Budget 2019-20 reactions

Dr KM Cherian-CEO and Chairman, Frontier Lifeline Hospital, Chennai

While Nirmala Sitharaman, Finance Minister has addressed the concerns of various sectors, it is unfortunate that there were no significant announcements for the healthcare sector. With the acute shortage of doctors, nurses and  paramedics and lab technicians in the country, it is disheartening to see that there was no conversation or even a provision in the budget to address this. There is also a dire need for R&D in basic medical sciences and other areas, so that indigenous technology will grow. In addition it will help to reduce the out flow of foreign exchange, which has not happened. But there is still hope with National Research Foundation being set up to strengthen overall research ecosystem in the country. The Ayushman Bharat scheme was implemented on September 25, 2018 with an investment of Rs 2,400 crore in 2018-19, which was increased to Rs 6,400 crore in 2019-20. It would be great to see the scheme being implemented flawlessly and also covering a wider audience.

Suresh Vazirani, CMD, Transasia-Erba Group

In line with the Ayushman Bharat programme, India has taken a number of initiatives towards equitable and affordable access of quality healthcare for 1.3 billion Indians. But it cannot be made affordable if India continues to import 70-80 per cent of its total requirement of medical devices.

While the overall approach and budget allocation to address healthcare by the current government has been positive, unfortunately there is nothing much to boost Make in India.

Arindam Haldar, CEO, SRL Diagnostics

We congratulate the government on presenting a holistic budget for the common man and it’s encouraging to see that the government has taken initiatives to deliver on its promise of excellence in healthcare.

The government has identified ‘healthcare’ as one of the key delivery outcome priorities for a healthy society. SRL Diagnostics has always encouraged the adoption of a preventive, rather than curative, attitude towards health. The government’s vision aligns with our mission of bringing good-quality, accessible primary healthcare services to the masses.

Once again, the government has shown its commitment to the healthy well-being of more than 130 crore citizens of the nations. The impetus on increasing foreign direct investments (FDIs) offers hope for renewed interests by investors which will help to drive growth for both the public and private healthcare institutions.

The government has put forward a progressive budget with a strong vision to take India’s social, economic and overall well being to greater heights.

Vishal Gondal, Founder and CEO, GOQii

The Budget 2019, is paving the way for a brighter future for India’s start-up ecosystem with easing of the Angel Tax thereby ensuring more entrepreneurs join the startup bandwagon. The idea to have a separate channel for startups under the aegis of Doordarshan will help disseminate critical information on a real-time basis to budding entrepreneurs in the tier II and III markets particularly thus enabling them to help realise the Government of India’s vision of becoming a $3 trillion economy this year. Also, since GOQii’s inception in 2014, the company has supported the ‘Make in India’ movement and has been striving hard towards making India a healthier nation through our continuously evolving and innovative preventive healthcare offerings and initiatives. The Government of India’s commitment to expand Khelo India scheme for the development of sports and sportsperson is a very welcome move; it will encourage more Indians to take up sports and be the torchbearers of health and fitness. Also, the insure-tech industry will benefit with 100 per cent FDI being permitted for insurance intermediaries in India. This will enable the insurance market to grow. As per recent EY’s Global Insurance Trends Analysis 2018, $2.3 billion has been invested into insurtech startups, representing over 45 per cent of insurance investments spanning 2012-17. Insurers are using technology that assesses health risks and for diagnostics. This technological developments along with assistance from AI and ML will make insurance and technology, weave a better and more informed future for healthcare and smart preventive healthcare.”

Swati Deshpande, Director (Operations), Datar Cancer Genetics

Surprisingly in the budget there was no mention of any benefits and plans for healthcare! However certain positives are the proposals to set up the National Research Centre and Annual Global Investors Meet, both the initiatives that will help give an impetus and attract research proposals and funding to India’s potential. Easing of Angel Tax and relief from IT scrutiny for startups are great encouragement for the sector.

While announcing large scale projects for electric cars, the government has completely ignored the bio-medical sector which has the potential to be a global research hub for fields like genetic research, bio-informatics and AI in healthcare.

