Economist Dr Atiur Rahman on Monday urged the government to restructure the health sector to leverage the increased budgetary allocation for the sector for comprehensive and effective response to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
“The government should reform the health sector to leverage the increased budgetary allocation for the sector in a bid to combat coronavirus,” he said.Dr Atiur, a former governor of Bangladesh Bank (BB), made the remarks while addressing a reaction meeting on the proposed national budget. Development agencies -- Unnayan Shamannay and Bangladesh Health Watch -- jointly organised the meeting.
He also emphasised the importance of data-driven assessment to reap mass benefits with more efficiency.
Dr Atiur was present at the meeting as the chief guest while BHW convener Dr Mushtaque Raza Chowdhury conducted the session.
The ex-BB governor said policymakers have been rightly cautious about increasing budgetary allocations for the health sector, considering the spending efficiency.
He also pointed out that because of the strong macroeconomic base Bangladesh is currently enjoying, the country need not worry too much about deficit financing and growth rate.
“Rather the focus now should be on collecting adequate vaccines so that 60 to 70 percent of the population can be vaccinated within the next fiscal year. Getting the vaccines in time will require smart diplomacy and support from the international development partners,” he said.Dr Atiur praised the proposed budget having tax incentives for private investors of health sector considering people of Bangladesh depending heavily on the private sector for healthcare.
Dr Mushtaque Raza mentioned that the share of health in the total budget has been hovering around 5 percent of the total budget, which needs to be significantly higher.
“More concerning fact is that the responsible authorities are not managing to efficiently spend the subpar allocations,” he said.
President of Bangladesh Health Reporters’ Forum Toufiq Maruf as a panel discussant also emphasised the need for implementation efficiency and called for restructuring of the system to avoid leakages and spillages.
Population Council Country Director Dr Ubaidur Rob said Bangladesh will require approximately 1.5 billion USD to vaccinate the citizens adequately, and the government can easily opt to take a loan from the reserve without hurting the macro economy.