By Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw

It was very heartening to see a Budget empathize with those who had to bear adverse health effects of the pandemic. The wide coverage of our nation’s vaccination drive greatly helped amidst the 3rd wave of the pandemic caused by the Omicron variant, resulting in milder symptoms. Even though India is in a strong position to withstand challenges with the help of accelerated improvement of health infrastructure over the past two years, it is important to focus on the fallout of COVID-19.

The Government has been pragmatic in recognizing that the pandemic has accentuated mental health problems in people of all ages. The Union Budget for FY2022-23 thus announced the launch of a ‘National Tele Mental Health Program’ with NIMHANS as a nodal center and IIIT Bangalore providing technical support. This is a great idea to improve access to quality mental health counselling and care services for our people.

The FM has identified Genomics and Pharmaceuticals as sunrise sectors, and promised supportive policies. I hope the government enables adequate investments in innovative pharma R&D, health technology, biotechnology. These sectors hold great promise and will need large investments.

The Budget said the government will promote thematic funds for blended finance with the government share being limited to 20% and the funds being managed by private fund managers. One awaits more details on this. I personally believe research and innovation is critical for spurring exponential economic growth.

Another step taken by the FM to enable the national health ecosystem is the proposal for establishing an open platform for the National Digital Health Ecosystem, which will consist of digital registries of health providers and health facilities, unique health identity, and universal access to health facilities.

While the Government’s focus is on six pillars of development charting a blueprint of the economy from India at 75 to India at 100, it would have resonated well with the masses had the Government considered providing some tax relief on medical/ health related expenses to cheer the salaried class, which is already battling rising inflation and salary  cuts in the wake of the pandemic.

In this Budget, the FM has set the stage for delivering on the promise of creating a strong digital-led Indian economy by 2047. She has focused on measures to build a strong digital architecture that supports digital governance, e-health, ease of doing business through voluntary compliance and building digital trust.

I think the Budget has been largely fair with no big surprises for Corporate India either way.

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