KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 9 — Anwar Ibrahim today sought clarification for the budget consolidation of medical supplies in the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) Budget 2021 that were previously allocated according to clinical specialty.
The opposition leader and Port Dickson MP described the federal Budget 2021 as a “misleading budget” and “manipulation of figures”.
“Ada celah sana, celah sini. Disorok sana, disorok sini,” Anwar said in his debate on Budget 2021 in Parliament today. [Translation: There is a gap here and there. Hidden there, hidden here].
“The allocations should not be in the form of numerical deception or be misleading”
Former Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad similarly questioned the shift of allocations from MOH’s operational to development expenditure in the 2021 budget.
“In that matter, when we raised the deficit issue in health allocations, the finance minister explained that no areas of health care will have allocations reduced. But that is not true,” Dzulkefly, who is also Kuala Selangor MP, mentioned in Parliament.
According to the Estimated Federal Expenditure 2021 document, MOH allocations reflected wide-ranging cuts across almost all health care services, including a massive 74 per cent decrease for pharmacy and supplies, as well as deep cuts for cancer and kidney disease treatments.
MOH then clarified that the allocation of medical supplies based on clinical specialty have been consolidated into two lump-sum budgets totalling RM4.29 billion under Specific Programmes in its operating budget: health facilities’ medical supplies (RM2.89 billion) and private concession of medical laboratories and stores (APPL) (RM1.4 billion). In 2020, MOH’s budget for medical supplies was allocated under each respective programme separately: medical, public health, pharmacy services, and dental.
“If the finance minister listened to our arguments before, he will understand that our objections are not just about the Covid-19 allocation, but also allocations for some other infectious diseases and serious diseases such as cancer,” Anwar told Parliament.
“When it comes to cancer allocation, poor people with cancer have to wait six months for treatment. The rich and very very important persons (VVIP) get treatment immediately.”
Anwar also mentioned that although diabetes is a serious matter, the allocation for treatment has been cut in the 2021 budget.
“The finance minister explained it was transferred to development expenditure. I do not understand why this happened. There is no rational reason why the allocation was transferred.”
Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz said Saturday that allocations for drugs and supplies from MOH’s medical programme were shifted to two budget items of RM4.29 billion under Specific Programmes in the ministry’s operating budget, claiming that no clinical specialty suffered budget cuts.
MOH said separately that the consolidation was meant to enable comprehensive monitoring of allocation and expenditure for all MOH health facilities. MOH added that it has reclassed RM2.065 billion in allocations for hospital support services involving concessionnaires (RM1,928,583,000) and clinic support services (RM137 million) from the operating to development budget.
The government has also allocated RM3 billion next year to purchase Covid-19 vaccines, including sourcing them from global coronavirus vaccine access plan COVAX. But the allocation did not appear as a specific budget item in MOH’s 2021 budget, according to the Estimated Federal Expenditure 2021.
Opposition MPs also asked for clarification from the Finance Ministry on the allocation of vaccines under Budget 2021. The Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation has taken the lead on procuring Covid-19 vaccines for Malaysia.
“I would like to emphasise that if we are asked to support the budget by assuming it is a Covid-19 budget, then I am in opinion to support it if it is really a Covid-19 budget,” Anwar said.
“In this situation, too many questions have been raised on projections, Covid-19 allocation, and thirdly the issue of money transfer, as well as development allocation which is not a priority.”