Covid Pandemic is Bust : The Population Pandemic Awaits

Covid Pandemic is Bust : The Population Pandemic Awaits


Recently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) played Beating the Retreat on Covid-19 and proclaimed that the global emergency on Covid is Over. The end tally of the Covid War Losses:

  • 765,222,932 confirmed cases;
  • 6,921,614 deaths;
  • Glaring short comings of healthcare infrastructure;
  • Economic and social disruption:
    • Nearly half of the world’s 3.3 billion global workforce are at risk of losing their livelihoods, pushing nearly 0.82 billion into extreme poverty
  • 25% increase in prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide, affecting the mental health and well-being of people of all ages.
  • Entire food system is affected due to weather changes and disruptions in the supply chains, reducing access to healthy, safe and diverse diets.

While the post Covid war reparations are underway, there was another bugle on the population front. Last year we added the 8th billion human on earth. This is going to be another pandemic in the waiting. The healthcare needs for 8 billion people is a horror war movie in the making. Closer home, India is going to be the most populated country in the world next year.

The Demographics of Population Pandemic

Global Population Pandemic

As a thumb rule, global population growth will stabilize when the birth rate and the death rate are equal. We will continue to grow till the fertility rate ie. the number of children born per woman falls below 2.1. As per various scenarios, the world population, currently around 8 billion, is expected to reach 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100, and then decline gradually.

How we reached 8 Billion People on Earth?
How we reached 8 Billion People on Earth?

India’s Population Pandemic

India’s population is expected to peak at 1.65 billion by 2060 and then decline gradually. According to reports woman fertility rate falls below 2.1 by 2030. India’s demographic transition from a high-fertility and high-mortality society to a low-fertility and low-mortality society. (From 2.33 children per woman in 2015 to 2.03 children per woman in 2021, while the life expectancy at birth has increased from 67.7 years in 2015 to 69.4 years in 2021. The population pyramid also shows that the number of children under 15 years old peaked in 2011 and has been declining since then, while the number of elderly above 65 years old has been increasing steadily. Also read: According to a report by The Times of India, India’s population will stabilize only in 2050 (2047 is our Amrit Kaal Amrit Kaal : Budget 2022 | Kapil Khandelwal KK) when the death and birth rate will be balanced. Also we have a higher than usual healthcare acuity due to our genetic make up Tedx Archives | Kapil Khandelwal KK

Managing India Population Pandemic, Its About Quality of Life and Health

For the Covid pandemic, India quickly ramped up the production of Covid Vaccine and also played the vaccine diplomacy. Over billion doses of Covid vaccine was supplied globally to different countries apart from immunising billion Indians. India has built global scale capacity for facing the pandemics. India is also looking to champion the agenda of healthcare for the Global South in its Chairmanship for the G-20 this year. But the issue around the demographics of the population pandemic goes beyond providing for healthcare. 

As we plan ahead for the Amrit Kaal 2047 when India’s population growth stabilises, I have been writing and speaking on what is required. Let’s use the Roti, Kapda, Makaan, Dava-Daru (the last one is already addressed in my Tedx Talk Read Healthcare For All | Kapil Khandelwal KK)

  • Food security: We have to feed 1.6 billion mouths by 2047 two square mealsx365 days a year. We don’t have enough land mass to be able to produce food at that large quantum. Intensive, industrial scale agriculture would have to be introduced with Green Revolution 2.0. (see PM Task Force Report on Food and Agri Reform Food And Agri Reforms | Kapil Khandelwal KK)
  • Water Scarcity: For sustaining life, we had addressed linking of north rivers to south rivers and regenerating the water table
  • Sustainable Smart Cities: by 2047 over 60% of the population will be urbanized and would need sustainable and healthy living environment on a very concentrated urban land mass with lower levels of pollution.
  • Healthcare for All: We urgently need to invest USD 360 billion to come up to global standards on healthcare metrics. In addition, another USD 675 billion in the healthcare and life sciences value chain to sustain our current and future population and the health acuity today.

Let’s live and let live in a world that can sustain this population pandemic!

Assisted by ChatGPT  😉

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Budget 2022: When is Healthcare’s Amrit Kaal Coming?

