Budget Series 2018-19 : #4 Impact on Healthcare Sector

By TJEF Editor Gandhali Inamdar

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The Union Budget 2018-19 has provided a big opportunity to the entire Healthcare industry and allied services to address the healthcare needs of a large population of the country. As envisioned under the National Health Policy 2017, the Union Budget 2018–19 has taken a long stride towards Universal Health Coverage, with focus on increasing the health coverage for the underprivileged and the bottom-of-pyramid section of the society. This budget is in line with industry expectations of an increase in insurance coverage, especially for those below the poverty line.

Under the cover of ‘Ayushmaan Bharat’, the government has announced measures to holistically cover primary, secondary and tertiary care services. The National Health Protection Scheme is at the forefront of this programme. This scheme will cover 10 crore families with an annual coverage of 5 lakh per family. This is a significant increase from the coverage under the ‘Rashtriya Swastha Bima Yojana’, which benefits 45-50 crore families by providing access to secondary and tertiary care services. The proposal of setting up 1.5 lakh health and wellness centres will bring primary health care to every household by providing essential drugs and diagnostics free of cost. By increasing government support and coverage, this will boost demand for medical services in the country, giving an opportunity to healthcare providers and insurance companies to partner with the government. It will also reduce the financial and mental burden of healthcare costs on the less privileged. Reduction in household Out-of-Pocket (OOP) expenditure on healthcare will lead to increased disposable income which with time will give an impetus to the economy. Support for Tuberculosis (TB) patients during the period of treatment will further lead to increase in demand for nutritional supplements and is a welcome step to ensure a TB-free India.

The budget also proposes steps to address the shortage of qualified medical personnel. It propagates setting up of at least one medical college for three parliamentary constituencies and one Government college per state. Further, 24 new government medical colleges and hospitals will be established by upgrading existing district hospitals. This will further enhance quality and accessibility of medical education and healthcare. Amidst all the initiatives, more clarity is required regarding the breakdown of allocated Budget and a roadmap to implement these plans. Convergence with existing government schemes needs to be considered to reduce hurdles during implementation. Barring the announced efforts to increase medical colleges, more efforts are required to reduce the existing manpower and skill gap. There was also no mention of measures to support investment and collaboration with technology to upgrade the quality of care. The government needs to incentivise healthcare providers to imbibe technology and digitise the healthcare sector.

India has been long lagging in its expenditure on health at a global level, the Union Budget 2018 does help in increasing it from 1.5% to 2.5% of GDP, the first positive step on a long path for healthy India. Implementing these measures on the envisioned scale will require close coordination of the centre, state, and districts with healthcare and insurance providers. Even with good intentions, there is need to ensure adequate quality measures are adopted and adhered to.

Budget Series 2018-19 : #1 Impact on Indian Agriculture Industry

By TJEF Editor Vasudeva Kamath

Challenges faced by the Industry

  • Large number of marginal farmers in India: There are a large number of marginal farmers in the country due to the fragmented land holdings. The fragmentation is to such an extent that it is economically unviable to cultivate crops by using mechanized farming methods.
  • Lack of storage facilities: About 10% of the agricultural produce gets wasted due to lack of proper storage facilities in the country. There also the problem degradation of the quality of produce due to improper storage.
  • Lack of proper irrigation channel: Indian farmers are largely dependent on the monsoon for irrigation. There is no proper implementation of irrigation facilities to grow the crops around the year.

Expectations from Budget

  • The budget amount allocated to the agriculture sector was to the tune of Rs.1.5 lakh crores. The expectation this year is at least 8-10% increased allocation.
  • Establish fund to guarantee credit to encourage investment in agriculture
  • Allocate more funds for crop insurance schemes
  • Increase spending for dams and canals, micro-irrigation systems
  • Provide subsidies for building cold storage to avoid wastage of perishable crops

Budget Announcements

  • Government has decided to keep minimum support price (MSP) for all unannounced Kharif crops at least one and half times of their production cost after declaring the same for the majority of Rabi crops
  • The government has allocated a total of 1,87,223 crores, which is 24% more than what was allocated in the previous financial year.
  • The volume of credit for agriculture is proposed to be at Rs. 11 lakh crores from the present Rs. 10 lakh crores, thus catering to the expectation from the budget.
  • A new Scheme ‘‘Operation Greens’’ was announced with an outlay of Rs 500 Crores to address the price volatility of perishable commodities like tomato, onion and potato
  • Agri-Market Infrastructure Fund with a corpus of Rs.2000 crores will be set up for developing and upgrading agricultural marketing infrastructure
  • Rs 200 crores allocated for organized cultivation of  highly specialized medicinal and aromatic plants
  • National Bamboo Mission will be initiated with an outlay of Rs.1290 crores to promote bamboo sector in a holistic manner
  • Ministry of food processing has got an almost double increase in allocation from Rs. 715 Crores to Rs. 1400 Crores
  • Under  Prime Minister Krishi Sinchai Yojna, 96 deprived irrigation districts will be taken up with an allocation of Rs 2600 crores
  • To realize the full potential of Indian agricultural exports (about USD100 billion), the export of Agri-commodities will be liberalized

Conclusion

This year’s budget is termed as the “Next Green Revolution” by many experts. With normal monsoon forecasted for the year, there would be a good pickup in agricultural activities during the sowing season. We can expect a significant contribution from agriculture sector towards the GDP this year.