Give priority and invest more than 4% GDP on health budget

By:

Lim Chee Han

Affiliations:

Agora Society Malaysia

Policy Code:

3i Health

Problem Statement:

Despite increased MOH budget allocation in 9 out of the 10 past years and despite MOH budget expenditure is the third largest among the Federal government ministries, the amount of MOH health expenditure in terms of GDP is nearly stagnant at 2% for many years, never sufficient to tackle the increasing demand for healthcare and other health services. It is a well known fact and even the Health Director General Noor Hisham once admitted that the public health has been underfunded for years. Budget allocation amount and proportion is almost entirely at the discretion of the government especially the Finance Minister’s prerogative, it should reflect the priority and intent of the government on overall policies.
Pakatan Harapan government once pledged to achieve 4% GDP worth of MOH budget within their term. Though their governing period has been cut short due to the Sheraton Move, but the two budget attempts during their term showed no intention at all to fulfill their promise. Given the underinvestment of our public healthcare has a long history, double amount of current health budget does not guarantee problems could be resolved, but without the financial backing on the very basis, it is even unlikely to improve our public health system. Hartal Doktor is a sign of the system is in crisis and cracking, it is beyond just human resource management, but one of the many symptoms of the once robust and internationally widely appraised public health system Malaysia used to have.
Public health services provided by Malaysian government over the years play the role as the principal guardian to protect people’s health, ensure the healthcare access and coverage. However, quality of care as well, need sufficient and substantial public financial investment to keep the standards.

Value(s) and Belief(s):

People have right to health. Health service provision is an important aspect of public services and social protection to the people, as no one deliberately wants to be sick, no one should be neglected or left to suffer or die due to inability to afford healthcare. Government has to give more priority to health, and invest sufficiently.

Proposal of Solution:

Budget allocation should always look to strengthen the public health sector, address the short term needs as well as planning for long term.
Given the current pandemic exposed the shortcomings of the public health system and its capacity, the government should immediately elevate the budget allocation for MOH substantially (other than the COVID-19 fund), and aim to achieve 4% of GDP worth of public health expenditure within 5 years. That means the government should increase the MOH budget allocation by about RM10bil in addition per year for 5 years in a row

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