Health sector hit badly by country’s economic crisis 

Health sector hit badly by country’s economic crisis 

As Pakistan grapples with a significant health crisis amidst economic challenges, the country's economy, burdened by high debt and stringent taxation policies targeting productive sectors, necessitates decisive policymaking to steer it towards stability.

Experts lament that the healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors, crucial for sustainable growth in developing nations, face neglect and erratic policymaking. Moreover, vested interests involved in smuggling and counterfeit drugs are further complicating the situation.

According to the latest Economic Survey, Pakistan's life expectancy stands at approximately 67 years, trailing behind most South Asian peers averaging 71.6 years. A 2023 research report titled "Healthcare in Pakistan: Navigating Challenges and Building a Brighter Future" underscores the urgent need for robust financial backing and infrastructure development to address the country’s faltering healthcare system.

Arshad Rahim, a veteran of the pharmaceutical industry, criticizes Pakistan’s meager health budget, which is less than 2pc of GDP, significantly lower than neighboring countries like Bangladesh, which allocate 5pc of GDP to healthcare, and far below the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation of a minimum of 6pc of GDP for health expenditure.

Rahim stresses the need for preventive healthcare measures, promoting healthier lifestyles, and ensuring access to quality medications, such as those provided under the Sehat Sahulat Card scheme.

"The government must prioritize revitalizing underperforming state-owned enterprises to fund essential sectors like healthcare," Rahim asserts.

Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association ex-chairman Tauqeer Ul Haq echoes the sentiment, urging increased government focus and support for disadvantaged segments of society. He emphasizes the necessity for subsidies to enable access to life-saving medications, highlighting intermittent shortages and increased taxes on health-related items.

Experts emphasize the key role of the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors, due to their potential for technology transfer, skill development, and employment.

They believe that inconsistent policymaking and excessive governmental intervention have deterred investors and impeded market growth, adding that Pakistan’s limited international agreements and collaborations constrain its market access and export opportunities.