WHO South-East Asia Journal of Public Health
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Year : 2014  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 273-284

Health spending, macroeconomics and fiscal space in countries of the World Health Organization South-East Asia Region

1 Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi, India
2 Institute for Studies in Industrial Development, New Delhi, India

Correspondence Address:
Indrani Gupta
Health Policy Research Unit, Institute of Economic Growth, University Enclave, Delhi 110007
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DOI: 10.4103/2224-3151.206750

PMID: 28612812

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The paper examines the issues around mobilization of resources for the 11 countries of the South-East Asia Region of the World Health Organization (WHO), by analysing their macroeconomic situation, health spending, fiscal space and other determinants of health. With the exception of a few, most of these countries have made fair progress on their own Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets of maternal mortality ratio and mortality rate in children aged under 5 years. However, the achieved targets have been very modest – with the exception of Thailand and Sri Lanka – indicating the continued need for additional efforts to improve these indicators. The paper discusses the need for investment, by looking at evidence on economic growth, the availability of fiscal space, and improvements in “macroeconomic-plus” factors like poverty, female literacy, governance and efficiency of the health sector. The analysis indicates that, overall, the countries of the WHO South-East Asia Region are collectively in a position to make the transition from low public spending to moderate or even high health spending, which is required, in turn, for transition from lowcoverage–high out-of-pocket spending (OOPS) to highcoverage–low OOPS. However, explicit prioritization for health within the overall government budget for low spenders would require political will and champions who can argue the case of the health sector. Additional innovative avenues of raising resources, such as earmarked taxes or a health levy can be considered in countries with good macroeconomic fundamentals. With the exception of Thailand, this is applicable for all the countries of the region. However, countries with adverse macroeconomic-plus factors, as well as inefficient health systems, need to be alert to the possibility of overinvesting – and thereby wasting – resources for modest health gains, making the challenge of increasing health sector spending alongside competing demands for spending on other areas of the social sector difficult.

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