Thursday, 7 July, 2022

Experts for higher health budget in FY23

The country’s health sector needs adequate allocation in the upcoming national budget as per the recommendation of WHO to ensure proper health services for all, say experts.

“Bangladesh’s budgetary allocation for the health sector is lower than other countries. I demand at least 10 percent of the total budget for the health sector,” Prof Dr Sharfuddin Ahmed, Vice-Chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), told the Daily Sun.

He also said the government should adopt a health insurance policy to ensure Universal Health Coverage.

Talking to the Daily Sun, Prof Dr. Syed Abdul Hamid, former director of the Institute of Health Economics of Dhaka University, said the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends allocating at least 12-15 percent of the budget for the health sector.

“At least 10 per cent of the total national budget should be allocated for the health sector to ensure proper health services for all citizens,” he added.

Syed Abdul Hamid has also emphasized carrying out proper needs assessments for the country’s health sector in a bid to ensure proper budgetary allocation.

“The lack in existing line items and the missing line items in health sector should be identified before allocating funds as per the needs,” the health economists said.  

Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal had allocated Tk 32,731 crore for the health sector in the budget for FY 2021-22.

The proposed allocation is 5.42 per cent of the total budget outlay while 5.84 per cent of this year's revised budget and only 0.95 per cent of GDP.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has set at least 5 per cent of GDP spending on health as a minimum requirement for a country.

Unnayan Shamannay Chair, Dr Atiur Rahman, presenting the keynote paper at a virtual pre-budget dialogue recently said the authorities should discard the practice of allocating 5-6 per cent of the national budget in healthcare.

Pointing out that usually25 per cent of the health sector allocations go to primary healthcare, he said this should be increased to 30 per cent in the upcoming fiscal and raised to 35-40 per cent in the medium term.

"If the allocations for providing free-of-cost medicine for the people can be tripled, the out-of-pocket health expenditure                 can be reduced from 68 per cent to 58 per cent," said Dr Atiur, a former governor of the Bangladesh Bank.

Talking to the Daily Sun, Dr Ehteshamul Haque Chowdhury, secretary-general of Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA), said the health budget for FY 2022-23 should be at least 3-4 per cent of the GDP.

Referring to the WHO’s recommendation for allocating a minimum of 5 per cent of the GDP for the health sector, he lamented that sadly the country’s health budget remains within one per cent of the GDP, which is not ideal.

Dr Ehteshamul Haque also emphasized on proper utilisation of the budgetary allocation through making skilled manpower and ensuring accountability.

Mentioning that the budgetary allocation for the health sector in fiscal 2021-22 was not enough to meet the needs of the country’s growing public health sector, the health experts said insufficient budget and lack of efficient use of the resources will further accelerate the out-of-pocket expenditure in the health sector.