I would describe Union Budget 2022-23 as a growth-oriented one with infrastructure and digital as the key thrust areas.

On infrastructure, the Prime Minister’s GatiShakti project seeks to encompass all modes of logistics in tandem with sustainability, clean energy and social infrastructure, in the process also creating massive livelihood opportunities. From a long-term perspective, I would say this project truly has transformative potential. On the digital front, what stood out for me was that not only has the Finance Ministry considered promotion of a digital economy and fintech, but it has also sought to harness the power of digital in skilling, financial and social inclusion.

Additionally, the Budget has recognised the privately-funded start-up ecosystem in India as one of the largest of its kind, and also recognises its potential as a growth driver. Overall, I would say that Budget 2022-23 maintained continuity with no major disruptions. For pharma, while there were no specific measures or initiatives announced, we do welcome the recognition of the need to build an enabling ecosystem with funding.

On the healthcare front, as the Finance Minister observed in her opening remarks, the ongoing Covid-19 wave is dominated by the Omicron variant. The vaccination campaign has been and continues to be the biggest focus for the country at present. I would single out two announcements as highlights for the healthcare sector. The first one is a continuation of the thrust on digital – the roll-out of the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission. The announcement of the open digital platform consisting of digital registries of health providers and health facilities, unique health identity, consent framework, and universal access to health facilities has been a long-awaited one. Such an open platform puts patient convenience and access at the centre of healthcare provision.

The other extreme announcement was on the launch of the ‘National Tele Mental Health Programme’ – a network of 23 tele-mental health centres, with NIMHANS as the nodal centre and the International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore, providing technology support. This is a highly welcome and progressive move in view of the lack of open discussion and support systems when it comes to mental health. NIMHANS has for long rendered yeoman service in this area, and this is a recognition also of its contribution to this critical area of health.

From a pharma sector perspective, I am happy to note the Finance Minister’s recognition of pharmaceuticals as among the sunrise sectors that have potential to contribute to sustainable development, modernisation, and making India competitive. As a pharma company, we see sustainable development as a core pillar of business strategy, along with the need for innovation to meet unmet patient needs.

The government proposes to take an approach comprised of supportive policies, light-touch regulations, facilitation of domestic capacities, and promotion of research & development. For R&D in these sunrise sectors, the Finance Minister has noted the need for collaboration among academia, industry and public institutions, along with government contribution. The government also proposes thematic funds for blended finance with it contributing up to 20 per cent and the funds being managed by private fund managers. These are conversations that the pharma industry has been having with the government in recent times.

We welcome the acknowledgement of the need for a multi-stakeholder ecosystem that enables and incentivises R&D and innovation in pharma. We look forward to taking this further and working closely with the Government as we look to go from ‘Make in India’ to ‘Discover and Make in India’.

The author is Chairman, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd.