Office workers walk past a digital screen showing Nirmala Sitharaman delivering the budget speech in parliament, at the Bombay Stock Exchange on Monday. AFP
Gulf Today Report
India boosted healthcare spending by 135% and lifted caps on foreign investment in its vast insurance market on Monday to help revive an economy that suffered its deepest recorded slump as a result of the pandemic.
India’s government has proposed to increase spending on health care in a $477 billion budget for 2021-22 that promises extra help for weathering the coronavirus pandemic.
An office worker walks past a digital screen showing Nirmala Sitharaman delivering the budget speech in parliament. AFP
While announcing the federal budget, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the government has allocated Rs35,000 crore ($4.81 billion) for COVID-19 vaccines, and will grant more funds if needed.
India is providing two vaccines: the AstraZeneca shot manufactured locally by Serum Institute of India and another made by Bharat Biotech. More than 3.5 million people have been vaccinated so far.
Sitharaman said the government plans to spend Rs2.2 trillion ($30.20 billion) on health care over the next six years to improve an underfunded health system that has creaked under the additional burden of the pandemic, which has killed more than 154,000 Indians so far.
India has the world's second highest coronavirus caseload after the United States.
"The overall health and welfare budget outlay for the year 2021-22 is pegged at Rs2,23,846 crore. This will develop the capacity of primary and secondary care, besides strengthening the national institutions," Sitharaman said while announcing that the government will set up 15 health emergency centres across the country.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the budget was aimed at creating "wealth and wellness" in a country that is battling the world's second highest coronavirus caseload after the United States.
India currently spends about 1% of GDP on health, among the lowest for any major economy.
The main opposition Congress party leader Shashi Tharoor said the Modi government’s budget reminded him "of the garage mechanic who told his client, ‘I couldn’t fix your brakes, so I made your horn louder.’”
The Health Ministry on Saturday put the total number of cases in India at 173,763 with 4,971 deaths. The total infections included 86,422 active cases and 82,369 recoveries.
Daily infections, which surpassed 100,000 for the first time on Monday, have now exceeded that mark three times, the biggest daily rises in the world.
India recorded its highest singe-day spike of coronavirus cases on Saturday, with over 22,000 new cases and 442 deaths, as infections rose in the western and southern parts of the country amid heavy monsoon rains.
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The envoys issued a highly unusual joint statement on Monday saying the continued detention of Parisian-born philanthropist and activist Osman Kavala "cast a shadow" over Turkey.