Friday, 1 July, 2022

‘Health budget not adequate to meet demand’

‘Health budget not adequate to meet demand’

Health experts said the proposed health budget should be revised by increasing the allocation in a bid to ensure proper healthcare services for the country’s people.

"The growth of budgetary allocation for the health sector proposed for fiscal 2022–23 is not enough as the increased amount will meet the incremental costs and inflationary measures," Prof. Dr. Syed Abdul Hamid, former director at the Institute of Health Economics at Dhaka University, told the Daily Sun.

He said there was no novelty in the budget allocation for the health sector other than the expansion of the maternal health voucher scheme in some upazilas.

Unveiling the national budget in Jatiya Sangsad, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal on Thursday proposed allocating Tk 36,863 crore for the health sector for the 2022-23 fiscal year.

He proposed an allocation of Tk 36,863 crore, or 5.43 percent of the total national budget of Tk 6,78,064 crore for the upcoming fiscal year.

 "Considering the health sector as a priority, we are proposing an allocation of Tk. 36,863 crore for the health and family welfare sector in the next fiscal year 2022-2023." The allocation is meant for the overall development of the sector," the minister said.

The allocation for the Health Services Division, Health Education Division, and Family Welfare Division is up TK 4,132 crore, or 12.62 percent, from TK 32,731 crore last year.

However, AHM Mustafa Kamal had proposed an allocation of Tk.32,731 crore for the health sector for the fiscal year 2021–2021, which was 5.2 percent of the total budget of the previous fiscal.

While the overall budget growth is about 14.24 percent for the fiscal year 2022-23, the minister this time has proposed only a 12.62 percent increase for the health sector.

The minister has proposed TK 29,282 crore for the health service division for the next fiscal, while it was Tk26,165 crore in the outgoing fiscal.          The Health Education and Family Welfare Division has received a proposed allocation worth Tk 7,582 crore for the next fiscal, which was Tk 6,110 crore in the outgoing fiscal.

"Bearing in mind the COVID-19-related health hazards, we are also proposing a block allocation of Tk5,000 crore for the coming fiscal year," he said.

The finance minister has proposed Tk 100 crore for an ‘Integrated Health-Science Research and Development Fund’ for the next fiscal year.

The proposed allocation is 5.43 percent of the total budget outlay, while 6.2 percent of this year's revised budget, while the allocation for the health sector is below one percent of the country’s GDP.

The country's public spending on healthcare has been hovering around one percent of the GDP for many years, although the WHO recommends it be at least 5 percent.

 Bangladesh's healthcare system has already been struggling with the increasing burden of diseases, low coverage, and an inadequate national budget. As the size of the budget increased every year, the allocation for the health sector rose too. But in terms of the percentage of the total budget, it remained around 5 percent over the years.

Abdul Hamid further said the allocation for the Integrated Health Science Research and Development Fund is Tk100 crore, the same as last year, while the cost of research materials has been increased already.

"The coronavirus pandemic has shown the gaps in our health sector. Experiencing the problems of the health sector, we have to bring change to it. Unfortunately, the proposed health budget didn’t reflect any initiative to do that," the health economist added.

 While talking to the Daily Sun about the proposed health budget, Prof Dr Rashid-E-Mahbub, chairman of the National Committee on Health Rights Movement, said, "There is nothing new in the proposed health budget. The budget is not also adequate to ensure proper health care services for people."

He said growth of the allocation for the health sector will meet the incremental costs and inflationary measures as a large amount will be expended for salaries of the employees of the health sector.

Actually, the proposed health budget cannot improve medical care for patients as people’s out of pocket expenses will rise and poor patients will suffer. The government will have to pay sincere attention to the health sector and reorganise it for universal health coverage," Rashid-e-Mahbub added.

Dr Ehteshamul Haque Chowdhury, secretary-general of Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA), told the Daily Sun that the proposed health budget is not enough to cater to the needs of the health sector. The health budget should be revised by increasing the amount of the budgetary allocation."

He also suggested increasing the capacity to spend the budgetary allocation properly. "However, at the same time, I’m happy that the government has kept an allocation of Tk 100 crore for research and Tk 5,000 crore for emergency situation."