'All in all, a good Budget': PR & Comms industry hopes for a steady revival of economy
The union budget shows that the government is focused on economic recovery in a pragmatic manner and has kept the healthcare industry at the heart of its revival story, say experts
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented first-ever digital Union Budget on 1st February 2021. Along with announcing a slew of taxation reforms, she also stressed on strengthening the Healthcare sector of the country while also giving impetus to digitization in a pandemic hit economy.
After the budget announcement, players in the PR and Corp Comm fraternity have welcomed the “reformist” budget and are hopeful of clients coming back on retainers. On the occasion, experts spoke to exchange4media to weigh in on the Union Budget and what it means for the industry.
Edited Excerpts below:-
Kunal Kishore, VP - PRCAI
'All in all, a good Budget'
“The Union Budget for 2021-22 is a reformist one that reimagines India's self-reliance like never before and will drive the revival of the economy from the impact of the pandemic with enhanced spending. This is an extremely balanced Budget given that the economy is just emerging out from a contraction and the risk of pandemic is still around. The government has relied on increasing government spending to boost the economy.
There are quite a few measures that will have a long-term positive impact on the Indian economy including the formation of Asset Reconstruction Company, measures to combat air pollution, divestment of public sector banks, increase in FDI limit in Insurance, promotion of digital payments and increasing tax transparency through digitization.
The Budget has included SMEs/MSMEs as one of the sectors of focus. SMEs are the backbone of the country and have been contributing a huge chunk to the national GDP. As far as MSMEs are concerned, it is good news that the Centre has decided to double the allocation for the sector. The MSME sector, which was battered by COVID-induced lockdowns, needed a lifeline. By increasing their threshold for capitalisation, such companies will get certain relief and exemptions provided by the government.
The government has also focussed on boosting the startup ecosystem. Several measures announced in the Budget like the extension of tax-holiday and capital gains exemption for investment by another year are positive ones.
The focus on growth over fiscal consolidation, healthcare spending, infrastructure development and steps to further help the startup ecosystem is worth mentioning. The reforms, including privatisation of the public sector, are long-term measures, but considering that the government has indicated the direction it wants to take, there will be huge positives to emerge from each of these reforms.
Overall, the Budget rightly targets the areas to accelerate economic recovery without increasing any undue tax burden.”
Rohan Kanchan, MD - Consulting & Strategy, India- Weber Shandwick
“The union budget shows that the government is focused on continuing down the path to economic recovery in a pragmatic manner and has kept the healthcare industry at the heart of its revival story. The 137% increase in healthcare spending augurs well not only for access to medical care but also for fuelling job creation and building momentum for growth. The announcement of the centrally funded PM Swasthya Yojna scheme and the over 60k crore outlay needs a special mention. The tax incentives towards affordable housing and start-ups is a good ground-level boost to consumers and young entrepreneurs.
The Budget is candid in sharing that it will take a liberal approach to fiscal deficit and continue its borrowing programme from the external markets. At the same time, the fact that the government has not imposed a taxation regime on corporations and individuals to address the ongoing fiscal deficit reinvigorated the positive sentiments across the economic ecosystem. It now remains to be seen how the execution of the schemes and initiatives get rolled out and its overall acceptance by corporate India and people at home. Exciting times ahead!!”
Dr Rajiv Chhibber, Vice President External Affairs, Sahajanand Medical Technologies Pvt Ltd
“The thrust and emphasis on healthcare in the Union Budget 2021-22 is a strong commitment of India to fightback the pandemic and build a robust healthcare system. With a total allocation of Rs 2.23 lakh crore, an increase of around 137% from the past budget, and a focus on developing a capacity of primary, secondary and tertiary institutions in the next 6 years coupled with advancing Digital Health management and Nutrition through Mission Poshan 2.0, the urban and rural healthcare will surely get a booster dose. Further, the announcement of the PM Atmanirbhar Swasthya Yojna, with an outlay of 64180 crore, is a huge intervention especially since it focuses on new & emerging diseases, digital demographic profiling, and building healthcare lab and infrastructure facilities that will help address major gaps. The PLI Scheme for the Industry over the next 5 years will attract both domestic and global players to boost manufacturing, making drugs and medical devices affordable. Overall a promising budget that accelerates Atmanirbhar Bharat within the 6 pillars as announced by the Finance Minister.”
