The post-Covid priority: Budget needs to ramp up spending on health and education -S Mahendra Dev
-The Indian Express
Budget needs to ramp up spending on health and education. Pandemic has enhanced inequalities, shown up absence of safety nets.
India is committed to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, and social sector development is important in reaching them. Progress in this sector has intrinsic (for its own sake) and instrumental (for higher growth) value. It is needed even to build a $5 trillion economy faster. Inequalities in India have been increasing over time. COVID-19 has further widened them. In this context, focus on social sector spending and efficiency in delivery systems is essential. India has somewhat progressed on bijli, sadak and paani, but it is essential to invest in the social sector. The Union Budget for 2021-22 can give medium-term direction to the social sector by increasing allocations, particularly in health and education and for social safety nets. No country has progressed without investing in the social sector.
India’s progress in the social sector has been much slower compared to its GDP growth. The two primary factors that adversely affect India’s human development are low levels of health attainments and education: India ranks 131 out of 189 countries on the Human Development Index.
A look at the social sector expenditure over the last few years (see table) shows that the share of education as a percentage of GDP has been stagnant around 2.8-3 per cent during 2014-15 to 2019-20. In the case of health, the expenditure as a percentage of GDP increased from 1.2 per cent to 1.5 per cent. This is lower than the required 2-3 per cent of GDP. There seems to be an increase in expenditure on “other” services like sports, art and culture, family welfare, water supply and sanitation, labour and labour welfare etc.
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The Indian Express, 9 January, 2021, https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/sustainable-development-goals-covid-19-indian-economy-gdp-7139070/