• By Akshay Atmaram Tarfe
  • 01 Feb, 2023

February 1, 2023; New Delhi: The Union Budget has missed yet another opportunity in addressing the growing inequality in the country. The allocation for key social sector spendings like health and education continued to remain abysmally low in the Union Budget. Oxfam India disappointedly notes that despite high inequality, the Union Budget has announced tax cuts for the people from the highest income slab.

This year, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and AYUSH has been allotted INR 92,802.5 crores, which is an increase of 13.2 per cent from the last year’s Budget. Yet, the Union Government spending on health is now only a meagre 2.06 per cent of the total Union Budget which is less than half percent (0.35 per cent) of India’s GDP. The Union Government meanwhile has allocated an amount of INR 1,12,899 crore to the Ministry of Education. Though it is an increase of 13 per cent from FY 2022-23, this constitutes only 2.5 per cent of the total Union Budget. This makes the Union Government expenditure on education only 0.41 per cent of India’s GDP.

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Program (MGNREGA), a scheme that was crucial in providing assistance to the poor has also seen a cut in Budget allocation. During COVID-19 pandemic, MGNREGA protected most vulnerable households through employment opportunities. The Union Government’s MGNREGA budget reduction ignores socio-economic realities of the country where people desperately need employment guarantee. MGNREGA received only INR 60,000 crores for FY 2023-24, a 30 percent decrease from FY 2022-23. During the last year, the scheme received an allocation of INR 89,400 Cr (RE).

“While the poor and marginalised in the country continue to suffer a health, education, cost of living and climate crisis, the Finance Minister's Union Budget unfortunately offers no relief. Instead, the Budget provides further tax cuts and incentives to the rich in the country. Inadequate allocation in the health and education sector runs the risk of depriving the socio-economically marginalised populations from good-quality education and healthcare. After the COVID-19 pandemic, the Union Finance Minister had a historic opportunity to reset our economy to address the obscene inequality being witnessed in the country. Sadly, this has not happened. We urge the Union Government to change the track and immediately enhance the budgetary allocation of the health sector to 2.5 per cent of GDP, as envisaged in the National Health Policy, to reinvigorate the public healthcare system. The Union Government must also enhance the budgetary allocation for education to the global benchmark of 6 per cent of GDP, as also committed in the National Education Policy,” said Amitabh Behar, CEO, Oxfam India.

*Note to the editor: All figures are Revised Estimates (RE) from the Union Budget 2022-23.


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