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Bangladesh - Corporate - March 18, 2024

Bangladesh allocates lowest budget for health sector dev

Syed Nasir Hossain : The country’s health sector has been criticized at various times due to inadequate health care facilities, inadequate doctor-nurses, shortage of hospital beds, poor quality treatment, lack of skilled lab technicians. The weakness of the health sector has become widespread during the time of Corona. However, no visible steps have been taken to improve the health sector. Rather, the budget allocation in this sector has been relatively decreasing for the past few years. Even though the government is not paying much attention to the issue, it has expressed concern from various quarters.
A recently published report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has highlighted the issue of reducing Bangladesh’s spending in the health sector as a proportion of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The report titled ‘What Has Covid-19 Taught Us About Asia’s Health Emergency Preparedness and Response?’ shows that Bangladesh’s health sector expenditure is only 2.60 percent of GDP, which is the third lowest among countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Although four-fifths of this cost is borne by the patients themselves. As a result, Bangladesh ranks 40th among 42 countries in the Asia-Pacific region in terms of health expenditure. Only Papua New Guinea and Brunei are behind Bangladesh in this list.
According to the report, Tuvalu is the largest spender in the Asia-Pacific region in the health sector. The country is spending 21.5 percent of GDP on this sector. Second-placed Pala also spends 18.4 percent of GDP on the infrastructure sector. Afghanistan, ranked third, spends 15 percent of its GDP on this sector. Marshall Islands spends 13 percent of GDP on infrastructure, Armenia 12.2 percent, Nauru 12 percent, Kiribati and Micronesia 11.6 percent, and Maldives 11.3 percent. In the case of the world’s high-income countries, this expenditure averages 14 percent of GDP.
Among other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, Timor-Leste spends 9.9 percent of GDP on the sustainable sector, South Korea 8.4 percent, Tajikistan 8.2 percent, Georgia 7.6 percent, Uzbekistan 6.7 percent, Singapore 6.1 percent, Turkmenistan 5.7 percent and China 5.6 percent.
Meanwhile, Samoa and Tonga, two countries belonging to Oceania, spend 5.3 percent of their GDP on health. The Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan also spends the same. The cost of South Asian country Nepal is 5.2 percent and the Philippines is 5.1 percent. The remaining countries spend less than five percent of GDP. In this case, the global average is 7.1 percent of GDP.
There are 13 countries in the Asia-Pacific region that spend less than five percent of GDP, but more than three percent, on the sustainable sector. Of this, Mongolia spends 4.9 percent of GDP, Vietnam 4.7 percent, Myanmar and Azerbaijan 4.6 percent, three countries (Solomon Islands, Bhutan and Thailand) 4.4 percent, Malaysia and Sri Lanka 4.1 percent and Vanuatu 4. percentage Besides, Kazakhstan spends 3.8 percent of GDP on health sector, Fiji 3.7 percent and Indonesia 3.4 percent.
On the other hand, India and Pakistan, two neighboring countries in South Asia, are spending three percent of their GDP on the infrastructure sector. The cost of Laos is 2.7 percent, Bangladesh is 2.6 percent, Papua New Guinea is 2.5 percent and Brunei is 2.4 percent.
According to the ADB report, Bangladesh spends relatively less on the health sector, but the government share is even less. Rather, the private sector and the patients themselves have to bear a large part of the medical expenses. The private sector has to bear only 2.1 percent of the 2.6 percent of GDP. And government expenditure in this case is zero and five percent.
In a press conference on March 16, the private research organization Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD) presented a sad picture of allocation in the health sector. According to their data, the government’s budget allocation to the infrastructure sector has been less than 1 percent of GDP for the past 20 years. Yet at least 44 least developed countries (LDCs) are spending 1 percent or more of GDP on the sector. Bangladesh government expenditure is the fourth lowest among LDC countries. Bangladesh is followed only by poverty-stricken African countries Djibouti, Benin and Gambia.
Meanwhile, in terms of purchasing power parity, the private sector expenditure of Bangladesh in the health sector is the seventh highest among the LDC countries. In 2020, 74 percent of the average expenditure in this sector was private and private to patients. Only 26 percent of the expenditure was borne by the government. However, over the past two decades, the proportion of private sector expenditure has been increasing and government expenditure has been decreasing. Therefore, CPD has recommended an increase in government spending on health care development and social welfare in this sector.

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