Children attended a free school in New Delhi, Nov. 7, 2012.
I got a headache trying to figure out how much money the Indian government plans to spend on health this year.
There are multiple budget documents, and the figures given don’t always seem to match. But one thing was clear: spending on health and education looks set to increase.
“Health for all and education for all remain our priorities,” said Finance Minister P. Chidambram in his speech to lawmakers Thursday. While there’s still a long way to go before India is anywhere near achieving that goal, there are indications that the government is moving in the right direction.
In good news for India’s crumbling public healthcare system, Mr. Chidambaram said the government is allocating 373.3 billion* rupees ($6.9 billion) to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for next fiscal year, which starts on April 1. That’s roughly a 49% jump from the 248.9 billion rupees ($4.6 billion) the ministry is expected to spend this year.
The bulk of this, or 212.39 billion rupees, is set to go to the National Health Mission, the government’s flagship program for healthcare delivery in rural areas that will now include urban areas, too. That represents a 24.3% increase on the program from this fiscal year.
Mr. Chidambaram also said the government is setting aside 47.3 billion rupees for medical education, training and research.
A big focus of Mr. Chidambaram’s speech was the need to improve the career prospects of India’s younger generation through better education.
“My budget has before it one overarching goal: to create opportunities for our youth to acquire education and skills that will get them decent jobs or self-employment that will bring them adequate incomes that will enable them to live with their families in a safe and secure environment,” he said, adding, “Their concerns are my concerns, too.”
The funding earmarked for education is even higher. Mr. Chidambaram proposed giving 658.67 billion rupees ($12.19 billion) to the Ministry of Human Resource Development, a 17% increase from expected expenditure this fiscal year. Of this sum, around 272.6 billion rupees will be set aside for the government’s program for elementary-level education, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.
Mr. Chidambaram said the government would increase the number of scholarship to girls and students who belong to lower castes, tribes and other backward groups. He proposed increasing the amount of funding for these scholarships to 52.84 billion rupees from 45.74 billion rupees this year.
While spending on health and education looks set to go up, it’s still a small portion of the 16.6 trillion rupees ($307 billion) India is planning to spend next fiscal year. The amount of money set aside for the ministries of health and human resources, is 2.24% and 3.95% of overall planned spending, respectively.
*A disclaimer: We were a little confused by figures here. In his speech, Mr. Chidambaram said the Ministry of Health will be getting 37,330 crore rupees, but this official summary of the 2013 federal budget puts that figure at 32,745 crore rupees. (This would represent a 31% increase in spending from last year.) It wasn’t immediately clear why the figures didn’t match.