The Union Budget 2021 is likely to make a one-time provision for procurement, storage, transportation and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, and for filling in certain gaps in India’s public healthcare system which the pandemic has exposed.
A top government official told Moneycontrol that the provisioning could be as high as Rs 80,000 crore. This will just be from the Centre, with states and the private sector also budgeting their own expenditure as India prepares for a vaccination drive that could be the largest in the world.
Additionally, the Narendra Modi government is learnt to have accepted the recommendations of the Fifteenth Finance Commission on the health sector. The recommendations, which will be made public along with the budget, likely include nearly doubling India’s combined public health expenditure as percentage of GDP, and creating a dedicated central cadre of medical professionals.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is expected to present the Union Budget on February 1, 2021. “There have been discussions over provisioning one-time expenditure in the coming year. We believe a bulk of spending on vaccines, from procuring to storing to transporting, distributing and inoculating, will happen in 2021-22,” said the official, who is aware of deliberations around the budget.