Rahul Paith, COO, DocOnline

Overall the budget announcement looks positive and people friendly. The new reforms like funds raised by start-ups will not require scrutiny of tax department is a positive move for start-ups.I personally laud the move for an additional fund allocation at 2 per cent interest for loans taken by MSMEs and this is a great move by the government.

Across the world crowd funding platforms are known. The electronic fundraising platform (social stock exchange) for listing social enterprises is a breakthrough move by the government for organisations working in social sector, although speed of its implementation is going to be critical.

Swadeep Srivastava, Founder and Chief Belief Officer, India Virtual Hospital

The budget may not be the expected one for the healthcare segment but it is a fairly decent one. The overall health allocation has gone up from Rs 63538 crore in the interim budget to Rs 64999 crore in 2019-20. A raise of Rs 1750 crore may not look very promising on papers but when we see it in context to previous years’ budget allocation of Rs 54668 crore, it is a Y-O-Y increase of Rs 10000 crore. With an increasing number of claims and popularity of Ayushman Bharat, a scheme-specific announcement would have been ideal.

Dr Shankar Narang, COO, Paras Healthcare

While the healthcare allocation had been covered in the Interim Budget earlier this year, it is still a little disappointing that there was no new commitment to healthcare in Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s maiden budget. However, one of the most notable announcements in the budget has been the pledge to establish a National Research Foundation to boost research in all areas. We hope the government will allocate significant resources through this body towards boosting the field of medical research in India. We also expect the New Education Policy to focus on creating more doctors and specialists in the country by increasing both MBBS and Post Graduate seats in medicine.

Also, the fact that the government’s focus on building toilets and on improving overall sanitation has yielded positive results is encouraging. With nearly 95 per cent of all cities declaring themselves open-defecation free, it is a major boost to the overall health prevention scene in the country. Notably, poor sanitation has been a major cause of the high incidence of communicable diseases such as diarrhoea in India, especially among children. We hope the government will continue its focus on improving sanitation.

Amol Naikawadi, Joint Managing Director, Indus Health Plus

The budget comes as an indication that it is taking a comprehensive approach in the healthcare and wellness segment, and I think it is aimed in the right direction. The government’s continuous focus on the Ayushman Bharat scheme will further help in providing extensive medical care and reinforce the commitment to universal healthcare for all citizens. Apart from this, the announcement to boost Artificial Intelligence will strengthen the use of technology in the field of healthcare and it will intensify the quality in healthcare with accessibility and affordability.

Col Hemraj Singh Parmar, Group CEO, BR Life Hospitals

The Union Budget 2019 presented by Union Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman has concentrated more on the vision for the growth and welfare of the country. Although the healthcare sector has not been discussed much during the Budget, sanitation, hygiene, potable water have been given importance in order to create a cleaner and healthier society. The government, through Ayushman Bharath Yojana, aims to concentrate more on the all-round nourishment of women and children and wants our citizens to consider taking care of their health in a more serious way. Preventive healthcare is a major issue that is mostly ignored by people, who end up visiting clinicians only when diagnosed with a medical disorder. Therefore, in order to make people consider investing on their health and personal welfare, the government has increased the tax deduction of medical insurance from Rs 15,000 to Rs 25,000.

Amit Kumar Bajaj, Partner, Grant Thornton India

The budget has addressed expectations in the area of enhancing healthcare coverage to the Indian citizens through Ayushman Bharat. Consolidation of grants into the National Research Foundation will hopefully enhance medical research. The medical devices industry will stand to gain on account of the reduced customs tariff and increase in the turnover threshold to Rs 400 crore for the corporate tax rate of 25 per cent.

Dr Rajeev Boudhankar, CEO, Bhatia Hospital Mumbai

Incentives for electric vehicles in terms of subsidy on loans as well as lowering of GST from 12 per cent to 5 per cent on electric vehicles, will help reduce air pollution over a period of time. This will help control heart diseases, respiratory illness, and cancers.

The 100 per cent FDI in insurance intermediaries along with streamlining of Labour laws will help boost health insurance and thereby healthcare industry. This will increase healthcare insurance coverage and boost investment in new hospitals.

