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June 12, 2019

Rs13.376 bn allocated for health sector

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June 12, 2019

ISLAMABAD: For 13 on-going and 32 new schemes in health sector, the federal government has proposed an allocation of Rs13.376 billion for the fiscal year 2019-20 under Public Sector Development Programme, which is Rs11.65 billion less as compared to the budgetary allocations made in 2018-19.

“Historically, we allocated less for health, education, drinking water, municipal services, and things that matter to the people. Now we are reaching a point where we have difficulty in paying our debts and even our salaries without recourse to borrowing. This situation has got to change,” said the State Minister for Revenue Hammad Azhar while presenting budgetary speech on Tuesday. However, ironically the previous government announced an allocation of Rs48.701 billion for health sector under PSDP for the fiscal year 2017-18, Rs24.951 billion for the year 2016-17, Rs24.951 billion for the year 2015-16, Rs20.70 billion for the fiscal year 2015-16, Rs26.814 billion for 2014-15 and Rs25.739 billion for the fiscal year 2013-14.

The state minister, however, announced a significant relief for common men, saying to reduce cost of medicines for general public, 19 items of raw materials and essential items of medicinal use are being proposed to be exempted from 3 percent import duties. Similarly, medicines for rare diseases like Wilson's disease and Cystinosis disease are proposed to be exempted from import duties. Hemodialyzer is used in hydrolysis equipment for patients suffering from kidney failure. It is proposed that its raw materials and components may be allowed duty free import for local manufacturers, said Hammad Azhar.

This year too, the federal government, like the previous governments has announced nothing for transfer of technology from developed countries to Pakistan that may revolutionise the pharmaceutical industry. Health experts believe that for availability of medicines to public at reasonable prices, the government should bring technology so the import of pharmaceutical raw materials should not be needed in future. According to budget estimates 2019-20, a total of Rs11.058 billion would be spent on health affairs and services, which is lower by 20.4 per cent from the budget estimates 2018-19. The government allocated Rs8.702 billion for hospital services, Rs1.862 billion for health administration while Rs463 million for public health services and only Rs31 million for medical products, appliances and equipment. Health experts have been expressing for years that the government needs transfer of modern technology and should invest in long-term healthcare policies to accommodate patients living in miserable condition. Emergency medical services in Pakistan need urgent improvement and separate trauma centres should be established in all cities yet the government announced nothing great in this regard.

Talking of the PTI government’s much elaborated health insurance scheme, Sehat Sahulat, the state minister said the recipient of this scheme is entitled free of charge healthcare to indoor health care services worth Rs720,000 per year from any of the 270 selected hospitals across Pakistan. As a first step, the programme has been launched in 42 districts of Pakistan addressing the health needs of 3.2 million poor families, he said. He added the programme shall be gradually expanded to cover 15 million poor and vulnerable families in all districts of Pakistan which includes all families of merged districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, District Tharparkar, disabled individuals and their families.

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