When the federal budget was tabled by the Minister of Finance on the 6th of November, there was an uproar by many health care experts on the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) 2021 budget. Some of the comments are as follows:
“Government Slashes 2021 Medical, Public Health Budgets Amid Covid Crisis”;
“The government has decreased next year’s budgets for curative care and public health, including deep cuts for cancer and kidney disease treatments, even as Malaysia is facing the greatest public health crisis in history with Covid-19.”
“Overall, the health budget grows only 4.3 % vs 2020. That’s not enough at all!”
Even the former Minister of Finance and also some Members of Parliament commented that MOH did not receive its fair share of budget in 2021. As a result, the Minister of Finance and the Secretary General of MOH had to come out to defend the allocation provided in 2021.
But if one is familiar with government budgeting system and the way the Federal Budget is presented in the Budget Printed Estimate of 2012 and with the explanation provided by the Secretary General (KSU), the MOH Budget 2021 has increased by a whopping 7.8 % to RM31.94 billion for both its operating and development budget as shown below:
There were claims made that the MOH has slashed the budget for the various disciplines under the Medical Programme, like for cancer treatment and dialysis etc. But as explained by the KSU of MOH, in previous years, all provisions for medical supplies (including medicines, medical gases, reagents, vaccines, consumables and X-ray films etc) for hospital pharmacy and health clinics, including dental clinics were placed under their respective activities (disciplines).
However, beginning next year (2021), this allocation has been pooled and placed under “Medical Supplies for Medical Facilities” (RM2.89 billion) and “Financial Commitment” to implement the Drug Laboratory and Store Privatisation Concession (RM1.4 billion) that is delivered by Pharmaniaga.
While the total allocation for supplies and services under the Medical and Public Health Programmes in 2021 are RM4.17 billion less than in 2021, nevertheless the total pooled allocation under “Program Khusus” in 2021 for the same programmes are slightly more at RM4.29 billion. Therefore, there is no cutback under these medical disciplines as alleged by some experts and the public.
This pooling of resources will provide more flexibility to the Ministry to manage its budget in difficult times like we are facing now. There is also an increase of RM652 million to recruit new contract health personnel. For 2021, RM1.9 billion has been allocated to pay for these contract health personnel.
One of the important change, the Ministry of Finance and Health did in the 2021 Budget was to shift the allocation of RM2.065 billion for the “hospital and clinic support services” under the concession agreements from the operating budget to the development budget in 2021.
This was stated by the KSU and the reason is obvious as the federal government revenue will be much less in 2021 and therefore, will not be sufficient to fund all the operating budget of the federal government. There is also a shortfall in the expenditure of the development budget of MOH in 2020.
Therefore it is important for everyone to understand the federal government budgeting system and analyse the budget properly and for the government to be more transparent in their budget presentation so that such misunderstanding and uproar will not happen in the future.
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