National Research Foundation for higher research will help indigenous research in pharmaceutical industry, bio-medical industry, innovation in indigenous treatments modalities.

Internet connectivity with all gram sabhas will give impetus to private sector to invest in tele-medicine through PPP mode.

Safe drinking water for all households by 2024 through ‘Jal Shakti Mantralaya’ will help control water borne diseases in India. This will be aided by the ‘Toilets for all’ scheme that will reduce oro-feacal route diseases. However, nothing was mentioned about the Ayushman Bharat-PM Jan Arogya Yogana.

Dr Ravi Gaur, COO, Oncquest

The honourable finance minister’s budget speech is commendable as it emphasised on the importance of infrastructure in terms of enhancing and taking forward programmes across various key infrastructure sub-sectors .While budgetary allocation and priorities will have to be studied in detail, it appears that the healthcare budget allocation is only marginally increased which may not be adequate to develop a comprehensive plan for setting up a robust healthcare infrastructure and satisfactory delivery, to ensure ‘Mazboot Nagrik of Mazboot Desh’. Despite being the sixth-largest economy in the world, India has one of the most underfunded healthcare systems in the world . Ayushman Bharat Yojana , the largest health scheme in the world is a dream for common man. But this ambitious project definitely requires adequate and higher fund allocation.

Healthcare issues arising out of rapid urbanisation stands a big challenge and it needs immediate attention. Also, there is serious lack of skilled manpower in the healthcare segment. There is strong need to allocate additional fund for augmenting healthcare skill force and develop new innovative healthcare delivery models in collaboration with private healthcare providers. A more focus and allocation for developing strong infrastructure for treatment and early detection of cancer and handling other NCDs is need of the hour. I am sure it will go a long way to ensure a strong healthy India.

Pavan Choudary, Chairman and Director General, Medical Technology Association of India

Reduction in Customs Duty of Medical Devices in the Union Budget would have furthered the government’s objective of increasing healthcare affordability and accessibility, which, through Ayushman Bharat it is already trying to achieve. The increase in the turnover limit to Rs 400 crores under the 25 per cent tax slab is in line with the government’s commitment in the Union budget 2015 to make Indian companies more competitive on the global business platform. This will also lead to increase in compliance and also attract more investment to India.

Deepak Sahni CEO and Founder, Healtians

Budget 2019 will make India a shining economy again!, but it doesn’t do justice to India’s burgeoning healthcare sector

With the promise to become a $5 trillion economy, India is on the anvil of pathbreaking growth and the budget supports this endeavour by focusing on startups and participation of women for growth. Stressed startup ecosystem gets a breather from angel tax, and budding entrepreneurs get easy grants, incubators and distribution support from the government, which is applaudable.

However, the budget leaves the healthcare industry alone, and has ignored its potential to contribute to the targeted growth. Additionally, the government should have considered more grants to make Ayushman Bharat truly available for masses, and for the digital healthcare industry to help it realise its true potential.

Meena Ganesh, MD and CEO, Portea Medical

It is heartening to see the key issues faced by startups in the country being addressed in the Union Budget 2019. The budget is definitely pro-entrepreneurship and provides clarity and relief in respect to the arbitrary Angel Tax that has been stalling startup growth in the country over the past few years. Start-ups no longer need to be worried about coming under the scrutiny of the Income Tax Department as long as there is a full disclosure of the identity of the investor and source of income which is fair and straight forward. The exemption of capital gains from the sale of residential property for investment in start-ups till FY 21 is a welcome move. The new dedicated stat-up channel to be operated by the Doordarshan Group will encourage people in the remotest parts of the country to take the path the entrepreneurship and will help SME’s strengthen their operations. The relaxation of conditions for carry-forwarding and setting off company losses will also boost the ecosystem.

