India claims it will boost health spending by $100B

People waiting at a hospital in India. Photo by: Morgan Schmorgan / CC BY-NC

NEW DELHI — India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a $100 billion boost to the country’s health services by 2025 on Wednesday, but advocates expressed doubt about whether and how the money would materialize.

The huge figure represents 2.5 percent of India’s gross domestic product, up from 1.15 percent, and an actual increase in health spending of 345 percent over the current share, according to Modi.

“We are committed to increasing India’s health spending ... We will continue to work for the betterment of people,” Modi said as he made the announcement during a speech at the Partners’ Forum on maternal, newborn, and child health. The conference, which has convened around 1,200 delegates from 85 countries in the Indian capital this week, takes place every four years to take stock of progress on the well-being of women, adolescents, and children.

The pledge comes after India launched an ambitious health insurance program — popularly known as Modicare — in September, which aims to reach half a billion people with free health services.

Helga Fogstad, executive director of the Partners’ Forum, which is hosted by the World Health Organization, said in a statement: “We welcome this generous pledge and acknowledge India’s continued efforts to improve the health and wellbeing of women, children, and adolescents ... With this commitment we can look forward to more collaboration in the future.”

But just as skeptics saw the launch of Modicare as a vote winner ahead of elections early next year, some delegates at the conference expressed doubt.

“Is this announcement being taken seriously or is this just an eye-wash before the election?” asked Bhavani Giddu, an advocacy communications professional specializing in public health and development in India. “Is he going to keep the commitment to health if he gets in again — and if he doesn’t, will the new government follow through?” In any case, she added, “where is the money coming from?”

The Partners’ Forum has gathered government ministers from around the world, alongside United Nations and civil society representatives. Modi used his opening speech to highlight advances in health care during his time in office.

Elections will be held in April or May 2019.

Update, Jan. 1, 2018: This article has been updated to clarify that India’s new health insurance program — popularly known as Modicare — aims to reach half a billion people with free health services.

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  • Jessica Abrahams

    Jessica Abrahams is Editor of Devex Pro. Based in London, she helps to oversee news, features, data analysis, events, and newsletters for Devex subscribers. She previously served as Deputy News Editor and as an Associate Editor, with a particular focus on Europe. Before joining Devex, she worked as a writer, researcher, and editor for Prospect magazine, The Telegraph, and Bloomberg News, among other outlets. She holds graduate degrees in journalism from City University London and in international relations from Institut Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionals.