Considering the health of population and battered economy during pandemic period that pressed countries in the world, including India into almost economic recession, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, presented India’s annual budget for a huge expenditure provisions. Budget buoyed market sentiments with the BSE Sensex posting a gain of 5% — witnessed as the sharpest surge on a Budget day in more than two decades.
FM included slew of measures for the domestic industry by levying customs duty on a range of products including electronic items, compressors for refrigerators and ACs, automobile parts such as electric motors and relays, etc. As a result consumers could see many goods becoming expensive.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, the budget was aimed at creating “wealth and wellness” in a country that is battling the world’s second highest coronavirus caseload after the United States. “It carries the vision of Atmanirbharta…The government gave proper attention towards fiscal sustainability while increasing the size of the Budget,” he added.
Budget proposals for 2021-22 rests on six pillars.
- Health and Wellbeing
- Physical & Financial Capital, and Infrastructure
- Inclusive Development for Aspirational India
- Reinvigorating Human Capital
- Innovation and R&D
- Minimum Government and Maximum Governance.
Highlights in brief and quick comments
In order to stimulate producers to make these commodities in India, the concept is to increase duties. A large number of used items, including refrigerators, air conditioners, LED lights and mobile phones, will become more expensive due to hike in customs duty on imported parts. The Budget announced a 2.5% customs duty on certain mobile phone parts and power banks. Covid policy response-Short-term pain, Long-term gain
- Focus on saving lives and livelihoods.
- V-shaped recovery across all key economic indicators after lockdown.
- Upturn in economy while avoiding a second wave of infections makes India a sui generis case in strategic policy making.
Health : Preventive, Curative, and Wellbeing
The steps are being taken for improving health and wellbeing. Budget focus is on strengthening three areas: Preventive, Curative, and Wellbeing, and provisions Rs. 2,23,846 crore outlay for Health and Wellbeing in BE 2021-22 as against Rs. 94,452 crore in BE 2020-21 – an increase of 137%.
Vaccines: Rs. 35,000 crore for COVID-19 vaccine in BE 2021-22 done and the Made-in-India Pneumococcal Vaccine to be rolled out across the country, from present five states – to avert 50,000 child deaths annually.
Innovation need of the hour: India’s gross domestic expenditure on R&D at 0.65% of GDP much lower than that of the top 10 economies (1.5-3% of GDP). Indian residents contributed only 36% of total patents filed in India; 62% on average in top 10 economies. India must ramp up investment in R&D, that needs major thrust by business sector. Moreover, to strengthen the overall research ecosystem of the country, the Budget FY 2021-22 announced a slew of new initiatives to boost Innovation and R&D in the country.
PM AatmaNirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana – a new centrally sponsored scheme to be launched, in addition to NHM. Thers is an Rs. 64,180 crore outlay over six years for yojna. Main interventions under PM AatmaNirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana:
- National Institution for One Health
- 17,788 rural and 11,024 urban Health and Wellness Centers
- 4 regional National Institutes for Virology
- 15 Health Emergency Operation Centers and 2 mobile hospitals
- Integrated public health labs in all districts and 3382 block public health units in 11 states
- Critical care hospital blocks in 602 districts and 12 central institutions
- Strengthening of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), its five regional branches and 20 metropolitan health surveillance units
- Expansion of the Integrated Health Information Portal to all States/UTs to connect all public health labs
- 17 new Public Health Units and strengthening of 33 existing Public Health Units
- Regional Research Platform for WHO South-East Asia Region
- Nine Bio-Safety Level III laboratories.
Nutrition: Mission Poshan 2.0 to be launched to strengthen nutritional content, delivery, outreach, and outcome and aims in merging the Supplementary Nutrition Programme and the Poshan Abhiyan. It Intensified strategy to be adopted to improve nutritional outcomes across 112 Aspirational Districts.
National Commission for Allied Healthcare Professionals already introduced to ensure transparent and efficient regulation of the 56 allied healthcare professions and National Nursing and Midwifery Commission Bill introduced for the same in nursing profession.
Swachch Bharat, Swasth Bharat mission
Budget provisions focus toward water supply across the urban local bodies, sustainable water, sludge management and wastewater management with a contribution of 1,41,678 crore for Urban Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0, besides source segregation of garbage and reduction in single-use plastic.
- Reduction in air pollution by effectively managing waste from construction-and-demolition activities as well as Bio-remediation of all legacy dump sites.
Aatmanirbhar Bharat vision
AtmaNirbhar Bharat is an expression of 130 crore Indians who have full confidence in their capabilities and skills. AatmaNirbharta – not a new idea – ancient India was self-reliant and a business epicentre of the world. The vision entails to create and nurture manufacturing global champions for an Aatmanirbhar Bharat and to help manufacturing companies become an integral part of global supply chains, possess core competence and cutting-edge technology.
