Roundup: Indian gov’t unveils budget with focus on rural India, healthcare

The Indian government on 1st February unveiled its budget for the financial year 2018-19, with a focus on farmers, rural poor, healthcare and infrastructure. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley pegged the fiscal deficit target for next year at 3.3 percent — higher than market estimates — and also anticipated economic growth above 8 percent in the next fiscal year, as he presented the budget in the Indian parliament. Announcing a slew of farm-focused measures, Jaitley allocated billions Indian rupees for the country’s rural infrastructure and unveiled what he claimed to be the world’s largest government-funded free healthcare scheme for around 500 million poor families. Asserting that the government is committed to increasing the incomes of farmers, he announced the setting up of Agri-Market Development Fund as well as raising the minimum support price to 1.5 times the production cost for Kharif crops, a key demand of distressed farmers. “Grameen Agricultural Market will provide farmers a means to sell directly to buyers. The focus is on low-cost farming, higher minumum selling price. Our government’s emphasis is on generating farm and non-farm employment for farmers,” the minister stressed. On the health sector, Jaitley announced the new National Health Protection Scheme for the poor by providing 500,000 rupees (US$7,841) per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation. “This is the world’s largest government-funded health program,” he said, adding that the government would set up at least one medical college and a hospital in every three parliamentary constituencies of India. Though there has… [Read full story]

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