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Treatment in specialised hospitals to be costlier

FE REPORT | June 07, 2024 00:00:00

Treatment in the country, certainly in specialised hospitals, is expected to be costlier as a higher custom duty has been proposed on the import of medical equipment and supplies by referral hospitals.

Finance Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali said in his proposed budget on Thursday that referral hospitals have been enjoying concessional duty rates for the importation of their medical equipment and machinery for quite a long period.

"As part of our continuous effort to rationalise tax expenditure, I propose a slight reduction in concession by imposing a 10-percent customs duty on the import of medical equipment and supplies by referral hospitals."

The proposal would make the already costlier health service system in the country as the World Bank found out-of-pocket-spending accounted for 73.9 per cent of health expenditure in Bangladesh.

The WHO says a Bangladeshi needs $88 annually for basic health services, but the amount spent is $58.

Kidney patients, however, would get a relief in dialysis expenditure as the finance minister proposed a reduction in an import duty on the dialysis circuit.

"With the existing concessionary facilities for importing raw materials essential to produce medicines, medical supplies, and healthcare products have been continued."

These two are two essential components used in the dialysis of kidney patients.

"I propose reducing the existing import duty from 10 per cent to 1 per cent on the import of these two products," the minister said in his speech.

The minister said this while unveiling an allocation of Tk 414.07 billion for the Health and Family Welfare sector in the next fiscal year 2024-2025. It was Tk 380.51 billion in the fiscal year 2023-2024.

This is now about 5.2 per cent of the total proposed budget. It was 05 per cent in the last budget.

The minister in his budget speech said that to address the health risks, the government has been consistently allocating special budgetary resources since the Covid-19 pandemic began. "Building on this commitment, I propose a dedicated allocation of Tk 20 billion this year."

From January to December 2023, the export of medicines worth Tk 98.80 billion from Bangladesh to different countries has been approved, he informed.

Allocations are being made to 'Integrated Health-Science Research and Development Fund' to create basic and applied research infrastructure in medicine, conduct research activities, increase the capacity of innovations in the health sector, etc.

"In the next budget, I propose allocating TK. 1.0 billion for this purpose," he continued. Last year, 10,500 doctors, 15,000 nurses, 1,000 midwives, and 650 medical technologists were recruited to sustain and strengthen these achievements in the health sector.

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