KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 9 — Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim questioned the government today on where the purported RM3 billion allocation for a Covid-19 vaccine is located in Budget 2021.
Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz announced last Friday during the tabling of Budget 2021 in Parliament that the government has allocated RM3 billion next year to purchase Covid-19 vaccines, including sourcing them from global coronavirus vaccine access plan COVAX.
“That particular minister has said there is already RM3 billion. There is no record in the ministry, there is no record in the budget, RM 3 billion,” Anwar said during his debate on Budget 2021 in the Dewan Rakyat today.
“I don’t know from where. Is it that it is being hidden so that a deficit is not seen?”
Anwar pointed out during his debate that although Budget 2021 focuses on overcoming the Covid-19 pandemic, however, the Covid-19 budget is only 5.3 per cent of the overall government budget of RM322.5 billion.
According to Zafrul’s Budget speech, a total of RM1 billion has been allocated to manage the third wave of the Covid-19 epidemic in Malaysia, among which is to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE), reagent kits, purchase of equipment, laboratory supplies etc.
The finance minister also said Friday that the government will propose to Parliament to raise the ceiling of the Covid-19 Fund — allocated under a separate legislation from Budget 2021, the Temporary Measures for Government Financing (Coronavirus Disease 2019) Act — to RM65 billion from RM45 billion. The Covid-19 Fund is meant to procure a coronavirus vaccine and dole out economic stimulus packages, among other things.
However, there is no specific RM3 billion item in the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) 2021 budget in the government’s Estimated Federal Expenditure 2021 document. MOH has clarified that medical supplies, including drugs, vaccines, and consumables, previously budgeted separately according to clinical specialty have now been consolidated into two lump-sum budgets totalling RM4.29 billion under Specific Programmes in its operating budget: RM2.89 billion for health facilities’ medical supplies and RM1.4 billion in financial commitment for private concession of medical laboratories and stores – APPL (Approved Product Purchase List).
RM3 billion for a Covid-19 vaccine would comprise a whopping 70 per cent of the RM4.29 billion budget for drugs and medical supplies across MOH’s medical, public health, pharmacy services, and dental programmes.
MOH secretary-general Chen Chaw Min, in his press briefing yesterday for selected media, did not list a Covid-19 vaccine in the RM843 million Covid-19 Fund allocation for MOH, separate from Budget 2021. According to Chen, the RM843 million from the Covid-19 Fund comprised RM475 million for reagents, screening kits, and consumables; RM318 million for PPE; and RM50 million for a one-off payment of RM500 to 100,000 frontliners.
At the same time, although the special committee of Covid-19 vaccine access has been led by Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation Khairy Jamalauddin, the RM3 billion for Covid-19 vaccine was also not under the ministry’s Budget 2021 that is only RM935.4 million, according to the Estimated Federal Expenditure 2021.