The government is allocating Tk100 crore in the budget for the upcoming 2021-22 fiscal year for research on various issues of healthcare and medical education, including research in coronavirus, dengue and chikungunya.
According to the finance ministry officials, Tk100 crore was allocated in the budget for the current financial year also, but no research has started so far due to a dispute between the finance ministry and the health ministry over who will be the members of the selection committee and award committee. As a result, the allocation remained unspent.
They said two committees have been set up to manage the fund, although belatedly, and research proposals have been sought under the fund. So, from the next financial year, healthcare research will gain momentum and the country will start reaping the benefits. From this expectation, the same amount is being allocated in the new financial year also for health research.
In June last year, the finance ministry allocated Tk100 crore for health research and development. In November, the Finance Division formulated a policy on the management of the 'Integrated Health-Science Research and Development Fund' and presented it before the prime minister for approval. The Finance Division also finalised the names of the members of the verification and selection committee and the award committee.
The finance ministry formed the 11-member award committee led by Director of the National Institute of Neuroscience and Hospital Kazi Deen Mohammad and the seven-member selection committee with Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University's Internal Medicine department Professor Mujibur Rahman as chairman.
After the PM approved it on 3 December, the finance ministry sent the policy to the health ministry on 9 December, recommending issuing a circular in this regard.
After receiving the policy approved by the PM, in March last, the Health Education and Family Welfare Division of the health ministry issued a circular about the policy, excluding various experts from the two committees and adding new members of their choice.
Objecting to the issuance of the policy excluding the experts from the two committees, the finance ministry informed that the names of the experts in the two committees have been approved by the PM. Therefore, no one can be excluded from the committees.
In this context, on 26 April, the Secretary to Health Education and Family Welfare Division Ali Noor discussed with Abdur Rauf Talukder, senior secretary of the Finance Division. The latter made it clear that no changes could be made in the committee approved by the PM.
On the same day, the Health Education and Family Welfare Division issued a revised policy by canceling the newly added names and reinstating the committee with the persons appointed by the finance ministry.
Award committee member and Head of Research at the Universal Medical College Research Centre Professor Ridwanur Rahman told The Business Standard that after receiving proposals from interested researchers by 23 June, it would take another month to sort them out.
"After the award committee finalises the research proposals recommended by the selection committee, the funds will be given to the researchers in three installments. Researchers will submit their research papers within two years," he said.
The policy states that long-term achievements in the health sector need to be sustained and plans need to be formulated and properly implemented to take the country's health system to the level of the developed countries and to prevent and deal with future pandemics.