India’s hidden challenges of employment, ageing and health
The budget for 2019 is a surreal mix of fact and fancy. While there is a belated recognition of investment as a barrier to the acceleration of growth and a sharp spike in the allocation for agriculture, primarily to finance higher minimum support prices (MSPs), healthcare—especially of the ageing, a growing share of the population—has been overlooked as a major priority. Huge losses of output inherent in the incapacity of the aged increasingly vulnerable to non-communicable diseases (e.g. diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer) are avoidable not just through higher outlays on health, but also through a reorganization of the health system with much greater emphasis on primary medical centres or PMCs. Ironically, neither renewed emphasis on investment-driven growth, nor higher outlays on agriculture, are likely to substantially boost employment. So, the vision of a resurgent India is distorted and lopsided, apart from the worry that the budget’s fiscal arithmetic is awry.