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15th Finance Commission chairman N.K. Singh (Photo: HT)
15th Finance Commission chairman N.K. Singh (Photo: HT)

Covid-19: Finance Commission asks for recommendations from health expert group

  • Commission will make special recommendations on building health infrastructure in its report to be submitted by October
  • A meeting of the FFC with the high level group under Guleria will held on Thursday through virtual conference

NEW DELHI: To find the resource gap in the health sector amid the covid-19 pandemic, the 15th Finance Commission (FFC) has asked a high level group under AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria to make fresh recommendations so that theCcommission could include them in its upcoming report.

“There is an immediate need to reassess the requirement of health manpower (medical and paramedical) and estimated requirement of resources for 2021-22 to 2025-26 in relation to the health infra-gap (hospital infrastructure, medical equipment, PPE, etc.). Further, the mechanism to fund these requirements will need to be critically examined, including the enhanced role of the private sector," the FFC said in a statement.

FFC chairman NK Singh last month had said the pandemic has fundamentally altered the health requirements of the country and the Commission will make special recommendations on building health infrastructure in its report to be submitted by October.

A meeting of the FFC with the high level group under Guleria will held on Thursday through virtual conference. The group comprises Dr. Devi Shetty, chairman, Narayana Health City, Dr. Deelip Govind Mhaaisekar, vice chancellor at Maharashtra University of Health Science, Dr. Naresh Trehan, Medanta City, Dr. Bhabatosh Biswas, Prof. & HoD of Cardio Thoracic Surgery, R.G. Kar Medical College, and Prof. K. Srinath Reddy, president of Public Health Foundation of India, Dr. S.K. Sarin, director, Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS), and Dr. Harsh Mahajan, founder, Mahajan Imaging.

The group, which has now been expanded, was constituted by the FFC in May, 2018 and submitted its final report in August last year. Some of its key recommendations were incorporated in the first report of the FFC for the year 2020-21. "The 15th Finance Commission according the highest priority to the Health Sector, has now decided to reconvene this HLG in the light of recent developments due to the ongoing covid-19 crisis," the statement said.

On Thursday, Shamika Ravi, director research at Brookings India, will make a presentation on modelling the path of the pandemic. Jayant Sinha, Member of Parliament and chairperson of Parliamentary Committee on Finance, is also expected to participate along with the chairman, members and senior officials of the Finance Commission.

The press statement said the Commission has noted some of the far reaching efforts of the Centre to address the ongoing challenges of the covid-19 crisis.

"The 15,000 crore package announced for states will increase the investment at the grassroots and will lead to the setting up of infectious disease blocks in all district hospitals, along with public health labs at block levels. These are important first steps in a series of measures that will be required," it added.

The FFC on Thursday will also hold the first meeting of the committee on Fiscal Consolidation Roadmap for the period FY22 to FY26.

One of terms of reference of the FFC is to make recommendations on the fiscal consolidation roadmap of the central and state governments, taking into account their responsibility to adhere to appropriate levels of debt and deficit levels, while fostering higher inclusive growth, guided by the principles of equity, efficiency and transparency. In pursuance of this ToR, the FFC constituted a committee to review the fiscal consolidation roadmap of the general government in March under its chairman N K Singh.

“This task has been complicated by the extra-ordinary situation caused by the spread of the pandemic and the concomitant fiscal compulsions on the central and state governments," FFC said in a separate statement.

Responding to the calls from state governments amid dwindling revenue collections, the Centre has permitted additional borrowing space of 2 percentage points of GSDP to the states, above the permissible limit of 3%.

The Centre has also increased its borrowing programme for FY21 by 4.2 trillion to meet the anticipated shortfall in revenue.

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