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Combined public health spend should rise to 2.5 per cent of GDP by 2024, says NK Singh

The central and state governments should increase their spending on the country's healthcare sector to 2.5 percent of GDP over the next four years, Finance Commission chairman N.K. Singh said on Wednesday.

November 18, 2020 / 05:08 PM IST
Representative image

Representative image

“Both the centre and the states should collectively aim to increase public spending on healthcare to 2.5 percent of GDP from 0.9 percent of the GDP by 2024. Public sector spending by both the Centre and States needs to go up significantly,” Singh said at an event organized by industry body CII.

Singh's remarks assume significance in the light of the stresses caused by the long-running coronavirus pandemic and the inadequate resources available to the country's under-funded healthcare sector to respond to the crisis.

The 15th Finance Commission recently submitted its report for 2021-22 to 2025-26 to President Ram Nath Kovind. Copies were also presented to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, as preparations begin for the Union Budget 2021-22.

The government is constitutionally required to accept the Finance Commission’s recommendations on devolution of the divisible tax pool among centre and states. On other likely recommendations, including on spending on healthcare, it is up to the centre to accept it or not.

Singh, a former bureaucrat and ex-Rajya Sabha member, noted that there is a need to immediately create a cadre for medical officers through the formalization of the All India Medical Service, given in the Civil Service Act of 1951. This is a point he has made often.

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The Covid-19 pandemic has put the spotlight on the need for public-private partnership. Speaking in this regard, Singh remarked: “ There should be a constant working relationship between the public-private partnership in healthcare and the government should not resort to the private sector in case of an emergency only.”

Commenting on the poor and skewed distribution of the healthcare infrastructure in the country, Singh also emphasised upon the need to immediately broaden the scope of medical courses. He also argued that the government must put in place a regulatory framework for paramedics, in the upcoming session of  Parliament, as they have played a critical role in battling the Covid-19 pandemic.
Shreeja Singh
first published: Nov 18, 2020 05:08 pm

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