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Budget 2015: Expansion of health coverage is positive, but lack of support for R&D disappointing

Shailesh Ayyangar     March 5, 2015

Shailesh Ayyangar
Every year, the Budget presented by our Finance Minister envisions profound social and economic change, and aims to deliver 'well being' across all socioeconomic levels. This year, too, the effort has been made to do exactly that, but as many experts have already commented, the vision and ground reality do not exactly come together to give us the results we want.

General industry response to the Budget has been positive and we believe that the  finance minister has done his best to provide the balance between short-term growth and sustainable economic gains over the long term. We welcome the Centre's focus to increase the ease of doing business in India, and look forward to the expert committee being set up to streamline approvals. The reduction in corporate tax rate from 30 per cent to 25 per cent will boost investor confidence and encourage companies to continue the process of job creation and overall growth.

For some time now, the pharmaceutical industry has sought universal health coverage so that healthcare becomes more affordable for all socioeconomic levels in India. In this context, the expansion of health coverage is a positive move. A higher exemption limit for the health insurance premium is also likely to encourage more and more people to get insurance coverage and be better prepared for health-related eventualities.

The proposal to augment trained medical resources by setting up more medical institutions such as AIIMs has received the attention it deserves and we appreciate these efforts.

On a less positive note, we had expected more support for boosting the research and development (R&D) potential of the pharmaceutical industry, which did not happen. We had hoped for a weighted tax deduction on R&D activity to upgrade the level of clinical research in the country. To fulfil the vision of achieving India's innovation potential, the government will need to incentivise scientific research and create a regulatory framework that sustains and eventually protects the products in India.

I also believe that the Finance Minister could have made a stronger statement that this government 'walks the talk' by significantly increasing the healthcare Budget allocation - particularly for infrastructure development and skill development.

Public-private partnership has always been a strong tool for developing the pharmaceutical sector in India. In this context, we look forward to more collaborative opportunities with all stakeholders who are committed to giving India a healthcare structure and environment in which no Indian goes without the best care available.

The author is Managing Director-India, and Vice President-South Asia, Sanofi

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