Doctors and civil society have demanded the total percentage of the budget allocated for the health sector be increased from 4.92% to 12% of the proposed budget for FY2019-20.
Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal recently proposed the Tk 5.23 trillion budget for the next fiscal year, where Tk 257.32 billion was allocated for the health sector.
The doctors made their demands, at a press conference on this issue, called "National Budget 2019-20: Health and Environmental Assessments." It was jointly organized by Doctors for Health and Environment, Bangladesh Paribesh Andolan (BAPA), and Jatiya Swasthya Adhikar Andolan, at the Dhaka Reporter's Unity (DRU), on Wednesday (Jun 19).
Professor Kazi Rakibul Islam, general secretary of Doctors for Health and Environment, presented the keynote, with 21 demands, at the press conference.
In his presentation, Rakibul claimed the health sector's allocated budget, this year, is lower than in the last couple of years.
Although the World Health Organization (WHO) says the budget for the health sector should be at least 15% of the total budget—and 5% of the total GDP—Bangladesh only has 4.92% of the budget, and 0.89% of the GDP.
The organizations presented a 21-point proposal—including increasing the health sector's budget— since, according The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) for Asia and the Pacific, this budget is always lower in South Asia.
"The budget is never allocated properly," said Dr Prof Najmun Nahar, paediatrician specialist and former president of Doctors for Health and Environment, adding that it was insufficient for the health sector.
The government should decide upon the budget after calculating the number of doctors and paramedics required in the country, she said.
Additionally, the allocated budget is not even properly utilized, she said. "I think 70% of the budget remains unutilized. Proper accountability needs to be ensured for this sum to be properly utilized."