Amidst COVID scare, the traditional halwa making ceremony was called off this year. The budget is expected to be presented on the floor of the parliament via Tablet (electronically). While some experts don’t have any hopes from this year’s budget, others feel bullish. Currently the rate of inflation is elevated and a high fiscal deficit could mean more gap in the current account deficit which will in a way impact the rupee and add concerns. Rising interest rate could dampen the hopes to elevate the construction and infrastructure segment in 2022. While the industry is talking about new announcements in infrastructure, digitisation and agriculture, we feel that considerable allocation for the following three upcoming sectors is also justified: 

Healthcare industry expects respite, new initiatives would be welcome 

Interim COVID care package will be the key highlights under the healthcare budget allocations. Fresh funds for R&D, vaccines, APIs sector, support to newly created bodies such as The National Digital Health Mission (NDHM), Production Incentive Programs (PIPs) for domestic manufacture of essential Drug Intermediaries (DIs) is expected to boost morale. Considering the inflation, announcement on new med-device parks or Med-Tech parks may be few or none. 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' will remain the backbone of healthcare funding this year too, but new initiatives will be much in demand.  

Banking industry is uncertain, perhaps some structure and direction would be best  

Investors hope that STT is reduced to gain the trust of investors this year. Many accounts opened under the PM’s Jan Dhan Yojna are non-operational. Perhaps some special focus on digital banking, reconsidering the GST and TDS in few areas could boost the public sentiments that stand badly hit due to the pandemic.  

Indian banking system still carries the baggage of the British Raj, perhaps an online KYC (electronic and video) wont harm the public who prefer to work from home these days or, senior citizens who must restrict their mobility amidst the pandemic.   

ESG regulations must be mandatory for all, policies alone won’t make a difference 

Last year, India had introduced new environment, social, and governance (ESG) reporting requirements for the top 1,000 listed companies in the country by market capitalisation. From this financial year Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report (BRSR) reporting has been made mandatory. Currently India has ~7,400 listed companies as per NSE & BSE and it might take a while before mid-small players start implementing. Sustainability is a major area of concern and SEBI, and state level bodies (under PPP) must be created and empowered to monitor the measures. A phase wise implementation plan won’t harm. Compared to the US and Western Europe, India is still lagging in this sector and the policy makers must re-structure keeping in mind the best practices of the industry. 

Finally, the market should not keep too many hopes from this budget, considering the limitations like inflation, restricted growth, and other undisclosed reasons. Yes, it is true that this budget will see few key initiatives, but the impact can only be measured once they are implemented. As part of the new initiative, it would be a welcome change to see India’s healthcare spending to rise from 1.2 per cent of GDP to 1.8-2 per cent this year. Our union budgets have remained conservative towards healthcare; however, there is no harm in initiating new beginnings. Time to break traditions?