India's medical infra well prepared to deal with possible third COVID wave, says FM
India has ramped up its medical infrastructure and is well prepared to deal with the situation if there is a third wave of COVID-19, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Thursday, adding that enhanced revenue collection would help in meeting the challenges.
Speaking at the India Global Forum, she also said with economic activity picking up, the government's planned CPSE privatisation drive is on course.
"... No one wishes a third wave but on the infrastructure, medical infrastructure, I think we have given that kind of attention... we have announced different measures to improve on the medical infrastructure, in Tier 2 and 3 cities and not just those in metropolitan towns.
"The ramping up of medical infrastructure, looking at different segments of the population, looking at children, is happening at good speed. God forbid, if there is a third wave, we are medical infrastructure wise well prepared," she said.
Announcing fresh stimulus measures earlier this week, Sitharaman had said additional funding of Rs 23,220 crore would be given to states for setting up of paediatric care and beds in hospitals.
A Rs 50,000 crore credit guarantee scheme for setting up of medical or health infrastructure by private hospitals in cities other than eight metropolitan cities was also announced as part of measures for reviving the economy battered by a severe second wave of COVID-19.
The minister further said 45-50 lakh people per day are getting vaccinated and a total of 33 crore people have received vaccination.
"The way in which we are moving towards greater coverage in vaccination, I hope we would able to keep most of the vulnerable population from the attack of the virus," Sitharaman said.
She also said GST revenues have kept up pace in the last eight months and crossed Rs 1 lakh crore.
"I hope that will be sustaining because now there is no national level lockdown, economic activity is happening and its picking pace. So revenue generation, I think, will give us a bit more leeway to be able to keep some resources for meeting up with the challenge."
The minister also said in dealing with both waves of the pandemic, the government has used the "maximum possible leverage" that it had in terms of access to common people.
With regard to privatisation, Sitharaman said it helps bring in private sector efficiency. Due to the pandemic, there were not many share sale offers in 2020, she pointed out.
"... this year when the economy is about to open up and hopefully without much of worry, with vaccinations happening, I expect to go ahead with the (privatisation) programme ... We are on course," she said.
The government aims to mop up Rs 1.75 lakh crore in the current fiscal from minority stake sale and privatisation.
Of the Rs 1.75 lakh crore, Rs 1 lakh crore is to come from selling government stake in public sector banks and financial institutions, and Rs 75,000 crore would come as CPSE disinvestment receipts.
In her Budget speech, Sitharaman had said that strategic disinvestment of BPCL, Air India, Shipping Corporation of India, Container Corporation of India, IDBI Bank, BEML, Pawan Hans, Neelachal Ispat Nigam Ltd, among others, and IPO of LIC would be completed in 2021-22.
Also, the process of privatisation of IDBI Bank is slated to be completed in the current fiscal.