Union Budget 2024-25: Allocations for health, education fail to meet targets under government policies

Health budget target was 2.5% of GDP by 2025, education target at 6%  

By Vibha Varshney
Published: Friday 02 February 2024
At village levels, primary schools and primary health networks play a large role in people's lives. Photo: iStock

Union Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman presented the budget speech February 1, 2024 with no extraordinary promises for the financial year 2024-25. 

As always, the health sector received little traction this year too. For years, experts have suggested that the health budget should be at least 3 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) and even the National Health Policy, 2017 put the target for increasing the budget to at least 2.5 per cent of GDP by 2025. 

The FM allocated only Rs 90,171 crore to the health sector for the crucial election year 2024-2025. The health allocation at 2.5 per cent should have been Rs 8,19,000 crore, given the projected GDP for 2024-25 of Rs 3,27,71,808 crore. At 40 per cent, the Union government’s contribution should have been Rs 3,27,718 crore.

Similar to health, experts have long advocated for 6 per cent of GDP to be allocated to education. National Education Policy 2020 also advocates that 6 per cent of the GDP should be spent on the sector. This comes to Rs 19,66,309 crore, but in the current budget, education was allocated Rs 1,24,638 crore.

In the brief budget speech, the finance minister did make a few announcements on health, but none on education. One of the health-related announcements did pertain to education—there are plans to set up more medical colleges using the existing infrastructure in the country and a committee is likely to be set-up to make relevant recommendations. 

Experts have warned for decades that these two sectors require additional funding, but government after government has refused to provide it. 

The COVID-19 pandemic should have prompted a push for increased funding, at least in the health sector. The fact that school infrastructure played an important role in the fight against the virus suggests that this ministry, too, deserves more support than it has received thus far. At village level, on-the-ground networks such as primary health centres and primary schools play a large role in the lives of people.

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