus package targeting India’s most vulnerable citizens and pushing back financial deadlines. It is now shifting into the ‘opening up’ stage, as the staggered relaxation of India’s lockdown has allowed many areas to resume manufacturing and the movement of goods. At some point, the approach will ramp up for the ‘rebuild’ stage. Sanyal also noted that India has been successful in not expending its resources too quickly, giving it the monetary and fiscal space needed to respond as recovery efforts continue.

In a Q&A session with USISPF members, Sanyal provided updates on and insight into topics such as India’s new FDI rules, the current low oil prices, India’s fiscal deficit post COVID-19, and calls for increased spending on medical infrastructure, which he warned must include funding for public health and sanitation as well as hospitals. When asked on what economic reforms India should prioritize as it reopens, Sanyal noted that it depends on feedback from companies, but a lot of action will have to happen at the state, rather than the federal, level— pointing to Uttar Pradesh as a state which has already risen to the occasion.