India's health budget to be cut by 20% !

The government has ordered a cut of almost 20% in the 2014/15 healthcare budget due to fiscal strains. Health Ministry officials said $948 million has been slashed from the budget allocation of around $5 billion for the financial year ending March 31. The move is putting at risk disease control initiatives in India whose public spending on health is already among the lowest in the world. Over the past two decades successive governments have kept a tight rein on healthcare expenditure. India spends some 1% of its GDP on public health. Hopes are high however that PM Narendra Modi will upgrade the basic health infrastructure and make medical services more affordable for the poor. Dominated by private players India's healthcare industry is growing at around 15%, but public spending has remained low and resulted in a dilapidated network of government hospitals and clinics, especially in rural areas. The move could also derail an ambitious universal healthcare programme that Modi wants to launch. The Finance ministry has also ordered a spending cut for India's HIV/AIDS programme.