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FM Sitharaman lists out healthcare, infra, livelihood as key focus areas

The Finance Minister said investment in health and infrastructure is going to be absolutely critical, while livelihood challenges would have to be seen in a newer canvas.

By: ENS Economic Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: December 19, 2020 9:12:24 am
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman addresses the CII Partnership Summit via video conferencing. (via @nsitharamanoffc)

With less than two months to go for the Budget for the next fiscal year, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday said the upcoming Budget, given it would be the first since the pandemic, will be “a Budget like never before”. Enlisting healthcare, infrastructure and livelihood as focus areas, Sitharaman said support needs to be given to sectors that have been disrupted and sectors that could be newer engines of growth.

Speaking at the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Partnership Summit via video conferencing, she asked industry leaders to send their ideas and suggestions for the Budget. “Send me your inputs so that we can see a Budget which is a Budget like never before, in a way. 100 years of India wouldn’t have seen a Budget being made post pandemic like this. And that is not going to be possible unless I get your inputs and wish list, clear observation of what has put you through the challenge…without that, it is impossible for me to draft something which is going to be that Budget like never before, a Budget which is being made after a pandemic,” she said.

The Finance Minister said investment in health and infrastructure is going to be absolutely critical, while livelihood challenges would have to be seen in a newer canvas. “Capacity to build hospitals, building capacities, skills to handle telemedicine and soft capacities will be required. We in India are fortunate to have vaccine capacities to produce as much as we need and for exports for humanity’s sake,” the finance minister said, adding that health expenditure needs to be predictable.

She further said that workforce participation of women needs to be looked at, adding that since in the coming years, nearly 60 per cent of the country’s population will be below 30 years, it is important to provide the right kind of vocational skills and skills to them. “Livelihood is also going to be a newer canvas in the post pandemic era. Whether it is small businesses or large industries, the way in which jobs are going to be created will go through a massive change … so vocational training and skills have to be brought in with a newer perspective, some of the trainings and skills given earlier may probably be not even required now but something totally new may be required,” she said.

When asked about the significance of Aatmanirbhar Bharat, Sitharaman stated that it does not mean that India is shutting itself, but instead for some areas where the country has capacities, there can be linking with the global value chain, while imports are going to continue unbridled.

She said an example of Aatmanirbhar Bharat is being seen in the country’s capacity to produce vaccines for the Covid-19 pandemic. Telemedicines will also need a greater level of understanding and greater skills to handle, she said. “… many economies are wondering where to procure the vaccine from after they are formulated or after they are certified, those which are getting manufactured somewhere, will have to be obtained. Whereas we in India are actually very fortunate to have such capacities to produce the formulation, then to get it certified and we in India have the capacity to be able to produce as much as we (need)… and more for exports…,” she said.

Sitharaman added the need of the time is more investments towards medical R&D, biotechnology R&D and pharma R&D. India has to look at public and private partnership and also engagement and investment in the areas of research for medicine, she added.

“Considering our size, population and potential that India holds for good growth and building of economy, I wouldn’t hesitate here to say that we shall be the engine of global growth along with a few other countries. We will be a significant contributor to global economic revival,” she said.

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