Education, healthcare may see dark clouds

There are some imbalances in the allocation between health and education sectors, CEO says

By SHAHEERA AZNAM SHAH / Pic By HUSSEIN SHAHARUDDIN

The government has allocated a hefty amount of its expenditure to the education sector, while maintaining the distribution for healthcare support.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said quality education at all levels is the most viable mechanism to spur the growth of the national income.

Among the outlines for 2019 is the RM60.2 billion or 19.1% increase for education, which includes a RM2.9 billion allocation for textbooks and cash aid for students from the lower income group, as well as RM652 million for school upgrades.

The Pakatan Harapan government also did not forget to include one of its manifesto pledges prior to winning the 14th General Election — social welfare protection.

Lim announced that the government will establish a national B40 Health Protection Fund to provide free protection against major critical illnesses for up to RM8,000 starting Jan 1, 2019.

He said the total allocation for the health sector is RM29 billion, a RM2 billion increase from 2018’s allocation.

However, Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib said the budget tabling revealed some imbalances in distributing the allocation between the health and education sectors.

“The distribution for health and education is something that we are concerned about because the health segment caters to everyone. Education, on the other hand, only caters to 40%-50% of our population, yet it has RM60 billion in the budget.

“It was an excessive amount allocated to education compared to health, which we believe should have received more,” he told The Malaysian Reserve.

Azrul said the amount set aside for Malaysia’s health sector, particularly the B40 Health Protection Fund, might be less feasible in addressing the issue of rising cost in healthcare.

“We are quite concerned about the bottom 40% (B40) insurance scheme as the amount is actually lower than what is required for current households, which is about RM10,000 to RM20,000.

“Even though the B40 health protection is interesting, we do not think it is going to fully aid current households, and it might be good for some (in the) B40 group to not enrol in this health protection because it is questionable whether it is beneficial,” he said.

He added that the health protection fund should be complemented with lower fees for private healthcare.

However, Azrul said the Pakatan Harapan government’s maiden budget is a testament to the country’s ability and confidence to generate the necessary revenue, despite the financial woes currently faced by servicing debt inherited from the previous government.

“It is quite an ambitious budget for its first tabling as we did not expect it to exceed last year’s amount,” he said.

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