Budget deficit of Nu 12bn for health ministry

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Health minister says the ministry is ready to implement the flagship programs

The Ministry of Health (MoH) has a budget deficit of around Nu 12bn in the 12th Five Year Plan.

While the ministry requires this Nu 12bn to implement the health flagship program, it has however been alloted a total budget of only Nu 3.5bn in the 12th Plan.

Health Minister Dechen Wangmo, during the opening of the media workshop on the 12th Plan and health-related Sustainable Development Goals on Thursday in Paro, said the budget deficit is triple than the total budget outlay in the 12th Plan.

Lyonpo said the health ministry required around Nu 12bn to Nu 13bn which is not in the plan.

However, she added, “This is more challenging for me to mobilize the resources. I am excited to overcome these challenges.”

The additional budget requirement, according to the minister, is to implement the health flagship program, which has been prioritized by the government.

The government plans to build a specialty hospital which would cost around Nu 10bn, initiate breast feeding allowance which would cost around Nu 1.19bn, initiate medical camp which would cost around Nu 2bn and initiate flu vaccine which would cost around Nu 600mn.

From the total outlay of Nu 3.5bn, the ministry has allocated Nu 88mn for governance, health workforce and financing, Nu 523mn for health promotion and diseases, Nu 268mn for medical services, Nu 2.5bn for medicines, health technologies and infrastructures and Nu 190mn for traditional medicines in the 12th Plan.

Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo said the flagship programs are in conception and proposals are being prepared right now.

She added that the health ministry is ready to implement the flagship programs.

The Chief of Planning and Policy Division of MoH, Tashi Penjor, said the Ministry of Finance has approached the Asian Development Bank and the bank has committed to give US$ 20mn as a grant.

He added that the ministry is also trying to approach certain partners.

World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that the budget allocation for the health ministry should be 5% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) while in Bhutan it is 4.1%, according the national health account report for the financial year 2017-18.

Tashi Penjor said the allocation of the budget to the ministry is decreasing as percentage of GDP but in absolute figures it is increasing over the years.

He added that the total health expenditure as percentage of GDP is decreasing over the year.

“It is decreasing in terms of GDP because the GDP is increasing over the years,” he said, adding that the ministry has set an average of 5% of the GDP as the target during the 12th Plan.

Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said the government’s performance will not only be based on the FYP, it will also be based on the pledges. “At the end of the day it doesn’t matter whether you are politicians or bureaucrats, we carry the mandate of the people, which is to improve the health services,” she added.

Lyonpo also asked whether the FYP planning process is relevant to today’s time.

“When everything around us changes every day, the FYP is designed in such a way where we have to follow all the old system and the cost is more. There is no room for innovation which will be more cost effective with modern science,” she said.

“When we took over the government, almost eight months were lost from the plan because FYP and elections didn’t coincide and subsequently when the next government takes over one year of the plan year would be finished,” she said, adding that policies must be according to the need of the people.

WHO Representative Dr. Rui Paulo de Jesus said that WHO will work in collaboration with the Ministry of Health.

“WHO will provide financial assistance and technical expert support,” said Dr. Rui, adding that they will work towards fulfilling the priorities.

Dr. Rui also added that WHO allocates around US$ 2.5mn to Bhutan annually.

Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu

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