Healthcare would receive the maximum priority in the ensuing Union Budget in the wake of continuing challenges posed by Covid 19 and the imperative need for scaling up public health infrastructure, an ASSOCHAM survey has noted.
As many as 47 per cent of the respondents in the ASSOCHAM survey pointed towards the Finance Minister Mrs Nirmala Sitharaman giving the most attention to healthcare in her Budget for 2022-23. MSMEs, energy and infrastructure and technology followed the expectation chart of the ASSOCHAM survey done amongst 400 respondents across 40 cities from different sectors.
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 also brought forth certain gaps in the public healthcare system.
In terms of the priorities which India Inc would like to be reflected in the Budget, the government spend on infrastructure tops the chart. ” Government should first focus on increasing investment in infrastructure, followed by enhancing job creation through higher incentivized expansion of manufacturing capabilities.”
ASSOCHAM Secretary General Mr Deepak Sood said the economy had shown tremendous resilience to deal with the intermittent bouts of Covid 19 variants, however, to sustain this trajectory, there was a need to incentivise consumption-led growth and that meant providing relief for the common man and woman.
Nearly 40 per cent of the ASSOCHAM survey respondents said the Finance Minister should reduce the income tax amongst other measures to boost private demand and consumption. About 31 per cent said the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT ) to the poor households could be a demand driver at the bottom of the pyramid. Though the Goods and Services Tax does not fall under the domain of the Union Budget, the industry expected rationalization of rates by the GST Council headed by the Union Finance Minister. Besides, rising cost of petrol and diesel makes it imperative for the Centre and states to agree on bringing the petroleum products under GST.
When asked what policy-makers can do to scale up the pace of job creation, majority of the respondents wanted the Government to focus on infrastructure and the housing sector. Further incentives to the companies to hire more people would also help.
Building infrastructure, especially in the rural areas will have a dual impact of boosting employment opportunities and strengthening the market access for the agricultural segment. Additionally, overall infrastructure development will support the growth of various industries, creating a multiplier effect.
The MSME sector, the backbone of the Indian economy, took quite a hit from the pandemic. This segment faced significant survival challenges, as it dealt with disrupted supply chains, lowering consumer demand and limited workforce. Despite government measures such as the Rs 3 lakh crore ECLG scheme to provide support during the initial lockdown, the MSMEs had a difficult run.
Twenty-eight per cent of the respondents stated that the Budget should include measures to encourage access to the latest technologies at a lower cost for MSMEs
To manage the short-term challenges, the government should offer an extension of the credit guarantee scheme till the next year.