KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 21 — Malaysia’s health spending is expected to reach 5 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) or RM72.7 billion in 2021, according to Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz.
The amount — comprising both public and private spending — represents an increase in the country’s health expenditure, which has been steadily increasing from 4.2 per cent of GDP in 2016 to 4.7 per cent of GDP or RM63.8 billion in 2020, Tengku Zafrul said.
“This shows that the government is continuously giving emphasis and priority to health services. Additionally, the private sector also plays an important role in providing health services in the country,” Tengku Zafrul said in a written parliamentary reply yesterday.
He was responding to Ipoh Barat MP M. Kulasegaran’s question on the government’s plan and policy to raise health allocations to levels recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) at seven per cent of GDP for overall health expenditure.
The Malaysian Health Coalition (MHC) previously expressed disappointment about the 4.3 per cent increase in the overall allocation for the Health Ministry (MOH) in Budget 2021 from the previous year, saying it is not enough in the midst of a pandemic and did not come close to the proposed target of 4 per cent of the GDP.
Note that the health spending figure of 5 per cent mentioned by Tengku Zafrul covers both public and private spending, which is roughly equal at over two per cent. Advocates want public allocations alone to reach 4 per cent of the GDP.
“We reiterate our call to raise the health allocation to close to 4 per cent of the national GDP. We urge Members of Parliament from all parties to rally behind this call. There must be a higher allocation to manage non-Covid-19 care such as non-communicable diseases (NCD), mental health and preventive care, as well as public health systems.
“We are especially disappointed that there was no mention of more permanent posts for frontline health professionals who are currently on contract. This Budget must address these issues,” the MHC said.
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin told Parliament last week that the Ministry of Finance must give its commitment to train young doctors to become specialists as Malaysia’s disease burden is expected to rise in line with the country’s ageing population and higher incidence of NCDs.
The federal government is expected to table Budget 2022 later next month, with Tengku Zafrul pledging to strike a balance between the people’s health, wellbeing, as well as socio-economic interests with the coronavirus becoming endemic.
He said health services need to be seen more broadly by taking into account the government’s duty to provide health access to public facilities and the private sector’s responsibility in jointly mobilising efforts in improving the quality of access and health facilities.
“In this regard, the government is conducting a review on the effectiveness of the national health system to ensure that it can address current and future challenges to safeguard the wellbeing of the people. The government will continue to focus and prioritise on improving health services in Budget 2022, especially in efforts to address the Covid-19 epidemic,” Tengku Zafrul said.