India unveils health care scheme for 500 million of its poorest

In West Bengal the regional Trinamool Congress has won an assembly and a parliamentary seat.

Some public health experts noted that the government's proposals would do little to prevent poor health in the first place. Kumar said around 6-7 crore persons fall into poverty each year due to medical expenses and they are often in non-poor category. "The move will lead to creation of more jobs in the country", Jaitley had said. However, a majority of the people's total earnings are below the tax threshold.

Here are five key takeaways from Jaitley's budget announcement for the coming fiscal year. There is general concern about increased spending, but the main worry is that numerous proposals and schemes announced will not be adequately implemented. Each family would receive government-funded medical coverage of up to Rs. 500,000 for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization. SJM co-convenor Ashwani Mahajan in a statement said "foreign insurance companies should not be engaged so that valuable resources of the country are retained in India only". In the wake of widespread protests by farmers previous year due to falling commodity prices and high debt levels, it comes as no surprise that they were the main focus in the budget. The new scheme "Ayushman Bharat", presented in the budget, will address health cost concern, Modi said.

The MSME sector, which forms the backbone of the electronics industry will also benefit from reduction in corporate tax from 30 percent to 25 percent and the allocation of around Rs 3,800 crore for the development of the sector will translate to strengthening the electronics eco-system at large, he added.

Industry and citizens were critical of the Budget for ignoring the middle class and imposing long-term capital gains tax, which will eat into their savings in mutual funds as well as government bonds and will scare off investors to other markets such as Singapore. Jaitley proposes use of blockchain technology to encourage digital payments and curb the use of cryptocurrencies, setting up of a national programme to encourage AI and providing easy internet access to villages.

Jaitley said India needed to invest more than Rs. 50 trillion in infrastructure to increase its GDP growth and improve connectivity through roads, railways, ports and airports. But the finance minister also outlined incentives for others that will help boost growth, create jobs and promote private investment.

"There is nothing to indicate that farmers real income will rise". In any case, most of the declared benefits are supposed to come through off-Budget items like bank credit for which the fiscal policy of the government can take no credit, especially as there is no evidence of increased allocations to support or subsidise this. While the budget document has endorsed the recommendation of the FRBM Committee's report which aims to reduce fiscal deficit to 2.5 per cent by 2023, the expected fiscal deficit for the year 2018-19 is pegged little higher at 3.3 per cent.

Overall, the budget has caused little excitement.

  • Joanne Flowers