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Aspirational, hopeful Budget for a new India

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We are excited about the focus on building the backbone of the National Digital Health Mission, and providing universal health access for all. India,

By Suneeta Reddy 

The timing of the Union Budget was fortuitous.  While we are still in the midst of the Omicron wave and associated caution, the clear and present danger that we dealt with in the last 24 months was behind us. GDP growth forecasts for FY21-22 were positive, all engines of the economy were ready to fire. They only needed some fuel. And the Union Budget provided that fuel, and the much-needed growth impetus across sectors.

A clear signal of the government’s intent to seize the momentum, was the 35% increase in capital expenditure and a commitment of over Rs 10 lakh crore, including commitments to state projects. This is a significant investment and will start the virtuous cycle of capital investment and job creation. By doubling down on the PLI scheme, the government also held steadfast to its support for manufacturing and creating a self-reliant nation.

While holding these traditional pillars of manufacturing and infrastructure steady, the Budget acknowledged the significant impact that sunrise sectors and new-age businesses are going to have on building India of the future. Digital currency, digital assets, blockchain, fintech, clean energy, EVs, start-ups, e-passports, e-learning and climate action all got repeated mentions, and this paints the picture of what awaits us this decade. Government policy often needs to keep pace with business innovation, and this Budget certainly did that.

We are excited about the focus on building the backbone of the National Digital Health Mission, and providing universal health access for all. India, with its high smartphone penetration, and strong broadband infrastructure, is the perfect case example to leapfrog a few decades, and build a strong health stack, where data is owned by the patient and is used across providers and platforms with strong consent mechanism. This can be a game-changer in achieving superior health outcomes, and optimising costs of care in the long run.

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Emergence of newer technologies is changing the way we deliver healthcare and patient care methods and the private sector will have a significant role to play in delivering these requirements. The Budget’s encouragement to start-ups by extending the period to qualify for the benefit by one year will help attract more innovative talent to the field of health tech.

We look forward to continuous engagement with the central and state governments to ensure that the focus on the sector necessitated by the pandemic lasts in a sustainable manner and leads to strengthening of healthcare infrastructure, skilling of workers, incentivising health-oriented behaviour by individuals and addressing long-standing requests for GST rationalisation.

We have seen several times in the past that monumental sectoral announcements are made outside the Budget. We are hopeful ongoing meaningful dialogue will create incentives and impetus for the healthcare sector, which, with the right support, has the potential to do for India, what IT services did in the 90s. In conclusion, the Union Budget reflected the times we live in — it was aspirational, hopeful and filled with innovation and new thinking. It was confident, just like New India. Now, all we need is Gati Shakti — speed of execution!

The writer is Managing Director, Apollo Hospitals Group. Views expressed are personal.

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