Budget 2021: What doyens of health and medical fraternity say

Budget 2021-2022 could be termed as one of the most-awaited among India Inc since Independence. Last year, the Covid-19 pandemic jolted Indian economy to the core. The business community was eagerly waiting for sops from the government, which could accelerate the much-crippled economy. Union Finance Minister presented the Budget on February 1, which was hailed by India Inc, as also the medical and health fraternity.

Here’s what the doyens of the medical and health fraternity have to say:

 Nitin Bindlish, CEO, Mom’s Belief: “In the Union Budget FY 21-22, we have received a positive response for health and well-being, as it is undoubtedly one of the most important pillars. There has been an increase in spending allocation on public health, with a special focus on mental health, to add value to the National Health Mission.

Setting up public health centres along with e-health programmes will bridge the gap between patients and doctors, and boost mental health by strengthening preventive and curative care, ensuring the well-being of people residing beyond metropolitan cities. 

We, at Mom’s Belief, strongly support Prime Minister Atmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana to strengthen the mental healthcare space at schools and primary healthcare institutions along with hospitals and other sectors. We aim to develop capacities for primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare systems in line with the government’s initiatives. In addition, the skill development programmes will further aid the up-skilling of Indian healthcare practitioners and ensure that we match the international standards.”

Sushant Raorane, Director and Co-founder, Adroit Biomed Ltd: “An increase by 137 per cent in the budget outlays shows that the government is serious. Just a symbolic placement of the sector in the first section of the budget speech shows the government’s commitment to enhance the health infrastructure for the wellness of all citizens. There is going to be a special thrust in natural medicines and therapy and this will give a boost to the nutraceutical segment. We welcome this budget, for sure, and aim to work hard for a self-confident and self-reliant India.”

Vandana Luthra, Founder and Co-chairperson, VLCC group: “At the outset, compliments to the Hon’ble Finance Minister on the Budget for 2021-22.

For me personally, it is gratifying to note that two of the six pillars on which the budgetary proposals rest are “Health & Wellbeing” and “Reinvigorating Human Capital”. Both health and skill development are critical sectors that will ensure our sustained economic growth.

While, it was widely expected that the expenditure on health would be increased, an allocation of Rs 64,000 crore over 6 years to the PM Atmanirbhar Swasth Barat Yojana, with the holistic approach to strengthening all the three areas of healthcare delivery — Preventive, Curative and Wellbeing — is a most welcome step, as is the continuation of the Poshan Abhiyan in its new Mission Poshan 2.0 avatar. Both will go a long way in reducing morbidity and ensuring a fitter India.

It is also noteworthy that that skill development schemes have got a boost. Expanding collaboration with foreign countries to scale up the vocational and skill training sector will further improve the employability quotient of our youth.

Also, I am sure, tax benefits extended for startups will encourage youth to take up entrepreneurial opportunities more readily.”

Jitendra Chouksey, Founder, FITTR: We welcome the steps outlined in the Union Budget 2021-22. It hinges on augmenting economic recovery while laying emphasis on self-reliance. This year’s Union Budget has a strong focus on healthcare with increased spending. The allocation of Rs 2,23,846 crore for healthcare in FY21-22 and the proposed Aatmanirbhar Swastha Bharat Yojana, with an outlay of Rs 64,180 crore over six years is expected to give the right impetus to healthcare in India.

What makes it significant is the fact that this year the allocation is almost double of last year’s budget. Considering the given circumstances, this was the need of the hour. Besides healthcare, the budget has given due importance to the startup segment as well. The extension of tax holiday by one year, till March 31, 2022, on revenue as well as investment was much needed during these challenging times. This will further foster the growth of startups in India. On the whole, we believe that announcements will help usher in a well-balanced growth of the economy.”

Amitoz Singh, Founder and CEO, Nirvasa Healthcare: “With Make in India to Atmanirbhar Bharat, the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has put health and well-being at the centre by introducing it as one the six pillars of the 2021-22 historic Budget. In this year’s budget, FM proposes the extension of tax holiday for startups by one more year, which will strengthen India’s startup sector, especially healthcare. Further, the investment of Rs 64,180 crore in healthcare under PM Atmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana will help drive focus towards developing capacities of healthcare systems.

I’d like to congratulate FM Nirmala Sitharaman for reinvigorating the healthcare system and approaching it holistically to uplift human lives in the country.

Vishnu Saraf, Co-founder, Possible: “Overall, the budget is quite positive. Thirty three per cent increase in capex to Rs 5.5 lakh crore will boost demand. Also, Rs 64,000 crore Atmanirbhar Health Programme is a good initiative. It’s also good to see no new taxes, especially when the fiscal deficit is so high. Allowing one person company will also help entrepreneurs to start a new company.”

Mustafa Daginawala, CFO, Saifee Hospital: “The Union Budget 2021 prioritised healthcare as expected. The Atmanirbhar Health Yojana brings focus to the much-needed requirement for developing primary, secondary, and tertiary healthcare systems.

The focus on strengthening institutions with a holistic approach that encompasses preventive, curative, and patient well-being is highly significant as we move towards a post-pandemic world.

The commitment to scale up health and wellness sectors across the urban and rural areas coupled with an outlay of more than ₹2.23 lakh crore shows the government’s commitment in promoting well-being spend and is highly welcome.”

Aditya Khemka, Fund Manager, InCRed AMC: “Healthcare was a key focus of this budget. Rs 64,000 crore would be spent on public health infrastructure over next 6 years. This coupled with Ayushman Bharat (public health insurance) scheme should aid a large part of our population to access and afford modern healthcare and medicine. Pharmaceutical companies and allied sectors may witness higher than historical volume growth over the next few years.”

Nitesh Salvi, Founder and CEO, Pocket52: “If 2020 has taught us something, that’s about the importance of good health. Not just our health but of people in general. The key to good health is strong immunity. Apart from Covid-19 vaccine coming in, many other measures need to be taken to educate people on having strong immunity, and, also, to have a hygienic lifestyle. For that investing in the health sector and human capital is of utmost importance.”

Ravindranath Menon, Senior Business Adviser South India, APAC Healthcare: “One of the key pillars of the Budget 2021-22 is health and well-being with a substantial increase in budgetary outlay to support initiatives in healthcare, clean water, sanitation, and hygiene. Years of chronic lack of adequate support have seriously weakened our public healthcare infrastructure and capability and the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted these lacunaes. The new centrally sponsored scheme “PM Atmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana” addresses this shortcoming. Spending nearly one billion dollar a year on building and upgrading primary, secondary, and tertiary care infrastructure is a step in the right direction.

Additionally, the scheme will also look at strengthening the existing healthcare institutions like NCDCs and setting up 4 new regional National Virology Institutes which will help us deal with emergent needs better. These initiatives and the expenditure incurred through the National Health Mission and PMJAY schemes show government’s clear-cut focus in improving healthcare services across the country. The budget also takes a holistic view of health and prioritises prevention, with its focus on providing resources for clean and easily accessible drinking water, clean surroundings to tackle air pollution through Swachh Bharat initiatives.

The introduction of the National Commission for Allied Healthcare Professionals and The National Nursing and Midwifery Commission Bills will bring professionalism and encourage employment in the nursing and allied healthcare services.

However, some areas have not been addressed in the budget. There were expectations regarding additional tax incentives on insurance premiums for senior citizens, providing deductions for R&D expenditure to encourage innovation, measures to encourage and expand insurance coverage to missing middle classes, etc.

These additional initiatives could have accelerated sectoral development making Indian healthcare stronger. The government, with limited resources, has tried to balance long-term infrastructure and capability development along with immediate needs such as vaccination.”

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