Kenyans want healthcare prioritised in 2019/20 budget

Participants during the budget petitions during the citizens pre-budget hearings hosted by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA). [George Orido/Standard]
Kenyans have prioritised better healthcare in their wish list of areas they want allocated more funding in the next budget.

Reflecting on the Big Four agenda, speakers at the 2019/2020 pre-budget hearings in Nairobi yesterday called for establishment of the Universal Health Care policy (UHC) by an Act of Parliament to safeguard its provisions after regime changes. 

“To ensure the UHC initiatives are not overturned by a change of Government, a law on UHC needs to be developed,” said Catriona Mumuli, a senior programmes officer with the Health Rights Advocacy Forum at the event hosted by the Institute of Economic Affairs.

She also called for lesser reliance on foreign funding, especially for Hiv Aids programmes, saying donors’ conditions are more often than not aligned to needs on the ground.

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They noted that the health sector continues to have inadequate key health staff like doctors and nurses, with the country having only 17 doctors per 100,000 people.

“For UHC to be successful, there needs to be an equitable distribution of healthcare human resources,” said Mumuli. This comes at a time when the public health sector is grappling with various challenges, including incessant strikes by nurses and doctors in their push for higher pay.

The National Treasury late last month, extended the deadline for submission of budget proposals for the Financial Year 2019/2020 by institutions, the private sector, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as well as individuals by 16 days.

Big Four priorities

The proposals centre on economic policy measures, including taxation proposals for consideration by the Cabinet Secretary for the National Treasury and Planning in preparing the National Fiscal Budget for the financial year starting July this year.

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“The proposals submitted should be on measures that will support realisation of the “Big Four” priorities in addition to enhancing macroeconomic stability,” said Treasury Principal Secretary Kamau Thugge in a statement, at the time.

“The proposals should, therefore, target to support the manufacturing sector through value addition, enhance food security and nutrition to Kenyans as well as provide Universal Health Coverage and affordable housing to all Kenyans.”

Treasury, in the 2019 Budget Policy Statement, said it intended to spend close to Sh2.7 trillion.

More than 60 per cent of the budget or Sh1.7 trillion will be used on recurrent expenditure - civil servants’ wages, advertising costs, printing, foreign and domestic trips.

Development expenditure, which is critical for creation of assets for long-term growth such as roads, hospitals, schools, and dams, will get Sh671 billion should the policy be passed as it is.

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Disbursements to the 47 counties have been estimated at Sh310 billion, down from the printed estimates of Sh314 billion in the financial calendar ending June this year.

Other participants at yesterday’s public hearing proposed establishment of a National Arts Council to offer general oversight and leadership in the arts sector.

Participants also urged the Government to increase funding to support quality local productions and take advantage of the huge Chinese market, with China having agreed to have Kenyan films screened there.

Geoffrey Kerosi, a programme officer at the policy research and advocacy economic and social rights centre, Hakijamii, urged the government to rethink its strategy on sewage management.

“At the moment, what we have is a lot of sewage going into our rivers, including the Nairobi River yet we can use the sludge for biogas, thus reducing electricity costs,” he said.

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healthcareBig Four agendaUniversal Health Care policyUniversal healthcare