INDIA: The word ‘Budget’ originated from the french word ‘Bougette’, which means little bag or a leather briefcase. However, the Finance Minister of India, Nirmala Sitharaman, deviating from all earlier norms from the suitcase and carried the Swadeshi ‘bahi-khata (ledger),’ electronically in a tabloid for the first time while presenting the Parliament her Union Budget for the year 2021-22.
One of the major tests of any good Union Budget is its instant impact on the stock market. Sensex zoomed over 750 points and Nifty crossed the key 14,500-level in the opening session on February 2, a day after the Union Budget which outlined a slew of measures to pull the economy out of the pandemic-induced slump.
Since then the BSE Sensex rose spectacularly at 49797.72 (116.64% Up) (high-50,154.48-Low 49,193.26 points) Nifty-50, on the other hand stood at 14,647.85 (23% Up).
The twin focuses of the Budget, as an instant appraisal from experts have been on:
1. Consolidating the fundamentals of the economy (post-COVID-19)
2. A push towards better returns and social welfare.
The COVID-19 dimension
The Budget speech in Parliament began at 11 am, in which the finance minister highlighted the difficulties India and other global economies faced due to COVID-19.
While talking about the Union Budget, Sitharaman said, “The coronavirus pandemic” is the dawn of a new era, one in which India is poised to be a land of new hope.” “The preparation of the Budget was undertaken in circumstances like never before, because of calamities that have affected a country or a region within a country. But what we have endured with COVID-19 are measures to aid the recovery of the economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic.”
A 137% increase in the health allocations have been made as compared to the previous year exclusively for COVID-19 vaccines which amount to an allocation of Rs.35,000 crores for COVID-19.
Focus areas for the Healthcare sector
The Finance Minister has made a budget allocation of 2,83,846 lakh crores for the health and wellness sector and is committed to spending more if needed. This is primarily on account of the precarious situation brought about by COVID-19. Around Rs.35,000 crores have also been allocated to tackle with the administration of the COVID-19 vaccines.
Presently, two major approved vaccines ‘Covaxin’ by Bharat Biotech and Oxford’s ‘Covishield’ manufactured by The Serum Institute of India, are being administered, as a restricted emergency measure. Sitharaman also announced the roll out of two new COVID-19 vaccines. In a statement, she said, “The two new Covid-19 vaccines will soon be announced (not mentioning their names). She also mentioned the rollout of the pneumococcal vaccine.
“With PM Narendra Modi’s largest ‘Innoculation program drive’ more than 37.5 lakh healthcare workers are presently being vaccinated, due to the central govt.’s commitment to eradicating the Coronavirus pandemic. India currently is showing one of the lowest death rates, and active cases in the world,” she added.
The Pradhan Mantri Atma Nirbhar Swasthya Bharat Yojana
The government has announced a new central healthcare scheme to strengthen the country’s healthcare infrastructure. Rs. 64,180 crores has been allocated for the ‘Pradhan Mantri Atma Nirbhar Swasthya Bharat Yojana’. This scheme will run over a period of six years.
According to Sitharaman, this scheme would help to develop capacities of primary, secondary, and tertiary healthcare systems in the country along with the existing national institutions over a period of 6 years.
It would facilitate developing new institutions to cater to the detection and cure of new and emerging diseases. During her budget speech, the minister said that investment in health in this budget has increased “substantially”, with a focus on strengthening preventive care, curative, and well-being of the population.
Supplementary Nutrition Program and Poshan Abhiyan are merged together and the new program is named as ‘POSHAN 2.0’. Intensified strategies are going to be adopted to improve nutritional outcomes in aspirational districts.
The National Health Mission (NHM)
NHM strives to provide accessible, affordable, and quality universal healthcare to those in need of it. In the 2021-22 Budget, a National Commission for Allied Healthcare Professionals Bill has been introduced to ensure transparent and efficient regulation of 56 allied healthcare professions.