Nigeria as a developing nation has a long list of challenges that it is plagued with and these broadly cover infrastructural deficiencies and poor structures. One such limitation lies in the country’s healthcare sector and if there is any one thing the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the fore, it is the nation’s limited capacity in the sector – and our unpreparedness from issues like this one.
As of today, there have been more than 12,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and almost 400 deaths. Yet, the government has proposed to cut basic health care funding by almost half and many of us are worried.
According to the latest budget proposal documents now with parliament and awaiting final presidential approval, the federal government is proposing to cut the nation’s basic healthcare funding by 43% from its original 2020 budget to N25.6 billion.
The reason behind it
Every year, basic healthcare has received at least 1% of Nigeria’s consolidated revenues fund; however, Nigeria’s overdependence on crude oil revenue has undoubtedly placed it in a precarious situation given the crash in oil prices as well as the other challenges owing in no small measure to the COVID-19 pandemic itself. On one hand, the nation which had set its initial budget based on an anticipated oil price of $57/barrel now has to adjust to the latest trends in the sector. On the other hand, as Nigeria’s coronavirus outbreak steadily worsens, there is no gainsaying the fact that adequate healthcare should rank tops on the government’s expenditures.
Before now, the country had earmarked 500 billion naira ($1.39 billion) to deal with the outbreak. Of course, revamping healthcare is at the forefront of the actions to be taken – arguably even before trying to fix the negative ripple effects. As such, the first challenge is that the reduced funding for basic healthcare threatens to worsen an already incapacitated healthcare system. The country’s primary healthcare is already very weak
Further cuts during the normal course of events is bad enough; in the middle of a pandemic, it could be severe. Another implication is that external funding such as external loans might now become a necessity. The budget cuts also signal challenges in addressing the growing economic and social inequality in the country, especially on marginalized groups.
Another important sector that is proposed to be cut is the Universal Basic Education (UBE) budget which was reduced from N111.7 billion to just N51.1 billion. It also doesn’t help that the Federal Government reportedly set aside N27 billion for the renovation of the National Assembly’s complex.