Paresh Chaudhry - Group President, Corporate Brand Custodian at Adani Group
“Despite huge challenges on fiscal deficits the FM has done a huge service to all citizens in supporting growth across sectors. It is a budget with a long term view. Tax has not been touched, senior citizens are protected, no capital gains. Overall, this is very positive for the economy and our people. We expect clients to come back with a bang on retainers."
Udit Pathak, Founder-Director, Media Mantra
“The most appreciable aspect for budget 2021 is reflected through the transparency that it is looking to purport on the arms of rampant digitization. There is most certainly some relief to be seen with no additional burden posed on the Indian consumer. India is standing at a pivotal moment & extremely positive sentiments are being developed to take the country toward the goal of Aatmanirbhar Bharat. The focus towards health care, infrastructure, banking and insurance, textile and agriculture will most certainly accentuate the economic growth potential.
"The focus given to better health management practices and appointing funds for infrastructure development will develop the backbone for economic efforts. The FM’s third Budget gives due weightage to the concerned industries that were impaired by the Covid-19 pandemic all while keeping the budget spend in perspective.”
Aman Gupta, Managing Partner & Co-founder SPAG Asia:
“The fact that the budget this year was paperless tells us a lot about how functionally things have changed over the year. We saw a lot of emphasis being laid upon Atmanirbhar Bharat and every sector will see the impact of that. For us at SPAG, the healthcare budget this year is significant. The increase in healthcare spending is a step in the right direction and puts much-needed emphasis on health infrastructure with a three-fold approach on preventive care, curative care and overall well-being. As specialists in healthcare communications, we have over the years urged for an increase in healthcare funding and the pandemic has managed to definitely put the sector in focus. Moreover, the budget allocation of Rs 35,000 crore for COVID-19 vaccines is a big move towards strengthening the immunisation programme. Especially at this critical juncture, how this budget is used to implement appropriate communications and trust-building strategies to expedite the vaccination programme will be crucial. However, usage and implementation of this budget for strengthening health systems along with an increased focus on data analytics to develop India-specific strategies will be key towards health for all Indians. Investment in primary healthcare is also an important step towards this reform.”
Aarti Laxmanan, Head- Corporate Communication (India & Global Operations), UFlex Limited
“In the budget presented by the Finance Minister, growth has certainly taken the center stage with some significant second-generation reforms announced such as privatisation in various segments, focused capital allocation and boost to infrastructure that will go onto stimulate demand. With the kind of environment where incomes and earnings are getting affected by the pandemic, no change (hike) in direct and indirect tax is certainly a welcome step for all taxpayers”.
Girish Balachandran- Managing Partner, ON PURPOSE, Communications for Social Change in India
“India's resurgence and recovery from the havoc of 2020 can only be realised if the growing inequality in society is addressed. While the Union Budget 2021 suggests increased spending on infrastructure and reforms that will enable job creation, it ignores, in large swathes the people who have lost their jobs in thousands (the travel and tourism sector), the poor people (reduction of MNREGA allocation), the working class (no relief in tax rates), the farmers and the common man (cesses levied on petrol and diesel). It is a budget for good times, not one that recognises the reality of many without voice, in these times. “
Dilip Yadav, Founding Partner, First Partners
“Union Budget is not merely a plan of the annual financial outlay for the nation. It is a big bold instrument of communication which positions how the heart and the mind of the ruling Government are placed. In this context, the 2021-22 Union Budget balances these twin goals by boosting the coronavirus-ravaged Indian economy without raising taxes.
A massive increase in healthcare and infrastructure spends at the cost of prudent fiscal deficit management demonstrates clear thrust on lives and livelihoods. Among the mega changes the pandemic triggered was a rapid growth in gig economy with more people chasing short-duration work for flexibility and safety. A social security framework for gig workers recognizes the significance of this class at a mass scale. In addition, measures to encourage R&D, startups and MSMEs will spur more local innovation and will eventually push forward global competitiveness for an Atmanirbhar Bharat.”
Anish Shah, Deputy Managing Director & CFO, Mahindra Group
“We believe that this is a bold and positive budget, perfect for an aspirational economy such as India. There are multiple drivers of long-term growth. We like the focus on agriculture, Capex, health and infrastructure, measures to attract global capital and PSB privatization. Importantly, all this without imposing any additional tax burden.”
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