Unveiling the annual budget, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday proposed doubling health spending to 2.2 trillion Indian rupees ($30.20 billion). The budget is aimed at reviving the economy that plummeted into the deepest recorded recession in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the next six years, the government will introduce a new federal health system with an outlay of about 641 billion Indian rupees ($ 8.80 billion), Nirmala Sitharaman told Parliament.
India, which has the second-highest caseload of coronavirus in the world after the United States, currently spends approximately 1% of its gross domestic product on health, which is among the lowest in any global economy.
The Finance Minister has accorded special attention to the Healthcare Sector, increasing the overall outlay to health and wellbeing to nearly Rs.2.25 lakh crore, an increase of over 135% over last year. The enhanced allocation, along with the plan to look at healthcare holistically – including nutrition, sanitation, clean drinking water and pollution control, certainly augur well for the country. The allocation of Rs 35,000 Crores towards Covid vaccination also is a very welcome step.
Significant focus also has been brought to scaling up infrastructure, like critical care capabilities as well as primary and secondary care facilities through the PM Atmanirbhar Swasth Bharat programme. It is also very heartening that the FM promised higher allocations as required, as institutions absorb the funds committed at the first instance. All in all, a great beginning has been made on the journey to take our healthcare system to world-class standards.
Further, the augmented government spend planned for capital expenditure by over 35% would aid job creation and growth in incomes, which would in turn enable people to spend on healthcare when required.”
We have been saying that emphasis on Promotive, Preventive and Primary care only can help in making of a Healthy India. One rupee spent on these 3 Ps can save five on curative care. Sanitation, Drinking water, and nutrition have a similar impact. We are happy to note that the Union Budget is focused on these issues. Simultaneously, the Government should aggressively initiate reforms in medical education including for the nursing and allied health workforce. In terms of resource allocation and policy support amid a once-in-a-century pandemic Union Budget 2021-22 looks progressive.
Announcement of a new Centrally Sponsored Scheme- Pradhan Mantri Atmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojna (PMANSY), with the proposed allocation of Rs 64,180 crore would go along way to strengthen primary, secondary and even tertiary care in the country. This year, Budget was based on six pillars and it is encouraging to note that Health and Wellness were at the top priority. For Health and Wellness of the people, the government would be focusing on three critical areas- Preventive, Curative and Wellness. Allocation of adequate funds to modernize existing healthcare infrastructure would be the best way to strengthen the sector. Govt. is strengthening National Centre for Disease Control with its 5 regional branches and 20 metropolitan health surveillance units in PM Atmanirbhar Swastha Bharat Yojna.
Allocation of 69000 crores for the healthcare sector is just 6% higher than last year’s budget. It is way below the target of 2.5% of GDP. The whole world understood that economic growth could come to a grinding halt without adequate health infrastructure, availability of expert doctors and investment in research. India’s public spending on healthcare is less than 1.4% of GDP compared to 5% by China and Russia, 8% by South Africa, and over 9% by Brazil.
A 5% healthcare cess on the import of selected medical equipment will help boost domestic production, but this is too little for the development of the local industry. India has the lowest per capita spend ($3) on medical devices among BRIC nations compared with Brazil($28) and Russia ($43). India’s medical devices market is about $15 billion, which is expected to grow to $50 billion by 2025. Today India imports 80% of its requirement.