Increasing health allocations will not suffice, restructuring of the sector needed in Bangladesh

Yesterday, from a post-budget (online) press conference organized jointly by Bangladesh Health Watch and Unnayan Shamannay discussants emphasized on restructuring the health sector to ensure comprehensive and effective response to the ongoing Pandemic.

Former Governor of Bangladesh Bank and Chair of Unnayan Shamannay- Dr. Atiur Rahman presented the keynote paper. Dr. Atiur Rahman, in his remarks, said that the policymakers have been rightly cautious about increasing budget allocations for health- considering the spending efficiency. Yet, he added, they could have been a bit braver considering the current situation. He also pointed out that because of the strong macroeconomic base Bangladesh currently enjoying, the country need not worry too much about deficit financing, growth rate etc. Rather the focus now should be on collecting adequate vaccines so that 60 to 70 percent of the population within the next fiscal year. He opined that getting the vaccines in time will require smart diplomacy and support from the international development partners.

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The session was moderated by Bangladesh Health Watch Convener- Dr. Mushtaque Raza Chowdhury. In the opening remarks, Dr. Chowdhury pointed out that share of health in the total budget has been hovering around 5 percent of the total budget, which needs to be significantly higher.

More concerning is the fact that the responsible authorities are not managing to efficiently spend the subpar allocations. Hence policymakers need to take special care to ensure budget implementation efficiency.

Toufiq Maruf (President, Bangladesh Health Reporter’s Forum) as a panel discussant also emphasized on implementation efficiency and called for restructuring of the system to avoid leakages and spillages. Bangladesh Health Watch member and Country Director of Population Council- Dr. Ubaidur Rob pointed out that Bangladesh will require approximately 1.5 billion USD to vaccinate the citizens adequately, and the government can easily opt to take a loan from the reserve without hurting the macroeconomy.

Discussants also emphasized on having special allocations to confront the recent outbreaks of the Corona virus in the border areas; and urged policy maker start thinking about interborder disease control related issues. Dr. Atiur praised the proposed budget having tax incentives for private investors of health sector considering people of Bangladesh depending heavily on the private sector for healthcare. Dr. Mushtaque concluded urging to come up with a long-term vision for the health sector so that public resources can be allocated accordingly.

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This article has been posted by a News Hour Correspondent. For queries, please contact through [email protected]
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