Expert view: A Budget that offers something for everyone

Expert view: A Budget that offers something for everyone

The finance minister has announced a wide-ranging and forward-looking Budget for FY19, which could enable sustainable, long-term and equitable growth of the Indian economy by addressing the key areas of healthcare, Science & Technology (S&T), agriculture and rural infrastructure.

The announcement of the National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS), which provides a health cover of Rs 5 lakh per family per year for 10 crore poor families, is a big step towards introducing universal health coverage in our country. It will be transformative for the Indian economy as it aims to provide health insurance to over 50 crore individuals, which is nearly 40% of India's population. I believe the effective delivery of this scheme will ensure inclusive economic development.

Similarly, the decision to set up 24 new government medical colleges and hospitals by upgrading existing district hospitals in the country is noteworthy. This would ensure that there is at least one government medical college in each state, which augurs well for overall clinical practice and clinical research in our country.

Giving Science & Technology its due

I am also pleased to see the focus on Science and Technology in this Budget. If we are to move the economic needle, we urgently need to raise public spending on R&D.

Acknowledging the immense potential of next-generation technologies in unleashing exponential economic growth, the Budget announced the launch of a Mission on Cyber Physical Systems to support the establishment of centres of excellence, which will invest in research, training and skilling in robotics, artificial intelligence, digital manufacturing, Big Data analysis, quantum communication and Internet of Things.

The Budget has rightly doubled the allocation on Digital India programme to enable combination of cyber and physical systems, which have the potential to transform the innovation ecosystem and the economy. It also said that the NITI Aayog will establish a national programme to direct efforts in the area of artificial intelligence towards national development.

The FM's proposal to launch a major initiative named Revitalising Infrastructure and Systems in Education (RISE) by 2022 with a total investment of Rs 100,000 crore in the next four years is a step in the right direction. This will lead to higher investments in research and related infrastructure in premier educational institutions, including health institutions.

Overall, it is a good Budget that offers something for everyone. The fact that it is an inclusive Budget reflects that the NITI Aayog was aligned with the finance ministry in the planning exercise.

Through this Budget, the government has successfully progressed from its 'ease of business' agenda to 'ease of living' ahead of general elections in 2019.

(Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw is chairperson and managing director of Biocon Limited)