Budget 2024 Must Be More Strategic For Malaysia’s Health — MHC

The Malaysian Health Coalition urges the government to consider a few important strategies for Budget 2024, alongside a focus on strong implementation and good governance.

The Malaysian Health Coalition (MHC) welcomes the higher allocation for the Ministry of Health (MOH), and the introduction of the Government Procurement Act, as announced by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim on for Budget 2023. We call for strong implementation of all MOH projects and for good governance in all spending.

The MHC further recommends three strategies for Budget 2024 and beyond:

Truly Focus On Preventive Care, Not Just Rhetoric

While Budget 2023 increases tax relief for medical expenses, there is still a strong focus on curative health care expenses (rather than preventive expenses). For example, medical expenses for curative services like “serious diseases” has a RM8,000 income tax relief cap, but preventive services like “vaccinations” are capped at only RM1,000.

Budget 2024 should gradually increase the tax relief cap for preventive health care services, perhaps with a scheduled increase like “Increase cap by RM1,000 per year every year between 2024 and 2029”.

Public health should receive similar scheduled increases; we note with disappointment that the allocations for disease control and health education are lower in 2023 compared to 2022.

Allocate Funds For Structural Reforms, Not Just For OPEX Or CAPEX

We understand that the RM36.3 billion allocation for the MOH is what the government can afford right now, given our low fiscal ceiling, low tax-to-GDP ratio, and high government debts.

However, we call for deep structural reforms in our health system, which requires financial and non-financial resources. In other words, we must provide enough funds for the strategies envisioned by the Health White Paper scheduled to be tabled in Parliament in June 2023.

A Health Reform Commission, if passed by Parliament, must receive adequate funds to operate and to be successful, especially to address three structural issues; sustainable financing, human capital, and organisation of service delivery.

Use Sin Taxes Carefully

We laud the announcement that calls for 50 per cent of taxes collected from vaping products to be allocated to the MOH. This brings Malaysia into a club of approximately 35 countries who have earmarked sin taxes from tobacco to be allocated to public health care.

We call for a decision on vaping products in Malaysia, as we favour its outright ban and we support the generational end game. More importantly, we ask that the government uses sin taxes carefully, because we need answers to questions like “Are the earmarked taxes from vaping on top of the RM36.3 billion, or part of the RM36.3 billion?”

Whatever the answer, what if the earmarked taxes reduce in the future, but the MOH has to continue funding multi-year anti-tobacco projects? 

Budgets are an important part of a democracy. We should focus on the structure and strategy of a Budget, not just focus on the year-on-year increase or decrease in each line item of every Budget.

Therefore, we urge the government to consider the above three strategies for Budget 2024, alongside a focus on strong implementation and good governance.

The Malaysian Health Coalition comprises the following:

  • Academy of Medicine Malaysia
  • Association of Malaysian Optometrists
  • College of Anaesthesiologists
  • College of Ophthalmologists
  • College of Physicians
  • College of Surgeons Academy of Medicine of Malaysia
  • IKRAM Health Malaysia
  • Islamic Medical Association of Malaysia
  • Lung Cancer Network of Malaysia
  • Malaysian Association for Bronchology and Interventional Pulmonology
  • Malaysian Paediatric Association
  • Malaysian Pharmacists Society
  • Malaysian Public Health Physician Association 
  • Malaysian Society of Anaesthesiologists
  • Malaysian Society of Clinical Psychology
  • Malaysian Thoracic Society
  • Medical Practitioners Coalition Association of Malaysia 
  • MedTweetMy
  • National Cancer Society of Malaysia
  • Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society of Malaysia
  • Perinatal Society of Malaysia
  • Assoc Prof Dr Uma Devi Palanisamy
  • Dr Jahizah Hassan
  • Dr Amar Singh-HSS
  • Dr Khor Swee Kheng
  • Prof Dr Zulkifli Ismail
  • Prof Dr Asri Said
  • Prof Dr Roslina Abdul Manap
  • Prof Dr Sharifa Ezat Wan Puteh
  • Prof Dr Zaleha Abdullah Mahdy
  • This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.

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