The Malaysian Health Coalition urges the government to allocate an expansionary Budget 2022 for health care. This is crucial to manage an endemic Covid-19, build a healthier population, prepare for the next pandemic while investing in health to generate jobs, and stimulate economic growth.
Therefore, we urge the following steps to be taken:
1. Commit 4 Per Cent Of GDP To The Public Health Care System
Malaysia has been underinvesting in health for years. Budget 2021 only allocated 2.2 per cent of Malaysia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the public health care system.
In Budget 2022, the government must commit at least 4 per cent of GDP to the public healthcare system. This will put Malaysia closer to other upper-middle-income countries that are spending an average of 3.8 per cent of GDP on their public health care systems.
This increase must be accompanied by adequate procurement oversight to eliminate corruption and inefficiencies. The additional funds will allow us to transition from short-term campaigns for Covid-19 into long-term routines of vaccinations, surge health care, and public health surveillance.
Adequate funding will also help meet the gaps of non-Covid-19 care, including the backlog of over 57,000 procedures, increasing non-communicable diseases, mental health burdens and delayed preventive care.
Budget 2022 must also spend aggressively to improve staffing and morale of all health personnel in the public service, for all health facilities of the Ministries of Health, Higher Education and Defence.
Health allocations must gradually increase in the coming three to five years, instead of a short-term increase for 2022 only.
2. Allocate Sufficiently For Long-Term Health Development
The health reforms announced in the 12th Malaysia Plan require an immense fiscal commitment. Therefore, all budgetary allocations in National Budgets for 2022 and onwards should have these long-term health reforms in mind.
To achieve these long-term reforms, Development Expenditure (DEVEX) must be as generous as Operational Expenditure (OPEX). Appropriate DEVEX investments help generate jobs, increase employment and stabilise economic growth.
The increasing trend of DEVEX:OPEX ratio for health in Budgets 2019-2021 is encouraging, and we hope for this trend to continue. Specifically, we recommend two areas for DEVEX spending.
Firstly, we recommend strengthening the primary care and public health infrastructure in physical, human capital and electronic health records terms.
Secondly, we recommend broadening health financing by extending the depth of Skim Peduli Kesihatan for the B40 group (PeKa B40) as they are more affected by the pandemic.
3. Address Non-Health Determinants
Social factors like employment conditions, income and living conditions are imperative for health outcomes.
Therefore, we urge the government to spend generously to increase health literacy, expand the social safety net for neglected populations and improve working and housing conditions.
Specifically, we recommend two non-health areas for investment to improve health outcomes.
Firstly, we recommend improving indoor ventilation in Malaysia by investing in new building codes, incentives for retrofitting buildings, and measures to improve indoor air quality such as tax credits for CO2 monitors or mechanical ventilation.
Secondly, we recommend strengthening the social welfare net through a basket of solutions, including providing direct or conditional cash transfers, harmonising the currently fragmented landscape of welfare programs, and eradicating poverty in multi-dimensional terms.
An expansionary budget for health is crucial to strengthen Malaysia’s post-pandemic public health care system. As Malaysia recovers from a global health care crisis, we look forward to a strong and transparent Budget 2022 for health.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.