This year’s budget, though positive, is not a game-changer. Insofar as healthcare is concerned, there is no strong thrust or focussed measures to bolster the sector, apart from a mention about improving rural health infrastructure, with 1.5 lakh sub-centres being upgraded to health and wellness centres. This move can potentially benefit 60 crore people. The decision to establish two new AIIMS in Jharkhand and Gujarat, make structural reforms in medical education and practice, and encourage well-reputed hospitals to become teaching centres are welcome. These will help spread the reach of quality medical education and increase the number of post-graduate seats.
The medical devices sector is likely to get a boost with the framing of rules, and amendments proposed to the Drugs & Cosmetics Act will provide a fillip to generic medicines. That said, one hoped for more decisive announcements to boost the sector, which did n’t happen.
The decision to reduce the I-T rate for SMEs from 30% to 25%, while leaving it unchanged for large corporates, may be prudent, given the current scenario. But it may not spur private investment as expected. It is also good that the focus on skill development will continue. The proposal to provide a one-stop convergence support system for skill development for rural women and train five lakh youth by 2022 will increase the availability of skilled workers for the industry and reduce unemployment to an extent.
The abolition of the FIPB is a big move, as it was an impediment to FDI. FM Arun Jaitley spoke of initiating reforms in this area to increase fund flows into the economy; we need to see how the new policy unfolds.
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Political funding was addressed at last by capping cash donations. It is impossible to tackle corruption without cleaning up at this level. The introduction of electoral bonds is also welcome. Finally, reforms in higher education have been set in motion. Restructuring of the UGC will provide more autonomy to colleges and setting up of the National Testing Agency will rationalise competitive exams, easing things for both students and administrative machinery.