Budget 2022


On 1 February 2022, our Hon. Finance Minister presented her fourth budget in the Parliament and introduced the “Amrit Kaal” in Point 4 of her speech, “we are marking Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, and have entered into Amrit Kaal, the 25-year-long leadup to India@100. Hon’ble Prime Minister in his Independence Day address had set-out the vision for India@100.”

Point 5 of the Budget Speech outlined the vision for Amrit Kaal, “By achieving certain goals during the Amrit Kaal, the government aims to attain the vision. They are:

  • Complementing the macro-economic level growth focus with a micro-economic level all-inclusive welfare focus,
  • Promoting digital economy & fintech, technology enabled development, energy transition, and climate action, and
  • Relying on virtuous cycle starting from private investment with public capital investment helping to crowd-in private investment.

The Finance Minister has envisioned to develop ‘sunrise opportunities’ such as artificial intelligence, genomics, and pharmaceuticals to assist sustainable development and modernise the country. However, this is more on the supply side industrial development. But the core issue of healthcare infrastructure is not addressed. Envisioning the Indian population which we would like to be a healthy one by 2047 when we enter India@100. I believe that Budget 2022 missed out a huge opportunity in envisioning Healthcare 2047! Here are my reasons.

Current Undergoing Transformation in Healthcare

The country has undergone a tough time during the pandemic. The Government has played its enabling role in ensuring the supply chain disruptions with China does not lead into a health crisis of sorts. On the other hand, the funding of Covid-Vaccine and immunization has ensured that the country emerges quickly into an endemic phase of Covid pandemic. While this was going on, there was strengthening and upgrade of the digital health infrastructure. The pandemic has also taught lessons to the private healthcare delivery ecosystem to restructure their business models and ensure that there is a push toward lower costs healthcare delivery models. These transformations have demonstrated India’s resilience in its healthcare systems to face emergency situations like the current pandemic.  

India’s Amrit Kaal’s Population Demographics

As the chart below demonstrates that India’s population by 2047 will be shifting towards middle age bulge. Over 300 million (~19% of the total population) will be senior citizens by 2047. Our dependency ratio will be around 40%. These 40% will be in the tax paying bracket which will provide the then Finance Minister in 2047 the revenues to spend for different welfare programs including healthcare.

India's Population Pyramid Shifts to 2047
India’s Population Pyramid Shifts to 2047

Lessons from Elsewhere in the World

In early 2000, I was involved in restructuring the healthcare systems of Saudi Aramco. Being the largest oil producer in the world, the company had been underfunding the pension and healthcare benefits of their employees who were going to be retiring in the future. The financing of these healthcare benefits created a financial crisis of sorts which have to be funded.

USA has also being facing such challenges when its baby boomers have now become unproductive senior citizens and their total healthcare bill is currently 18% of their GDP.

Vision for India’s Amrit Kaal Healthcare Delivery to Avoid Maha Kaal

As per current estimates, our country requires USD 400 billion of investments in healthcare infrastructure on our current demography to meet the global norms. There are no allocation in the current National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) funding for healthcare. Therefore much of the investment will be private sector driven in the future for healthcare infrastructure.

Such experiences elsewhere in the world remind me that our Amrit Kaal in 2047 does not end up as Maha Kaal of our Amrit Kaal where we would have to look up to Indian Gods who were invoked to end the situation. There have been several demands in the last few budget to accord infrastructure status to the healthcare industry. The current budgetary allocations to healthcare all though increasing has not been sufficient to build capital formation for healthcare infrastructure in the country. From the current 2.5% of GDP, there needs to broaden the spend on healthcare. We need the real picture of the input and outputs in healthcare. With the current GST regime of zero tax on healthcare services, we are not able to gather the real value of healthcare in the country and healthcare should be under minimum GST slab so that there is pass through benefits of the inputs that are set off. This will lead to a lot of transparency and provide real hard estimates of healthcare spend of the country.

Assuming by 2047 our dependency ratio will be lower than today. Which means that the total taxpaying population in 2047 may be same as today or even lower. There needs to be a plan to ensure that current taxes from the current population who will become senior citizens by 2047 will be underfunded like in the examples that I have mentioned below, leading into a budgetary crisis.

In all earnest, given the current constraints the current budget 2022 could do so much for healthcare. But now that the Amrit Kaal is out of the bag, there needs adequate focus to healthcare to avoid healthcare Maha Kaal in 2047 when we enter India@100.