New Delhi: If the United Progressive Alliance government has a theme, it has to be inclusion. And in keeping with the 11th Five Year Plan’s motto of ‘faster and more inclusive growth’, the finance minister has, in his Budget 2007-08, increased allocations for the social sector by 36% over last year.
Mint had earlier reported that despite the government’s emphasis on education, poverty alleviation and public health, actual public spending on these sectors remained virtually unchanged over the last five years. This year, however, social sector spending has been buoyed by a 35% increase in allocation in primary education and a 38% increase in health and family welfare.
The social sector accounts for 26% of all government expenditure. Plan outlay for the department of health and family welfare, for instance, has increased to Rs13,875 crore.
Industry reacted positively to finance minister P. Chidambaram’s proposals on education, with Confederation of Indian Industry president R. Seshasayee saying the increase in outlay for the sector ‘would help push towards attaining the target expenditure of 6% of the gross domestic product’. “The stress on vocational education and upgradation of industrial training institutes through public-private partnership would also help translate the skills shortage into demographic dividend,” Seshasayee said.
The government has also increased allocation for rural development by 6.7% to Rs16,706 crore. George Mathews, director of the Institute of Social Sciences said that this number was too little to make any significant impact. “70% of our country resides in villages, and there is a huge gap in infrastructure. An increase of 6% over the last years allocation will not do anything.”