India Needs Jobs, Universal Healthcare & Reforms Across All Sectors: Economic Survey To Parliament
The second volume of Economic Survey 2016-17 was laid in the Parliament on Friday, 11 August. It was presented by Arvind Subramanian, the Chief Economic Adviser.
The first volume of the Economic Survey for this year was presented in January, right before the Union Budget was produced. The first survey recommended progress towards a universal basic income (UBI) and labour reforms, among other things. For an overview of the first Economic Survey, readers can click here.
Economic Survey Volume 2 has recommended several reforms across all sectors, including health, education, agriculture, energy, infrastructure and trade. The Survey also stated that achieving the upper end of projections for economic growth at 6.75-7.5% for the present financial year may be difficult.
Listed below are the salient points of recommendation made in the Economic Survey. For an overview of the policies undertaken by the government in 2017, click here. To read the entire Economic Survey, click here.
Agriculture & food management
The Survey noted that managing and reducing the various risks in agriculture activities can make the agricultural sector resilient, increase profitability and can ensure stable income flows to the farmers. The following reforms are suggested for increasing productivity in agriculture and allied sectors:
- The progress in agriculture needs to be evaluated in terms of outcomes such as catching up with global yields of various crops as a means to increase incomes of farmers.
- To address the price risks in agriculture and allied sectors, marketing infrastructure along the entire value chain needs to be built and strengthened.
- To address production risks, the share of irrigated area should be expanded by increasing the coverage of water saving irrigation systems like micro irrigation systems.
- To increase productivity of crops, standards should be set and enforced for better quality, pest and disease resistant seeds.
- Trade and domestic policy changes should be announced well before sowing and should stay till arrivals and procurement is over.
- To enhance women’s involvement in the dairy projects, funds should be earmarked through appropriate mechanisms.
- Providing timely and affordable formal and institutional credit to the small and marginal farmers is the key to inclusive growth.
- Regime based on timely interventions needs to be adopted.
Unemployment & underemployment
- Employment in India poses a great challenge in terms of its structure which is dominated by informal, unorganised and seasonal workers, and is characterised by high levels of under employment, skill shortages, with the labour markets impacted by rigid labour laws, and the emergence of contract labour.
Railways & airways
- Railways should go for more non-fare sources along with station redevelopment and commercially exploiting vacant buildings at the station, monetizing land along tracks by leasing out to promote horticulture and tree plantation, and through advertisement and parcel earnings.
- During the last few years the non-major ports are gaining more share of cargo handling compared to major ports. It is required to develop non-major port and also enhance their efficiency and operational capacity.
- Reforms such as privatization/ disinvestment of Air India, creation of aviation hubs and reconsidering the 0/20 rule are some suggestions to improve Indian airlines’ share in the international market.
- India needs to strengthen social infrastructure by investing in health and education.
- The deterioration in quality learning in primary education sector and achievement of targeted enrolment level in the middle education is a challenge
- The education policies need to be designed with focus on learning outcomes and remedial education with interventions which work and maximize the efficiency of expenditure. There is need for bio-metric attendance of school staff, independent setting of examination papers, neutral examination and for DBT for schools. There is need to adopt outcome measures for the education and skilling activities to ensure improvement in delivery of schemes/ programmes.
- The health sector in India faces many challenges in the form of declining role of public delivery of health services, high Out of Pocket (OoP) expenses on health and issues of accessibility and affordability of health services for many.
- There has to be concerted efforts by the Central and State governments to reform the health sector, by addressing quality issues, standardising rates for diagnostic tests, generating awareness about alternative health systems and introduction of punitive measures like fines on hospitals and private health providers for false claims through surgery, medicines etc. For more equitable access to health services, government should provide health benefits and risk cover to poorer sections of the society.
Climate change, sustainable development & energy
- There is an urgent need to further increase the access of the poor to more efficient energy resources.
- India is at a stage of development that requires it to grow at a fast rate and lift the large number of their citizens from below the poverty line. Energy deprivation levels for a sizeable portion of population remain at high levels. The SDG 7 is to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
- Social cost analysis of coal and renewables based power done in the chapter indicate higher social costs for renewables. Storage costs and stranding of assets based on coal based power are major costs associated with the renewables based power. Given that the first goal for India is to provide 100 per cent energy access to its population and bridge the development deficit gap, all energy sources need to be tapped.