Union Budget 2012: Measly spending on major social sectors

Union Budget 2012: Measly spending on major social sectors

Union Budget 2012: Measly spending on major social sectors Team CBGA

The policy commitment to lay emphasis on health during the 12th Five Year Plan does not get reflected in the Union Budget, with the government expenditure on this sector slated to increase marginally to 0.34 per cent of the GDP during 2012-13 and the Finance Minister announcing a few sops such as the proposal to launch the National Urban Health Mission (NUHM).

The education sector, which was the focus of the previous Plan, has fared no better as the first Budget after the Right to Education Act effectively came into force has forked out a meagre outlay to the RTE vehicle, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA).

There is no significant allocation for health sector despite the pledge to double the spending on this sector. As a proportion of the GDP, the Centre’s expenditure on health, which was stagnant over the past few years, has risen marginally from 0.32 percent in 2012-13. Total Health Expenditure from the Centre, as a share of total Union Budget, rose nominally to 2.31 percent for 2012-13 from 2.15 percent in 2011-12.

This Budget has very little to offer to the health sector barring a few sops like tax exemption of up to Rs 5,000 for health insurance for annual preventive health check-ups. The other assurances include upgradation of seven medical colleges across the country to all-India institutes and launching of a Maternal and Child Nutrition Scheme in 200 districts.

The allocation for the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) has been stepped up to Rs 20,822 crore in 2012-13 from Rs 18,115 crore the previous year. Considering the huge infrastructure gap in this flagship social sector intervention of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, this increase is inadequate. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in his Budget speech announced launching of the NUHM. The new scheme has yet to be allocated any funds even though framework for its implementation was drawn up in mid-2010.

The Union government outlays for education have gone up marginally from 4.65 per cent as a proportion of the total Union Budget (in 2011-12 RE) to 4.97 per cent in 2012-13 (BE). As a share of the GDP, the allocations have registered a slight hike from 0.69 per cent of the total Budget (in 2011-12 RE) to 0.73 per cent in 2012-13 BE.

At the elementary education level, it was crucial to ensure that financial provisions for implementing the RTE Act, 2009 were stepped up. The Union government outlays for SSA have gone up from Rs 21,000 crore in 2011-12 RE to Rs 25,555 crore in 2012-13 BE, a mere increase of Rs 4,555 crore. Other critical sub-sectors, such as secondary education, higher and technical education, have not been adequately stepped up in this year’s Budget. For Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), the outlays have gone up from Rs 2423 crore in 2011-12 RE to Rs 3124 crore in 2012-13 (BE).

The priority for water supply and sanitation has gone up slightly. The overall allocation for rural water supply and sanitation has shown a substantial increase from Rs 11,005.24 crore in 2011-12 (BE) to Rs 14,005.24 crore (BE) in 2012-13. In rural water supply there has been an increase from Rs 8,500 crore in 2011-12 (RE) to Rs 10,500 crore in 2012-13(BE). In rural sanitation, the jump has been from Rs 1,500 crore in 2011-12 (RE) to Rs 3,500 crore in 2012-13 (BE). However, the allocation for ‘Integrated Low Cost Sanitation Programme’ has been reduced from Rs 55 crore in 2011-12 (RE) to Rs 25 crore in 2012-13 (BE). In this regard, the formation of a separate Ministry for Drinking Water and Sanitation has eventually put into focus a sector which has long been neglected. Nevertheless, one needs to closely look at whether it would be adequate or not.

Centre for Budget Governance and Accountability (CBGA) is a budget think tank.

First Published: Saturday, March 17, 2012, 10:02
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