A caricature of finance minsiter Pranab Mukherjee by Shreyas Navare
Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee is on Friday expected to present a social sector reform budget with higher allocations for health, education and skill development, besides a total sanitation programme.
Budget-2012 is likely to have a plan size of Rs. 5,21,000 crore - an 18 % increase - and will set into motion the social sector reform agenda of the UPA government in the first financial year of the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17).
A senior Planning Commission functionary said Mukherjee's budget would ensure that every paisa spent on the social sector is monitored, and has a measurable outcome.
The UPA government has almost doubled the allocation for its flagship school education scheme - the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan - in the last six years, and the budget for the health sector witnessed 73 % increase in allocation.
The total allocation for these sectors was over Rs. 1,00,000 crore during the period.
Although enrolment in primary schools is around 99%, student learning levels are still very low, and about one-third of the students drop out after the primary level. Hence, the budget would present a gradual shift in these two sectors. Sources said the 12th Plan would ensure higher emphasis on quality in school education, and provision of trained manpower for the health sector.
The budget for world's biggest social security scheme - the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Scheme -may witness a decline in funding to provide for 'toilets with bathing facility' to all households. As per the Census data released on Tuesday, 50% Indian homes do not have a latrine.
Another area that Mukherjee is expected to address is the challenge of the demographic dividend, with the average age of the Indian likely to be 29 years by 2020. The government plans to ensure skill development for 8.5 crore youngsters in the next five years, and build around 6,500 training centres for the purpose.