With finance minister Pranab Mukherjee raising spending on education and health, as well as rural and urban infrastructure, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government on Friday reaffirmed its commitment to “inclusive growth”—the ruling coalition’s main economic plank.
Mukherjee said 37% of the total spending in the Budget for fiscal 2011 will be on the social sector, which includes health and education, while 46% will go to infrastructure, including 25% to rural areas.
“For the UPA government, inclusive development is an act of faith,” Mukherjee said in his Budget speech in Parliament.
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The finance minister increased the Plan allocation for school education to Rs31,036 crore (from Rs26,800 crore in 2009-10), for health to Rs22,300 crore (from Rs19,534 crore), urban development to Rs5,400 crore (from Rs3,060 crore), housing and urban poverty alleviation to Rs1,000 crore (from Rs850 crore) and the micro, small and medium enterprises sector to Rs2,400 crore (from Rs1,794 crore).
The UPA’s return to power in the 2009 general election and its victories in state polls have been credited to the success of welfare schemes such as its flagship programme, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, which ensures 100 days of work to at least one member of every rural family in a year.
A promise: The 13th Finance Commission report, tabled in Parliament on Thursday, also made a strong case for inclusiveness. Madhu Kapparath / Mint
The government has made “inclusive growth” its main platform, promising to make sure that the poor get a fair share of the dividend from economic expansion.
The finance minister raised the allocation for the rural employment programme by Rs1,000 crore to Rs40,100 crore. He also announced the extension of the government’s health insurance scheme, the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, to beneficiaries of the programme who put in more than 15 days of work in the preceding fiscal.
Congress leaders said the Budget was aimed at the common man. Union home minister P. Chidambaram, a former finance minister, said it was “a very balanced effort marked by a mature assessment of the state of the economy and of the measures required to sustain high and inclusive growth”.
Spending on the Rajiv Awas Yojana, a housing scheme for slum dwellers and the urban poor, was stepped up from Rs150 crore to Rs1,270 crore.
The 13th Finance Commission report, which was tabled in Parliament on Thursday, made a strong case for inclusiveness by suggesting a higher revenue share for weaker states, special allocations for border districts and financial grants for states deficient in educational infrastructure. The government has accepted most of the proposals.
Still, the hike in the Budget allocation for the government’s principal health scheme—the National Rural Health Mission—is the second lowest since its inception in 2005. Mint had reported on 18 February that the hike would be lower than last year’s. Against the 17% increase it received in 2009-10, the programme won an 11% hike in allocation to Rs15,440 crore.
“Rural primary healthcare is inadequate and urban primary healthcare is anarchic—surely more resources are needed for universal healthcare,” said K. Srinath Reddy, director of the Public Health Foundation of India.
PTI contributed to this story.