Industry voices its views reacting to the budget …
For healthcare, FM, sharing a holistic vision, announced 137% increase in health budget among the key measures as below.
- PM Aatmanirbhar Swastha Bharat to be launched with an outlay of 64,180 Cr over 6 years. Huge intervention in India’s healthcare journey.
- Pneumococcal vaccine to be rolled out across the country to avert 50,000 child deaths annually. 35,000 crore for vaccine has been given and has committed to provide more.
- Support for wellness centres.
- Setting up health labs.
- Critical care hospital blocs in districts.
- Strengthening disease control surveillance & Strengthening of NCDC.
- Onehealth centre for WHO regional office.
Indian Medical Devices Industry remarked: ‘A Very Encouraging & Promising Budget Given the Pandemic,’ responding positively to the Union Budget 2021.
Hailing the Union budget 2021, Rajiv Nath, Forum Coordinator of Association of Indian Medical Device Industry (AiMeD) said, “Sometimes a crisis helps to come out with bolder decisions. Major fillip to Healthcare through PM Atmanirbhar Swastha Bharat Yojna, PLI Scheme, Health Infra allocation, focus on new & emerging diseases & health labs will surely address major gaps. Finally, we may have something to help accelerate medical devices manufacturing as a Make in India enabler so that Indian National Healthcare security concerns are addressed – the inadequacy of which is being exposed in the crisis to address the coronavirus epidemic preparedness. We look forward to read the fine print. “Rest we will be able to comment on after going through the fine prints on Custom duty on Medical Devices and withdrawal of many related exemptions that were being roadblocks to Make in India as it was simply being cheaper and more convenient to import than manufacture.”
He concluded by saying, “We had been hoping that this will be a Make in India push budget for an Atmanirbhar Bharat and though the FM has highlighted the need to support manufacturing sector to be part of global supply chain and need for it to grow on double digit sustained basis, we, The Indian Medical Device Industry are disappointed not to notice any changes in custom duty as done for other sectors and are very hopeful that the fine print of the Union Budget would have possibly acted upon our recommendations on a Predictable Tariff Policy for a Make in India push for Phased Manufacturing Plan for Components and Finished Medical Devices and allocations for Testing infrastructure as well as for Med Tech Parks and Cluster developments. Supporting Policies are needed so that Indian Medical Devices Industry can make quality healthcare accessible and affordable for common masses, aim to place India among the Top 5 Medical Devices manufacturing hubs worldwide and help end the 85% import dependence forced upon us and an ever increasing import bill of over Rs. 42000 Crore.”
“With Make in India to Atmanirbhar Bharat, the FM Nirmala Sitharaman has put health and well-being at the centre of the budget by introducing it as one the six pillars of the 2021-22 historic budget. In this year’s budget, FM proposes the extension of tax holiday for start-ups by one more year, which will strengthen India’s start-up sector, especially Healthcare. Further, the investment of Rs. 64,180 crore in Healthcare under PM Atmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana will help drive focus towards developing capacities of healthcare systems. I’d like to congratulate FM Nirmala Sitharaman for reinvigorating the healthcare system and approaching it holistically to uplift human lives in the country.”
“The Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman announced an allocation of INR 64,180 crore over the next 6 years for the healthcare sector in the 2021 Union Budget. The budget allocated is in addition to the National Health Mission which is already in effect. One of the key initiatives proposed in this year’s budget is the addition of 17,000 rural and 11,000 urban health and wellness centres which is supportive move for better patient care and will also pave way for more public-private partnerships. Also, the government has proposed to set up integrated public health labs in each district with 3,382 block public health units across 11 states. Another welcoming move is the outlay of INR 1.41 crore for the Swach Bharat 2.0 mission which will help improve sanitisation and transform the lives of millions. Considering the government’s effort to curb the pandemic of COVID-19, it has also planned to set aside INR 35,000 Crore for Covid-19 Vaccine in FY22. Though, it must be admitted that the government has re-shifted its focus on healthcare in this budget, but considering the rapid integration of digital technology into healthcare, no major developments around digital healthcare or telemedicine was announced.”
“The healthcare community in India is happy to see the long-overdue focus on the sector finally taking an important part in the budgetary outlay. The increase of 137 percent in the healthcare sector budgetary outlay is unprecedented, not only in the history of India but anywhere in the world. The Rs 35,000 crore outlay for COVID-19 vaccines will certainly boost the confidence of healthcare workers as well as common people and is a decisive step towards resuming economic activities and tread on the path of growth. The capability-increasing measures such as setting up of integrated public healthcare laboratories in 11 states, a country-specific Indian center for disease control and prevention, 9 biosafety 3-level laboratories, and 4 regional National Institute of Virology across the country will play a significant role in not only addressing the current disease scenario but will also help in addressing the emerging challenges and the future pandemics. The focus on digitization in the form of expansion of health information portals is also a welcome step and will pave the way for the National Digital Health Mission.”