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In Covid-19 times, budget gives nation’s health a shot in the arm

  • Published at 10:50 am June 11th, 2020
Coronavirus Doctor
File photo: A doctor gives treatment to a patient Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

Tk 10,000 crore to combat pandemic as allocations jump by 23%

Battered by the Covid-19 pandemic, Bangladesh has accorded the health sector the highest priority in the national budget for FY 2020-21.

Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal has proposed raising the allocation for the health services to Tk29,247 crore in the next fiscal year to deal with the impacts of the novel coronavirus.

The figure is a 23% increase from the revised allocation of Tk23,692 crore for the outgoing 2019-20 fiscal year.

According to the minister, the government has made a slight deviation this year from the traditional budget in order to combat the deadly coronavirus and overcome its economic impacts.

“A structural change has been brought about in this year’s budget in terms of setting the priorities of the government. The health sector has been given the highest priority and provisions have been made for this sector in the form of additional allocation, incentives, compensations,” he said.

To fulfill emergency requirements of the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic, the finance minister has proposed setting aside another Tk 10,000 crore.

“The government will do whatever is required to be done to address the pandemic,” he said while unveiling the budget in parliament yesterday.

The health sector allocation includes Tk22,883 crore for the Health Services Division, which will be spent on services by giving priority to activities undertaken to combat Covid-19. 

 The rest, Tk6,363 crore, will be spent on health education and family welfare.

Currently, 13 ministries and divisions, other than the health ministry, are implementing programs related to health and family welfare. 

The allocation for this purpose in the budget for the upcoming fiscal year is Tk. 41,027 crore, which is 1.3% of GDP and takes the figure to 7.2% of the total budget allocations, he added. 

“Our government’s objective is to transform the health sector by developing a research culture in the country through formulating new policies or revising existing ones in coordination among different government departments,” Kamal said.

Tk100 crore proposed for medical research

For the last ten years, the allocation for the development of health services, especially for research, has remained very low.

However, the budget proposed for the next fiscal year has set aside Tk100 crore in firepower for an 'Integrated Health-Science Research and Development Fund’.

 "A high-powered committee consisting of experienced researchers in the health sector, nutritionists, public health experts, sociologists, economists, environmentalists, civil society and other suitable representatives will be formed to manage this fund efficiently and effectively," Finance Minister Kamal said in his budget speech.

 The time has come to ensure a better healthcare system for all by assimilating the country’s public health, medical education and health services and having them developed through local research on the basis of the developed world’s health education and science and technology, he added.

 The battle against Covid-19 has exposed several weaknesses in the health sector that have prompted the government to formulate plans to sustain its long-term achievements as well as prevent and combat any kind of outbreak in future, according to Kamal.

 Stressing the need to invent sustainable methods of combating any pandemic and conducting proper research on epidemiology and disease control, he said, “We will have to engage ourselves strongly in health science, engineering and research related tasks. 

 The finance minister emphasized the creation of trained and efficient manpower in the health sector through various collaborative efforts at home and abroad.

Over one-third of the allocation to be spent on wages

Around 34% of the Health Services Division’s expenditure is allocated for paying wages, while 43% for Medical Education and Family Welfare Division’s expenditure.

For wages and salaries, administrative expenses, repair and maintenance, buildings and structures, lands, and machinery and equipment would account for 71% of the Health Services Division’s expenditure and some 66% of Medical Education and Family Welfare Division’s expenditure.

The two divisions will spend some Tk5,494 crore for medical and surgical supplies—Health Service Division Tk4,518.04 crore and Medical Education and Family Welfare Division Tk975.96 crore. The amounts are around 15% of the total amount allocated to each division.

Besides, the Health Service Division will spend Tk2,526 crore, some 8.74% of its budget, for machinery and equipment, while the other division will spend Tk449 crore, at about 7.16%.

Although the minister, in his speech, said the budget is focusing on human resource development, the government has allocated some Tk400.58 crore to Health Service Division and Tk203.97 crore to Medical Education and Family Welfare Division for personnel training.

Almost all the recurrent and capital expenditures have seen a rise while training is the only sector in the expenditure list which saw reduction of allocation in both the divisions.


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