KUALA LUMPUR: The extra RM2bil budget for the health sector is welcomed, but analysts say it may not reach the target set by Pakatan Harapan this administrative term.
They said the low tax on sugary drinks, from what was proposed, was not likely to make an impact.
Healthcare analyst Dr Chee Heng Leng described the increase in allocation for the health sector as “too little.”
“With RM29bil, and at an estimated GDP growth of 5%, the health public expenditure will make up only 2% of GDP for public expenditure.
“At this rate, how is the government going to reach the 4% target as promised in the Pakatan Harapan manifesto?
“It is not likely to reach 4% by the next general election and this is disappointing,” she said.
Dr Chee welcomed the Health Protection Scheme pilot screening project for 800,000 people but asked about follow-up action after they were screened.
“If the Health Protection Fund covers them, it is only for four critical illnesses and it is up to only RM8,000 a year. This is very limited for illnesses such as cancer,” she said.
Dr Chee also said the scheme opened up the market to private healthcare financing, which is inadequate, and at the expense of improving public healthcare services for the B40.
“The funds would have been better spent beefing up public healthcare for the B40.
“The government needs to seriously look into a more holistic system,” she said.
She also said that more details on the public-private partnerships needed to be disclosed.
Malaysian Medical Association president Dr Mohamed Namazie Ibrahim concurred that the 2% GDP public expenditure was too low.
“We were expecting more but it is still more than last year’s budget and the highest allocation to date.
“We hope the extra allocation will be used appropriately,” he said.
Dr Mohamed also asked if the RM100mil Health Protection Scheme was adequate for the entire country as the Selangor government allocated RM120mil for the state alone.
The sum allotted per patient for four critical diseases as provided for under the scheme was insufficient but welcomed, he said.
Assoc Prof Dr Norashidah Mohamed Nor of Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Faculty of Economics and Management said she supported the increase in the Customs Department’s enforcement against illicit cigarettes.
She urged the government to sign the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products.
“The government should also not think only in terms of loss in revenue but the cost that it needs to spend on smoking-related diseases,” she added.
Dr Norashidah also welcomed the tax on sugary drinks but said it was far below that proposed by her university.
“We proposed the price of sugary drinks after tax to increase by 20% as recommended by the WHO but with the new tax increase, it is only 6% to 8%, which may not effectively reduce demand for sugary drinks,” she said.