People sift through old clothes displayed along a road in Rawalpindi’s Ganjmandi area on Friday. The government has withdrawn 10pc regulatory duty on the import of used clothes in the budget. The other picture shows traders watching Finance Minister Ishaq Dar sharing details of the budget. — Photos by Mohammad Asim
People sift through old clothes displayed along a road in Rawalpindi’s Ganjmandi area on Friday. The government has withdrawn 10pc regulatory duty on the import of used clothes in the budget. The other picture shows traders watching Finance Minister Ishaq Dar sharing details of the budget. — Photos by Mohammad Asim

ISLAMABAD: Even though health indicators remained abysmal as per the data shared by the economic survey for the last year, the government has failed to make a significant increase in health spending in the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, inviting criticism from an apex medical organisation which demanded health allocations in line with global guidelines.

The federal government proposed an allocation of Rs24.21 billion for the healthcare sector for the financial year 2023-24 as compared to Rs22.49 billion allocated during the outgoing financial year, while a sum of Rs13 billion would be spent to uplift the sector under the public sector development budget.

The major chunk of the health budget, Rs16.59 billion, would be spent to maintain hospital services while Rs3.11 billion would be allocated for public health services.

A total of Rs37bn to be spent on health sector during upcoming fiscal year

The administrative cost of the healthcare sector would stand Rs4.5 billion. On the other hand, the government allocated a meagre sum of Rs32 million for medical products, appliances, and equipment.

Rs13 billion under PSDP

In addition to the money allocated under the health budget, the government also decided to allocate Rs13.1bn under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) for 40 ongoing and new schemes to uplift the sector. The budget document showed that Rs10.5 billion has been allocated for 31 ongoing schemes and Rs2.59 billion would be spent on nine new schemes.

The allocations for some of the major ongoing schemes included Rs1.2 billion for the establishment of 200 beds Accident and Emergency Center at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) – the total cost of the project is Rs4.8 billion.

Rs2.2 billion has been allocated for the establishment of Jinnah Hospital in Sector G-11/3 – the total cost of the project is Rs9.9 billion. Rs2.29 billion has been allocated for the further enhancement of the Prime Minister’s National Health Insurance Programme. Moreover, Rs1 billion has been allocated for the establishment of a cancer hospital in the federal capital.

Moreover, an amount of Rs300 million has been sought for the purchase of new electro-medical equipment to replace obsolete machines with regard to care and facilities for differently-abled patients at the National Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine (NIRM), Islamabad.

Some of the new schemes include the establishment of the Centre of Biologics and Cancer Research, PM’s National Programme for Elimination of Hepatitis C Infection, and PM’s National Programme for Prevention of Diabetes – Rs500 million has been allocated for each of the schemes.

6pc of GDP for health demanded

Meanwhile, a representative body of the medical fraternity, the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) expressed grave concerns over the deteriorating health indicators unveiled in the Pakistan Economic Survey 2022-23 and stated that the health of a nation was a pivotal indicator of its overall progress and prosperity.

“PMA has been demanding, for the last many decades for the provision of quality healthcare to all and the improvement of the overall health sector in the country for which we need to enhance the health budget up to 6pc of the GDP as per the recommendation of the WHO. Whereas our health budget was 1pc in 2021 and 1.4pc in 2022,” Secretary General Dr Abdul Ghafoor stated.

“The PMA also advocates for the implementation of healthy public health initiatives and the establishment of effective disease surveillance systems to combat the rising burden of infectious diseases. Proactive measures, such as improving sanitation, prevention through developed immunisation system, [and] health education programmes are essential to reduce the prevalence of preventable illnesses and improve overall public health,” he said.

Published in Dawn, June 10th, 2023

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