17:30 GMT06 March 2021
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    India's finance minister presented her budget as the nation's economy continues to reel from the effects of the global pandemic. She said that health and well-being were, together, one of the pillars on which this year’s budget rested.

    Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the Union Budget 2021 in the Parliament’s lower house Lok Sabha on Monday, where she said that India will spend INR 350 billion ($4.7 billion) providing  impetus to the Covid vaccination drive being rolled out across the country.

    Presenting the Modi Government’s ninth budget, which includes the interim budget, the minister committed more funds than this, should they fall short. “I am committed to provide further funds if required.”

    In her announcements regarding the nation's health sector, Sitharaman said a new, central government-sponsored scheme will be launched with a total outlay of 641 bln INR ($8.7 bln) over a period of six years.

    Emphasising the crucial role played by the health sector, which has taken on immense importance amid the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic, Sitharaman proposed increasing the total budget outlay for health by 137 percent.

    This includes the rolling out of a pneumococcal vaccine, confined to six states at present, across the country. It is expected to prevent the death of more than 50,000 children in the country. 

    Sitharaman’s increase in the health budget outlay has been lauded by health experts. Aman Gupta, Managing Partner & Co-founder SPAG Asia, a healthcare communications expert, told Sputnik, “The healthcare budget this year is significant. The increase in healthcare spending is a step in the right direction and puts much-needed emphasis on health infrastructure, with a three-fold approach on preventive care, curative care and overall well-being.”

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    COVID-19, budget, India
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