The government has also given due acknowledgment and assured support to women-led initiatives which will be crucial to leveling the playing field for women entrepreneurs. The dedicated SME portal facilitating online submission and payment of bills will improve the ease of doing business in India. Healthcare and increasing spending in this sector are two crucial areas that were completely left unaddressed although they are the need of the hour. It is a known fact that healthcare spending in India is currently a dismal 2.2 per cent. Despite Ayushman Bharat figuring in the government’s ten-point agenda, it was disheartening to see the lack of any solid policies in the healthcare sector. We hoped to see some action points on areas such as home care, affordable and accessible care, as well as other aspects pertaining to the sector.

Saurabh Agarwal, CFO, Medlife.com

The Modi Government 2.0’s first Union Budget touched upon many facets of infrastructure growth and sustainable development of industries in rural as well as urban India. It talked about all-round development of waterways, roadways, airways, metro corridors, railways as well as space programmes. However, one crucial aspect that was missing from the overall budget was increasing spending in the healthcare sector. We hope that an added focus is laid during the next five years on preventive and curative healthcare for only if a country is healthy is it truly prospering.

The focus on start-ups came up very strongly during the budget as it addressed all the prevalent issues around Angel Tax, valuation issues and fundraise opportunities. We welcome the step towards the Global Investors Meet through NIIF to attract global players, leading industries, sovereign wealth funds, and digital venture funds. A dedicated TV channel for start-ups under the Doordarshan Group to promote entrepreneurship will go a long way in encouraging people to turn their ideas into reality in the remotest areas of the country.

Neha Rastogi, Founder, Agatsa

As a leading homegrown healthcare start-up, we are extremely happy to see various entrepreneurship-friendly provisions in the Union Budget 2019 along with an emphasis on MSMEs, start-ups, and medical devices under the Make in India campaign. The resolution of the Angel Tax issue will go a long way in helping start-ups reach their full potential.

The step towards boosting foreign investment in the manufacturing sector in India is a welcome move. The budget proposes a National Research Foundation which will be a corpus of funds pooled from various ministries. This can help promote R&D in the healthcare space thereby reducing the disease burden in the country. Apart from this, there is a plan to include advanced training on topics like AI, VR, Big Data, and Robotics, etc. which will augment the capabilities of Indian entrepreneurs and put them on the global map. The government has also taken some great steps towards promoting women-led initiatives. Another encouraging move has been the provision of offering up to Rs 1 crore of fresh or incremental loans within an hour through the online portal. Overall, the budget is quite encouraging for innovators and technology-oriented start-ups. We were however looking forward to a stronger focus on increasing the healthcare budget which was completely missing for this budget.

Dr KK Aggarwal, President, Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI)

We had great expectations from the Union Budget 2019 in respect to an increase in healthcare expenditure. However, issues such as increasing disease burden of the country, need to boost preventive healthcare and improving access to affordable and quality care were completely missed out by the new government which is extremely discouraging. While Ayushman Bharat was listed as a key focus area, clarity is needed on how it would be strengthened to reach a larger population. Health is wealth is a popular saying and we must understand its significance. Without a strong healthcare focus, the economy of the country and standard of living of people can’t be elevated in the true sense.

It is heartening to see the increased focus on Swachh Bharat, water, hygiene, and sanitation. These will go a long way in reducing preventable water and food-borne diseases in the country. As the President of an healthcare NGO, I welcome the government’s move to set up an electronic fundraising programme for social enterprises and voluntary organisations. This will go a long way in helping us build capital and extend life-saving programmes to a larger section of the population.

AgatsaAmit Kumar BajajAmol NaikawadiArindam HaldarBhatia Hospital MumbaiBR Life HospitalsBudget 2019-20Col Hemraj Singh ParmarDeepak SahniDocOnlineDr KK AggarwalDr KM CherianDr Rajeev BoudhankarDr Ravi GaurDr Shankar Narangfinance ministerGrant Thornton IndiaHealtiansHeart Care Foundation of India (HCFI)India Virtual HospitalIndus Health PlusMedical Technology Association of IndiaMedlife.comMeena GaneshNeha RastogiNirmala SitharamanOncquestParas HealthcarePavan ChoudaryPortea MedicalRahul PaithSaurabh AgarwalSuresh VaziraniSwadeep SrivastavaSwati DeshpandeTransasia-Erba GroupVishal Gondal
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