PUTRAJAYA, Nov 11 — Leaders from both Perikatan Nasional (PN) and Pakatan Harapan (PH) emphasise tackling corruption as the primary means of achieving their respective coalition’s pledge to double public health care expenditure.
PN’s GE15 manifesto pledged to increase public health care spending to more than 5 per cent of Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP) in stages, without specifying a time frame, whereas PH pledged an increase of the health budget to 5 per cent of the GDP within five years.
“In the context of the health budget, what is important is that we have a few approaches when we talk about the increase of five per cent in stages,” former Education Minister Mohd Radzi Jidin, who is contesting the Putrajaya parliamentary seat for PN, told reporters during a walkabout at a night market in Precinct 2 last Tuesday.
“Because of that, it is more towards the arrangement of priorities and also the use of government finances more transparently, more efficiently, without any malpractices.”
Elaborating his point, the Bersatu vice president pointed to the billions of ringgit that have been tied up in previous financial scandals, without naming any specific administration.
“If we see, before this, during the previous government, as an example, the large scandals that involved billions of ringgit. So all these scandals, RM10 billion that has been affected as a consequence of this scandal, in reality, if used for health, you can have more than that (five per cent).
“That is why the focus of Perikatan Nasional is to form a government that is attentive to the people, including from the point of view of the people’s health.
“Secondly, a government that is clean and also a government that is stable. That is why a government that is clean and free of this malpractice is a very important core.”
Wong Chen: Up To RM15 Billion Savings Annually From Cutting Wastage, Corruption
Wong Chen, who is defending the Subang parliamentary seat in Selangor for PH, held that PH’s pledge to raise the public health care budget from 2 per cent to 5 per cent of the GDP in a span of five years was an achievable goal.
Wong claimed that corruption costs the government about RM20 billion to RM30 billion a year, primarily due to procurement.
“We think that procurement is probably 10 per cent income, so that’s three billion in itself, but the real big element of public wastage is in the development expenditure element,” Wong told CodeBlue in an interview at Arena MBSJ in Subang.
The PKR central leadership committee member said that many government contracts in Malaysia do not have open tender and that this could lead to markups being as high as 20 per cent.
“If your development budget is about RM60 billion a year on average, I mean, the new Barisan Nasional is going to be RM97 billion. That’s crazy, but on average RM60 billion, and we are looking at a corruption level of 20 per cent markup in this development budget.
“Then you’re looking at RM12 billion of losses a year, so 12 plus three is RM15 billion average from the procurement side and the development expenditure side. So you can save RM12 billion, RM15 billion a year.
“You can allocate two and half [billion] to health. And then the rest you can allocate to the primary concerns of Malaysia, which is education.”
The Ministry of Health’s (MOH) 2022 budget was RM32.4 billion. For the 2023 budget – tabled by the then-Ismail Sabri Yaakob administration but not passed before the dissolution of Parliament – MOH received an increment of RM3.7 billion, the biggest raise in absolute terms in the past five years.
Yet, even with this large increment, health advocates previously pointed out that MOH’s proposed 2023 allocation of RM36.1 billion still only amounted to about 2 per cent of the GDP, the same share as in 2022.
Wong believes that it is possible to get savings of RM5 billion immediately within the first year of a federal PH government, made possible through the elimination of short-term contracts and the renegotiation of medium to long-term contracts.
Tengku Adnan: We Know How To Get The Budget
Barisan Nasional’s (BN) manifesto pledged to double the annual public health care expenditure from RM36 billion to RM77 billion, or 5 per cent of the GDP, by 2027.
Incumbent Putrajaya MP Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, who is defending his seat for a fifth term, simply told reporters at the same Putrajaya night market last Tuesday that BN knows how to get the funding for a bigger public health budget.
“The people choose us lah, we know how to get the budget lah. We are competent. We, who have run the country for the last 60 years, we got competent ministers. We are competent ministers, God willing, we will know where to look for the money.”
Tengku Adnan said BN’s next health minister will know where to look for the money, and what is most important in this country is to maintain people’s health.
When asked whether a BN government would restore the goods and services tax (GST) or cut subsidies to fund an increase in the health budget, the Umno treasurer said: “We will have a look at it first.”
“In fact, in Putrajaya, I’ve given all my voters ‘kad kesihatan’ (health cards) like a subsidy card. Sometimes at a certain age, they come to my clinic for free! That is my clinic,” Tengku Adnan said.
“And then I’ve got education card for the children going to kindergarten, child care centres, Montessori. I’ve got two Montessori here, and some of them I give for free, you know.”
Tengku Adnan said BN knows that people are finding life difficult and that BN is a party that is “from the people, by the people, for the people”.
“And we were taught mainly, one of the first things is to make sure there’s food on the table for the rakyat. Number two, make sure there’s a roof on top of the heads of the rakyat.
“Number three, education for the rakyat, for the children. And number four is to make sure that we have job opportunities for the rakyat, irrespective whether it is business, or their business or other types of work – to make sure that there’s opportunity for the rakyat to make a living. That’s what Barisan Nasional is all about.”