The Union Budget 2021-22 is the much-needed supplementary dose to the fiscal stimulus provided by the Government a couple of months ago. The clear-cut focus on a sustained recovery path, combined with structural reforms, seems to be the core theme of this year’s budget.

Such a focused approach on social sector has always been the demands of all the constituents of the Indian economy and the Finance Minister has responded with an all-round package which will, no doubt, reinvigorate the economy.

As per FICCI-Dhruva Advisors’ pre-budget survey, 58 per cent of the respondents had rated ‘Promoting Social Sector Sending’ as a priority area for the budget. Education and healthcare are critical for long-term economic growth and formation of human capital, and both are in need for radical transformation. Infrastructure has received a strong fillip in this budget, with healthcare and education being two of the six pillars in the budget proposals.

FICCI has for long advocated the need to enhance public spend on healthcare. The Economic Survey too highlighted how an increase in public healthcare spending from 1 per ent to 2.5-3 per cent of GDP can decrease the out-of-pocket expenditure from 65 per cent to 35 per cent of overall healthcare spending. The increase in budgetary allocation for healthcare by stupendous 137 per cent is a much-needed step in this direction. The allocation of ₹35,000 crore for Covid-19 vaccine is on expected lines and we look forward to rapid implementation of the on-going immunisation programme. This is critical to ensure quick economic recovery and reach pre-Covid level of activities in the country.

There is no doubt that the health infrastructure across the country requires a major investment boost. The launch of AtmaNirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana will strengthen primary, secondary, and tertiary healthcare infrastructure and create new institutions, building India’s capacity to address health-related challenges. Covid-19 pandemic brought to focus the importance of good nutrition to enable the population to fight any future outbreak of Covid-like diseases. The launch of Mission Poshan 2.0 is a welcome step to strengthen nutritional delivery and outcomes.

Clean and sustainable environment is a pre-requisite to ensure a healthy life. The Budget takes a holistic approach towards health and well-being by laying focus on water, air and sanitation to provide a sustainable and foolproof health system across the country.

On the education front, the roll-out of new National Education Policy has been transformational. The budget laid out the contours towards accomplishing key elements of the NEP. Improving learning outcomes by strengthening the school infrastructure, training of teachers, innovative learning pedagogy and digital-learning will form the core of India’s education policy, going forward.

The government also proposes to set up 100 new Sainik Schools in partnership with NGOs/private schools as well as 750 Eklavya model residential schools in tribal areas.

Higher education will also go through a transformation, with implementation of Higher Education Commission.

In line with FICCI recommendations, the proposed allocation of ₹50,000 crore for National Research Foundation over five years is a positive move.This will go a long way in strengthening the research ecosystem of our country.

The emergence of the digital technology in the field of education during the pandemic was one silver line which transformed the education sector. The proposed National Digital Educational Architecture (NDEAR) that will support teaching and learning activities as well as include educational planning, governance and administrative activities of the Centre and the States/Union Territories is a welcome initiative.

We further hope that in line with the increased allocation for the healthcare sector, the government shall consider increasing the outlay on education as well.

There has been a renewed vigour on skill development in this year’s budget. We hope that the proposed amendment to the Apprenticeship Act will provide greater apprenticeship opportunities for the youth. The tie-ups with various countries, including UAE and Japan, for collaboration on skilling, training, and certification are also positive steps.

Overall, this year’s budget is a step in the right direction to help bring the economy to its expected growth trajectory.