COVID-19 impact: Here's what Europe's new recovery budget is all about
This policy will play a crucial role in laying the foundations for a modern and more sustainable Europe.The Bridge Chronicle

COVID-19 impact: Here's what Europe's new recovery budget is all about

Recognised as the largest stimulus package, Europe's whopping COVID-19 recovery policy is making headlines everywhere. Here are some salient features of this budget.

As India heaves a sigh of relief with a drop in daily COVID-19 cases, Europe battles with what is being regarded as a 'painful second wave' of the outbreak. According to WHO, every seventeen seconds a person in Europe dies of COVID-19. Amid the rising graph of the death toll, Europe also struggles with its collapsing healthcare system and economy that the pandemic has brought forth.

However, to combat the economic and social damage caused by the virus, the European Commission, the European Parliament and EU leaders formulated a recovery plan built to lead the way out of the crisis. This policy, identified as the largest stimulus package, will play a crucial role in laying the foundations for a modern and more sustainable Europe. The budget of €1.8 trillion was eventually allotted after a dispute over spending priorities agreed upon at a marathon summit in July.

Salient features of Europe's recovery plan

European Parliament and EU countries in the Council, on the 10th of November 2020, reached upon an agreement on the subsequent long-term EU budget as well as NextGenerationEU. The agreement went over specific programmes under the long-term budget for 2021-2027 by a total of €15 billion. More than 50 per cent of this amount aims at supporting modernisation. Here is a breakdown of the financial framework:

The budget looks at repaying the €750 billion debt, and the EU will moreover take on to finance what is required for COVID-19 support and recovery. Furthermore, the novel €1.1 trillion budget supplements €16 billion for health, education and security over the July budget agreement.

Over the following weeks, EU lawmakers and governments will proceed to hash out the details of that €750 billion in coronavirus borrowing. Out of this, a whopping €672.5 billion is distributed to member states as loans and grants based on national recovery plans.

How does India's health budget fare?

In May 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced for a mega Rs 20 lakh crore stimulus package aimed primarily at COVID-19 recovery. The package worked out to 10 per cent of the GDP, making it one of the most substantial in the world. During his address to the nation, Narendra Modi also mentioned how the package will focus on land, labour, liquidity and laws. Additionally, it will cater to several sectors, including cottage industry, MSMEs, labourers, middle class, as well as the industries. However, despite the provisions made for these sections, the budget had its own limitations. According to Oxfam, an international confederation of charitable organisations, India ranked 129 out of 158 countries in the Commitment to Reducing Inequality (CRI) Index by Oxfam. However, it spent just four per cent of its budget on health going into the pandemic - making it the fourth lowest in the world.

While amid the official decisions taken to uplift the economy, India's healthcare system, which suffered a devastating blow, also required the attention that was long due. Here's where we can step up to be at par with the budgets around the world:

  • Giving more attention to public healthcare services: Often, the most neglected sector, public healthcare services in India need a significant upgrade. Most COVID-19 cases in the country are being treated at public hospitals, and the pandemic has proven the dire need of having a strong public healthcare system.

  • Providing for the frontline, healthcare workers: Healthcare workers work with a considerable risk at the forefront, and they need to be equipped with basic amenities. Issues such as the unavailability of PPE kits, understaffed hospitals and the delay their daily wages, should be dealt with firsthand.

  • Looking out for the rural pockets: The coronavirus pandemic highlighted the vulnerabilities of our metropolitan cities. And as they crippled under the pressure of the outbreak, India's rural pockets suffered in silence whilst trying to combat an alarmingly steep increase in cases.

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The Bridge Chronicle