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Before union budget’s cutback, State health budgets rose to 21 percent

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New Delhi: An analysis of government data released in October 2015 revealed that state health budgets, taken together– rose 21 percent in the previous year, before the 15 percent ‘cut’ in central funding of national health programs in the union health budget of 2015-16.

However, this increase is not uniform across states, indicating that states, especially smaller ones, unable to raise enough money, are spending less on health and education. Exactly how many states spent to compensate for central spending cutbacks over the past year is unclear because that data will only be available by the end of 2016.

As many as 58 per cent of Indians in rural areas opt for private healthcare (68 percent in urban areas), as we reported, because public health care is inadequate, and healthcare expenses push an additional 39 million people back into poverty every year, a Lancet paper said.

In anticipation of the transfer of money to states – a process called devolution, proposed in December 2014 by the 14th Finance Commission, Delhi had increased payments to state plans during the 2014-15 budget: Transfers rose by 108 percent to Rs 2,59,855 crore ($43 billion) for the state plans, according to reporters.

Many increases to states were substantial, particularly in key areas such as village development, education, health and agriculture. The idea, to quote from a government document, was to “provide greater ownership to state governments in implementation of plans schemes and avoid thin spreading of resources, model of restructured centrally sponsored schemes (CSSs) continues. Higher allocation under State/UT (union territory) plan is reflective of this”.

Between 2014-15 and 2015-16, unconditional transfers of tax revenues – or “untied” funds, to use official jargon– rose 55 percent, from Rs.3.38 lakh crore to Rs. 5.24 lakh crore, according to the budget’s revised estimates released in October 2015 (The budget is prepared using income estimates, typically revised after six months to account for actual tax received).

The union health budget rose six percent, from Rs.29,492.5 crore in 2013-14 to Rs. 31,274 crore in 2014-15, the year the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) presented its first budget. The cuts came in the second year of the NDA, 2015-16.

Smaller states can’t find money, therefore, cut health funding.

Although 18 states with poor health indicators, called “high-focus states”,– increased health spending in anticipation of central cutbacks, our analysis reveals how smaller states have cut health spending because they did not have the money.

Jharkhand and Odisha increased their health spending by 80 percent and 73 percent respectively between 2013-14 and 2014-15. Some states saw marginal increases; Tripura and Manipur cut health spending.

Money to create infrastructure has risen in state budgets, from 37.2 percent in 2011-12 to 50 percent in 2014-15, while funds for staff salaries and other administrative expenses fell from 62.2 percent to 49.9 percent.

“The country is close to completing its first budget cycle since the implementation of the FFC (14th Finance Commission) recommendations; any rigorous assessment of the real impact of these recommendations is difficult owing to large gaps in available data,” said a report from the Accountability Initiative, a Delhi-based think-tank. (Prachi Salve, IANS/indiaspends.org)

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President’s Call for Multi-Pronged Approach to Address Healthcare Challenges

Admitting that malnutrition and neglected tropical diseases put severe constraints on the people, Kovind said cleanliness and sanitation

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President, Healthcare, Challenges
We need to improve access to health services for the people, said Kovind at a foundation stone-laying event in Karnataka's Varuna village near Mysuru. Pixabay

President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday called for a multi-pronged approach to address the healthcare challenges due to the triple burden of communicable, non-communicable and emerging diseases in the country.

“Though we have achieved a lot over the years, we are challenged by communicable, non-communicable and emerging diseases. We need to improve access to health services for the people,” said Kovind at a foundation stone-laying event in Karnataka’s Varuna village near Mysuru.

Admitting that malnutrition and neglected tropical diseases put severe constraints on the people, Kovind said cleanliness and sanitation were the basic requirement to tackle many health-related issues and diseases.

Addressing a huge gathering at the JSS Academy of Higher Education and Research in the village on the occasion, the President said the healthcare challenges were a fallout of the larger socio-economic problems across the country.

President, Healthcare, Challenges
Though we have achieved a lot over the years, we are challenged by communicable, non-communicable and emerging diseases. Pixabay

“Solutions to meet the health challenges need to be broad-based and multi-pronged. The stakeholders should use the power of modern medicine and traditional knowledge. They must focus on body and mind and involve in prevention and cure,” asserted Kovind.

Set up in 2008, the Academy is a tribute to Shivarathri Rajendra Mahaswamiji, whose 104th birth anniversary is being commemorated this year.

Varuna is the home town of former state chief minister and opposition Congress leader Siddaramaiah.

The President is on a three-day visit to the southern state since Thursday to participate in various educational, religious and judicial functions at Mysuru and Bengaluru on Saturday.

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Kovind also visited the Hindu goddess Chammundeshwari Devi temple atop a hill on the outskirts of Mysuru. (IANS)