Union Budget of India 2021: Time for a budget focusing on health and hygiene

January 16, 2021 2:52 PM

Budget 2021 expectations for health: Overall our expectations are for a budget that helps in economic revival of the country and also proves supportive of the industry as well as the consumers.

union budget 2021 expectations for health, health union budget 2021 expectationsIndia currently has the lowest public health expenditure in terms of GDP percentage.

By Vikas Bagaria

Union Budget 2021 expectations for health: The announcement of the Union Budget has always been a highly anticipated event for the businesses across various industry verticals, but, this year, the expectations and needs are a lot higher and different than any other time. The country was hit by the most disrupting pandemics of our age barely weeks after the announcement of the budget in 2020, and it has been a year of major economic turmoil. From being one of the fastest growing economies and a great outlook for the year ahead, India today stands at a point where the India Inc is now emerging out of the pandemic gloom and getting ready to move forward in the new normal.

As things stand currently, it is amply clear that the development of the Indian economy is possible only when the people remain healthy. Health in the new normal will depend as much on hygiene and sanitation as on the medical care. For India to emerge out of the contagion, we are eagerly expecting the government to provide greater thrust to awareness related to personal and preventive hygiene and to back startups working in this direction. Preventive care by promoting hand-hygiene, thorough and regular sanitization of the public as well as private spaces and ample availability of the hygiene products is going to be crucial. With close to 1.4 billion to care for, the Indian market continues to present an unmatched opportunity. This year’s budget gives us hope of better regulation of the hygiene industry which will help in attracting more foreign investment. The taxation sector in India is still complicated and despite all the efforts, early stage funding/seed funding for startups continues to be a major challenge in the first five years. Thus, government’s support and easing of norms in this area will be highly beneficial for the government’s Make in India initiative alongside the Vocal for Local campaigns which have now become the need of the hour. Imports are hit and Indian as well as global supply chains are moving away from China and the foreign investment as well as innovations by Indian startups can rightly make the country the next economic powerhouse as well as help India become a 5 trillion dollar economy as envisioned by the Hon’ble Prime Minister.

We believe that an increase in the healthcare expenditure is crucial at this juncture and India currently has the lowest public health expenditure in terms of GDP percentage. The country needs an equal, easy and affordable access to quality healthcare. As far as taxes are concerned, it is important that the provisions drafted require no major changes for at least 3 years. This would reduce the compliance burden on startups and make management easier. Wherever needed, corrective changes need to be made to make implementation easier.

We also need the government to promote the usage of biodegradable menstrual hygiene products. Disposable plastic based sanitary pads are a major contributor to the plastic mountains that are filling our landfills every year. The government needs to support manufacturing and retail of alternative environment friendly products to make them more affordable and easily available all over the country. While the government has made the sanitary pads tax free, the production is still taxable. The government also needs to reduce the import duty for raw materials used in making of such products. This will allow the startups in the sector to cover the market better and meet the public demand. At the same time the awareness drives for women related to menstrual hygiene need to be intensified. One of the best ways would be to train more women within the rural communities similar to the ASHA workers.

Overall our expectations are for a budget that helps in economic revival of the country and also proves supportive of the industry as well as the consumers.

(The author is Founder, Pee Safe. Views expressed are personal.)

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