“The healthcare sector was in dire need of attention and it is good to see the government address some of its concerns with bold and aspirational initiatives.”
GN Bureau | February 2, 2018
The union budget will boost investments, accelerate innovation and generate new career opportunities, felt experts who noted that the focus on Artificial Intelligence is a timely move.
Union minister Arun Jaitley presented the budget on Thursday.
Shyamal Mukherjee, chairman PwC India, said that this year’s budget clearly illustrates the government’s intent to look at development holistically.
“The thrust on fuelling the rural economy through measures around agriculture and creating an enabling ecosystem through investments in infrastructure is commendable. These, in addition to incentives planned for MSMEs, will help create additional jobs. The healthcare sector was in dire need of attention and it is good to see the government address some of its concerns with bold and aspirational initiatives. The efforts towards strengthening India’s position as a digital economy through investments around new-age technologies like AI and Fintech is a timely and welcome move,” he said.
Manish Agarwal, partner and leader, infrastructure, PwC India, said that allocation of Rs 50 lakh crore for infrastructure is welcome as it reaffirms continued funding of various initiatives in roads, railways and urban infrastructure. Quantum leap in airport capacity is a key requirement to keep pace with the rapid growth in aviation. Other initiatives, outside the budget, to revive the private sector play in these sectors, will complement and further the impact of the budget allocations.
On Artificial Intelligence, Milan Sheth, technology sector leader, EY India, observed that the budget provision for R&D in AI/Robotics is a huge boost for the country as it will accelerate our journey to being seen as global hub of technological capabilities and help us churn out futuristic technologies in Machine Learning, Cognitive and Robotics Process Automation etc.
“The establishment of NITI Aayog national programme will boost investments, accelerate innovation and generate new career opportunities that will set India on its path to being seen as the global hub for pioneering technologies,” he added.
Hitesh Sharma, national leader, Lifesciences, EY India, noted that Jaitley has taken a positive step in building/ enlarging the base for health and wellness by upgrading the existing district hospitals in the country to 24 new Government Medical Colleges and Hospitals. Further, using the 1.5 lakh health and wellness centres already setup last year, it would now provide comprehensive healthcare, free essential drugs and diagnostic services with expected support from private sector and philanthropic institutions.
“The biggest benefit is expansion of coverage of insurance to the underprivileged by providing coverage of up to Rs 5 lakh per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization. Lastly, an additional allocation of Rs 600 crore has been proposed to provide nutritional support to all TB patients is a welcome move and step towards universal health coverage. Overall very positive for the Healthcare industry,” added Sharma.
ASSOCHAM president Sandeep Jajodia said that Jaitley has placed a huge emphasis on agriculture and rural India, allocating bulk of resources to interior landscape, while helping the middle class salaried employees along with relief to senior citizens, measures which would boost consumer demand and help revive economic growth.
“The agri and rural landscape were in some kind of distress and provision of over Rs 14.34 lakh crore to be spent on rural infrastructure should also add to the employment generation especially in the farm sector,” said Jajodia. “This money would come from non-budgetary sources.”
He also said what stands out is the reform in the agriculture marketing. “The launch of 585 e-mandis and linking them with 22,000 APMC mandis, without applying restrictive clause would help farmers as also those companies engaged in agri –processing, FMCG including organized big retail chains. One of the major problems associated with the Minimum Support Price (MSP) was its implementation. Now, the Finance Minister has committed that the NITI Aayog would coordinate with the state governments to ensure that the farmers get price of their produce which is one and half times of the cost.
“Initiatives like Operation Green to stabilize prices of highly political and consumer sensitive onion and potato would help ease the retail inflation and would help the RBI in keeping interest rates on lower side,” he added.
The cabinet has cleared the formation of ‘National Asset Reconstruction Company Limited’ (NARCL) which will acquire “stressed assets” of about Rs. 2 Lakh crore in phases within RBI regulations in order to address the problem of humongous amounts of bad loans in public sector banks.
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