FM Announces Rs 23,220 Crore for Public Health Sector, with Focus On Children

Nirmala Sitharaman announced a credit guarantee scheme of Rs 1.1 lakh crore for COVID-affected sectors, including Rs 50,000 crore for scaling up medical infra in non-metro cities.

New Delhi: To tide over the economic slowdown heightened by the second wave of COVID-19, Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday, June 28, announced a slew of economic measures, including a credit guarantee scheme for improving health infrastructure and an extension to the already existing schemes.

Health infra

Sitharaman announced a credit guarantee scheme of Rs 1.1 lakh crore for the COVID-affected sectors, which includes Rs 50,000 crore for scaling up medical infrastructure in non-metro cities and Rs 60,000 crore for other sectors.

She also announced an additional support of Rs 23,220 crore for the public health sector, earmarked for this financial year, which will focus on emergency preparedness with a special emphasis on children and paediatric care. It will also focus on funding of medical HR augmentation through nurses and staff and doctors, equipment and ambulances, oxygen plants.

The monetary support to upgrade public health infrastructure with a special focus on children comes ahead of an impending COVID-19 third wave, which is said to affect children more.

For the health sector, a maximum loan of Rs 100 crore will be given with a capped interest rate of 7.95% and a guarantee will be provided for three years. Without a guarantee, it would have cost 9-10%. For other sectors, the interest cap is 8.25% with the same conditions.

The description and coverage will change as per the evolving needs.

MSME sector

Besides, the scope of Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS) has been raised to Rs 4.5 lakh crore from Rs 3 lakh crore, for the MSME sector facing liquidity crunch.

The existing limit for ECLGS scheme, announced as part of Rs 20 lakh crore Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan package in May 2020, was Rs 3 lakh crore. Last month, the finance ministry expanded the scope of the Rs 3 lakh crore ECLGS by including concessional loans to hospitals for setting up on-site oxygen generation plants.

Besides, the validity of the scheme was extended by three months to September 30 and or till guarantees for an amount of Rs 3 lakh crore are issued. The last date of disbursement under the scheme has been extended to December 31.

Under the ECLGS 4.0, 100% guarantee cover was given to loans up to Rs 2 crore to hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, medical colleges for setting up on-site oxygen generation plants.

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Tourism sector

Announcing measures to revive the tourism sector battered by the pandemic, the finance minister said financial support would be provided to more than 11,000 registered tourist guides, travel and tourism stakeholders.

She said once visa issuance for international travel is restarted, the first five lakh tourists will be issued visas free of charge. The total financial implication of this measure would be Rs 100 crore.

The scheme would be applicable till March 31, 2022, or till five lakh visas are issued, whichever is earlier.

This would incentivise short-term tourists visiting India, she said.

The government will also provide working capital or personal loans to people in the tourism sector to discharge liabilities or restart businesses impacted due to COVID-19.

Loans will be provided with 100% guarantee with a limit of Rs 10 lakh for travel and tourism stakeholders and Rs 1 lakh for registered tourist guides.

Other measures

According to news reports, the government has announced measures to provide farmers an additional protein-based fertiliser subsidy of nearly Rs 15,000 crore. This will be provided over and above Rs 85,413 crore budgeted allocation.

The government has relaunched the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana to provide free foodgrains till November 2021. This will have a financial implication of Rs 93,869 crore. The total financial implication under this scheme is Rs 227,841 crore.

The government has extended the Atmanirbhar Bharat Rozgar Yojana, which was coming to an end on June 30, to incentivise employers to create new jobs and restore loss of employment through the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO). The scheme will now continue till 31 March 2022.

(With inputs from PTI)