Funds won't be an issue for healthcare, vaccination: govt

The government has sought to allay concerns over the allocation for healthcare in the proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year, assuring that funds would be readily mobilised for the sector when necessary.

The budgetary allocation is adequate for the government to meet its yearly vaccination target amid the coronavirus pandemic, Abdur Rouf Talukder, secretary of the Finance Division, said on Friday.

On Thursday, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal unveiled a Tk 6.04 trillion spending plan for fiscal 2021-22, setting aside Tk 327.31 billion for healthcare and family welfare.

Set against the backdrop of a devastating second wave of the pandemic, the proposed budget for the health sector makes up 5.4 percent of the total budget for FY22. The government has also earmarked Tk 100 billion to meet expenses related to unanticipated emergencies due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, analysts have been critical of the health budget for failing to meet both the expectations and needs during the ongoing pandemic. The budget also lacked any concrete strategy to reform the country's healthcare system, according to them.

Experts say that in the reality of the epidemic, this allocation of health is inconsistent with expectations or needs. They did not get any direction in the budget for the reform of the health sector.

Responding to the matter at a virtual post-budget press conference on Friday, Talukder said the proposed allocation for the health sector in FY22 is 13 percent bigger than the orgininal budget for the current year.

“There is no problem with the allocation. We have allocated more than enough money to provide vaccinations for a year. A total of Tk 142 billion has been set aside. More funds can be diverted from other sectors if necessary."

The government will also take further initiatives to bring transparency to the procurement process in the health sector, according to the secretary.

Agriculture Minister Abdur Razzaque, who also attended the briefing, said: “Money can be given to this sector (health) from other sectors. Funds will not be an issue.”

The government is attaching the 'utmost importance' to the healthcare sector and the current state of the economy means that it will have 'no problem' in mobilising funds to tackle the coronavirus crisis, he added.