India to invest $1.46 trillion to lift virus-hit economy

Published August 16, 2020
A woman gets her nasal swab sample taken for Covid-19 test at a government health centre in Hyderabad, India on August 16. — AP
A woman gets her nasal swab sample taken for Covid-19 test at a government health centre in Hyderabad, India on August 16. — AP

India's prime minister said on Saturday his country has done well in containing the coronavirus pandemic and announced $1.46 trillion worth of infrastructure projects to boost the sagging economy.

"The key lesson India learnt from the pandemic is to become self-reliant in manufacturing and developing itself as a key supply chain destination for international companies," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said.

“The coronavirus epidemic is a big crisis, but it can't stall India's economic progress," Modi said in a speech from New Delhi's 17th century Mughal-era Red Fort to mark 74 years of the country's independence from British rule.

He wore an orange and white turban with a long scarf around his neck.

He also said that three vaccines are in different phases of testing in India and it will start mass production as soon as it got a green light from scientists.

“Detailed plans are in place for large-scale production of [a] corona vaccine and making it available to every Indian,” he said.

India's coronavirus death toll overtook Britain's this week to become the fourth-highest in the world as the country reported over 2.5 million confirmed cases, just behind the US and Brazil.

Modi also announced a national digital heath plan under which every Indian will get an identity card containing all health-related information.

The celebrations were curtailed on Saturday because of the pandemic, with invitations going only to 4,000 guests instead of the normal 20,000, media reports said.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected a contraction of 4.5 per cent for the Indian economy in 2020, a historic low, but said the country is expected to bounce back in 2021.

Modi said the government has identified 7,000 infrastructure projects to offset the economic impact of the pandemic.

"Infrastructure will not be created in silos anymore. All infrastructure has to be comprehensive, integrated and linked to each other. Multi-modal connectivity infrastructure is the way forward," he said.

He said that India saw a record 18pc jump in foreign direct investment in the past year, a signal that international companies are looking at the country.

Modi didn't refer to China directly, but India is trying to capitalise on its rival's rising production costs and deteriorating ties with the United States and European nations to become a replacement home for large multinationals.

Referring to border tensions with China in the Ladakh area, he said Indian forces had given a befitting response in the mountainous region where thousands of soldiers from the two countries remain in a tense standoff since May.

India said 20 of its troops died in hand combat with Chinese troops on June 15.

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