Experts have said that proper monitoring is essential to increase the government's capacity to implement the health budget.
They called for building a digital monitoring system at the national, district, upazila and union levels with a view to building a corruption-free, transparent, accountable and people-oriented health infrastructure.
They suggested a 10% allocation of GDP in the health sector and also recommended that the government should develop the ability of health officials to spend money in a corruption-free and transparent manner.
In addition to increasing the budget for infrastructure development, a long-term plan needs to be adopted to address the weaknesses in the health sector, identified in the Covid-19 period, said experts at a virtual meeting on the theme, "National Health Budget 201-22: Reality and Necessity", on Tuesday.
At the meeting, jointly organised by the National Health Rights Movement and Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA), it was also suggested that in the forthcoming budget, vaccine management should be given top priority to protect lives and livelihoods in the country.
Atiur Rahman, former governor of Bangladesh Bank, said, "Our spending on health is the lowest among South Asian countries. It is not possible to implement the allocation properly. It is important to identify the causes behind the visible fragile state of the health sector."
If necessary, the implementation of the allocation should be expedited by setting up a separate monitoring cell. It is essential to increase transparency. "Although there is a deficit in the ability to spend the money allocated to the sector on time, yet we need to increase our health budget", he added.
It needs to be done for long term planning. This time more than 7% of the allocation can go to the health sector, which is two times higher than that last time. "This is good news and we have to vaccinate 60-80% of the people within 1-1.5 years", Atiur Rahman added.
Professor Rashid-E-Mahbub, president of the National Health Rights Movement, said that it cannot be claimed that the nation's health system was good before Covid-19 and the pandemic has worsened it. The sector does not have the capacity to spend the amount allocated for it.
Noting that corruption in the health sector is rampant at present, he said that Bangladesh is going digital but "the analogue cable in the health sector has been cut off", and increasing the budget will not benefit the country much.
In his keynote address, Nitai Kanti Das, member secretary of the National Right to Health Movement, said that a health budget along the lines of wartime restructuring is needed. This year's budget should be the budget for health development. Restructuring is required from the grassroots level to the national level, which is why investment needs to be increased in the health sector.
Calling for an end to corruption in the health sector, BAPA President Sultana Kamal said that all wrongdoers should be brought to justice. If this is not done, a public welfare health system cannot be expected. She also proposed an increase in the budget for environment, health and health waste management.
IEDCR advisor Mushtuq Husain said the capacity of rural community clinics needs to be enhanced, including increasing the budget in the public health framework. He called upon the people to take necessary steps to ensure compliance with hygiene rules and regulations.
M M Zakir Hossain, convener of BAPA's Environment and Health Affairs Committee, said that the government has failed to satisfy the people with its health services because the budget in this sector is less but, tellingly, corruption is more.
However, he stressed that this budget needs to be allocated for the development of the public health infrastructure. He also demanded the development of manpower and infrastructure for vaccination.
Professor M M Akash said that the government should ensure constant monitoring besides increasing allocation for the health sector. If a ministry does not spend the budget money, it can be spent at times of disasters.
He demanded that the country's bureaucracy be brought and kept under control, the country be freed of corruption and, additionally, politics be delinked from business.