An overall increase in the allocation is misleading as the increase in the allocation for health services is marginal, and it was imperative that systemic leakages were addressed to ensure the money was spent efficiently, they added
Experts have criticized the allocation for the health sector in the proposed budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year, terming it as lacking a coherent, long-term vision.
An overall increase in the allocation is misleading as the increase in the allocation for health services is marginal, and it was imperative that systemic leakages were addressed to ensure the money was spent efficiently, they added.
Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal on Thursday once again proposed keeping a Tk10,000 crore special allocation for emergency use in tackling Covid 19, but there was no mention of how the special allocation for FY21 was spent.
The minister said the health sector had been given the highest priority, ahead of stimulus packages and the agriculture sector, to address the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
He proposed Tk 32,731 crore for the health sector in FY22 against Tk 31,472 crore in FY21, amounting to a 3.8% increase. The proposed amount for FY22 is 0.95% of GDP, as compared to 1.02% in the current fiscal year.
Under the proposed budget, Tk25,914 crore is to be allocated for the Health Service Division of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), as compared to 25,734 crore in the revised budget for FY21.
Of the total amount, the Annual Development Plan (ADP) allocation for the HSD has been proposed at Tk13,000 crore. It was Tk 11,979 crore in the revised budget for FY21.
The Health Education and Family Welfare Division is set to receive an allocation of Tk6,817 crore, compared to Tk 5,738 crore in the ongoing year’s revised budget.
Covid response and loans
The minister said the government had provided a total of Tk49 crore as honoraria to 19,579 medical workers (two months basic salary for each) as of April this year.
However, many health professionals said they were in the dark over whether they would receive the honoraria due to a complex selection and calculation process.
The finance minister said the families of 132 public servants who died from Covid-19 had received compensation totalling Tk60 crore. However, leaders of healthcare professionals associations said only a handful of the families had been compensated.
In late May, Finance Division sources told Dhaka Tribune that only six doctors’ families had received compensation, and the compensation for other health care professionals was still in process.
The finance minister in his budget speech said the government was implementing various projects worth a total $ 800 million, including $600 million from World Bank (WB), $100 million from Asian Development Bank (ADB), and $100 million from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
The projects include the Covid-19 Emergency Response and Pandemic Preparedness project supported by WB and AIIB, and the Response Emergency Assistance project by ADB, which will involve the purchase of vaccines, installation of oxygen lines, setting up of ICUs/CCUs and other activities.
The finance minister said a loan agreement with ADB for $940 million to procure Covid-19 vaccines was at the final stage. Furthermore, there was a strong possibility of receiving support for vaccine procurement from the European Investment Bank and AIIB.
According to the minister, negotiations to procure the Sinopharm vaccine from China and Sputnik-V vaccine from Russia, and manufacture them in Bangladesh were at the final stage.
The government wants to vaccinate 80% of the population and there are plans to buy the vaccines from the Governments of China and Russia, Pfizer from the USA, and Sanofi/GSK from France/Belgium.
Not a visionary budget, no good news for poor
Dhaka University Institute of Health Economy Professor Syed Abdul Hamid said the health budget had been placed while keeping the immediate need for tackling Covid-19 in mind.
“There are no surprises for the general patients of the country. No long- or medium-term plans have been proposed to address the lack of manpower and medical infrastructure,” he added.
“The proposed budget shows that we are depending on loans for Covid-19 management. We need to remember that we will have to pay them back later,” the professor further said.
Health Rights Movement National Committee President Prof Dr Rashid-E- Mahbub said: “The people want a budget that will ensure health services at low expense. To meet this demand, the government needs to increase the budget for health services.
“But the budget does not reflect this. It shows a marginal increase of around Tk200 crore (Tk180 crore) here. Health education and family planning got the focus; they will receive an increase of Tk 1,000 crore in their budget,” he added.
“The government has increased the budget, but a small margin will not be effective. The ever-increasing inflation in the country will increase the cost of treatment and its related costs. The health sector budget actually was not increased, but had rather decreased,” he claimed.
Former BMA President Prof Rashid said the budget did not mention anything about health insurance, but this was required for the general people, especially during a pandemic.
“This budget did not bring any good news for patients,” he added.