Allocation for health sector draws flak
The falling share of funds for health in the proposed budget has drawn sharp criticism from experts.
They argue that the proposed financial plan for the health sector does not go in line with sustainable development targets.
The budget for fiscal 2015-16 proposed Tk 12,695 crore for the health and family welfare ministry.
Though the amount is a Tk 1,157 crore hike from the outgoing fiscal year's allocation, the sector's share in the total budget has declined 0.51 percent.
“Health is a cross-cutting issue and has become more important as we look towards the Sustainable Development Goals from next year,” said noted economist Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman.
“However, nothing of this sort has been reflected in the budget,” he said.
In terms of the Universal Health Coverage, the scenario is not comfortable at all in Bangladesh, Zillur said.
The higher ratio of allocation for health and statements on improving its governance were much expected, but the budget says nothing about it, he observed.
The World Health Organization recommends $54 per capita spending on health, but it is only $27 in Bangladesh.
On the other hand, out-of-pocket expenditure for health in Bangladesh is 63 percent of total health expenditure.
The high health expenditure pushes 4 to 5 million people into poverty every year, while many fail to seek healthcare, according to the National Health Account 2011.
Dr Hossain Zillur, executive director of Power and Participation Research Centre, argued that while poverty rate has dropped in Bangladesh, poverty vulnerability has increased due to private health expenditure.
“Also, health is linked to worker productivity. Not only skill, but also good health of worker has direct consequences on economy.
“So, health must be given high priority as we are talking about reaching middle income status in near future,” he told The Daily Star.
Prof Syed Masud Ahmed, director at the Centre of Excellence for Universal Health Coverage at the Brac Institute of Global Health, said it was true that there was a huge governance problem in utilising resources.
But that does not mean the share of allocation should be cut down, he observed.
To sustain the development Bangladesh achieved, health and education are two priority areas that need special allocation, but the proposed budget reflects the opposite, he said.
“It is very unfortunate that the budget said nothing about the universal health coverage [that ensures quality healthcare without facing financial burden],” Ahmed said.
The finance minister talked about plans to provide 13,861 mini laptops to community clinics, expanding telemedicine and voucher schemes for the poor mothers, which is fine.
But major health issues like non-communicable diseases and ensuring quality drugs were not mentioned in the budget speech, he said.
“We hope the government will consider all these issues,” he added.