Budget 2021 expectations: Need for allocating funds to health and wellness sector visible from COVID experience

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January 15, 2021 2:00 PM

Budget 2021 Expectations for Health: With the Union Budget 2021 around the corner, all eyes are on Finance Minister Nirmal Sitharaman to see what incentives she introduces for the healthcare segment.

. In addition, in the last three years, urban local bodies have to enhance their revenues to specified levels to be eligible for the grant.In addition, in the last three years, urban local bodies have to enhance their revenues to specified levels to be eligible for the grant.

Budget 2021 Expectations for Health and Wellness: With the coronavirus pandemic having left the entire world in a shock, the importance of keeping the healthcare sector updated came to light in 2020. The pandemic showed that no country can afford to leave its healthcare sector to fend for itself. Now, with the Union Budget 2021 around the corner, all eyes are on Finance Minister Nirmal Sitharaman to see what incentives she introduces for the healthcare segment. While in recent years, the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced several health care reforms like the Ayushman Bharat scheme and the National Digital Health Mission, industry experts feel that more needs to be done to make the sector more robust, especially in the light of the pandemic.

More allocation for health and wellness

Founder and Director of Cosmic Nutracos, the parent company of Gaia, Dolly Kumar told Financial Express Online, “In the Union Budget 2021-22, our expectation is that the health and wellness industry will be given more preference and that the government will allocate more budgets to it. During the lockdown period, we realised how health and wellness essentials including health food and nutritional supplements are crucial and we cannot live without them, and that’s why despite restrictions there was relaxation for us with new SOPs in place, and priority was given to supply chain management. We wish for more emphasis on this so that we can operate in the market places without any hindrances. Additionally in the bucket list, we want the government to focus and encourage health and wellness.”

Robust preventive healthcare needed

During the entire pandemic, due to the lack of effective vaccines and treatments, the entire stress to tackle the virus has been on prevention and precaution. Remaining healthy and maintaining immunity became key towards protecting self from the virus that wreaked havoc world over. This has shed light on the very important role played by preventive healthcare and the government should focus on this area.

Institute of Nutrition and Fitness Sciences Founder Jyoti Dabas said, “We have all heard the adage that prevention is better than cure. With the Union Budget 2021, the government can do a lot to improve preventive health care in the country. First, they need to focus spending on building and maintaining open-air gyms or sports facilities, parks, and public spaces. Apart from that, public campaigns advising people to move more (minimum 30mins activity every day) and address their nutrition gaps. Education on basics of health and nutrition so people can take care of their health. Lastly, they need to encourage startups that are using online training methodology to certify people in advising on preventive health care. Budget for up-skilling the youth to become Preventive Health Coaches, this addresses the problem of unemployment and builds on PM Narendra Modi’s Atmanirbhar mission. We need to look at coming out of this pandemic as a healthier and fitter country. The government can empower organizations that are doing work in this by giving recognition, power, and speed to such initiatives.”

Some industry leaders have also called for nationwide educational campaigns to highlight the importance of preventive healthcare.

Shrey Kumar, Co-founder of Aadvik Foods, said, “I think we should spend more on creating awareness about why preventive healthcare is important, more so with the ongoing pandemic. Food as a medicine should be promoted as much as possible. Benefits of making positive changes in your diet should be advertised. This can not be achieved without a nationwide programme of educating the masses. Developing better infrastructure for the FMCG industry will enhance the availability of these kinds of healthy and fresh food items.”

Push to AYUSH sector

AYUSH sector and alternative medicine played a key role in building the immunity of people during COVID-19, resulting in several ministers and stakeholders promoting the use of alternative medicine. Industry leaders now wish to see more budget allocations in the AYUSH segment.

Vishal Kaushik, Co-Founder and MD at Upakarma Ayurveda, said, “During the pandemic, PM Modi has given the much-needed push to the domestic Ayurveda sector as he encouraged the world-class R&D enablement and manufacturing capabilities of India. The healthcare sector is looking forward to more promising announcements from Budget 2021. We are expecting the GST to be brought down from the current 12% which is levied on products that have the license to sell as Branded Ayurvedic Medicines. This will further help with cost reduction and easy accessibility of the product. The government can also look at providing funds for Ayurvedic practitioners and centers, which will further encourage the domestic and offshore investors to put faith in India for new product developments.”

The Union Budget 2020-21 will be announced by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on February 1 during the Budget session of the Parliament.

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