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Budget 2021: Healthcare likely to get top priority

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New Delhi, Jan 31: India's healthcare sector is likely to get the maximum attention of the government in the upcoming Budget to be unveiled on Monday, as it comes in the face of the country braving a once-in-a-century global pandemic, says a survey.

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The Assocham-Primus Partners survey covered more than 550 industry participants, and 39.7 per cent respondents said healthcare would receive the highest priority in terms of resource allocation and policy support in the Budget.

Manufacturing emerged as the second key sector expected to be in focus, with 14.7 per cent respondents expecting it to receive the Finance Minister''s attention, followed by MSMEs (11.4 per cent), real estate (10.7 per cent) and infrastructure (9.6 per cent).

"The Covid-19 pandemic tested the limits of the global healthcare system. While the government''s proactive measures and the frontline workers'' tireless efforts have helped tide the way, the pandemic has also brought forth the fragility of the healthcare system," the survey stated.

On measures which can strengthen the healthcare and pharma sector, 67.3 per cent respondents expect the allocation of a fund to modernise existing primary healthcare infrastructure.

Budget 2021: “Govt should increase spend on healthcare”Budget 2021: “Govt should increase spend on healthcare”

This was followed by an expectation (by 62.9 per cent) that the government should increase investments in creating new primary healthcare infrastructure.

With regard to aspirations of individual taxpayers, 79.3 per cent respondents said they would like to see a cut in personal income tax rates, especially in the wake of pressure on their earnings in the pandemic-hit economy.

While corporate tax rates have been reduced, individuals pay taxes at higher rates. Rationalising taxes for the individuals is critical as reducing the tax burden on individuals would enable further spending. According to the survey, this much-needed push to demand would help in creating a multiplier effect in the economy.

"A significant increase in the public expenditure is inevitable. The pandemic has taught us there are no choices other than large scale public investment in building primary health centres, hospitals at the district, state capital level," Assocham Secretary General Deepak Sood said.

As has been stated in the Economic Survey, there is a strong feeling within the government to raise public expenditure on healthcare three-fold from 1 per cent of GDP to 3 per cent of GDP, he added.

Moreover, Sood said, at the same time, to support the economic health of the nation, amidst the rising green shoots of recovery, the upcoming Budget must frontload infrastructure investments.

"The Budget''s allocation towards infrastructure and housing development will create a much-needed multiplier impact in the economy," he observed.

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