Bioscience sector expresses mixed feelings on Union Budget 2016

While most of the stakeholders have hailed the few announcements made on agriculture, health, social, and rural sectors, they feel that lot of expectations remained unattended. Overall the budget 2016 is a mixed bag. BioVoice brings to you the highlights and reactions:

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The Union Minister for Finance, Mr Arun Jaitley departs from North Block to Parliament House along with the Minister of State for Finance, Mr Jayant Sinha to present the General Budget 2016-17, in New Delhi on February 29, 2016.

Key highlights from the #Budget2016

 Health 

  • Basic dialysis equipment gets some relief. 2.2 lakh renal patients added every year in India.
  • A new health protection scheme for health cover upto 1 lakh per family.
  • National Dialysis Service Prog with funds thru PPP mode to provide dialysis at all district hospitals.
  • Senior citizens will get additional healthcare cover of Rs 30,000 under the new scheme
  • PM Jan Aushadhi Yojana to be strengthened, 300 generic drug store to be opened

 Education

  • Scheme to get Rs.500 cr for promoting entrepreneurship among SC/ST
  • Digital repository for all school leaving certificates and diplomas.
  • Rs. 1,700 crore for 1500 multi-skill development centres.
  • Entrepreneurship training to be provided across schools, colleges and massive online courses.
  • Objective to skill 1 crore youth in the next 3 years under the PM Kaushal Vikas Yojna-FM Jaitley
  • National Skill Development Mission has imparted training to 76 lakh youth. 1500
  •  Multi-skill training institutes to be set up.

Agriculture

  • Total allocation for agriculture and farmer welfare at Rs 35984 crores
  • 28.5 lakh heactares of land wil be brought under irrigation.
  • 5 lakh acres to be brought under organic farming over a three year period
  • Rs 60,000 crore for recharging of ground water recharging as there is urgent need to focus on drought hit areas cluster development for water conservation.
  • Dedicated irrigation fund in NABARD of Rs.20.000 cr
  • Nominal premium and highest ever compensation in case of crop loss under the PM Fasal Bima Yojna.
  • 4 new projects to be taken for dairy procurement. The government will issue animal health card and launch e-marketing portal for contacting breeders.

Startups

  • Startups to get 100% tax exemption for 3 years except MAT which will apply from April 2016-2019 for creation of jobs

While most of the stakeholders have hailed the few announcements focused on agriculture, health, social, and rural sectors, they feel that lot of expectations remained unattended. Overall the budget 2016 is a mixed bag. BioVoice catches the immediate reactions:

Health needs more attention, feel experts

As per Dr Vivekanand Jha, Professor of Nephrology at the PGIMER, Chandigarh and  Executive Director, George Institute for Global Health, India, “The new announcements on proposals related to improving the health of populations in India are heartening. The increased coverage on health promotion scheme is welcome but fall short of what would be adequate for coverage for treatment of major illnesses.

He added further, “It is interesting that the government has announced a National Dialysis Scheme – provision of dialysis has long been a benchmark for the willingness of governments around the world to provide healthcare to its populations. Once again – the devil will be in the details, for it is easy to spend a lot of money on dialysis for a relatively small proportion of the population. The move to provide affordable medicines is long overdue and most welcome. We however need a system of making sure the drug inventory and use is monitored, the generic and biosimilar industry is better governed. We hope the government under this scheme will foster development of fixed drug combinations for management of chronic diseases, and promote development of antimicrobial stewardship program.”

Dr Kenneth Thorpe, Chairman, Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, said that “it is important for the government both at the center and the state levels to understand that investment in the healthcare sector is a big opportunity for the country. With adequate allocation of the budget towards healthcare spend and at the same time devising policies to keep its productive workforce of as many as 12 million healthy, India may be in a better position to lead its way to more efficient and effective delivery of healthcare services as well as become the power capital of the world.”

Phtyopharma industry laments lack of attention

“The needs of the pharmaceuticals and Ayurveda industry did not get much attention in the Budget. No clear cut incentive has been provided for promoting the manufacture of plant-based medicines in India using modern plants and technology, even though there are sops for the farming community and food processing industry,” opined Mr Raman Mehta, Founder Alchem International- Leader in the field of phytoceuticals, “The government was expected to introduce several industry-friendly policies and incentives to provide a major push to the growth of the Indian bulk drug industry for it to be a formidable force globally. However, no major tax reforms (especially on the indirect tax front) have been announced by the Government.”

Taking about positives, Mr Mehta says, “A good thing in the budget is the announcement of a special patent regime with 10% rate of tax on income from worldwide exploitation of patents developed and registered in India. This will promote drug discovery in the private sector, especially in the Ayurvedic and phytomedicine segment which is expected to grow by leaps and bounds in the coming years.”

Agri-biotech stakeholders welcome budget

According to Dr Shivendra Bajaj, Executive Director, Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises, Agriculture Group (ABLE-AG), “The Finance Minister’s focus on agriculture in the Budget 2016-17 was keenly awaited and will enhance expenditure on the rural and agriculture sectors. Although the soil health card scheme, Fasal Bima Yojana and common e-market platform will help in improving the agriculture sector in the country. However it is disappointing to see no encouragement for agri-biotech research by public or private institutions for augmenting the agriculture sector. We further believe that for transforming the Indian agriculture, counter the ill-effects of climate change, improve livelihoods and address food requirements of the nation technological intervention is of utmost importance.”

“Giving an income orientation to farming is probably the most significant announcement by Finance Minister. On the whole budget has tried to be as pro-farmer as possible. Seeds have been sown for agricultural transformation & a new farming era,” mentioned the renowned scientist and father of green revolution, Dr M S Swaminathan in his reaction on Twitter.

Medical devices associations feel more could have been done

The medical devices industry feels that while it is encouraging to see the reduction in import duty on certain dialysis equipment, the budget could have been broad based by extending import duty exemption on devices across a broader spectrum. It has called for greater representation of the medical devices sector and benefits extended to diseases with high burden in India.

“Focus on enhanced healthcare facilities for rural population and medical insurance for senior citizens is laudable, but would have been happier if some concrete steps to bring down overall healthcare cost were also announced,” mentioned Mr Rajiv Nath, Forum, Coordinator, AIMED

As per Mr Varun Khanna’s (managing director of BD India and South Asia, Chairman of Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed) India working group, the union budget exudes optimism and provides some encouraging measures to help India towards rural development, infrastructure, tax reforms, and structural transformation. “The 9-pillar agenda was fairly strategic and is reflective of the Government’s intent of a long term programmatic approach,” he added.

BioVoice News will do a detailed analysis on the sector specific impact of the Budget 2016 in a series of articles shortly. Keep watching this space.