It was very encouraging to see such a pragmatic, growth-focused budget that is in line with a consistent fiscal policy and that addresses the key needs of the country. This has been reflected in the market cheer with the Sensex climbing 2000 points and the Nifty regaining 14,200+.
Big investments in infrastructure, healthcare and manufacturing have been funded through the increase in the fiscal deficit. This is an appropriate time to unleash capital expenditure in a largely benign interest-rate scenario.Healthcare spending has been allocated a much-needed increase of over 137% with Rs 2.23 lakh crore directed towards health and well-being compared to Rs 94,000 crore last year.
Included within this is the Rs 64,180 crore outlay over the next six years to develop primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare systems, strengthen disease surveillance, detection and cure through the centrally-sponsored Pradhan Mantri Atma Nirbhar Swasthya Bharat Yojana.
The allocation of over Rs 35,000 crore towards Covid vaccination is another positive and reflects the Government’s strong focus on immunisation.The Economic Survey 2020-21 estimated that an increase in public health expenditure from the current levels to 3 per cent of the GDP could almost halve the out-of-pocket (OOP) expenditure burden from 60 per cent of spending to about 30 per cent.
India has one of the highest levels of OOP health expenses in the world, directly contributing to poverty rates. In light of this, this allocation is a welcome move.Further, this budget has gone beyond direct healthcare and addressed well-being through a focus on sanitation, nutrition and pollution control. Strengthening the research ecosystem was also given a much-needed impetus with Rs 50,000 crore being allocated to the National Research Foundation over the next five years.
While the intent to invest in the public sector research and innovation ecosystem is welcome, it would have been good to see some of that money used to incentivise research within the private sector as well.
I think the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has done well to focus on investment in infrastructure, healthcare and other mega-projects. In order to fund these investments, the Budget clearly addresses the need for divestment, privatisation and monetisation. Now, the government needs to focus on quickly executing these plans so that it can invest in all the sectors as planned and bring back jobs and growth.
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw
Executive Chairperson, Biocon