Healthcare spending key to prosperity

THE coronavirus disease (Covid-19) started to spread widely in Malaysia in late January until it led the government to execute the movement-control order (MCO).

Since then, Malaysians have been buying more personal healthcare tools to protect themselves and their family from being infected by the deadly virus, emptying up the stock of healthcare essentials, such as sanitisers, masks and gloves.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry and hospital authorities are struggling and working hard to handle the infection.

The healthcare sector since then has become the most active sector towards the efforts in battling and preventing the spread of the virus.

Even before Budget 2021 was tabled, analysts were debating it as it was deemed as the best hope to ease Malaysians’ burden amid the pandemic.

Many have lost their jobs and slowly starting to build up their own business, having two or more jobs is now considered normal.

The health sector was expected to receive the largest allocation in Budget 2021 and a special allocation called Covid-19 fund is to support the ongoing efforts to flatten the Covid-19 curve.

The priority now is on the healthcare workers, equipment and other medical facilities. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (economy) Mustapa Mohamed said: “to address health issues, of course, matters closely related to the Ministry of Health, especially related to front-liners, should be given attention”.

Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz’s budget on November 6 shows how far the government is taking serious action to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Budget 2021 is RM322.54 billion with 73.3% channelled towards operating expenditure, 21.4% to development expenditure and 5.3% to the Covid-19 fund.

Apart from that, the healthcare sector received the highest allocation behind education and finance at RM31.94 billion.

Compared to the previous allocations for healthcare sector, the amount channelled to the sector has increased since 2015.

The average annual increase in six years is 5.5% with the highest increase in 2017 at 8.7%. In Budget 2021, the amount went up by 4.38% from previous year with total allocation is 31.94 billion or 10% of the total.

This increment shows the importance of healthcare sector in the country budget.

Basically, the healthcare sector has a big impact on the country’s growth. A country can be such a human body, the healthier the person is, the easier it is to grow well.

A healthy country here means one with people who are physically and mentally healthy and do jobs to generate income.

The best economic investment a nation can make is to invest in the health of its citizens. Besides that, a healthy country also can be said one with a good healthcare system and services. In highly industrialised countries, healthcare system is advanced and the services are recognised

Therefore, RM31.94 billion is a good amount for the healthcare system and services. However, by comparing to some countries, especially developed countries like Singapore, Japan, South Korea, United States and Switzerland in term of health care expenditure, Malaysia is spending less than 5% of GDP.

Most of the developed countries spent 6% or more their GDP on healthcare. The US is the highest spender at 17.06% of GDP.

Malaysia is a developing country. Proper budgeting, especially with regard to the healthcare sector, helps it to achieve developed status.

This progress must be proven with the best health system, advanced health equipment, complete health facilities and new healthcare knowledge. Hopefully, this budget leads to an excellent health sector. – December 8, 2020.

* Ahmad Ulwan Mohd Sharani reads The Malaysian Insight.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.

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