Budget 2018: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is scheduled to present the last full Budget of the government on February 1, and according to a report by Reuters, the government is poised to raise its public health spending by 11% to $8.2 billion (Rs 52,353 crore) in the India Budget 2018 next month. Reuters, quoting three unidentified senior government officials, reported that Health Minister J P Nadda sought a “bare minimum” budget of nearly $10 billion for 2018-19 — 33% higher than last year. His request was not approved: the health budget is expected to rise by 11% to $8.2 billion.
In the Union Budget 2017, Arun Jaitley allocated Rs 48,853 crore to the health sector and also announced two new All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Jharkhand and Gujarat. The Budgetary allocation to the health sector was raised 28% in 2017. In 2016, the allocation to the health sector was Rs 39,688 crore and in the year 2015, it was Rs 33,150 crore.
According to ICRA, public sector investment on healthcare accounts for less than 1.5% of the GDP, which is one of the lowest globally. “If the government is planning to hike health spending by 11% in Budget 2018, it is lower than expected. 11% hike leaves much to be desired,” Kapil Banga, Assitant Vice President, ICRA said.
Public sector accounts for only 30% of the total healthcare expenditure in the country, as compared to 42-58% in Brazil, 58% in China, 52% in Russia, 50% in South Africa, 48% in the USA and 83% in the UK as per the WHO reports, ICRA said in a report, suggesting Arun Jaitley to increase healthcare outlay in the India Budget 2018.
For the government, elimination of tuberculosis by 2025 is a targeted. Similarly, reducing Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) from 39 in 2014 to 28 by 2019 and Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) from 167 in 2011-13 to 100 by 2018-2020 is also one the major targets.
While last year the government intensified efforts to overhaul the public healthcare system by capping prices of several medical devices to help the poor, ramped up screening of non-communicable diseases and, on top of that, also raised the federal health budget by more than a quarter, but the health budget increase for 2018-19 will be lower as the Union Budget 2018 comes against the backdrop of slow economic growth and lower government revenue, Reuters reported.
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The advance GDP estimates released by Central Statistics Office (CSO) ahead of the Union Budget 2018 earlier this month projected a growth rate of 6.5% in the fiscal year 2017-2018, a four year low, or lowest under the Narendra Modi government.
Arun Jaitley, who will present the last full Budget of the current NDA government ahead of the General Election 2019, is likely to put agriculture, infrastructure and job creation on priority. Some reports suggest that there will be some tax rejig to provide relief to the middle class. The government is also under pressure to reduce corporate tax from 30% to 25% as promised in the Budget 2015.