Home / Budget / Budget Expectations /  Budget expectation: A wishlist for healthcare sector from Union Budget 2023-24

India’s Budget 2023 comes on the back of slowing economic activity around the globe which will also deliver its impact on the country’s growth trajectory. This is therefore the opportune time for India to strike a balance between capital conservation and undertaking some aggressive reforms. The government has already indicated that the forthcoming budget would be aimed at sustaining the current economic growth trajectory of India. Countries aiming for self-sufficiency by driving domestic manufacturing as well as consumption would be the ones to float through swiftly in this much-anticipated economic turmoil.

India’s healthcare needs a reform approach to pivot change and drive the sector as a core agenda for the future of the country. 

And it goes without saying that a greater fiscal injection into the sector will do the world a lot of good. Last year’s allocation of INR 83,000 crores represented 16.5% budgetary allocation growth but in real terms the increase was marginal. Furthermore, India’s public healthcare spending is still far below the target of 2.5% of the GDP. With each passing year not meeting that target pushes back long-term healthcare goals for the country which are dependent on healthcare infrastructure growth.

Public and Private Healthcare partnership are the way to go 

Changes in the outlook on health and prioritising the sector through stimulus, more organised policy, enabling speedier adoption of digital tools and services, expanding the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission, and using its last mile reach to enable rural healthcare push must be expedited. The focus must be on transformation and not simply cosmetic changes applied to gaps in the system. Importance must be given to the transformation of public infrastructure, upgrading medical colleges, and investing in rural healthcare. Financial commitment must reach the public healthcare systems both at the metro cities and rural levels. 

Bolstering medical education 

A lot has been done to drive impetus to medical education which has resulted in the approval of 157 new medical colleges, however, there is a lack of teaching faculty in most of these colleges.  There needs to be another policy change of bringing in a  public-private partnership thought process where clinicians from private healthcare systems can take academic positions in medical colleges. The government needs to provide a much higher impetus to the private sector by giving tax incentives in setting up healthcare infrastructure in tier 2-3 cities across the country and reduce the demand-supply gap of healthcare in emerging India. 

The sector needs an extremely robust and highly incentivised policy for domestic manufacturing of medical technology and consumables. Currently, India is importing Rs. 63,200 crore of medical devices and is over 80 percent dependent on imports. India needs self-reliance in this area which is largely dependent on imports.  There needs to be continued support in terms of tax reforms for Research and Development in the medical technologies sector. The country has risen strongly from the COVID-19 pandemic and the healthcare sector has certainly stood the test of the tough times. We are hopeful that this year’s budget also will bolster the healthcare sector and that India will continue to be a role model with the rest of the world coming to us for quality and advanced treatment options. 

Author: Vishal Bali, Executive Chairman, Asia Healthcare Holdings (AHH)

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