PETALING JAYA: A health think tank has expressed disappointment in Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s new Madani economic policy, saying it fails to acknowledge the significance of health and healthcare in the economy.
The Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy said Malaysia was facing a crisis of non-communicable diseases (NCD), with more and more locals living with and dying of chronic diseases.
Citing the health ministry’s data from 2019, Galen CEO Azrul Khalib said about half of Malaysian adults were overweight or obese, while NCDs accounted for 67% of premature deaths that year.
“Dealing with cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease alone is costing the country at least RM22.5 billion annually. More and more Malaysians are facing catastrophic health expenditure due to these diseases.
“Ill health will cause households to fall into poverty, degrade social mobility, cause disability, take away economic gains, reduce productivity, reduce educational opportunities, erode investment returns and cause the premature death of workers.
“This was left out of the challenges identified (in the Madani economic policy). Not recognising and responding to this challenge will cause Malaysia to fail in reaching its United Nations human development index target,” he said in a statement.
Azrul said the health sector contributed billions of ringgit to Malaysia’s economy, with hundreds of thousands of people working in this sector.
He added that the pharmaceutical sector alone contributed at least RM6 billion to Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP) every year.
To appropriately reap the benefits of a progressive modern economy and compete with other nations, he said Malaysia needed better healthcare facilities and services.
“This requires increased investment and emphasis on training and retaining healthcare workers. Building more hospitals, clinics or healthcare facilities is insufficient to build Malaysia’s resiliency against future pandemics and ongoing health crises.
“The government’s own health white paper points out the contribution of health to the economy, social well-being and national security, and the need to invest in a high-performing health system.
“Worryingly, the architects of the economic vision seem to lack awareness and recognition of the challenges and consequences posed by a population whose health is worsening and which is ageing,” he added.
Earlier, Anwar unveiled the unity government’s Madani economic policy, which aims to restore Malaysia as an economic leader in the Southeast Asian region while empowering the rakyat.
Serving as the framework for Malaysia’s new economic direction, it includes seven key mid-term targets to be achieved within 10 years, including making Malaysia among the top 30 economies in the world and the top 12 nations in the global competitive index.